This image, from the Houston Clean Air Network Ozone Viewer, shows readings taken on Jan. 21, 2013, at 3:15 p.m., on a particularly bad air day in the region. At the Houston Clean Air Network's site, you can watch the plume grow and spread over the city over the course of several hours.
Jason Harris, with the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality, uses an infrared camera to find leaks at a chemical facility near the Houston Ship Channel. The specialty cameras cost around $100,000.
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.
Here's a question: If you go to the movies and the scheduled showtime is, say, 7:30, when do you actually expect the movie to start? If you said 7:30, you go to very unusual screenings. If you said 7:45, you're closer to what many experience. If you said 7:50, you're still in range: There's often some advertising other than trailers, the limit for trailer length is 2 1/2 minutes, and theaters sometimes run seven or eight trailers. Eight would add up to 20 minutes.
Police in New York say preliminary tests of two threatening letters sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg contained traces of ricin.
The anonymous letters, both addressed to Bloomberg, were opened Friday in New York at the city's mail facility and Sunday in Washington, D.C., at the headquarters of the nonprofit started by Bloomberg, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, according to authorities.
The American soldier accused of killing 16 villagers in Afghanistan last year plans to plead guilty in order to avoid the death penalty. Lawyers say Staff Sergeant Robert Bales will plead guilty to 16 counts of premeditated murder next week and that his sentencing trial will be held in September.
Former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey waits to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington on May 15, 2007. NPR has learned that Comey is in line to become President Obama's choice as the next FBI director.
There is no shortage of wonders on display at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, under way this week outside Washington, D.C. Students are easily spooling off words such as wiesenboden and machicotage. But even the Scripps Bee judges were flummoxed when 7th grader Katie Danis made this request today.
KATIE DANIS: Would you mind if I were to, like, sing the letters, it would help me. I could do that.
BLOCK: The judges conferred, and said OK. So here's Katie Danis, sing-spelling stabilimeter.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's announcement Wednesday that she won't seek a fifth term unleashed a torrent of tweets and blog posts on the left lampooning the short-lived 2012 presidential candidate.
Yet the response — her retirement effectively dominated the news cycle — provided a glimpse of Bachmann's impact on Washington.
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.