Science Friday

By Science Friday and WNYC Studios

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 Oct 18, 2018

A Podcast Republic user
 Jul 27, 2018

 Jul 16, 2018
Ira Flatow is an excellent host, and they cover a variety of topics. I always come away having learned something.


Brain fun for curious people.

Episode Date
Future Telescopes, Caterpillars. Dec 14, 2018, Part 2
<p class="p1"><span>28 years ago, astronauts on the space shuttle Discovery gently raised the Hubble Space Telescope, or HST, up from the shuttle bay, and released it into space. Geologist and astronaut Kathryn Sullivan commemorated the moment with a short speech, as she floated in the shuttle. It would be a few years (and a repair job) before the truly historic nature of the telescope was revealed, showing us new views of the cosmos, and wonders it wasn’t even designed to study, like exoplanets. But Hubble is getting up there in years, and it’s time for new history to be made. Lots of new telescopes are waiting in the wings: The James Webb Space Telescope, W-FIRST, <a href="" target="_blank">plus a collection of others vying to be the next big thing in space telescopes</a>.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span>Caterpillars might be the squirming, crawling larval stage of butterflies and moths, but they have defenses, behaviors, and lives of their own. Second grader Nina Del Bosque from Houston, Texas was stung by an asp caterpillar. She wanted to know about other stinging caterpillars in the world and what role they play in the ecosystem—<a href="" target="_blank">so she sent Science Friday a handwritten letter with her questions</a>. We invited Nina on the show with biologist David Wagner, author of Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History, to talk about the stinging asp caterpillar, the woolly bear, and all things caterpillar. View a few of these unique critters below.</span></p>
Dec 14, 2018
Cancer Immunotherapy, Raccoons, Frog Calls. Dec 14, 2018, Part 1
<p class="p1"><span>For years, cancer treatment has largely involved one of three options—surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. In recent years, however, a new treatment option, immunotherapy, has entered the playing field. It has become the first-line preferred treatment for certain cancers. Immunotherapy is a class of treatments that use some aspect of the body’s own immune response to help battle cancer cells. There are several different approaches, each with their own advantages and weaknesses.This year, the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo “for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.” The Nobel committee called their discoveries a landmark in our fight against cancer. Treatments based on their work are now in use against several forms of cancer, with many more trials underway. Still, the approach doesn’t work in all cases, and <a href="" target="_blank">researchers are working to try to better understand why</a>.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span>How do raccoons keep getting into people’s trash? It might just be one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of our time. No matter what kind of fancy lid, bungee cord, or alarm system we use, somehow these masked creatures always find a way into our smelly garbage. <a href="" target="_blank">But are they just dexterous or actually smart</a>? Lauren Stanton, Ph.D. candidate in the Animal Behavior and Cognition Lab at the University of Wyoming, joins Ira to talk about testing the animal’s smarts.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span>City mouse and country mouse aren’t just characters from stories—cities are unique ecosystems built by humans, and animals adapt when they move into urban areas. Researchers recently compared the calls of male túngara frogs in Panama that lived in the forest with those in the city. They found that the city frogs had more complex calls and that female frogs preferred these calls—but the less complex calls of country frogs made them easier to hide from predators. Biologist Alex Trillo, an author on the study, <a href="" target="_blank">talks about the costs and benefits of changing calls for the túngara frog</a>.</span></p>
Dec 14, 2018
Microbes and Art, Science Books 2018. Dec 7, 2018, Part 2
<p>Here at Science Friday, our jobs involve reading a lot of science books every year. We have piles and piles of them at the office. Hundreds of titles about biology and art and technology and space, and sometimes even sci-fi. Now, the time has come for our annual roundup of <a href="">the books we couldn’t forget</a>. We have plenty of picks from you, our listeners, as well as from our panel of expert guests: Stephanie Sendaula of Library Journal Reviews, Deborah Blum of MIT’s Knight Science Journalism Program, and Dr. Eric Topol of Scripps Research. <a href="">See our favorite science books of 2018 here.</a></p> <p>Fungi, bacteria and lichens can grow on paintings, monuments, and other types of artwork. They feed on different pigments, oils, and canvas. In a study out this week in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers analyzed a 17th century painting and found microbes that could degrade and others that could protect the painting. Robert Kesseler, the Director of the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute (who was not a part of that study), <a href="">discusses why microbes like to munch on paintings and what can be done to protect these works of art.</a></p> <p> </p> <p> </p>
Dec 07, 2018
Hemp and CBD, Phytosaurs, Mosquito Control. Dec 7, 2018, Part 1
<p>Good news could be coming soon for anyone interested in hemp, the THC-free, no-high strain of cannabis whose use ranges from fibers to food to pharmaceuticals. If the 2018 Farm Bill passes Congress in its current form, <a href="">growing hemp would be legal and products derived from hemp would be removed from their current legal gray area</a>. Cornell horticulture professor Larry Smart explains why a plant that hasn’t been grown legally in the U.S. for nearly a century will require a monumental effort from scientists to catch up to crops like soybean and tomatoes. Plus, Dr. Esther Blessing, an assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone Health, breaks down where the research stands on other uses of CBD, and what we still don’t know.</p> <p>Then: Mass extinctions are a window into past climate disasters. They give a glimpse of the chemical and atmospheric ingredients that spell out doom for the Earth’s biodiversity. Scientists have identified five big mass extinctions that have happened in the past. The end Triassic mass extinction—number four on the list—happened around 200 million years ago, when three-quarters of the Earth’s species went extinct. But the exact play-by-play is still a mystery. Paleontologist Randy Irmis at the Natural History Museum of Utah and his team are searching for phytosaur fossils, and Science Friday producers Katie Hiler and Lauren J. Young <a href="">joined him in the field</a>.</p> <p>Plus, could the answer to controlling mosquitos be...more mosquitos? Or, at least, more mosquitos with a bacterial infection. We check in with Valley Public Radio reporter Kerry Klein <a href="">on the State Of Science</a>.</p> <p>And it's been a big week for space news. Science Friday director Charles Bergquist joins Ira for <a href="">the News Round-up</a>.</p> <p> </p>
