Granite Geek

Conversations about science, tech and nature with David Brooks, reporter for The Concord Monitor and blogger at

ilovebutter via Flickr Creative Commons

It’s October, and it’s supposed to be foliage season. But the splendor of the foliage in Northern New England isn’t what it used to be. Climate change, local pollution, invasive species, disease and development have all conspired to change the multicolored landscape to make it less so. NHPR's Peter Biello spoke with David Brooks, a reporter for The Concord Monitor and writer at

You’ve heard of the Nobel Prize—the award bestowed upon those who have achieved great things in a variety of fields. But you may not have heard of the Ig Nobel Prizes. That’s a parody of the Nobel Prize that’s given out to unusual or trivial achievements in science. David Brooks, a reporter with The Concord Monitor and writer at spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello. 

David, it seems like there’s a contradiction there in trivial achievement.What is meant by these Ig Nobel Prizes?

Flickr user "btckeychain."

When you buy or sell a home, at some point in the process, you’ve got to check the property against a central database, usually at the town clerk’s office. And when you buy or sell something with the digital currency bitcoin, that bitcoin has to be registered somewhere so it can’t be spent twice. That registry, which functions kind of like a digital town clerk’s office, is called the block chain. Right now the state of Vermont is paving the way for entrepreneurs and governments to use the block chain for other purposes.

PunchingJudy via Flickr CC /

 Lawmakers and Governor Maggie Hassan supported legislation this year to make Narcan more accessible so it can be used to save the lives of people experiencing an opiate overdose. Narcan has often been referred to as the Epipen of heroin, but David Brooks says that comparison doesn’t hold up in some key ways. Brooks is a reporter for The Concord Monitor and blogs at He spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello.

xandert / Morguefile

The humble little mouse has become big business at Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. The research center uses selective breeding to create mice that have the genetic traits to make them useful for scientists searching for cures to human diseases. David Brooks recently visited Jackson Labs and learned a lot about the business of mice. He’s a columnist for the Nashua Telegraph and writer at He spoke with NHPR's All Things Considered host Peter Biello.

jdurham / Morguefile

You’ve heard of open source software. Linux is perhaps the best-known example. But what about open source hardware? It’s not a new idea, but it’s now in New Hampshire proving itself valuable to one of the town of Merrimack’s biggest employers. David Brooks, a columnist for the Nashua Telegraph and writer at Granite, spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello.

David, for the uninitiated, tell us: What is open source hardware?

SandJLinkins / MorgueFile

It’s July, and if you’re a gardener, that means little green tomatoes are popping up on your plants, flowers are attracting bees, and fruit trees are filling up with the beginnings of what we’ll harvest this fall. It’s also a time for deer to come by and steal a snack from your garden. David Brooks, a columnist for the Nashua Telegraph and writer at, spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello about ways to prevent those deer from literally stealing the fruits of your labor.

What is the thing that keeps deer away?

Eric Draper / White House

If you grew up in the 1970s or 80s, the sound of Simon may be familiar to you. It’s the electronic memory game that gives you increasingly difficult patterns of sounds and colors to remember and repeat.

Some of the credit for inventing it goes to late Manchester resident Ralph Baer. Baer was part of a team that developed the first home video game in the late 1960s'. The National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. has included Baer’s Manchester, N.H. workshop as part of its innovation wing.

Chris Alban Hansen / Flickr Creative Commons

Imagine a future where all of New Hampshire’s power comes from renewable sources. That’s all power: for your radio or computer, of course, but also for your heating and cooling systems and your car. A new study spells out how that could be made a reality by the year 2050. David Brooks of the Nashua Telegraph and spoke with NHPR’s Peter Biello.

Who conducted the study?

GSFC / Flickr Creative Commons

Mapping New Hampshire’s forests is tricky business. There’s a lot of land to map, and the satellite images that scientists use to augment data from other sources have significant limitations. Nashua Telegraph columnist and writer at David Brooks caught up with a few UNH researchers trying to track how human behavior has changed the forests. He spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello.

What are these images good at showing us?

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Probiotics are bacteria that help you digest, but they can also lead to digestive problems like inflammatory bowel disease to diarrhea, and there are also indications that they could be related to less obvious ailments such as allergies. Pros and cons of probiotics are at the heart of the next Science Café this Wednesday in Nashua.

xandert / Morguefile

A law to ban “ballot selfies” had its day in court yesterday. Challengers say prohibiting voters from taking pictures of their ballots and posting them on social media sites is a violation of free speech. Proponents of the law say it prevents voter fraud. NHPR's Peter Biello spoke with David Brooks, a reporter for the Nashua Telegraph and writer at

Sgarton / Morguefile

White Nose Syndrome is a fungal disease that has been contributing to the deaths of vast numbers of bats in northern New England. But scientists have found that a bacteria in the soil has been linked to some bats’ ability to survive this disease. For more on this, we turn to David Brooks. He’s the author of the weekly Granite Geek science column for the Nashua Telegraph and he blogs at He spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello.

How does white nose syndrome kill a bat?

