NC Science Now Reporter's blog

The Next Frontier

The folks in the 3-D printing, or additive manufacturing, industry I talked with for the story 3-D Frontiers all agree society is just now starting to consider the potential of this new technology. But while industry continues to expand the use of 3-D printing technology, the next frontier for its use will likely be the home.

Slowing Down

The idea of fast-growing vegetables and plants is implied in every advertisement for some brands of fertilizers, compost, or other soil additives. If the particular product and the chemicals inside it are added to the soil, plants will produce more fruits and vegetables because they will grow stronger, higher, hardier and faster.

Pharma For a Fee

Have you visited your local pharmacy lately?

I hope you haven’t because that might mean you are dealing with a medical issue. But the next time you do need to visit, stop for a few seconds and look around.

We are blessed to be living at a time of amazing medical breakthroughs that help us deal with everything from the common cold to back pains and muscle aches to more serious medical issues.

However all of that medicine comes at a cost—and it is a big cost.

Weird Brain Facts

Research has shown that we spend about one third to a half of our time up in the clouds daydreaming, drifting, or thinking off-task. Whatever the term you choose to use, it implies that the brain is not working during that time.

However, scientists now know the brain is unusually active during that time. That’s because the brain activates several areas associated with complex problem solving. So, while the brain may not be concentrating on the task at hand, it unconsciously turns its attention to sort through other important problems.

Swimming with Sharks

Have you ever noticed how memorable events in your life start out innocently?

That’s how I ended up swimming with sharks and a lot of other ocean dwellers in the open ocean tank at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.

I was on a conference call with several other UNC-TV producers and the staff at the aquarium when Maylon White, the Aquarium director, suggested I get in the tank.

“Sure,” I exclaimed, “That would be a great part of the program!”

Creating Happy Feet

Nobody will fault you for admitting it is easy to forget about your feet.

After all, feet are way down there. Unless you are looking straight down, which makes walking rather dangerous, you can’t really see your feet. And you know the old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind.” For the most part, we take our feet for granted. 

Using Census Data

Social vulnerability refers to the risks people face as a result of their socioeconomic status. There are a lot of ways to define social vulnerability and multiple things that can affect it; education, job skills, family, childhood circumstances, etc.

But in general, it refers to the social circumstances that place an individual or a group of people at a heightened risk. Of course to calculate that risk, researchers need to know a lot of information about the people living in a community.

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.