Dec 07, 2018
Gene-Editing Humans, Asymmetry, Ancient Whale Ancestor. Nov 30, 2018, Part 2
<p>The first CRISPR-edited babies are (probably) here. The news raises social, ethical, and regulatory questions—<a href="" target="_blank">for both scientists and society.</a></p> <p>Then, why are human bodies asymmetrical? A single protein could <a href="" target="_blank">help explain why.</a></p> <p>And finally, ever wondered how whales got their mouth bristles? It's possible that they went <span>through a phase where they sucked up their food like vacuums <a href="" target="_blank">before they evolved baleen.</a></span></p>
Nov 30, 2018
Climate Report, Wind Energy, SciFri Educator Collaborative. Nov 30, 2018, Part 1
<p><span>This Monday, Mars fans rejoiced as NASA’s lander Mars InSight successfully parachuted safely onto the large, flat plain of Elysium Planitia. In the days that followed, the lander successfully has deployed its solar panels and begun to<span> </span></span><span>unstow its robotic arm. Learn more about the landing, <a href="" target="_blank">plus the latest science news. </a></span></p> <p><span>Then, w<span>ind energy development is spreading around the nation.<span> But a<span>s developers move to identify promising locations for wind farms, however, they may need to consider more than just logistics, wind speeds, and distribution lines. R<span>esearchers report that “wake effects” from one wind farm can <a href="" target="_blank">sap the energy of a downwind generating facility as far as 50 km away.</a></span></span></span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span><span><span><span>Part II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment <span>describes how every part of our society and every state in our country will be impacted by a warmer world. Not just by hurricanes, floods and wildfires, but by <a href="" target="_blank">more rainfall in the Midwest, thawing permafrost in Alaska, and drier air in the Southeast.</a></span><a href="" target="_blank"> </a></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span><span><span><span>And finally, calling all science educators! We're teaming <span>up with science educators across the country in our<span> </span></span><a href=""><span>Science Friday Educator Collaborative Program</span></a><span>, in which educators work with SciFri staff to develop resources for science learners everywhere.<span> <a href="" target="_blank">Applications are open now. </a></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p>
Nov 30, 2018
Caves And Climate, Environmental Archeology, Scanning The Past. Nov 23, 2018, Part 2
<p><span>When you think of an archaeologist, you might imagine a scientist in the field wielding shovels and pickaxes, screening through dirt to uncover artifacts and structures buried deep in the ground. <a href="" target="_blank">But what about those areas that you can’t reach or even see</a>? That’s when you call archaeologist Lori Collins from the University of South Florida. Collins uses LIDAR—a detection system that uses lasers—to map out the cracks and details of a prehistoric cat sculpture created by the Calusa people, sinkholes that pop up in Florida, and even a former NASA launch pad. She talks how this technology can preserve these archaeological finds in the face of climate change, natural disaster, and war.</span></p> <p><span>When archaeologists unearth past societies, the story of those people is written in human remains and artifacts. But it’s also written in environmental remains: bones of animals, preserved plants, and even the rocks around them. </span>Kitty Emery and Nicole Cannarozzi, both environmental archaeologists at the Florida Museum, <a href="" target="_blank">lead an onstage expedition</a> through the earliest known domestication of turkeys in Guatemala and Mexico, the 4,000-year-old shell middens of indigenous people of coastal Southeast United States, and even sites that could tell us more about the African American diaspora and the lives of slaves mere hundreds of years ago. Plus, the two archaeologists tell us how understanding the environmental choices of past people can lead to better insight into ourselves.</p> <p><span>Sea level rise and fall over hundreds of thousands of years. Ancient vegetation. The diets of early human ancestors and the temperatures they lived in. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and how it changed over time. All of these are data sought by paleoclimatologists, who study the prevailing climate during times past. <a href="" target="_blank">And the clues of this data are buried in the rock formations of caves around the world</a>. </span>Paleoclimatologist and cave researcher Bogdan Onac of the University of South Florida travels from New Mexico to Romania to Spain to find the stories hidden in millenia-old cave ice, bat guano, and rock formations. He joins Ira to tell tales from the trail.</p>
Nov 23, 2018
2018 Ig Nobel Prizes. Nov 23, 2018, Part 1
<p><span>When you go to the zoo, maybe you imitate the chimps, copying their faces, their gestures, or their walk. But it turns out the chimps imitate you just about as often—and as well, according to scientists. Other researchers have found that a trained nose can detect the odor of a single fly floating in a glass of wine. And that sometimes, a trip to the amusement park may be an effective treatment to aid in the passage of kidney stones.  </span></p> <p><span>These projects are among the 10 selected by the editors of the Annals of Improbable Research to be honored at this year’s 28th first annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremonies. The prizes, awarded in September at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre, salute <a href="" target="_blank">work that “first makes you laugh, and then, makes you think.”</a></span></p>
Nov 23, 2018
California Fires, Fire Engineering, Flu Near You. Nov 16, 2018, Part 1
<p><a href="">When wildfires strike</a>, the conversation typically centers around natural factors: forest management, climate change, or hot dry winds that fan the flames. But there’s another important factor in wildfire risk: what humans build. Not just <em>where</em> we build, adjacent to flammable landscapes, but <em>how</em> we build it. Fire historian Stephen Pyne joins us to talk about what we might learn from the way we build in big city centers, where we’ve been largely successful at stamping out big blazes, and Sascha von Meier of UC Berkeley tells us a few ways power companies might fortify the grid to avoid sparking fires.</p> <p>And could California use more planned burns to prevent forest fires? Molly Peterson of KQED <a href="">tells us more</a>.</p> <p>Plus: Flu season has already begun, and Science Friday is teaming up with Flu Near You to recruit a national team of everyday citizens to <a href="">build a real-time map of the rise and fall of influenza-like-illness</a> in the United States. It’s as simple as reporting how you feel each week. Science Friday education director Ariel Zych and Flu Near You co-founder John Brownstein of Boston Children’s Hospital kick off the project with information and some of the trends they’ll be tracking throughout the season, and biologist Matt Smith tells about the dangers of flu season for people living with cystic fibrosis.</p> <p>Plus, Annalee Newitz joins Ira to tell us the latest science news in the <a href="">News Round-up</a>.</p>
