The Houston area produces about a quarter of the nation's gasoline, and about a third of the plastics that are in our cars, cupboards and just about everywhere else. So it is no surprise that this heavily industrial area has a problem with air pollution. But in the past decade, Houston's air has improved dramatically.
How that happened is a tale of good science, new technology and a Texas law that prompted companies along the Houston Ship Channel to disclose their emissions.
Move over Archaeopteryx, an older bird just landed on the evolutionary tree.
Scientists writing in Nature magazine, say a feathered, chicken-sized creature known as Aurornis xui, unearthed recently in northeastern China, challenges the "pivotal position of Archaeopteryx" — long regarded as the oldest bird.
This year, nearly 1.7 million students will graduate from college. Many of them are engaged in a new ritual of the digital age: cleaning up and polishing their online profiles. The demand is so great an entire industry has sprung up to help.
According to numerous surveys, the vast majority of hiring managers routinely Google potential job candidates. And what they see on that first page of search results matters — a lot. Just ask Pete Kistler, who was a college junior when he started applying to a bunch of computer software firms, looking for a summer job.
Prescription painkillers are among the most widely used drugs in America. In the decade since New York Times reporter Barry Meier began investigating their use and abuse, he says he has seen the number of people dying from overdoses quadruple — an increase Meier calls "staggering."
"The current statistic is that about 16,000 people a year die of overdoses involving prescription narcotics. ... It's a huge problem. The number of people dying from these drugs is second only to the number of people that die in car accidents," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.
Earlier this month, we told you about a U.N. report that makes the case for insects to improve global food security: They're cheap, plentiful and environmentally sustainable. Now, the coming of the 17-year cicadas provides East Coast Americans, for whom bug eating is considered novel at best, with an opportunity to try local insect cuisine.
We're going to hear now about what could be thought of as the Rip Van Winkle of the plant world. Scientists have found examples of a kind of plant known as bryophytes. And after spending 400 years buried by a glacier, when the ice receded the plants started growing again.
NPR's Joe Palca has more.
JOE PALCA, BYLINE: Bryophytes don't get much respect. They're not the gaudy seed plants people plant in their gardens or give as gifts. Jonathan Shaw runs the bryology lab at Duke University.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm John Donvan in Washington. Neal Conan is away. A small hole in the ground, that's all it looked like the other day in the photo of the Christian Science Monitor, published in its coverage of a tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, a small hole in the ground surrounded on all sides by the wreckage of totally flattened homes, right up to the very edge of that hole in the ground, which oddly is rectangular in shape in the photo and has a door attached to it, flung open.
Now for people who enjoy using technology, it might feel like there's an app for everything. Some are mindless. I mean I'm a little embarrassed to tell you how much time I spend baking fake pizza on my mobile device. Then there are apps that are meant to actually be productive. And let's hear about one of those now.