Topic: Physical Science

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Current Event May 17, 2018

How Our Brains Recognize Words

Physical Science Human body

Scientists have identified a two-step process that helps our brains learn to first recognize, then categorize new sounds, even when they sound almost the same. This process is similar to how the brain processes visual information. The research team used monkey calls in their experiment and taught volunteers to recognize them. Then the volunteers’ brains were studied. Listen to hear more about this discovery about sounds and what the new studies may help us understand.

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Current Event May 14, 2018

Volcanic Eruption in Hawaii

Earth and Space Science Physical Science

On Hawaii’s Big Island, the Kilauea volcano sent a pool of lava back underground causing small earthquakes. At least 1,500 residents were ordered to evacuate after the volcano erupted. In some neighborhoods, lava is splitting the ground open and exposing molten rock that can shoot high in the air. The lava has covered over an acre of land and hundreds of small earthquakes have been shaking the ground. The Governor and National Guard have been working to ensure the safety of all residents. Listen to hear more about the volcano and earthquakes in Hawaii.

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Flipping Cats

Animals Physical Science

Cats are mysterious creatures to us humans for many reasons. One of these reasons is that cats seem to always land on their feet whenever they fall. In fact, cats can be dropped upside down and still land on their feet, every time. But, how do they do this? It seems to defy the laws of physics. The answer has to do with momentum, and is explained by an expert. Listen to hear about how cats achieve this amazing feat.

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Current Event November 16, 2017

The Perfect Measuring Cup

Physical Science

The shape of measuring cups hasn’t changed for decades. But how they are shaped affects how accurate they are. That is the reason why a software engineer quit his job to redesign the measuring cup. He named his new company Euclid after a Greek Mathematician and began experimenting with shapes and formulas. Listen to this audio story to learn about the difficult journey to make-over a seemingly simple kitchen tool.

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Current Event September 27, 2017

The Link Between Research and Inventions

Life Science Earth and Space Science Physical Science

Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year on basic research. A new study shows that money is not wasted since there is a strong link between basic research and future patented inventions. Researchers studied 4.8 million patents issued by the U.S. Patent Office and 32 million scientific papers and found a strong link between new technologies and research. Listen to hear more about this link.

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Current Event June 8, 2016

Measuring Force on Steel

Physical Science Forces and Newton's Laws

Building anything from steel, such as buildings or cars, requires an understanding of how the material responds to force. And yet the largest machine in the world that measures force on steel is decades old. This machine measures compression and tension force, up to a million pounds. It was recently restored and refurbished, and could keep measuring force for another 50 years. Listen to hear about this valuable machine.

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Current Event February 11, 2016

LiFi vs WiFi

Technology Physical Science Light

Li-Fi is a lot like Wi-Fi, but it uses light to transmit data. In tests, it is 100 times faster than an average home Wi-Fi connection. Li-Fi uses LED lights to transmit data and these lights can become communication devices. The spectrum is larger and slow downs that are often seen in Wi-Fi are not an issue. Listen to hear more about this exciting invention.

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Current Event November 24, 2015

Protons and the Start of the Universe

Physical Science Matter

Our world is made of matter. Everything you see and feel is ordinary matter. Matter has a counterpart called antimatter. And true to science-fiction stereotype, if matter and antimatter meet, they destroy each other. Scientists are trying to find out why antimatter is so rare. One recent experiment took place inside a giant particle accelerator where scientists made small amounts of antimatter. After studying and measuring the forces of both antimatter and matter, they found that they behaved exactly the same. Listen to hear more about this discovery and why it matters.

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Two Kinds of Earthquakes

Earth and Space Science Physical Science

One of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded struck recently, with minimal damage, no tsunami and it barely made the news. That’s because there are two kinds of earthquakes. This earthquake happened when two tectonic plates moved past each other horizontally, while more damaging earthquakes are caused when one plate slips beneath another. This radio story explains the two types of earthquakes and how they are gradually redefining the boundaries of the tectonic plates.

