Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

Chicago Professor Leads NASA Balloon Mission to Study ‘Ghost Particles’

A team led by University of Chicago professor Angela Olinto will use a NASA super pressure balloon to study mysterious cosmic rays coming from beyond our own galaxy. (Angela Olinto / University of Chicago)

A team led by University of Chicago professor Angela Olinto will use a NASA super pressure balloon to study mysterious cosmic rays that could offer groundbreaking new insights about the universe. 

Woolsey Withdraws Fracking Permit, Citing ‘Burdensome’ Illinois Law

Two months after becoming the first company approved for fracking in Illinois, Woolsey Operating Company has withdrawn its permit. 

Dead Fish, Turtles Recovered Following Bubbly Creek Oil Spill

Workers from the Environmental Protection Agency respond to an oil spill that was reported Oct. 26 at a fork of the Chicago River known as Bubbly Creek. (EPA)

Officials responding to last week’s oil spill in the South Branch of the Chicago River have recovered dead wildlife from the water, including 43 fish and four turtles. The source of the spill is still unknown, according to the EPA. 

Public Transit Advocates Urge Override of Rauner Veto on Gas Tax Funds

(Courtesy Chicago Transit Authority)

Supporters of a bill vetoed this summer by Gov. Bruce Rauner are calling on legislators to override that action next month in the hopes of expanding the use of gas tax funds to public transportation services and other improvements.

Cleanup Continues After ‘Mystery Oil Spill’ on Bubbly Creek

Workers from the Environmental Protection Agency respond to an oil spill Oct. 26 at a fork of the Chicago River known as Bubbly Creek. (EPA)

The EPA says the source of an Oct. 26 oil spill remains unknown, but cleanup efforts continue this week along the 1.5-mile stretch of the south fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River.

Chicago Storage Company Unknowingly Reports Own Air Violation

An overhead view of Watco's storage terminal at 2926 E. 126th St. in Chicago. (Google)

A Southeast Side company tipped off regulators to its own violation of city air pollution standards, documents submitted to the city show. 

Chicago to Add 10 Environmental Inspectors, Increase Fine Amounts

(Jeremy Atherton / Wikimedia Commons)

In an effort to fill a void created by federal and state agencies that have cut back environmental oversight, Chicago plans to expand its environmental enforcement division.

What is ‘Zombie Preparedness Month’?

(rodolpho reis / Flickr)

Illinois is taking creative steps to prepare residents for all kinds of potential disasters. “If you are prepared for zombies, you are prepared for a natural disaster,” said state Rep. Chris Welch.

Tips for Conserving Water to Prevent Flooding in Chicago

Flooding in Albany Park in April 2013 (Center for Neighborhood Technology / Flickr)

There are more soggy days ahead. Find out how you can help ease the burden on the Chicago River and reduce the risk of flooding.

Adler Event Explores the Question, ‘Are We Alone in the Universe?’

An artist’s impression of what the surface of the planet Proxima b might look like. (M. Kornmesser / European Southern Observatory)

Viewers on four continents will watch a virtual presentation hosted by Adler Planetarium in early November to learn about the possibility of life on other planets.

Baby Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat Debuts at Brookfield Zoo

(Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

One of Brookfield Zoo’s newest tenants recently emerged from her mom’s pouch and can now be seen at the zoo’s Australia House.  

Durbin Co-Sponsors Bill to Bolster Environmental Justice Efforts

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is among a handful of legislators behind a bill that would strengthen legal protections for communities disproportionately impacted by pollution and other environmental threats.

Obama Science Adviser: ‘Do Not Be Intimidated, Speak Truth to Power’

(Bonnie Robinson / Illinois Institute of Technology)

Scientists should respond to a “political climate of opposition to facts” by speaking out about their work, said John P. Holdren during a recent lecture on climate change at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Dramatic Recovery of Illinois Sport Fish Traced to Clean Water Act

(Jonathunder / Wikimedia Commons)

The remarkable comeback of 13 sport fish species in the Illinois River began just after implementation of the Clean Water Act, according to a new study by the Illinois Natural History Survey. 

Zoos Celebrate International Sloth Day

(Jill Wagner / Lincoln Park Zoo)

Did you know it’s International Sloth Day? We check in with one of Lincoln Park Zoo’s experts to learn about these furry, slow-moving animals. 

Study: 68,000 Illinois Residents Use Well Water High in Arsenic

More than 2 million Americans, including nearly 68,000 in Illinois, get water from wells with high levels of toxic arsenic, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Virtual Reality Submarine to Set Sail at Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo's upcoming Sea Explorer 5-D lets visitors "dive" into the ocean in a virtual submarine. (Courtesy Attraktion!)

A new experience coming this fall to Lincoln Park Zoo will allow visitors “dive” into the ocean and explore landscapes and wildlife at the North and South Poles or in deep ocean waters. 

Astronomers Detect Colliding Neutron Stars in Historic Observation

| Paul Caine
A NASA animation shows the pending collision of two neutron stars. (NASA)

An international team that includes Chicago astronomers recently observed the collision of two high-density neutron stars, a historic discovery that confirms decades of scientific work. 

Young Angler Catches Rare American Eel at Chicago River Fishing Event

Hundreds of anglers participate in the #ChicagoFishes event Oct. 13 to celebrate decades of cleanup efforts to the Chicago River. (© Shedd Aquarium)

An American eel caught by a 5-year-old angler last week is possibly the first such eel ever recorded in the Chicago River, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

UChicago Poll: Most Americans Want Government to Address Climate Change

| Marc Vitali
(Daniel Dionne / Flickr)

A new poll on climate and energy reveals surprising attitudes from Americans. We talk with the leader of the University of Chicago study group.

Obama Science Adviser to Give Lecture on Climate Change

Former President Barack Obama with Science and Technology Adviser John P. Holdren (U.S. National Archives)

President Barack Obama’s science and technology adviser will deliver a lecture on climate change this week in Chicago. John P. Holdren was the longest-serving science adviser in the history of the position. 

Rare Herons Thriving But Keep Falling Out of Their Nests, Zoo Says

Black-crowned night herons average about 2 feet in length and weigh nearly 2 pounds. (Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo)

The black-crowned night heron is one of the rarest birds in Illinois. Lincoln Park Zoo now hosts a colony of more than 600 herons, but things have getting a bit crowded. 

Tough Road Ahead for 4-Week-Old Beluga Whale Rescued in Alaska

(Courtesy ©Alaska SeaLife Center)

Shedd Aquarium experts are among those caring for a whale calf rescued Sept. 30 in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. The calf belongs to a critically endangered population of beluga whales.

Group Plans to Sue EPA’s Pruitt Over East Chicago Coke Plant

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks April 19 after meeting with residents of East Chicago’s lead-contaminated neighborhoods. (Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

Since 2010, the EPA has cited an East Chicago steelmaking facility six times for violations of the Clean Air Act. Now, a group representing nearby residents intends to sue EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt over the renewal of the company’s operating permit.

Guests Welcome at Lincoln Park Zoo’s New ‘Insect Hotel’

(Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo)

It looks like an art project, but a seven-floor structure at Lincoln Park Zoo is outfitted with logs, bricks, sticks and other materials to provide cozy spaces for insects to nest.