Nell Greenfieldboyce http://wesa.fm en Scientists Spot A Planet That Looks Like 'Earth's Cousin' http://wesa.fm/post/scientists-spot-planet-looks-earths-cousin Scientists who have been hunting for another Earth beyond our solar system have come across a planet that's remarkably similar to our world.<p>It's almost the same size as Earth, and it orbits in its star's "Goldilocks zone" — where temperatures are not too hot, not too cold, and maybe just right for life.<p>But a lot about this planet is going to remain a mystery, because it's 500 light-years away.<p>Researchers detected the planet while poring over data collected by <a href="http://kepler.nasa.gov/">NASA's Kepler Space Telescope</a>. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 19:02:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 27737 at http://wesa.fm Scientists Spot A Planet That Looks Like 'Earth's Cousin' Climate Change Adjustments Must Be Fast And Major, U.N. Panel Says http://wesa.fm/post/climate-change-adjustments-must-be-fast-and-large-un-panel-says A new report from the United Nations' panel on climate change says major action is needed, and fast, if policymakers want to limit global warming to acceptable levels.<p>There's an international target to control climate change: keeping the global temperature rise to just 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — that's 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The <a href="http://mitigation2014.org/">Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change</a> now says it's technically possible to meet that goal. Sun, 13 Apr 2014 13:40:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 27495 at http://wesa.fm Climate Change Adjustments Must Be Fast And Major, U.N. Panel Says Scientists Publish Recipe For Making Bird Flu More Contagious http://wesa.fm/post/scientists-publish-recipe-making-bird-flu-more-contagious The Dutch virologist accused of engineering a dangerous superflu a few years ago is back with more contentious research.<p>In 2011, <a href="http://www.erasmusmc.nl/MScMM/faculty/CVs/fouchier_cv?lang=en">Ron Fouchier</a> and his team at Erasmus Medical Center took the H5N1 flu virus and made it more contagious. Now the team has published another study with more details on the exact genetic changes needed to do the trick.<p>The <a href="http://www.npr.org/tags/146924995/h5n1">H5N1</a> bird flu is known to have sickened 650 people worldwide, and of those, 386 died. Thu, 10 Apr 2014 19:06:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 27363 at http://wesa.fm Scientists Publish Recipe For Making Bird Flu More Contagious Smithsonian's Air And Space Museum To Get $30 Million Spiffier http://wesa.fm/post/smithsonians-air-and-space-museum-get-30-million-spiffier Throngs of museum-goers mill through the grand entrance hall of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., every day, gawking at such treasures as the Apollo 11 capsule that carried Neil Armstrong's crew to the moon and back, as well as Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Thu, 03 Apr 2014 17:45:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 26968 at http://wesa.fm Smithsonian's Air And Space Museum To Get $30 Million Spiffier Ethicists Tell NASA How To Weigh Hazards Of Space Travel http://wesa.fm/post/ethicists-tell-nasa-how-weigh-hazards-space-travel NASA is hoping to soon venture out farther into space than ever before. Wed, 02 Apr 2014 15:23:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 26900 at http://wesa.fm Ethicists Tell NASA How To Weigh Hazards Of Space Travel New Dwarf Planet Found At The Solar System's Outer Limits http://wesa.fm/post/new-dwarf-planet-found-solar-systems-outer-limits Scientists have spotted a new dwarf planet at the edge of our solar system. It's a kind of pink ice ball that's way out there, far beyond Pluto.<p>Astronomers used to think this region of space was a no man's land. But the <a href="http://www.nature.com/news/dwarf-planet-stretches-solar-system-s-edge-1.14921#/ref-link-1">new findings</a> suggest that it holds many small worlds — and there are even hints of an unseen planet bigger than Earth.<p>"We used to think there's just not much out there. Wed, 26 Mar 2014 19:01:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 26523 at http://wesa.fm New Dwarf Planet Found At The Solar System's Outer Limits Space Thief Or Hero? One Man's Quest To Reawaken An Old Friend http://wesa.fm/post/space-thief-or-hero-one-mans-quest-reawaken-old-friend More than 30 years ago, Robert Farquhar stole a spacecraft.<p>Now he's trying to give it back.<p>The green satellite, covered with solar panels, is hurtling back toward the general vicinity of Earth, after nearly three decades of traveling in a large, looping orbit around the sun.<p>If Farquhar, a former mission design specialist for NASA, gets his way, the agency will command the spacecraft to fire its thrusters, veer close to the moon, and slip back into the spot where it was intended to be when it was launched in 1978 — and where it was when Farquhar and his accomplices "borrowed" it.