Science Nation - Dragonflies in Motion

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Next time you see a dragonfly, try to watch it catch its next meal on the go. Good luck! "Unless we film it in high speed, we can't see whether it caught the prey, but when it gets back to its perch, if we see it chewing, we know that it was successful," says Stacey Combes a biomechanist at Harvard University. With support from the National Science Foundation, she and her team are using high speed cameras to help them study how dragonflies pull off complicated aerial feats that include...

Science Nation - Purple Marsh Crabs

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If you take a quick glance at the marsh next to Saquatucket Harbor in Harwich Port, Massachusetts, you will notice right away that some of the grass is missing. The cordgrass there, and all around Cape Cod, has been slowly disappearing for decades. "The cordgrass that's being destroyed here is the foundation species that builds salt marshes," explains marine ecologist Mark Bertness of Brown University. With support from the National Science Foundation, Bertness studies this critical...

Science Nation - Invasion of the Earth Worms

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Invasive species of earth worms have made their way north in the United States and are doing their job too well! They've moved into formerly worm-free forests, which rely on undecayed leaf matter. When worms decompose that leaf layer, the ecology may shift, making it uninhabitable for certain species of trees, ferns and wildflowers. It's of particular concern in the Great Lakes region when anglers simply dump their bait worms back into the soil, creating a difficult environment for old...

Science Nation - Waste to Energy

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All of us use water and in the process, a lot of it goes to waste. Whether it goes down drains, sewers or toilets, much of it ends up at a wastewater treatment plant where it undergoes rigorous cleaning before it flows back to the environment. The process takes time, money and a lot of energy. What if that wastewater could be turned into energy? It almost sounds too good to be true, but environmental engineer Bruce Logan is working on ways to make it happen. Most treatment plants already use...

Science Nation - Science of Shopping

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Go into any grocery store and cameras may be watching you. These cameras are not looking for thieves, they're looking for shoppers! The cameras are focused on the tops of peoples' heads (so it's anonymous), but they don't have to see faces to track which store aisles get the most traffic and how long consumers spend looking over products. With support from the National Science Foundation, computer scientist and CEO of VideoMining Rajeev Sharma and his team have designed software that...

Science Nation - Mind Mappers

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Neuroanatomist Jacopo Annese is looking for 1,000 brains. The Director of the Brain Observatory at the University of California, San Diego is on a quest to collect, dissect, and digitize images of the human brain for the Digital Brain Library, which was launched with support from the National Science Foundation. Annese and his team look for connections, mapping brain structure and connecting it to human behavior. He believes that with a large enough catalog of brains preserved as virtual...

Science Nation - Decoding Disasters

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The Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware aims to help communities become as prepared as possible for unplanned, sometimes unthinkable events. The Center's work and guidelines have been adopted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the American Red Cross, medical reserve groups, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Center's associate director, sociologist Tricia Wachtendorf, looked at specific events in lower...

Science Nation - Geo-Immersion

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Imagine a virtual computer simulation that reflects the world around you in real-time. Before you ever leave your home, a wealth of images and information about the world around you is at your finger-tips. Facial recognition might give information about the location of your friends, or maybe you want the latest scoop about the specials at local restaurants, or the real time locations and estimated arrival and departures of commuter trains. According to the Integrated Media Systems Center...

Science Nation - Cooperative Robots

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Learning a language can be difficult for some, but for babies it seems quite easy. With support from the National Science Foundation, linguist Jeffrey Heinz and mechanical engineer Bert Tanner have taken some cues from the way humans learn to put words and thoughts together, and are teaching language to robots. This innovative collaboration began a few years ago at a meeting at the University of Delaware. One goal for this project is to design cooperative robots that can operate autonomously...

Science Nation - Teens and Stress

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Ever wonder what is going on in the mind of a teenager, especially one who is stressed out? UCLA Psychologist Adriana Galvan is on a quest to find out. With support from the National Science Foundation, she's investigating the effects of daily stress on a teen's cognition and brain function. She is monitoring the daily stress of teens by having them carry a personal digital device that provides daily measures of stress over two weeks. She is also scanning their brains and measuring their...