WBEZ | Science http://www.wbez.org/tags/science Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago museum lifts lid on Egyptian mummy coffin http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-museum-lifts-lid-egyptian-mummy-coffin-111204 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP479914621551.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Not until the lid was off the wood coffin &mdash; exposing the 2,500-year-old mummified remains of a 14-year-old Egyptian boy &mdash; could J.P. Brown relax.</p><p>The conservator at Chicago&#39;s Field Museum and three other scientists had just employed specially created clamps as a cradle to raise the fragile coffin lid. Wearing blue surgical gloves, they lifted the contraption and delicately walked it to safe spot on a table in a humidity-controlled lab.</p><p>&quot;Sweet!&quot; Brown said after helping set the lid down, before later acknowledging the stress. &quot;Oh yeah, god, I was nervous.&quot;</p><p>The much-planned procedure Friday at the museum, revealing the burial mask and blackened toes of Minirdis, the son of a priest, will allow museum conservators to stabilize the mummy so it can travel in an upcoming exhibit.</p><p>&quot;Mummies: Images of the Afterlife&quot; is expected to premier in September at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, then travel to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in fall 2016.</p><p>The Field Museum has had the mummy since the 1920s, when the institution received it from the Chicago Historical Society. It&#39;s part of the museum&#39;s collection of 30 complete human mummies from Egypt.</p><p>&quot;There&#39;s always a risk of damage,&quot; said Brown, who works in a lab filled with plastic-covered examination tables behind a large window that allows schoolchildren to watch him work. &quot;So we like to handle these things as little as possible.&quot;</p><p>Even before opening the coffin, the conservators knew some of what to expect. CT scans, which make X-ray images allowing scientists to see inside, showed the boy&#39;s feet were detached and partially unwrapped with his toes sticking out. His shroud and mask were torn and twisted sideways. Those also will be repaired.</p><p>Pieces of the coffin had previously gone missing, so the mummy had been exposed to the elements before. For that reason, Brown wasn&#39;t worried about the mummy scattering to dust when the lid came off &mdash; a notion familiar to moviegoers.</p><p>&quot;The last bit of &#39;Indiana Jones&#39; and all that &mdash; that&#39;s not going to happen,&quot; he reassured before the lid-raising began.</p><p>Walking around the opened coffin, Brown pointed and explained the significance of a particular marking, the colored resin on linen wrappings and the gilded gold on the mask. If Minirdis had lived, he would have been a priest like his father, Brown said.</p><p>Scientists don&#39;t know why he died so young.</p><p>&quot;The fascinating thing about any mummy is that it&#39;s survived as long as it has,&quot; Brown said. &quot;They&#39;re actually amazingly fragile.&quot;</p><p>This kind of work is always painstaking, with lots of pre-planning and tests to prevent the unexpected, said Molly Gleeson, who works with mummies as project conservator at Penn Museum&#39;s &quot;In the Artifact Lab: Conserving Egyptian Mummies&quot; exhibition in Philadelphia.</p><p>&quot;There&#39;s nothing else like them,&quot; she said, noting that if something goes wrong, &quot;We can&#39;t put things back together exactly the way they were before.&quot;</p></p> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 16:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-museum-lifts-lid-egyptian-mummy-coffin-111204 After Water: Science, art and journalism around climate change http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/after-water-science-art-and-journalism-around-climate-change-110544 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/After-Water_crop.png" style="height: 269px; width: 620px;" title="" />Join us as we focus on the future of the Great Lakes, in a way that is a little different for us. WBEZ&#39;s brought fiction writers and scientists together, then asked the writers to jump off from there, creating stories set decades from now&mdash;when clean, fresh water could be a rare resource.</p><p>We want to contemplate the future from a dual lens of <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/after-water-the-science">science</a> and <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/sets/after-water-fiction">art.</a> We&#39;ll be sharing our writers&rsquo; stories and the science behind them here. It&rsquo;s <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater"><em>After Water</em></a>. We invite your thoughts.</p><p><strong>The stories</strong></p><p>Local author Nnedi Okorafor starts out the series on Chicago&#39;s South Side. In her story,<a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92735533543/after-water-fiction-thirst-by-max-andrew-dubinsky"> </a><a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92734891798/after-water-fiction-poison-fish-by-nnedi-okorafor">&quot;Poison Fish&quot;</a> (or, &quot;Poison Poisson&quot;), Okorafor brings us to a dystopian backdrop of memories and chaos, set along the waterfront on Chicago&#39;s Rainbow Beach.<a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-nnedi-okorafor/s-KJdW3">&nbsp;Listen to an interview</a> about this story with Nnedi Okorafor. Or<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/after-water-the-science"> hear some of the science behind her story.&nbsp;</a></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/159874918&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92735533543/after-water-fiction-thirst-by-max-andrew-dubinsky">In his story</a><a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92735533543/after-water-fiction-thirst-by-max-andrew-dubinsky">,</a> &ldquo;Thirst&rdquo; Los Angeles-based author Max Andrew Dubinsky brings us to a California that&rsquo;s dry and dying, its inhabitants looking to the Great Lakes as their last salvation. <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-max-andrew-dubinsky/s-mxJX9">Listen to an interview</a> about this story with Max Andrew Dubinsky. Or<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/after-water-the-science">&nbsp;hear some of the science behind his story.&nbsp;</a></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/159999662&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>In <a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92743040588/after-water-fiction-world-after-water">&quot;World After Water,&quot;</a> Abby Geni brings us to a city drowned in dirty, toxic water. Four young brothers are forced to steal filtered water from their wealthy neighbors in order to survive. <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-abby-geni">Listen to an interview</a> with Abby Geni about her story. Or<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/after-water-the-science"> hear about some of science</a> behind her story.