Sun, 03/25/2018 - 1:25am

NC Science Now Reporter's blog

To Lasso an Asteroid

Officially, it’s called the Asteroid Initiative.

The plan was incented by President Barack Obama's call for NASA to send a manned mission to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025, and then aim for flight to Mars in the 2030s.

NASA's initiative offered a number of advantages. It was new and novel; no human had visited an asteroid before. And with very little gravity, the project didn’t require expensive landers and ascent vehicles.

Demonstrating Climate Change

Teachers might say that it’s one thing to tell students information in a lecture format. But it's another to expect them to understand and retain that information. Many students can better do this if teachers can show or demonstrate the information to them as well. Some folks call it active learning.

That thinking is what prompted the creation of the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit.

Preserving an Important Battleground

The iron discipline of the British army saved the day at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. It allowed the soldiers to fight through three lines of American troops and militiamen despite withering fire, and drive the Americans from the battlefield. But the cost was heavy: almost 530 soldiers killed, wounded and captured. That’s roughly a quarter of General Cornwallis’ 1,900-man army. The Americans had a force of about 4,400 soldiers and suffered about 330 casualties (killed, wounded and captured).

Understanding Mechatronics

Mechatronics may be one of the most dynamically developing fields in recent years; a true blend of technology and science. But the term actually goes back decades.

The word mechatronics first appeared in Japan in 1969. It was used by the Yaskawa Elektric Corporation to describe how electronic components and mechanical systems were included in precision machines. The company filed for trademark protection for the use of the term in 1971. Roughly one decade later in 1982, the firm decided to stop trying to protect the term.

What Makes a Face

Let’s face it, there’s a lot involved in the human face.

It’s a complicated mix of physiology and psychology. The information a human face can relay is almost unending. The human face is debateably the most useful, and possibly the most underestimated, means of communication that people have.

So let’s learn a little more about the face.

Bays of Mystery

Carolina Bays provide one of the most intriguing geologic mysteries around.

Think about it. Not only are scientists still trying to determine how Carolina Bays were created, the exact number of Carolina Bays is also unknown.

Jerry Reynolds, the Carolina Bay expert with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, tells me he’s seen estimates ranging from 400,000 to 2.5 million bays in the Southeast United States. Bays can be found from Maryland to Georgia, but the majority of Bays are found in North and South Carolina.

Beyond the Bench

Remember that old saying: “Things aren’t always what they seem.”

It’s especially true when you’re talking about the bench in front of the Durham County South Regional Library near Research Triangle Park.

As you can see from the photo, the bench is very much a bench. But it turns out, that particular bench is also part of a project sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to test what you could call next-generation air monitoring stations.

Sustainable Estate

In the late 19th century when he built his grand estate, George Vanderbilt’s goal wasn’t just to have a place to relax and entertain family, friends, and business associates. He also wanted a place that would preserve the environment in and around Asheville that he had grown to love.

It’s not surprising then that the nation’s first planned and sustainable forestry program was started at Biltmore, where Vanderbilt’s vision for a sustainable estate began and continues today.