Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Toxic Trash: Nebraska Removes Potentially Dangerous Chemicals From School Science Labs

The whine of the hydraulic lift on the back of a cargo truck is sweet music to Dr. Joan Christen. That's because she won't have to worry any more about the chemicals inside the dozen or so boxes leaving the ground - boxes carrying 320 pounds of toxic and potentially hazardous chemicals that were in a science lab at Beatrice High School in Beatrice, Neb., where Christen teaches. Each container has one of those diamond-shaped caution signs - some say "corrosive," some say "flammable." One said "poison."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

World's Largest Train Yard Employs Unusual Ally to Sort Cars

(NET Radio) - Sitting three stories above Union Pacific's Bailey Yard, Merle Stillwell has a job many boys and girls would love - but his role as yard master is not child's play.

"It's my job to bring the trains into North Platte, get 'em into the bowl correctly, so I can tell the guy on the other end he's got enough cars to build the train," Stillwell said.

"The bowl" is an area, comprising dozens of tracks, where cars are sent - usually one or two at a time - to connect to a train different from the one they arrived on.

Bailey Yard handles 14,000 rail cars every day, 3,000 of which are sorted.

"These trains can weigh anything from 2,000 tons to maybe 25,000 tons, which is quite heavy."

To assist moving something this big, Union Pacific Railroad employs a seemingly unlikely ally: gravity.

Stillwell observes the yard from above a man-made hill - one of two at Bailey Yard - that make a big difference on the flat plains west of North Platte. The humps, as they are known, replace the work a locomotive would otherwise do.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

North Platte Researchers Seek to Decrease Chemical Drift

(NET Radio) -  For many in Nebraska, wind is merely an occasional nuisance. But for farmers, it can have an impact on their livelihood.

Wind can dry out crops or erode topsoil, and it can also interfere with the chemicals of farming.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nebraska Science Olympiad Tests High School Students' Mental, Not Physical, Skills

(NET Radio) - Class is over at North Star High School in Lincoln, Nebraska - and Olympic contenders are filing into Room 209.

But these would-be Olympians aren't athletes.

"Did you get the lasers?" asks science teacher James Blake.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fighting Fire With Fire -- And Science.

An out-of-control wildfire in Colorado that’s already killed two people and destroyed more than 20 buildings has renewed the debate over the use of intentionally set fires.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper issued a temporary statewide ban on all prescribed burns until officials investigate how this fire was allowed to spread outside the planned acreage southwest of Denver.

Prescribed burns, while used routinely in recent years, continue to be a source of controversy when accidents or poorly conducted exercises result in property damage or loss of life.

The tragedy came during the height of controlled burn season in Nebraska, a time of year when columns of smoke on the horizon are a common sight across the state. The practice has been aggressively promoted by agriculture and conservation advocates as an effective way to cleanse the land of old grasses, plants and trees that can take over valuable acreage from crops or livestock.

Over the past two decades, plans for controlled burns have been developed using a blend of new science and knowledge handed down by farmers and Native Americans, who have used the practice for more than a century.

Last week, a dozen ecologists and firefighters from all over the country had the chance to put the art and science of fire into practice during a two-week long clinic in Nebraska hosted by The Nature Conservancy. The Conservancy, a non-profit group emphasizing the preservation of environmentally-important land and bodies of water, promotes the use of fire when appropriate to help eco-systems.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Latest Discovery by UNL Researchers Points to Evolving Technology

(NET Radio) - It would be fair to say UNL assistant professor, physicist and researcher Christian Binek has spent a lot of time in his lab. For the past several years, he has worked almost exclusively in the field of something called "spintronics."

"Roughly speaking," Binek said, "it is the attempt to use a property of the electrons, which is not used so far in conventional electronic circuitry, and that is the spin of an electron."