Nov 16, 2018
Smell Science, Reader Come Home, Sonar Smackdown. Nov 16, 2018, Part 2
<p><span>If you had to give up one of your senses, which would you pick? If you think that “smell” might be the obvious answer, consider that your nose plays a crucial role in how you perceive the taste of your food or that it’s a sophisticated sensor capable of synthesizing the hundreds of different molecules into the floral fragrance we know as “roses.”  </span><span>University of Florida professor Steven Munger <a href="">explains the nuances of smell</a>.</span></p> <p><span>Plus: The digital world is changing how we read. What does that mean for the next generation of readers? As Maryanne Wolf describes in her newest book, <a href=""><em>Reader, Come Home</em></a>, we may be at risk of raising a generation of people who don't have those skills simply because of our changing reading habits. She joins Ira to discuss how our reading brain has changed since moving into the digital world and what we can do to fall in love with reading again.<br></span></p> <p>Are you team bat? Or team dolphin? Earlier this month at the Acoustical Society of America Conference two groups of scientists argued the finer points of each animal’s echolocation excellence. Things got heated, words were exchanged. But in this battle between the sonar specialists, which creature comes out the winner? To settle the debate, two researchers join Ira for a good, old-fashioned “rumble on the radio.” Laura Kloepper, assistant professor at St. Mary’s College backs up the agile, winged masters of the sky, while Brian Branstetter, research scientist at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego, vouches for the swift swimmers of the sea. Both are ready for Science Friday’s first ever “<a href="">Sonar Smackdown</a>.”</p>
Nov 16, 2018
Immigration and the Microbiome, Spice Trends. Nov 9, 2018, Part 1
<p>‘Tis the season for pumpkin spice lattes. Even if you’re not a fan of the fall beverage, we’ve all been touched by the 15-year dominance of Starbucks’ signature PSL (that’s pumpkin spice latte in coffee lingo) and its pumpkin spice spawn. So what is it about pumpkin spice that made it a blockbuster, not just today, but centuries ago? And how do spice makers predict if something is going to be a hit or a bust? Senior flavorist Terry Meisle and food scientist Kantha Shelke join guest host Flora Lichtman to <a href="">talk about spice trends old and new</a>.</p> <p>Plus: Last week, researchers described the differences between ethnic Hmong and Karen people living in Thailand, to members of same groups after recent emigration to the United States. Not only were the new U.S. residents likely to have different microbes than those living in Thailand, but the diversity of their gut microbiota was much lower. This change persisted and even worsened in the second generation. Study co-author Dan Knights, a professor of computational microbiology at the University of Minnesota, explains the findings. Plus, NYU Medical School professor Martin Blaser weighs in on our growing understanding of how our gut microbes interact with our health, and <a href="">the declining diversity of gut microbes in developed nations</a>.</p> <p>Also, it's not aliens—probably. Ryan Mandelbaum of <em>Gizmodo</em> joins Flora to talk about the mysterious object ʻOumuamua and other science stories of the week in <a href="">the News Round-up</a>.</p> <p> </p> <p><br><br></p> <p> </p> <p><br><br></p> <p> </p>
Nov 09, 2018
Heart History, Disease Seasonality, Beatboxing. Nov 9, 2018, Part 2
<p>The case presented a medical mystery. A man had entered his doctor’s office complaining of chest pain, so his doctors ordered an angiogram, an X-ray of the arteries of his heart. His condition was serious: a complete blockage of one of his coronary arteries, and a severe dysfunction of his left ventricle. The doctor realized his patient had been having a heart attack for more than 24 hours. On the face of it, nothing would seem unusual about the case. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the U.S., claiming more than 600,000 lives a year. But this case was different. This man had none of the risk factors. He wasn’t diabetic, or a smoker, and had no hypertension. Even more confounding: He was only 30 years old. He was, however, of South Asian descent—a group that suffers a disproportionate risk of heart problems with no obvious cause, according to cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar. Jauhar writes about that, and the <a href="" target="_blank">daring and sometimes tragic treatments that revolutionized how we fix the heart</a>, in his new book Heart: A History. He joins guest host Flora Lichtman to talk about it.</p> <p>You’ve heard of flu season, of course (consider this your friendly reminder to get a flu shot!). But a surprising number of other illnesses also have a seasonal component, peaking at certain times of the year. Chickenpox outbreaks peak each spring, for instance, while polio historically tended to surge in the summer. Micaela Martinez, an environmental health researcher at Columbia University, believes that <a href="" target="_blank">all infectious diseases may have some seasonal aspect to them</a>. She collected information on almost 70 different human diseases from African sleeping sickness to Zika and looked at factors that could connect each to the calendar. In some cases, the seasonality of the disease is due to weather, while in other cases more complex interactions of host, vector, and human behavior come into play. </p> <p>Beatboxers can create the sound of snare drums, bass lines, high hats and other beats all at once. And while it’s entertaining to listen to, what’s the science behind those beats? <a href="" target="_blank">Scientists scanned beatboxers in a MRI machine to figure out how these musicians manipulate their vocal tracts to keep the beat</a>. They found that beatboxers may use parts of their vocal tract in a way different way than is used when speaking. In fact, some of the sounds were unlike any found in human language. Linguist Reed Blaylock and beatboxer Devon Guinn break down how beatboxers coordinate their lips, tongue and throat to create a beat and how this compares to human speech.</p>
Nov 09, 2018
Physics Mysteries, Appendix and Parkinson’s, Paralysis Treatment. Nov 2, 2018, Part 2
