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Perspecsys Photos / www.perspecsys.com

After high-profile hacks in the private sector and an embarrassing theft of information from government personnel files, President Barack Obama set up a commission on enhancing national cybersecurity. The commission is due to make its long term recommendations by early December on tightening cybersecurity in the private sector and in the government. It's part of Obama's $19 billion proposal to boost defenses against hackers. 

Mike Mozart / Flickr

With the lawsuits between North Carolina and the Department of Justice and widespread boycotts of establishments like Target for their inclusive bathroom policies, transgender rights have been dominating the news cycle. In the middle of the politics and punditry, it's easy to lose sight of what being transgender actually means. Jay Irwin, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, says language is a good place to start.

Jill Pruetz

Through observation and carefully controlled study, human understanding of the behavior and intelligence of other creatures has grown exponentially over the last 40 years. Yet, there’s still so much unknown.

In his new book, aptly titled, primatologist Frans de Waal addresses the provocative question, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? Charity Nebbe talks with De Waal about the extent of human understanding and how animal intelligence is studied during this Talk of Iowa interview. 

Joanna Bourne / Flickr

Like most institutions, the University of Iowa uses coal in its power plants. It, however, also has a hyper-local source of fuel: discarded oat hulls from the Quaker Oats factory in Cedar Rapids.  With a landmark change in regulation between the university and the DNR, plus a dash of good weather, University of Iowa is able to explore a different type of fuel type. Ben Fish, associate director of Utilities and Energy Management at the University of Iowa, joined Clare Roth to discuss their efforts.

NASA

On Christmas Eve 1968, nine-year-old Clayton Anderson watched on television as Apollo 8 traveled to the far side of the moon. That night, his dreams of being an astronaut were born.

"I was enamored. I was just transfixed by what was happening," he says.

Anderson realized his dream. He's a veteran of two space flights and spent five months aboard the international space station in 2007. He's written about his life in space and on Earth in the new book, The Ordinary Spaceman: From Boyhood Dreams to Astronaut.

Photo Courtesy of Karim Abdel-Malek

Santos and Sophia are soldiers that will never see combat. That’s because they exist solely as simulations in the University of Iowa’s Virtual Soldier Research Program. Thanks to a new $2.6 million grant from the Office of Naval Research, they’re equipped to model even more behaviors to prevent injuries for real-life marines.

Karim Abdel-Malek, the director of the program, says the stream of new designs of army equipment necessitates lengthy, costly trials that take up Marines’ valuable time.

Kentucky Country Day

A national survey from 2011 shows that 60 percent of teachers avoid the topic of evolution in their classrooms.

courtesy of H.S. Udaykumar

In much of the developing world, fossil fuels and electricity are too expensive to be legitimate options for cooking. Instead, people there use wood burning stoves that create environmental impacts of their own, chief among them desertification of the forests that supply the wood, and soot released when the wood fails to burn completely.

Daniel Filipe/flickr

Plant fossils at the Palenteology Depository at the University of Iowa are getting a new home and a new reorganization so they can be more useful to researchers around the world. 

Collections manager Tiffany Adrain says more than 20,000 specimens collected over the last ten years will be catalogued for the first time.  

They’re also being rehoused in a safer environment.

Christopher Gannon

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer talks with Jim Davis, associate professor of information systems at Iowa State University, and two Iowa State University students, Steff Bisinger and Jason Johnson, about what it’s like to work in the booming field of cyber security.

Mark Mathison of Iowa State University unearthed the fossil of a skull that belonged to a fox more than 4 million years ago in Ethiopia.

The fossil has now been named Vulpes mathisoni, or “Mathison’s fox” after it's finder. In this Talk of Iowa interview, Charity Nebbe talks with Mathison about the discovery, what it was like to unearth and research a fossil skull among the culture and politics of several Ethiopian tribes, as well as some of his other adventures as a geologist.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars has been receiving a lot of attention recently. In the new Ridley Scott movie, The Martian, a NASA botanist is stranded on Mars and has to rely on his own ingenuity to survive. In real life, scientists have discovered evidence of present day water on the red planet.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer sits down with astrophysicists, Steve Kawaler of Iowa State University and Jasper Halekas of the University of Iowa, along with retired NASA astronaut, Clayton Anderson, to discuss the accuracy and impact of films like The Martian.

MjZ Photography / Flickr

Rey Junco, an associate professor in the school of education at Iowa State University, believes the long-held wisdom is true--if you want to do well in class, you have to spend time with the material. But with shifty students who might inflate how much time they're spending reading, he's had to get more creative with how he collects data.

