Science and Technology

It actually takes quite a lot of fossil fuel power to reach the tiny Spanish island of El Hierro. You have to catch a commercial jet flight, a propeller plane and then a ferry to reach what was once the end of the known world, before Columbus set sail.

But once you're there, there's no need for fossil fuels at all. The ancient island off the west coast of Africa is now a model for the future, within months of running on 100 percent renewable energy, which consists of a mix of wind and hydro-power.

Earlier this week, two spacecraft arrived at the planet Mars. One came from India, the other from the U.S. Both are now in orbit and collecting data. But the Indian probe is conducting its mission at a tiny fraction of the cost of its NASA counterpart.

"Some of the publicly available numbers are in the $74 million to $75 million range," says Amaresh Kollipara, a managing partner of Earth 2 Orbit, a company that pairs private satellite providers with the Indian space agency.

aranarth / flickr

An award to MU's computer engineering program from the National Science Foundation has resulted in one million dollars in grants. 

Photo courtesy of Doug Gouzie

We put out some questions on social media to see what you wanted to know about sinkholes. First, here’s a clip of CoMo Explained where I explain everything we learned before talking to Missouri State University Associate Professor of Geology and sinkhole expert Doug Gouzie. You can also read about our previous sinkhole reporting here.


Missouri Department of Natural Resources

  On this week's Under the Microscope, Missouri is one of ten states at risk for sinkholes. 

Missouri Department of Natural Resources

You can tweet your questions about sinkholes to @CoMoExp, here's what we know so far:

What exactly is a sinkhole?

A sinkhole forms when the surface layer of ground collapses into a cavity underneath. Associate Professor of Geology at MU Martin Appold explains these features in more detail:

“They’re holes in the ground that form as a result of caves developing below the ground’s surface that come close enough to the ground’s surface that at some point the rock can’t support its own weight.”

We've looked a lot at privacy from the Big Brother standpoint: how the National Security Agency or corporate giants like Google track us online, say for political reasons or to make money from ads.

But there's another kind of privacy concern that is a lot more intimate. You could call it Little Brother, though it's really more like husbands and wives, lovers and exes who secretly watch their partners — from a distance. They are cyberstalking — using digital tools that are a lot cheaper than hiring a private detective.

Some of the world's top race-car drivers put the pedal to the metal in Formula E this weekend, the first-ever all-electric automobile race. It was held in the Chinese capital, the first of 10 cities that will host the races between now and next June.

The championship is aimed to generate interest in — and boost sales of — electric cars.

"European society is very advanced, very civilized. Between holocausts."

The painter Barnett Newman is said to have replied along these lines to a friend who was bemoaning the sorry state of American political life and praising European social democracy.

It's a good joke. It casts light on the whole religion versus science controversy as well.

Jessica Naudziunas / Harvest Public Media

  Welcome to Under the Microscope, KBIA's weekly at stories in science, health and technology. I'm Maureen Lewis-Stump

Simple questions can lead to very complicated answers. For instance: What if everyone actually had just one soul mate — one random person somewhere in the world? Could they ever meet?

"You know, there are a lot more people who have been alive than who are alive right now. So if your soul mate is randomly assigned from all humans, it's probably somebody who is already dead or who has not yet been born."

Two volcanoes half a world apart are causing havoc today: Several flights have been diverted around an eruption in Papua New Guinea, and authorities in Iceland briefly put aviation on highest alert (again) owing to a temperamental Mount Bardarbunga, which has been rumbling for the past week.

KBIA

  Columbia's sewer system is aging and deteriorating. The city council took steps to address the problem, but not without controversy. 

sewer materials
FaceMePLS / Flickr

Seventeen million gallons of waste flow through Columbia's sewers every day. Beneath the streets, large metal pipes snake and twist their way across the city. 

Ultimately, they wind their way to Columbia's wastewater treatment plant in the southwest part of the city. Altogether, Columbia has about 695 miles of sewer pipes servicing the city. That's longer than a round trip to Chicago. 

