Science/Technology

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.


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.” 

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.”

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. 

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. 

A new map may help scientists figure out how Earth’s inner core formed

Oct 6, 2015

Right after the Big Bang, giant showers of neutrinos were spewed across the universe. These subatomic particles, produced by the decay of radioactive elements, are the focus of intense research by scientists in laboratories around the world. They are hoping these phantoms of physics could unlock mysteries about dark matter and about how the universe was formed.

Should scientists play a role in shaping global policy?

Oct 5, 2015

Albert Einstein knew scientists must be involved in determining domestic and global policy.

When he wrote a letter to President Roosevelt warning him about Nazi Germany developing the atomic bomb, he also wrote, “Those with the privilege to know have the duty to act.”

“Oh yeah!” That was Dava Newman’s reaction when asked if she’d be willing to jet off to Mars.

UB expert weighs in on NASA's news on Mars

Sep 29, 2015
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

NASA's announcement that they have evidence of still-existing liquid water on Mars raised eyebrows Monday, as well as renewed hopes that life might still be possible on the Red Planet. A local expert says the best chance of finding it there is by digging deeper.


Is biking in the city bad for your health? Researchers want to find out.

Sep 27, 2015

There are many things bikers have to worry about while out on the road: construction, potholes, adverse weather, unaware drivers and, of course, as one inner city cyclist pointed out, black snot. 

“It was just so much construction that, on top of the pollution of the cars and the construction pollution, I just couldn't take it anymore. I would come home and I would have like black snot. It was just nasty,” says Mirna Gatika, a cyclist who rides her bicycle daily from Queens to the Bronx and back over the Triborough Bridge. 

Tonight is the moon-viewing event of the year. When to head outside, and what to look for.

Sep 27, 2015

“This is going to blow people's minds,” promises Dean Regas, an astronomer at the Cincinnati Observatory and co-host of the PBS program, Star Gazers. 

And it did. Take a look at the lunar eclipse Sunday night.

Sunday evening, there was four major moon events to watch in the night sky. There was a total lunar eclipse, the closest full moon of the year, the harvest moon and the completion of the tetrad, the fourth in a series of four lunar eclipses back to back.

A new study finds that the text of children's books contains substantially more unique words than ordinary parent-child conversation, which may help explain why reading to children is so important to their development.

“We've known for a while that there are a lot of benefits to reading to kids, in terms of vocabulary and language development and later literacy. The real question is, why,” says Jessica Montag, an assistant research psychologist at University of California Riverside, and author of the new study in Psychological Science. 

A new book recounts the forgotten history of autism

Sep 20, 2015

In a new book, science writer Steve Silberman chronicles the mostly unknown history of how the diagnosis and treatment of autism was stymied by the Nazi invasion of Austria and subsequently hijacked by an American clinician with a limited understanding of the disorder.

In NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, Silberman takes us back to Vienna before World War II, where he introduces us to a young doctor named Hans Asperger.

A cure for 'colorblindness' may be in sight

Sep 20, 2015

A pair of researchers at the Univeristy of Washington have successfully cured colorblindness in two squirrel monkeys.

This may not sound like a big deal to you if you're not a squirrel monkey (or if you have normal vision), but for people with colorblindness, it could be life-altering.

The term colorblindness is actually something of a misnomer. A more accurate term is ‘color deficiency' — and it doesn't mean people see in black and white.

What happens to objects that enter black holes?

Sep 14, 2015

Scientists have long wondered what happens to information that enters black holes. Famed physicist Stephen Hawking thinks he has the answer.

Information entering a black hole may not be truly lost, he suggests. Instead, that information could still exist in a sort of hologram on the black hole’s event horizon. But this doesn’t mean you should design your next information-storage service around the use of black holes. “For all practical purposes, the information is lost,” Hawking says. That is, it exists “in a chaotic and useless form.”

LiFi? How your LED desk lamp could help you connect to the Internet.

Sep 13, 2015

Lighting has come a long way since Tom Edison lit his first incandescent bulb in the 1880s. LED bulbs are popping up everywhere, on planes, car headlights, in your phone. When you buy a new light bulb now, chances are it's going to be an LED.

At the heart of every LED is not a little wire. If you open up an LED, there's a semiconductor in there, and engineers are exploring more ways to use that semiconductor — everything from wireless data streaming to secure communication systems and in-flight networking. 

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