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Weather vs. climate: Why a cold winter doesn't refute climate change

Call it fortuitous timing. Hours before U.S. President Donald Trump issued a tweet last week panning climate change, a University of Georgia climatologist offered a lengthy pre-emptive explanation.

>> ‘Bombogenesis': What is it and why is everyone saying it?

“What we are seeing right now in the United States is just … well … wait for it … winter,” wrote Marshall Shepherd, director of the atmospheric science program at the University of Georgia and a former president of the American Meteorological Society.

>> What is a Nor’easter and how does it form?

Shepherd wrote that he would urge people to keep in mind that “weather is mood, climate is personality” and that weekly weather patterns say little about longer-term climate change.

>> Trump tweets ‘good old Global Warming’ could help with frigid temps

It came about 12 hours before Trump tweeted that forecasts were calling for record cold New Year’s Eve temperatures.

>> See the tweet here

Shepherd wrote that even as climate warms, the seasons will always change to winter and yield frigid weather, snowstorms and blizzards. After all, he said, winter is related to how the Earth is tilted on its axis as it revolves around the sun.

>> Read more trending news 

Concludes Shepherd: "For now, the message for this week and the next seven days is that winter is reminding us that it still exists and always will even as our climate warms. Prepare accordingly, stay warm and help others."

'Bombogenesis': What is it and why is everyone saying it?

It seems like this year's wacky weather term is "bombogenesis."

Every year, there seems to be a new weather term that grabs everyone's attention. But they're almost never new and they're always less fantastical than they sound. 

>> What is a ‘bomb cyclone’ and what will happen when it arrives?

This year's word is bombogenesis, a term that simply describes the rapid pressure drop in a storm system

While you may have not heard the term until recently, there have been many New England storms that have undergone the process of bombogenesis.

The nor'easter tracking up the U.S. coast this week will drop pressure fast as it strengthens, increasing its expected wind and precipitation. 

>> What is a Nor’easter and how does it form?

Typically, a storm with lower pressure has stronger winds and can produce intense rain or, in this case, snowfall rates. 

So now that we know this storm will drop pressure fast or undergo "bombogenesis," we are expecting some hefty snowfall and strong, damaging winds.

>> Read more trending news 

The wind could knock out power to many areas and cause problems with the frigid temperatures that will follow this storm over the weekend.

Chocolate could disappear as early as 2050, scientists say

There is some very sad news, chocolate lovers.

International Business Times reported that chocolate could vanish as early as 2050. Scientists are fighting to save the plant that brings the world the delicacy, the cacao plant.

>> Dogs at higher risk of chocolate poisoning during holiday season

Cacao plants can only survive in a handful of specific regions, but those regions have since become volatile. The plants are frequent victims of fungal disease, climate change and cocoa swollen shoot virus, or CSSVD.

Scientists and researchers at places like UC Berkeley and Mars Inc. hope to use technology to modify the cacao plant seeds to become adaptable to more climates.

And the technology wouldn’t just stop at cacao leaves.

Jennifer Doudna, geneticist and inventor of the CRISPR being used on the cacao seeds, thinks the experiment could change the way food is grown.

“Personally, I’d love a tomato plant with fruit that stayed on the vine longer,” she said.

But all is not terrible in the land of chocolate news.

>> Read more trending news 

World-renowned Swiss chocolatier Barry Callebaut unveiled another type of chocolate called “ruby chocolate” in September.

The pink-hued creation with berry undertones joined the ranks of dark, milk and white chocolate nearly 80 years after the introduction of white chocolate. The ruby chocolate does not obtain its color or flavoring from additives. Instead, the chocolate was created following over a decade of testing a special cocoa bean.

Bullied, abused children and teens at higher risk of heart disease, study says

Children and teens who experience abuse and adversity, including bullying and neglect, are more likely to develop heart and blood vessel diseases as adults.

>> Read more trending news

That’s according to the American Heart Association, which recently published the scientific statement in the association’s journal, “Circulation.”

The statement is based on a review of existing research documenting a strong association between adverse childhood or adolescent experiences and a greater likelihood of developing multiple risk factors -- obesity, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes -- earlier than children and teens who don’t experience adversity.