Jim Gathany / PD-USGOV

Tick season is upon us. It’s time to take precautions against these little potential carriers of Lyme Disease. And while you’re tucking your pant-legs into your socks, one little robot is waiting to comb through your backyard and capture and kill these little critters. For more on this, we turn to David Brooks. He’s the author of the weekly Granite Geek science column for the Nashua Telegraph and many a geeky blog-post at Granite

Granite Geek: The Tech That Makes Trains Stop

May 19, 2015
jppi / Morguefile

Last week’s deadly Amtrak derailment outside of Philadelphia has prompted serious scientific inquiry into the nature, effectiveness, and cost of the safety mechanisms in use in some of these trains.

For more on a braking system that could have slowed the train down is David Brooks. He writes about science in his weekly Granite Geek column for the Nashua Telegraph and He spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello.

What is this breaking system called and how does it work?

N.H. Lags Behind In Solar Power Production

May 12, 2015
charlesa46741 / Morguefile

New Hampshire lags behind the rest of New England when it comes to solar electricity production. But with the arrival of California-based SolarCity, there’s reason to believe New Hampshire could catch up. For more on solar power in the Granite State, we turn to David Brooks. He’s the author of the weekly Granite Geek science column for the Nashua Telegraph and he writes at Granite as well. He spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello.

Click / Morguefile

In this high-tech information age, farming equipment is becoming more computerized, which means it’s becoming increasingly difficult for farmers to fix their own tools. Enter, a New-Hampshire based website that’s tilling the Internet for solutions to tricky farm problems. David Brooks, author of the weekly Granite Geek science column for the Nashua Telegraph, spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello.

So how does Farmhack work?

Granite Geek: We're Overdue For A Tornado

Apr 28, 2015
npclark2k / Morguefile

The Granite State gets lots of “weather”—and by weather, we usually mean snow. This winter we saw a lot of it. What we don’t see a lot of? Tornadoes! All of the New England states get about seven per year on average. But one meteorologist says we’re due for one soon. David Brooks has been writing about tornadoes this week in his weekly Granite Geek science column for the Nashua Telegraph.

David, you spoke recently with a meteorologist who says we’re “overdue” for a tornado. That sounds kind of scary. Should we be scared?

hubbardcalgaryroofing / Morguefile

Finding a contractor to fix something in your house or remodel a room can be tricky. If you live in or around Nashua, Portsmouth, Durham, and Barrington, however, your search for the right contractor may have gotten a little easier.

The website BuildZoom has compiled all the data collected in these locations on every single remodeling and construction project over the past ten years. David Brooks, the author of the weekly Granite Geek science column for the Nashua Telegraph and, spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello. 

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It was 1623 when European settlers established their first fishing colony in the area around the Piscataqua River.  That was nearly 400 years ago – and yet the period between then and now is just a small part of the human history of the area we now call New Hampshire.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Life on New Hampshire’s Isles of Shoals isn’t always the same as it is for those of us on the mainland. But a solar energy project there may point the way toward the future of energy all over the region.

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It’s time to talk about cats.

Yes, it’s hard to believe that in the internet era, where Grumpy Cat and Keyboard Cat have become celebrities, and seemingly every third item we see on Facebook is a cat video, that we’d need to spend more time on felines.

Rob_ / Flickr CC

Recently Eversource Energy, formerly known as PSNH, announced it would sell off its power plants. That would make New Hampshire’s electricity suppliers separate from its electricity producers - at least for a while. A new bill in front of the State House would make it easier for electric utilities to own what are called “distributed energy resources,” which refers primarily to solar power.

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The idea of building a road is pretty straightforward – you build a path and let vehicles go on the path.

The reality is, of course, is way more complicated. How many lanes does the road need, and in which directions? Which signs are necessary – and which are distracting? Does the road make it too hard for vehicles to get through – or can it actually be too easy?

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For people, winter has pros and cons - but for cars, this kind of weather is not ideal.

David Brooks writes the weekly Granite Geek science column for the Nashua Telegraph and He spoke with All Things Considered about the effects of road salt on cars in winter - and the simple and not-so-simple ways we might stop those effects before they start.


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After spending weeks and weeks surrounded by snow piles that are several feet high, it’s easy to forget that those huge piles are made of tiny snowflakes. And no two snowflakes are alike – or at least that’s what we’ve all heard.

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This is a time of year when heating bills usually go up, and some residents consider alternative energy sources for their heating.

Proponents of geothermal heat say their systems ought to be a bigger part of New Hampshire's energy landscape.

The prospects for geothermal - that's the topic of this month's Science Café discussion, which takes place Wednesday, January 21st, at Killarney's Pub in Nashua.

e_monk via Flickr/CC

Medical professionals have a hard time getting people to come in and get screened for various cancers and diseases.

What can be even harder, though, is finding the right screening test.

A large-scale, nearly decade-long study of two screening methods for colorectal cancer is underway. It’s  known by the acronym CONFIRM.

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New Hampshire has plenty of state symbols. The state rock is – no surprise - granite; the state fish is the brook trout. Our state tree is the white birch; our state insect, the ladybug; our state gem, smoky quartz, and so on.

Unlike many other states, New Hampshire does not have a state fossil – at least not yet.

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These days many stoplights will start changing to green when the intersection detects a car or truck. But some of these intersections don't detect motorcycles, at least not regularly. And a bill before New Hampshire's legislature would let those otherwise stuck bikers ride on through red lights.