Science and Technology

In the near future, so-called smart materials may eliminate the need for batteries in hybrid cars and in solar panels. Cornell Ciocanel is a mechanical engineer at Northern Arizona University. He’s developing a new smart material that’s strong enough to be used in the body of a car and also stores electricity like a battery.

Brain Food: Ice Age Art

Mar 6, 2014
Courtesy of Ekkehart Malotki

A Northern Arizona University professor emeritus says he’s never seen anything like a recent find in the Utah desert. This, despite 25 years spent studying rock art at thousands of sites. Retired ethnolinguist Ekkehart Malotki is researching what could be the oldest known realistic engravings of Columbian mammoths in the Western Hemisphere: petroglyphs from the Ice Age near the San Juan River.

Brain Food: Bagging an Asteroid

Feb 27, 2014
Courtesy photo

NASA wants to catch an asteroid, place it into orbit around the Earth, and send astronauts to retrieve pieces of it for scientific study. The agency just needs the right asteroid. NASA has asked Northern Arizona University astronomer David Trilling, one of the world’s foremost asteroid experts, to find it — a task much easier said than done.

Photo courtesy of David Winslow Van Ness

Suppose you need a wrench, or a knee replacement, or a hamburger. David Winslow Van Ness says, not a problem. In the not-too-distant future, just print one out.

Brain Food: Valentine's Day In The Natural World

Feb 13, 2014
Trees For Life

As we get ready to celebrate Valentine's Day, Northern Arizona University ecology professor Nancy Collins Johnson reminds us that we can learn a lot about relationships from nature. Collins is a soils expert who studies mycorrhizal symbiosis - or, healthy relationships between fungi and the roots of plants.

Brain Food: The Discovery Channel Telescope

Jan 23, 2014
Len Bright/Lowell Observatory

The highly sensitive camera of Lowell Observatory's Discovery Channel Telescope is painting a brighter picture of faint objects in the universe.

Brain Food: Spring-Loaded Muscles

Jan 16, 2014
Danielle Borth, NAU Office of Public Affairs

A Northern Arizona University regents’ biology professor is studying how the speed with which frogs catch insects can improve the mechanics of artificial limbs for humans. Kiisa Nishikawa has discovered the connection is a protein called titin. It essentially enables muscles to “think,” reacting in milliseconds, rather than waiting for a signal from the brain.

Brain Food: Growing Human Skin

Dec 5, 2013
Bonnie Stevens/KNAU

Step into Robert Kellar's physiology and anatomy class at NAU and you'll learn how the human body works. But, step into his lab an you'll learn how to grow human skin. Dr. Kellar can teach plants how to manufacture human protein.

Bonnie Stevens/KNAU

It's estimated that by the new year, more than 60 million Americans will be using iPads. NAU geologist Lisa Skinner is already using them in the field with her students as a geologist time machine of sorts.

Brain Food: The One Gene Difference

Nov 14, 2013

Some scientists predict the Southwest will continue on its warming trend. NAU biology professor Tom Whitham says the rise in temperatures is happening so fast - 3 degrees in the last 60 years - that many plants are not able to adapt and survive.