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The Takeaway

Ukraine Uses Force to Push Back Separatists | Saturn Just Birthed a Baby Moon | A Bombing, a Neighborhood and a Community Forever Changed

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ukraine Uses Force to Push Back Separatists | Ford Celebrates Mustang Anniversary Amid Changing Industry | Saturn Just Birthed a Baby Moon. How Does that Happen? | Boko Haram Continues Reign of Terror With Abductions, Explosions | This Is Where: 'All Arms Are Open' | A Bombing, a Neighborhood and ...

All Things Considered

Risks Of Popular Anxiety Drugs Often Overshadowed

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the U.S. Patients and addicts often mix them with prescription painkillers — sometimes to deadly effect.

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All Things Considered

Yearly Homecoming Makes For A Springtime Fish Frenzy

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Each April, the shad come back to the Delaware River to spawn, and thousands of anglers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania eagerly await them. Celebrating their annual return is a local spring tradition.

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All Things Considered

For A Fast Track To Blossom, Just Send Some Seeds To Space

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

After spending eight months on a Japanese space expedition, a cherry pit that's now four years old has mysteriously blossomed six years before it was due.

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Saturn Might Have A New Baby Moon Named Peggy

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Cassini spacecraft spotted a disturbance in the sixth planet's outermost main ring that is thought to be caused by a tiny moon.

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Giant South American Bird On The Run In The U.K.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The bird, which newspapers say stands 6 feet, can run 40 mph and is "capable of disemboweling a human," escaped last month from a farm in Hertfordshire after apparently being spooked by a local hunt.

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Radiolab

Can It Be? Parrots Name Their Children, And Those Names, Like Ours, Stick For Life

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Oh Romeo, oh Romeo," cried Juliet. Being human, she and her boyfriend had names. Is there any other animal that does this? Has names for each other? Oddly enough, yes!

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Can It Be? Parrots Name Their Children, And Those Names, Like Ours, Stick For Life

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Oh Romeo, oh Romeo," cried Juliet. Being human, she and her boyfriend had names. Is there any other animal that does this? Has names for each other? Oddly enough, yes!

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Morning Edition

Voodoo Dolls Prove It: Hunger Makes Couples Turn On Each Other

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

To see if low blood sugar sours even good relationships, scientists used an unusual tool: voodoo dolls representing spouses. As hunger levels rose, so did the number of pins.

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PRI's The World

Robots on patrol are keeping sports fans safer

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Let’s say there’s a suspicious looking package.  Rather than send in a person to check things out, send in a robot. Or rather, toss in a robot.

Tim Trainer, vice president of robotic products international with the company iRobot in Bedford, Massachusetts, hurls a small five-pound robot, called the FirstLook, through the air. It lands with a thud then goes scooting along the floor to complete its mission.

“Its base sensor is four cameras, every 90 degrees a camera on that,” said Trainer. “So you can throw it into a room, a SWAT team can get a full 360-degree perspective of what they’re entering pretty quickly.”

The small robot is designed to be thrown 15 feet and land on hard concrete. If the small robot senses a problem, the bomb squad can then send in a larger robot, like the PackBot, capable of picking up, moving, even dismantling a bomb.  

The PackBot looks a bit like the animated Wall-E from the Disney movie, scooting along using driving belts like a small tractor. A long arm extends from its base with a camera and a gripper, which can pick up a bomb and move it to a safer location. 

The company recently sold 30 PackBots, which weigh 50 to 60 pounds, to Brazil to be used at the upcoming World Cup and Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. They company’s largest customer has been the US military, but they’ve also sold robots to civil defense forces throughout the US and worldwide. The company is one of a handful selling robots built for defense.

Not to denigrate this highly-sophisticated and expensive gadgetry – PackBots sell for between $100,000 and $150,000 depending on how they’re outfitted – but for the sake of explaining, watching a tactician picking up a dummy bomb reminded me of the arcade game where kids drop a pincher hook and try to pluck a stuffed animal out of a glass box. Much higher stakes here though, of course.

Robots like this were also used last year in the hours and days following the Boston Marathon bombing for things like investigating suspicious packages.

Sergeant Bill Qualls, the bomb squad commander for the Massachusetts State Police, says the robots will again be at the ready. Qualls fits the part of a bomb squad leader, with a square cut jaw and flat top haircut. He’s the guy you want protecting you, but he can’t reveal too much about how they’ll be doing it. I asked how many robots will be along the marathon route.

“I guess in general, we could say more than one and less than a hundred,” he said.

He added though: they’ll have enough to get the job done.

“We can forward deploy, we can remotely deploy a robotic platform to get eyes on a potential threat. And once we get eyes on that threat, we can start formulating our plan, our approach, how are we going to do deal with that problem?” said Qualls.

These robots don’t just keep members of the bomb squad out of the danger zone. Jim McGee, a former FBI agent now with the security consulting firm the Soufan Group, said spectators in places like Brazil should feel safer knowing the authorities have robots at their disposal.  

“To me, thinking in terms of a fan going to one of the soccer matches at the World Cup, it would give me some reassurance in terms of their [Brazilian security forces] preparedness,” said McGee.