</p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160123800&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></em></p><p>In <a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92840460528/after-water-fiction-the-floating-city-of-new-chicago">&quot;The Floating City of New Chicago&quot;</a>, we see a Chicago divided by class...and water. The wealthy have fled the city for a secret island in Lake Michigan. The &quot;wet-collar&quot; workers have been left behind to do the city&#39;s dirtiest jobs. <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-tricia-bobeda">Listen to author Tricia Bobeda</a> talk about how she found inspiration in a <em>30 Rock</em> episode. <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/how-do-you-sleep-at-night-michele-morano-asks-climate-scientists-how-they-cope">Or hear conversations</a> about the science behind her story.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160658367&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>In <a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/93235111273/after-water-fiction-the-last-cribkeeper-by-peter-orner">&quot;The Last Cribkeeper&quot;</a> we meet Harry Osgood as he walks along the shores of Lake Michigan. For years, he served as the guard for one of the water intake cribs miles from Chicago&#39;s shores. Now an old man, Harry looks out over the lake and reflects on how it has shaped the city&#39;s identity and his own.<a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-peter-orner"> Listen to author Peter Orner</a> talk about his lifelong fascination with the city&#39;s water cribs. Or <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/how-do-you-sleep-at-night-michele-morano-asks-climate-scientists-how-they-cope">check out some of the science</a> behind the story.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160834671&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><strong>The science behind the stories</strong></p><p>The short&nbsp;stories you&#39;ve been listening to are solidly in the science fiction category.&nbsp;But some of&nbsp;the&nbsp;issues the&nbsp;writers touch on aren&#39;t as far out as you might think. Before they jumped 100 years into the future, we paired writers&nbsp;with scientists and policy experts to talk about the threats facing the Great Lakes right now. You can hear our conversations about the science behind the stories below.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/44458855&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Front and Center is funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 09:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/after-water-science-art-and-journalism-around-climate-change-110544 Neil Whosis? What You Don't Know About The 1969 Moon Landing http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/neil-whosis-what-you-dont-know-about-1969-moon-landing-110511 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/krulwich.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Forty-five years ago, this week, 123 million of us watched Neil and Buzz step onto the moon. In 1969, we numbered about 200 million, so more than half of America was in the audience that day. Neil Armstrong instantly became a household name, an icon, a hero. And then &mdash; and this, I bet, you didn&#39;t know &mdash; just as quickly, he faded away.</p><p>&quot;Whatever Happened to Neil Whosis?&quot; asked the&nbsp;<em>Chicago Tribune</em>&nbsp;in 1974.</p><p>This is a missing chapter in the space exploration story. We like to think that after Apollo 11, the first duo on the moon became legendary. We know the names Aldrin and Armstrong now (or, at least many of us do), and we imagine they&#39;ve been honored and admired all this time, the way we honor our favorite presidents, athletes, and war heroes. But that&#39;s not what happened.</p><p>In his&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/books/titles/331366334/no-requiem-for-the-space-age-the-apollo-moon-landings-and-american-culture">new book</a>,&nbsp;<em>No Requiem for the Space Age</em>,&nbsp;<a href="http://history.uconn.edu/people/tribbe.php">Matthew Tribbe</a>&nbsp;describes how only a year after the landing, a vast majority of Americans couldn&#39;t remember Neil Armstrong&#39;s name.</p><p>&quot;One year ago his name was a household word,&quot; said the&nbsp;<em>Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin</em>. But when the&nbsp;<em>Bulletin</em>&nbsp;asked its readers in 1970 to name the first man on the moon, the guy who said, &quot;One giant step for man ... ,&quot; 70 percent of Philadelphians didn&#39;t know.</p><p>As Tribbe points out, the&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>&nbsp;did a similar study around that time, asking the same question in an informal telephone poll, and in St. Louis, only 1 in 15 respondents got it right.</p><p>In Portland, Maine, it was 1 out of 12.</p><p>In Milwaukee, 5 out of 12.</p><p>In New York City, 8 out of 22.</p><p><em>The World Almanac&nbsp;</em>(a one volume, pre-Internet&nbsp;<a href="http://www.worldalmanac.com/">compendium</a>&nbsp;of everything you needed to know) had Armstrong&#39;s name in the index in 1970, but in 1971, Tribbe says, they took it out. You could still read about the moon landing; Armstrong was still mentioned in the text, but while early &#39;60s hero-astronauts John Glenn and Alan Shepard stayed in the index, Armstrong didn&#39;t. Readers, apparently, weren&#39;t looking him up.</p><p>Armstrong, of course, noticed. &quot;I had hoped, I think, that the impact would be more far-reaching than it has been,&quot; he told&nbsp;<em>The Chicago Tribune</em>. &quot;The impact immediately was very great, but I was a little disappointed that it didn&#39;t seem to last longer.&quot;</p><p>Same&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106749753">for Buzz Aldrin</a>: &quot;I&#39;m certainly a little disappointed,&quot; he told&nbsp;the&nbsp;<em>Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin&nbsp;in 1970</em>. After a world tour, a White House dinner, countless ticker-tape parades, Aldrin had left the space program, divorced, skipped from job to job. By the late &#39;70s, he wrote in his 2010&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/books/titles/331733791/magnificent-desolation-the-long-journey-home-from-the-moon">autobiography</a>,<em>&nbsp;Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon</em>, Aldrin was working at a Cadillac dealership in Beverly Hills &mdash; where he&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thenational.ae/news/the-dark-side-of-the-moon">failed</a>&nbsp;to sell even one car in six months.</p><p>What happened? The space program, so glamorous, so exciting for a short while, failed to keep the public interested once the moon was conquered. As&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/books/titles/320780493/the-right-stuff">Tom Wolf writes</a>&nbsp;in his book&nbsp;<em>The Right Stuff</em>,&nbsp;by 1970, &quot;Things were grim. ... The public had become gloriously bored by space exploration.&quot;</p><p>Astronauts as a group seemed a little lonesome, directionless.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.harrynilsson.com/">Harry Nilsson</a>, the songwriter, wrote a tune in 1972 that went, &quot;I wanted to be a spaceman/ that&#39;s what I wanted to be/ But now that I am a spaceman/ nobody cares about me.&quot;</p><p>In his book, Matthew Tribbe explores some reasons for this falling off. He says the orderly, top-down, get-it-done, military/engineering style that created NASA (and was largely responsible for its success), bumped into a more skeptical, more mystical youth counterculture. Feats of engineering and technology didn&#39;t mesh with the campus kids&#39; enthusiasm for rebellion, self-expression, and a more open-minded approach to race, gender and drugs. NASA&#39;s engineers seemed like a tribe apart. They were widely admired &mdash; yet, over time, became defensive.