Tech & Science | KUOW News and Information

Tech & Science

A Sony Walkman, belonging to a fictional character named Alex, holds a cassette mix tape.
GeekWire Photo/Kurt Schlosser

Let this segment take you back — WAY back.

We’re in your high school computer class. It's the 1980s: Walkmans in backpacks, satin jackets in lockers, Apple IIe computers running BASIC. Where is this nostalgic wonderland, you ask? 

There aren't very many scientists who achieved rock star status. Stephen Hawking, who has died at the age of 76, family members told British media early Wednesday, was definitely a contender.

Late at night, in the gathered shadows of your bedroom, you may have heard it. Or, perhaps you heard it over breakfast with your family in the kitchen, the sound rising unbidden from over your shoulder in a corner of the room you had thought — and now, desperately wish — to be empty.

Laughter. Quick, inhuman laughter.

At least, that's what Amazon Echo owners say they've been hearing lately. In recent weeks, many of them have hit social media saying their smart speakers have been laughing spontaneously, unprompted by commands.

Jeff Bezos looks up at a living wall during the grand opening of Amazon's spheres in Seattle in January
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has become the world’s first centibillionaire. By amassing net wealth estimated by Forbes at $127 billion, he has passed Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to become the richest human in history.

That number is so large that it’s hard to make sense of. Just how rich is the world’s richest man?

Could you teach computer class without a computer?

For Owura Kwadwo Hottish, 33, an information and communications technology teacher in Ghana, it's his only option. At the middle school where he works, there are no computers. So using colored chalk, he painstakingly draws a version of the computer screen onto the blackboard.

It's 3am. Does your coffee machine know where you are?
Flickr Photo/Daniel Foster (CC BY 2.0)/

In "1984," surveillance devices were installed in homes by the government. In 2018, we pay corporations to install the surveillance ourselves. Kashmir Hill, a journalist with Gizmodo, chatted with Bill Radke about her own foray into smartening up her home.

Tinder date sign
Flickr Photo/Chris Goldberg (CC BY NC 2.0)/

Deborah Wang talks to Susie Lee, the Seattle-based founder and CEO of the online dating app Siren, about the history of computer facilitated dating. 

Flickr Photo/Andreas Eldh (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks to Samuel Woolley, director of the Digital Intelligence Lab at the Institute of the Future, about how social media bots have influenced and driven conversations online and what can be done to stop the flow of disinformation. 

Concussion study testing equipment.
Flickr Photo/University of the Fraser Valley (CC BY 2.0)/

Football verges on being an American religion. But instead of the saints being martyred, they're getting hit. Hard. And often. The ensuing concussions can cause severe mental deterioration, erratic behavior, and even suicide.

kids drawings
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Compost-pooping robot dog! Smog-cleaning penguins! Treehouses! Wikes (wind + bikes)!!! 

Those are just a few of the fantastic and whimsical ideas submitted to our drawing contest that asked kids to imagine one way Seattle can save energy.

Lew Zirkle, a doctor in Richland, Washington, works with thousands of surgeons all over the world to treat injuries in poor or war-ravaged countries. He will receive the U.S. Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service—the highest honor the Defense department gives to a non-career civilian—by Secretary James Mattis later this month.

Pedestrians cross the street at Amazon headquarters in Seattle in September.
KUOW Photo / Megan Farmer

Carbon emissions by the tech giants that dominate cloud computing are surging, even as companies like Amazon and Microsoft take steps to tame their climate impact.

The Seattle-area competitors — two of the nation’s largest electricity consumers — take different approaches to their clouds' carbon problems. One favors sunshine; the other, secrecy. Internal documents obtained by KUOW break through that secrecy.

The decision by Bill Nye to attend the State of the Union Address alongside the Trump administration's nominee to head NASA has put the celebrity science educator at odds with many scientists.

Nye, who starred in the children's program Bill Nye the Science Guy and now has his own Netflix original series, Bill Nye Saves the World is also CEO of the Planetary Society.

The known population of one of the world's rarest fish has just doubled, thanks to a lucky find in the waters off Tasmania, Australia.

Meet the red handfish, a name that reflects the hand-shaped fins on the sides of its body. The striking creature doesn't really swim — it "walks" slowly along the seafloor. And until recently, researchers say they were aware of only one colony of the rare animals, with around 20 to 40 fish.

Mary Haddish, 14, left, shops with her father, Daniel Ghebre at Amazon Go on Monday, January 22, 2018, on 7th Ave., in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Nobody likes to wait in line. So today, Amazon removed that unpleasantness from the neighborhood grocery store. At Amazon Go, you walk in, pick up your groceries and walk out.

