Granite Geek

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

PSNH

The first law of thermodynamics says that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can change from one form to another. One of those forms is heat. And now an entrepreneur in New Hampshire says he has found a way to make use of the heat given off at power plants to increase the efficiency of those power plants and generate more electricity.

Granite Geek David Brooks, a reporter at the Concord Monitor, joins All Things Considered host Peter Biello to explain how this works.

(This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.)

Granite Geek: 'Deep Fake' Videos a Latest Tech Scare

Feb 13, 2018
NHPR File Photo

  This is All Things Considered on NHPR. I'm Peter Biello. Photos are easy to fake given how common programs like Photoshop are now. New technology is making it easy to fake videos. That is, it is becoming very easy for video editors to graft the image of your face onto someone else's body. And that is problematic, especially if your face ends up on the body of someone doing something offensive or illegal.

Sam Evans-Brown for NHPR

When it comes to trees, New Hampshire is rich and with such abundance you might imagine that the logging and milling industries in the state are flourishing. But that is not the case. The industries that used to buy these trees and the products made from them are in decline.

But new uses for the wood are out there, and in his column in the Concord Monitor this week, Granite Geek David Brooks writes about how these new uses could provide a boost to the timber industry. 

Wikipedia

Fifteen years ago this week our regular guest David Brooks discovered Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Back then it had a mere fraction of the articles that it has now. But one of the early entries was for the city of Concord, New Hampshire. David recently tried to track down the person who created that page for Concord and his search led him to someone who prompted what's considered the biggest controversy in Wikipedia's early history.

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Recently the New York Times reported the story of a former Navy pilot from Windham, New Hampshire who, while on a routine training mission, saw something strange that he could not identify.

It was an aircraft he thought was a 40 foot-long oval - it was a UFO. But was it a being from another planet? Granite Geek David Brooks says, "Probably not."

He joined NHPR's Peter Biello to talk about why.

Intriguing: Top 2017 Science and Tech Stories

Dec 20, 2017
Allegra Boverman, NHPR

We discuss the top stories in science, technology, the environment and energy in New Hampshire in the past year.  From the eclipse that captivated the nation's attention to the biofabrication industry gaining steam in the Manchester Millyard, we look at top stories nationally and in New Hampshire, including extreme weather, solar power, and a bitcoin bubble.  Plus intriguing discoveries in outer space and in the human body.


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At least 19 schools in New Hampshire get some of their energy from solar panels. And the panels in operation at Hopkinton Middle High School may be the oldest. 

Installed in 1999, these panels at the school don't work as well as they used to but they still work.  All Things Considered host Peter Biello speaks with Granite Geek David Brooks, who has been reporting on old solar panels in New Hampshire.

So what prompted you to try to find some of those old solar panels and schools in the state.

Flickr Creative Commons | PSNH

Electricity generated for New England - whether from clean or not-so-clean sources - all gets dumped in to the same pool of electrons. So when we draw from that pool, how can we be sure we're getting power from a clean source?

Granite Geek David Brooks will be discussing this as part of the NH Science Cafe taking place tonight at the Draft Sports Bar in Concord, and he joins NHPR's Peter Biello with more. 

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Cancer has traditionally been treated with some combination of radiation and chemotherapy. But these treatments, which often cause pain and take a great deal of time to complete, don't necessarily increase the quality of a patient's remaining years.

But new treatments are emerging that approach cancer in different ways, and Granite Geek David Brooks is here to discuss them.

Listen to the conversation:

Peter Biello / NHPR

Look at portraits of the nation's leaders and you'll see a particular trend come and go over the years: facial hair. For decades facial hair is in, and then, suddenly, for decades more, it's out. But why? Granite Geek David Brooks recently noticed this pattern in the photographs of the mayors of Concord, which are displayed along several flights of stairs at City Hall, and he says a particular invention may have something to do with the trend. He spoke with NHPR’s Peter Biello.

Roman Mager / Unsplash

A mathematician working as a lecturer at the University of New Hampshire made a discovery that surprised many in his field, given his position at the university and his life story.

Yitang Zhang grew up in China under Mao’s cultural revolution and worked a variety of low-wage jobs before he made his mathematical breakthrough.

Roychan Kruawan / Unsplash

Tomatoes: from your garden, they are full of flavor. They even smell good. Tomatoes from the grocery store, however, might lack that same intense taste. Depending on what variety you buy, the tomato may have been engineered or sprayed to be heavy, not flavorful. Tomatoes are sold by the pound, after all.

A new bit of technology may help some farmers create a tastier tomato. Granite Geek David Brooks has been writing about this tech for The Concord Monitor and spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello about it. 

NASA

The eclipse is coming, and eclipse enthusiasts have been planning their viewing parties for months now, but they recieved troubling news over the weekend. Eclipse viewing glasses that don't meet safety guidelines are said to be flooding the market.

Concord Monitor columnist David Brooks has been keeping track of these sun-gazing safety hazards, and he spoke with NHPR’s Peter Biello.

Peter Miller via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/eVrdee

Comedian George Carlin once said, “Baseball is the only sport that appears backward in a mirror.” In The Concord Monitor this week, Granite Geek David Brooks has been writing about what it would be like to turn America’s pastime on its head. Instead of running to first base, what if batters could choose to run to either first or third base?

Brooks spoke with NHPR’s Peter Biello to defend this modest proposal.

