Mon July 27, 2015

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

One of the crew members aboard the International Space Station captured this night panorama featuring athe Aurora Borealis, and scattered lights in the more highly populated areas in the state of Colorado, February 2013.

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.

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Wed July 8, 2015

Scientists Discover One Of The Oldest Horned Dinosaurs

Originally published on Wed July 8, 2015 4:34 pm

Life reconstruction of Wendiceratops pinhorn.
Danielle Dufault/PLOS ONE

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.

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Tue June 30, 2015
Places Of Invention

The Quest For A Better Battery Has A Home In Fort Collins

Anita Kear, the chemistry technician at Prieto Battery, works on a model system the company uses to create battery prototypes.
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.

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Tue June 23, 2015
Science Education

CSU Receives $2 Million To Revolutionize Engineering Education

Students in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at CSU work on a hands-on project.
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.

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Tue June 23, 2015

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

Orchid cacti, like this one housed at a library in Illinois, bloom just once a year.
Credit 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.”

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