Why did our ancestors who made cave paintings in France thrive while Neanderthals died out? What do our closest living ancestors have to teach us about what it means to be human? How do images of the human brain reveal our faculties for language, the use of tools and the ability to forge social bonds? These questions and more are examined in "The Human Spark," a three-part television series funded in part by NSF. In this background briefing, host Alan Alda and the producers of the series discuss their interactions with dozens of scientists to get at the sources of human uniqueness through the lenses of neuroscience, anthropology, human evolution, child development and primatology. The series premieres on PBS stations Jan. 6, 13 and 20, 2010.
Alan Alda, award-winning actor and visiting professor at the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, talks about his experiences with communicating science to the general public. Looking to close the gap between the scientific community and the public, Mr. Alda discusses what needs to be improved, and how science can be better understood.
Weddell seal project researchers are investigating whether Weddell seal pups that spend more time in the water learning to swim with their mothers have a higher probability of surviving to return and have pups of their own. Weddell moms spend a lot of time with their pups coaxing them into the cold Antarctic water and helping their pups get in and out of the water as they learn to swim. During this time, Weddell pups are also nursing and gaining substantial weight from their mothers' rich milk before they are weaned and left to fend for themselves.
With Michael Turner (far right), head of NSF's Directorate of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, as moderator, members of the research team (from right to left, Geoffrey Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley, Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Eugenio Rivera of the Lick Observatory, University of California, Santa Cruz, and theoretical astronomer Jack Lissauer of NASA's Ames Research Center) presented their findings during a press conference on Monday, June 13, 2005, at NSF in Arlington, Va.
Cabinet of Wonders Houses the Personal Collection of Alfred Russel Wallace NSF's Lisa-Joy Zgorski tells the story of a Cabinet of Wonders, a handsome antique chest which houses the 1,700-specimen personal collection of 19th century British naturalist, field biologist and Charles Darwin contemporary Alfred Russel Wallace. Acquired inadvertently by Washington, D.C., lawyer Robert Heggestad, this Cabinet of Wonders is currently on loan to the Cullen Library at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
Professor Carter is a theorist/computational scientist first known for her research combining ab initio quantum chemistry with dynamics and kinetics, especially as applied to surface chemistry. Her research into how materials fail due to chemical and mechanical effects led to new insights into how to optimally protect these materials against failure. Her current research is focused entirely on enabling discovery and design of molecules and materials for sustainable energy.
Dr. Dennis Buss of Texas Instruments delivers a talk about recent achievements in ULP electronics including logic, memory, AFE, including ADC, radio and power management. He will also describe devices that harvest energy from mechanical vibration, thermal gradients, and ambient electromagnetic energy (solar & radio frequency).
Einstein's Messengers is an award-winning, 20-minute documentary on LIGO, NSF's Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory. The video examines how LIGO is spearheading the new field of gravitational wave astronomy and opening a whole new window on the universe. It explains how LIGO's exquisitely sensitive instruments may ultimately take us farther back in time than we've ever been, catching, perhaps, the first murmurs of the universe in formation. Above all, Einstein's Messengers is a compelling, thought-provoking production about the drama of the scientific quest.
Engineering a Difference follows three teams of engineering students and professional engineers as they work with communities in Ghana, Kenya and Nicaragua to build critical infrastructure. Together, they develop a clean water supply, electricity and a bridge to help these isolated communities thrive. Here are colorful, compelling stories of how engineers make the world a better place.
GeoClimate is a developing community-based initiative that focuses on the importance of "deep time" for understanding today's climate and climate change. Earth's climate system operates on a continuum of temporal, spatial, and parametric scales. The deep-time geologic record preserves numerous examples of past climate transitions between states more extreme than those recorded in instrumental data, in historical records, or even in Quaternary archives. Critically, some of these transitions show evidence of having been abrupt--a major societal concern in light of the large changes currently occurring in atmospheric CO2 levels, which have now moved beyond the envelope of Quaternary variation, and into the realm of deep time. In this regard, an understanding of the details of large-scale transitions in deep time, and the processes involved in them, is critical to an informed assessment of future climate change.
A panel of experts from around the world, convened at the request of the National Science Foundation, announced 14 grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century. The challenges were unveiled on Feb. 15, 2008, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston.
Granular materials--like sand, rice or powdered pharmaceuticals--are everywhere, yet their behavior is poorly understood. In some ways behaving like liquids, in other ways behaving like solids, such materials have unique properties and pose unique questions to answer. From clogged coal hoppers to powdered-snow avalanches, scientists and engineers are gaining new perspective on the fundamental nature of grains. In this video, see some of the latest research into the behavior of granular materials.
You've seen the hit television crime drama, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Now you can play the role of crime scene investigator at this traveling exhibit, supported by a grant from NSF to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. You will learn scientific principles and real investigative techniques as you try to solve a crime scene mystery.
James F. Allan gives a talk on the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) which is an international program of basic research in the marine geosciences, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and several international partners.
