Science and Technology

The circuit science workshop in Columbia is one of Daniel Boone Regional Library’s most popular regular events for kids. The workshop allows elementary school-aged children to play with Snap Circuits, a hands-on learning kit that helps illustrate how electricity works. On a recent fall afternoon, kids and their parents gathered at the library to make musical motion detectors, sound-activated switches and more.

“Programming like this is more free-form, so they can be very creative,” said Katie Long, a public service associate with the library’s children’s team. “There’s less structure and rules that they have to follow.”

Sarah Kellogg / KBIA

  It’s a clear Wednesday night, and visitors on top of the University of Missouri’s Physics Building are playing the waiting game. A solar flare is about to appear in the night sky and everyone’s heads are craned upwards. Suddenly, a satellite moves across the sky, becoming brighter and causing spectators to cheer. Although there isn’t always a satellite passing by, visitors can take advantage of the Laws Observatory’s rooftop view and telescope every Wednesday night from 8 to 10 p.m.


The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is proposing penalties of $122,000 for a glass company after a worker in southeast Missouri suffered third-degree burns on the job.

OSHA announced the proposed penalties Wednesday for Piramal Glass USA Inc. It isn't clear if the company will contest the penalties. Messages seeking comment from Piramal were not immediately returned.

Scientists have caught Mars crying salty tears.

Photos from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show dark streaks flowing down Martian slopes. The streaks appear in sunny spots or when the weather is warm, and they fade when the temperature drops.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farmers and agriculture officials are gearing up for another round of bird flu this fall, an outbreak they fear could be worse than the devastating spring crisis that hit turkeys and egg-laying hens in the Midwest, wiped out entire farms and sent egg prices sky-high.

The potential target of the highly pathogenic avian flu this fall could be broilers, or meat chickens, as the outbreaks have been triggered and carried by wild birds, which will be flying south in great numbers this fall through several U.S. flyways.


Chris Blakeley / Flickr

The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled against traffic camera ordinances adopted in several cities.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, is attempting to swallow up the chemical operations of Syngenta, the world’s largest producer of pesticides and other farm inputs. The proposed deal signals a change in focus for the agricultural giant, and could have ripple effects across farm country.

By its own admission, Monsanto lags behind in chemistry research. To boost its research in chemistry, and possibly find new ways to combine chemicals and biotech crops, Monsanto wants to buy the Swiss chemical company.


cogdogblog / Flickr

  Columbia is offering the public an unusual way to charge their electronic devices.

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David. Hey, David.



MONTAGNE: What am I - what am I thinking?

GREENE: (Laughter) I have no idea. I'm not a mind reader.

Scientists have unveiled the best photos of Pluto and its moons that humanity is likely to see for at least a generation. These images were taken Tuesday by NASA's New Horizons space probe as it hurtled past Pluto at more than 30,000 miles per hour.

Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has revealed itself to be an oddball world. It's smaller than our own moon, and it orbits at an angle relative to the plane of the solar system. Because of its size and distance, even the Hubble Space Telescope could only make it out as a brown smudge, billions of miles away.

Under the Microscope: Missouri Heatwave

Jun 25, 2015
Ray Tsang / Flickr

  A common joke about weather in the Midwest is that if you don’t like it, all you have to do is wait 10 minutes, and it is sure to fluctuate. Missouri found this out in a rather heavy-handed way earlier this week, as the first days of seasonal summer brought a heat wave that pushed temperatures up into the mid-nineties, and heat indexes well beyond 100 degrees Fahrenheit. And while the heat can be a blessing or a nuisance depending on personal taste, it can also be a detrimental health risk.

Emily Guerin / Inside Energy

Ethanol is one of the most important industries in the Midwest, and it’s an industry about to change. The U.S. EPA says that by June 1 it will propose new targets for the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, which dictates the amount of ethanol the oil industry has to blend into our gasoline.


Under the Microscope: Missouri Researchers Push for Beetle Rollout

May 7, 2015
Jacob Grace

Wearing latex gloves and digging through a sloppy patch of cow poop on his farm in central Missouri, farmer Ralph Voss spotted his target.

“Okay, here we go!” he said excitedly, plucking out a shiny insect the size of a sunflower seed – a dung beetle.

Despite their disgusting homes, dung beetles are worth searching for – it has been estimated that they save U.S. farmers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Some researchers suggest that they could be worth even more, and are searching for new species meant to maximize that value.


In an ambitious bid to move beyond the electric car market, Tesla has announced that it will start selling large batteries to let homeowners store electricity. The Powerwall home battery starts at $3,000.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the new batteries Thursday night, in a move that had been both highly anticipated and the subject of much speculation. With a sleek surface and a depth of only about 7 inches, the Powerwall can be mounted on a garage wall or another surface, indoors or outside. It's roughly 4 feet high and 3 feet wide.

The Pillars of Creation are arguably the most iconic image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. Here's what they look like — in images captured in 1995 and 2014.

At hundreds of libraries across the U.S., 3-D printers can sometimes be heard whirring in the background, part of an effort to encourage interest in the new technology and foster DIY "maker spaces."

In some libraries, officials have begun to set restrictions on the 3-D printers amid concerns about how they'll be used.

At the University City Public Library in St. Louis, Patrick Wall recently printed a green plastic sword from the game Minecraft.