</p><p>Tribbe also says the space race was basically a Cold War exercise, a USSR vs. America dash to the moon, and once the U.S. got there first, then second, then third, then fourth, the race was over. People asked, &quot;Why continue?&quot; And NASA didn&#39;t have a very good answer for that one.</p><p><strong>Fantastic, Beautiful, Fantastic, Beautiful</strong></p><p>But most intriguingly, Tribbe devotes a whole chapter of his book to, of all things, rhetoric. People, he thinks, were eager to hear what it was like to escape the Earth&#39;s atmosphere, to travel weightlessly, to touch down on an alien planet, to be the first explorers to leave &quot;home,&quot; and too often (much too often), the astronauts talked about these things using the same words &mdash; &quot;beautiful,&quot; &quot;fantastic&quot; &mdash; over and over. If space exploration was to be a grand adventure, it needed explorers who could take us there, tell us how it felt, explorers who could connect with those of us who can&#39;t (but want to) come along. Inarticulateness, Tribbe thinks, hurt the space program.</p><p>And yet, though Armstrong never got more eloquent, when he died last year his passing was widely mourned; his name, his image, his talents celebrated. He was a hero again. What changed? I think (and I&#39;ll talk about it in my next post) a lot of the change had to do with language. Stay tuned.</p><p><em>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2014/07/16/331362649/neil-whosis-what-you-don-t-know-about-the-moon-landing-45-years-ago" target="_blank">via NPR&#39;s Krulwich Wonders</a></em></p></p> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 18:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/neil-whosis-what-you-dont-know-about-1969-moon-landing-110511 Looking out for climate change in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/looking-out-climate-change-chicago-109968 <p><p><em>Editor&rsquo;s note: <a href="#event">Key interviews that contributed to this story</a> about climate change and the future of Chicago were first presented during <a href="#event">The Raw Report,</a>&nbsp;a live media event co-produced by WBEZ and <a href="http://www.prairie.org/programs/public-square" target="_blank">The Public Square</a>, a program of the Illinois Humanities Council.&nbsp;</em></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20family%20photo.jpg" style="height: 267px; width: 200px; margin: 5px; float: right;" title="Mark Mesle, center, asked his question out of concern for his family, including wife Abby and daughter Parker. (Photo courtesy of Mark Mesle)" />Some people find it hard to get worked up about the fate of future generations. But Mark Mesle, who came to Curious City with a big question about climate change, has no problem putting a face on future environmental anxieties.</p><p>Her name is Parker. She&rsquo;s Mark&rsquo;s 18-month-old daughter. He and his wife Abbey have another kid on the way, and it got him wondering:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>How will climate change impact Chicago?</em></p><p>Mark runs a website, <a href="http://www.50yearforecast.org" target="_blank">www.50yearforecast.org</a>, devoted to raising awareness on climate change, so he&rsquo;s no stranger to the topic. What he asked us for was a higher-resolution picture of the problem: a better understanding of how greenhouse gases might change life for his kids here in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;You always see 2100 projections,&rdquo; said Mark, who is 33 years old. &ldquo;How about 2045, when my daughter is my age?&rdquo;</p><p>Mark wants to know what kind of world his kids will grow up in, so understandably he asked for a high degree of detail.</p><p>&ldquo;Do the Cubs not play August games anymore?&rdquo; he asked, for example.</p><p>But here&rsquo;s the thing: Mark&rsquo;s asking for something that we don&#39;t have a clear answer for, according to Liz Moyer, an assistant professor of atmospheric chemistry and transport at the University of Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;We know physically that climate change will happen. We know geologically what&rsquo;s happened to species in the past,&rdquo; Moyer said. &ldquo;How do you turn that into saying, &lsquo;It&rsquo;s going to cost this much, it&rsquo;ll change our economy in this way.&rsquo; That&rsquo;s something we&rsquo;ve had trouble doing, and the economic models are set up to reflect that.&rdquo;</p><p>The basic science is settled. Greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, most notably) trap heat within the atmosphere, causing a global temperature rise. As it gets warmer, sea level rises due to the physical expansion of heated water and melting ice around the globe.</p><p>What all this means for Chicago is harder to say &mdash; the<a href="http://www.ipcc-data.org/guidelines/pages/gcm_guide.html" target="_blank"> climate models scientist use don&#39;t provide that kind of resolution</a>. But the situation could be improving. <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/03/19/climate-data-initiative-launches-strong-public-and-private-sector-commitments" target="_blank">In March the federal government announced</a> it would release data from NOAA, NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Defense, and other Federal agencies on its website, climate.data.gov, <a href="http://resilience.maps.arcgis.com/home/" target="_blank">to help cities and regions plan</a> for climate change. The <a href="http://www.sws.uiuc.edu/warm/cdflist.asp?typ=a" target="_blank">Illinois Climate Network&#39;s data</a> is part of that growing cache of information.</p><p>Globally, though, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/climate-change-warnings-sharp-relief-104942" target="_blank">scientists are concerned</a>. A<a href="http://whatweknow.aaas.org/" target="_blank"> report issued March 18</a> by the American Association for the Advancement of Science warns, &ldquo;We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.&rdquo;</p><p>So, if we won&rsquo;t be able to give a foolproof picture of what Chicago&rsquo;s climate will be like in 2045, is there any insight we could send Mark&rsquo;s way?</p><p>It turns out there is.</p><p>We found scientists, economists, activists and Chicago officials who are on the lookout for local effects of climate change. While none gives a full-blown prediction, each identifies which areas of life &mdash; the local economy, the lake, whatever &mdash; are most vulnerable and why Mark (and the rest of us) should consider them.</p><p><strong>What&rsquo;s on Chicago&rsquo;s radar</strong></p><p>The city laid out what it knows in its Climate Action Plan, which was adopted in 2008. City Hall has three main concerns:<a href="http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org/pages/temperature/20.php" target="_blank"> it will get hotter</a>, exacerbating<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/weary-high-chicago-asthma-rates-some-lobby-washington-107461" target="_blank"> problems with air quality</a> and perhaps making<a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/consecutive-days-warm-temperatures-could-break-1995-record-97332" target="_blank"> deadly heat waves</a> stronger and/or more common;<a href="http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org/pages/precipitation/21.php" target="_blank"> flooding could get worse</a> as intense<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/climate-change-could-worsen-chicago-floods-106174" target="_blank"> rainstorms become more common</a>, further burdening<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/heavy-rain-overwhelms-combined-sewer-system-106731" target="_blank"> an already swollen sewer system</a>; and<a href="http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org/pages/ecosystems/22.php" target="_blank"> Chicago&#39;s native ecosystems could change</a>, forcing farmers, gardeners and landscapers to change their habits.