The Method

The Method is a series that explores the intersection of science and society. In modern journalism, science reporting often repeats the material in press releases or studies without engaging in the critical thinking that defines the scientific method. The Method will look at science through a different lens. How does scientific research affect you and your community? That's the story we hope to share with you. 

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UK Department of Transportation

More than fifty years ago, The Jetsons predicted life in the 21st century would be defined by homes in the sky and flying cars. History, of course, took a different path. Today's prognosticators say the highways of the future will be filled with automated, driverless vehicles. Nineteen companies say they're working to get models to the market around 2020.

Matt Shafer Powell, WUOT News

Unmanned space probes and rovers are impressive feats of engineering, and they take great photos, but there’s something missing. The last time humans brought back a piece of the place they visited was during the Apollo program, nearly 45 years ago. Now, NASA is ready to embark on a mission that will swoop down close to the surface of an asteroid called Bennu. A long arm of the spacecraft will scoop up soil and rocks, and fly back to Earth.

Peter Miller/via Flickr

Today, The Method is going batty. First up, we look at the mammalian kind of bat. There are more than 1,300 bat species, and some biologists think climate change may be the reason certain varieties are turning up in new places—including in and around Knoxville. Matt Shafer Powell reaches out to University of Tennessee Ecology and Evolutionary Biology professor Gary McCracken to see if a new habitat area might be one by-product of climate change.

Matt Shafer Powell, WUOT News

This month, four new elements added to the periodic table received provisional names. One of those elements, number 117, was bestowed a name that got our attention, and perhaps yours, too: tennessine. If approved by an international body in November, Tennessine will join oxygen, carbon, helium and 114 other names on the periodic table of the elements.

U.S. Park Police/National Park Service

All earthquakes are products of the dynamic planet we live on. They typically occur as massive slabs of the Earth's crust, called tectonic plates, bump against, over and past each other.

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In 2013, USA Today estimated 83 percent of Americans have at least one cup of coffee a day. Some drink way more than that. But even lifelong coffee drinkers can learn how to make a better cup through science.

In this edition of The Method, Brandon Hollingsworth talks with Knoxville coffee shop owner Pierce LaMacchia about the science behind the brewing process. Then, a researcher at Vanderbilt University's Institute for Coffee Studies tells Matt Shafer Powell about the biological effects of coffee.

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If you grew up in the South, you grew up with tornadoes and tornado warnings. But you probably didn’t know there are some big differences between the tornadoes that happen here, and their Midwestern cousins. They’re typically deadlier. They’re harder to see. And they’re more likely to happen at night, an especially dangerous time.

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Tennessee voters will head to the polls on primary day, Tuesday, March 1. Gone are the paper ballots of decades past – the process is virtually all electronic now. So what happens once you press the button that records your ballot? Where does the information go? To find out, Matt Shafer Powell spoke with Chris Davis of the Knox County Election Commission.

Library of Congress

Nearly a century ago, when medical science was in its relative Bronze Age, a severe strain of influenza spread around the world. The flu of 1918 killed between 50 and 100 million people. Today, many people think of the flu as a routine illness. But the flu strains of today are the genetic descendants of the 1918 flu. Dr.

The decorations have been put away. The nights are long, and spring seems like a long way away. Now is a great time to chase away the winter blues with some good science books!

No, not those dense science textbooks from your school days. Books that bring the stories of science to life. As we close out 2015, Method host Brandon Hollingsworth and two previous guests suggest some great additions to your winter reading list.