Science

screengrab via nasa.gov

There’s no shortage of excitement surrounding Monday’s solar eclipse.

Though Pittsburghers won’t be able to view a total eclipse (states south of Pittsburgh will get the full experience), we’ll still get about 80 percent coverage, according to NASA.

If you’re in the city or outside, you can check out what your view will look like on this Jet Propulsion Laboratory app:

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Asia Parker wants to be a mathematics professor.

“Math is just amazing. You can do anything,” she said.

Parker, 17 from Carrick, waited in a Duquesne University laboratory near a kiln heating materials she was using in semi-conductor experiments. Semi-conductors are often used in computers and solar panels. The high school senior wants to make new compounds for Jennifer Aitken’s research, which is looking at shifting the wavelength of lasers.

NASA Picks Up 12 New Astronauts, Including 2 From Pennsylvania

Jun 8, 2017
Bill Ingalls / NASA via AP

NASA chose 12 new astronauts Wednesday from its biggest pool of applicants ever, hand-picking seven men and five women who could one day fly aboard the nation's next generation of spacecraft.

The astronaut class of 2017 includes doctors, scientists, engineers, pilots and military officers from Anchorage to Miami and points in between. They've worked in submarines, emergency rooms, university lecture halls, jet cockpits and battleships. They range in age from 29 to 42, and they typically have led the pack.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The University of Pittsburgh is taking steps to promote and grow the region's life sciences industry, which includes medical research, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and information technology.

Vice Chancellor for Economic Partnerships Rebecca Bagley said, despite being among the top five recipients of National Institutes of Health funding, the university has struggled to commercialize the technologies its researchers develop.

Charles Krupa / AP

President Donald Trump has called for a return to “law and order” policing and shown support for stop and frisk and heavy use of force. Many modern police leaders aren’t buying in.

This week on 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and host David Harris looks at one non-member, nonpartisan organization that conducts field studies with real cops to find more nuanced data-driven ways to reduce crime.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are using light to see inside the brains of subjects in ways traditional static imaging scanners cannot.

Functional near infrared spectroscopy, or NIRS, is portable and can measure brain activity while subjects are moving around. It can also be used in remote situations when people can’t get to an MRI scanner, which requires patients lie down and remain very still to get a usable image.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, is called The Nation's Report Card for good reason; the tests are administered the same way year after year, using the same kind of test booklets, to students across the country.

Susan Walsh / AP

The National Department of Transportation announced Thursday that Pittsburgh had received an $11 million grant for advanced technology transportation projects. The announcement was made shortly before Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx joined Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto in a panel discussion during the White House Frontiers Conference at Carnegie Mellon University.

The Science Of Making Rain

Oct 1, 2016
Charlie Riedel / AP

  For as long as humans have been around, we’ve been at the mercy of the weather. And as long as that’s been the case, we’ve wanted a way out—a way to control the weather to suit our needs. In the distant past, we used sacrifices and rain dances. Today, we turn to science.

This is where cloud seeding comes in. It’s humanity’s attempt to do what has always seemed impossible: To harness the clouds and make them rain.

Let’s begin in Fargo, North Dakota, at the headquarters of Weather Modification Incorporated, WMI. It’s the largest cloud seeding company in the world.

National Human Genome Research Institute / genome.gov

At the most basic level cancer can be defined as the DNA of a normal cell going haywire. 

It looks like it could be a cartoon character, but it's real. And this little squid is making waves on the internet.

Researchers from the Nautilus exploration vessel were cruising along the deep sea floor off California's coast when they came upon the bright purple creature with giant, stuffed-animal-like eyes.

"Whoa!" they exclaim in unison.

"It looks fake," one says. And those googly eyes? "It looks like they just painted them on," another says, to peals of laughter.

Three college-age scientists think they know how to solve a huge problem facing medicine. They think they've found a way to overcome antibiotic resistance.

Many of the most powerful antibiotics have lost their efficacy against dangerous bacteria, so finding new antibiotics is a priority.

It's too soon to say for sure if the young researchers are right, but if gumption and enthusiasm count for anything, they stand a fighting chance.

What Your Kids Are Learning About Climate Change

May 18, 2016
NL Monteiro / Flickr

So how—and what—are kids learning about climate change? Well, a survey published in the journal Science earlier this year revealed that students might not be taking home all that much from school. In fact, most science teachers spend just an hour or two on the subject every year.