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/THUMB%20flickr%20seth%20anderson%20-%20possible%20thumb.jpg" style="float: right; height: 260px; width: 325px; margin: 5px;" title="The Fisk generating plant in Chicago was closed in 2012. (FLickr/Seth Anderson)" />High school students at Robert Lindblom Math &amp; Science Academy in the West Englewood neighborhood are working on that last problem, studying which tree species are best suited to a warmer climate. So Parker Mesle and her forthcoming sibling will likely plant different saplings than her father, our question asker.</p><p>In the future there might be less Lake Michigan than Mark&rsquo;s used to, if <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/what%E2%80%99s-causing-record-low-levels-lake-michigan-105262" target="_blank">a trend toward low lake levels</a> continues. On average, warmer average temperatures should mean less ice cover during winter, which means the Great Lakes may evaporate faster than they&rsquo;re recharged. That could change coastal ecosystems <a href="http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/24/low-waters-and-high-anxiety/?_php=true&amp;_type=blogs&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">and hurt the lucrative shipping industry</a> in the region, which <a href="http://www.marad.dot.gov/documents/US-Flag_Great_Lakes_Water_Transportation_Industry_Final_Report_2013.pdf" target="_top">the U.S. Department of Transportation says</a> supplies $14.1 billion in annual income to U.S. citizens, and $33.6 billion in annual U.S. business revenues.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s thinking through effects of climate change that may not be so dire, however. If Mark&rsquo;s kids choose to live in Chicago, they could have plenty of company. That&rsquo;s because, under some scenarios, transportation (especially forms that involve climate-changing fossil fuels) could become more expensive, making life in the dense, urban core more attractive.</p><p>Chicago is thinking through encouraging or adapting to higher residential density, and strategies include everything from neighborhood walkability to <a href="http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield/city_sustainability_is_about_t.html" target="_blank">historic preservation and affordable housing</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;If you think big picture, a lot of this is about creating a really livable, really competitive and really livable city,&rdquo; said Karen Weigert, Chicago&rsquo;s chief sustainability officer. She said urbanites have a lower per capita carbon footprint than those in less densely populated communities, which tend to have higher transportation emissions.</p><p>&ldquo;Living in an urban environment, as a start,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;is actually a pretty good climate choice.&rdquo; <a href="http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=6218" target="_blank">Even suburbs are starting to reinvest in transit-oriented development</a> and walkability&mdash;characteristics traditionally associated with inner cities. Reducing the distance people need to travel reduces their fuel use, which can save <a href="http://www.nhc.org/media/documents/pub_heavy_load_10_06.pdf" target="_blank">money as well as greenhouse gas emissions</a>. So it&rsquo;s likely Mark&rsquo;s kids will have more transit options (not to mention <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/54-mpg-argonne-natl-lab-wins-grant-fuel-efficiency-research-90433" target="_blank">more fuel-efficient vehicles</a>) wherever they decide to live.</p><p><strong>Knocking on Chicago&rsquo;s door?</strong></p><p>But what if rising seas in Florida and New York &mdash; let alone Bangladesh &mdash; send &ldquo;climate refugees&rdquo; flocking to Chicago? This is an example of an indirect &ldquo;knock-on&rdquo; effect of climate change that came up during <a href="#event">our panel discussion </a>in February. As University of Chicago Law Professor David Weisbach said, however, the Chicago area might be well-positioned to handle newcomers and other unforeseen impacts.</p><p>&ldquo;We have a temperate environment. We have a highly diversified economy &mdash; it&rsquo;s not dependent on any one sector. We have a stable fresh water supply,&rdquo; Weisbach said. &ldquo;If you think about what the effects of climate change will be in Chicago, it&rsquo;s going to be the knock-on effects. We&rsquo;re connected to the rest of the world, and what matters to the rest of the world matters to us. That will affect us potentially very, very deeply.&rdquo;</p><p>When we try to figure out what those potential impacts will be, we&rsquo;re inevitably speculating about the ability of our city to respond to change. One key problem with that is our ability to cope with challenges isn&rsquo;t uniform. Poorer communities, or those with less political clout, get passed over.</p><p>That&rsquo;s true in Chicago,<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/qa-kim-wasserman-little-villages-coal-crusader-106742" target="_blank"> according to Kimberly Wasserman Nieto</a>, who is executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. During <a href="#event">our event in February</a>, she said sustainability efforts need to address communities all around the city &mdash; not just on the North Side.</p><p>&ldquo;If it&rsquo;s about saving the butterflies and building green streets in Lincoln Park, that&rsquo;s great for them,&rdquo; Wasserman said, &ldquo;but what does that do for the people on the Southwest Side of Chicago?&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/flickr%20rainforest%20action%20network.jpg" style="float: left; height: 222px; width: 335px; margin: 5px;" title="Activists from the Little Village Environmental Justice organization protested in 2011 against the Crawford coal plant, which closed in 2012 (Flickr/Rainforest Action Network)" />She said local efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions can help marginalized communities take control of their future, possibly creating jobs in turn.</p><p>&ldquo;For us it&rsquo;s about showing how a local economy can help a community and how that in change can also help turn the impacts of climate change,&rdquo; Wasserman said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re working, breathing, living in our communities, fighting for our environment, and we want to showcase that bringing it local is really one of the only ways that we can save our environment.&rdquo;</p><p>Climate justice is a global issue, too, because the poorest countries also happen to be those that will get hit hardest by the effects of climate change. Countries in the tropics tend to have both fewer resources and far greater biodiversity than countries in temperate zones. Sea-level rise in Bangladesh alone<a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/04/14/us-bangladesh-climate-islands-idUSDHA23447920080414" target="_blank"> is expected to displace tens of millions of people</a>.