Science & Technology

Reports focusing on the latest science and technology news and trends along California's Central Coast.

Are animal sounds speech or music? Researchers trying to find out

Nov 20, 2017
Courtesy of UC Merced

Ever hear birds chirp and wonder if they’re talking to each other? Cognitive scientists at University of California at Merced can now answer that question, using a new method for sound analysis. And when they listened closely, they found that some animal speech patterns were a lot like our own.

Courtesy of NASA.

NASA has scuttled a spacecraft circling the planet Saturn and its moons for the past 13 years. The Cassini mission ended around 4 a.m. Friday when the spacecraft purposely steered into Saturn’s atmosphere and disintegrated in a fiery blaze. A scientist working on the Cassini mission is giving a free public talk this weekend at Cal Poly on the mission and the marvels it revealed.

Behind the scenes with Atascadero's robotics champions

Aug 2, 2017
Courtesy of Team 973

A Central Coast high school robotics team is number one in the country. Atascadero High School's Greybots team won gold at the 2017 championships, held in Houston, Texas. Last week, KQED's John Sepulvado visited the team at their workshop and brings us this report:

Ticket to Tech aims to open doors on IT careers

Jun 1, 2017
Greta Mart/KCBX

There’s a new opportunity in San Luis Obispo County, one that could be transformative for those with the potential and motivation to forge themselves a new career in the world of technology. 

The March for Science is taking place on Saturday, April 22. In what is now a global event, scientists and those who support science-based evidence will be hitting the streets in mass marches, similar to the Women’s March on January 21. In a mission statement, organizers say the event “champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.” 

April 12 on the Cal Poly campus, there is a free public presentation by one of the world's foremost astronomers, Dr. Fran Bagenal. KCBX invited Cal Poly astronomy professor Dr. John Keller and Joseph Carro, the president of the Central Coast Astronomical Society, to the studio to hear more about Dr. Bagenal and her presentation, learning astronomy at Cal Poly, and stargazing on the Central Coast. 

Greta Mart/KCBX


A Cal Poly professor and his research team were given a grant from the US Department of Agriculture for almost half a million dollars last week to study solutions to food waste.

Cal Poly economics department chair Steve Hamilton said his research team aims to reduce food waste not only at the consumer level, but at every step of the process, from farmers, to retailers and to consumers. 

Vandenberg Air Force Base

 The Atlas V rocket on Vandenberg Air Force Base launched successfully this morning.


The rocket carries the WorldView-4 imaging and data satellite into orbit.


A rocket launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base that was delayed back in September because of a wildfire is now scheduled to be launched this Friday, Veterans Day.


NPR's hit podcast, Hidden Brain, explores the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior. There's several new episodes coming out this fall. KCBX's Bree Zender sat down with Shankar Vedantam, Hidden Brain's host and creator, to talk about making the podcast.

Can Slow-Moving Art Disrupt Our Hectic Routines?

Sep 16, 2016

Part 6 of the TED Radio Hour episode Slowing Down

About Gabriel Barcia-Colombo's TED Talk

Early in his career, video artist Gabriel Barcia-Colombo noticed the way people breeze past works of art. He describes how his deliberate, slow-moving installations encourage people to stop and think.

About Gabriel Barcia-Colombo

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Slowing Down

About Tim Urban's TED Talk

Blogger Tim Urban explains his process of extreme procrastination in which his brain wages war between instant gratification and the moment of pure panic just before a deadline.

About Tim Urban

Dinosaurs at Texas Tech university
Thomas Wilmer


Join correspondent Tom Wilmer reporting from the Museum of Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Come along and join Dr. Gary Morgan CEO where he shares his passion for the multidisciplinary showcase of everything from giant dinosaurs to a premier collection of Southwest and Native American Art. 

Channel Islands National Park

Archeologists are excited about what's being described as an "unusual find" on one of the Channel Islands. 

What Can We Gain By Writing A Letter By Hand?

