Science

Wildfire,
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Firestorms are a particularly terrifying – and largely unknown – phenomenon. The naturally occurring events happen during megafires, when a wildfire burns so hot and so fiercely that surrounding air is drawn in, creating powerful winds that remove moisture from nearby fuel – increasing the already extreme fire risk.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (IPAC)

Scientists from Boise State University and the University of Washington are studying a newly found group of planets around a nearby star. They’ll talk about their research Friday night in Boise. Turns out, these planets are good candidates for hosting life outside Earth.

What’s it like to be an octopus? Is it anything like being a human? Is it even possible to know?

Google and www.eclipse2017.org

It’s a big deal. That’s what one Boise State University professor says about this summer’s total solar eclipse. He's raising money online to help towns and cities prepare for an influx of people hoping to see the eclipse.

Physics professor Brian Jackson says campsites and hotels are already booked up for August 21 across the eclipse path in Idaho. He says Idaho is centrally located for prime eclipse watching.

Flickr Creative Commons

An Idaho House panel has approved new K-12 science standards, but only after striking key references to climate change caused by human behavior.

This is the third year the Idaho Legislature has struggled to agree on science standards for public schools. Previous efforts that included references to global warming and the origin of the universe have been rejected by Republicans unhappy that the language didn't offer alternative views.

NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory

Next August, eclipse-chasers will converge in Idaho and a handful of other states to watch the first total solar eclipse to cross the continental United States in 38 years. The Boise State Physics Department is getting ready with a special talk Friday.

The last total solar eclipse that crossed the continental U.S. was in 1979 and it crossed over Northern Idaho. This time, the path for best eclipse viewing will travel through the middle of Idaho, just north of Boise.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

Imagine if Jupiter drifted so close to the sun its atmosphere was burned away and the rocky core that was left orbited our star every three or four hours. Boise State University is leading a group of researchers looking at scenarios like this one in other solar systems.

Using a $166,000 grant from NASA, scientists led by BSU will try to figure out where these exoplanets, which closely hug their host stars, come from.

More than 100 of these ultra-short-period planets have been found, but it’s not clear how they got so close to their stars.

Idaho Ed News

Idaho students topped the national average in a 2015 standardized science test.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress tested fourth-, eighth- and 12th-graders in science — and on Thursday morning, NAEP released state results for fourth and eighth grades. NAEP tests are not given in all schools in Idaho or elsewhere, but are instead administered to a sample of U.S. schools.

The Idaho highlights:

Brad Smith / Flickr Creative Commons

Ross Winton has been spending a lot of time lately catching butterflies in south-central Idaho and putting tiny stickers on their wings. That’s so they can be identified by scientists who see them in other places. But Winton, a biologist with Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game, thinks now the last of them may have moved out of state for the season. Winton is part of a regional monarch butterfly study. He says scientists know in great detail where a monarch born in upstate New York or Michigan or Northern California will travel in its life.   

ESO/M. Kornmesser

Late last month, scientists announced they had found an Earth-like planet around a nearby star. Faraway planets, known as exoplanets, have been found before but this one is relatively close to our sun and is in what’s called the habitable zone around its own star. A researcher from Washington says that means it could be in a position to support life.

Ian Robertson / Boise State University

A small, flowering plant that grows only in southwest Idaho is about to go back on the Endangered Species List. Slickspot Peppergrass has been there before, in 2009, but its status as “threatened” was challenged by Governor Butch Otter.

After years of legal wrangling, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to put it back on the list next month.

Slickspot Peppergrass is a hairy green plant with white flowers, and is found in just a few areas of southwest Idaho.

Zoo Boise

Teenagers volunteering at Zoo Boise are helping to try and save one of the world’s most endangered mammals.

The teens are using an information booth to raise money for the Saola - a forest mammal that lives in Vietnam. The animal rocked the scientific world when, in 1992, scientists first discovered what turned out to be not just a brand new species, but a whole new genus.

These antelope-type creatures have two long curing horns on their heads and white spots on their faces. They are remarkably shy and gentle, and have never been seen alive in the wild by scientists.

Dr. Clinton Shock

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell Tuesday will visit the sagebrush burned in last year’s massive Soda Fire in southwest Idaho and eastern Oregon. The Bureau of Land Management is working to recover the area, but a group of private scientists are concerned about the way the recovery is being handled. Specifically, that the agency is hurrying through the recovery without following its own concepts for adaptive management. The BLM though, says the project is being handled correctly.

Until now, human intelligence has had no rival. But as Artificial Intelligence continues to advance, we should ask ourselves: Can we coexist with computers whose intelligence dwarfs our own?

In his book, “Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era,” James Barrat peers into the future to explore the perils of developing super intelligent machines. And he extends a heartfelt invitation to join what he calls “the most important conversation humanity can have.”

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

A group of Boise State University students got glowing reviews after the tool they built for NASA was put through its paces last month.

The tool, known as the Zero Operable Interplanetary Delivery Based Ergonomics Grabber, is called Zoidberg 2.0 for short. Zoidberg is a character on the cartoon Futurama.

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