Granite Geek

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

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?

xandert / Morguefile

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.

Public Domain / NASA

We’re going far out into space for this next conversation, beyond what’s called the heliosphere. That’s the protective bubble that the sun creates by giving off something called solar wind. To give you an idea of how big the heliosphere is—it extends beyond Pluto. NASA’s Voyager 1 broke through the heliosphere a few years ago, but the magnetic field data that it gathered didn’t match what scientists expected to find.   

Flikr Creative Commons / BiologyCorner

New numbers released by the College Board show that for every New Hampshire girl who took the AP or “Advanced Placement” exam in computer science, more than 7 boys took it. It’s just one example of the gender divide in fields of study in New Hampshire. David Brooks, a reporter for The Concord Monitor and writer at, spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello. 

That number is huge. More than seven boys, actually 7.47 boys, for every one girl taking the AP computer science exam. Is this surprising to you?

JonJon2k8 via Flickr Creative Commons

This far into the campaign season, polls are generating lots of headlines. And if you live in New Hampshire, polling firms have likely been calling you and hundreds of other Granite Staters. But how do those polling firms find you? How do they choose their questions, and what do they do with your information?  For more on this, we turn to David Brooks who’s a reporter with The Concord Monitor, writer at, and he’s moderating a Science Café panel discussion about this very subject Wednesday, October 21st at 6 p.m.

Dale Van Cor /

Sometimes it's the most basic of technologies that stand the test of time. Take the simple screw. It’s a bit of metal with threads spiraling down a shaft, and yet it holds together most of the products and tools we use every day. But one New Hampshire inventor is challenging that time-honored design. David Brooks, a reporter for the Concord Monitor and writer at, spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello. 

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?

Maena / Morguefile

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?