Science and Technology

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.

But Hull said, “She has been through 8 medications so far and she is on 4 right now, and she still has seizures.”          

She explained that when patients with epilepsy have tried multiple treatments that don’t work the epilepsy is termed “intractable.”  


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.


Restaurant servers are three times more likely to receive below-poverty-line pay than the rest of the U.S. workforce. Yet in a world where shoppers fret over cage-free eggs and organic vegetables, how many are also asking how much their favorite restaurant pays its staff?

A couple of listeners wrote to Morning Edition on Thursday with the same idea.

"Did anyone notice that shortly after reporting on the difficulty of tracking airliners in flight, you aired a story about a gentleman in West Virginia who was able to work with Google to track fishing boats in real time?" wrote Paul Douglas from Simsbury, Conn.

Conservation agents finish up overseeding a plot at the Prairie Fork Conservation Area outside of Williamsburg, Missouri.
Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Landscape diversity in Missouri has changed since its settlement in the 18th century. Where there was once prairies, forests and savannahs, in many cases there are now towns, cities and farms.

The Missouri Department of Conservation is working to remedy this problem by restoring prairies to “pre-settlement standards.” These standards include no non-native plant species and plants from within a 50 mile radius of the prairie.


On a mountaintop in Chile, excavators have just started work on a construction site. It will soon be home to a powerful new telescope that will have a good shot at finding the mysterious Planet X, if it exists.

"Planet X is kind of a catchall name given to any speculation about an unseen companion orbiting the sun," says Kevin Luhman, an astronomer at Penn State University.

Waze, the popular navigation app boasting more than 50 million users worldwide, has a new critic: police officers. Over the past few weeks, law enforcement officials have been urging the app and its owner, Google, to disable a feature that allows users to report when they've spotted a police officer, in real time, for all other Waze users to see.

Sergio Kopelev, a reserve sheriff in Orange County, Calif., is one of the law enforcement officials behind the push to remove Waze's police tracker. He says he first discovered the feature through his family.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) has moved the Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to disaster. It now stands at three minutes before midnight.

The BAS was created in 1945 by the scientists who had participated in the Manhattan Project, developing the atomic bomb. They came up with the Doomsday Clock in 1947, after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, to alert the public to the dangers of nuclear proliferation. Midnight represents a global catastrophe.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Humans have been growing hemp for centuries. Hemp-based foods have taken off recently. So have lotions and soaps that use hemp oil. 

There’s evidence that different compounds in cannabis could be used as medicine and hope that its chemical compounds could hold keys to treatments for Parkinson’s disease and childhood epilepsy. 

 


Lonesome George was a celebrity tortoise. Millions of humans made the pilgrimage to see him while he lived, and his death was international news.

Why?

Outer space
Sweetie187 / Flickr

  What if we could design a camera that could take a hundred billion pictures a second ― enough to record the fastest phenomena in the universe.

Gary Grigsby

It all began nine years ago when Mark Glenshaw was walking in the 1,400 acre Forest Park near his home in St. Louis.

He had been doing this regularly for several years but this time out he said he saw two great horned owls in the park.  "The first sighting I had set a really high benchmark.  Just was instant addiction.  In 20-30 minutes I saw them hoot together, duet, a beautiful vocal and visual display.  I saw them fly.  Powerful, graceful, silent flyers.  And then I saw one of them chase a great blue heron, a bird twice its size and I was completely hooked."

Sam Lin / KBIA

Missouri and Kansas transportation officials have suspended installations of a guardrail system over concerns about its safety. 

Missouri Department of Transportation

The Missouri Department of Transportation is using a nearly $1 million federal grant to apply a surface treatment that is designed to reduce stopping distance and loss of control.

Cell phones
FIle Photo / KBIA

Missouri will get more than $280,000 from T-Mobile following claims that the company was unfairly charging customers for third-party text message subscriptions.

NPR has confirmed from U.S. intelligence officials that North Korea was centrally involved with the recent attacks against Sony Pictures. And the company says it is pulling its comedy film The Interview from the box office. It was supposed to debut on Christmas. These are major developments in what we may now call cyberwarfare.

The latest word from scientists studying the Arctic is that the polar region is warming twice as fast as the average rise on the rest of the planet. And researchers say the trend isn't letting up. That's the latest from the 2014 Arctic Report Card — a compilation of recent research from more than 60 scientists in 13 countries. The report was released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NASA's unmanned Orion spacecraft has successfully splashed down about 400 miles west of La Paz, Mexico, in the Pacific Ocean after a liftoff, two orbits and re-entry that lasted just under 4 1/2 hours.

Orion, which could one day take astronauts to Mars, made a "bull's-eye splashdown" at 11:29 a.m. ET, mission control said, after the spacecraft endured a searing 4,000-degree Fahrenheit re-entry and was carried to the ocean surface under four giant red-and-white parachutes.

Ameren Missouri

Ameren Corporation's nuclear plant in mid-Missouri has been shut down due to an electrical equipment failure, but the company and federal regulators say there is no risk to the public.

Columbia has a new recycling program

Nov 20, 2014
ACT Recycling Warehouse
KBIA

The City of Columbia is looking for volunteers to help educate residents about recycling practices.

Two bills that would authorize building the controversial Keystone XL pipeline will soon come to a vote in Congress, as their sponsors — Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La. — head toward a runoff election next month to decide who will win the Senate race.

NPR's Debbie Elliott reports:

"On the Senate floor, Landrieu called for action on the Canada-to-Texas pipeline project, saying, 'I believe with a push we could actually get the votes that we need to pass the Keystone pipeline.'

Until about 600 million years ago, seeing colors didn't matter so much to Earth's inhabitants — nobody had eyes.

"Before the eye evolved, you just wouldn't have seen what was there," says Andrew Parker, a biologist at London's Natural History Museum who studies the evolution of color.

Missouri's Department of Transportation has added a page to its website where motorists can check for unscheduled bridge closings. 

videocrab / Flickr

  On this week's Under the Microscope, how watching a movie affects your brain and seeds that have been passed down through generations. 

"My own personal opinion is that time is a human construct," says Tom O'Brian. O'Brian has thought a lot about this over the years. He is America's official timekeeper at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado.

To him, days, hours, minutes and seconds are a way for humanity to "put some order in this very fascinating and complex universe around us."

Jenna Middaugh

    

A partial solar eclipse on Thursday has people looking forward to a total solar eclipse in the coming years.

MU Department of Physics and Astronomy hosted a viewing party Thursday afternoon at Laws Observatory so the community could catch a glimpse of the partial solar eclipse.

Ten-year-old Samuel Kingsley was at the event with his family and said he’s seen a blood moon before, but never a solar eclipse.

“It looked like someone bit the corner off the sun,” he said.

Samuel was just one of over 50 people who came out to watch the eclipse.

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