</p><p>Northwestern University Economist Benjamin Jones recently co-authored <a href="http://economics.mit.edu/files/9138" target="_blank">a study</a> examining the connection between severe weather and economic impacts. He and his colleagues found there&rsquo;s a surprisingly large range of possible economic outcomes.</p><p>&ldquo;For example, it&rsquo;s increasingly clear that when you have extreme heat in the U.S., that you see a large negative impact on agricultural output. It&rsquo;s increasingly clear that very high heat leads to at least temporary large spikes in mortality, especially among the very old and very young,&rdquo; Jones said. And, he said, it can impact economic growth on a large scale. With colleagues at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jones <a href="http://economics.mit.edu/files/9138" target="_blank">statistically analyzed the connection between severe weather, climate change and economic impacts</a>. One degree Celsius of warming could curb a country&rsquo;s growth by as much as one percentage point &mdash; a huge effect, considering the U.S. growth rate <a href="http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/gdp-growth" target="_blank">was around 3 percent in recent years</a>.</p><p><strong>Climate of opportunity</strong></p><p>But figuring out how to respond to change &mdash; what experts are calling climate &ldquo;resiliency&rdquo; &mdash; could create huge opportunities, too.</p><p>Jones said if Chicago innovates within the low-carbon tech sector, it can make money and jobs while coping with climate risk.</p><p>Chicago is<a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-19/changing-gears-will-advanced-batteries-charge-midwest-economy-93278" target="_blank"> the nation&rsquo;s hub for battery technology</a>. The<a href="about:blank" target="_blank"> wind energy industry is big here</a>, too, as is<a href="about:blank" target="_blank"> energy efficiency</a> and<a href="about:blank" target="_blank"> water technology</a>. Perhaps Mark Mesle&rsquo;s children will be among the scientists and engineers who will help us adapt to climate change.</p><p>&ldquo;Necessity is the mother of invention. We&rsquo;re already seeing a lot of innovation around clean energy, around agriculture,&rdquo; Jones said. &ldquo;If there is a lowest-cost way out, it will be that route.&rdquo;</p><p>Ultimately it&rsquo;s a question of managing short-term shocks and long-term changes. A short-term influx of climate refugees could be a good thing, providing skilled labor and boosting the local tax base. But too much too fast could overburden city services, especially if those services are already strained by severe weather.</p><p>In the six years since Chicago set out on its climate action agenda, the city has implemented a few notable initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Ratepayers voted to buy power through municipal aggregation,<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city%E2%80%99s-power-deal-boosts-wind-energy-108003" target="_blank"> which doubled the share of wind energy in the city&#39;s electricity supply</a>. That followed the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/activists-rejoice-coal-fired-plants-shut-down-102129" target="_blank"> closure of two coal-fired power plants on the Southwest Side</a> ahead of schedule. And last year Chicago<a href="http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=6798" target="_blank"> directed landlords of buildings larger than 50,000 square feet, which account for 15 percent of the city&rsquo;s total energy use, to report their energy consumption</a>. That&rsquo;s expected to improve the rate of energy efficiency improvements already hastened<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/progs/env/retrofit_chicago.html" target="_blank"> by a slimmed-down approval process</a> for retrofits.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/flickr%20steven%20vance.jpg" style="float: right; height: 289px; width: 385px; margin: 5px;" title="A stretch of Cermak Road in Chicago is meant to serve as a model for sustainable streetscape. (Flickr/Steven Vance) " />And parts of Chicago itself may look different for our question asker&rsquo;s children. Chicago has invested in green infrastructure, including<a href="http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=6409" target="_blank"> a stretch of Cermak Road meant to serve as a model for sustainable streetscapes</a>. With rain gardens and smog-eating pavement, Sustainability Chief Karen Weigert said &ldquo;It&rsquo;s the kind of infrastructure that will be strong and critically important going forward.&rdquo;</p><p>That project cost less than competing proposals, city officials said when it was announced in 2012, but not all climate resiliency infrastructure projects are easy sells. Potential costs are huge, but so are upfront investments.<a href="http://www.cnt.org/2013/05/14/urban-flooding-is-chronic-and-costly-but-not-correlated-with-floodplains/" target="_blank"> The Center for Neighborhood Technology found</a> floods cost Chicagoans $660 million between 2007 and 2011 (just based on insurance claims paid out), for example. But, as we learned from atmospheric chemist Liz Moyer, cash-strapped governments don&rsquo;t typically make major investments to fend off future pain that is <a href="http://www.cicero.uio.no/media/9411.pdf" target="_blank">inherently uncertain</a>.</p><p><strong>Global citizens</strong></p><p>Absent national movement on a carbon tax or trading scheme that might catalyze development for climate-resilient infrastructure, Chicago will probably continue to lean on its most reliable resource: its people. As Weigert said, the city&rsquo;s motto is <em>Urbs in Horto</em> &mdash; city in a garden.</p><p>And that city is increasingly connected to others around the world. Whether it&rsquo;s in response to business opportunities, climate refugees and other knock-on effects, or carbon emissions from around the globe, Chicago&rsquo;s going to change with the climate. Our question asker Mark Mesle hopes we&rsquo;ll rise to the occasion. So for the sake of his kids, he&rsquo;s urging action.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve sort of always felt there needs to be international cooperation,&rdquo; he said at <a href="#event">our panel event</a> in February. &ldquo;That doesn&rsquo;t happen unless U.S. politicians care about it, and U.S. politicians don&rsquo;t care about it unless you tell them to care about it.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">Chris Bentley</a> is a reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City, and a freelance journalist. <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">Follow him on Twitter at @Cementley</a>.</p><p><strong><a name="event"></a>The Raw Report: An experiment in live media-making</strong></p><p><strong><iframe frameborder="0" height="420" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/29067314&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></strong></p><p>In February 2014, WBEZ and <a href="http://www.prairie.org/programs/public-square" target="_blank">The Public Square</a> (a program of the Illinois Humanities Council) co-produced &nbsp;&ldquo;The Raw Report,&quot; an experiment in live media-making. The event, held at the Jim &amp; Kay Mabie Studio at Chicago Public Media, included a <a href="#sources">panel of knowledgeable sources</a> that answered Mark Mesle&rsquo;s question in front of a live audience. Teams of young and newly-minted reporters interpreted that answer and created their own original audio presentations in real time, which they reported back to the audience.