Current Event April 6, 2021
In 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami set off explosions at a nuclear power plant near the Japanese town of Okuma. The disaster killed more than 20,000 people in the region and forced many others to flee their homes. In this audio story, a reporter returns to Okuma ten years after the explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to check on the city’s rebuilding efforts. Listen to newly-returned residents discuss the town’s past and future, and learn how removing the top of a mountain could help protect them from future devastation.
Current Event March 9, 2021
One of the NASA engineers responsible for sending the Perseverance rover to Mars is a young Latina woman. In this interview, Christina Hernandez recounts what made the mission exciting for her both personally and professionally. She credits her upbringing and her family’s immigrant past, in particular, for her present success. Listen to hear a Latina scientist explain what she loves about her work and why she believes Latinas are well equipped to take on the toughest challenges.
Current Event March 1, 2021
NASA’s Perseverance rover has landed safely on the surface of Mars. It had to slow from a traveling speed of 12,000 miles per hour and complete a complex series of steps to make a safe landing. The rover landed in the rock-filled Jezero Crater, an area scientists believe was once flooded with water. Listen to learn what scientists hope to discover through the mission, and hear how they reacted when the rover finally touched down.
Update: Since this story aired, the Perseverance has sent videos of its landing back to Earth, which are available online.
Current Event December 5, 2019
Inventors are not always famous people like Thomas Edison. They can be ordinary folks who think up new ways to solve everyday problems. Anyone can design a new gadget and patent it to protect the idea from being copied. Most inventors in the United States are men, leaving young women with few role models, but creative women hope that changes. Listen to hear female inventors describe how sticky tape and rainy days inspired their first inventions and why they believe more women inventors would benefit everyone.
Current Event September 11, 2019
When a vacant lot in Sacramento was up for sale, one neighbor had an idea for what it could become. She envisioned an urban farm, so she bought the lot and invited a local nonprofit group to help turn it into an “edible art garden” after gathering input from other community members. Listen to learn what this once bare lot looks like today and how it benefits the neighborhood surrounding it.
Current Event May 21, 2019
The job of an astronaut on the International Space Station is demanding, and those interested in the job must have many skills and qualifications. Astronauts must be prepared for spacewalks, science experiments, station maintenance, and many other tasks. Like any job, being an astronaut has its own special quirks and challenges. Listen to hear from some astronauts on the International Space Station about their experiences orbiting the earth for science.
Current Event April 18, 2019
Would you like to eat apples that never turn brown? Scientists hoping to genetically modify plants for crop development think they may have found a solution to a major problem they have been facing. The cell walls of plants make it difficult to insert genetic material into plant cells to change how those plant cells work. The solution–carbon nanotubes–was discovered by accident. Listen to learn about the discovery and implementation of this nanotechnology solution and how it could change the way scientists breed new crop varieties.
Current Event February 13, 2019
An ocean cleanup project in the Pacific has run into some problems cleaning up a floating debris field known as the Great Pacific garbage patch. The 2000-ft. long, U-shaped floating barrier is designed to catch plastic trash in the Pacific ocean, where an enormous garbage patch has collected. The ambitious system is the brainchild of a 17-year-old scientist. The device is not yet working exactly as hoped, but engineers are trying to address the issues that are getting in its way. Listen to hear more about this creative pollution solution and the inventor’s optimistic outlook on its potential to help the environment.
Current Event February 5, 2019
Some students at Texas Woman’s University have won a NASA-sponsored design competition aimed at solving problems related to space travel. The students tackled a problem that astronauts have a lot–lower back pain. They created a shirt to prevent and treat this common health issue through a design that simulates gravity. Like many other inventions for astronauts, the space shirt may also have other uses on earth. Listen to hear about how these students worked together on their design and what is next for their winning space shirt.
Current Event December 12, 2018
A new NASA probe called InSight recently landed on Mars after traveling 300 million miles from Earth. The success of this mission was a very exciting accomplishment, as it involved a complex process of slowing down the probe very quickly in order to make a smooth landing. Listen to this story to learn about this important engineering achievement and what NASA hopes the probe will do now that it has safely landed on Mars.
