Fri, 01/19/2018 - 6:45am

NC Science Now Reporter's blog

Cycling Cicadas

For all of the high-tech science that cicadas are providing the researchers at North Carolina Central University’s Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE), it seems only fitting to talk a little more about the mysterious insects. That’s because there might not be another insect that provokes more emotional reaction than the periodical cicada; a creature that you will only find between the eastern half of the Great Plains and the Atlantic Coast.

That’s right.

Periodical cicadas are not found anywhere else on Earth.

How Much Wind Does a Wind Turbine Need?

There are more than 2,300 wind turbines spinning away and creating energy off the coasts of 11 European countries. A large number of those turbines are located in the North and Irish seas. One reason for that is because the winds blowing across those bodies of water are not only strong but also sustained.

It’s the same reason wind energy companies are eyeing the North Carolina coast as a possible location for wind farms. But that begs the question: just how much wind does a wind farm, or at least a wind turbine, need?

If You Give a Mouse a Cooler

Who says big plastic coolers are just for keeping beer, soft drinks and food cold for tailgating?

Certainly not Dr. Erich Jarvis, who is an associate professor of neurobiology at Duke University. Let me tell you about some real scientific ingenuity!

Dr. Jarvis’ lab in the Bryan Research Building on the Duke campus is lined with rows and rows of blue coolers with white lids. They are the same type of coolers you see all over the place if you walk through the tailgating area at a football game or sitting near picnic tables in parks.

Shark Attacks

Although most people know in their brain that the chance of being bitten by a shark is extremely rare, the creature’s reputation as a fearsome predator (fueled by movies, TV shows, and news reports of attacks) still provokes a fear of sharks.

If Hurricane Hazel Hit Today...

While the debate rages on about the cause of sea level rise and if human activity is speeding up the process, the phenomena itself is not a new coastal hazard. Scientists have plenty of evidence that ocean levels rise and fall several times over thousands of years. Scientists have pretty strong evidence the seas are rising again. What makes sea level change so significant now is that there are many more of us living near the coast. And, as the report by the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission's Science Panel says, “over time it exacerbates existing coastal hazards.”

The Changing Outer Banks

Ask almost anyone in the country to describe North Carolina’s Outer Banks and they could probably name a few images easily — the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the wild horses, wide strips of sandy beach, and the Wright Brothers monument.

The Outer Banks are so ingrained into our collective national consciousness that people can visualize the coastal region without ever visiting it. The irony is that while images of the Outer Banks remain the same, the islands are constantly changing. They are supposed to.

Flushing Away the Myths

It’s time to flush a myth down the drain.

As much as we’d like to attach the last name of Thomas Crapper to the invention of the toilet, we can’t. Crapper, in fact, did exist — he was a plumber in London — and he did make a lot of improvements in the function of the early toilet. He did not, however, invent the toilet.

Making Waves

Ask anybody what they like about North Carolina’s beaches and you’ll likely hear responses like warm sun, warm sand, ocean breeze, and fresh seafood at the restaurants. The answers vary, of course, but I think one thing that everyone likes about the beach is the sound of the waves.

So the question is... What makes an ocean wave?

The answer is simple: wind.

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