Joe's Big Idea Joe's Big Idea is a new project by NPR Science Correspondent Joe Palca that examines where scientists' big ideas come from, how they pursue those ideas and how something goes from an idea to a discovery.
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Joe's Big Idea

Exploring how ideas become innovations and inventions

Tianjin, in northern China, is home to Tianjin University, an international research center that recently hired an American to lead its school of pharmaceutical science and technology. He recruits students from all over the world, he says, and the program's classes are taught in English. Prisma Bildagentur/UIG/Getty Images hide caption

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Prisma Bildagentur/UIG/Getty Images

China Expands Research Funding, Luring U.S. Scientists And Students

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NASA engineers on the flight team celebrate the InSight spacecraft's successful landing on Mars at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., on Monday. Al Seib/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Al Seib/AFP/Getty Images

NASA Probe Lands Safely On Martian Surface

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People who are sensitive to the bitterness of caffeine tend to drink more coffee than others, while people sensitive to bitter flavors like quinine drink less coffee, according to a new study. Dimitri Otis/Getty Images hide caption

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Dimitri Otis/Getty Images

An artist's concept portrays a NASA rover exploring the surface of Mars. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech hide caption

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Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

Waiting For Opportunity To Get In Touch

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This October 2008 photo shows Mercury during the Messenger spacecraft's second flyby of the planet. The European Space Agency's BepiColombo will take seven years to reach the innermost planet in our solar system. NASA, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington via AP hide caption

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NASA, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington via AP

A Slow Trip To A Hot Planet: Spacecraft Launches For Mission To Mercury

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The orbits of the new extreme dwarf planet 2015 TG387 and its fellow inner Oort Cloud objects 2012 VP113 and Sedna as compared with the rest of the Solar System. 2015 TG387 was nicknamed ͞"The Goblin" by its discoverers, as its provisional designation contains TG and the object was first seen near Halloween. Illustration by Roberto Molar Candanosa and Scott Sheppard, courtesy of Carnegie Institution for Science. hide caption

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Illustration by Roberto Molar Candanosa and Scott Sheppard, courtesy of Carnegie Institution for Science.

A Small Planet With Big Implications

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The people-plaguing Asian tiger mosquito, or Aedes albopictus, typically lays its eggs in stagnant water. James Gathany/AP hide caption

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James Gathany/AP

Building A Better Mosquito Trap — One Scientist Thinks He's Done It

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Janjic found that playing the piano didn't make her pain go away completely, but it eased the pain she felt. Jeff Swensen for NPR hide caption

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Jeff Swensen for NPR

Inspired By Her Own Pain, A Researcher Explores Alternatives To Opioid Treatments

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Scientists find that the whiskers of harbor seals help them distinguish predator from prey — even from a distance. Douglas Klug/Images hide caption

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Douglas Klug/Images

Need To Track A Submarine? A Harbor Seal Can Show You How

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When Mars is "in opposition," it, Earth and the sun are all in alignment. (Note: This is a diagram meant to illustrate the concept of opposition. It is not drawn to scale.) Alyson Hurt/NPR hide caption

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Alyson Hurt/NPR

Celestial Lineup Makes For A Very Bright Mars

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This is the south polar cap of Mars as it appeared to the Mars Orbiter Camera on the Mars Global Surveyor on April 17, 2000. An underground lake was found near here. NASA/JPL/MSSS, hide caption

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NASA/JPL/MSSS,

Underground Lake Found On Mars Beneath A Mile Of Ice

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An early prototype of the silicon-chip-sized particle accelerator that physicists at Stanford are working on. Eventually, miniature accelerators might have a role in radiating tumors, the scientists say. SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory hide caption

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SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Physicists Go Small: Let's Put A Particle Accelerator On A Chip

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The planet Jupiter now has a total of 79 identified moons. QAI Publishing/UIG via Getty Images hide caption

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QAI Publishing/UIG via Getty Images

Galileo Would Be Stunned: Jupiter Now Has 79 Moons

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This artist's impression shows the dust torus around a super-massive black hole. Black holes lurk at the centers of active galaxies. The jets emanating from the black hole send neutrinos hurtling into space. ESA/NASA/the AVO project/Paolo Padovani hide caption

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ESA/NASA/the AVO project/Paolo Padovani

A 4 Billion Light-Year Journey Ends At The South Pole

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Global map of Mars showing a growing dust storm as of June 6, 2018. The map was produced by the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS hide caption

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Giant Dust Storm On Mars Threatening To End NASA's Opportunity Rover

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Two rock samples taken by NASA's Curiosity rover were found to contain organic molecules. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS hide caption

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA's Curiosity Rover Finds Chemical Building Blocks For Life On Mars

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Detectors inside MiniBooNE experiment Courtesy Fermilab hide caption

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Courtesy Fermilab

Physicists Say They Have Evidence For A New Fundamental Particle

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This red blood cell is swollen by the malaria parasite. In this image from a transmission electron micrograph, the blood cell has been colored red and the single-cell malaria parasite has been colored green. Dr. Tony Brain/Science Source hide caption

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Dr. Tony Brain/Science Source

How A Cheap Magnet Might Help Detect Malaria

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This is an artist's concept of a plume of water vapor thought to be ejected off of the frigid, icy surface of the Jovian moon Europa, located 500 million miles from the sun. NASA, ESA, and K. Retherford hide caption

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NASA, ESA, and K. Retherford

Icy Moon Of Jupiter Spews Water Plumes Into Space

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