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

Saint Bartholomew School student Daryl Jean, of Penn Hills said she can’t understand why more girls don’t get excited about science and technology.

“I feel like girls, they can like science and stuff, but they don’t understand it, and some boys can be intimidating,” she said. “But I think you should try your best, because there’s a lot of inspiration out there.”

The American Association of University Women tried to kick start some of that inspiration in young Pittsburghers last weekend with its “Tech Savvy” computer coding workshop at La Roche College.

ESA/Hubble & NASA; Acknowledgement Judy Schmidt

The recent discovery of 1,284 new planets by NASA has increased interest in astronomy nationwide. And while many enjoy a clear night sky with stars too numerous to count, for some, stargazing is more than a hobby.

Fighting An Airplane's Natural Enemy: Ice

Dec 23, 2015
Jennifer Szweda Jordan / 90.5 WESA

A Canonsburg-based company’s superfast computer simulations are helping airplane designers learn about something that the rest of us might not want to think about: how ice forms on airplane wings and engines.

Once an airplane takes off, it soars into hard-to-predict natural elements. One of the most dangerous of those elements is ice. A technology stalwart in the region called ANSYS is addressing this problem.

    Even with the fire alarm going, Josh and Rachel are DETERMINED to bring you all things social going on in Pittsburgh. They are so brave.

Carnegie Science Center 21+ Night- Robots is happening Friday, September 18th.  Learn about all things robotic, check out some of the most famous robots around, see the Omnimax theater, listen to live music and enjoy some great food. The Omnimax will be showing the film ROBOTS. It’s only $10!

The Carnegie Science Center has received a $614,000 grant to promote education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The two-year grant, from The Heinz Endowments, will benefit the Carnegie STEM Excellence Pathway, which offers schools resources to improve their STEM classes.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA News

Teens from around the world were in Pittsburgh this week presenting projects at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair hosted Downtown at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Forget electromagnets and mouse trap cars. Many of these high-level high-schoolers are published authors and hold patents. Last year’s winner created a test for pancreatic cancer now headed toward clinical trial. 

ISEF, a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. Approximately 1,700 high school students from over 75 countries, regions and territories compete to attend the fair. Showcases of independent research result in nearly $4 million in prizes.

Indiana freshman Noor Abdullah examined how a sweet-smelling shrub affects nearby soil.

Intel Free Press / Flickr

About 1,700 high school students from around the world will be in Pittsburgh starting Sunday for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the largest pre-college science competition in the world.

Twenty percent of the competitors hold patents or have published papers — this fair features high-level science.

Walt Urbina / Courtesy Photo

With women earning less than 20 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in physics, engineering and computer science, some might consider Becca Volk an anomaly, but among her teammates on Pittsburgh’s all-female Girls of Steel competitive robotics team, Volk fits right in. The 16 yr. old junior at Avonworth High School knows she wants to be an engineer someday.

On March 28, Girls of Steel won the Chairman’s Award at the Buckeye Regional FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) in Cleveland, which qualifies the team to compete in the FRC Championship April 22-25 in St. Louis.

Carnegie Science Center Talks STEM on Capitol Hill

Mar 19, 2015

With the number of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, jobs increasing at three times the rate of other industries, the Carnegie Science Center is encouraging schools and Pennsylvania lawmakers to focus on improving the way students learn about STEM fields.

During a Wednesday congressional briefing in Washington, D.C., science center representatives and educators outlined the Carnegie STEM Excellence Pathway, an initiative that launched in October to help schools evaluate and expand the way they teach math and science.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back on our favorite Essential Pittsburgh stories and guests from 2014. Today we’re highlighting our favorite science and sci-fi guests.

To hear the full-length audio for this story, please refer to the original post.

Just as it would be difficult for TV viewers to imagine Saturdays without Saturday Night Live, it would be equally challenging for public radio listeners to contemplate Fridays without Science Friday. The weekly call-in program engages listeners and scientists in lively conversations about all things science, and you can hear it here on 90.5 WESA on Fridays from 2 to 4 pm.

