Science & Innovation

News about science and innovation

Robot Hall of Fame Voting Open to the Public

Aug 21, 2012

Twelve robots in four groups are competing for a place in the Robot Hall of Fame, and for the first time the public is allowed to vote on nominees in Education and Consumer, Entertainment, Industrial and Service, and Research categories. A pool of more than 100 international scientists and experts nominated the contenders which include every thing from a kit for designing and building robots in schools, to Rosie - the maid robot in the Jetsons.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and University of Pittsburgh found a link between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and concussions.

Dr.  Anthony Kontos, of Assistant Research Director for the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program said the study involved more than 27,000 U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) personnel.  

A $30 million Defense Department grant has been awarded to a new public-private partnership that includes manufacturers from Pennsylvania, northeast Ohio and West Virginia.  The funds will promote advanced manufacturing technology in the region.

to develop an Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (AMII). The institute will create a plan to promote additive manufacturing technology, advance innovation, and create a workforce capable on meeting industry needs.

Most teachers are preparing for the upcoming school year by organizing markers, pencils, and notebooks, but others will spend the next few weeks fiddling with wires, sensors and motherboards. Dozens of teachers across the region will help their students build robots this fall with the new “Hummingbird” robotics craft kit created by a local startup company.

NASA's newest and most advanced rover, Curiosity, is due to land on the surface of Mars at about 1:00 AM Monday, August 6th. The Carnegie Science Center and Buhl Planetarium is marking the occasion with mid-day, hour-long programs on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday featuring NASA news briefings, animated videos and Q&A sessions with Planetarium staff.

Last Sep­tem­ber, Chesa­peake Energy CEO Aubrey McClen­don declared to a Philadel­phia energy con­fer­ence that the prob­lem of methane migrat­ing through the ground near nat­ural gas drilling sites had been fixed. "Prob­lem iden­ti­fied. Prob­lem solved," he told an industry-heavy crowd at the Philadel­phia Con­ven­tion Center.

Nearly a year later, Brad­ford County res­i­dent Michael Leighton is wor­ried about the flam­ma­ble gas seep­ing into his woods.

The Congressional Natural Gas Caucus holds a hearing this morning to examine job growth in the natural gas industry — more specifically, what opportunities and potential challenges exist to growing American jobs.

"We're talking now about 1.6 million direct jobs from natural gas, 600,000 new jobs in 2010 alone. Overall we're looking at about 2.8 million jobs, a fairly stable job sector for the next 20-25 years from this natural gas development and use, and it's an exciting aspect of the United States," said Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA-18), co-chair of the caucus.

State Prison Uses Landfill Methane for Power

Jul 18, 2012

The state prison in Somerset County is using methane gas from a local landfill to generate the electricity and steam that power the penitentiary.

Though the methane-to-electricity plant has been online since January, officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections dedicated the plant Tuesday in memory of the late DOC Operations Director Robert Calik.

With an estimated cost-savings of $68 million over the next fifteen years, the plant would pay for itself and more.

Tour de Frack Bicyclists Come Through Pittsburgh

Jul 13, 2012

Anti-Marcellus Shale cycling activists known as the Tour de Frack will come through Pittsburgh Sunday and hold a reception at the Pump House in Homestead at 7:30 PM with entertainment by local musicians, including Mike Stout.

Snow and rain may no longer be an excuse to avoid driving at night. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a smart headlight system designed to help improve visibility during inclement weather.

The new technology, as demonstrated in laboratory tests, prevents distracting and dangerous glare that results from headlight beams reflecting off raindrops and snowflakes.

Searching For Savings, Drivers Turn To Natural Gas

Jul 5, 2012

Whether it's men­tal, writ­ten on an enve­lope or metic­u­lously doc­u­mented in a spread­sheet, a list of pros and cons often plays a role in the pur­chase of a new car.

What's the mileage like? How safe is it? How's it look?

If a shop­per was weigh­ing whether or not to buy a nat­ural gas-fueled car, the top item on the "pro" side would with­out a doubt be the cost of fuel: right now the gallon-equivalent of com­pressed nat­ural gas costs less than half as much as a gal­lon of gasoline.

The Sounds of Science

Jul 3, 2012

For over a century, scientists have known that gases in the atmosphere can trap heat, making the planet warmer. To illustrate this Greenhouse Effect, we recorded a pair of singers, David Jennings-Smith, a singer with the Pittsburgh Opera, and Pittsburgh vocalist Angela Morelli.

Summer Gas Bill Moves To Governor's Desk

Jul 2, 2012

With summer now in full swing, the State Senate has agreed to amendments made by the House to the Federal Clean Air Act in relation to compliance with requirements for low Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) gasoline, more commonly known as "summer gas." The legislation aims to make gasoline cheaper for motorists in western Pennsylvania.

Michael Rader, Executive Director to the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, said the original goal was to do away with the high-cost gasoline.

The Future of Energy

Jun 29, 2012

Nathan Hultman, a scientist at the University of Maryland, has thought a lot about shale gas, climate change, and energy policy. It's not so much the emissions he's worried about with shale gas, but the impact it will have on a cleaner type of energy.

This story is part of "Gas Planet," a special presentation of the Allegheny Front.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) wants Pennsylvania homes to be a bit safer and more energy efficient. It is trying to get out the word through a series of webinars. The online events will be offered every quarter starting Wednesday, June 27 at 7:00 PM.