Lisa-Joy Zgorski of NSF and Helen Hastings, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., interviewed David Ferrucci, an IBM Fellow and the principal investigator for Watson/Jeopardy! during his March 8, 2012, visit to NSF. Hastings, who sits on "TJ" student government, and is sometimes the only female in her advanced computation courses despite being part of a student body that has achieved near gender parity, took the lead and asked Ferrucci some questions of her own. She asked how his team devised a computer to become a Jeopardy! champion and moreover, how the underlying technology of language processing has broader implications for advancing computer science research with useful applications in the not-so-distant future. What is the cause for a standing-room-only gathering of NSF employees? The talk Ferrucci gave that afternoon, all about the research!
This mechanical model of the phalarope beak, showing the transport of a micro-liter droplet, helped researchers from MIT and colleagues from Ecole Polytechnique in Paris discover how the phalarope propels food upwards to its throat. The video was captured at 2000 frames per second but has been slowed down to 30 fps for this clip. Researchers had known that the phalarope draws food-rich water into its mouth in a gravity-defying manner, but until now, no one knew how. Using a mechanical model of the phalarope beak, the MIT and Ecole Polytechnique researchers recently discovered how the birds use surface interactions between their beaks and the water droplets to propel bits of food from beak tip to mouth.
Slide design can make a big difference in how much audiences understand your message. Michael Alley, Associate Professor of Engineering Communication at Penn State University and the author of three textbooks, summarizes recent findings in audience-based research and discusses how managers, such as program managers at NSF, can use the assertion-evidence structure for communicating complex concepts. Dr. Alley also talks about the connection between the assertion-evidence structure and the TED.com slide style, which is effective for communicating less complex concepts.
On Sept. 23, 2008, three leading experts from academia and industry hosted a panel discussion at the National Science Foundation (NSF) to highlight how far researchers have come, and how far they still need to go, to bring plant-derived gasoline to market. This is the webcast of the green gasoline briefing.
NSF and Dr. Subra Suresh welcome two ambassadors to a workshop for NSF RAPID grantees. Remarks from the ambassadors of New Zealand and Japan will open the Feb. 9 -10 NSF workshop on investigations concerning the recent earthquakes and ensuing tsunamis that deeply affected their countries.
This movie shows red-necked phalarope feeding behavior. The phalarope, indigenous to western North America, swims in circles to create a vortex to bring small crustaceans to the surface. The bird then uses its beak to draw food-rich water into its mouth, but until now, no one knew how. Using a mechanical model of the phalarope beak, researchers at MIT and their colleagues from Ecole Polytechnique in Paris recently discovered how the birds use surface interactions between their beaks and the water droplets to propel bits of food from beak tip to mouth
When most of us think of reindeer, images of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh come to mind. But dependency on reindeer isn't just the stuff of holiday songs. For some people living above the Arctic Circle, reindeer are crucial part of life, providing food, transportation, clothing and other essentials. Recent developments in human history have intruded on this traditional life, especially oil and gas production in the Arctic and climate change. Bruce Forbes from the University of Lapland and his colleagues have studied how these changes have impacted the Nenet, a group of reindeer herders who live in parts of Siberia. They have found that the Nenet, and the reindeer they depend on, are adapting well to these changes, and their culture and way of life endure.
Plant genome research is already revolutionizing the field of biology. Currently, scientists are unlocking the secrets of some of the most important plants in our lives, including corn, cotton and potatoes. Secrets of Plant Genomes: Revealed! takes viewers on a lively, upbeat journey that explores how these plants got to be the way they are and investigates how we can make better use of them in the future. Plant scientists are hard at work--in the lab, in the field and at the computer--to increase our understanding of nature. Secrets of Plant Genomes: Revealed! makes the study of plants exciting and relevant by showing how learning more about plants can improve our everyday lives.
What makes a red thing red? I bet you have a guess. Now put it to the test when we shine a high-powered laser on a red balloon. Does it pop? Does a red object absorb red light? Does it reflect red light? Does it do something different? See the results in this science video that will challenge your expectations of science videos. This video gets you involved by asking you to make predictions and then, after you see the results, helps you to sort out your thinking.
Dive in with NSF funded researcher John Long and his robotic sharks. A professor at Vassar College, John Long and his team study real live sharks and their vertebral columns. They then takes these findings and design computer models and artificial vertebral columns to understand sharks' movement and biomechanics.
A 14-nation consortium of geneticists and bioinformatics specialists deciphers the sequence and location of the 35,000 genes of the tomato, an international food crop. This video focuses on the work done by American researchers, who explain the process of genome sequencing, and how a sequenced genome aids plant breeders in selecting precisely for desirable traits, including yield, shape, natural resistance to disease and flavor.
The United States marked the start of International Polar Year (IPY), a global research effort, with an event hosted by the National Academies and the National Science Foundation on Feb. 26, 2007, in Washington, D.C. During the ceremony, a panel of polar scientists discussed the latest research and presented an overview of expeditions to take place during IPY. There also were remarks by government leaders whose agencies play an active role in this international effort.