Science Friday

Science, technology, environment and health news and discussion with host Ira Flatow.


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Friday, March 28, 2014 Permalink

Science Friday: Art Machine, Swarm Robotics And A Dwarf Planet


Join the Science Club: Build an Art Machine

Lots of programs have a book club, in which people agree to all read the same title and then convene later to discuss it. In the inaugural meeting of the Science Friday Science Club, we ask listeners to participate in a shared challenge: Build a mechanical device that can make art. We want to see your creativity, tinkering/making skills, and curiosity on display. We’ll meet back in one month to talk about what we learned. Find out more about the Science Club and our project at

Robot Builders with Bugs for Brains

How do you program a robot to build without a blueprint? Termites can do it, so why not learn from them? Biologist Scott Turner and roboticist Justin Werfel team up to explain what robots can learn from the independent insect, and what these swarms of construction robots might be used for.
See the robots in action in the video below:

The Wind Comes Sweeping Down the Plains—of Iowa

Texas and California are known as hotspots for wind energy. And rightly so—Texas leads the nation with over 12 gigawatts of installed wind capacity; California follows with half that. But trailing California by just half a gigawatt is Iowa, home of the gusty Buffalo Ridge in the northwest corner of the state. Iowa Public Radio reporter Durrie Bouscaren reports on wind development in Iowa and on the Rock Island Clean Line, a project that would deliver Iowa's wind energy to Chicago and points east.

Racing Towards Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars

Hyundai plans on releasing a hydrogen fuel cell car in California this spring, with Toyota to follow the next year. Jack Brouwer from the National Fuel Cell Research Center takes us for a spin, discussing the specs on these cars and the obstacles to getting hydrogen technology on the road.

Dwarf Planet Found at the Edge of the Solar System

An orbit diagram for the outer solar system. The sun and terrestrial planets are at the center. Solid purple circles signify the orbits of the four giant planets—Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The dotted light blue line represents the Kuiper Belt (which includes Pluto). Dwarf planet Sedna's orbit is in orange, while the orbit of the newly discovered dwarf planet, 2012 VP113, is in red. Both objects are currently near their closest approach to the Sun. They would be too faint to detect in the outer parts of their orbits. Credit: Scott S. Sheppard: Carnegie Institution for Science

Engineering Life Through Synthetic Biology

Scientists are programming bacteria with nanoparticles and custom-made genomes to create new organisms with novel functions. Researchers Tim Lu and Jef Boeke discuss how scientists and engineers build these modified organisms and where synthetic biology is headed.

Movie Night for Scientists

On March 31, scientists and movie buffs will join forces to present the first National Evening of Science on Screen. Seventeen movie theaters across the country will show flicks ranging from Soylent Green to Avatar, followed by scientific lectures on everything from alternative energy to time travel.