Science & Technology

It was the absence of feathers that got conservation biologist Thor Hanson thinking about the significance of them. Hanson was in Kenya studying the feeding habits of vultures, and he noticed the advantages that vultures had relative to other birds because of their bare, featherless heads.

"Having lost their feathers allows [vultures] to remain much cleaner and more free from bacteria and parasites and disease," Hanson tells Fresh Air contributor Dave Davies.

Jesse joins us to talk about technology use at the national political conventions.

It didn't go far, but the NASA rover Curiosity has taken its first test drive on Mars.

"This is how I roll," NASA writes (speaking for Curiosity) with a photo it has released showing the rover's first tracks. "Forward 3 meters, 90 [degree] turn, then back. Electric slide, anyone?"

"We have a fully functioning mobility system," NASA engineer Matt Heverly just told reporters. He said Curiosity ended up moving about 4 1/2 meters during today's test. It also did a full revolution going forward, backed up and did another revolution.

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FLORA LICHTMAN, HOST:

An experimental aircraft that designers hoped would hit 3,600 mph in a test flight over the Pacific on Tuesday "suffered a control failure" and failed in its attempt to go hypersonic, The Associated Press writes.

Its report follows earlier word from Wired magazine's Danger Room blog that it had been told by an "insider familiar with the test" that:

How Forensic Psychiatry Informs Trials

Jul 30, 2012

James Holmes, the former neuroscience student accused of killing 12 people and injuring 58 others in the Colorado movie theater massacre, has been formally charged with 24 counts of murder. The case will likely involve questions about Holmes' psychiatric condition and competency to stand trial.

Apple Vs. Samsung Showdown Heads To Trial

Jul 29, 2012
Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Ask An Astrophysicist

Jul 27, 2012

The universe is being pushed apart at a faster and faster rate. And the culprit? Dark energy. Astrophysicist Adam Riess shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for that discovery, and now's your chance to ask him about it--or anything else you've been wondering about the cosmos.

A recently released study says that daydreaming may actually be beneficial to high-level brain activity. WAMC’s Melissa Bunning reports.…

Contrary to popular belief, our brains are functioning at higher levels when our minds wander.  Dr. Jonathan Schooler of the University of California, Santa Barbara, explains……

Schooler, and Kalina Christoff of the University of British Columbia, took functional magnetic resonance images, or fMRI scans, of subjects as they were instructed to press a button when numbers appeared on a screen.

Ford Motor Co. intends to prove that good things come in small packages — really small packages. The company has taken engine downsizing to a new level with its new three-cylinder EcoBoost engine, which has been introduced in Europe and is set to hit the U.S. market next year.

The EcoBoost offers more power than many conventional four-cylinder engines, with fuel economy numbers a hybrid could envy. Early fans are calling it a modern "little engine that could," and Ford is betting that American customers are ready to embrace a three-cylinder engine.

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