<p>Bac Tue, 18 Mar 2014 08:44:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 26035 at http://wesa.fm Space Thief Or Hero? One Man's Quest To Reawaken An Old Friend At 4.4 Billion Years Old, Oz Crystals Confirmed As World's Oldest http://wesa.fm/post/44-billion-years-old-oz-crystals-confirmed-worlds-oldest Scientists have used a powerful new technique to prove that some tiny crystals found in Western Australia are indeed the oldest known materials formed on Earth.<p>Back in 2001, scientists reported that one of the zircon crystals was about 4.4 billion years old — so old that not everyone believed it.<p>"There have been challenges, because nothing in science goes without being questioned. Mon, 24 Feb 2014 08:27:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 24891 at http://wesa.fm At 4.4 Billion Years Old, Oz Crystals Confirmed As World's Oldest If Yellowstone Could Talk, It Might Squeak. Blame The Helium http://wesa.fm/post/if-yellowstone-could-talk-it-might-squeak-blame-helium A huge amount of ancient helium is rising up from the rocks beneath Yellowstone National Park — about enough to fill up a Goodyear blimp every week.<p>The gas comes from a vast store of helium that's accumulated in the Earth's crust for hundreds of millions of years, scientists report in the journal <a href="http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v506/n7488/full/nature12992.html">Nature</a> this week.<p>The helium is being released because in the past couple of million years — very recently, in geologic time — that old part of the crust has been feeling the heat from a huge volcano that is now s Wed, 19 Feb 2014 20:39:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 24668 at http://wesa.fm If Yellowstone Could Talk, It Might Squeak. Blame The Helium Drugmakers And NIH Band Together To Speed Up Research http://wesa.fm/post/drugmakers-and-nih-band-together-speed-research The National Institutes of Health is teaming up with major drug companies in a new effort to identify disease-related molecules and biological processes that could lead to future medicines.<p>The public-private partnership is called <a href="http://www.nih.gov/science/amp/index.htm">AMP</a>, for the "Accelerating Medicines Partnership," and it will focus first on Alzheimer's disease, Type 2 diabetes, and two autoimmune disorders: rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.<p>This is a five-year, $230 million venture. NIH is splitting the cost with industry. Tue, 04 Feb 2014 20:30:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 23894 at http://wesa.fm Drugmakers And NIH Band Together To Speed Up Research Ancient Plague's DNA Revived From A 1,500-Year-Old Tooth http://wesa.fm/post/ancient-plagues-dna-revived-1500-year-old-tooth Scientists have reconstructed the genetic code of a strain of bacteria that caused one of the most deadly pandemics in history nearly 1,500 years ago.<p>They did it by finding the skeletons of people killed by the plague and extracting DNA from traces of blood inside their teeth.<p>This plague struck in the year 541, under the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian, so it's usually called the <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22767313">Justinian plague</a>. The emperor actually got sick himself but recovered. Wed, 29 Jan 2014 07:59:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 23529 at http://wesa.fm Ancient Plague's DNA Revived From A 1,500-Year-Old Tooth Grand Canyon May Be Older (And Younger) Than You Think http://wesa.fm/post/grand-canyon-may-be-older-and-younger-you-think In recent years geologists have hotly debated the age of the Grand Canyon. Some think it's young (just 6 million years old), while others argue that it dates back 70 million years — to the days of dinosaurs.<p>Now one group says the Grand Canyon is neither young nor old. Instead, these geologists say, it's both.<p>In the journal <em>Nature Geoscience</em>, <a href="http://epswww.unm.edu/facstaff/kek1/">Karl Karlstrom</a>, of the University of New Mexico, and some colleagues describe a new creation story for the Grand Canyon. Mon, 27 Jan 2014 08:33:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 23411 at http://wesa.fm Grand Canyon May Be Older (And Younger) Than You Think In Search For Habitable Planets, Why Stop At 'Earth-Like'? http://wesa.fm/post/search-habitable-planets-why-stop-earth In their hunt for potentially habitable planets around distant stars, scientists have been so focused on finding Earth-like planets that they're ignoring the possibility that other kinds of planets might be even friendlier to life, a new report says.<p>So-called superhabitable worlds wouldn't necessarily look like Earth but would nonetheless have conditions that are more suitable for life to emerge and evolve, according to the <a href="http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/ast.2013.1088">study</a> published this month in the journal <em>Astrobiology</em>.