Granite Geek

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

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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Motion-activated cameras installed on Route 3 in New Hampshire’s North Country are trying to get confirmation that the animals biologists think are in that neck of the woods actually are. For more on why scientists are seeking this level of certainty, we turn to David Brooks.

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If you’re looking to build a home or if you’re a civil engineer trying to plan for some big new project, you’re going to want to know what the future will be like for that plot of land you’d like to build on. Climate change makes that difficult. It’s hard to predict, for example, what rainfall will be, or whether ocean levels will rise. How, then, do we proceed with investments in our personal or collective futures?

Texas A&M AgriLife

Algae blooms in lakes and ponds across northern New England are becoming more and more common. These can kill fish and cause terrible odors. Now there’s an app to track these blooms. BloomWatch allows users to easily report when they know of a pond that has suddenly blossomed with microscopic bacteria. Granite Geek David Brooks has been writing about the app for his column this week in The Concord Monitor and he spoke with NHPR’s All Things Considered host Peter Biello.

Pete Wright via Unsplash

“Makerspaces” are popping up in cities across the country, and the New Hampshire town of Amherst is about to get one of its own. These places usually charge a monthly fee for access to tools that might be too costly to buy and store at your home. For example, 3D printers, welding gear, table saws—all tools that may require a large investment for your relatively small project.

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RGGI turns ten years old this month. RGGI—that’s the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative—was conceived as an agreement between seven northeast states, including New Hampshire, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions created by the production of electricity.

David P. Whelan / Morguefile

It’s easy enough to check the weather before you head out for a hike. Maybe you click on the weather app on your smartphone, scan for thunderstorms, and plan accordingly. But when it comes to going for a swim, real-time information on water conditions is not just a click away.

David Brooks / Concord Monitor

As software becomes more sophisticated, it has taken over jobs usually completed by humans or machines. A new kind of software technology called “Software-Defined Networking” is enabling software to take the place of certain kinds of machinery. A lab in Durham has recently begun taking a closer look at Software-Defined Networking, and Granite Geek David Brooks joined NHPR’s Peter Biello to give us the details.

Bruce Marlin / Creative Commons

It’s an almost magical aspect of summer nights in New Hampshire: the sight of fireflies glowing in the darkness, hoping to attract mates. Granite Geek David Brooks recently began to worry about the population of fireflies. It seemed to him like there were fewer of them. So like any good journalist, he went to an expert to gain insight on this observation, and he joins me now to talk about what he found. David’s here now. Welcome.

Peter Biello

As the world’s population increases, so does the demand for food. One way to keep up with demand would be, logically, to just produce more food. Some argue that a better strategy would be to simply stop wasting so much food. Granite Geek David Brooks writes about food waste for his column this week in The Concord Monitor and he joined NHPR’s Peter Biello to discuss his findings.

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If a video designed to recruit people into extremist groups pops up online, it stands to reason that you could just flag it to have it removed and the problem is solved. But that’s not so easy. These videos are easily replicated, so one video could suddenly appear on a variety of websites. It’s time-consuming to track down and try to remove each one. One professor at Dartmouth College has developed software that would help find all those copies.

Granite Geek: What is "Rock Snot?"

Jun 29, 2016

Researchers say an algae called "rock snot" that was thought to be an invasive species in the Northeast is actually native to the northern United States. So if “rock snot” has been here for a long time, why haven’t we noticed it before? To answer this question we turn to Granite Geek David Brooks. He’s a reporter with The Concord Monitor and writer at, and he joined NHPR’s Peter Biello to discuss the matter. 


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When a city replaces its old-fashioned streetlights with efficient LED lights, it can save a bundle of money on its electricity bills. But it can also dramatically increase light pollution, which is really unpleasant for astronomers and those among of us who like to do a little star-gazing on cloudless nights. The kind of light these LEDs emit can cloud our view of constellations.

Keene State College

Students at Keene State University are using a flat aquatic worm to study some rare human diseases. And the research began because of something unexpected that occurred in the course of some very basic research.

David Brooks is a reporter for the Concord Monitor and writer at He joined NHPR’s Peter Biello to discuss the story behind this flatworm research.

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Here’s a philosophical question for you: was math invented or was it discovered?

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Massive Open Online Courses, also known as MOOCs, have become a popular way in recent years to take a course at a prestigious university without having to pay for it. You can view the course material online and follow a lesson plan. Some of these require payment for any kind of official certification, but the lessons are free, and several universities, including MIT, Harvard, and Dartmouth, are offering these. A MOOC at Dartmouth uses illustrations made by the Vermont Center for Cartoon Studies to help teach basic engineering concepts.

It’s time to stuff your pants into your socks because we’re entering tick season in New Hampshire.