Updated at 8:30 p.m. ET

Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown has made an emergency declaration after a strong 6.0-magnitude earthquake rocked northern California, causing dozens of injuries, damaged buildings and power outages. The quake struck at 3:20 a.m. PT, the U.S. Geological Survey says.

Flickr user University of Missouri System

University of Missouri alumnus Mark McAndrew is donating $2.4 million to the oncology program at University Hospital. The money will help establish the Frances T. McAndrew Endowed chair in oncology, names after Mark McAndrew's late aunt who was a patient at Ellis Fischel.

"Frances always spoke highly of the of the top-notch care she received at the MU Ellis Fischel Cancer Center" McAndrew said. "I hope this gift will help continue to advance the premier research and care the MU health system provides."

PMC1stPix / flickr

Boone County emergency officials receive 210 emergency calls per day, on average. Some of those calls come from people who are in compromising situations and can't speak for themselves.

Often, 911 operators can have a challenging time informing first responders of the callers information, including name, location, and allergies. 

ambulance
Creative Commons / Flickr

  On this week's Under the Microscope, we take a look at Smart 911, an emergency service allowing 911 operators to obtain vital information for callers, and Missouri's plans to make old railways into trails. 

MKT trail
Missouri Department of Tourism / flickr

The Rails to Trails Conservancy has placed a bid on the Rock Island Corridor, currently owned by Ameren, on behalf of local and state organizations with plans for a large scale rail to trail project.

In the battle against wildfires, the Forest Service often draws on a fleet of air tankers — planes that drop fire retardant from the sky.

But the fleet shrank dramatically in the early 2000s, and by 2012, the Forest Service was woefully low on planes. Now, the agency is quickly increasing the number of planes at its disposal — and modernizing the fleet in the process by adding bigger, faster and more efficient planes.

Kristofor Husted / KBIA

Late summer in the Midwest is tomato season. And whether you’re shopping at the grocery store, a discount chain or your local farmer’s market, you’ll find the price varies for a plump, juicy tomato. 

Missouri will receive $693,000 as part of a nationwide settlement over the kidney transplant drug, Rapamune.

Neighboring Illinois will get more than $1.3 million.

The drug company Pfizer, whose subsidiary Wyeth makes Rapamune, has agreed to pay out a total of $35 million to 41 U.S. states and the District of Columbia as part of the settlement.

Electronic waste is a fancy term for everything from computers and monitors to printers and cables.  Well, anything you want to get rid of anyway.


The nine-banded armadillo has been naturally expanding its habitat north from Central America since 1849. They're common in the southeastern part of the country, but throughout the century they’ve started to move further north and east.

Sightings in Missouri started about 40 years ago. They use to be rare, but now they’re a lot more common.

ameren logo
forwardstl / flickr

Ameren Missouri is seeking approval to add about $1.50 to customers' monthly electric bills.

Credit Via Coldwater Creek Facts PowerPoint presentation.

St. Louis County health officials say they will hire researchers to study illness rates among residents near a creek that was contaminated decades ago by nuclear waste.

Gary Grigsby / KBIA

For a long time in this country, landowners have taken steps to preserve their land from ever being developed.

KBIA / KBIA

Women make up around 29% of the technology workforce nationally. Only 18 % of technology degrees were earned by women in 2012, which is down from 35% in 1985.

Clyde Bentley / Flickr

A multi-disciplinary group of city, county and environmental leaders monitoring Mid-Missouri's Hinkson Creek say the watershed is on its way to good health again.

"Help the Hinkson" is a project that started two years ago to improve the Hinkson Creek watershed. The watershed serves as a drainage point for a portion of Boone County.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources declared the creek unfit to sustain aquatic life in 1998. In 2012, a group of citizens came together, with help from city, county and federal officials, to improve the quality of the water.

Every year, more than half of the honeybee hives in the United States are taken to California to pollinate the state's almond crop.

Biologist Laurence Packer says this illustrates both our dependence on honeybees to pollinate many plants people rely on for food and the devastating decline in the domestic honeybee population in recent years.

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