<p>"In my point of view, astrono Thu, 16 Jan 2014 20:35:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 22940 at http://wesa.fm In Search For Habitable Planets, Why Stop At 'Earth-Like'? There She Blew! Volcanic Evidence Of The World's First Map http://wesa.fm/post/there-she-blew-volcanic-evidence-worlds-first-map A new study of volcanic rocks suggests that an ancient mural may indeed depict an erupting volcano, adding new weight to a theory that this image is a contender for the world's oldest known landscape painting or map.<p>The mural was found at a vast archaeological site in central Turkey known as <a href="http://www.catalhoyuk.com/">Catalhoyuk</a>. This Neolithic town goes back 9,000 years and was a huge settlement for a time when people were first transitioning from hunter-gatherer to agricultural societies. Thu, 09 Jan 2014 08:38:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 22563 at http://wesa.fm There She Blew! Volcanic Evidence Of The World's First Map Bon Voyage, Voyager: Old Friends Take Stock http://wesa.fm/post/bon-voyage-voyager-old-friends-take-stock For the scientists who have emotionally traveled with NASA's Voyager mission for decades, 2013 will be remembered as the year they knew Voyager 1 had finally become the first explorer from Earth to enter the mysterious realm of interstellar space.<p>Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, both blasted off in 1977, more than 35 years ago. Voyager 1 flew by Jupiter, then Saturn — and then on toward the unknown region that lies between stars.<p><a href="http://cassini-mimi.jhuapl.edu/SMK_BriefBiography_19-051.htm">Tom Krimigis</a>, 75, works at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab. Tue, 31 Dec 2013 08:26:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 22137 at http://wesa.fm Bon Voyage, Voyager: Old Friends Take Stock Screening Newborns For Disease Can Leave Families In Limbo http://wesa.fm/post/screening-newborns-disease-can-leave-families-limbo For Matthew and Brianne Wojtesta, it all started about a week after the birth of their daughter Vera. Matthew was picking up his son from kindergarten when he got a phone call.<p>It was their pediatrician, with some shocking news. Vera had been flagged by New York's <a href="http://www.wadsworth.org/newborn/krabbe.htm">newborn screening program</a> as possibly having a potentially deadly disease, and would need to go see a neurologist the next day.<p>Like every state, New York requires that newborns get a small heel prick so that a few drops of blood can be sent to a lab for testing. Mon, 23 Dec 2013 09:20:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 21829 at http://wesa.fm Screening Newborns For Disease Can Leave Families In Limbo Polar Bear Researcher Gets $100,000 In Settlement With Feds http://wesa.fm/post/polar-bear-researcher-gets-100000-settlement-feds A scientist whose observations of drowned polar bears raised alarms about climate change has received $100,000 to settle a whistle-blower complaint against an agency of the Department of the Interior.<p>Under the settlement, wildlife researcher Charles Monnett retired from his job at the federal <a href="http://www.boem.gov/">Bureau of Ocean Energy Management</a> on Nov. 15, and the agency agreed to remove a letter of reprimand that officials had placed in his file.<p>"Well, it's over, in the sense that my relationship with the department and the federal government is over," says Monnett. Wed, 04 Dec 2013 05:03:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 20785 at http://wesa.fm Polar Bear Researcher Gets $100,000 In Settlement With Feds Bacterial Competition In Lab Shows Evolution Never Stops http://wesa.fm/post/bacterial-competition-lab-shows-evolution-never-stops Evolution is relentless process that seems to keep going and going, even when creatures live in a stable, unchanging world.<p>That's the latest surprise from a unique experiment that's been underway for more than a quarter-century.<p>Evolution is so important for biology, medicine and a general understanding of our world that scientists want to understand it as fully as possible. That's why, in 1988, biologist <a href="http://myxo.css.msu.edu/BioSketch.html">Richard Lenski</a> took a dozen glass flasks and added identical bacteria to each of them. Thu, 14 Nov 2013 19:44:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 19853 at http://wesa.fm Bacterial Competition In Lab Shows Evolution Never Stops Old Dogs, New Data: Canines May Have Been Domesticated In Europe http://wesa.fm/post/old-dogs-new-data-canines-may-have-been-domesticated-europe Scientists have used some new tricks and old dogs to show that thousands of years ago, wolves may have first become man's best friend in Europe.