Joe's Big Idea
Joe's Big Idea is a new project by NPR Science Correspondent Joe Palca that examines where big ideas come from and how something goes from an idea to a discovery. Follow us at Facebook.com/JoesBigIdea.
September 13, 2013 Lessons in optimism from very ill children inspire pediatric oncologist Jim Olson in his hunt for better treatments for brain tumors. If a boy too sick to get out of bed can still find a way to have a snowball fight with his older brother, then Olson figures he can find ways to improve brain surgery.
September 12, 2013 Cut a tumor from a child's brain and you may save a life. But surgery can hurt the child if healthy brain cells are removed. A Seattle doctor is working on a substance that might help. It binds tightly to cancer cells and makes them glow, so they're easier to distinguish from healthy tissue.
September 5, 2013 Scientists aren't sure exactly why holes form in the hot and glowing outermost layer of gas surrounding the sun. But one theory is that the dark blotches we see on images of the sun could be the remnants of the (relatively) cool splotches called sunspots.
June 24, 2013 A technology called adaptive optics is enabling astronomers to peer into space as never before. The specialized telescopes, which have mirrors that can adjust their shapes up to 1,000 times per second, compensate for the blurring that happens when light passes through Earth's atmosphere.
March 5, 2013 Computer games aren't just for fun anymore — they're also valuable research tools. Scientists are taking complex problems — like trying to figure out how proteins fold and how neural networks work — and turning them into engaging games. And they need your help.
February 14, 2013 Crowd funding has proved popular for bands raising money to produce a new album and for producers of documentary films. Now scientists are getting into the act, and some are raising money from the very people they're studying.
December 27, 2012 There were 138 toothbrush-related patents filed this year in the U.S. Why so many new ideas? "Cleaning the teeth is actually a pretty complex problem, and I think that's why there's been so much invention around it," says the head of Colgate's global toothbrush division.
September 5, 2012 Here's a big idea: Use a cellphone to create a cheap, simple way to diagnose heart problems in countries with no health care system. High school senior Catherine Wong won our "Joe's Big Idea" video contest by inventing a mobile ECG and building a working prototype.
September 5, 2012 Forget the notion of great inventors toiling in isolation. There's plenty of proof that geography has a big influence on innovation, with some cities inspiring far more innovation than others.
August 22, 2012 We received dozens of video entries, and we've seen some great ideas. Now that the votes have been tallied, check out the young innovators who have advanced to the semifinal round.
August 10, 2012 Adam Steltzner, the leader of the Mars rover's entry, descent and landing engineering team, says he was terrified of "a false positive celebration" in the control room. Fortunately for him, Curiosity landed perfectly. Now he's eyeing Jupiter's moon.