Science news


The Daviess County Detention Center has a new state-of-the-art body scanner to help cut down on contraband.

Jailer David Osborne says Daviess County has problems common to most jails and prisons – the continuing and increasing amount of contraband being smuggled in, especially drugs.

“It seems that nowadays people are getting smarter about how they try to smuggle it and most of the time now it’s actually in body cavities. Even in the jail, once they’re in here, they just keep it stored there, if you can imagine, in balloons or in plastic bags or whatever.”

The body scanner is similar to the machines used at airports, but it has two views from different angles to help detect hidden drugs or other items.

The scanner has advanced technology called DruGuard. The software component outlines the part of the body of the person being scanned where drugs may be concealed.

Osborne says the scanner is especially important for inmates who leave the jail for work assignments,  where they sometimes try to arrange drug deals.

“You name it, they’ll smuggle anything in and everything in here , you see, is valuable. And it’s dangerous, because it causes the inmates to want to fight each other to get that drug. Or when they get high it causes problems for our staff."

Osborne says the $150,000 scanner is an important step to increase safety. He says the new technology may eventually allow the jail to do away with strip searches.

National Corvette Museum

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky is marking the second anniversary of a sinkhole collapse with a new multimedia exhibit. 

 The “Corvette Cave-In” installation opens Feb. 12, two years to the day that a sinkhole opened up beneath the museum and swallowed eight classic cars.

National Corvette Museum Education Coordinator Kellie Steen says one part of the exhibit gives visitors  a chance to experience the region’s karst geography, where limestone creates underground streams, caverns and sinkholes.

Just like every other place on the globe, Kentucky will be affected by the agreements made at the United Nations conference on climate change being held in Paris.

Rezaul Mahmood is a professor at Western Kentucky University and associate director of the Kentucky Climate Center. He served on a national climate advisory committee and says this is a good time for Kentucky leaders to look for opportunities related to new climate change policies. 

“The technology part of it, that’s a very important part. A lot of  people, a lot of states and other countries are investing in energy efficient technology, green technology," said Mahmood. "And they are going to be selling those things to other people.” 

Mahmood said Kentucky can boost its economy by developing technology to address global warming, energy efficiency and public health issues, like the temperature changes that can affect pollen and allergies.

At the Paris climate conference, world leaders are attempting to develop international agreements to slow global warming. Mahmood, who is a professor of geology and geography, says the nation has already seen some of the effects with increasing health issues related to pollen and allergies.

“If you have warming phase-by-phase, the South becomes warmer first, moving from winter to spring, and then it slowly becomes warmer in the Midwest and Northeast," said Mahmood. "But if it gets all warm at the same time, the pollen and all these things that come out, it becomes a huge health issue for humans.”

Glasgow Electric Plant Board

As the nation examines energy use and its impact on climate change, the Glasgow Electric Plant Board has a $7.4 million grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority for a research project on energy storage in homes. 

The Glasgow Electric Plant Board is spearheading a research project to find out if customers can store energy during off-peak times, and then use it during peak demand hours.

The goal of the Smart Energy Technology Project is to see if cutting edge technology can alter peak demand habits, and in the long-run, reduce the need to build new power plants.

Glasgow Electric Plant Board Superintendent William Ray said this is a chance for the city to provide critical research data that may be used for the nation’s sustainability efforts.             

“The technologies we’re studying are all wrapped around the idea of energy storage," said Ray. "Some of that is direct storage. We’re putting in battery systems that charge off-peak during the middle of the night, and then dispense their stored energy during the day. But we’re treating the whole home as a battery.”

The efforts include putting in new thermostats that will allow the house to save energy by pre-warming or pre-cooling before peak demand times.   

The project will install additional cutting edge equipment such as battery units and water heaters in about 300 homes that have been using large amounts of energy during peak demand times.

Extensive data on energy use will be collected by the leading edge system that’s long been in place.                    

“Glasgow has been the site, the laboratory, for a number of research projects over the years, because in the 80s, we decided to build a broadband network in parallel to our electric system," said Ray. "So we’ve got full-blown data connectivity to every electric meter that we serve. And that turns out to be something that research benefits greatly from.”                       

The goal of the current project is to encourage people to change their habits and adopt new energy-saving technologies. 

SKY Science Festival

A three-day festival kicking off Thursday in Bowling Green hopes to make science accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds. The Sky Science Festival will feature events ranging from a movie aimed at interesting young children in science, to a lecture related to the science of beer brewing and tasting.

Festival activities begin Thursday at WKU, where Colorado author and astrophysicist Jeffrey Bennett who will deliver a talk aimed at explaining how Einstein’s theory of relativity impacts our everyday lives.

“It’s his attempt to make the general theory of relativity palatable to the average layperson who maybe didn’t study astrophysics,” says WKU Planetarium Coordinator Ronn Kistler.

The festival ends Saturday with an expo at Circus Square Park in downtown Bowling Green, including hands-on demonstrations and activity booths where visitors can learn more about science.

You can find more information on the Sky Science Festival here.

"Did you know that every time musicians pick up their instruments, there are fireworks going off all over their brain?"

Don't wait to be invited or encouraged to make a career in science, engineering or technology, Frances Arnold advises the young women she teaches at the California Institute of Technology. If you're a scientist, she says, you should know how to solve a problem.

"Bemoaning your fate is not going to solve the problem," she says. "One has to move forward."


