science

Field agronomist Angie Rieck-Hinz counts rows of corn in a study in Wright County, Iowa.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

As another harvest season wraps up, Midwest farmers are once again facing low commodity prices amid enormous supplies. And when they recover from the long days bringing in the grain, they will eventually sit down with their books and try to figure out how best to farm again next year.

The story of how a local art gallery curator, while on his honeymoon in Guatemala, came across the intricate embroidery work of Antonio Ramirez Sosof, a self-taught artist who used to be a lumberjack.

Plus, an encore presentation of how a KU professor discovered that Neanderthals adorned their bodies with eagle talon jewelry.

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courtesy of Mark Brodwin / Janet Rodgers

Astronomer Mike Browdin understands that the immensity of our universe can be intimidating to some people. He gets that people don't think about supernovas and black holes as much as he does, and that it overwhelms them when they try to wrap their heads around it.

"Some people feel that when they are faced with the vastness of the universe and space and time, they feel insignificant," Browdin told Central Standard's Gina Kauffman. "And we are really small compared to that."

Todd Sheets started making horror movies in KC in the late 1980s. He stopped after a close friend died at the Catacombs Haunted House. A health scare — a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery — inspired him, in part, to make movies again. His latest, Dreaming Purple Neon, has its world premiere tomorrow night at Screenland Armour.

Plus, a chat with musician Rachel Mallin, and an encore presentation on lizards.

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Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

This story first appeared on KCUR's Question Quest. You can find the episode here or wherever you download podcasts.

In this episode, Suzanne digs into the sacred geometry and mysterious happenings surrounding a giant octagon in Belton, Missouri. 

Eduard Solà / Wikimedia Commons

Seeing a planarian for the first time, you might not even know what you’re looking at. Brown, black, or white in color, these flatworms are about the size of a toenail clipping and have two light-sensing spots on their triangular-shaped heads that make them look cross-eyed. Their simple appearance, though, belies a surprising ability.

 

“You can take one of these animals and cut them into 18 fragments,” says Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, who does this for a living, “and each and every one of those fragments will go on to regenerate a complete animal.”

Eduard Solà / Wikimedia Commons

They may not look like much, but research scientist Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado thinks planaria — tiny freshwater flatworms —might hold the key to cell repair and duplication. The hope is that studying these self-cloning little invertebrates can help scientists figure out the biological mechanism behind their renowned regenerative abilities.

Courtesy Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute

It's no secret that science often produces mesmerizing images to go along with all of its graphs, charts and tables. Now some of those images, generated by biomedical research underway in the Kansas City region, have a show all of their own at Kemper East.

"It's not something we usually show here," says Erin Dziedzic, the Kemper's director of curatorial affairs.

Scientists at the Colorado Department of Agriculture's Insectary raise insects adapted to attacking bugs and plants harmful to agriculture.
Dan Garrison / for Harvest Public Media

The Colorado Department of Agriculture is killing pests dead, without the aid of chemicals.

Halfway down a dead-end road in the small farming town of Palisade, Colorado, is the research facility known as “The Insectary.”  Scientists at the lab develop “biocontrol insects,” insects adapted to attacking bugs and plants harmful to agriculture. Colorado’s Insectary is the oldest and largest facility of its kind in the United States.

Most of the soybeans, like those pictured here, and corn grown in the United States are geneticall modified. Some new varities are not required to undergo federal regulation.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

In a brightly-lit lab at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, workers with tweezers hunch over petri dishes scattered with sprouted sorghum seeds. Sorghum produces grain and also a sugary stalk.

But this sorghum has a genetic tweak, explains plant scientist Tom Clemente. Instead of sugar, it’s engineered to make oil, which could be used to make fuel or chemicals.

“You know if we can get oil in a stock of sorghum anywhere greater than 5 percent, that’s a winner,” Clemente says. “That’s a grand slam.”

Courtesy U2D, Inc.

A device that could improve homeland security, help the military and protect workers in nuclear facilities and hospitals has won a coveted award for a team led by a UMKC professor.

