November 13, 2015 |
More than 1,400 light-years away, in a constellation named for its likeness to a swan, lies a planet a lot like Earth. Called Kepler-452b, it orbits a star similar to our sun, at just the right distance so that its surface temperature would allow the presence of liquid water. We would have no idea it was out there, along with more than 1,000 other planets discovered in the last six years, but for the stubbornness of William J. Borucki. The NASA astronomer is one of eight new winners of the annual awards bestowed by the Franklin Institute being announced Thursday.
November 9, 2015
'Herding cats," is how Dario C. Altieri describes his job leading the brainy scientists who form the heart of the workforce at Wistar Institute in West Philadelphia. "It's built into the job - a strong sense of independence," said Altieri, 57, in his melodic Italian accent, which he undersells as "straight out of the Bronx or South Philly. " In March, Altieri moved from herded to herder, promoted from the Institute's chief scientific officer and Wistar Cancer Center director, to chief executive and president, succeeding Russel Kaufman, who led Wistar for 12 years.
October 25, 2015 |
They're everywhere. Too small to be seen by the unaided eye and too numerous to count, they inhabit our insides and outsides, our guts and the surface of our skin. They are the bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other organisms that make up what scientists call our microbiome. It's a complex environment, and scientists are only just beginning to understand and appreciate its vitally important role in keeping us healthy and signaling when we are sick. This week, Penn Vet, Penn Medicine, and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia will host their second annual microbiome symposium.
October 15, 2015 |
The Union of Concerned Scientists on Tuesday sounded a cautionary note about the shale-gas boom, citing Pennsylvania as one of the states most at risk of becoming overly reliant on gas as a fuel source for electrical power. Although 24 percent of Pennsylvania's power comes from natural gas - a smaller share than coal - the advocacy group said the state had experienced above-average growth in gas-fired generation since 2008. It also said that 97 percent of Pennsylvania power plants under construction rely on gas. An overreliance on one fuel can expose investors and consumers to price shocks in the event of market volatility, the organization said.
October 8, 2015 |
They are among the most numerous particles in the universe, subatomic ghosts silently whizzing through our bodies millions of times a second. And yet physicists were mystified as to why two-thirds of these particles, called neutrinos, seemed to be missing in action. This year's Nobel Prize in physics is going to a pair of scientists from Canada and Japan who discovered what was really happening, the prize committee announced Tuesday. The project led by the Canadian scientist, deep inside a nickel mine near Sudbury, Ontario, got a big assist from the University of Pennsylvania.
October 6, 2015 |
A former Merck & Co. scientist is sharing the Nobel Prize in medicine for helping to discover a treatment for two parasitic diseases that have stricken millions in the developing world. William C. Campbell, 85, who later became a faculty member at Drew University in Madison, N.J., will get the award in Stockholm, Sweden, on Dec. 10 along with Satoshi Omura, a professor emeritus at Kitasato University in Japan. The two each will receive about $240,000 for their success in combating river blindness, caused by a parasite transmitted through the bite of river-dwelling black flies, and elephantiasis, marked by severe swelling and disfigurement of the limbs.
October 2, 2015 |
TWO YEARS AGO, Chiwetel Ejiofor was the toast of the Toronto International Film Festival for his heartbreaking, welt-inducing role in "12 Years a Slave. " Last month he was back for "The Martian," in which his relationship with the white man is very different. This time he's trying to save one - Matt Damon, lost in space. "I suppose if there is a connection," Ejiofor said, "it's that the films both do speak to human respect. In the deeper themes of 'The Martian,' there's this sense of community.
September 10, 2015 |
In 1944, before anyone knew what DNA looked like, a young graduate student sought to learn more about genetic mutations by irradiating 50,000 bacteria with ultraviolet light. Most of the cells in Evelyn M. Witkin's petri dishes died in the process. But four were somehow resistant, and her subsequent insights would prove fundamental in helping the world understand how living things protect themselves from radiation and DNA damage. On Tuesday, Witkin, 94, was honored with a prestigious Lasker award for her long career, the last decades of which took place at Rutgers University.
August 24, 2015 |
A few hundred times every year in the United States, a mysterious agent attacks the bile ducts of a newborn baby, often leading to a liver transplant. And several times over the last century, a mysterious agent attacked the bile ducts of lambs and other livestock in Australia, killing hundreds of animals in all. Plenty of pediatric liver researchers have wondered whether there was a connection. Could it be a virus? Genes? Rebecca G. Wells, a physician scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, dropped a line to Australia to see whether she could find out. The eventual result was a tale involving fluorescent fish, an odd-smelling plant, and painstaking chemical detective work to ferret out one fateful substance in that plant.
August 21, 2015 |
JOSEPH TERRANCE Heard had this dream. He would start a program for boys who have had discipline problems at school and encourage them to chase the same dream that led him to a successful career in science. It was part of Joe's lifelong commitment to encourage others to follow his path, which took him from a childhood of poverty in Philadelphia public housing to a fulfilling career in mathematics and science research. His brother, Justin, said Joe spent his "time and efforts mentoring many of the youth of our community trying to light the spark of knowledge and education wherever he could.