Science/Technology

What if scientists were able to forecast the spread of flu the way meteorologists forecast the weather? What if they could track the spread of the virus and predict if it has a 75 or 80 percent chance of striking ... you?

“The flu happens every year, but we still don't have a good idea of [important] factors, like who's going to be affected first, where that will happen and when exactly the peak week might be,” says Rumi Chunara, an assistant professor at the College of Global Public Health and the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at New York University.

Monster Microbiome Mash

Oct 30, 2015

File photo

Western New York is becoming greener, thanks to an Albany-based company. Monolith Solar Associates is set to break ground for a Niagara County solar farm that will feature 1,944 solar panels on November 2.

These scientists say they’ve found a cure for a type of congenital blindness

Oct 26, 2015

Just this month, drug manufacturer Spark Therapeutics said it successfully completed a phase III trial for an exciting new gene therapy treatment for inherited retinal dystrophies, a progressive disorder that can cause blindness. This means they're one step closer to putting a cure for congenital blindness actually on the market.

"The trial results are very exciting," says Katherine High, president and chief scientific officer of Spark Therapeutics. 

This parent-led bedtime story app will help your kid rock at math

Oct 25, 2015

A new study in the journal Science finds that a mobile app that prompts parents and kids to solve nightly number problems together greatly improves student achievement in math. The app, Bedtime Math, creates a kind of math story time.

Did Dark Matter Doom the Dinosaurs?

Oct 24, 2015

Scientists generally concur that the dinosaurs were killed off by a giant asteroid that struck Earth tens of millions of years ago. But what sent the asteroid hurtling this way?

Harvard University physics professor Lisa Randall has a creative new theory. She points the finger at a cluster of dark matter, a gravity-like force, as what sent an asteroid missile toward Earth.

To be fair, the US isn’t entirely a failure when it comes to IT. But its record? Really not that good, either.

Bob Charette, a contributing editor with IEEE Spectrum, has been analyzing the past 10 years of government tech mishaps. He points to the Pentagon’s Global Combat Support System as one example of government tech done right. It was completed early, under budget and, by many measurements, has been a phenomenal success. 

This new museum explores the effect humans are having on the natural world

Oct 23, 2015

Several years ago, after visiting a lot of natural history museums, Rich Pell, associate professor of art at Carnegie Mellon University, noticed the natural museums seemed to be missing a lot of what he considered the natural world. There were, for example few farm animals, almost no pets. 

The reason? Human involvement. Once humans start breeding and training animals, the animals are less and less likely to fit in a natural history museum. 

Mobile phones can stream videos, play songs, podcasts, audio books, even pay for your dinner bill. So why is it still so hard to hear the person on the other line? 

Science and technology writer Jeff Hecht says he doesn’t even own a smart phone. 

“I don't have a smartphone. I do have a dumb phone,” Hecht says, “The dumb phone does have one advantage — it's a flip phone. So there's a logical place to hold it to my mouth. One side's on my ear, one side's on my mouth I can feel where it is so it doesn't just drift off.”

Do or DIY This Halloween

Oct 20, 2015

Forecasting the Flu

Oct 20, 2015

The Hunt for Dark Matter

Oct 20, 2015

from UB website

In just its second year, the U.S. Crystal Growing Competition has drawn student entries from 20 different states.


Build a Cloud Chamber

Oct 17, 2015

All around you, and on every surface of the earth, there is radiation pummeling the atoms that make up the matter that we can see and feel. Even as you read this sentence, you are being bombarded by radiation. Pew! Pew!

But fear not, it’s completely normal. This background radiation is safe. And though it cannot be seen directly, you can build a cloud chamber to help you indirectly observe radiation and begin to understand it.

Target Grades: 9-12+

Content Areas: Physics, Engineering and Technology

Is climate change the new big election issue for Latino voters?

Oct 17, 2015

At the end of the summer, the polling firm, Latino Decisions, released the results of their 2015 Environmental Attitudes Survey. Of the Latinos polled, 74 percent said it was extremely or very important for the US government to “set national standards to prevent global warming and climate change.” 