<p>Ever wondered why your dog’s back-and-forth shaking is so effective at getting you wet? Or how bugs, birds, and lizards can run across water—but we can’t? Or how about why cockroaches are so darn good at navigating in the dark? <a href="" target="_blank">Those are just a few of the day-to-day mysteries answered</a> in the new book <em>How to Walk on Water and Climb Up Walls: Animal Movement and the Robots of the Future</em>, by David Hu.</p> <p>Once upon a time, there was very little hope for patients paralyzed by a spinal cord injury. The prevailing wisdom was that unless you could regenerate neurons across the spinal region of the injury these patients would never walk again. Now researchers say that perspective is based on an outdated way of thinking about the role of the spinal cord in movement. <a href="" target="_blank">A new technique that delivers an electrical signal directly to the spinal cord</a> has given a handful of patients the ability to move again and, as reported in a new study out this week in the journal Nature, has allowed them to walk.</p> <p>You’ve probably heard that you don’t necessarily need your appendix, especially if you’ve had it removed. But the appendix does have a function and scientists are learning more about how it affects our health. The organ plays a role in regulating the immune system, microbiome, and even Parkinson’s disease. A misfolding in the protein called alpha-synuclein has been linked to the disease, and researchers found abnormal clumps of this protein in the appendix. This week, a team of scientists found more evidence for the link. Reporting in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the researchers found that, for Parkinson’s patients, there was a 3.6 year delay in <a href="" target="_blank">onset of the disease</a> for those who had an appendectomy.</p>
Nov 02, 2018
Local Science Issues, Dolphin Calls, Kepler Death. Nov 2, 2018, Part 1
<p>With the midterm elections less than a week away, science is on voters’ minds even when it’s not on the ballot. From coastal floods in Florida, to the growing pains of renewable energy in Hawaii, to curbing the opioid addiction crisis in Kentucky, different stories hit closer to home depending on what state you’re in. We'll share stories of salmon conservation policy, meat substitute labeling, renewable energy expansion, and more from their respective states. And they take listener input: <a href="" target="_blank">What’s the most important science story YOU see in your state?</a></p> <p>The oceans can be a noisy place filled with boats and an increasing number of wind farms. The animals who call the sea home have had to adapt to the increased sounds. Researchers found that bottlenose dolphins in the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Maryland were <a href="" target="_blank">simplifying the calls that they use to identify one another</a>. Their results were published in the journal Biology Letters. Marine biologist Helen Bailey, who was an author on that study, talks about the benefits and costs that these adaptations have on the health of these dolphins.</p> <p><span>This week, NASA announced we will soon be saying goodbye to another old friend. For nine years, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has been orbiting deep space, giving us an unprecedented look at the objects within it. But after confirming the existence of over 2,600 exoplanets, and extending its mission for another five and half years, <a href="" target="_blank">Kepler has run out of fuel</a>. NASA says that the agency will soon be sending it’s final command to the telescope, shutting it down permanently.</span></p> <p> </p>
Nov 02, 2018
Science Goes To The Movies: First Man, Driverless Car Ethics, Beetle Battles. Oct 26, 2018, Part 2
<p>Damien Chazelle’s film <em>First Man</em> reconstructs the personal trials of astronaut Neil Armstrong in the years leading up to his famous first steps on the moon—as well as the setbacks and losses that plagued the U.S. space program along the way. <a href="" target="_blank">This week in “Science Goes To The Movies,”</a> our panel of space exploration experts weighs in. Is this an authentic story of Apollo 11’s triumphs and costs? And what are the stories Hollywood could tell—about the history of space exploration, or its present—that we haven’t heard yet?</p> <p>If you’re a casual student of ethics—or just even just a fan of the television show The Good Place—you’ve most likely heard of the trolley problem. It goes like this: A runaway trolley is on course to kill five people working further down the track—unless you pull a lever to switch the trolley to a different track, where only one person will be killed. The trolley problem is designed to be moral thought experiment, but it could get very real in the very near future. This time, it won’t be a human at the controls, but your autonomous vehicle. The United Nations recently passed a resolution that supports the mass adoption of autonomous vehicles, which will make it more likely that a driverless car might cross your path (or your intersection). Who should an autonomous vehicle save in the event that something goes wrong? Passengers? Pedestrians? Old people? Young people? A pregnant women? A homeless person? Sohan Dsouza, research assistant with MIT’s Media Lab, discovered that the way we answer that question <a href="" target="_blank">depends on the culture we come from</a>. He joins Ira to discuss how different cultural perspectives on the trolley problem could make designing an ethical autonomous vehicle a lot more challenging.</p> <p>The male Japanese rhinoceros beetle lives a life of insect warfare. These large beetles sport elaborate horns that they use in a type of mating ritual joust, defending territories from other males in the hopes of attracting female beetles. But biologist Jillian del Sol noticed that this beetle love fest includes another component—<a href="" target="_blank">squeaky songs</a>. del Sol, featured in our latest video of The Macroscope series, tells us how males court their potential mates by serenading them and what this tells us about sexual selection among the rhino beetles.</p> <p> </p>
Oct 26, 2018
Blood, Spatial Memory, Gerrymandering. Oct 26, 2018, Part 1
<p>Blood is essential to human life—it runs through all of our bodies, keeping us alive—but the life-giving liquid can also have a mysterious, almost magical quality. As journalist Rose George points out, this association goes back to thousands of years, even showing up in “The Odyssey.“ Odysseus, while traveling in Hades, comes across his mother Anticlea, who will not speak to him. At least, she says, “Not until she drinks the blood that Odysseus has taken from reluctant sheep. For Homer, blood had a power as fierce and invisible as electricity: a mouthful of blood, a switch flicked, and Anticlea could now speak to her son.” George’s new book, “Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood,” <a href="" target="_blank">traces the cultural significance and business of blood</a>. She talks about how we’ve tried to harness blood through the idea of the blood banking happened in 1937 at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital and the search for possible synthetic substitutes.</p> <p>Take a deep breath in. With one single inhalation, the human nose takes in a bunch of information about your environment. And unlike vision and hearing, that information goes straight to the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls emotion and memory. <a href="" target="_blank">Recent studies suggest</a> that rhythmic breathing through the nose (as opposed to mouth breathing) can have a have a positive impact on these brain regions. </p> <p><span>On November 6th, millions of Americans will cast their votes in districts that have been declared unconstitutional by a federal court. A panel of three judges ruled that North Carolina’s congressional districts had been unfairly gerrymandered to favor Republicans over Democrats—and the key evidence in the case? Math. </span><span>Annie Minoff and Elah Feder tell the story of that case—now waiting to be considered by the Supreme Court—in the next episode of </span><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em><span>Undiscovered</span></em></a><span>.</span></p>