Those risk factors, according to the association’s statement, significantly raise the likelihood of developing heart diseases and conditions in adulthood, such as heart attacks, coronary artery disease, strokes, as well as continued high blood pressure, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

>> Download the new research at circ.ahajournals.org.

The association defines adversity as “anything children perceive as a threat to their physical safety or that jeopardizes their family or social structure.” This includes:

  • emotional abuse
  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • neglect
  • bullying by peers
  • violence at home
  • parental divorce
  • separation or death
  • parental substance abuse
  • living in areas with high crime rates
  • homelessness
  • discrimination
  • poverty
  • loss of a relative or loved one

“Fifty-nine percent of the U.S. population reports at least one adverse childhood experience, with physical, emotional or sexual abuse most common,” according to Eduardo Sanchez, chief medical officer for prevention and chief of the centers for health metrics and evaluation at the American Heart Association.

>> Related: Your bullying child could land you in jail under new anti-bullying law

These adverse experiences can worsen diet and lead to overeating, trigger or intensify mental health issues, decrease physical activiy, disrupt sleep and increase smoking, Sanchez noted in a commentary about the association’s statement.

When you factor in sex, race/ethnicity and genetics, cardiovascular risk factors are greatly influenced.

But not all children who experience adversity during childhood develop heart or blood vessel diseases.

A variety of factors, such as biology and environment, could help reduce risk. The association calls for future research to dive deeper into this to better understand preventative strategies.

The association also hopes for continued research into understanding how to help people with childhood adversity in order to delay or prevent disease risk.

>> Related: Dog owners less likely to die of heart attacks, study suggests

“The real tragedy is that children are exposed to these traumatic experiences in the first place,” Emory University researcher Shakira Suglia, the writing group chair for the statement, said in the association’s Monday news release. “Ideally, we want to prevent these things from happening in the first place as well as preventing the health consequences that arise from having these experiences.”

It’s important to note that the recent findings don’t necessarily prove cause and effect, but they do suggest there’s more and more research out there that indicates childhood adversity is “a potent and critical modulator of disease and health.”

Currently, the association, through its research, educational programs, advocacy and community intervention efforts, is focusing on those affected by social factors, such as low socio-economic status, low educational attainment, lack of social support and certain residential environments that have been linked with heart disease and its risk factors.

Study: Fracking linked to underweight babies

Pregnant women have to take a ton of precautions to help keep their babies healthy healthy. A new report suggests avoiding fracking sites should be one of them. 

>> Read more trending news

While fracking, the process of injecting liquid into the ground to free up petroleum resources, can benefit local economies, there are potential health risks.

That’s why researchers from Princeton University, the University of Chicago and other institutions across the country recently conducted a study, which was published in Science Advances, to determine the human health hazards associated with fracking.

To do so, they analyzed 1.1 million births in Pennsylvania between 2004 and 2013, examining expectant mothers who lived between 1 and 3 kilometers from fracking areas, before and after the wells were active, and those who lived 10 miles or more away. Analysts then compared the birth weights of siblings born at different distances to wells. 

They found that pregnant women living within two-thirds of a mile to a fracturing well were more likely to give birth to a smaller infant than women who lived at least 10 miles away during pregnancy.

In fact, babies born to mothers who lived closest to or, about 1 kiometer within, a well were 25 percent more likely to weigh less than 5.5 pounds, which is classified as a low birth weight. Low birth weights are linked to infant mortality, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, asthma, lower test scores, lower schooling attainment and lower lifetime earnings.

“Given the growing evidence that pollution affects babies in utero, it should not be surprising that fracking, which is a heavy industrial activity, has negative effects on infants,” Janet M. Currie, co-author of the study, said in a statement.

While scientists are unsure whether the pollution is coming from air, water, on-site chemicals or increased traffic, they said the results prove “hydraulic fracturing does have an impact on our health.”

They are now looking forward to investigating the source of the pollution and challenging lawmakers to consider the dangers to health.

“As local and state policymakers decide whether to allow hydraulic fracturing in their communities,” co-author of the study Michael Greenstone said, “it is crucial that they carefully examine the costs and benefits, including the potential impacts from pollution.”

Eighth planet found orbiting distant star

An eighth planet has been discovered orbiting a star 2,545 light-years from Earth, NASA announced Thursday.

>> Read more trending news

The star, called Kepler-90, is located in the Draco constellation. It is the first known star to have as many planets orbiting it as our solar system does, NASA said.

