Granite Geek

Conversations about science, tech and nature with David Brooks, columnist for The Nashua Telegraph and blogger at granitegeek.org.

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 GraniteGeek.org, 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 GraniteGeek.org. 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.

 

Alexey Kljatov via Flickr/CC - http://ow.ly/JBzMe

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.

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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.

Brady Carlson, NHPR

We all have our holiday traditions – family dinners, decorating, songs, presents... or, in one particular case, doing calculations about some of the most famous parts of the holidays.

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M.C. Escher has been all over Manchester lately (or, at least, his work has been). The Currier Museum of Art has been featuring Escher in an exhibit that runs through January 5th.

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Mother Nature looks ready to unleash some snow on New Hampshire ahead of Thanksgiving. That's not great news for travelers, but it would be good news for New Hampshire ski areas - though, of course, they already have the technology to make their own snow no matter what’s coming down from the sky.

voting booths
Allegra Boverman for NHPR

If you check your Facebook feed on this Election Day, there’s a chance you may see a friend post a “ballot selfie” - a photo taken in the voting booth of a completed ballot.

If that friend lives in New Hampshire, posting that photo might not be such a great idea. Such photos are illegal in this state – at least for now.

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Ancient archaeology is the kind of thing that, with the right find, can quickly capture the public’s attention and fascination.

And yet a New Hampshire group that studies ancient stone structures is turning 50 this week – and few Granite Staters have heard of it.

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The next big digital frontier seems to be wearable technology. One example that comes to mind is the newly-announced Apple Watch, but what if the device in question wasn’t a device per se, but electronics built into what you’re already wearing?

You know the election season is gearing up when pollsters and survey researchers start calling residents, trying to gauge where the electorate stands on the issues and the candidates of 2014.

Politicians are, of course, quick to remind us that the only poll that matters is the one on election day, but there’s some evidence that another method, used regularly in the UK, may provide a clearer picture of where a campaign is headed than a traditional poll.

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Humans can't see ultraviolet light - but many types of wildlife can. And a man in Nashua is researching whether that difference may help humans and wildlife better co-exist in the future.

David Brooks writes the weekly GraniteGeek science column for the Nashua Telegraph and Granite Geek.org.

Jonathan Haeber via Flickr/CC http://ow.ly/AKBvK

There are lots of ways to make and transmit electricity – solar energy hitting photovoltaic panels. Or causing turbines to spin with wind, or fossil fuels.

Makerbot Replicator 2
Harris County Public Library, via Flickr/CC - http://ow.ly/AuFTA

Attention residents of Milford: we don’t want to alarm you, but there is a replicator in your library.

Actually, it's a Makerbot Replicator 2, and it’s not as sinister as it might sound. This device is better known as a 3-D printer.

David Brooks tested out the printer for his Granite Geek science column for the Nashua Telegraph and Granite Geek.org, and he walks us through the process.

Bruce Lyndes / Plymouth State University

Last month, Fred Prince, a biology professor at Plymouth State University, found and confirmed the first woolly mammoth tooth on land in New Hampshire.

So the question is, what took so long - especially given that such teeth have already been found in Vermont and Maine?

Ale Viyie via Flickr Creative Commons

The rewards card is everywhere these days. It usually works like this: the more consumers buy, the more incentives and discounts stores hand out.

Tristan Martin via Flickr CC

Once again New Hampshire is playing host to a competition full of pulse-pounding intensity, where every move can pave the way to victory, or shatter championship dreams.

We're talking not about last weekend’s NASCAR race but the United States Girls Junior Closed Championship, which gets underway this week at UNH Manchester.

And by the way, those who geek out over competitive chess see just as much high drama on the board as stock car fans find on the speedway.

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Unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, have been keeping government officials busy lately. They’re wrestling with a range of questions on whether any potential uses of drone technology may pose any problems. Recently the National Park Service has issued a ban on drones in national park areas.

For decades now, scientists and volunteers in the Northeast have been trying to bring back the American chestnut tree, which a century ago comprised about 25 percent of New England’s forests.

Blight nearly wiped out the American chestnut, and it did so quickly. Restoring the tree is taking a little more time, in part because the blight is still out there.

They are one of the least-enjoyed elements of the warm weather landscape in New Hampshire.

Ticks.

They bite. They carry Lyme disease and other nasty illnesses – and they’re pretty creepy looking as well.

The workplace is changing a lot these days – for example, the coworker who used to sit next to you in the office may now telecommute, and work from home part of the week.

Or, the person who used to sit next to you may now stand next to you. Standing desks are a growing part of the office, and that now includes the offices of the Nashua Telegraph.

Robert Bell via Flickr CC

Gardeners are gearing up for this year's growing season, and many New Hampshire gardeners are hoping to grow their vegetables organically this year.

But that term, "organic," doesn't mean that same thing to every gardener.

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