Oct 26, 2018
Music And Technology, Social Critters, Sleep And Genetics. Oct 19, 2018, Part 2
<p><span>Mark Ramos Nishita, more popularly known as Money Mark from the Beastie Boys, has created the</span><span> “</span><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span>Echolodeon</span></a><span>.” The custom-built machine converts original piano rolls, created from actual performances by greats like Debussy and Eubey Blake, into <a href="" target="_blank">MIDI signals routed through modern-day synthesizers.</a></span></p> <p><span>Step aside, honeybees, there’s a new pollinator in town. We talk about the intricate life cycle of bumblebees, whose queens spend most of their life cycles solitary and underground, but then emerge in the spring to single-handedly forage for food, build a nest, and start colonies that eventually grow to number hundreds. Researchers study the behavior of bees and other social insects, and why ant, bee, and spider societies are more than just an amalgam of individuals—but <a href="" target="_blank">collective behaviors that emerge from the masses.</a></span></p> <p><span>How did you sleep last night? If you’re one of the estimated one in three American adults who gets less than seven hours of sleep per night, you may not want to answer that one. As researchers cement the connection between sleep and health, others are still asking why some people have fewer problems sleeping, and others recover more easily from lost sleep. We'll talk about <a href="" target="_blank">where our genes come into the picture when it comes to sleep. </a></span></p>
Oct 19, 2018
C-Section Increase, Puerto Rican Hurricane Recovery, A Turtle Tiff. Oct 19, 2018, Part 1
<p><span>The World Health Organization </span><span><a href=";jsessionid=0FCF68FBFC3B49F64D0BBCC8C198B1DE?sequence=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recommends</a> </span><span>that the C-section rate should be about 15% of births, for optimal outcomes for mothers and babies. But </span><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span>a series of studies</span></a><span> published in <em>The </em></span><em><span>Lancet</span></em><span> this week shows that rates worldwide are much higher. In the past 15 years, worldwide rates have nearly doubled. In the United States, one out of three children are born through the procedure. At the same time, the rate varies within countries—showing certain communities <a href="" target="_blank">may have limited access lifesaving procedures.</a></span></p> <p>Even before Hurricane Maria roared across Puerto Rico, much of the food on the island was imported. Nearly a year after the storm, <a href="" target="_blank">farmers still grapple with the storm's effects.</a></p> <p><span>Travis Thomas is a rookie scientist on the verge of publishing his first paper. He’s about to name two new species of alligator snapping turtle when he’s scooped by Raymond Hoser, an amateur herpetologist who goes by the name, “The Snakeman.” Hoser has named hundreds of animals using methods that some scientists call sloppy. The latest episode of</span><span> </span><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><strong><em>Undiscovered</em></strong></a><span> uncovers <a href="" target="_blank">how an outsider is able to use the scientific communities rules against it.</a></span></p>
Oct 19, 2018
Squirrel Monkeys, Salmon Migration, The Realness. Oct 12, 2018, Part 2
<p>Squirrel monkeys have big brains for their size, they’re chatterboxes, and they’ve even been to space. There may even be parallels between squirrel monkey communication and the evolution of human language, says primatologist Anita Stone. She joins Ira to translate the culture of our primate cousins, and talks about <a href="">what they can teach us about ourselves</a>.</p> <p>To be a salmon is to live an adventurous life: They hatch in freshwater streams, travel miles downstream to the ocean, and live years dodging predators in the open sea. But in order to reproduce, they must return back to that mountain stream, however far away. Research in 2014 confirmed that Pacific salmon can sense and respond to the Earth’s magnetic field—and that’s at least one component of how they find their home river. Now, a group of Atlantic salmon, descended from a group that’s spent 60 years in a landlocked lake, has also demonstrated this ability. Lead author Michelle Scanlon, a faculty research assistant in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University, <a href="">explains the implications of this behavior</a> for both wild Atlantic salmon and in populations kept, as many are, in fish farms nationwide.</p> <p>Plus: anthropologist Heather McKillop uncovered clues of a vast Mayan salt production system off the coast of Belize that may have been used to preserve fish and a place for trade. McKillop tells us how the Maya may have produced salt, and <a href="">what this reveals</a> about the economy of the civilization.</p> <p>And “<a href="">The Realness</a>,” a new podcast from WNYC Studios, tells the story of America’s relationship to sickle cell through Prodigy’s life, and death, from the disease.</p> <p> </p>
Oct 12, 2018
Election Security, Channel Islands, IPCC Report. Oct 12, 2018, Part 1
<p>The voting infrastructure is a vast network that includes voting machines, registration systems, e-poll books, and result reporting systems. This summer, the federal government put out a report that stated that hackers, possibly connected to Russia, targeted the election systems of <a href="">twenty-one states</a>. No changes in voter data were detected. How can we secure our voting from malicious hacks and technological errors? Lawrence Norden, Deputy Director of NYU’s Brennan Center's Democracy Program, and Charles Stewart, a political scientist at MIT’s Election Data and Science Lab, <a href="">discuss how to secure the voting infrastructure</a>, and how these issues affect voting behavior.</p> <p>Plus: <span>A </span><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">new United Nations report</a><span> published this week highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5 C compared to 2 C, or more. The conclusion: Every bit of warming of matters. Kelly Levin, senior associate with the World Resources Institute joins Ira to discuss the report.</span></p> <p><span>In the latest <a href="">State of Science</a>, ecologists are using tools—from captive breeding programs to ant-sniffing dogs—to restore and protect the unique ecosystem of California’s Channel Islands. KCLU's Lance Orozco joins Ira to tell him more.</span></p> <p><span>And <em>Popular Science'</em>s Rachel Feltman explains the latest on the aborted Soyuz launch, plus other headlines, <a href="">in this week's News Round-up</a>.</span></p>
