Science Nation - Physics of Animation

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In the multi-billion dollar movie and video game industry, making animations come to life is a crucial and revered skill. It takes a solid understanding of physics. For example, animators need to know things like how to cast shadows, how to direct the movement of their characters, and how objects, such as motorcycles, should maneuver. With support from the National Science Foundation, San Jose State University Physicist Alejandro Garcia has developed a course in physics for animators and...

Science Nation - Marshes and Sea Level Rise

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With support from the National Science Foundation, Villanova University marine scientist Nathaniel Weston studies how both land use and climate change can impact habitat in tidal marshes, including how rising sea levels may affect microbes and other plants and animals. Rising sea levels can actually cause marshes to grow in very different ways. His experiments are already simulating different amounts of sea level rise in several tidal creeks in the Delaware River estuary. He studies how...

Science Nation - Lab in a Can

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Monitoring water quality is vital to make sure dangerous bacteria doesn't creep into our drinking water or overcome sewage treatment plants. With support from the National Science Foundation, engineers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute have developed the Environment Sample Processor (ESP), a "DNA lab in a can." The size of a trash can, it can be placed in the open ocean or at water treatment facilities to identify potentially harmful bacteria, algae, larvae and other...

Science Nation - Music and Creativity

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Georgia Tech's Parag Chordia believes music is a universal part of human culture, and his research shows music education can inspire greater interest in math, physics, and computer science. Chordia heads Georgia Tech's "Music Intelligence Group." With support from the National Science foundation, his goals are to program computers to understand music the way humans do naturally - anticipating what is coming next. He's also studying changes in the brains of professional musicians as they play...

Science Nation - Talk to the Animals

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Most pet owners talk to their animals at one time or another, and some do every day. But how much do our pets actually understand? Is their perception anything like ours? These are the questions that fascinate Irene Pepperberg and she's looking for answers from the animals themselves, specifically -- African Grey Parrots. The Harvard psychology professor is a bit like the character Dr. Doolittle because she's been talking to parrots for decades. With help from the National Science...

Science Nation - 3D Proteins - Getting the Big Picture

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Proteins are the workhorses of cells. With support from the National Science Foundation, University of Arkansas biochemist James Hinton has been researching their structure and function for decades. Back in the 1990's, he had a vision to study these huge protein structures in 3D and now, in cooperation with a company called Virtalis, his vision has become a reality. The new system allows researchers to enlarge the visual of a protein to room-size, so they can examine it from all angles, to...

Science Nation - Super Stars

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Who are the biggest super stars in the universe? For Adam Burrows, an astrophysics professor at Princeton University, it's not who, but "what," and they are far from Hollywood, or even earth, for that matter. Burrows would tell you biggest super stars are the stars that die in a massive explosion called a "supernova." With support from the National Science Foundation, Burrows investigates supernovae and he has recently created 3D computer simulations showing the actual moment of a star's...

Science Nation - If These Teeth Could Talk

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With funding from the National Science Foundation, Peter Ungar is revealing more details about the lives of our human ancestors, and he's doing it through dentistry - sort of! The University of Arkansas anthropologist uses high tech dental scans to find out more about the diets of hominids, a technique that sometimes leads to new and very different conclusions. While anthropologists traditionally determine the diets of our ancestors by examining the size and shape of teeth and jaws, Ungar's...

Science Nation - Silver Saver

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Conservation scientist Glen Gates at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore is working on new ways to protect museum-quality silver from the ravages of time. Fine silverware and silver pieces on display at museums are exposed to air and tarnish just like our silver at home. Every time someone polishes the silver, even under the careful supervision of conservation experts, a little bit of the silver wears away. Gates and colleague, Physics professor Ray Phaneuf at the University of Maryland, are...

Science Nation - Lord of the Tree Rings

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David Stahle travels to ancient forests around the world, collecting tree rings to learn more about major climate and historical events dating back hundreds and thousands of years. With help from the National Science Foundation, he uses Dendrochronology, or tree-ring dating, to get a snapshot of climate change over time. Stahle can also determine things like the socioeconomic impact of droughts. In fact, in 1998, he made the front page of the New York Times with his discovery that drought...