Richard Harris http://wkms.org en Custom Chromo: First Yeast Chromosome Built From Scratch http://wkms.org/post/custom-chromo-first-yeast-chromosome-built-scratch Using the labor of dozens of undergraduate students, scientists have built a customized yeast chromosome from scratch.<p>It's a milestone in the rapidly growing field of synthetic biology, where organisms can be tailored for industrial use. In this case, the near-term goal is to understand the genetics of yeast, and eventually the genetics of us.<p>This was quite an undertaking. Yeast have about 6,000 genes packed in 16 tidy bundles called chromosomes. Thu, 27 Mar 2014 20:14:00 +0000 Richard Harris 39518 at http://wkms.org Custom Chromo: First Yeast Chromosome Built From Scratch Never Mind Eyesight, Your Nose Knows Much More http://wkms.org/post/never-mind-eyesight-your-nose-knows-much-more The human eye can distinguish more than 2 million distinct colors. But scientists studying smell now say they have their vision colleagues beat: The human nose, they say, can distinguish more than a trillion different smells.<p>Yes, trillion with a T.<p>That new figure displaces a much more modest estimate. Thu, 20 Mar 2014 20:47:00 +0000 Richard Harris 39374 at http://wkms.org Never Mind Eyesight, Your Nose Knows Much More Ancient And Vulnerable: 25 Percent Of Sharks And Rays Risk Extinction http://wkms.org/post/ancient-and-vulnerable-25-percent-sharks-and-rays-risk-extinction There are more than a thousand species of sharks and rays in the world, and nearly a quarter of them are threatened with extinction, according to a new study. Wed, 22 Jan 2014 10:23:00 +0000 Richard Harris 38193 at http://wkms.org Ancient And Vulnerable: 25 Percent Of Sharks And Rays Risk Extinction An Old Tree Doesn't Get Taller, But Bulks Up Like A Bodybuilder http://wkms.org/post/old-trees-grow-faster-every-year Like other animals and many living things, we humans grow when we're young and then stop growing once we mature. But trees, it turns out, are an exception to this general rule. In fact, scientists have discovered that trees grow faster the older they get.<p>Once trees reach a certain height, they do stop getting taller. So many foresters figured that tree growth — and girth — also slowed with age.<p>"What we found was the exact opposite," says <a href="http://www.werc.usgs.gov/person.aspx?personid=138">Nate Stephenson</a>, a forest ecologist with the U.S. Thu, 16 Jan 2014 09:42:00 +0000 Richard Harris 38069 at http://wkms.org An Old Tree Doesn't Get Taller, But Bulks Up Like A Bodybuilder Arctic Methane Bubbles Not As Foreboding As Once Feared http://wkms.org/post/arctic-methane-bubbles-not-foreboding-once-feared European scientists were alarmed in 2008 when they discovered streams of methane bubbles erupting from the seafloor in Norway's high Arctic. This gas, which contributes to global warming, was apparently coming from methane ice on the seafloor. A follow-up study finds that methane bubble plumes at this location have probably been forming for a few thousand years, so they are not the result of human-induced climate change. But continued warming of ocean water can trigger more methane releases in the Arctic, with potentially serious consequences to the climate. Mon, 06 Jan 2014 21:27:00 +0000 Richard Harris 37838 at http://wkms.org Ready — Or Not. Abrupt Climate Changes Worry Scientists Most http://wkms.org/post/ready-or-not-quick-climate-changes-worry-scientists-most An expert panel at the National Academy of Sciences is <a href="http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=18373">calling for an early warning system</a> to alert us to abrupt and potentially catastrophic events triggered by climate change.<p>The committee says science can anticipate some major changes to the Earth that could affect everything from agriculture to sea level. But we aren't doing enough to look for those changes and anticipate their impacts.<p>And this is not a matter for some distant future. The Earth is already experiencing both gradual and abrupt climate change. Tue, 03 Dec 2013 22:01:00 +0000 Richard Harris 37063 at http://wkms.org Ready — Or Not. Abrupt Climate Changes Worry Scientists Most Slashing Fossil Fuel Consumption Comes With A Price http://wkms.org/post/slashing-fossil-fuel-consumption-comes-price Governments around the world have agreed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). That would require an 80 percent reduction in energy sources like coal, oil and natural gas, which emit carbon dioxide into the air.<p>Nations are far from that ambitious path. There are big political and economic challenges. But technologists do see a way — at least for the United States — to achieve that goal.<p>Nowhere is that aspiration clearer than at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Tue, 03 Dec 2013 00:38:00 +0000 Richard Harris 37027 at http://wkms.org Slashing Fossil Fuel Consumption Comes With A Price Tech Leaders, Economists Split Over Clean Energy's Prospects http://wkms.org/post/tech-leaders-economists-split-over-clean-energys-prospects There is a broad scientific consensus that to keep global warming in check, we need to phase out 80 percent of all oil, coal and natural gas by midcentury. President Obama has set a nonbinding target to do precisely that.<p>There are technologists who say this national goal is well within reach, but there are also economists who are quite pessimistic about those prospects. Sat, 30 Nov 2013 10:37:00 +0000 Richard Harris 36982 at http://wkms.org Tech Leaders, Economists Split Over Clean Energy's Prospects By Accident, Scientists Discover Lakes Beneath Greenland http://wkms.org/post/scientists-discover-lakes-beneath-greenland Transcript <p>LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST: <p>Flying to or from Europe, many a transatlantic traveler has gazed down at the brilliant white surface of Greenland and maybe wondered what is beneath those massive sheets of ice. Well, scientists have discovered jagged mountains, ravines that rival the Grand Canyon.<p>And now NPR's Richard Harris reports that for the first time they've come across some lakes under the ice as well.<p>RICHARD HARRIS, BYLINE: It's odd to think of pools of water sitting under thick sheets of ice, but in fact scientists have found more than 300 lakes under Antarctica. Thu, 28 Nov 2013 09:45:00 +0000 Richard Harris 36938 at http://wkms.org At Climate Meeting, Tensions Rise Between Rich And Poor Nations http://wkms.org/post/climate-meeting-tensions-rise-between-rich-and-poor-nations Transcript <p>MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: <p>NPR's Richard Harris has covered the U.N. climate talks since the first treaty was negotiated in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. He's monitoring these new talks, and he joins us now to talk about this long-running argument over climate-related funding for the developing world. Richard, thanks for being here.<p>RICHARD HARRIS, BYLINE: My pleasure.<p>BLOCK: And we just heard Mr. Khan mention this goal of $100 billion in aid per year, starting in 2020. He thinks that's realistic. Wed, 20 Nov 2013 21:52:00 +0000 Richard Harris 36739 at http://wkms.org