The host of Science Friday is Ira Flatow, an award winning NPR host and science correspondent who spent six years writing the well remembered Emmy-Award-winning Newton’s Apple on PBS as well as reporting on science for CBS. Ira started Science Friday as a radio show back in 1991, so it has been nearly a quarter of a century that the program has been on the air. Ira joined us back in June and talked about the interesting ways Science Friday has evolved in that time.

“We’re all about lifelong learning. And that’s why I think listeners are very interested in Science Friday -- because we’re teaching them something new every day, every week.”

Best of 2014: George Takei Talks Sci-Fi and Social Justice

Dec 29, 2014
Ryan Loew / WESA

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back on our favorite Essential Pittsburgh stories and guests from 2014. Today we’re highlighting our favorite science and sci-fi guests. 

To hear the full-length audio for this story, please refer to the original post.

In November, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra explored strange new worlds with the PNC Pops’ Sci-Fi Spectacular. The concert featured music from classic sci-fi TV programs and films, such as “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and “Star Trek,” among others. Actor and activist George Takei was one of the stars of the first Star Trek TV series and originated the role of helmsman Sulu.

Beyond Star Trek, there were many aspects of this man’s life and career to explore, including his role in the award-winning musical “Allegiance,” which is coming to Broadway in 2015. George sat down in studio with me in November. Among other things, we asked him about working in Pittsburgh on the show “Supa Ninjas” and his activism for Japanese Americans and the LGBT community.

“The imprisonment of innocent American citizens who happened to be of Japanese ancestry is parallel to the story of what the LGBT community has gone through and still will have to go through in order to be totally full American citizens.”

Astrobotic / www.astrobotic.com

So, your life's dream has always been to send something to the moon? You may soon have your chance. A Pittsburgh company called Astrobotic is introducing a new service called MoonMail that will allow individuals to send their keepsakes to the surface of the moon. 

But with whose permission, and for what purpose? Astrobotic CEO John Thornton joins us to talk about the future of space freight.

Thornton describes Astrobotic as a “lunar logistics company” -- something like FedEx or UPS but with service to the moon. There’s been a great amount of interest in lunar freight, explains Thornton, including a plan to put a tiny house on the moon’s surface.

Isabella Rossellini Performs "Green Porno" in Pittsburgh

Nov 20, 2014
Warhol Museum

Iconic actress, performer and model Isabella Rossellini comes to Pittsburgh Friday for a special presentation of her one-woman show, "Green Porno."

Adapted from the Sundance Channel series of the same name, Rossellini has created a unique performance-lecture focusing on the mating rituals of a variety of species.

She joins us to discuss her interest in animals and biodiversity and how it led to this show at Carnegie Music Hall, presented in conjunction with The Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Art & Natural History.

Rossellini says that her interest in animals began when she was just a girl, and later in life -- after many years as a model and actress -- she went back to school to study animal behavior.

When she started writing “Green Porno,” Rossellini explains that she worked hard to take dry scientific information and inject humor, create bold costumes and stage visually compelling scenarios to get accurate scientific information across in an entertaining way.

Ryan Loew / WESA

George Takei, who originated the character of Hikaru Sulu on “Star Trek,” joins us in studio. This weekend, Takei will host the PNC Pops "Sci-Fi Spectacular” at Heinz Hall. Takei talks about that event, his acting career, his history of activism and the upcoming Broadway musical "Allegiance," in which he has a starring role.

If you’re the type of person to leave a bowl of candy on your porch and head out to party on Halloween, you may want to consider the Carnegie Science Center’s special adults-only event this Friday evening.

The center hosts 21+ events on the last Friday of each month, and this month’s Halloween theme is “Spirits and Spirits,” presented in collaboration with Wigle Whiskey, Maggie’s Farm Rum and Independent Brewing Company.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

A recent story about the disparity in Boy and Girl Scouts course offerings at the Carnegie Science Center caught fire online. The outrage was made all the more contentious because the seemingly single course offered for Girl Scouts centered on creating beauty products.

How to Encourage Women in Bio Sciences?

Sep 16, 2014
Women in Bio--Pittsburgh

Next week Pittsburgh’s Outstanding Women Entrepreneurs Rally (P.O.W.E.R.) will host a conference promoting leadership for women in life sciences. Susan Catalano, chapter chair of Women in Bio Pittsburgh, and Rebecca Harris, director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, talk about the economic breakthroughs that are being made by women in these fields.

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