Oct 12, 2018
Dung Beetles, Exomoon, Poison Squad. Oct 5, 2018, Part 2
<p>Before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was formed in 1906, you might have been more weary of pouring milk over your morning cereal. Milk could be spiked with formaldehyde, while pepper could contain coconut shells, charred rope or floor sweepings. In 1883, Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, who was appointed chief chemist of the Federal Agriculture Department, began to investigate how manufacturers used additives and unhealthy practices in food—and pulled together “The Poison Squad.” Author Deborah Blum talks about how Wiley along with other scientists, journalists, and advocates <a href="">fought for the health and safety of the general public</a>. </p> <p>In the past few years, the field of exoplanet discovery has really taken off. But this week, astronomers writing in the journal Science Advances up the ante—describing the possible discovery not of an exoplanet, but of a Neptune-sized moon orbiting an exoplanet. Alex Teachey, co-author of the paper and a graduate student in astronomy at Columbia University, <a href="">joins Ira to talk about how the observations were performed</a>, and the challenges of the hunt for exomoons.</p> <p>Plus, did you know that some dung beetles carry parasites on their genital—and it may not necessarily be a bad thing? While dung beetles put up with a lot of crap, it’s hard to imagine what good could come from a relationship with a parasite. <span>Cristina Ledón-Rettig, Assistant Research Scientist at Indiana University, <a href="">joins Ira to discuss her work</a>.</span></p>
Oct 05, 2018
Nobels, Argument Logic. Oct 5, 2018, Part 1
<p>This week the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology, and medicine awarded its top scientists with its highest honor, the Nobel Prize. And this year, the annual celebration of scientific greatness was punctuated by a historic achievement: For the first time ever two female scientists won the award for both physics and chemistry, Dr. Donna Strickland and Dr. Frances Arnold. Dr. Arnold joins Ira to <a href="">discuss her award</a> and the legacy of female Nobel laureates.</p> <p>While most of us might think we’re logical people, we still butt heads when trying to persuade people we disagree with. So how can we solve seemingly insurmountable barriers? Abstract mathematician Eugenia Cheng is the author of a new book about how logic can help us agree—or at least disagree more helpfully. <a href="">She walks Ira through</a> the fallacies, axioms, and even emotions that can inform our arguments.</p> <p><span>Plus: Sarah Kaplan, science reporter at the </span><em>Washington Post</em><span>, joins Ira to talk about this year’s Nobel Prizes and efforts to make the awards more representative of the diversity in science, and other top science headlines, in <a href="">this week's News Round-up</a>.</span></p>
Oct 05, 2018
Water Wars, Air Pollution And Fetuses, Electric Blue Clouds. Sept. 28, 2018, Part 2
<p><span>Yemen is gripped by civil war—and some experts say it could be the first of many “water wars” to come, as the planet grows hotter and drier. In <em><a href="" target="_blank">This Is the Way the World Ends: How Droughts and Die-Offs, Heat Waves and Hurricanes Are Converging on America</a></em></span><span>, Jeff Nesbit writes of the Yemeni conflict and many other geopolitical consequences of a warming world, including the precarious future of the Indus River, under the control of China, India and Pakistan, and why Saudi Arabia’s biggest dairy company is buying farmland in the Arizona desert. Nesbit joins Ira to <a href="" target="_blank">discuss the future of our planet</a>. </span></p> <p><span>Our understanding of how protective the placenta is during pregnancy has been changing. Some ingested substances, like alcohol and pthalates, are known to cross the boundary and cause harm. And in the case of air pollution, a mother’s exposure is increasingly correlated with health problems in the infant, from cardiovascular to neurodevelopment. But how do inhaled particles lead to these problems? New research <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em><span>in the Journal of American Medicine</span></em></a><span> this month points to one potential mechanism: changes in the thyroid hormones, which are critical to early development. What’s going on—and <a href="" target="_blank">what can be done to protect the most vulnerable from potentially lifelong health effects</a>? </span></span></p> <p><span>NASA’s PMC Turbo mission sent up a balloon to capture images of one of the rarest clouds, polar mesospheric clouds. These clouds, called noctilucent clouds, only form during the summer 50 miles up in the atmosphere, and they nucleate around meteor dust. Researchers<span> explain <a href="" target="_blank">what these clouds tell us about climate change and the physics of gravity waves and turbulence</a>. </span></span></p>
Sep 28, 2018
Utah National Monuments, North Carolina Coal Ash, Asteroids. Sept. 28, 2018, Part 1
<p><span>Back in December, </span><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span>the Trump administration announced reductions</span></a><span> to two of Utah’s national monuments: Grand Staircase-Escalante, which runs from the Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon National Park, and Bears Ears, newly established by the Obama administration just a year before. The reduction opened up nearly 2 million acres of previously protected federal land to fossil fuel and mineral exploitation, angering Native Americans, for whom the land is historically and spiritually significant, as well as environmentalists, archaeologists, and </span><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span>paleontologists</span></a><span>.  </span></p> <p><span>Then, just this week, it was announced that </span><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span>a group of lawsuits to reverse the cuts</span></a><span> would remain in federal court in Washington, D.C., rather than move to Utah, a decision the plaintiffs are celebrating. </span>As the legal process continues, scientists are waiting to see what will happen to the newly excluded acreage, which still contains hundreds of thousands of sites they consider important. Will the Department of the Interior open the land completely to oil and gas extraction? And what specimens—ancient dinosaurs, mammals, fish, and more—could be lost? Two paleontologists and a law professor <a href="" target="_blank">discuss the implications</a>. </p> <p><span>After Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina, historic flooding caused several dam breaches late last week—<a href="" target="_blank">leading to a coal ash controversy</a>. Now, an ongoing disagreement ensues between e</span>nvironmentalists and industry representatives about the levels of coal ash in the Cape Fear River near Wilmington, North Carolina.</p> <p>Last week, <span>the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, also known as JAXA, l<a href="" target="_blank">anded two rovers on the asteroid Ryugu</a>. The Hayabusa2 mission will explore the surface of the asteroid, blast an impactor into it to study the core, and return to Earth with samples. And</span>, Science Friday video producer Luke Groskin talks about his visit to <a href="" target="_blank">a lab where scientists are mixing up recipes for asteroids</a> here on Earth to help researchers test rovers for future missions.</p> <p>Plus, geologists and archeologists <a href="" target="_blank">debate a new potential geologic age</a>, starting around 4,200 years ago. </p>