The Apple Watch is making quite a splash with its launch Friday, but most of us have never thought about this new gadget, the "smart watch." Is it a luxury item, or is the smart watch destined to be the next great essential, something we don't know we'll need but will.

Under the Microscope: MU Researcher Experiments with Switchgrass for Biofuel

Apr 2, 2015
Brianna Schroer

Veterinarian Lynn Steele grows switchgrass on his farm to feed his hundred head of cattle.  He favors the wild-growing grass over other commercial feeds because it’s cheap.

“Even when the price is high [for switchgrass], it’s 4, 5, 6 dollars a pound for seed,” Steele said. “Indian grass and Big Blue Stem 12 and 15 dollars a pound. You get quite a bit of investment there.”

Daniel Swann is exactly the type of person the National Security Agency would love to have working for it. The 22-year-old is a fourth-year concurrent bachelor's-master's student at Johns Hopkins University with a bright future in cybersecurity.

And growing up in Annapolis, Md., not far from the NSA's headquarters, Swann thought he might work at the agency, which intercepts phone calls, emails and other so-called "signals intelligence" from U.S. adversaries.

Under The Microscope: Frank Booth and the 'Exercise Apex.'

Mar 30, 2015
Rachel Zamzow

MU Exercise Physiology Professor Frank Booth doesn’t just talk the talk on exercise. He runs the run. His regiment, when it allows, is to jump on treadmill in his office — yes, in his office — twice a day for high-intensity interval training.   

Booth also regularly runs the 1.3-mile route from his home to his office, using his car only for big errands like trips to the grocery store.

And sometimes, his dog –  a lab-boxer mix named Run — yes, Run — comes along for the jog.

But Booth’s hobby is indiscernible from his work life. His main goal through his research is to inform people of the true danger of not getting enough exercise. And in the early 2000's he coined a term in for this very risk: sedentary death syndrome.  

As you’ve probably heard, a well-respected group of World Health Organization scientists said glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s wildly popular Roundup herbicide and its generic cousins, is probably capable of causing cancer in humans.

People who struggle with suicidal thoughts will often reach out to friends and family first. But when our social circle lives online these days, the biggest social media networks grapple with how to intervene and with getting users the right kind of help.

Facebook is the latest social media network to roll out support resources for suicide prevention. The company is now trying to combat suicide by doing what it does best — connecting friends.

Véronique LaCapra / St. Louis Public Radio

  Throughout 2015, the City of Columbia has made strident efforts to overhaul its trash services. While most of the focus has been put on the potential “what if’s” of switching from the city’s current curbside pick-up system to an automated roll-cart service, there has also been discussion about how to raise the city’s diversion rate, or the amount of trash that the city throws away that doesn’t end up in landfills. However, some citizens are still asking for more  — to move to a more seamless single-stream recycling system like they have in Saint Louis.


MU will install a dual-polarization Doppler radar as part of the five-year Missouri Transect project, which is funded by a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The new radar will improve the precision of weather forecasts for mid-Missouri residents.

John Walker, MU curators’ professor of biological sciences, is the principal investigator of the project. He said the project’s original goal was to answer the question of how climate change affects plant productivity, both in native ecosystems and agricultural systems. Walker said the dual-polarization radar will help answer this question by providing more complete data, closer to the ground. Unlike traditional Doppler radars, dual-polarization scans vertically as well as horizontally, proving a three-dimensional image of weather systems. 

George Dante fell in love with taxidermy as a young child. His parents took him to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and he couldn't tear his eyes away from the dioramas in the Hall of African Mammals.

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Pippa Hull sits on her mother’s lap across the kitchen table in their Parkville home. She is an outgoing and talkative seven-year-old girl, who just happens to have a rare and severe form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Pippa’s mother, Megan, said this form of epilepsy is characterized by its lack of response to treatments.

Hull said they have tried different medications, they have had a VNS or Vagus Nerve Stimulation device implanted in Pippa’s chest, and they have even tried a special diet to try and reduce the number of seizures Pippa experiences.

Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed its long-awaited rules for commercial drone flights in US airspace. If approved, they could open up the sky in the St. Louis area for a variety of unmanned aircraft.

This week, the photo editing software Adobe Photoshop turned 25 years old. The program is an industry juggernaut — so famous that the word "Photoshop" has come to be synonymous with image manipulation.

But when the software started, says co-creator Thomas Knoll, it was a personal project. He and his brother John started working on the program in the late 1980s.

Drone above a field
Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

On this week's edition of Under the Microscope, we'll be taking a look at the new drone flight regulations proposed by  The Federal Aviation Administration. While the rules may limit some commercial potential for drones to be used in package delivery and pipeline inspection, many other industries are finding the new technology to be extremely lucrative, especially agricultural ones.  Harvest Public Media's Luke Runyon explores how the potential guidelines could "usher in a new era of farm machinery."

Drone above a field
Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

A highly anticipated batch of federal laws governing the use of drones could change the regulatory landscape and lead to an explosion in drone use by farmers.

Farmers see drones as a way to get a birds-eye view of their fields to find problem patches with crops. That information can allow farmers to be more precise with fertilizers and pesticides and, ultimately, save them money. But getting them in the sky without running afoul of federal regulation is proving to be a challenge.