Science Friday

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


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Friday, May 23, 2014 Permalink

Science Friday: Matter From Light, Net Neutrality, Microbes, And Cryptocurrency

In 1934, physicists Gregory Breit and John A. Wheeler developed a theory for converting matter into light. Reporting in Nature Photonics, scientists describe a method for creating a “photon-photon collider” that could prove the theory. Physicist Edward Hill, a co-author on the paper, describes how this collider could be created with existing technology.

The Debate Over Net Neutrality
The Federal Communications Commission put out its “net neutrality” planand opened it to public comments. Journalists Maggie Reardon and Gautham Nagesh take us through the debate over net neutrality and the FCC’s proposal, and what it means for consumers.  
Last week, biographer and journalist Walter Isaacson delivered the 43rd annual Jefferson Lecture—the government’s highest honor for people working in the humanities. But Isaacson’s message wasn’t just for humanists. He argued that the future belongs to those who can appreciate both the arts and the sciences. Isaacson joins Ira to explain how thinkers from Einstein to Steve Jobs drew on both spheres to make their breakthroughs, and why mixing the two is more important than ever in the digital age.
Eighty-six years after the discovery of penicillin, docs are running out of antibiotics to treat serious infections like Clostridium difficile and gonorrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the same time, the discovery of new "wonder drugs" has slowed, and microbiologists say drug companies have little incentive to develop new ones. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, and Martin Blaser, author of Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues, discuss the rise of drug resistance and how it affects our health and, possibly, our survival. And Bob Hancock, a microbiologist at the University of British Columbia, discusses a way to disrupt bacterial biofilms, a technique he says could revitalize our antibiotic arsenal.
Have you just wrapped your head around Bitcoin? There’s a new crop of “altcoins” popping up that lets you customize your cryptocurrency with names like ZeroCash, Litecoin, and SolarCoin. Journalist Morgen Peck sorts out these different digital currencies and discusses whether they’ll compete with Bitcoin. (For more on ZeroCash, read this SciFri article.)
Late Friday night, Earth will sail through debris left by the comet 209P/LINEAR—and it might be a spectacular show. Or it might not be. Dean Regas, outreach astronomer at Cincinnati Observatory, says the awesomeness of meteor showers is usually inversely proportional to its hype, and since this is the Earth's first encounter with the Camelopardalids—as this shower is called—no one can predict the display.
But there's only one way to find out. Find a dark place on Friday night and gaze skyward. The shower peaks between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. EDT.