"We often identify students who are struggling by their grades--by their poor grades or their poor attendance or something that we can measure. But often by the time we've measured it, it's too late."

Flickr / dawgfanjeff

People near Iowa City planning to watch tonight’s super-lunar eclipse, are invited to the roof of Van Allen Hall at the University of Iowa. A group of UI astronomers is holding a public viewing of the phenomena which occurs once perhaps only two or three decades.

teachernz, licensed under Creative Commons / Flickr

If you see lumps or weird shapes on the leaves of your oak tree, don't panic, says Laura Jesse, director of the Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic at Iowa State University. She says it's likely a gall, which is harmless to the plant.

"They're the most interesting shapes," says Jesse, who calls them "beautiful." Jesse also says if you break them open you can usually find a wasp larvae that began feeding on the tree and prompted it to grow a gall around the insect.

Lwp Kommunikáció / Flickr

Hollywood has played out the disaster of an asteroid hitting Earth in films like  Armageddon  and Deep Impact, but is a killer asteroid really in Earth’s future? 

"According to previous history, it will happen during the next 100 years," says Bong Wei, the founding director of the Asteroid Deflection Research Center. "It's time to see an impact by say, a 50 meter asteroid."

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center / Flickr

After nine years of travel, the space probe New Horizons finally flew by its target this Tuesday. Jasper Halekas, associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa, worked on a similar project, MAVEN, that focused on Mars. He says the New Horizons mission is historic.

Emily Woodbury

Humans have now had access to the sky for more than a century thanks to engineering and ingenuity, but the evolution of the human brain has not kept up with its creations.

MIKI Yoshihito / flickr

What do snakes, turtles, zebra fish, and a program called CRISPR have in common? They are all involved in genomic research happening right here in Iowa.

The new Jurassic World movie is now in theaters, and there’s also recent controversial news that for the first time, Chinese scientists have edited DNA in human embryos.

John Pemble/IPR

A Republican lawmaker who negotiated an agreement with the Governor to delay the closings of the mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda is defending the plan against Democratic critics.

Representative David Heaton of Mount Pleasant says without the compromise, the Governor would have used his veto power to force the closings on June 30th

Under the compromise, the facilities will stay open through December 15th, and then later reopen as private facilities.   

Markus Spring / Flickr

Preventing security leaks in information systems can be a frustrating endeavor that often leads back to a simple question: why do people violate the rules when they know of the dangerous consequences?

In order to answer that question, Dr. Qing Hu, a Union Pacific Professor in Information Systems at Iowa State University, decided to go straight to the source: the brain.

Linda Nebbe

Birth order has long been considered an indicator of personality, but the relationships we have with our siblings may have an even larger impact.

"Not only are siblings with us for the entire ride, [...] they're with us in our formative years. They're with us when our social software, our emotional software is still being booted up. And since they're there in those primal stages, they're also the people who help write those lines of code."

Michael Sauers / Flickr

Iowa's driver's licensing laws set it apart from most of the country. Teenagers can get learner's permits at fourteen, permits to drive to school after six months of instruction, and fairly unrestricted licenses at sixteen. But that may be putting young Iowans at risk.

Anne McCarte is Senior Vice President for Research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. She says teens' inexperience, coupled with their propensity to take risks, causes a disproportionately high rate of crashes.

Jad Abumrad on Unanswered Questions and Making Concepts Dance

Apr 2, 2015
PopTech / flickr

What does a shrimp sees when it looks at a rainbow? How well can we really know the minds of animals? Why do we blink?

These are some of the questions that Radiolab creator and co-host, Jad Abumrad, tackles with each episode of his show.

Bret Hartman / TED Conference / flickr

David Gallo is a pioneer in mapping ocean terrain.

Budi Nusyirwan / Flickr

This month the Federal Aviation Administration released proposed guidelines for commercial unmanned aerial systems—commonly known as ‘drones.’

Paul Plummer

Drastic climate change and disease is threatening the lives of camels in East Africa and the herders who rely on them.  

European Southern Observatory / Flickr

The Kepler mission has found thousands of potentially habitable planets. But how can we truly know if they sustain life?

Pam Keller / Courtesy of Clare Roth

Cell phones have undeniably changed the way we communicate with one another.

Darwin Day

Jan 29, 2015
CGP Grey / flickr / http://www.cgpgrey.com/

Charles Darwin has a birthday next month, and science lovers all over the world will take time to celebrate the man who unraveled so many of the mysteries surrounding our origins, and those of our fellow animals.

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