</p><p>Moderator Laura Washington led a follow-up discussion that explored questions such as: How do the stories generated by the teams of young reporters differ and why? How important is it to realize that each story we consume in media is only one of an infinite number of ways to tell that same story?</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="352" scrolling="no" src="http://files.slidemypics.com/app/js/iframe.html?bg_color=1f1f1f&amp;amp;hash=ab3ebd6dc91362591b5843aca1360030&amp;amp;r=0.32371021481230855" width="526"></iframe></p><address style="text-align: center;">(Full set of photos and more info in WBEZ&#39;s Flickr pool:&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.is/1pXyf5r" target="_blank">http://wbez.is/1pXyf5r</a>)</address><p><strong><a name="sources"></a>Sincere thanks to our panelists:</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~moyer/MoyerWebsite/Home%20Page/HomePage.html" target="_blank">Elisabeth Moyer</a>, Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Transport at the University of Chicago. Moyer&rsquo;s research explores climate modeling and impact assessment. As a researcher with the <a href="http://www.rdcep.org/" target="_blank">Center for Robust Decision-making on Climate &amp; Energy Policy</a> (RDCEP), she&rsquo;s interested in sizing up and dealing with the uncertainty involved with making climate change predictions &mdash; case in point, a recent paper, &ldquo;<a href="http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2312770" target="_blank">Climate Impacts on Economic Growth as Drivers of Uncertainty in the Social Cost of Carbon</a>.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Kimberly Wasserman Nieto, executive director, <a href="http://lvejo.org/" target="_blank">Little Village Environmental Justice Organization</a>. She&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/news/activists-rejoice-coal-fired-plants-shut-down-102129" target="_blank">led the charge to close Midwest Generation&rsquo;s Crawford coal plant in her Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, as well as the Fisk power plant in Pilsen</a> &mdash; an effort for which she <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/news/chicago-activist-wins-goldman-environmental-prize-106645" target="_blank">won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize</a> in 2013. LVEJO&rsquo;s success has been recognized worldwide, but Wasserman says the attention has only sharpened her focus on environmental justice in Chicago.</p><p><a href="http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/weisbach" target="_blank">David Weisbach</a>, Walter J. Blum Professor of Law and Senior Fellow, the Computation Institute of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. Trained as a mathematician and lawyer, Weisbach is primarily interested in issues relating to federal taxation and to climate change.</p><p><strong>Thanks, too, to our teams of journalists, who represented the following organizations:</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.chicagoreporter.com/" target="_blank">The Chicago Reporter</a>: An investigative news organization that identifies, analyzes, and reports on the social, economic, and political issues of metropolitan Chicago with a focus on race and poverty.</p><p><a href="http://themash.com/" target="_blank">The Mash</a>: A weekly newspaper and website written largely by, for, and about Chicago high school students.</p><p><a href="http://www.freespiritmedia.org/" target="_blank">Free Spirit Media</a>: An organization that provides education, access, and opportunity in media production to underserved urban youth.</p><p><a href="http://www.karilydersen.com/teaching.html" target="_blank">The Social Justice Chicago Reporting Fellowship program</a>&nbsp;at Northwestern University&rsquo;s Medill School of Journalism</p><p><a href="http://www.colum.edu/Academics/Journalism/" target="_blank">Columbia College Journalism Department</a></p><p><strong>Thanks to our partner for the Raw Report:&nbsp;</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.prairie.org/programs/public-square" target="_blank">The Public Square</a>&nbsp;is a program of the Illinois Humanities Council.&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IHC-Logo_Color_Plain.jpg" style="margin: 5px; height: 89px; width: 400px;" title="" /></div></p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 19:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/looking-out-climate-change-chicago-109968 Field Museum show examines the body as a machine http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/field-museum-show-examines-body-machine-109836 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/mantis shrimp.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A new exhibit opening Wednesday at Chicago&rsquo;s Field Museum looks at how animal and human bodies alike function using nature&#39;s equivalent of pumps and springs.</p><p>Visitors to the show will learn how a tiny fox&rsquo;s ears work like air conditioning, why a mantis shrimp&rsquo;s spring mechanism makes it the &ldquo;hardest puncher in the animal kingdom,&rdquo; and how a giraffe&rsquo;s heart pumps blood all the way up its long neck to its brain&nbsp; (The short answer? Apparently giraffes have astonishingly high blood pressure.)</p><p>Scientists who study insects, birds and other creatures to understand these mechanisms, are finding human applications such as Velcro and artificial legs for runners.</p><p>For a sneak peek at the exhibit, listen above to my audio tour with the Field Museum&rsquo;s Marie Georg.</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes is a WBEZ producer/reporter covering religion, culture and science. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes" target="_blank">@LynetteKalsnes</a></em></p></p> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 17:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/field-museum-show-examines-body-machine-109836 Brookfield’s baby dolphin dies suddenly http://www.wbez.org/news/brookfield%E2%80%99s-baby-dolphin-dies-suddenly-108368 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP178379265245.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Staff at Brookfield Zoo are mourning the sudden death of a newborn dolphin. The female calf was nearly a week old. She was born to a 26-year-old dolphin, Allie, one of three Brookfield dolphins who were pregnant this summer.</p><p>The baby weighed around 40 pounds at birth and measured 3 feet long. At the time, Brookfield staff said the baby was healthy and strong. But by Wednesday, veterinarians started seeing signs that the baby, who was not named, wasn&rsquo;t well. According to Dr. Michael Adkesson, Vice President of clinical medicine at the Chicago Zoological Society, the calf seemed weak, and the frequency and duration of nursing with her mother began to decline.</p><p>Adkesson says the first days of a dolphin&rsquo;s life are extremely critical, and studies have shown that deaths of young calves in the first 30 days of their life account for the largest rate of loss to dolphin populations in the world.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not an animal like a primate where the mom&rsquo;s able to carry the animal around, or a tiger or a lion where it&rsquo;s able to be tucked back in a den,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;The animals really come out in the water and have to really be able to go from the first minute of birth.