Science | Connecticut Public Radio


A new report out from Brookings confirms what many in Connecticut might have suspected: science, technology, engineering and math skills are vital to more than just universities and pharma companies. In fact, the study estimates 20 percent of all jobs -- about 26 million around the nation -- are dependent on a high level of skill in one of the STEM disciplines. That's a huge increase over previous estimates.

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Gut Check: Befriending Bacteria

Jun 4, 2013
creative commons

There are more bacteria in our bodies than there are human cells: about 10 microbes for every cell!

UConn microbiologist Joerg Graf says “If you took a person and removed all the human cells, you would still see the outline of a human body.”

So what are all these bacteria doing? And are they helping or hurting us?

Connecticut Senate Democrats / Creative Commons

Connecticut lawmakers have passed a “first-in-the-nation” law, mandating the labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs in food products. It’s headed to the Governor for his signature, but that doesn’t mean it goes into effect anytime soon.

Passage by the state house was the final step in a convoluted series of maneuvers that included a bipartisan agreement reached over the weekend. It requires any food meant for human consumption to have a label that says “Produced with Genetic Engineering.”

Nicholas Longrich

You can add another species to the horned dinosaur family.

The recently discovered Judiceratops tigris is the earliest known cousin of horned dinosaurs like the Triceratops and Torosaurus.

Fossils of this species were found in Montana's Judith River Formation, but they were identified by Yale researcher Nicholas Longrich.

The numerous horned dinosaurs show how rapidly they evolved.

Ben Grantham/flickr creative commons

benketaro on Flickr Creative Common

Labeling GMOs and Toxic Chemicals in Connecticut

May 14, 2013
Masahiro Ihara, creative commons

Vegetables that are genetically modified to resist pests have become a part of our daily diet, whether we like it or not. Several states have been considering legislation that would require the labeling of GMO products, but Connecticut could be the first to pass such a law. Opponents of the bill say there’s no health risk, and a law like this would pass on higher prices to consumers.

The legislature is considering a bill that would allow students to opt out of dissecting a dead animal at school.  WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports. State Representative Diana Urban supports the bill. "There are students who actually avoid going to biology class because they object to using an actual animal in their dissection...And I know there's a lot of teasing that goes on in the classes." Urban says students should have a way to choose to use a computer model or simulation instead. Some high schools already allow the choice, while others specifically don't.

The Evolution Of Teaching Science

May 8, 2013
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Pennsylvania is no stranger to controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution. When the school district in the town of Dover required creationism be taught alongside evolution, it sparked a national debate. Ultimately, a federal court ruled that intelligent design is religious theory and not a part of science.

Eight years later, a study by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has found faith-based theories are still taught in Pennsylvania public schools and evolution often isn’t taught robustly, if at all.

Getting Psyched about Science

Apr 23, 2013
Chion Wolf

How is science serving us? And how do we keep kids interested in the field? Those are the big questions we’re tackling today on the program with a panel of scientists and educators.

Microbiologist Arturo Casadevall says “all the major problems facing humanity are scientific problems” -- problems like climate change, pandemics, meteors. He says we need good scientists to deal with these problems. But how do we train the next generation of scientists?

Troy David Johnston/flickr creative commons

Facts change all the time. Smoking has gone from doctor recommended to deadly. We used to think the Earth was the center of the universe and that Pluto was a planet. For decades, we were convinced that the brontosaurus was a real dinosaur. In short, what we know about the world is constantly changing. But it turns out there’s an order to the state of knowledge, an explanation for how we know what we know. Samuel Arbesman is an expert in the field of scientometrics—literally the science of science, and he’ll join us to look at The Half-Life of Facts.

Idaho National Laboratory on Flickr Creative Commons

Stem cells are the Wild West of biomedicine.

  The commercially run SpaceX Dragon capsule just delivered mouse stem cells to the International Space Station, part of an experiment to see how long periods in space affect living organisms.

  In Scotland, researchers are attempting to make blobs of stem cells in a three-d printer.

  And in Italy, terminally ill patients are being given an untested, unproven and theoretically risky stem cell treatment over the protests of scientists.

Idaho National Laboratory on Flickr Creative Commons

Regaining Balance

Mar 28, 2013
Ethan Sherbondy/flickr creative commons

Everybody gets knocked off course. How do you rebalance in an unpredictable world? Bruce Clements joins Faith to talk about the art of restoring balance. Are there go-to tactics that work for most people? Or is the answer different depending on what happens to you? What can we learn from others? How do you get perspective when the clear mind you need is clouded and confused?