Science Friday Goes to St. Paul

Oct 16, 2015

On November 3rd, Science Friday goes beyond the realm of Marvel and DC comics to look at the science of superpowers. Ira Flatow (and his team of caped crusaders) will explore real-life inventions that would fit right in among the Avengers or the Justice League, like an ultrasonic glove that lets firefighters “see” through smoke and an x-ray gun that uncovers the true colors of Vincent Van Gogh.

Here's what happens when you grow sunflowers in outer space

Oct 16, 2015

NASA astronaut Don Pettit is a bit of a space gardener. He even refers to his plants by affectionate nicknames. 

“I grew three plants on my last mission,” Pettit says. “Space zucchini, and then he had his buddy space broccoli. And then there was space sunflower.”

Did Dark Matter Kill the Dinosaurs?

Oct 14, 2015

The dinosaurs never saw it coming. When a giant space rock smashed into the Yucatán Peninsula some 65 million years ago, their global reign ended in catastrophic violence. But that space rock—perhaps a comet several miles wide—might have had a stealthy accomplice: dark matter.

What happened when a room full of engineers watched 'The Martian'

Oct 13, 2015

In “The Martian,” Matt Damon stars as astronaut Mark Watney, who gets stranded alone on the red planet. The story is based on a book by the same name, in which Watney is separated from his crew and left alone on Mars when a dust storm forces them to evacuate early.

“This movie could stand on its own, even under Martian gravity,” says Don Pettit, a NASA astronaut and chemical engineer who has spent time aboard the International Space Station. 

“It drives like a regular car, operates like a regular car. You can refuel in three to five minutes and, you know, do 350 miles on a trip,” says Craig Scott, Toyota’s national manager for advanced technologies in the US. 

Scott is overseeing the US release of the Mirai, Toyota's hydrogen fuel cell car.  

“We're really excited,” Scott says. “This will be the first time for US consumers to get a chance to actually own a real live fuel cell electric vehicle.”

Is sneaker innovation changing how we move?

Oct 12, 2015

Sneakers are a relatively recent innovation that owe their existence, according to Elizabeth Semmelhack, senior curator at the Bata Shoe Museum, to the rubber tree. 

 

“Sneakers right from the beginning were part of the technological revolution that was happening in the 19th century. They were absolutely one of the newest forms of footwear ever created,” Semmelhack says. “The sneaker was reliant on rubber.”

Americans throw out way more trash than we previously thought

Oct 11, 2015

Americans dumped 262 million tonnes of municipal trash into landfills in 2012, according to a new study published recently in Nature Climate Change. That's more than double the EPA estimate for that same year.

Agatha Christie’s murders are enmeshed with real chemistry

Oct 10, 2015

Celebrated mystery writer Agatha Christie authored more than 80 detective books. In many, the plot features characters killed by poisoning — with ingredients as diverse as digitalis (foxglove), strychnine and thallium. 

“[Agatha] Christie, killed over 300 people,” says Kathryn Harkup, a chemist and author of the new book "A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie." "And at least 100 of those were killed by poisons.”

How generic medicines wind up costing nearly as much as their brand-name competitors

Oct 10, 2015

In August of this year, Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the toxoplasmosis treatment Daraprim. They quickly hiked the price of the drug by more than 5,000 percent, from $13.50 per pill to $750 a pill, causing a public outcry.  

“Actually, there isn't any illegal, anti-trust reason why this company can't do this. Assuming that they receive their monopoly in a legal fashion ... it is within the company's rights, if they have a natural monopoly, to charge whatever they want for their product,” says Aaron Kesselheim, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. 

A mile underground in Black Hills, South Dakota, this honeycomb-like structure is playing a major role in the hunt for dark matter.

What it feels like to have Parkinson’s disease

Oct 6, 2015

In 1985, science journalist Jon Palfreman investigated a group of drug addicts who were struck with Parkinson’s-like symptoms after taking tainted heroin.

Thirty years later, Palfreman was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease himself. His book, "Brain Storms," describes his journey with the disease and new treatments for patients. 

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