Science

Simon Says
10:07 am
Sat January 21, 2012

Should the 'leap second' be abolished? Could you repeat that?

Every few years, official clocks around the world repeat a second. It's not much, but in an age of atomic clocks, it's time enough to give the matter a second thought.
Uwe Merkel iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Sat January 21, 2012 6:57 am

Let me take a second here.

Not very long, was it?

But a second tied up delegates to the UN's International Telecommunication Union, who postponed a decision this week on whether to abolish the extra second that's added to clocks every few years to compensate for the earth's natural doddering.

The earth slows down slightly as we spin through space. No one falls off, but earthquakes and tides routinely slow the earth by a fraction of a fraction of a second, which makes clocks minutely wrong. If not corrected, it could make a minute of difference a century.

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The Two-Way
4:31 pm
Thu January 19, 2012

Scientists watch comet plunge into the sun

The comet C/2011 N3 (SOHO) diving toward the sun in July 2011.
NASA

Originally published on Thu January 19, 2012 4:03 pm

For the first time ever, scientists have been able to watch a comet perform a deadly dive into the sun. Back in July, a Kreutz sungrazer known as C/2011 N3 passed so close to the sun that the icy body was vaporized.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:07 pm
Tue January 17, 2012

Listen Up, Walkers: Watch Out For Traffic When Wearing Headphones

Beware of tuning out while crossing the street.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue January 17, 2012 12:10 pm

By now we all know that distracted driving can kill you. But a new study suggests that distracted walking can be pretty deadly, too.

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Second-hand smoke
11:42 am
Tue January 17, 2012

Smoking in your apartment - not for long?

Smoking is banned at work. It’s banned in restaurants and bars. But most smokers can still head home and enjoy as many cigarettes as they’d like. That’s starting to change, when it comes to apartment buildings. 

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is it the flu?
3:14 pm
Fri January 6, 2012

Wintertime vomiting disease strikes Seattle

In the United States, the CDC estimates that more than 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis are due to norovirus infections each year. The process is described in the attached video, of which this photo is a screen grab.
CDC

Don’t be surprised if you notice a few co-workers are out sick, or if a stomach bug seems to be hitting your family. Winter is peak time for sharing germs – and right now, at least, most of those are NOT the flu bug.

For Lisa Steinbrueck of Seattle, it seemed at first like food poisoning:

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Diversions
10:03 am
Mon December 26, 2011

Research sheds light on aggressive reactions to benign remarks

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 3:07 pm

In many families, getting together over the holidays means someone inevitably gets bent out of shape for what someone else thinks is no good reason. New research by Washington State University and Oregon's Linfield College sheds light on knee-jerk reactions to innocent remarks.

Is Uncle Henry giving you the silent treatment, or is he just a man of few words? What did that friend you only see on New Year's Eve really mean when she said you lost weight?

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Science
5:22 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Ignorance has its place in democracy, researchers say

The least informed among us, tend to side with the quieter majority rather than follow the vocal minority. And in that sense, decisions are more democratic. Researchers at Princeton figured this out by studying schools of fish.
Olivier Roux Flickr

Some say ignorance is bliss.  Others say ignorance is a drain on society.  But as contrary as it might sound, researchers have found there may actually be a place for the uninformed in group decision-making.

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jets and rockets
5:14 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

Paul Allen's dramatic spaceship joins Bezos in space-race

Paul Allen and aviation innovator Burt Rutan announce their latest space partnership, called Stratolaunch, from Allen's headquarters in Seattle.
Keith Seinfeld KPLU

Paul Allen is bankrolling a dramatic new space-craft, which aims to launch satellites later this decade, and maybe people, too. The project uses an airplane made from two rebuilt Boeing 747’s. 

It looks a little like a flying catamaran. It will be the largest airplane ever built, with six jet engines. And hanging from the wing in the middle will be a rocket.

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Space Travel
1:11 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

Paul Allen to open airport operations - for space!

What Paul Allen's new ship -- carrier aircraft with spaceship hanging in the middle -- will look like.
Stratolaunch Systems

Paul Allen’s new company, Stratolaunch Systems hopes to bring airport-like operations to the launch of commercial and government payloads and, eventually, human missions. Plans call for a first flight within five years, according to a company press release.

The air-launch-to-orbit system will mean lower costs, greater safety, and more flexibility and responsiveness than is possible today with ground-based systems, the company declares.

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health insurance
1:02 am
Tue December 13, 2011

Washington's uninsured: One million people

Losing your job often means losing your health insurance – and that’s reflected in the latest numbers of uninsured people in Washington. It’s approaching one million, or 14.5 percent of the population, according to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

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Science
11:33 am
Mon December 12, 2011

Research into rat emotions could help develop human drugs

A Washington State University researcher says new findings about the emotions of rats could lead to treatments for mental illness in humans. Jaak Panksepp writes in the latest issue of the journal, Science.

He was reacting to a new study showing that rats demonstrate empathy and altruism toward a fellow rat who was stuck in a trap.

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Science
1:11 pm
Fri December 9, 2011

Catch Saturday’s lunar eclipse from a hilltop

In this Thursday June 16, 2011 file photo, the moon exhibits a deep orange glow as the Earth casts its shadow in a total lunar eclipse as seen in Manila, Philippines, before dawn. The last total lunar eclipse of the year is Saturday, Dec.
Associated Press

If you’re an early riser, you may get to see a total eclipse of the moon on Saturday. The full moon will fall into a dark shadow in the hours just before dawn.

The northwestern U.S. gets a better view of this eclipse than the rest of the mainland states – that is, if you’re not fogged in.

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Animal research
1:52 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

Animal expert Temple Grandin says fear can be worse than pain

One of the touchiest topics in medical research is the use of animals. For example, there are perennial protests at the University of Washington, which has one of the biggest research programs using animals in the country (reflecting that it has one of the largest centers for biological and medical research in the country). About 600 different research projects use everything from rats to monkeys.

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Science
10:19 am
Tue December 6, 2011

Native Americans lost half of population in European conquest, new research shows

A new study used the DNA from Native American women in North and South America to show the indigenous population decreased by about half in the centuries following European contact.
miracc Flickr photo

A new study is shedding some light on a long-debated question about Native Americans. Just how much smaller was the indigenous population in North and South America after the European conquest? 

Clues can be found in DNA, according to research conducted at the University of Washington and University of Goettingen in Germany. 

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Health
4:59 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

Health clinics for the poor look to middle class for income

Clinics and hospitals that serve low-income people are holding candle-light vigils in Seattle, Yakima and Spokane this week to draw attention to proposed budget cuts they call devastating. After education, the second biggest slice of the state budget goes to health care, totaling about a third of the general fund.

Some community clinics are taking the desperate step of marketing themselves to people with private insurance. That's a big change for non-profits with a mission to serve the poor.

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