Sep 28, 2018
Undiscovered Presents: The Magic Machine. Sept. 25, 2018
<p>As a critical care doctor, Jessica Zitter has seen plenty of “Hail Mary” attempts to save dying patients go bad—attempts where doctors try interventions that don’t change the outcome, but <em>do</em> lead to more patient suffering. It’s left her distrustful of flashy medical technology and a culture that insists that more treatment is always better. But when a new patient goes into cardiac arrest, the case doesn’t play out the way Jessica expected. She finds herself fighting for hours to revive him—and reaching for a game-changing technology that uncomfortably blurs the lines between life and death. </p> <p>Subscribe to Undiscovered <a href="" target="_blank">HERE</a>, or wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <hr> <p> </p> <h3>Resources</h3> <p>Talking about end-of-life stuff can be hard! Here are some resources to get you started. (Adapted from Jessica Zitter’s <a href="" target="_blank" title="Extreme Measures"><em>Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life</em></a>. Thanks Jessica!)</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>I want to… </strong></p> <p><strong>...figure out what kind of care I might want at end of life:</strong></p> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank" title="Prepare">Prepare</a> </strong>uses videos of people thinking about their end-of-life preferences to walk you through the steps for choosing a surrogate decision maker, determining your preferences, etc. </p> <p><strong> with family/friends about my preferences (or theirs!):</strong></p> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank" title="The Conversation Project">The Conversation Project</a> </strong>offers a starter kit and tools to help start the conversation. </p> <p><strong>...put my preferences in writing (and advance directive): </strong></p> <p><strong><a href="">Advance Directive forms</a> </strong>connects you to advance directive forms for your state. </p> <p><strong><a href="">My Directives</a></strong> For those who like their documents in app form! Guides you through creating an end-of-life plan, then stores it in the cloud so it’s accessible anywhere. For those who like their documents in app form!</p> <hr> <h3>Guests</h3> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Jessica Nutik Zitter, MD, MPH</a>, Author and Attending Physician, Division of Pulmonary/Critical Care and Palliative Care Medicine, Highland Hospital</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Thomas Frohlich, MD</a>, Chief of Cardiology, Highland Hospital</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Kenneth Prager, MD</a>, Professor of Medicine and Director of Clinical Ethics, Columbia University Medical Center</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Daniela Lamas, MD</a>, author and Associate Faculty at Ariadne Labs</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">David Casarett MD</a>, author and Chief of Palliative Care, Duke University School of Medicine</p> <hr> <h3>Footnotes</h3> <p>Read the books: Jessica Zitter’s book is<a href="" target="_blank"> <em>Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life</em></a>. Daniela Lamas’s book is <a href="" target="_blank"><em>You Can Stop Humming Now: A Doctor’s Stories of Life, Death, and In Between</em></a>. David Casarett’s book is <em><a href="" target="_blank">Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead</a></em></p> <p><a href="">Read</a> the memoirs of Amsterdam’s “Society in Favor of Drowned Persons,” the Dutch group that tried to resuscitate drowning victims (including Anne Wortman!)</p> <p>Learn more about <a href="" target="_blank">ECMO</a>, its <a href="" target="_blank">success rates</a>, and the <a href="" target="_blank">ethical questions</a> it raises (Daniela also wrote an article about it <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>)</p> <p>Read Daniela’s <a href="" target="_blank">study</a> about quality of life in long-term acute care hospitals (LTACHs). And for an introduction to LTACHs, here’s an overview from <a href="" target="_blank"><em>The New York Times</em></a></p> <p>Watch <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Extremis</em></a>, the Oscar-nominated documentary (featuring Jessica Zitter), about families facing end-of-life decisions in Highland Hospital’s ICU.</p> <hr> <h3>Credits</h3> <p>This episode of Undiscovered was reported and produced by <a href="" target="_blank">Annie Minoff</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Elah Feder</a>. Editing by <a href="" target="_blank">Christopher Intagliata</a>. Original music by <a href="" target="_blank">Daniel Peterschmidt</a>. Fact-checking help from Michelle Harris. Special thanks to Lorna Fernandes and the staff at Highland Hospital in Oakland. Our theme music is by <a href="" target="_blank">I Am Robot And Proud</a>. Our mid-break theme for this episode, “No Turning Back,” is by Daniel Peterschmidt and I am Robot and Proud. Thanks to the entire Science Friday staff, the folks at WNYC Studios, and CUNY’s Sarah Fishman. Special thanks to Michele Kassemos of UCSF Medical Center, Lorna Fernandes of Highland Hospital, and the entire staff at Highland.</p>
Sep 25, 2018
Endangered Crow, Hawaiian Biodiversity, Mars Simulation. Sept. 21, 2018, Part 2