Physics professor Anthony Caruso led a team of 20 student researchers plus researchers at MU-Columbia and Kansas State University and two private companies in taking the product from concept through prototype to production.

In this encore presentation of Central Standard: A KU professor, who studies how lizards branch into various species, has come to some pretty big conclusions on what defines a species.

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Wikipedia

Once upon a time, a paleontology expedition to dig up dinosaur bones might have been funded primarily by grants and major philanthropists. But KU's Natural History Museum has its eye on a tyrannosaurus rex, and if they succeed in bringing the specimen home from Montana this summer, guess who's footing the bill? You are, through crowd-sourcing. How the crowd-funding model is changing education, from grade school classrooms to university museums.

Guests:

Wikimedia Commons

In this encore presentation of Central Standard: What does it mean to be a "Renaissance Man" today? Hint: it's more than being an expert multi-tasker. 

Guests:

A KU professor, who studies how lizards branch into various species, has come to some pretty big conclusions on what defines a species.

Guest:

For Randy Schekman, it all began with a toy microscope and pond scum. Now he’s a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his role in figuring out the science now used to produce one-third of the insulin used worldwide by diabetics, and the entire world’s supply of the Hepatitis B vaccine.

Forget what you've seen on CSI or Law and Order.  Take a look at what really goes into solving crimes through DNA analysis and how the process differs from what we see on TV.

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courtesy of David Lane

For Kansas City photographer David Lane, the night sky is a canvas where he composes Milky Way-themed works of art.

“The glow that is in those pictures is from 250 billion suns," Lane says. "To see that represented, it helps give our place in the universe."

His name is Otzi, the oldest human in such a complete state. Discovered in 1991 in the Italian Alps, he’s the most studied human in history. We speak with the Kearney, Missouri-based paleo-sculptor who recently completed a replica of Otzi for research and study.

KCUR's Central Standard introduced us to Gary Staab in August 2015. Listen to that interview here.

Valentine's Day is approaching and many Americans will gift flowers to their partners as a romantic gesture. But when did roses become a symbol of romance, and what kind of sex lives have the flowers led before they wind up in a bouquet?

Guest:

Creative Commons

What does it mean to be a "Renaissance Man" today? Hint: it's more than being an expert multi-tasker. 

Guests:

A few weeks ago, the White House held a STEM education workshop for 27 cities across the United States, and five representatives from Kansas City were invited to attend. On this edition of Up to Date, Steve Kraske finds out what they learned and how it could change local approaches to STEM.

Guests:

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR 89.3

Finding a fossil in Kansas City can be as easy as going to the park or checking around your basement.

"Both Kansas and Missouri have great fossil deposits," Bruce Lieberman told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard.

"They represent, in some respects, different time periods, especially if you get further east into Missouri, east of the Kansas City metro," he said.

Meet a Fulbright graduate student at KU who will begin a fellowship at Fermilab — America's foremost institute for particle physics. He discusses his research on dark energy and dark matter, his journey from South Africa to Lawrence — and how the movie Honey, I Blew Up the Kid inspired his scientific career.

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In the entire history of the natural world -- that's hundreds of millions of years -- only four groups of animals have developed the ability to lift up off the ground and fly. A KU professor has been piecing together that story.

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Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has captured the world's attention promoting scientific literacy and a secular world view. Steve Kraske speaks with him about his latest memoir, Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science, a sequel to his An Appetite for Wonder.  

The story of Summer Farrar, an artist whose current project is exonerating the wrongly convicted using microscopic hair comparison analysis. How an artist ended up in the mix, and what she brings to the table.

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Age Is Relative

Sep 29, 2015
U.S. Army MWR / Flickr

The quest for immortality, or at least longer than we've got, is the stuff of science fiction. But the scientific community has plenty to say about the reality of extending the human lifespan. A glimpse at the future of aging, plus ethical and practical implications of living longer.

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Why do reusable shopping bags make you want to buy more junk food? How do people get stuck in boring jobs? NPR's science correspondent Shankar Vedantam regularly scours social science research to bring us these questions and their answers. 

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