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90.5 WESA's Good Question! series is an experiment where you bring us questions—and we go out to investigate and find answers.So: What have you always wondered about Pittsburgh? Are you curious how your neighborhood originally received its name? Or maybe why the Mon and Allegheny Rivers are different colors when they merge at the Point? Or maybe you've always wanted to know what happened to all of our street cars and inclines? From serious to silly, we're here to help.

52 Things You May Have Learned From WESA In 2017

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
Allegheny County electrician Mike Hoffman holds a box containing one of the old player piano-style scrolls once used to play the chimes in the Allegheny County Courthouse downtown.

We reported hundreds of stories over the past year—here are the most surprising, world-changing, bizarre, interesting, tragic and important pieces from our reporters.

1. Hyperloop technology could one day whisk you from Pittsburgh to Chicago in less time than it takes to drive to the airport from downtown.

2. Pittsburgh potties might not have been built for mill workers to clean up when they got home — in fact, they might not have been meant to be used at all.  

3. Some activists think the only way to truly reform the criminal justice system is to end the use of incarceration altogether.

4. Pittsburgh’s odd speech and weird vocabulary is due in part to the city’s strange immigration pattern, and a regional linguistic vowel shift called monophthongization.

5. It sounds counterintuitive, but filling the lungs with a special kind of liquid could be the key to more effective treatment for patients battling diseases like cystic fibrosis.

6. How a lottery determines the educational future for many Pittsburgh Public Schools students.

7. The closing of a rural delivery room can cause a widespread ripple effect, leaving many pregnant women with no choice but to travel for care.


Credit Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh tracks and lends more than 8 million items across 71 locations in Allegheny County.

8. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh books are constantly refreshed to keep up with changing demand, but they way the materials get to Steel City consumers is very, very old.

9. Scientists learned that at least 49 genes contribute to the shape of the human ear lobe — research that may lead to better understanding of rare genetic syndromes.

10. PWSA was ill-prepared to handle the number of lead testing requests it got after lead levels spiked in 2016 — but they think they've fixed the problem now.

11. Some researchers think the health and wellbeing of a neighborhood is directly tied to the number of development investments made in the community.

12. Why is it so hard to get people to replace lead lines in their homes?


Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
An oil rail car with a slag pot sits behind Century III mall in West Mifflin, Pa. The cars used to line up at the top of the Brown Dump site and flip over molten slag.

13. For fun, Pittsburghers used to gather to watch a molten steel waste product called slag get poured down a hill.

14. A CMU researcher believes three new species of Appalachian crayfish — or are they crawfish? — evolved from one original species found across the eastern U.S.

15. Before anyone runs the Pittsburgh Marathon, one man bikes it. Over and over and over again.

16. The Allegheny County Courthouse tower does more than chime the hours; it sings.

17. Despite the Trump administration’s commitment to fossil fuels in the name of “Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Allegheny County has the most clean energy jobs in the state.

18. Pitt researchers got closer to figuring out why the body sometimes rejects transplanted organs.


Credit Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
One corner of the Coal Miner's Cafe, in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District, pays homage to the nine miners who were trapped in Somerset County's Quecreek Mine in 2002.

19. What a tour of the gerrymandered, hammer-shaped 12th Congressional District reveals about the state of partisan politics in the United States.

20. Ambitious water recyclers in Allegheny County are running into a problem: Home gray water systems are still in a legal, umm, gray zone.

21. Local artist Baron Batch still isn’t sorry he graffitied public property.

22. CMU is the home to the world’s oldest academic bagpipe program.

23. In some cases, the transplant patients who need help most urgently can have a hard time getting it; that’s due in part to how organ transplants are regulated by the government.


Credit Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Kraynick's bike shop in Garfield.

24. After 40 years, the owner of Kraynick’s bike shop in Garfield passed on the business to a younger bike enthusiast.

25. We found the loudest place in Pittsburgh.

26. Black girls in the Pittsburgh region are 11 times more likely than their white peers to be referred to the juvenile justice system.

27. The groundwork to create an entire country happened in a small building downtown. 

28. Pangolins are adorable, but extremely endangered and difficult to keep in captivity — so some scientists say they’re skeptical that they should be living in zoos, including in Pittsburgh.


Credit NASA
Astronaut Warren "Woody" Hoburg is a Pittsburgh Native, MIT professor and became a member of NASA's trainee program in July.

29. Astronauts train in a swimming pool and need to play nice with others.

30. Sometimes women terminate wanted pregnancies after 20 weeks.

31. Self-driving cars are still learning how to share the road. 

32. Many new apartment buildings gets accused of looking “the same.” Here’s why.

33. The Pennsylvania State Police can tap and track your cell phone, and they don’t need any official permission to do it.

34. Kids from low-income families are more likely to regularly see a doctor is their parent has health insurance through Medicaid.

35. The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine uses actors to teach medical students bedside manor. 

36. Residents of Wilkinsburg reflected on the one year anniversary of a deadly backyard shooting. 


Credit Powdermill Nature Reserve
Pictured is a hooded warbler, which is among the birds caught at the Powdermill Nature Reserve that are breeding early.

37. Local birds are breeding up to three weeks earlier due to climate change.

38. This robotic foot helps people pick a better-fitting prosthetic limb.

39. Area teachers are turning to crowdfunding to pay for school supplies

40. At Pittsburgh’s Midwife Center, women can trade a traditional hospital room to give birth in a swing, or a jacuzzi tub.

41. Here's what to do if your child has high lead levels from your home's water, paint, or soil.

42. Why is Pennsylvania one of the only states with partisan judicial elections?

43. At the University of Pittsburgh, college students can get a hand with managing their stress from a group of special dogs.

44. Care about the environment? You should seriously think about ditching the blue Giant Eagle bags and throwing your recyclables directly into bins. 

45. Southwestern Pennsylvania still generates a lot of electricity using coal, but that’s changing.


Credit Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
A child plays soccer in a West End park as part of the Pittsburgh Refugee Youth Summer Enrichment program.

46.  For some refugee youth, acclimating to the U.S. starts with summer camp in Pittsburgh.

47. On Juniata Street in Swissvale sits a house filled with alligator heads, a jarred tumor and cat innards. Welcome to Trundle Manor, the city's tribute to the macabre. 

48. How 30 million words put Pittsburgh kids at risk.

49. The story behind that giant Egyptian-themed mausoleum in Allegheny Cemetery.

50. Pennsylvania ranks near the top in hate group numbers.

51. Everything you ever wanted to know about the area's iconic tunnels.

52. Why would someone try to climb Pittsburgh's steepest hills on a Healthy Ride bike?