Science/Technology

It’s been said that music is a universal language. To a group of researchers who are mostly from Harvard University, it’s more than a trite saying: It's an idea that formed the basis of extensive work to get a better feel for that universality — regardless of cultures or geography.

Do songs share social functions around the world, such as being used to meet people at a dance, calm fussy infants or heal illness? Do they have convergent or contextual features such as the instruments being used, the gender of the singers or a similar melodic or rhythmic complexities?

How much do you know about jellyfish? OK, you might have been stung by one that one time on vacation in Florida, but what other information do you have?

The general public has based its relationship with the aquatic animals on fear. First, there is the fear of being stung — and now there is a growing concern that warmer waters caused by climate change will result in a surge in the creatures in waters worldwide

In spite of a request from the director of Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for Americans to get vaccinated, only 40 percent of the US population had received the flu vaccination by November.

Looking for a good night’s sleep? You’re not alone. More than a third of adults aren’t getting the recommended seven hours of sleep (never mind the ideal eight), according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2014.

Avery Schneider/WBFO News

Technology is helping seniors connect to the world. It’s impacting the way they live their lives and how they communicate with loved ones. According to AARP, growing numbers of seniors are welcoming new technologies, as WBFO Seniors News Desk reporter Sandy White found out.


It’s one of the most famous cases of mistaken identity in the literary world: Frankenstein. When the name comes up, a majority of people think of a tall, green fellow with a flat head and bolts in his neck — an image that began with the original “Frankenstein” movie in 1910. Or you may think of the 1931 film with the title character played by Boris Karloff.

Predictive algorithms have been aiding us for years (see several of Google’s products, for instance) under the guise of making our lives easier by helping us make decisions.

But when do predictive algorithms cross the ethical line? Recently more jurisdictions at the state and local levels in the US have been buying software products from companies that use such algorithms along with data mining to make decisions that could have irreversible impacts on individuals and communities — such as determining jail sentences and predicting public policies.

As cold weather grips a majority of the country, it may be easy to think that all life is dead when the ground is frozen, at least until spring breathes new life into the plant systems and surrounding environments.

The signs have been there all along when it comes to using mechanical stimulation to stimulate regeneration and growth of tissue by simply pulling or pushing on cells. Think of a pregnant woman whose womb expands as the baby grows or a doctor telling a patient to lift weights to fight off osteoporosis by promoting bone growth.

How much do you know about the science that goes into making bourbon? One would think the citizens of Kentucky — the epicenter of the corn-based whiskey — would know more than the average Joe on the topic.

At a taping of PRI’s Science Friday with Ira Flatow earlier this year at the Brown Theatre in Louisville, two teams composed of local bourbon enthusiasts tried their luck at a few questions connected to the popular hard liquor. The teams’ names reflected two the most popular bourbon-based concoctions: Hot Toddy and Old Fashioned.

Get out and get some fresh air. This phrase has been uttered for decades in an attempt to promote the exercise of walking, which has always been thought to have health benefits for nearly everyone's cardiovascular system.

Scientists warn we may be creating a 'digital dark age'

Jan 2, 2018

You may think that those photos on Facebook or all your tweets may last forever, or might even come back to haunt you, depending on what you have out there. But, in reality, much of our digital information is at risk of disappearing in the future.

Unlike in previous decades, no physical record exists these days for much of the digital material we own. Your old CDs, for example, will not last more than a couple of decades. This worries archivists and archaeologists and presents a knotty technological challenge.

These days it is hard not hear about the latest massive wildfires that have ravaged Southern California. The Thomas fire, in particular, has now become the largest of its kind in the state’s history after destroying more than 280,000 acres and thousands of homes and buildings.

While a warming climate and the record drought that the state suffered from 2012 to 2015 certainly appear to be major culprits for the rash of monstrous blazes, the human/urban component may shoulder the biggest blame, according to new research.

Many of us have our cellphones within an arm’s reach at all times. It’s either in a pocket or a purse or maybe just a few inches from our face on a daily basis. Given how tethered we are to these devices, scientists have been studying any possible health maladies that could result from cellphone exposure — radiation amounts, in particular.

Today, as the Trump administration continues to bolster the fossil fuel industry — loosening regulations and giving large tax breaks to fossil fuel companies — environmentalist Bill McKibben says that it would be wise to follow the dollar to see where the future of energy is headed, globally. 

“Right now, of course, politics is making it difficult to deal with climate change in DC, but it's not stopping cold all the work that's going on,” says McKibben, co-founder of 350.org.

Even when it's not the holiday season, outdoor lighting is on the rise

Dec 27, 2017

Lighting displays are popular and fun during the holiday season, but it seems that outdoor lighting is now big all year round — and everybody wants the new, energy-efficient LEDs. But it turns out these new lights may have a dark side.

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Months after the opening of their updated space exhibit, the Buffalo Museum of Science's reconstruction of the Kellogg Observatory atop the building progresses, with completion now anticipated in mid-spring.


Louisiana’s coast is disappearing for a few reasons: the natural sinking of the land, saltwater intrusion and sea level rise. Now there’s another threat: a little tiny bug from the other side of the ocean. It’s killing plants and destroying marshes at the mouth of the river, worrying the state and the shipping industry.

The best science books of 2017

Dec 24, 2017

It’s that magical time of year, when Science Friday rounds up the best science books to hit shelves in 2017.

Maria Popova, the founder and editor of Brain Pickings, and Deborah Blum, a Pulitzer Prize winner and the director of the Knight Science Journalism program at MIT, joined host Ira Flatow to share a few of their favorites. For their full list of picks, check out Science Friday's website.

The year's best science books for kids have something for everyone

Dec 23, 2017

Finding the perfect science book for an inquisitive kid isn’t always easy. Luckily, Science Friday education program assistant Xochitl Garcia has done the legwork: She’s curated a list of 10 scientifically accurate, gorgeously illustrated and engaging books for kids ages 0 to 11. The list also includes activities you can do together after reading the books.

Steering Toward Greener Transportation

Dec 18, 2017

Updated at 3:27 p.m. ET

After a brief security evacuation, U.S. telecom regulators have voted to repeal so-called net neutrality rules, which restrict the power of Internet service providers to influence loading speeds for specific websites or apps.

After weeks of heated controversy and protests, the Republican majority of the Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines on Thursday to loosen Obama-era regulations for Internet providers.

courtesy Aquarium of Niagara

When rescued as a pup, the gray seal named Medusa was completely blind. The two-year-old Aquarium of Niagara resident recently underwent successful cataract removal surgery. She'll remain blind for life, but aquarium officials say there are other reasons why the cataract surgery was still important.


On Dec. 14, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote to end “net neutrality” — rules that keep internet service providers (ISPs) from creating paid fast lanes for some content, while blocking or slowing downloading speeds for other content.

Invasion Of The Jellyfish

Dec 11, 2017

Microbes In Space! (But They’re Ours)

Dec 11, 2017

Another way to look at the fossil record? By examining coal.

Dec 10, 2017

If you’re like most people, you probably think of coal as a chunk of black fossil fuel. Geologist Jen O’Keefe sees it differently: For her, each piece of coal is a window back in time. 

“I'm really interested in why we have coal in the first place, and what it can tell us about ancient environments,” says O’Keefe, a professor of geology and science education at Morehead State University. “We've got this great time capsule in our backyard that we can start to pick apart.”

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