Science Behind The News

The National Science Foundation in partnership with NBC learn bring you the first story in this new series examining the science of political polls and random sampling

Science Behind The News: Quantum Computing

Science Behind The News: 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.

Science Behind the News: Predictive Policing

Science Behind the News: 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.

Science Behind The News: Bio-Inspired Materials

Science Behind The News: 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.

Science Behind The News: Impacts On Jupiter

Science Behind The News: 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.

Science Behind The News: Crowdsourcing

Science Behind The News: 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.

Science Behind The News: Tomato - Decoded

Science Behind The News: Tomato - Decoded

The size, shape, skin thickness, color and taste of tomatoes are all traits determined by their genes. Now, scientists from 14 nations, including the U.S., have sequenced the tomato genome the order and location of the tomato's 35,000 genes.

Science Behind The News: Extrasolar Planets

Science Behind The News: 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.

Science Behind The News: Allergies

Science Behind The News: Allergies

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

Science Behind The News: Tornadoes

Science Behind The News: 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 that there are still mysteries to unravel.

Science Behind The News: Influenza & Flu Vaccines

Science Behind The News: 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.

Science Behind The News: Opinion Polls & Random Sampling

Science Behind The News: 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.