David Brooks is a reporter for the Concord Monitor and writes the weekly Granite Geek column. He's hosting a Science Café this evening at which the topic will be Lyme disease. He spoke with All Things Considered host Peter Biello.

David, the drought made it hard for the ticks to survive. How badly did it damage the tick population?

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Next time you’re heading through Hooksett, N.H. on I-93, look for a Tesla electric car stopped at one of the dozen charging stations. Chances are, you won’t find a Tesla or any other kind of electric vehicle there. These stations are not used very often. David Brooks, reporter for The Concord Monitor and writer at, spoke with NHPR’s All Things Considered host Peter Biello about why these charging stations are so infrequently used.

trestletech / Morguefile

If you’ve ever wanted to change the color of something—your car, a wall in your dining room, or even your shirt—you may have wished that you could just snap your fingers and voila, you’ve got a new color. It’s a skill that cephalopods like squid and octopuses have already mastered. Now some scientists are studying this ability in squid so they can learn how to make materials and fabrics change color in the blink of an eye.

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Artificial intelligence has come a long way in the past few decades, and recently it’s taken a step forward that has left some folks feeling a little dismayed. A computer program is now able to beat the best Go players in the world—something it hasn’t been able to do before. And it did so by learning. The computer was able to study millions of examples of the game and learn how to beat human competitors. NHPR's Peter Biello spoke with David Brooks, a reporter for The Concord Monitor and writer at, about "deep learning." 

Mallory Parkington via Flickr CC /

If you live near a river, chances are you’ve imagined what kind of damage a flood could do to your home. It’s difficult to predict what exactly a hard rainfall could bring. And, as we speak, a volunteer network that stretches beyond New Hampshire’s borders is gathering data on rainfall with the goal of predicting likelihood of flooding or other potential hazards. For more on these efforts, we turn to David Brooks. He’s a reporter for The Concord Monitor and writer at Granite

Imagine a world where people could choose genetic traits like eye color for their children. This science fiction could be fact due to new gene modification technology called CRISPR.

Here to explain this new technology is David Brooks. He’s a reporter for the Concord Monitor and a writer at Granite

So, explain for us briefly, what is CRISPR?

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As average rainfall increases, the culvert becomes an increasingly important part of our infrastructure. These pipes that run under roads allow easy passage for creeks and streams too small to merit actual bridges, but poorly-constructed or undersized culverts could pose huge transportation problems in the event of heavy rains.

You may not have put much thought into the design of the signs on the highway, but right now engineers in New Hampshire are giving careful to how these signs reflect light. An experiment on Interstate 93 is comparing two different kinds of reflectivity to find out which is easier to read at night. Granite Geek David Brooks spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello.

The town of Peterborough has quietly become the administrative headquarters of the Clay Mathematics Institute, the nonprofit organization that’s seeking answers to seven of the problems that mathematicians have been wrestling with for years. The prize for solving any one of these problems is $1 million. But how did it end up in Peterborough, New Hampshire? Concord Monitor reporter David Brooks spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello. 

Why is Peterborough, New Hampshire now the headquarters for the Clay Mathematics Institute?

Granite Geek: Wikipedia Turns Fifteen!

Jan 12, 2016

Wikipedia, the world’s largest encyclopedia, will be celebrating its 15th birthday this week with events across the globe. One those events will be held Saturday at Harvard University. For a look at Wikipedia’s first fifteen, we turn to David Brooks. He’s a reporter for The Concord Monitor and writes at He spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello. 

American Chestnut Foundation

  These days our world seems to grow ever faster. Of course, faster is a relative term - for the scientists trying to revive the American chestnut tree, even the fastest work still takes years.

Right now Santa and his elves are working hard to build presents in time for Christmas. To build toys for all the good boys and girls on the nice list, how big would Santa’s workshop actually have to be? Granite Geek David Brooks did some "research" on this very question. He writes for The Concord Monitor and He spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello.

David, unfortunately you were not given a tour of Santa's workshop, so you just have to take some educated guesses, right?

Premshee Pillai via Flickr Creative Commons

You’ve heard of a megawatt, a unit of electricity that represents a million watts, or, in other words, enough electricity to power about 1-thousand homes. But you may not have heard of the nega-watt—that’s nega with an “n.” The nega-watt is a term used to describe what happens when businesses are paid to reduce their need for electricity. That, in turn, reduces strain on the grid, and in theory is a good idea to those who want to save the environment.

Jomegat / Wikimedia Commons

Evolving technology can sometimes make the things we use outmoded. For example: when’s the last time you’ve dragged your typewriter to work? But then again, typewriters are still useful at town clerk’s offices for some paperwork. One company in Boscawen still manufactures leather industrial products like belts and straps that aren’t used as often as they once were, but are still tremendously important to the businesses that need them. For more on Page Belting Company, we turn to David Brooks.