Aug 26, 2016

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Slowing Down

About Lakshmi Pratury's TED Talk

Lakshmi Pratury reflects on the dozens of letters she received from her father, while he was alive, and on the painstaking time it takes to pen a letter.

About Lakshmi Pratury

When Was The Last Time You Did Absolutely Nothing?

Aug 26, 2016

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Slowing Down

About Andy Puddicombe's TED Talk

Mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe says one path to happiness is ten minutes, each day, to stop and enjoy the sensation of doing nothing.

About Andy Puddicombe

Can Slowing Down Help You Be More Creative?

Aug 26, 2016

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Slowing Down

About Adam Grant's TED Talk

Despite being a self-described 'pre-crastinator, psychologist Adam Grant says those who slow down — even procrastinate — tend to be more creative, original thinkers.

About Adam Grant

How Will 'Cut And Paste' Technology Rewrite Our DNA?

Jul 15, 2016

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode What Makes Us ... Us

About Sam Sternberg's TED Talk

Biochemist Sam Sternberg describes how recent developments in gene editing technology may help end many diseases and even control our own evolution.

About Sam Sternberg

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode What Makes Us ... Us

About Steven Pinker's TED Talk

Psychologist Steven Pinker describes how far we've come in understanding how both nature and nurture make us ... us.

About Steven Pinker

Where Does Consciousness Come From?

Jul 15, 2016

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode What Makes Us ... Us

About John Searle's TED Talk

Philosopher John Searle argues that consciousness is what makes us human. He makes the case for studying consciousness and accepting it as a biological phenomenon.

About John Searle

John Searle has contributed to contemporary thinking about consciousness, language, artificial intelligence and rationality.

Are You Ready To Take The 'Human' Test?

Jul 15, 2016

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode What Makes Us ... Us

About Ze Frank's TED Talk

If you've ever wondered: Am I human? — humorist Ze Frank offers an idiosyncratic quiz that can help provide the answer.

About Ze Frank

In 2001, Humorist and web artist Ze Frank's party invite to 17 friends — "How To Dance Properly" — went viral.

Can A 75-Year-Old Study Deliver Wisdom For All Of Us?

Jun 10, 2016

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Becoming Wise

About Robert Waldinger's TED Talk

Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger is the director of a 75-year-old study on happiness and satisfaction. He shares what he has learned, as well as his wisdom on how to find fulfillment.

About Robert Waldinger

Jay Thompson - Cal Poly

Scientists at Cal Poly are headed back to the drawing board after a semi-successful test this afternoon of a space craft prototype known as a LightSail. 

Skatebiker at English Wikipedia

There is a plan in the works to visit Alpha Centauri, the nearest star beyond our own Sun. It's a journey of some 25 trillion miles. 

Geovanni Ximénez-García

Space debris and the location of satellites is a top concern for the U.S. military's missile program which is why leaders from the Department of Defense are working closely with scientists in Cal Poly’s CubeSat program. 

Cal Poly, Dennis Steers

Cal Poly recently received a five-year, $2.6 million grant for its regenerative medicine program from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).

Still from video posted by @elonmusk Instagram

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said this week that fog at Vandenberg Air Force Base may be partially to blame for the company's failure to bring its Falcon 9 rocket safely back to earth on Sunday. 

Musk posted information on his Instagram account saying one of the rocket's legs didn't latch properly, causing it to tip over. 

"The root cause may have been ice buildup due to condensation from heavy fog at liftoff," Musk said.

Video of the rocket landing attempt shows the Falcon 9 setting down on target, but then slowly toppling over and exploding on impact.

Satellite to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base will measure world's rising sea levels

Jan 15, 2016

Several agencies at Vandenberg Air Force base are preparing to launch a satellite Sunday that will measure the effects of climate change on the world's oceans. 

UC Santa Barbara

A local professor is receiving the nation's highest honors in science and technology.

The White House announced Tuesday UC Santa Barbara's Arthur Gossard, Ph.D., will receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. 

City of Santa Barbara

Residents and visitors to Santa Barbara could hear some unusual sounds in the coming weeks as the city works to improve its sewer system.