science

The latest episode of the podcast Invisibilia explores the idea that personality — something a lot of us think of as immutable — can change over time.

During his daily bus commute in the bustling Indian city of Hyderabad, there was something that really bothered Narayana Peesapaty.

"Everybody was eating something on their way to work," says Peesapaty, who was working as a sustainable farming researcher for a nonprofit organization at the time. But it wasn't his fellow bus riders' snacking habits that troubled him. It was their plastic cutlery.

Why do onions make us cry?

Many a poet has pondered. Is it because their beautiful, multilayered complexity moves us to weep? Are we mourning the majestic bulb as we cut it up and consume it?

Or are these tears induced by the tragic tedium of chopping, chopping, chopping?

Yes, yes. All of the above.

An image from the Hubble space telescope.
Flickr Photo/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/EhQBf2

Kim Malcolm talks with Geekwire's Alan Boyle about how the Seattle area became a major hub for the entrepreneurial space industry. This week, Seattle is hosting NewSpace 2016, the industry's largest annual conference.

Sixgill shark in the waters around Seattle.
Screenshot from YouTube

Emily Fox talks with filmmaker Michael Werner about his new documentary, "Mystery Sharks of Seattle." It airs on Wednesday at 9 p.m. on KCTS.

When you think about fish, it's probably at dinnertime. Author Jonathan Balcombe, on the other hand, spends a lot of time pondering the emotional lives of fish. Balcombe, who serves as the director of animal sentience for the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy, tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that humans are closer to understanding fish than ever before.

"Thanks to the breakthroughs in ethology, sociobiology, neurobiology and ecology, we can now better understand what the world looks like to fish," Balcombe says.

This is what a concussion sounds like

Jun 20, 2016
Despite missing much of her freshman year of high school because of a concussion, Daisy Emminger will be attending the New School in New York this fall.
KUOW Photo/Conor Gormally

A school assembly on the first day at Garfield High School sounds like this:

But to Daisy Emminger, a Seattle freshman suffering from a concussion, it sounded like this:

"It was just overwhelming," Emminger said. "And painful." 


Will Genetic Advances Make Sex Obsolete?

Jun 16, 2016

Stanford law professor and bioethicist Hank Greely predicts that in the future most people in developed countries won't have sex to make babies. Instead they'll choose to control their child's genetics by making embryos in a lab.

Scientists announced Wednesday that they have once again detected ripples in space and time from two black holes colliding far away in the universe.

The discovery comes just months after the first-ever detection of such "gravitational waves," and it suggests that smaller-sized black holes might be more numerous than many had thought.

The luminous glow of light pollution prevents nearly 80 percent of people in North America from seeing the Milky Way in the night sky.

That's according to a new atlas of artificial night sky brightness that found our home galaxy is now hidden from more than one-third of humanity.

Despite Rise Of Superbugs, Syphilis Still Has A Kryptonite

Jun 10, 2016

Lola Stamm fell in love with the bacterium that causes syphilis when she was in grad school.

Other bacteria are rod-shaped or blobby. Treponema pallidum, the syphilis culprit, is a long, skinny corkscrew — and it slithers.

"Under the dark-field microscope they look like little snakes," says Lola Stamm, a microbiologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. "It's really rather creepy, but they're just fascinating organisms."

Sharon Belvin's nightmare with cancer began in 2004, when she was just 22.

Belvin was an avid runner but said she suddenly found she couldn't climb the stairs without "a lot of difficulty breathing."

Eventually, after months of fruitless treatments for lung ailments like bronchitis, she was diagnosed with melanoma — a very serious skin cancer. It had already spread to her lungs, and the prognosis was grim. She had about a 50-50 chance of surviving the next six months.

"Yeah, that was the turning point of life, right there," she says.

The first time Kit Parker's phone rang, everything seemed fine. It was January 2006, and Parker's old Army buddy Chris Moroski was calling to say hi.

Parker and Moroski had jumped out of airplanes together in the 1990s when they were paratroopers in the National Guard. But after the attacks on Sept. 11, Parker had been deployed to Afghanistan, his friend to Iraq. They'd lost touch.

A powerful new technique for changing genes in insects, animals and plants holds great promise, according to a report from an influential panel of scientists released Wednesday. But the group also says it's potentially very dangerous.

So-called "burn pits" were common at U.S. military outposts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Legislation in the Senate would create a center to study the effects of breathing their smoke.

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