SciFri Live: Superhero Quiz

Jan 7, 2016

Psoriasis? Arthritis? New designer cells might be able to stop symptoms before they start.

Jan 3, 2016

One conventional tactic for treating autoimmune diseases like psoriasis, in which the body’s immune system launches an outsized attack on the the body’s own tissues, is to tamp down the immune system with suppressant drugs.

But researchers have now devised another approach: a tiny implant of designer cells that detect inflammatory compounds before a breakout of psoriasis and then pump out anti-inflammatory compounds in response, thereby treating the flare-up before it starts.

What Google can tell us about people’s secret thoughts

Jan 3, 2016
Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Google can be used for a seemingly infinite number of tasks: looking up directions, defining words, shopping for presents, fixing your car. According to some researchers, however, it can also be used to read people's minds.

Economist and former Google data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz calls Google searches “a confessional box” that can gauge public sentiment on controversial views that polls and surveys can’t always measure. After events like the recent attacks in San Bernardino and Paris, it can be used to gauge increasing Islamophobic sentiments. 

SciFri Live: Superhero Quiz

Jan 2, 2016

Want to be an astronaut? Here’s your chance.

Jan 2, 2016

For the first time since 2011, you can apply to be a US astronaut. The job listing went up last month at

NASA chief and former astronaut Charles Bolden says the application requirements are not as complicated as you might think.  

How do we save the Internet for history? This group is trying.

Jan 2, 2016

There is a building in northern San Francisco that looks like a cousin to the Acropolis in Greece. It used to be a Christian Science church.

Now, however, it houses 26 petabytes of digital information in a forest of blinking, heat-generating servers. Welcome to the Internet Archive headquarters. 

“The Internet Archive is part of the vision to build the Library of Alexandria, version 2,” says digital librarian Brewster Kahle. “We hit the record button on the World Wide Web in 1996. We take a snapshot of every web site and every web page on every website.”

How he caught the wave ... of predicting surf

Dec 30, 2015

It all begins with a storm — a typhoon sweeping past the Philippines, a tropical cyclone growing near Australia, or a hurricane building along the Mexican coast. These are sources of swell, an undulation that can trundle mile upon mile across the open ocean.

As it approaches shore, wind, bathymetry (the topography of the sea floor) and obstacles such as islands or jutting peninsulas all shape the way the swell transforms into a wave that crashes on the beach.

Should gun violence be treated as a public health crisis?

Dec 28, 2015
Kevork Djansezian/Reuters

The mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, that left 14 people dead was one of the deadliest in modern American history.

Was there a science, technology, or environmental book from 2015 that made you think, laugh, or gape in amazement? Now’s the time to celebrate it.

Here are some of the best science books of 2015, as chosen by Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist Deborah Blum and Brain Pickings editor Maria Popova. Have a favorite science read from 2015? Share it in the comments! See some other reader and listener suggestions at

Year in Review: 2015

Dec 25, 2015

Jump In Jerboas!

Dec 25, 2015

A new book that attempts to reclaim the forgotten science of home cooking

Dec 24, 2015

Jeff Potter is a software engineer, but he’s also a kitchen geek who worries we may have lost our knowledge of how to make basic foods — things like butter and vanilla extract. 

“I think a lot of that [knowledge loss] happened post-World War II, when it kind of got to two people in the family both in the workplace and the convenience of buying things,” Potter says, “And there is that Space Age excitement of the modern, you know, go to the store and buy something.”

Last year, the European Space Agency accidentally launched two Galileo satellites into the wrong orbit.

Their elongated orbits made them inoperable for the ESA’s global-navigation system, but a group of researchers have repurposed the satellites to test an aspect of Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Photos from New Horizons' trip past Pluto have revealed new details of the dwarf planet's surface — including three-mile-high water-ice mountains and deep layered craters.

“This is the apex, these are the highest resolution images,” says planetary scientist William McKinnon, who is New Horizons' deputy lead for geology, geophysics and imaging. He and his team have recently received a new batch of photos from the outer reaches of our solar system, and they’re beginning to theorize about what the images might reveal from Pluto’s history

Backing Up the World Wide Web

Dec 19, 2015

Are we close to curing cancer?

Dec 19, 2015

Just months ago, former President Jimmy Carter announced he had melanoma that had spread to his brain. Recently, however, he made the shocking announcement that he was cancer-free. He owes his condition to a new cancer immunotherapy drug known as Keytruda that is giving researchers, cancer patients and doctors new hope in the war on cancer.

Dr. Antoni Ribas who work on immunotherapy treatments for cancer at UCLA says the idea behind the drug is to use the patient's own immune system to attack the cancer.

What happens when you give scientists comedy improv lessons?

Dec 14, 2015

Improv is something you expect to find on Saturday Night Live, not in the science lab. A couple of acting teachers, however, are beginning to introduce improv acting and communication techniques to the science syllabus. “JRN 503: Improvisation for Scientists” is a course now on offer at New York’s Stony Brook University.

Alan Alda is an actor, director, screenwriter and board member for the World Science Festival. He’s also one of the people behind the new improv class for scientists at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York.

Could you explain the electromagnetic spectrum, continental drift, or the basics of nuclear power using just the 1,000 most common English words? That’s the challenge XKCD’s Randall Munroe took on in his latest book, "Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words."

Munroe has had many different jobs: comic artist, NASA roboticist. Now he has combined his many skills to put out an illustrated book explaining some of the world’s more difficult concepts in simple language. 

Why Science Needs Failure to Succeed

Dec 12, 2015