Science & Innovation

News about science and innovation

Despite Hurricane Sandy’s projected path through Pennsylvania, four nuclear power plants in the storm's path will remain operational throughout the duration of the storm. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sending additional inspectors to monitor facilities in Dauphin, York, Luzerne, and Chester counties.

What do you do with a jack-o’-lantern after Halloween is over? How about rolling it off the roof of the Carnegie Science Center!

The first ever Great Pumpkin Smash will feature explosive pumpkin-related demos throughout the day and is free with paid general admission.

The Rockefeller, Russel Sage, and Carnegie Foundations were some of the biggest supporters of the eugenics movement and they need to apologize for the repercussions of their advocacy, according to William Schambra.

Schambra, the director of the Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renwal, spoke at Duquesne University’s third annual Pascal Day Wednesday night with a focus on large philanthropic orginizations’ past support for the eugenics movement.

Researchers: When Predicting-Go with Your Feelings

Oct 22, 2012

Wondering whether the Dow Jones will make a jump in the next week? How about what the weather will be like? One study is saying you should trust your gut.

A research team comprised of professors from the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia University has found that when people trust their feelings, they can more accurately predict the outcomes of future events.

Researchers, through eight studies, asked people to predict outcomes including the 2008 Democratic Presidential nominee, the score of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and the winner of “American Idol.”

Building Life from Basic Blocks Focus of Weekend Event

Oct 12, 2012

Some of the best scientist on the Eastern Seaboard will gather in Pittsburgh this weekend to show off their efforts to build new synthetic organisms.  The “jamboree” is part of the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. 

CMU Robot Will Mine the Moon in 2015

Oct 8, 2012

Ten years ago, the theory that there is water on the moon was not widely believed in the scientific community. Now, after a 2010 NASA discovery of ice in the moon's polar regions, Carnegie Mellon University and a spinoff company have designed a robot to gather the water -- and whatever else it can find in the lunar soil.

Human Workers Can Learn From Ants And Bees

Oct 1, 2012

How bees, wasps, and ants think, and how that heightens their work efficiency is the focus of a discussion Monday at Carnegie Science Center at 7 p.m.

“The Wisdom Of The Bee: How To Organize A Team When No One Knows What She Is Doing” will show how these swarm insects have one of the most successful workforces on the planet, despite every single worker not knowing all of the information required to normally make a decision.

The Mars Rover Curiosity recently used a high-powered laser beam to blast and analyze a Martian rock. 140 million miles away, an engineer at the University of Pittsburgh is working with the Department of Homeland Security to improve that technology to make Earth safer.

The blasting method used by Curiosity that employs a beam of light is called laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), which can detect the composition of soils and rocks without ever touching them.

One of the "byproducts" of the Marcellus Shale gas drilling industry is tons and tons of used well pad liners.  Now two companies have begun collecting and recycling the plastic liners from drilling sites throughout the Marcellus region.

WellSpring Environmental Services in Orwigsburg, PA and Ultra-Poly Corporation in Portland, PA hope to take at least 20 million pounds of plastic per year out of the waste stream.

Prominent government, business, and labor leaders gather in Pittsburgh today to discuss the importance of investing in the energy and manufacturing industries as part of the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) 2012 Pennsylvania Energy and Manufacturing Summit.

Mike Mikus, Executive Director of the CEA Mid-Atlantic region, said this meeting will be similar to the Colorado and Gulf Coast Energy Summits, which were held in February and March.

Drake Oil Museum Get Facelift

Sep 8, 2012

In 1859, the country's first commercial oil well was drilled by Colonel Edwin Drake, near Titusville, north of Pittsburgh. Soon the country's first oil rush ensued. More than 150 years later, Pennsylvania has another kind of drilling boom at hand, this time for natural gas. And in the middle of this boom, one museum unveiled a new exhibit that wants us to take a good look back. The Allegheny Front's Reid Frazier went to Titusville for an up-close look at the Drake Well Museum, which tries to connect our energy past to our energy present and future.

Beyond The (Planetarium) Stars

Sep 4, 2012

Beginning on September 22, visitors to the Buhl Planetarium at the Carnegie Science Center will be able to do more than look at stars, but it will take some work to get there.

Between September 4 and 21, the planetarium will be closed for renovation. Among the renovations being made to the Planetarium is new lighting, which Planetarium program development coordinator Robert Marshall says will be outfitted with green LED bulbs that are the brightest on the market.

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 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.

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.