&rdquo;</p><p>Dolphins have to learn skills like swimming, eating, breathing and how to nurse right after birth. These are skills Adkesson says Allie was correctly teaching her offspring, but the baby&rsquo;s health still continued to decline.</p><p>Veterinarians tried to intervene, including using CPR and other tactics, but they the dolphin died early Thursday.</p><p>Adkesson says Allie is doing well, health-wise, but that it&rsquo;s hard to tell if or how she&rsquo;s dealing with the loss.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s difficult for us to really know that, in terms of how much they grieve, &ldquo;he said. &ldquo;Obviously, we know they&rsquo;re very intelligent animals, but as far as the level of emotion that they feel, it&rsquo;s not something that we can really speak to.&rdquo;</p><p>The calf&rsquo;s autopsy report is expected to come back next week.</p><p>For now, Brookfield Zoo staff is focused on its two other mothers-to-be, and the two, hopefully healthy, babies that will be swimming alongside them in the water this fall.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is WBEZ&rsquo;s Morning Producer/Reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 09 Aug 2013 15:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/brookfield%E2%80%99s-baby-dolphin-dies-suddenly-108368 Bioluminescent creatures keep predators at bay http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/bioluminescent-creatures-keep-predators-bay-107012 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bio%20bay%20youtube.jpg" title="The bioluminescent ripple effects of a splash in the Bio Bay. (YouTube/TobiasJHN)" /></div><p>When I was in my early 20s I traveled to Puerto Rico on vacation with some friends from high school. We sat on the beach and drank fruity drinks with tiny umbrellas, visited the colonial fort in old San Juan (a place that, with its rolling green meadows and stone turrets perched just above the ocean cliffs, looked to me like Narnia) and for several days we stayed in a rental in Vieques.</p><p>The diminutive island eight miles east of the mainland was for many years a U.S. naval base. Much of the heavily forested island was made into a wildlife preserve, which is now off-limits. But the rest of the island has retained a similar kind of rural, unspoiled beauty. There are white sand beaches and coral reefs, and even feral horses that trot around the pastel-colored houses. But Vieques&rsquo; most remarkable natural feature is its <a href="http://biobay.com/">Bioluminescent Bay</a>.</p><p>I went to the Bio Bay at night, on a bus that departed from the tiny town of Esperanza and wound its way east along the coast. It was perfectly dark when we arrived, and silent, except for the sound of insects and giggling tourists. Our tour guides produced canoes, and we filed in by twos and threes, paddling out to the center of the bay.</p><p>The water was black and glassy, but at the appointed time we jumped in to meet the creatures that give the Bio Bay its name. As we landed in the murk with one splash after another, the water around us flashed with a bright, milky blue glow, illuminating our limbs and reflecting up onto our faces. I swept my arm through the water and watched as it left a trail of blue stardust lit up behind it.</p><p>The Bio Bay, you see, is home to millions upon millions of tiny, one-celled microorganisms called dinoflagellates &ndash; in this case tiny marine plankton that are among the earth&rsquo;s many bioluminescent creatures. They produce their eerie light when they&rsquo;re disturbed, as they were when we decided to take a midnight swim in their home.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s the <em>point </em>of that light?&rdquo; J. Woodland &ldquo;Woody&rdquo; Hastings asked at a recent Chicago lecture. The Harvard professor of Natural Sciences studies bioluminescence in creatures across the spectrum of life, from simple, one-celled bacteria to angler fish that swim in the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean and carry their light around with them.</p><p>Hastings said this is the question he&rsquo;s invariably asked at his talks. In the case of one such organism he&rsquo;s studied, a luminous mushroom found in the Brazilian rain forest, Hastings posited that the glow of the fungi attracts insects, which will eat the mushroom and help disperse its spores. But in the case of the plankton in the Bio Bay, my tour guide had another explanation: supposedly, he said, the glow was meant to act like <a href="http://siobiolum.ucsd.edu/dino_bl.html">a &ldquo;burglar alarm,&rdquo;</a> meant to attract a secondary predator that would threaten and scare away the primary predator bothering the dinoflagellates.</p><p>As my tour guide spoke, I felt a blindingly painful sting on my left calf. A jellyfish that I could not see &ndash; but which had clearly seen me &ndash; had wrapped its tentacle around my leg. I hauled myself out of the water and back into the boat, howling with pain. Nature at work!</p><p>In the audio above you can hear Hastings&rsquo; account of another mystical spot of bioluminescent water, this time in the Indian Ocean, known to generations of sailors as the &ldquo;milky sea.&rdquo; And, you can hear more about the spectrum of creatures that cause our waters to glow like a softly lit siren.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range"><em>Dynamic Range</em></a>&nbsp;<em>showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Woody Hastings spoke at an event presented by the Chicago Council on Science and Technology in February of 2013. Click</em>&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/bioluminescence-living-lights-lights-living-106379"><em>here</em></a>&nbsp;<em>to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p><p><em>Robin Amer is a producer on WBEZ&rsquo;s digital team. Follow her on Twitter</em><a href="https://twitter.com/rsamer">&nbsp;<em>@rsamer</em></a><em>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Sat, 04 May 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/bioluminescent-creatures-keep-predators-bay-107012 New supercomputer at University of Illinois may help predict the weather http://www.wbez.org/news/new-supercomputer-university-illinois-may-help-predict-weather-106368 <p><p>Imagine being able to more accurately predict what happens before a natural disaster occurs. A new supercomputer at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign may help us get closer to that reality.</p><p>Today the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) is unveiling Blue Waters, a brand new supercomputer that is the first of its kind for a university.</p><p>Blue Waters is a 5500 square foot computer with over 10,000 computer processors, that can run more than 1 quadrillion calculations per second.</p><p>For comparison, the average home computer only contains 1 computer processor.</p><p>Trish Barker is spokesperson for NCSA.</p><p>Trish Barker, a spokesperson for NCSA says Blue Waters will enable researchers to make mathematical models for various environmental conditions which will help them figure out how to prevent or even preempt natural disasters.</p><p>&ldquo; A lot of what people are doing are mathematical modeling,&rdquo; Barker said. &rdquo;They have equations that they feel do a pretty good job of what&rsquo;s happening in the real world like a tornado or hurricane. They want to make models that match what&rsquo;s happening in the world more and more closely. And that&rsquo;s why they want more and more powerful supercomputers that enables them to do more calculations in a shorter period of time.