Science news

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Your home is filled with microbes. Fungi and bacteria cover your appliances, your door handles, and even your skin.

Yet researchers lack understanding as to which species live inside the home and how those species vary between homes. A new study shows that the region where you live shapes what kinds of fungi are in your house. The bacteria, however, are more affected by which pets you live with.

“We live with this broad diversity of different microorganisms in our homes,” says study author Noah Fierer, a researcher at CU Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies. “Some could be potential allergens, many could actually be beneficial, and most are probably innocuous.”

To Keep The Grid Humming, You'd Better Check The Space Weather

Jul 27, 2015

If you've ever seen the Northern Lights, you've seen the most visible evidence of a solar storm. Bursts of electrically charged particles race toward Earth, and when they hit the planet's magnetic field, they cause beautiful auroras. A norm in northern locales, sky watchers in southerly states like Colorado were treated to a rare light show in June. In addition to clogging up your Instagram with photos, solar storms can also wreak havoc on our electric grid.

Federal regulators are working on new rules that are supposed to protect the electric grid from solar storms, but there's criticism that they don't go far enough.

Scientists have found a "new" horned dinosaur that lived about 79 million years ago — and they say the discovery helps them understand the early evolution of the family that includes Triceratops.

The new dinosaur, which was named Wendiceratops pinhornensis after a famous fossil hunter who discovered the bone bed in Canada where these fossils were buried, is one of the oldest known horned dinosaurs.

Luke Runyon KUNC

Designing a rechargeable battery is a tradeoff: you can either have more power or faster charging speed. Amy Prieto, a researcher at Colorado State University, wants to make a battery where she doesn’t have to compromise.

Instead of choosing to focus on a battery with a longer life, more energy storage, or a shorter charging time, Prieto decided to tackle all three. And she’s not doing it in Silicon Valley or some other far-flung tech hub. She’s instead based her company in place that has an innate attraction to her research: Fort Collins, Colorado.

“It was just incredible to find this wealth of people who were interested in renewable energy,” says Prieto.

Colorado State University

Colorado State University worries that they are losing future engineers.

"There are a lot of students that come in that have the desire and the aptitude to be engineers but they're leaving the discipline in very large numbers," explains Tony Maciejewski, the head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at CSU.

So Maciejewski and a few of his colleagues applied for a grant to change the way that his department teaches engineering. They’ve received $2 million from the National Science Foundation that will allow them to do just that over the next five years.

This 'Queen of the Night' Reigns For Just A Couple Hours Each Year

Jun 23, 2015
Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

It’s Monday, around 9 o’clock, and the library is locked for the night. Silently, Linda Zellmer appears on the other side of the glass door. She opens it and guides us up four dark floors towards a puddle of light.

“There it is,” she says, gazing down at the swollen bud of an orchid cactus. “It’s slowly opening.”

Zellmer perches on a stool behind her camera and waits in anticipation of the night’s big event: the moment when the bud opens.

While most plants flower for weeks, orchid cacti only blossom for a few short hours a year, and always at night. Botanists name it Epiphyllum oxypetalum, but the plant’s elaborate, nocturnal mating dance has earned it the nickname of “Queen of the Night” or “Lady of the Night.”

Photo by Dave Allen/NIWA / Courtesy of NCAR

June is the start of outdoor recreation season for many Coloradans, and it also marks the start of the peak season for powerful storms and lightning. Colorado's infamous weather unpredictability can suddenly bring afternoon hikes, picnics or games to a quick end.

It's nighttime weather, though, that has atmospheric scientists' attention. They'll be spending six weeks in the Great Plains, trying to figure out the mystery of thunderstorms that form at night. The results could help meteorologists better predict these sometimes damaging storms.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Researchers with the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that increased West Nile outbreaks correlated strongly with above-average temperatures in the preceding year.

They also found wet weather influenced outbreaks – although the actual impact varied by region. In much of the West, wetter-than-average winters correlated with above average outbreaks. Researchers found a different picture in the eastern U.S., where West Nile outbreaks correlated with fall and spring seasons that were drier than average.

That may seem counterintuitive; after all, doesn't a wet spring usually mean more mosquitoes in the summer, since they need water sites to reproduce?

Superweed? Scientists Define A Controversial Concept

Apr 29, 2015
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s... a superweed?

If you’ve paid any attention to the debate concerning the adoption of genetically-engineered crops, you’ve heard of superweeds. They’re those nasty, hearty weeds that cross-breed with GMO corn to resist herbicide applications. Or, um...they’re new, special weeds, able to outcompete other pesky plants with undetermined magic properties, right? No, they’re the result of an over-reliance on a particular weed management strategy.

But which is it? That’s been the problem.


This year's Atlantic hurricane season is likely to be a calm one, according to the annual tropical storm outlook released April 9 by Colorado State University.  

Phil Klotzbach is a research scientist with the Tropical Meteorology Project at CSU, and heads up the forecasting project. Klotzbach said the number of named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes is predicted to be "about half the average hurricane season."