NASA scientists had known about seven planets orbiting Kepler-90. The eighth planet -- dubbed Kepler-90i -- is a hot, rocky planet that orbits its star once every 14.4 days, NASA said. By contrast, in our solar system, Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, has an orbit of 88 days.

Kepler-90i was found using machine learning from Google Artificial Intelligence. In this case, computers learned to identify planets by finding in Kepler data instances where the telescope recorded signals from planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets, NASA said. 

Christopher Shallue, senior software engineer at Google AI in California, told CNN that, “Machine learning really shines in situations where there is so much data that humans can't search it for themselves.”

Max Born’s identity: Google honors Nobel Prize-winning physicist who escaped Nazis

In honor of what would have been German physicist Max Born’s 135th birthday, the Google Doodle team put together a colorful illustration for the search engine’s home page.

>> Read more trending news

Born is remembered for his major contributions to quantum mechanics, a field of study that has led to the invention of computers, lasers, medical imaging devices and more.

Here are six things to know about Born and his groundbreaking work in quantum mechanics:

He was born in Breslau, Germany — now Wrocław, Poland.

According to Biography.com, Born was born into a family of “upper-class Jewish academics” on Dec. 11, 1882. His father was an anatomy and embryology professor and his mother, who died when Born was only four years old, came from a family of local industrialists.

He made his local university a renowned home for remarkable physicists.

Born was a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Göttingen, for 12 years. Several “soon-to-be-well-known” scientists joined the institution, including Werner Heisenberg, Enrico Fermi, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Maria Goeppert-Mayer.

He was friends with Albert Einstein.

Einstein and Born became friends while studying the theory of relativity. Born was a professor at his hometown university when he first met Einstein, according to Biography.com.

The two famously approached science in very different ways.

“Born, in holding that the basis of the material world was the purely random behaviour of the constituent particles of atoms, shared the majority viewpoint among quantum scientists; yet Einstein persisted in thinking that every event must have its cause, and searched constantly for a deeper explanation which might bring order into the seemingly chaotic sub- atomic world,” German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg wrote for a 1971 book on the two scientists’ friendship, “The Born Einstein Letters.”

In spite of their scientific differences, the two carried a close friendship for more than 40 years and often wrote to each other. Their correspondence was published in the 1971 book.

Born also worked with future Nobel prize winner Otto Stern in Frankfurt, Germany, after World War I.

Born was forced to emigrate to England when Hitler rose to power in Germany.

In 2013, Born’s son, Gustav Born, told BBC.com that in early 1933, Einstein told his father to “leave immediately” while they were still able to travel.

When Hitler took control of Germany, Born and his fellow Jewish scientist colleagues were not allowed to work at the local university and eventually packed their bags for England.

In 2011, Cambridge University unveiled a 1935 letter from Hitler himself expelling Born, the “father of quantum mechanics” from his post at Göttingen University.

Born had a to give up running the institute and his wife was heartbroken.

"They hated to be uprooted in this crude and dangerous way,” Gustav told BBC.com. "My parents were pretty sure this was a one-way journey."

In 1933, when Jewish academics such as Born were being threatened under Nazi Germany, Einstein gave a speech in support of the Academic Assistance Council, which aimed to rescue Jewish and politically vulnerable academics during Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. Watch:

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1954 for the Born Rule.

Born earned the prize for his work in the field of quantum mechanics, specifically for the Born Rule, which Google described as “a quantum theory that uses mathematical probability to predict the location of wave particles in a quantum system.”

“In quantum mechanics, particles don’t have classical properties like ‘position’ or ‘momentum’; rather, there is a wave function that assigns a (complex) number, called the ‘amplitude,’ to each possible measurement outcome,” Caltech physicist Sean Carroll wrote in his blog. “The Born Rule is then very simple: it says that the probability of obtaining any possible measurement outcome is equal to the square of the corresponding amplitude.” 

Here’s the Born Rule equation: Probability(x) = |amplitude(x)|^2

Born’s theory now serves as the basis for almost all quantum physics predictions.

He died on Jan. 5, 1970.

Born died at age 87 at the Goettingen University Medical Clinic. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, his “death was caused by a heart ailment complicated by aerterial (sic) thrombosis.”