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Current Event June 24, 2015

The Make Up of Atoms

Physical Science

When we look out into the world we see empty space, the air, and solid objects, like a chair. Astrophysics professor Adam Frank says our perception of solid matter isn’t consistent with science and what we know about how atoms actually work. Throw away your image of tightly fitting marbles and open your mind to empty space and whizzing electrons in this science exploration.

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Earthquake damages hydropower systems


Earthquake Damages Hydropower Systems

Earth and Space Science Energy Physical Science Forces and Newton's Laws

Earthquakes can have far-reaching consequences not just on homes but on the power infrastructure. A 2008 earthquake in Southwest China left officials and engineers monitoring the structural integrity of enormous hydroelectric dams built to generate power. A fear of flooding caused by a cracked dam led some to wonder if they had taken the strengths of the region, its rivers and irrigation systems, and turned them into a potential threat. Listen to learn how hydroelectric power systems impact places and people.

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Current Event February 24, 2015

How the Sun Works

Earth and Space Science Space Systems Physical Science

The sun is a star that sits at the center of our Solar System. It provides heat and a gravitational pull for all of the planets that orbit it. Scientists have long believed they knew what the sun was made up of and how it worked. When new evidence upset the balance between theory and observation, a solar physicist set out to reproduce the way the sun functions in a laboratory. Listen to hear more about how the sun works.

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Tsunami science


Tsunami Warnings Get More Accurate

Earth and Space Science Weather and Climate Physical Science Forces and Newton's Laws

Tsunamis are created by tectonic plates thrusting against each other and then lifting the sea floor and dropping it down, which creates a giant wave. A 2010 earthquake in Chile was caused by a shift in the seafloor. This same shift set off tsunami detection buoys and left scientists waiting for the tsunami to hit. But it ended up being small. Listen to learn more about this quake and how tsunamis are created.

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Volcanoes and geothermal energy


Volcanoes are a Source of Renewable Geothermal Energy

Economics Earth and Space Science Energy Physical Science

As nations look for clean energy alternatives many are turning to wind and solar, but Indonesia is turning to its volcanoes. Indonesia has 130 active volcanoes. These volcanoes generate geothermal heat that is releases through vents and hot springs throughout the country. Power companies are learning to harness and redirect this heated steam into power plants in order to generate electricity. Indonesia’s geothermal energy potential is huge, but start up costs and oil subsidies might prevent this burgeoning clean energy from taking off.

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Humans impact on climate change


Human Impact on Climate Change

Life Science Earth and Space Science Animals Climate Change Weather and Climate Human Impacts Physical Science

A United Nations report in 2014 shows that human activities are changing the planet. The scientists are more confident in their conclusions that humans are causing global warming. There are rising sea levels, higher temperatures and impacts on wildlife. This conversation with a public radio reporter looks at the long term trend in global temperatures and what humans can do to reverse the trend.

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Gravity and the curveball


Gravity and the Curveball

Sports Physical Science Forces and Newton's Laws Motion

Throwing a curveball is one of the most difficult pitches in baseball. Bill Lee, a former pitcher for the Red Sox, explains how important it is to consider physics when trying to throw a curveball. Listen to learn how objects travel through space and how gravity affects a curveball.

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Shredding cars


Recycling Old Cars

Earth and Space Science Environment Human Impacts Physical Science Air Pollution

The "cash for clunkers" program was a limited federal government program in the U.S. that gave people credits to trade in their old, gas guzzling, polluting cars for newer ones. The goal was to get older cars off the road to improve pollution. Because the “cash for clunkers” program did not allow the re-sale of old car engines, junkyards were forced to turn the cars into scrap metal. Listen to learn what this scrap metal can be turned into.

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Engineering with mushrooms


Engineering Design Turns Mushrooms into Foam

Life Science Environment Engineering Physical Science

In this story, we hear from the head of Ecovative, a company that uses mycelium fibers from fungi to create useful and environmentally-friendly products. There are advantages of using mycelium fibers in place of plastics and foams, as well as challenges faced by the inventors in trying to create useful products. Listen to this story to hear how the engineering design process is described, as well as how scientists used this method to get to where they are today.

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