Current Event November 1, 2017
There is widespread support for infrastructure spending from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Funding roads and bridges is good for the economy. It creates jobs, fuels growth, and helps Americans travel more quickly and safely. President Donald Trump promised a $1 trillion infrastructure spending plan as a part of his campaign as well as his presidency. Trump’s new budget has allocated $200 billion in federal money for infrastructure over 10 years, but also cuts programs he calls wasteful, including water facilities and airports. Listen to hear questions and concerns about where the money is going to come from.
Thirty years ago, the nation watched in shock as the space shuttle Challenger exploded soon after take off, tragically killing all seven crew members, including a civilian teacher. This shuttle had launched and landed successfully nine times before this tenth launch. One of the rocket engineers feels partially responsible to this day. In a recent interview, he explains that he and his colleagues had anticipated the failure, and had warned officials that conditions weren’t right for the launch. When NASA ignored their warnings, the consequences were fatal. Listen to hear more from a NASA engineer’s perspective on this tragic event.
People rely on batteries to power our technology: laptops and phones run on rechargeable batteries. These can leak and are full of chemicals. But over time, these batteries stop re-charging, forcing us to purchase a new battery. But what if our batteries never died? A new battery was recently created that can last over 100 times longer than typical batteries. Listen to this story to figure out how one scientist has engineered a new battery.
Current Event September 7, 2017
Minecraft has become one of the largest and fastest growing games of all time. It is a game of free realm, allowing people to build whatever they please, with creativity and innovation. Unfortunately, not everyone has equal access to Minecraft as it is costly to have all the equipment. One non-profit group is helping to provide access to a wider audience of future coders. Listen to hear about how this Minecraft camp exposes young kids to a future where creativity and computer science collide.
Current Event September 15, 2016
Dolly the sheep became famous two decades ago for being the first mammal to be successfully cloned. Today, four sheep that came from the same cells as Dolly have reached their ninth birthday. This is significant to scientists because it shows that it is possible for cloned mammals to live healthy lives into old age. Listen to hear more about this encouraging milestone for cloned animals.
Current Event August 13, 2015
Self driving cars are on the roads in some cities and could be coming to a highway near you. General Motors is only 5-10 years away from offering a self-driving car to the general public. But drivers are thinking about their privacy and safety as this new hands-free driving technology becomes available. Two hackers were recently able to remotely take control of a Jeep, which highlights concerns about cybersecurity. Listen to hear about the new automated technologies and the steps car companies are taking to ensure their customers are safe and secure.
Current Event May 27, 2015
During the Cold War the United States and the Soviet Union were in an espionage and arms race. From spying to building weapons and planes, the military and diplomatic corps were always working. Captain Roger Moseley was part of one of the most secret programs during the period, the development of the Stealth F-117 airplane. This airplane could avoid Soviet detection, allowing the planes to spy. Moseley wasn’t an obvious choice for such an important project, but an inflammatory speech made him attractive to the U.S. government spying program.
Discussion of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions often occur at the national level. Nations promise to lower emissions and scientists look for alternative energy sources. But new software is providing data for this emission reduction discussion at a local level. The software allows people to have a view into their carbon emissions on the level of a city, neighborhood, block and even household. Listen to learn how scientists and local officials are working together to track and understand emissions at the local level.
While humans need food and water to survive, plants are able to get their energy from the sun through a process known as photosynthesis. Engineers are now trying to replicate this process of converting sunshine to power through artificial photosynthesis. They are trying to create an artificial leaf. Listen to learn how these problem solvers are approaching the challenge step by step.
Scientists say it’s nearly certain that human activity and fossil fuels are warming the planet. The mainstream discussion focuses on alternative energy and reducing fossil fuel emissions. But the field of geoengineering is looking for more large scale and proactive things we can do to offset warming. Some see this as an exciting way to help the planet, others as a threat. Listen to learn about the strategies geoengineers are exploring to prevent further global warming.