<p>Researchers extracted DNA from ancient wolf or dog fossils and compared it with DNA from modern dog breeds and wolves. Until recently, labs didn't have the kind of genetic tools they'd need to work with such old dog DNA and do this kind of detailed comparison.<p>One surprise is that most domestic dogs are more closely related to ancient wolves than modern wolves. Thu, 14 Nov 2013 19:35:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 19826 at http://wesa.fm Old Dogs, New Data: Canines May Have Been Domesticated In Europe Galaxy Quest: Just How Many Earth-Like Planets Are Out There? http://wesa.fm/post/galaxy-quest-just-how-many-earth-planets-are-out-there A team of planet hunters estimates that about 22 percent of the sun-like stars in our galaxy may have planets about the size of Earth that are bathed in similar amounts of sunlight — and potentially habitable.<p>That's the conclusion of a new analysis of observations taken by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, which was launched in 2009 to hunt for potentially habitable Earth-like planets around other stars.<p>Kepler's goal was to find out if planets like Earth were cosmic rarities or a common occurrence. Tue, 05 Nov 2013 08:01:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 19279 at http://wesa.fm Galaxy Quest: Just How Many Earth-Like Planets Are Out There? The Tail's The Tell: Dog Wags Can Mean Friend Or Foe http://wesa.fm/post/tails-tell-dog-wags-can-mean-friend-or-foe Dogs can pick up emotional cues from another dog by watching the direction of its wagging tail, a new study suggests.<p>In a series of lab experiments, dogs got anxious when they saw an image of a dog wagging its tail to its left side. But when they saw a dog wagging its tail to its right side, they stayed relaxed.<p>This isn't the first time scientists have shown that the direction of a wagging tail can be linked to doggy emotions. Fri, 01 Nov 2013 07:19:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 19094 at http://wesa.fm The Tail's The Tell: Dog Wags Can Mean Friend Or Foe Why Scientists Held Back Details On A Unique Botulinum Toxin http://wesa.fm/post/why-scientists-held-back-details-unique-botulinum-toxin Scientists have discovered the first new form of botulinum toxin in over 40 years, but they're taking the unusual step of keeping key details about it secret.<p>That's because <a href="http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/botulism.html">botulinum toxin</a> is one of the most poisonous substances known. Wed, 09 Oct 2013 21:52:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 17900 at http://wesa.fm Why Scientists Held Back Details On A Unique Botulinum Toxin Shutdown Forces Antarctic Research Into 'Caretaker Status' http://wesa.fm/post/shutdown-forces-antarctic-research-caretaker-status Earlier this week we told you that scientists who do research in Antarctica have been on pins and needles, worried that the government shutdown <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/10/07/230170093/even-antarctica-feels-the-effects-of-the-government-shutdown">would effectively cancel all of their planned field work</a> this year.<p>Well, those scientists just got the news they didn't want to hear.<p>Today, officials at the U.S. Antarctic Program <a href="http://www.usap.gov/usapgov/">posted a statement online</a> saying they are moving to "caretaker" status at the three U.S. Tue, 08 Oct 2013 22:20:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 17838 at http://wesa.fm Shutdown Forces Antarctic Research Into 'Caretaker Status' Even Antarctica Feels Effects Of The Government Shutdown http://wesa.fm/post/even-antarctica-feels-effects-government-shutdown It looks like even Antarctica isn't far away enough to avoid getting caught up in the government shutdown.<p>That's because it's currently springtime there, and scientists who study this remote, rugged continent are poised to take advantage of the few months when there's enough daylight and it's warm enough to work. Mon, 07 Oct 2013 22:39:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 17788 at http://wesa.fm Even Antarctica Feels Effects Of The Government Shutdown Want To Read Others' Thoughts? Try Reading Literary Fiction http://wesa.fm/post/want-read-others-thoughts-try-reading-literary-fiction Your ability to "read" the thoughts and feelings of others could be affected by the kind of fiction you read.<p>That's the conclusion of a <a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2013/10/02/science.1239918.abstract">study</a> in the journal <em>Science</em> that gave tests of social perception to people who were randomly assigned to read excerpts from literary fiction, popular fiction or nonfiction.<p>On average, people who read parts of more literary books like <em>The Round House</em> by Louise Erdrich did better on those tests than people who read either nothing, read nonfiction or Fri, 04 Oct 2013 20:35:00 +0000 Nell Greenfieldboyce 17660 at http://wesa.fm Want To Read Others' Thoughts? Try Reading Literary Fiction