The man known as “The Science Guy” is coming to WKU Wednesday evening. Scientist, author, and former PBS show host Bill Nye will speak at E.A. Diddle Arena as part of the WKU Cultural Enhancement Series.

Nye is a passionate spokesman for science education in the U.S., and he often warns his audiences that the country faces the threat of losing its reputation as the leading global innovator unless it starts putting greater emphasis on teaching young people science and math.

In February, Nye made headlines when he came to northern Kentucky to debate Ken Ham, the president of the group “Answers in Genesis” that operates the Creation Museum in Petersburg.

See the entire debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham here.

Ahead of his appearance in Bowling Green, Nye spoke to WKU Public Radio about science and religion, and what he thinks is the biggest long-term impact of the U.S. underperforming in science and math education.

WKU Public Radio: What do you think will happen to the U.S. if we don’t put greater emphasis on science education?

Nye: The U.S. economy will flag. It will fail. What keeps the United States in the game economically is not our manufacturing, as such—it’s our innovation. It’s our new ideas. This is the reason the U.S. is still doing very well economically around the world, even though all the stuff we wear is made somewhere else, and the cars we drive are largely made elsewhere.

Tom Hanks' love affair with typewriters began in the 1970s, with his first proper typewriter — a Hermes 2000. Typewriters are "beautiful works of art," he tells NPR's Audie Cornish. "And I've ended up collecting them from every ridiculous source possible."

Hanks admits he started his collection when he had a "little excess cash" but, he points out, it's "better to spend it on $50 typewriters than some of the other things you can blow show-business money on."

A Western Kentucky University researcher has been chosen as a co-winner in a "Science Idol" competition in Washington, D.C.

Jill Maples shared the award as a recent symposium on biomedical research excellence. Maples is an assistant professor in WKU's department of kinesiology, recreation and sport.

The symposium was sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.

Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

If you’re up late Friday night – or early Saturday morning, you could be in store for a dramatic light show in the sky.  Dr. Richard Gelderman, director of WKU’s Hardin Planetarium says we could see the best meteor shower of the year – possibly the decade.

“A comet has just passed near the sun and we are about to run into its trail,” said Gelderman.  “That’s going to probably be a whole lot of dust. It’s going to come when the moon is not going to be in the sky, so it will be nice and dark and it will come when our part of the earth is slamming right into the dust stream.”

Gelderman says the best time to view the comet will likely be between midnight and 2 a.m. central time Saturday morning, but he notes those time estimates aren’t always precise.

Abbey Oldham

A WKU professor who served on the panel behind the recently released national climate change report says Kentucky hasn’t been as impacted by climate change as several other states.

But Dr. Rezaul Mahmood says that could change in the coming years.

The WKU Geography and Geology Professor is one of about 60 members of the National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee. The group’s 1,100 page report, released Tuesday, says the impacts of climate change are being seen across the country.

While Kentucky hasn’t seen the degree of temperature change that some western and east-coast states have experienced, the WKU Professor says policy makers and residents in the commonwealth shouldn’t be complacent.

“If changes in other regions happen, that will eventually impact Kentucky, Dr. Mahmood said. "For example, if watersheds in other states are getting lots of rain, or not enough rain, eventually our water supply is going to be affected."

Dr. Mahmood says one way Kentucky has been proactive about climate change has been the creation of a comprehensive drought plan that coordinates efforts at the state and local levels.

One of TV’s best known science educators, Bill Nye, wrapped up this week’s visit to Kentucky by debating the founder of the Creation Museum Tuesday evening.

Ken Ham, the founder and CEO of the museum in Northern Kentucky, challenged Nye to debate the topic, “Is Creationism a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era.”  

Ham believes science can be reconciled with a belief that the world was created in six days and is only six thousand years old, a view that comes from a literal interpretation of the Bible.

“I don’t know of any other religion that has a book that starts off by telling you there’s an infinite God and talks about the origin of the universe and the origin of matter and the origin of light and the origin of darkness and the origin of day and night," Ham said during the debate.

Ham invited Nye to debate following Nye’s 2012 YouTube video in which he stated that teaching divine creation was harmful to children and to American society.

Kentucky Creation Museum Debate Tickets Already Sold Out

Jan 7, 2014

Tickets to an evolution debate with science advocate Bill Nye at Kentucky's Creation Museum have sold out on the first day.

The Creation Museum said in a news release Monday that tickets for the debate in its 900-seat auditorium sold out just minutes after they were offered online in the morning. Nye, a former TV star known as "The Science Guy," has agreed to visit the museum and debate founder Ken Ham.

As a creationist, Ham is a critic of evolution and says the Bible's Old Testament provides the answers to the Earth's beginnings. Nye spoke out against teaching creationism to kids in a YouTube video that went viral last year.

The debate is set for 7 p.m. EST Feb. 4.

Science guy Bill Nye is set to visit Kentucky next month for a debate on science and creation with Creation Museum founder Ken Ham.

Ham wrote on his Facebook page that the museum will play host to Nye, the former host of a popular youth science show, on Feb. 4.

Nye has been critical of creationists for their opposition to evolution and asserting that the Old Testament is a literal account of the earth’s beginnings. Last year in an online video that drew nearly six million views, Nye said teaching creationism was bad for children.

The video prompted a response video from the Creation Museum and Ham later challenged him to a debate.

The event will be titled “Is Creation A Viable Model of Origins?” The museum is planning to charge admission.