Science & Research

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 The eastern Idaho resident who wasn’t sure anyone would even bid on his 1988 Nobel Prize medal has seen his prize sell for $765,000.

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Renowned physicist and Idaho resident Leon Lederman is selling his Nobel Prize medal. Lederman has contributed significantly to science’s understanding of subatomic particles, including neutrinos and quarks.

Lederman jokes he's selling his medal to buy an airplane. 

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During a talk he gave in Oxford, England in 2013, environmentalist and writer Mark Lynas apologized to the very audience he used to demonize: companies and scientists that work with genetically modified foods.

"As an environmentalist and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a health and nutritious diet of their choosing," Lynas told the crowd, "I could not have chosen a more counterproductive path and I now regret it completely."

Idaho National Laboratory

Idaho is one step closer to being a leader in geothermal energy. The Department of Energy (DOE) announced five states that will have the chance to compete for the opportunity to build a geothermal research lab, including Oregon and Nevada. In this first research phase out of three, Idaho will split $2 million with the four other states.

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People standing above the epicenter of a large earthquake will feel the ground shaking before people on the periphery of the quake. The same can be said of their smartphones.

Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey are trying to figure out whether smartphones might be used to give earthquake warnings.

Ben Brooks, with the USGS, says if a computer was checking for simultaneous movement of a large number of smartphones, it could give people on the periphery of a quake a 10-or-20-second warning.
He says that's enough time to stop a surgeon from starting an operation.

Jeffrey Johnson / Boise State University

Jeffrey Johnson got quite a wakeup call this week. The assistant professor of geosciences at Boise State University is working in Pucon, Chile on a Fulbright grant to study volcanoes. He was just ten miles away when the Villarrica volcano had a large eruption Tuesday morning.

Johnson's work includes listening to low frequency sounds that volcanoes make. Here’s the low-frequency sound his sensors recorded during this week's eruption; the sound is normally too low for us to hear, so it's been sped up:

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Lions are in trouble and need our help. That’s the message from a lion researcher in Africa and Boise’s own zoo, which together are trying to help lions survive in the wild.

USDA and Iowa State University

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the avian influenza found in a flock of chickens in Parma last month, came to Idaho from Southeast Asia.

Ryan Wiedmaier / Flickr Creative Commons

A Boise State University professor wants to make it easier to decide whether it's worth it to spend a little more on organic produce, or purchase the cheaper non-organic option.

"Eighty percent of American grocery stores now sell organic food and people have to decide for themselves is this worth it to buy to feed myself and my family?" says Cynthia Curl. "We don't have a lot of guidance to give to those people and so I think it's a really important thing to study."

Gary Knight VII Photo Agency

NPR social sciences correspondent Shankar Vedantam is speaking Thursday in Ketchum at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.

Vedantam regularly connects public radio listeners to scientific studies that show how unconscious factors can influence people without their awareness. Vedantam has written a book on the topic and calls these subconscious drivers the “hidden brain.”

Boise State University

A Boise State professor is looking for clues about Earth's origin by studying planets around distant stars.

Brian Jackson is an assistant professor in Boise State’s Department of Physics. He’s using a $271,000 grant from NASA and data from the Kepler space observatory to study planets that are very close to their host stars.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

An Idaho State University study has found most high school football players are wearing helmets that don't fit and aren't property maintaining the inflatable lining inside their helmets.

The University’s research finds nearly 98 percent of its participants played football in a helmet that required regular inflation of the liner, 43 percent of those respondents said they’ve never re-inflated their helmet liners.

sheep, pasture, barn
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Scientists have found that, contrary to what many people think, killing wolves does not always reduce attacks on livestock.

Researchers at Washington State University found that for every wolf killed in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming over the past 25 years, there was a 5 percent increase in the sheep and cattle killed the next year. Livestock kills only started going down after overall wolf numbers were reduced by more than 25 percent.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One.

Any parent of a rambunctious youngster can tell you trouble might be afoot when things go quiet in the playroom. Two independent research initiatives indicate there is a comparable situation with the Cascadia earthquake fault zone.

wolf, wildlife, yellowstone
Jim Peaco / Yellowstone National Park

A new study out of Canada reveals a surprising side-effect that hunting may have on wolves.

Researchers wanted to compare the hormone levels in wolves that often deal with hunters’ fire, versus wolves that are hunted very little. They were able to measure levels of progesterone, testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol by looking at samples of wolf hair from different parts of northern Canada.

David Walsh / U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The discovery of a mammoth skull near eastern Idaho’s American Falls reservoir recently made national headlines. But scientists' work on the mammoth has just begun.

A portion of a mammoth skull and tusk have been uncovered in southeastern Idaho near American Falls Reservoir.

Experts estimate the mammoth lived 70,000 years ago and was about 16 years old when it died.

The bones have been taken to the Idaho Museum of Natural history at Idaho State University in Pocatello where they will eventually be put on display.

The discovery of the bones on Oct. 18 by a volunteer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation followed heavy rains in August that caused additional erosion in the area.

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Could there be plate tectonics on other worlds? One former Idaho scientist thinks it’s possible. Until now, the movement of pieces of a planet’s crust was found nowhere else in the universe except Earth.

It was the late 1990s and University of Idaho planetary geologist Simon Kattenhorn was looking at one of Jupiter's moons named Europa. NASA’s Galileo orbiter took the pictures of it. Using those images, Kattenhorn discovered something remarkable.

school lunch, cafeteria, students
Lance Cheung / USDA | Flickr Creative Commons

Most Idaho kids went back to school this week, meaning for many, a return to school lunches. Food in public schools has changed significantly since new federal nutrition guidelines were passed in 2010.

The northern arm of the Rocky Mountains is sometimes called "the crown of the continent," and its jewels are glaciers and snowfields that irrigate large parts of North America during spring thaw.

But the region is getting warmer, even faster than the rest of the world. Scientists now say warming is scrambling the complex relationship between water and nature and could threaten some species with extinction as well as bring hardship to ranchers and farmers already suffering from prolonged drought.

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