But robots can only do so much – for example, they wouldn’t have prevented the bombs from going off in Boston last year. Still, McGee said robots are getting more sophisticated and will soon help target suspected bombers.

“Not just the backpack that’s been left some place, but actually an individual that may be wearing a suicide vest and is getting ready to detonate themselves in a crowded area,” said McGee.

Robots can already sniff out toxic chemicals, as well as biological and radiological agents. If you want further proof that the robots work, just visit the iRobot lab and Tim Trainer. They have showcases of their products that have been blown up on the job.

Trainer said, “It really is motivating to our workforce of, ‘Hey, here’s a robot that got blown up, instead of a soldier or a sailor or marine that got blown up.’” 

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All Things Considered

Gene Linked To Alzheimer's Poses A Special Threat To Women

Monday, April 14, 2014

Scientists have figured out one reason women might be more vulnerable to Alzheimer's: A risk gene doubles women's chances of getting the disease but has minimal effect on men.

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All Things Considered

For All You Need To Know About The Blood Moon, Ask Mr. Eclipse

Monday, April 14, 2014

Audie Cornish speaks with Fred Espenak, scientist emeritus at NASA Goddard, also known as "Mr. Eclipse," about the lunar eclipse that will happen Monday night.

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Why Babies Cry At Night

Monday, April 14, 2014

Maybe she's not just hungry. One scientist thinks the chubby bundles have a devious plan: Exhausting a mom delays the arrival of another brother or sister.

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Fresh Air

Modern Medicine May Not Be Doing Your Microbiome Any Favors

Monday, April 14, 2014

In Missing Microbes, Dr. Martin Blaser argues that the overuse of antibiotics, as well as now-common practices like C-sections, may be messing with gut microbes.

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Getting Enough Vitamin D: More Than Milk And Sunshine

Monday, April 14, 2014

New research finds that people with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to die from cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. Nutrition professor and author Marion Nestle explains.

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There's A 'Blood Moon' Eclipse Tonight, But Will You Be Able To See It?

Monday, April 14, 2014

The weather may play havoc with the sky-watching on the East Coast, though much of the Midwest and West ought to get a good view.

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The Takeaway

What Does It Take to Become Resilient?

Monday, April 14, 2014

To commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, Takeaway Host John Hockenberry broadcasts from our partner WGBH in Boston and considers what lessons might be learned from the city's strength and resilience in the wake of last year’s attack.

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WNYC News

Pulaski Skyway Closed to Manhattan-Bound Drivers

Monday, April 14, 2014

The deteriorating 82-year-old Pulaski Skyway in New Jersey closed on Saturday for two years of repair work.

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Morning Edition

Mind Over Milkshake: How Your Thoughts Fool Your Stomach

Monday, April 14, 2014

What we think about food may change how our bodies respond to it. Sip what you think is a rich milkshake, and your body acts as if you've had a fatty treat, even if it's really a lower-calorie drink.

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PRI's The World

In the latest UN climate change report, scientists offer us a glimmer of hope — if we act fast

Monday, April 14, 2014

Climate scientists have warned that we have been digging ourselves into a very deep and dark hole. But the third part of a report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) offers much more than dire warnings.

In fact, the authors of the newest installment say there's still reason for hope, but only if the world acts quickly and decisively.

The 33-page summary for policymakers was released in Berlin over the weekend. To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, scientists say greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut 40 to 70 percent from 2010 levels in the next 30-40 years.

Among the report’s 235 authors is Sivan Kartha, a senior scientist with the Stockholm Environment Institute's US Center in Somerville, Massachusetts. 

“There’s no single techno-fix, there’s no silver bullet, but there is ‘silver birdshot' — what we can do in industry, what we can do in buildings, what we can do in transport,” Kartha says. “And moreover, it is an opportunity for employment. Making efficient things and making them efficiently generally creates more jobs than digging resources out of the ground and burning them.”

The report says the cost of keeping global warming in check is “relatively modest,” but only if the world acts swiftly. An ambitious plan to slow climate change would trim annual worldwide economic growth by only 0.06 percent. With no extra efforts, worldwide temperatures are on pace to rise between 6.6 and 8.6 degrees over pre-industrial times by 2100.

Kartha says one area that can quickly be improved upon is energy efficiency within buildings — big fixes, not just caulking windows or adding insulation.

“Carefully and thoughtfully thinking of the whole building as a system. How do windows interact with the heating system? And how things vary across the seasons when you need cooling sometimes and heating sometimes.”

He said there have already been impressive gains with buildings across parts of Europe and Canada, and those lessons can be translated to the US — where building codes haven’t been as efficient — or to the developing world, where cities are still being built.

Kartha says such near-term technical improvements can help in the short term, and they tend to have snowballing effects.

“We tend to think of changes we need to make, whether they’re changes to our technical systems or changes to our behavior, as sacrifices we’d rather not make," he says. "But one of the really important points is that business as usual just isn’t an option — doing nothing just isn’t an option.”

But he has hope. 

"The ability of societies to change when it really becomes necessary has been proven to be pretty phenomenal and even inspiring."

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