Paul Scott via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/8bUHaa

You may have seen ads posted on your community cork board for something called citizen science. It’s a trend in scientific research that allows regular people to help out with professional-grade studies by reporting data about their own backyards.

Tuesday at 6pm in the Draft Sports Bar in Concord, Concord Monitor columnist David Brooks will host the Science Café. He and a panel of scientists will talk about this innovative approach to research, and he spoke with NHPR’s Peter Biello for a preview.

What exactly is citizen science?

Joy Jackson / Unsplash

It’s easy to say that you want to use less electricity and even easier to just dream about doing something to generate it in an eco-friendly way. But how often do those well-meaning impulses translate to action?

Flickr, Aranami

Some people might like to be surprised when they check their mail boxes. But for those of us who would rather know what's in there ahead of time, the U.S. Postal Service now offers to email recipients a photograph of a letter before it arrives.

Concord Monitor columnist David Brooks has been trying out this collaboration of new and old mail services, and he spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello.

What is this new service called?

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Over the past century, heavy rainfall and snowstorms have grown more frequent and more severe in many parts of the U.S.—including the northeast—as a result of our warming climate. In a study published last month, researchers from Dartmouth College, University of Vermont, and Columbia University investigated exactly what those changes looked like here in New England.

fellowdesigns / Morguefile

In the early 1990s, a group of engineers, architects, planners and designers attempted to figure out what it would take for electric vehicles to thrive in Keene. And their ideas came pretty close to what emerged in other locations across the country more than two decades later.

When I was in high school, I had a chemistry teacher who liked to blow things up. Mix a little of this chemical with that chemical, light a match, and then—bam! Smoke, flames, and a whole room of teenagers saying, “Wow, cool! How did that happen?”

The shock of the explosion—even a small explosion—was enough to compel a group of teenagers to pay attention to a lesson about, for example, formulas and atomic weight.

Huy Phan / Unsplash

Over the past few decades, birth rates across the world have been falling. Retirees are growing in number while the number of young working people is relatively flat. And that’s a problem if you need those workers to in some ways help pay for the rising cost of aging.

The Insitute via Flikr / https://flic.kr/p/bjqoJR

The science fair has been a staple of science education for decades. But recently the loss of Intel, the computer chip giant, as a sponsor of the International Science and Engineering Fair is prompting some soul searching about the purpose of this educational mainstay. Do these science fairs, complete with a tri-fold poster board, really help students learn the kinds of things that prepare them for today’s science-based challenges?

Zvonimir Cuvalo via Flikr / https://flic.kr/p/QQarge

During winter’s dark months you may feel a little bit down. It’s common for people to feel sadder during the winter months, but that sadness isn’t always considered seasonal affective disorder, which is the official term for depression brought on by the cold winter days.

Concord Monitor reporter David Brooks is hosting Concord's Science Café all about seasonal affective disorder, and spoke with NHPR’s Peter Biello about the disorder and how it’s nothing like your typical case of “the winter blues”.

This transcript has been edited for clarity.
 

Ray Theriault / Flikr

Patents help put a stamp of ownership on a piece of technology or an idea.  Concord Monitor reporter David Brooks got curious recently and wondered which New Hampshire towns have the most patent-holding residents per thousand.  He crunched some numbers and shared what he found with NHPR's Peter Biello.

This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

So David, you didn’t look at every town in the state, did you?

No, there’s a limit to how much Excel I’m going to do for an article.

Bas van Dijk via Flickr CC

Here’s a fun fact about mathematicians: they love chalkboards.  Especially the old fashioned ones, with actual chalk and those dusty erasers.  There are a variety of reasons why this might be true, and to untangle them we turn to David Brooks. He’s a reporter for the Concord Monitor and writer at granitegeek.org, and a regular guest on NHPR’s All Things Considered.

Transcript has been edited for clarity.

So before we get into the reasons why mathematicians really love chalkboards, tell us why are we even talking about this.

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 We discuss the top stories in science, technology, the environment and energy in New Hampshire:  a new biotech manufacturing institute in Manchester; Dyn hacked by the "internet of things"; and how GMOs may help slow the spread of Lyme disease.  We also look at top energy and environment stories, plus advances in indoor farming. 


Most of the batteries we use in our daily life are made from chemicals, and many of those chemicals are toxic.  Researchers at the University of New Hampshire are working with technology that uses water instead of those toxic chemicals.  Water has not been a great material for building a battery, but this research may change that. 

Granite Geek: How to Monitor Space Weather

Nov 30, 2016
UNH

If regular people ever get to travel to space, we’ll have to contend with something astronauts already worry about: space weather. That weather comes in the form of something called “solar wind”, which is generated by the charged particles thrown off by the sun. It can affect satellites, our atmosphere here on Earth, and any space travelers.

When 3-D printing first emerged, it inspired visions of a world where we could print any real-life object with the click of a button. And hype hasn't yet subsided...just click over to HBO's hit show Westworld, where the technology plays a key role in a futuristic vision of near-real robotic human (and animal) "hosts" designed for recreation. In the real world, however, 3-D printing is still very much in its evolutionary phase. 

jdurham / Morguefile

Last week, the Manchester-based company Dyn was the subject of a DDOS cyberattack that brought down major websites like Twitter and the Boston Globe for several hours. It’s the kind of attack that can essentially hijack devices connected to the internet and turn them all against a specific target.  And it can happen again.

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