Haunting video of starving polar bear goes viral, breaks hearts

heartbreaking video of a skeletal polar bear scavenging for food in a desolate landscape is going viral online. The clip of the bear, which was released by the National Geographic channel, is gut-wrenching.

>> See the clip here (WARNING: Viewer discretion advised.)

Photographer Paul Nicklen, who has been with National Geographic for 17 years, says recording the video was even more heartbreaking. He’s spent his life filming bears and estimates that he’s come across about 3,000 of them, but the animal in his latest video was unlike the rest. In an article about the clip, Nicklen recalled, “We stood there crying — filming with tears rolling down our cheeks.”

>> Read more trending news 

Nicklen says he’s often asked why he didn’t do something, but he explains, “Of course, that crossed my mind. But it’s not like I walk around with a tranquilizer gun or 400 pounds of seal meat.” He added, “When scientists say bears are going extinct, I want people to realize what it looks like. Bears are going to starve to death. This is what a starving bear looks like.”

The internet has definitely felt the gut-punch of the video, which sparked an outcry. Actor Kumail Nanjiani offered one off-hand solution to the problem:

Unfortunately, animals seem to have a very bleak future in front of them. The No. 1 threat to the world’s 22,000 polar bears is climate change, according to a World Wildlife Foundation report. The bears spend the winter months on the ice, where they do a lot of laying around and a whole lot of eating seals; they fast during the summer. But as the winter months have become warmer, it takes longer for the ice to reappear each season, meaning that the animals have less time to eat, and they have to fast for a longer stretch of time. In short, no ice means no seals, which could soon mean no polar bears.

Buzzfeed News also uploaded a video of the tear-jerking scene that has made the rounds online.

Government agencies monitoring about climate change are also warning that we could possibly lose polar bears as early as 2050, per a Washington Post report.

Read more here.

Canola oil linked to dementia, study says

Memory loss and confusion are common symptoms of dementia. Now scientists are linking canola oil to the disease in a new report

>> Read more trending news

Researchers from Temple University recently conducted an experiment, published in Scientific Reports, to determine how the common cooking oil may have an effect on the brain.

To do so, they examined mice that were six months old, dividing them into two groups. One was fed a normal diet, while the other had “a diet supplemented with the equivalent of about two tablespoons of canola oil,” the authors explained. 

After observing the animals for 12 months, they weighed them. They found that the mice on the canola oil diet weighed significantly more than those on a regular diet. 

They then assessed their working memory, short-term memory and learning ability by administering maze tests. They discovered the mice that had consumed canola oil suffered damage to their working memory. The canola oil-treated mice had reduced levels of amyloid beta 1-40, a protein that serves a beneficial role in the brain. 

“As a result of decreased amyloid beta 1-40, animals on the canola oil diet further showed increased formation of amyloid plaques in the brain, with neurons engulfed in amyloid beta 1-42,” the authors said. “The damage was accompanied by a significant decrease in the number of contacts between neurons, indicative of extensive synapse injury. Synapses, the areas where neurons come into contact with one another, play a central role in memory formation and retrieval.”

Their findings suggest canola oil is not beneficial to the brain, especially when it is consumed over long periods of time. Researchers now hope to further their studies to find out exactly how much canola oil can produce changes in the brain and if it can be linked to Alzheimer’s disease. 

“Even though canola oil is a vegetable oil, we need to be careful before we say that it is healthy,” lead researcher Domenico Pratico said. “Based on the evidence from this study, canola oil should not be thought of as being equivalent to oils with proven health benefits.”

 

Watch: NJ policeman captures meteor on dashcam

A New Jersey policeman on patrol in the middle of the night was treated to a spectacular celestial treat as a meteor streaked across the sky, NPR reported.

>> Read more trending news

On Dec. 2 at 3:09 a.m., Sgt. Michael Virga was on patrol for the Township of Hamilton when his vehicle dashcam caught the path of a fireball that lit up the sky. The event was confirmed by the American Meteor Society, which received several reports along the East Coast of the United States, NPR reported.

“It was a pinpoint in the sky, then a bright lime green streak and then it disintegrated," Virga told NPR.

He thought at first the flashing light came from fireworks, but was startled enough to pull over and rewind his video. Virga saw that he had recorded a clear view of the event, a case of “being in the right place at the right time.” 

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