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A new era for living in space may be about to start.

A prototype habitat is headed to the International Space Station for a two-year trial. What makes the module unique is it's launched folded up, and it's inflated to its full size once in orbit.

Sardines, herring and other small fish species are the foundation of the marine food web — they're essential food for birds, marine mammals and other fish. But globally, demand for these so-called forage species has exploded, with many going to feed the livestock and fish farming industries.

Residents of Flint, Mich., may tell you lead is a serious menace, but for most of the last 5,000 years, people saw lead as a miracle metal at the forefront of technology.

"You can think about lead as kind of the plastic of the ancient world," says Joseph Heppert, a professor of chemistry at the University of Kansas. He says it was because lead is easy to melt — a campfire alone can do it. Unlike iron, lead is malleable.

Scientists have discovered a supermassive black hole that may be the biggest ever spotted — and its location in a ho-hum group of galaxies suggests that cosmic monsters like this one might be more common than astronomers previously thought.

In the 1940s, an elite team of mathematicians and scientists started working on a project that would carry the U.S. into space, then on to the moon and Mars. They would eventually become NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (or JPL), but here's what made them so unusual: Many of the people who charted the course to space exploration were women.

Nathalia Holt tells their story in her new book, Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars. Holt tells NPR's Ari Shapiro that the women worked as "computers."

Taylor Shellfish crews haul up oysters from Samish Bay, Washington. The Northwest's shellfish industry is one of the first to feel the impacts of ocean acidification.
Katie Campbell, KCTS9/EarthFix

A panel of ocean scientists from Washington, Oregon and California said Monday that local action on the West Coast — one of the regions of the world hardest hit by ocean acidification — could soften the blow of this rapidly worsening global problem.

Americans throw away about a third of our available food.

But what some see as trash, others are seeing as a business opportunity. A new facility known as the Heartland Biogas Project is taking wasted food from Colorado's most populous areas and turning it into electricity. Through a technology known as anaerobic digestion, spoiled milk, old pet food and vats of grease combine with helpful bacteria in massive tanks to generate gas.

Renewable energy like solar and wind is booming across the country as the costs of production have come down. But the sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't blow when we need it to.

This challenge has sparked a technology race to store energy — one that goes beyond your typical battery.

Heat Storage: Molten Salt And A Giant Solar Farm

Batteries are often used to store solar power, but it can be a costly endeavor.

If you've been following any of the big news stories on food fraud lately, you'll know that it's tough to know what exactly is in our food — and where it's been before it makes it onto our dinner plates.

Critics call them "parachute researchers": Scientists from wealthy nations who swoop in when a puzzling disease breaks out in a developing country. They collect specimens, then head straight back home to analyze them. They don't coordinate with people fighting the epidemic on the ground — don't even share their discoveries for months, if ever.

Sometimes it's because they want to publish their results – and medical journals prefer exclusives. And sometimes it's because they can make a lot of money by coming up with copyrighted treatments for the disease.

Ever stood on the coastline, gazing out over the horizon, and wondered what's on the other side? Pondered where you'd end up if you could fly straight ahead until you hit land?

Turns out the answer might be surprising. And even if you pulled out an atlas — or, more realistically, your smartphone — you might have trouble figuring it out. Lines of latitude won't help, and drawing a path on most maps will lead you astray.

C
Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

For years, Cuba’s Fidel Castro invested in the creation of the country's own medical industrial complex. Now Cuba is considered to be a major developer of vaccines and other important medical treatments.

Jose DiFabio, who was Cuba’s representative for the Pan American Health Organization, says the isolated Communist country invested in medical research out of neccessity.

“Cuba considered medical science as a responsibility it had to move into and that’s why it created a very large medical and scientific workforce,” says DiFabio.

Scientists have discovered a well-preserved 305 million-year-old arachnid that is "almost a spider" in France. In a new journal article, they say the fossil sheds some light on the origins of "true" spiders.

The main point of distinction: This newly discovered arachnid very likely could produce silk but lacked the spinnerets used by true spiders to, well, spin it, the scientists say. The researchers say it belongs to a "sister group" to the real-deal spiders.

Monsanto is one of the most controversial companies in the world. Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson conducts a wide-ranging conversation with, Hugh Grant,CEO of the agrochemical and biotech giant, about pesticides, genetically modified crops (GMOs) and the future of agriculture. This is part one of a two part interview.

Some parts of Oklahoma and Texas now have about the same risk of an earthquake as parts of California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The big difference is, the quakes in Oklahoma and Texas are "induced" — they're caused by oil and gas operations that pump wastewater down into underground wells.

Most people have a colleague or two who don't seem to do much work at work. They're in the break room watching March Madness, or they disappear for a two-hour coffee break.

