Science and Technology

Scott Ableman / Flickr

There’s been a lot of hype around geothermal power. This type of power uses heat from below the earth’s surface to provide a steady, renewable source of energy. But the field’s been slow to take off. With help from federal grants, several Northwest researchers are hoping to push the technology forward. For EarthFix, Courtney Flatt has more.

Hitchster / flickr.com

Asphalt: It’s everywhere and it’s expensive.  And its production is tough on air quality.  But a researcher at Washington State University may have a better way: asphalt made from waste cooking oil. "Rock Doc"  Kirsten Peters explains.

Dr. Haifang Wen grew up in a rural area of Shandong province, in eastern China. In his youth there were not many paved highways in the Chinese countryside.

“Lots of the roads were gravel,” he told me recently. “They were muddy when it rained. I remember riding a cow on them, or going along in a wagon pulled by a donkey.”

Tom Kleindinst

A storied research sub that explored and filmed the wreck of the Titanic is making an appearance in the Northwest. The deep-diving submarine "Alvin" is in Astoria Monday,  August 26 through Friday, August 30 while its support ship changes crews. It's actually one of two well-known submersibles passing through the port town.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

President Barack Obama has been publicly warning Syria’s leaders not to use chemical weapons against their own people. The news is unexpectedly relevant in southeast Washington. Researchers at at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are developing new scientific techniques to trace chemical agents back to their sources.

NASA / Wikimedia Commons

An Oregon company is building a new high-altitude ballooning station in Tillamook. The Near Space Corporation is spending $6.9 million to build a factory and ballooning station at the Port of Tillamook Airport Business Park.

Photo by Brittney Tatchell / Northwest News Network

Kennewick Man spent most of his life on the coast, not in the region on the Columbia River where he was found. So says the federal scientist who fought for nearly 10 years to study the 9,500 year old bones. The scientist released some of his findings at a conference this week with Northwest tribes

Kennewick Man’s bones give an indication of what he ate, and how he lived. The research shows he wasn’t fond of oysters or clams but instead his menu included big sea creatures like seals.

Pacific Northwest Seismic Network

Parts of Washington and Oregon are in the midst of silent earthquakes this week. You can't feel this so-called "slow slip" quake and it doesn't cause damage. Still, scientists want to learn more about the recently discovered phenomenon.

San Francisco State University

There's more trouble for your hard-working backyard honey bee. Researchers have confirmed the first cases of "zombee" bees in Washington state and in the Portland area. Infection by a parasite prompts the bees to embark on what's being called a "flight of the living dead."

Diane Gilleland / Flickr

The Northwest is known for its love of coffee. Now evidence of that is showing up in the Pacific Ocean. Researchers have found low levels of caffeine at half a dozen locations on the Oregon Coast.

Jim Barlow / Univ. of Oregon

An archeological dig at a group of remote caves in south-central Oregon may force some rethinking about how the first humans colonized North America. Scientists found the critical evidence in a form you might not expect.

Idaho National Laboratory

Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls has been failing to properly handle and store explosives, putting some workers in jeopardy. That’s the upshot of a new report by the U.S. Department of Energy.

WSU Researchers Patent Longer Battery Life Technology

May 23, 2012
Photo courtesy WSU

Researchers at Washington State University say they've found a way to keep lithium batteries charged three times longer. These are the batteries used in laptops, cell phones and electric vehicles. The key ingredient in the new battery design is tin, as a replacement for carbon, which is more common.

The research is lead by engineering professor Grant Norton. He says the improvements could keep many electronic devices running much longer.

Photo credit: Donald Wall / Northwest News Network

The nuclear industry faces a generation gap. A lot of the people who run nuclear power plants are nearing retirement. Now the Obama Administration has awarded $6.3 million to Northwest universities to help train the next generation of nuclear leaders.

Donald Wall directs Washington State University’s Nuclear Radiation Center in Pullman. The reactor is surrounded by the university’s golf course.

Photo Credit: USGS / Northwest News Network

Geologists have discovered two previously unknown earthquake faults, and possibly a third, near Bellingham, Wash. The scientists working for the U.S. Geological Survey believe the shallow faults are capable of spawning damaging tremors.

Photo credit: Tim Melbourne, CWU / Northwest News Network

A prototype, earthquake early warning system, worked as designed when an actual quake gently shook California last Friday. Researchers reported the results Tuesday at the annual meeting of American seismologists.

Last year, a private foundation in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey gave a multimillion dollar grant to create an automated earthquake warning system for the Pacific Coast states. The idea is to provide advance notice to prepare people for severe shaking. It could come via a cell phone alert or a pop-up on your computer or TV screen.

No More Texting, But What About Mapping While Driving?

Apr 6, 2012
Photo credit: Kevin Mooney / Northwest News Network

Beginning this summer, texting will be illegal for drivers across all three Northwest states. Idaho Governor Butch Otter signed a bill Thursday that outlaws texting while driving on Idaho roads. But in the age of the smartphone, text messages aren’t the only distraction on the tiny screen. Jessica Robinson looked into what else falls under the ban.

Northwest News Network

RICHLAND, Wash. – A Richland, Washington student has won the second prize in a national science fair talent search. That means 17-year- old Andrey Sushko has won $75,000 that will be applied to the high school senior’s upcoming college expenses. Sushko developed a tiny motor that could fit inside a shampoo bottle cap. It’s powered on the surface tension of water.

RICHLAND, Wash. -- A Northwest student is among the top 40 contenders in a national science fair. The gala finale of the Intel Science Talent Search is Tuesday night in Washington, D.C. The student’s invention? A motor so small it runs off of the surface tension of water.

Photo credit: Anna King / Northwest News Network

RICHLAND, Wash. – Hibernating bears do things that doctors tell humans not to do. They eat fatty foods, lay around for months on end and get high cholesterol. Yet they don’t suffer the same ill effects we would.

Washington State University researchers have teamed up with a biotech company. They’ve begun a $200,000 study on how grizzly bears can gain so much fat each year and sleep through the winter. But each spring they emerge without diabetes or heart disease.

Researchers are monitoring eight bears’ heart rates, blood pressure, blood chemistry and overall health.