&rdquo;</p><p>In order to use Blue Waters, researchers must request time through the National Science Foundation. Once approved they can access the data through a login that will connect them to the supercomputer.</p><p>Barker said researchers can&nbsp; log in remotely even from a smartphone.</p><p>&ldquo;They can study earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, how viruses infect our cells, high energy physics, the formation of galaxies, it&rsquo;s really a very powerful tool across many different areas.&rdquo;</p><p>There may be other supercomputers similar in size and power, but Barker says Blue Waters is the most powerful on any university campus.</p><p>At it&rsquo;s peak usage it consumes about 12-13 megawatts of power which according to Barker is enough energy to electrify a small town.</p><p>Because of it&rsquo;s large size, the university has placed the supercomputer in a large server room of 20,000 square feet that uses a passive cooling system.</p><p>The National Science Foundation funded an initial grant of&nbsp; $208 million toward building Blue Waters. And the state of Illinois provided funding for the 20,000 square foot building that houses it (and eventually other network data and equipment) for $60 million.&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 28 Mar 2013 15:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-supercomputer-university-illinois-may-help-predict-weather-106368 Way to go science! You found a squid. http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-01/way-go-science-you-found-squid-104790 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/4240283_97825b9b35.jpg" title="(Flickr/Mike Monteiro)" /></p><p><span id="internal-source-marker_0.33492507917404524">Way to go, science! I am very proud of you.</span><br /><br />You haven&rsquo;t been up to much, lately, have you? I am still waiting to hear about that cure for cancer or cure for AIDS, not to mention the invention that disables cell phones in cars except for 911 calls. Have you really had much to say for yourself since, I don&rsquo;t know, the cure for polio? It&rsquo;s gotten to the point where your stock has gotten so low there&rsquo;s been a backlash against you. Vaccines? Pssh. Hate them! Dinosaurs? Not in my back yard. Global warming? POLITICAL AGENDA.<br /><br />But this week you delivered. In the form of footage of <a href="http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/08/giant-squid-videotaped-for-the-first-time-in-its-deep-domain/">the giant squid.</a><br /><br />I didn&rsquo;t think you had it in you. I figured the giant squid was one of those things like &ldquo;Bigfoot&rdquo; or &ldquo;black holes&rdquo; or &ldquo;germs&rdquo; that everybody talks about but you can&rsquo;t really prove. How could you really establish that the &ldquo;giant squids&rdquo; that kept washing up on the beach weren&rsquo;t really just trash bits from some factory in Japan? Giant squids just started seeming like something some crazy old guy with syphilis drew in the middle of the ocean on an old-timey map to take up space.<br /><br />But now we know that you&rsquo;re not completely full of it, scientists. This is very exciting. However! You&rsquo;re now going to have to step up your game. I guess this 3-D printer thing is pretty cool, but you know what comes next. That&rsquo;s right. Unicorns. Show them to me, or else I&rsquo;m going to lose faith in you all over again.</p></p> Tue, 08 Jan 2013 21:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-01/way-go-science-you-found-squid-104790 Reporter Joshua Foer explains how to remember everything http://www.wbez.org/story/reporter-joshua-foer-explains-how-remember-everything-96728 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-24/Memory Palace_Flickr_Maureen Flynn-Burhoe.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-24/Memory Palace_Flickr_Maureen Flynn-Burhoe.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 500px;" title="Joshua Foer became an expert in a spatial and visual memory-enhancement technique known as the Memory Palace. (Flickr/Maureen Flynn-Budhoe)"></p><p>Science reporter <a href="http://joshuafoer.com/">Joshua Foer</a> was standing outside the building where the <a href="http://www.usamemorychampionship.com/">U.S.A. National Memory Championship</a> competition was taking place. He was there covering the event, which was new to him, and which he thought of as a kind of quirky curiosity.</p><p>A British competitor who had come to the American championships as a kind of “spring training” in advance of the world championships stood outside smoking a cigarette.</p><p>“You’re a journalist,” he said to Foer. “Do you know Britney Spears?”</p><p>No, Foer said. He did not.</p><p>Ah, it was too bad, the competitor replied. He had a dream of teaching Britney Spears some age-old memory-enhancing techniques on live television, to prove that <em>anyone</em> could learn to memorize hundreds upon thousands of random words or digits in a row, as he and the other would-be memory champs did every year.</p><p>Foer reasserted that he did not know the young pop star.</p><p>“But maybe you can train me,” Foer said.</p><p>That was the beginning of how Foer went from observer to competitor, training himself with those same memory-enhancing techniques, and eventually going on to win the 2006 U.S. championship. (He documented his journey in his much-praised book, <a href="http://joshuafoer.com/moonwalking-with-einstein/book/"><em>Moonwalking with Einstein</em></a><em>.</em>) In the process, he also set a new U.S. record, memorizing the order of a randomly shuffled deck of playing cards in 1 minute 40 seconds. (His record has since been broken, and currently stands at 29 seconds.)</p><p>Foer went on to represent America at the world championships that year, where unfortunately, he “had his tuchas handed” to him by the Brits, the Germans and the Malaysians, among others.</p><p>But through his journey, Foer learned that the British competitor he met that first day was right: People who succeed at this memory thing aren’t geniuses. They aren’t smarter than the rest of us, nor do they have brains that are anatomically superior.</p><p>What they’ve done is trained themselves with a technique called the Memory Palace -- a mnemonic device that dates back to ancient Greece that allows users to trick themselves into using the visual and spatial parts of their brain to remember things that don’t always have a visual or spatial dimension.</p><p>In the tape above, Foer demonstrates the Memory Palace technique to the audience at the talk he gave at Elmhurst College last week. And in doing so, he proves that whether you’re Britney Spears or not, you too can turn an ordinary assembly hall into your very own Memory Palace.</p><p><a href="../../series/dynamic-range">Dynamic Range </a><em>showcases hidden gems unearthed from </em>Chicago Amplified’s<em> vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Joshua Foer spoke at an event presented by </em><a href="http://public.elmhurst.edu/"><em>Elmhurst College </em></a><em>in February. Click </em><a href="../../story/joshua-foer-art-and-science-remembering-everything-96519"><em>here </em></a><em>to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p></p> Sat, 25 Feb 2012 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/reporter-joshua-foer-explains-how-remember-everything-96728