For Allison Lamb, that person is her cubicle mate. Lamb is a statistical clerk for a company in Fishers, Ind., who says she likes her job and has a good work ethic. So it irritates her to see her cubicle mate ignoring her duties, disappearing with her friends and keeping her nose in her cellphone all day talking, texting and gaming.

It seems to Lamb that her colleague flaunts her do-nothing attitude.

Here in California we worry a lot about the "Monkey Mind." You know, the noisy thoughts that jump and trip and interrupt your meditation.

But what's really going on inside the mind of a monkey?

A bunch of my Facebook friends — cognitive scientists, professors, students of the mind, one and all — were more excited than a barrel of monkeys this week over some videos of monkeys and apes confronted with stage magic that have been making the rounds.

Take exhibit one, for example, here.

NASA has released a new gravity map of Mars, providing a detailed look at the Red Planet's surface and revealing new information about what lies beneath it.

Thirty-four water systems in Washington state were found to have unacceptable levels of lead. Most of those systems are now in compliance, although four of them are still working toward lower lead levels.
Flickr Photo/Christina Spicuzza (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Flint, Michigan, isn't the only place with lead in its drinking water: 34 water systems in Washington state have tested above acceptable levels of the toxic metal, according to a new investigation from USA Today.

The list includes water systems at five schools: Maple Valley Elementary, Griffin School near Olympia, Shelton Valley Christian School, Skamania Elementary and Washington State Patrol Academy.

Juvenile penguin on Genovesa Island. Click on this image to see more penguin photos.
Patricio Maldonado/Courtesy of iGalapagos.org

Bill Radke speaks with University of Washington researcher Dee Boersma about her website iGalapagos, where she is asking Galapagos Islands tourists to share their photos of penguins to help with her research. 

Humans like to place things in categories and can struggle when things can't easily be categorized. That also applies to people, a study finds, and the brain's visual biases may play a role in perceptions of mixed-race people.

Author Kara Platoni
Courtesy of Justine Quart Photography

Kara Platoni took a year off to travel around the world searching for cutting edge investigations into sensory perception -- including what the taste of fatty acids does to mice and us and how scent triggers memories in Alzheimer’s patients.

The lessons she learned inspired her new book “We Have the Technology: How Biohackers, Foodies, Physicians, and Scientists Are Transforming Human Perception One Sense at a Time.”

Recently returned from a groundbreaking 340-day space mission, astronaut Scott Kelly announced Friday he will retire from NASA on April 1, but still continue to participate in research related to his space travel.

Blue Origin team members Bretton Alexander and Jeff Ashby, founder Jeff Bezos, NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver, and team members Rob Meyerson and Robert Millman at the company’s headquarters in Kent in 2011.
Flickr Photo/NASA HQ Photo (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/aSA5N4

Audio Pending...

Bill Radke interviews reporter Alan Boyle about his recent tour of Blue Origin -- the Jeff Bezos' space tourism and rocket factory that opened its doors to reporters for the first time this week.  

Plastic makes great food packaging. It's waterproof and flexible. And best of all, it's impervious to all known bacteria — until now. Researchers have found a bacterium in the debris fields around a recycling plant in Japan that can feed off a common type of plastic used in clothing, plastic bottles and food packaging.

Tuesday's solar eclipse as seen from Alaska Airlines flight 870
Courtesy of American Astronomical Society/Mike Kentrianakis

The view of a lifetime: That's what passengers on board Alaska Airlines flight 870 got on Tuesday.

A group of astronomers convinced the airline to change the flight plan for a plane headed from Anchorage to Honolulu. Why, you ask? So they could get a perfect view of a solar eclipse in progress. 

Miss Manners and skilled prep cooks should be pleased: Our early human ancestors likely mastered the art of chopping and slicing more than 2 million years ago. Not only did this yield daintier pieces of meat and vegetables that were much easier to digest raw, with less chewing — it also helped us along the road to becoming modern humans, researchers reported Wednesday.

And our ancestors picked up these skills at least 1.5 million years before cooking took off as a common way to prepare food, the researchers say.

In the ocean near Hawaii, more than 2 1/2 miles underwater, scientists have discovered a small, delicate-looking and ghostlike little octopod — possibly a new species.

The animal was discovered by Deep Discoverer, a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV — picture a small, unmanned submarine equipped with cameras and a robotic arm — that was working to collect geological samples.

We know we should put the cigarettes away or make use of that gym membership, but in the moment, we just don't do it. There is a cluster of neurons in our brain critical for motivation, though. What if you could hack them to motivate yourself?

These neurons are located in the middle of the brain, in a region called the ventral tegmental area. A paper published Thursday in the journal Neuron suggests that we can activate the region with a little bit of training.

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