Health & Science

Amy Knowlton pilots the 29-foot research vessel Nereid out of Lubec harbor and into the waters of the Bay of Fundy, off of easternmost Maine. A scientist with the New England Aquarium's Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life Knowlton points to harbor porpoises chasing fish in the wind-swept waters on a recent morning.

Then something much larger appears off the stern.

"Whale behind us," Knowlton says, steering closer. "It's probably a humpback or fin whale, we'll get a better look."

The fields and back roads of eastern Arkansas were a crime scene this past summer. State inspectors stopped alongside fields to pick up dying weeds. They tested the liquids in farmers' pesticide sprayers. In many cases, they found evidence that farmers were using a banned pesticide. Dozens of farmers could face thousands of dollars in fines.

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A new climate report commissioned by the United Nations paints a pretty dire picture for the year 2040 - high food shortages, wildfires, droughts, rising sea levels, poverty and massive destruction to coral reefs.

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It's time now for All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF ULRICH SCHNAUSS' "NOTHING HAPPENS IN JUNE")

The ancient Maya might be known for their mathematical aptitude, their accurate calendars, and their impressive temples. But did you know they were also salt entrepreneurs?

During the peak of Maya civilization – from 300 to 900 A.D. — coastal Maya produced salt by boiling brine in pots over fires. The end result was shaped into salt cakes, then paddled by canoe to inland cities and traded at extensive markets.

Some of the world's top climate scientists have concluded that global warming is likely to reach dangerous levels unless new technologies are developed to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says pledges from the world's governments to reduce greenhouse gases, made in Paris in 2015, aren't enough to keep global warming from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees F) above pre-industrial temperatures.

As a specialist in Alzheimer's prevention, Jessica Langbaum knows that exercising her mental muscles can help keep her brain sharp.

But Langbaum, who holds a doctorate in psychiatric epidemiology, has no formal mental fitness program. She doesn't do crossword puzzles or play computer brain games.

"Just sitting down and doing Sudoku isn't probably going to be the one key thing that's going to prevent you from developing Alzheimer's disease," she says.

Paige Thesing has struggled with insomnia since high school. "It takes me a really long time to fall asleep — about four hours," she says. For years, her mornings were groggy and involved a "lot of coffee."

After a year of trying sleep medication prescribed by her doctor, she turned to the internet for alternate solutions. About four months ago, she settled on a mobile phone meditation app called INSCAPE.

New laws in Europe and California are forcing tech companies to protect users' privacy or risk big fines.

Now, the industry is fearing that more states will enact tough restrictions. So it's moving to craft federal legislation that would pre-empt state laws and might put the Federal Trade Commission in charge of enforcement.

Europe enacted a tough law in May which requires, among other things, that companies make data breaches public within 72 hours of discovering them.

How Fruit Became So Sugary

Oct 7, 2018

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A year ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping stood before the 19th Communist Party Congress and laid out his ambitious plan for China to become a world leader by 2025 in advanced technologies such as robotics, biotechnology and artificial intelligence.

It was seen as a direct challenge to U.S. leadership in advanced technology. James Lewis, a specialist in China and technology at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says China recognizes that technological superiority helps give the United States an edge in national security and wants in on it.

At the Vdara Hotel and Spa in Las Vegas, robots are at the front line of room service. "Jett" and "Fetch" are delivery robots, designed to look like dogs, each about three feet high.

They can bring items from the hotel's cafe right to your room. Among their many capabilities, they can travel alone across the lobby, remotely call for an elevator, and even alert guests when they arrive at their hotel room through an automated phone message.

Ever heard of these food additives? Synthetically-derived benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, methyl eugenol, myrcene, pulegone, or pyridine?

These compounds can help mimic natural flavors and are used to infuse foods with mint, cinnamon and other flavors.

You've likely never seen them on food labels because food manufacturers are permitted to label them simply as "artificial flavors."

Sans Forgetica: A Font To Remember

Oct 6, 2018

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