Harriet Jones

Drug giant Pfizer says it’s going to tear down 750,000 square feet of unused laboratory space on its Groton campus. As WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports, the move comes after frantic efforts in recent months to find a reuse for the facility.


Tambako the Jaguar, Creative Commons

We all know the story. Monkeys in a science lab, top secret research, something goes terribly wrong. It’s no surprise that most cinematic attempts to depict research like this ends up focusing on what happens to the humans.

But what about the ethics of this research, and what it means for the test subjects? In many cases, chimpanzees have been seen as viable in research because of their close relationship to humans.

From Your Freezer To Antarctica: All About Ice

Mar 8, 2013
Timothy Englert

Today, we’re talking about ice --- and no, not because of today’s weather.

But the icy regions of our planet are telling us important information about our climate. Ice locks in historical data that researchers are just starting to unlock. They’re finding greenhouse gases trapped during the industrial revolution and even the results of nuclear arms testing.

Salt Could Be Behind Rise In Autoimmune Diseases

Mar 7, 2013

Dr. David Hafler is chairman of Yale's Department of Neurology. He's been studying multiple sclerosis for several decades. His lab looks at T-cells known as "helper cells," which are meant to assist the immune system, but do the opposite in diseases like Type 1 diabetes. He says the cells went wild when they removed them from blood and added salt: "The surprise of the study was the degree to which salt could induce as much inflammation both in the mouse and in vitro."

Is Science Broken?

Feb 27, 2013

Is scientific research unbiased and objective, or have money and politics gotten in the way? We've seen a steady stream of books charging scientists with the inability to deliver unbiased information. Today we'll explore this question with science journalist and host of NPR's Science Friday Ira Flatow.

Hundreds Drawn To Solar Energy In Connecticut

Feb 26, 2013

Insuring Interplanetary Acts of God

Feb 25, 2013
navicore, creative commons

When a meteor exploded in the sky above Russia’s Ural mountains, damaging cities and injuring thousands, at first it seemed like an event out of a movie, about alien invasion or a nuclear attack - or the end of the world.

Ultimately - we learned that it was simply a natural phenomenon that occurs from time to time - if very rarely. But just how rare is this type of celestial visitor? And are we prepared for the risk?

Flickr Creative Commons, midwestnerd

It seemed this week that we were living in a Jonathan Franzen novel -- or maybe a collaboration between Franzen and his long-departed buddy David Foster Wallace. A cruise ship so impaired that passengers spent days pooping in bags. A flurry of accusations back and forth between a great newspaper and the inventor of an electric car.

Wieritz on Flickr Creative Commons

The case for meditation is the state of the modern mind.

Attention deficit disorder. Post traumatic stress. Anxiety. Addiction. Hopelessness. Depression. Suicide. I could keep going. We're loading up on meds, many of which will not work for us.

 And then there's this other thing,  And it costs almost no money. A simple experiment will show you its benefits.

Bunch of Amateurs

Dec 16, 2012
Chion Wolf file photo

From a tattooed young woman in the Bay Area trying to splice a fish’s glow-in-the-dark gene into common yogurt (all done in her kitchen using salad spinners) to a space fanatic on the brink of developing the next generation of telescopes from his mobile home, Jack Hitt's Bunch of Amateurs not only tells the stories of people in the grip of a passion but argues that America’s history is bound up in a cycle of amateur surges. Hitt is our guest.

A group of Yale University engineers say they have made a major breakthrough in the mass production of micro fuel cells.

Micro fuel cells work much like their bigger counterparts that power buildings and buses. André Taylor is an assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale, and lead investigator of the research.

A fuel cell takes a fuel source, it could be an alcohol, it could be a hydrogen gas, it could be methane and it converts that fuel using an electric chemical process into electricity.

Ralph and Jenny, Flickr Creative Commons

How much of the Christmas story is true?

Most scholars will tell you the December 25th date has much more to do with pagan festivals of the early Christian era. If you want people to celebrate something, pick a date when they're already celebrating.

It's been about three years since the the Connecticut Science Center sued some of the contractors who built it, looking to recoup some of the money it lost from a faulty roof. Now, as WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, the science center has resolved some -- but not all -- of those claims.