Science & Research

Jeremy Brooks / Flickr

AAA Idaho says check your trunk – you may not have a spare tire. A relatively new trend by car manufacturers leaves the spare and the jack by the roadside, as it were, in an effort to get better gas mileage.

Over the last ten years, car makers have been getting rid of the 30-pound spare tire to help meet tougher federal fuel standards. A new study by AAA says more than one in three cars being made today simply don't have a spare.

The Meeting Place North / Flickr

A Boise State professor is looking into whether an organic diet makes people healthier, and she’s crowdfunding to help pay for her research.

“This is a pretty new way, as far as I can tell, to raise research dollars,” says Cynthia Curl, an Assistant Professor of Community and Environmental Health at the university. She wants to find out if eating organic food has measurable health effects.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

A local astronomer has made his crowdfunding goal and Boise will soon have an observatory again.

Gail Patricelli / University of California Davis

When it comes to understanding the biology of greater sage grouse, the male birds get most of the attention.

Boise State Public Radio

A man was severely burned and his two dogs were killed last week in a hot spring in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. Normally, Panther Creek hot spring is very hot, but comfortable enough for outdoor soaking enthusiasts. But now, forest managers say the water has gotten much hotter (possibly at or near boiling) and they are urging users to be cautious.


Forest Service researchers are taking a closer look at how wildfire smoke impacts the people most exposed to it. A five-year study will monitor the carbon monoxide levels of firefighters around the country.

Wikimedia commons

 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.

Wikimedia commons

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. 

Barry Crabtree / Flickr Creative Commons

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.

MaurizioPesce / Flickr Creative Commons

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
Heidi Schuyt / Flickr Creative Commons

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.