The last herd of caribou found anywhere in the lower 48 states is in the Pacific Northwest. To be clear, this caribou herd is tiny.

“Today, these are the last 11 that occupy habitat in the Lower 48.”

Flickr Photo/ sharkhats (CC BY-NC 2.0)/

Bill Radke talks to aerospace and science editor for Geekwire, Alan Boyle, about some mysterious bursts of radio waves coming from three billion light-years away and what he explains what you should do if you find see bits of a space lab falling from the sky

Who can say why some gimmicks take off and others flop? But the Google Arts & Culture app tapped into the zeitgeist over the weekend, until it seemed like just about everyone with access to a camera phone and a social media account was seeking and sharing their famous painting doppelganger.

“This is a drawing of a bus that runs on electricity. More people will take the bus.”
Tala, Age 6

Hey parents, families or teachers! Do your kids like to draw? 

Invite them to enter KUOW’s climate-friendly drawing contest. Winners will take home prizes and may have a chance to discuss their ideas on air!

The contest is part of our series on climate change, The Burning Question.

Smoke from an approaching wildfire looms over a home near Twisp, Wash., Aug. 19, 2015.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Kim Malcolm talks with Dr. Philip Mote about how climate change is changing Washington state. Mote is director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute. Previously, he was the Washington State Climatologist.

James Damore, the former Google engineer who was fired after he wrote a memo sharply criticizing diversity efforts at the company, has filed a class-action lawsuit against his former employer alleging that the tech giant discriminates against conservative white men.

"Google executives and employees condemned Damore, his memo, and his views," according to the lawsuit, filed Monday. Damore says he was laughed at, personally insulted and attacked, before ultimately being fired in August.

Boxed items are shown on conveyer belts leading to docks where they will be loaded onto trucks at an Amazon fulfillment center on Friday, November 3, 2017, in Kent.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Bill Radke talks to Peter Goodman, the European economics correspondent for The New York Times, about why workers in Sweden are not worried about robots replacing their jobs. And we hear from Carolyn Adolph and Joshua McNichols about how robots are changing the way humans work at Amazon and what the economic future of our country might be as more jobs are replaced by artificial intelligence and automation.

It was the summer of 2016, and M was worried her ex-husband was stalking her. She would get out of town and stay with friends. But, as she noted in court documents, her ex seemed to know exactly where she was and whom she visited — down to the time of day and street.

M started to change the way she drove — slowing down, driving in circles — in case a private investigator was following her. She didn't see one. Then she went online and learned about GPS trackers — small devices you can slip into a car to monitor where it goes 24/7. She looked for one and couldn't find any.

Even very young babies can tell the difference between someone who's helpful and someone who's mean — and lab studies show that babies consistently prefer the helpers.

But one of humans' closest relatives — the bonobo — makes a different choice, preferring to cozy up to the meanies.

That's according to experiments described Thursday in the journal Current Biology, by scientists who wanted to explore the evolutionary origins of humans' unusually cooperative behavior.

The first thing Neha Mahajan did when she received her authorization to work in the United States was apply for a social security number. Then, she opened up her own bank account.

“I will no longer be my husband’s wife, only,” she declared to PRI’s The World in an interview at the time. Her voice was clear and crisp, groomed from years of working as a broadcast journalist in her native New Delhi.

Aurora, a startup company led by three veterans of Google, Tesla, and Uber, has signed deals with both Volkswagen and Hyundai with the goal of putting autonomous vehicle technology on the market within three years — and doing so "quickly, broadly and safely."

The partnerships will pair Aurora's sensors and software — its machine learning and artificial intelligence technology — with two companies that together produce more than 15 million vehicles each year.

Self-driving Hyundai models will be on the market by 2021, the company says.

After a mysterious disease killed millions of sea stars up and down the West Coast in recent years, they’ve shown some signs of recovery in pockets of southern California. But, in the Pacific Northwest, they’re still suffering.

The Mayo Clinic is building its future around high-tech approaches to research known as "precision medicine." This involves gathering huge amounts of information from genetic tests, medical records and other data sources to ferret out unexpected ideas to advance health. But one longtime scientist at the Mayo Clinic isn't playing along.

If the United States were more like the rest of the world, a McDonald's Quarter Pounder might be known as the McDonald's 113-Grammer, John Henry's 9-pound hammer would be 4.08 kilograms, and any 800-pound gorillas in the room would likely weigh 362 kilos.

One reason this country never adopted the metric system might be pirates. Here's what happened:

In 1793, the brand new United States of America needed a standard measuring system because the states were using a hodgepodge of systems.

This year, deep inside a mountain, North Korea detonated a giant nuclear bomb.