Email Print Share

Science Behind the News

Science Behind the News is a fast-paced video series that explores the science, technology, engineering and mathematics behind current events. Each video features at least one interview with a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded scientist or researcher.

"Science Behind the News" was produced in 2013 by NBC Learn in partnership with NSF.

Episode 1. Predictive Policing

"The Los Angeles Police Department is using a new tactic in their fight against crime called "predictive policing." It's a computer program that was originally developed by a team at UCLA, including mathematician Andrea Bertozzi and anthropologist Jeff Brantingham.

 View video (4:03 min.)

Episode 2. Impacts on Jupiter

The impact of comets on the surface of Jupiter are a fairly common experience. At the University of Central Florida, astronomers Joseph Harrington and Csaba Palotai are leading a project that studies precisely how these impacts happen, and also provides valuable information about what might happen if such a comet struck Earth.

 View video (4:52 min.)

Episode 3. Bio-Inspired Materials

In the search for the next groundbreaking tough material, scientists like David Kisalus from the University of California, Riverside are looking to nature for inspiration, including under the sea where one little crustacean packs a walloping punch - the peacock mantis shrimp.

 View video (4:13 min.)

Episode 4. Drug-Resistant Bacteria

As disease-causing bacteria becomes increasingly resistant to antibiotics, scientists like Erin Carlson from Indiana University are turning to natural sources to find new medicines.

 View video (4:46 min.)

Episode 5. Quantum Computing

Imagine if engineers could build a computer to be millions of times faster than anything that exists today, yet so small it's microscopic. John Preskill, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology, explains the science behind quantum computing, the next great frontier in computer science.

 View video (4:27 min.)

Episode 6. Allergies

Seasonal allergies affect more than 40 million Americans each year. Plant biologist Kristina Stinson of Harvard University explains how allergies affect the body, and why warmer weather could lead to longer, more severe allergy seasons.

 View video (4:18 min.)

Episode 7. Crowdsourcing

When humans and computers work together, they can find solutions to many different types of problems. Luis von Ahn, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, explains the science behind crowdsourcing and how the concept is helping solve such diverse problems as digitizing books online and translating the web to foreign languages.

 View video (4:57 min.)

Episode 8. Extrasolar Planets

Extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, are planets that orbit stars other than our sun. Astronomers like Dr. William Welsh at San Diego State University primarily use two methods to detect these distant planets: Doppler and Transit methods.

 View video (4:35 min.)

Episode 9. Tornadoes

Tornadoes are violent, twisting columns of air with wind speeds over 100 miles per hour that can tear communities apart. Josh Wurman, an atmospheric scientist, explains that tornadoes develop in a special type of thunderstorm called a supercell, but says there are still mysteries to unravel.

 View video (4:08 min.)

Episode 10. Influenza & Flu Vaccines

Every flu season, Americans battle coughs, fevers and body aches. The flu is a respiratory illness caused by a virus, a pathogen that causes disease in the human body. To understand how the flu is caught, spread and treated, Duke University's Katia Koelle explains the biology of a virus and how it is transmitted.

 View video (4:02 min.)

Episode 11. Tomato - Decoded

A 14-nation consortium of geneticists and bioinformatics specialists deciphers the sequence and location of the 35,000 genes of the tomato, an international food crop. This video focuses on the work done by American researchers, who explain the process of genome sequencing, and how a sequenced genome aids plant breeders.

 View video (11:17 min.)

Episode 12. Opinion Polls & Random Sampling

During political elections, news organizations often use public opinion polls to help gauge which candidate is the front runner, and why. University of Michigan's Dr. Vincent Hutchings explains the science of random sampling that makes it possible to query a few hundred or thousand people and use that data to accurately determine how the general public might vote.

 View video (4:07 min.)