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Tech & Science

You want technology? Then pay for scientific research

Mar 23, 2017
You can't make a radio unless you understand how electromagnetic radiation travels through air. This is an animation of a half-wave dipole antenna radiating radio waves, showing the electric field lines.
Wikipedia Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal

Let's talk for a minute about how invention works in our world.

One way to divide the process of inventing is into 1) basic science research, and 2) technological application. The first helps us gain an understanding of how our world works and what it looks like. The second takes that knowledge, then figures out what we should do with it to gain some sort of advantage.

Dee Boersma snorkeling with penguin.
Dee Boersma/Courtesy of iGalapagos.org

Bill Radke talks to Dee Boersma, a University of Washington biology professor, about her new research on the feeding behavior of fledgling Galapagos penguins.  

A sculpture of the microorganisms that help treat wastwater at the West Point Treatment Plant at Seattle's Discovery Park.
Courtesy of Ellen Sollod

Workers continue their efforts to get the West Point Treatment Plant in Seattle up and running.

The plant was crippled by a flood last month and it continues to spew solid waste into the Puget Sound every day.

And restoring the plant's full treatment capacity relies on its tiniest workers – bugs: microorganisms that kill harmful bacteria and help in the treatment process. But there's a problem: These tiny little bugs are hibernating.

When it comes to facing the reality of climate change, the Republican Party, now led by the Trump Administration, has been slipping ever farther from its roots as a champion of American science.

Last week brought further evidence of this disconnect — but it also held out a glimmer of hope that the party's turn away from the U.S. effort in science is not universal.

The remotely operated underwater research vessel known as Boaty McBoatface is preparing for its first research mission — an expedition into "some of the deepest and coldest abyssal ocean waters on earth."

Boaty McBoatface, of course, was the moniker that emerged triumphant in an online poll meant to name the newest research ship in the U.K.'s Natural Environment Research Council fleet. But the council opted to overrule the will of the people, and named the ship the Royal Research Ship Sir David Attenborough instead.

You may brag about your ability to multitask, but lawmakers in the Pacific Northwest insist you don’t do it behind the wheel. The Washington Legislature passed a pair of bills this week that would increase penalties for dangerous driving habits.

In the last three years, 33 U.S. states have passed laws aimed at helping dying people get easier access to experimental treatments that are still in the early stages of human testing. Supporters say these patients are just looking for the right to try these treatments.

Such laws sound compassionate, but medical ethicists warn they pose worrisome risks to the health and finances of vulnerable patients.

Amazon says a typo caused its cloud-computing service to fail earlier this week.

On Tuesday, part of Amazon Web Services stopped working. The company's so-called simple storage service, or S3, provides features ranging from file sharing to web feeds.

In an online statement, Amazon described the circumstances of the disruptive typo this way:

Amazon.com logo
Flickr Photo/Guillermo Esteves (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Bill Radke talks to Todd Bishop, co-founder of the technology news site Geekwire, about the crash that slowed and stopped websites using Amazon's Web Service. 

It's not clear when or where life on this planet began, but scientists are working hard to find out.

Now, researchers writing in the journal Nature say they found fossils of what could be some of the earliest known creatures to grace the Earth, embedded in rocks that are at least 3.7 billion years old.

In this March 12, 2015, file photo, Seattle police officer Debra Pelich, right, wears a video camera on her eyeglasses as she talks with Alex Legesse before a small community gathering in Seattle.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File

Seattle's bike cops wear body cameras, and now all officers will start wearing them. The Seattle City Council approved a measure Tuesday to purchase the cameras this year.

Even after a delay, the full rollout is facing some opposition.

The private company SpaceX has announced that it plans to send two passengers on a mission beyond the moon in late 2018.

If the mission goes forward, it would be the "first time humans have traveled beyond low Earth orbit since the days of Apollo," as NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce told our Newscast unit.

The two private citizens approached the company about the idea and have already paid a sizable deposit, CEO Elon Musk told reporters in a conference call. These private individuals will also bear the cost of the mission.

Jennifer Fontaine kisses her daughter Morgan in Methuen, Massachusetts on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. After Fontaine's standard prenatal screening suggested her fetus might have Edwards syndrome, a doctor suggested a fetal DNA test, which said she was fine.
AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Science writer Bonnie Rochman says she likes as much information as she can get — she finds it empowering. But she knows not everyone feels the same way.

Wildfires can start when lightning strikes or when someone fails to put out a campfire. New research shows that people start a lot more fires than lightning does — so much so that people are drastically altering wildfire in America.

Fire ecologist Melissa Forder says about 60 percent of fires in national parks are caused by humans: "intentionally set fires, buildings burning and spreading into the forest, smoking, equipment malfunctions and campfires."

Oregon lawmakers are considering a measure that would make it illegal to check your social media feeds while you're behind the wheel. A House panel takes up the bill Monday afternoon.

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