Amanda Witman, spokeswoman for the DEP, said the webinars are a part of the Department's new initiative to promote better living. The first webinar, titled "Summertime Advisories," will run a little longer than one hour. Witman said several more will follow focusing on a variety of topics.

Find Historical Markers on Smartphones

Jun 26, 2012

History buffs and travelers alike may find the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission's newly updated mobile website useful for finding interesting sites while on the go in the state. Smartphone users can go to PATrailsofHistory.com on their mobile web browser, click "Find What's Nearby," and locate historical markers and museums in close proximity.

Translating The Web While Learning A New Language

Jun 25, 2012

Carnegie Mellon University computer scientists have spun off a new, free website called Duolingo, where language learners translate real-world texts from the Internet while they're building vocabulary and grammar skills.

A Biography of Methane

Jun 22, 2012

Coal, oil, and natural gas are all fossil fuels, but they have different origins. Coal mainly comes from plants that grew on land and died long ago. The source for oil and methane — the main ingredient of natural gas — is something else.

"But they all more or less have a fairly common origin in that they were once some sort of algae or some other form of sea life, like plankton for instance, that died off long ago," said Dave Yoxtheimer, a geologist at Penn State who studies the Marcellus shale, the largest shale gas deposit in the U.S.

Methane the Potent

Jun 22, 2012

Methane comes from a lot of things, not just a gas well. It bubbles out of swamps, landfills, and rice paddies. Believe it or not, cows are a major source of methane. A recent study said it was up to 100 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. To explain why, the story begins not on earth, but in space.

All energy on earth comes from the sun, mainly in the form of light.

Support For Shell Tax Break In Monaca, But Skepticism Over Job Claims

Jun 19, 2012

How much should a state pay to create jobs? Many people are asking that question, as Governor Corbett calls on legislators to pass a $1.65 billion tax break aimed at Royal Dutch Shell.

StateImpact Pennsylvania traveled to Beaver County, to find out how the proposal is playing in the community where Shell is considering building a major chemical processing plant.

Carnegie Mellon University will host the Nature Gigablitz event from June 20-26, where anyone and everyone can submit documentation of biodiversity in their neighborhoods. Photos are shared and made available for analysis from participants all over the world.

Corbett Administration Defends Tax Credit

Jun 15, 2012

When Governor Tom Corbett praised a deal with a major energy giant to set up shop in Beaver County, he didn't mention a $1.7 billion tax break was needed, too, but now the administration says that was part of the original deal.

Royal Dutch Shell made that request of the Corbett administration when it said it was considering building a natural gas processing plant in western Pennsylvania.

“In the Classroom, Not A Landfill"

Jun 15, 2012

An estimated two and a half million tons of computers and other electronic waste, or "e-waste," is tossed out each year in the United States. Only about 25% is recycled. The rest takes up space in landfills, and sometimes seeps lead and other hazardous chemicals into the ground and water supply. One local nonprofit's found a way to reduce that toxic load, and help people, too.

A few students are gathered in the computer lab of an after-school program south of Pittsburgh in Dormont. It's almost the last day before summer vacation, so it's a little quieter than usual.

The Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District is holding a public comment meeting on a nuclear waste removal project halted in September. Work was stopped after a safety breech and the discovery of "complex" materials which are more difficult to remove, prompted a policy review.

"We don't have any new information, but we want to get their voice and collect their comments so we can forward them up to the people reviewing this policy," said Corps public affairs officer Jeff Hawk.

Pittsburgh City Council heard public testimony Wednesday about a federal Environmental Protection Agency proposal to curb carbon pollution from new coal-fired power plants.

All of the speakers at the hearing supported the EPA's proposed rule, which would cap carbon emissions from future coal-fired plants at 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour. The unprecedented regulation would not cover existing plants, or those built within a year of the rule's adoption.

Republicans are speaking out in protest of the federal Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) regulations on the energy industry across the nation and in Pennsylvania. U.S Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA-18), Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan, and U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith describe the regulations as a declaration of war on coal.

Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio Competing for Shell's Cracker

Jun 13, 2012

In March, Governor Corbett announced Royal Dutch Shell was entering into negotiations with Pennsylvania on a deal that would give the company $1.7 billion in tax breaks, but this week, he acknowledged Ohio and West Virginia are still making offers to the company. That uncertainty has critics wary of this tax benefit, especially since the commonwealth has already offered Shell a 15-year tax exemption.

5k Walk to Promote Prostate Cancer Awareness

Jun 13, 2012

A local foundation is promoting awareness of prostate cancer by hosting its tenth annual "5k/10k run/walk" in the North Side on Sunday morning.

The Obediah Cole Foundation for Prostate Cancer said it expected about 3,000 people to show up at River Front Park for the races this year, which would set a record for the Father's Day event.

A team of researchers from Penn State University has made precise measurements of a binary star system 200 light-years away.

The Kepler-16 system was discovered in 2011 by a team from NASA, but the Penn State study is the first to discern the light output from each of the two small stars using a spectrograph.

Panel Discusses Tapping Into Marcellus Shale

Jun 7, 2012

Businesses from the Pittsburgh region looking to break into the Marcellus Shale industry today received some advice from a panel featuring a keynote speaker from Shell Oil Company. Hosted by the Rotary Club of Pittsburgh, the presentation served as an informational session on how non-drilling companies can take advantage of the natural gas trapped in the rock formation underneath much of Pennsylvania's surface.

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