<p>About five million years ago, the island of Kauai emerged from the ocean waves, and a new chain of island habitats was born, right in the middle of the Pacific. In those Hawaiian islands, birds would have found a multitude of microclimates, a lack of most predators, and a pretty safe spot to grow and evolve—which they did, diversifying into a wide range of species, each suited to a different lifestyle and habitat. But today Hawaii’s diverse birds are under attack by invasive mongooses, cats, rats and other predators. Some birds no longer breed in the wild and need the help of humans to reproduce and survive. Alison Greggor, a post-doctoral research associate at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, joins Ira to talk about <a href="" target="_blank">efforts to rehabilitate the nearly extinct Hawaiian crow</a>, the ʻAlalā, and the race to save delicate bird eggs before predators get them first.</p> <p>When people talk about evolution and islands, it seems like the Galapagos get all the credit. But just like that island chain, with Darwin’s famous finches, the <a href="" target="_blank">Hawaiian archipelago is itself a stunning natural lab for adaptation and evolution</a>. As new lands is created and as old islands erode, the Hawaiian islands have developed a fantastic array of microclimates and habitats—and unusual species have evolved to take advantage of each one.</p> <p>Perched on the side of the Mauna Loa volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island is an otherworldly experiment—a Mars colony where half a dozen crew members spend eight months living together and simulating life on the Red Planet. The location looks altogether unearthly, with rusty red rock fields that look a lot like the images being sent back from the surface of Mars. <a href="" target="_blank">What happens when you jam six people in a 1,200 ft2 habitat for months at a time</a>? Kim Binstead, the principal investigator on the HI-SEAS project and a professor of information and computer sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, joins Ira to give a glimpse of what life is like inside.</p>
Sep 21, 2018
Utah Dino Bones, Salt Lake Migrations, Tree Canopies. Sept. 21, 2018, Part 1
<p><span>If you stood in southeastern Utah over 200 million years ago, you’d be overlooking the ocean. The landlocked state wasn’t quite the same landscape of scarlet plateaus and canyons you might see today, but a coastal desert where sand dunes butted up right against the sea. And it was home to some of the earliest dinosaurs. </span>In this region of Utah, today known as Indian Creek in Bears Ears National Monument, the remains of dinosaur relatives, known as protodinosaurs or “dinosaur aunts and uncles,” are buried in the Earth. <a href="" target="_blank">Their bones tell the stories</a> about the dawn of dinosaurs, prehistoric Utah, and a much warmer Earth.</p> <p><span>In the northern reaches of Utah’s Great Salt Lake sits Gunnison Island, a narrow strip of land just a mile long and half a mile wide. Despite its small size, the island hosts the world’s second largest white pelican rookery, with an average of 20,000 birds and 6,000 nests. Biologist Jaimi Butler of Westminster College’s Great Salt Lake Institute calls the birds the “polar bears” of Great Salt Lake—because as lake waters drop, the birds’ island refuge is now threatened by humans, coyotes, and other predators. Butler and her team have <a href="" target="_blank">installed cameras on the island</a>, and citizen scientists can now use these “PELIcam” images to help Butler and her colleagues catalog the white pelican population on the island—and the appearance of predators, too.</span></p> <p>Forest ecologist Nalini Nadkarni pioneered the exploration of tree canopies—the “new frontiers” of the forest, <a href="" target="_blank">using hot air balloons, rock climbing gear, and cranes</a>. There, high in the trees, she found soil coating the branches, much like the soil on the forest floor—and unique adaptations, like the water-gathering abilities of spiky bromeliads. In this segment, recorded live at the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City, Nadkarni takes Ira on a tour of the forest canopy, talks about how fashion can be a tool for science communication, and describes her work communicating science to underserved populations, like inmates in prisons around the nation—from minimum security to Supermax.</p>
Sep 21, 2018
Undiscovered Presents: The Holdout. Sept 18, 2018.
<p>Since the 1980s, Gerta Keller, professor of paleontology and geology at Princeton, has been speaking out against an idea most of us take as scientific gospel: That a giant rock from space killed the dinosaurs. Nice story, she says—but it’s just not true. Gerta's been shouted down and ostracized at conferences, but in three decades, she hasn’t backed down. And now, things might finally be coming around for Gerta’s theory. But is she right? Did something else kill the dinosaurs? Or is she just too proud to admit she’s been wrong for 30 years?</p> <p><span>Subscribe to Undiscovered </span><a href="" target="_blank">HERE</a><span>, or wherever you get your podcasts.</span></p> <hr> <p>GUESTS</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Gerta Keller</a>, professor of paleontology and geology at Princeton</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">James Powell</a>, geologist and author of <em>Night Comes to the Cretaceous: Dinosaur Extinction and the Transformation of Modern Geology</em> (St. Martin's Press)</p> <hr> <p>FOOTNOTES</p> <p>Michael Benton <a href="" target="_blank">reviews</a> the many, sometimes hilarious explanations for the (non-avian) dinosaurs’ extinction. Note: Ideas marked with asterisks were jokes! More in Benton’s <a href="" target="_blank">book</a>.</p> <p>Walter Alvarez <a href="" target="_blank">tells his own story</a> of the impact hypothesis in <em>T. Rex and the Crater of Doom</em>.</p> <p>The New York Times <a href="" target="_blank">interviews Luis Alvarez before he dies</a>, and he takes some parting shots at his scientific opponents.</p> <p>The impact and the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary were <a href="">simultaneous</a> <a href="" target="_blank">according to this paper</a>.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Learn more</a> <a href="" target="_blank">about how</a> volcanoes are major suspects in mass extinctions.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Read</a> <a href="" target="_blank">more</a> <a href="" target="_blank">about</a> <a href="" target="_blank">Gerta Keller</a>, the holdout.</p> <hr> <p>CREDITS</p> <p>This episode of Undiscovered was reported and produced by <a href="" target="_blank">Elah Feder</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Annie Minoff</a>. Our senior editor is <a href="" target="_blank">Christopher Intagliata</a>. Original music by <a href="" target="_blank">Daniel Peterschmidt</a>. Fact-checking help from Robin Palmer. <a href="" target="_blank">Lucy Huang</a> polled visitors to AMNH about what killed the dinosaurs. Our theme music is by <a href="" target="_blank">I Am Robot And Proud</a>. Excerpts from All Things Considered used with permission from NPR.</p>
Sep 18, 2018
Soil Future, Plant Feelings, Science Fair. Sept 14, 2018, Part 2
<p>Climate change is increasing temperatures and causing heavier rainfalls across the country. Scientists are studying how these changes will affect different natural resources, <a href="" target="_blank">including the soil ecosystem</a>. For example, in Wisconsin, soil erosion is predicted to double by 2050 due to heavier rainfalls, according to a report by the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. Agricultural scientist Andrea Basche talks about how soil formation and health is tied to climate. She joins microbiologist Kristen DeAngelis, who is conducting a long-term study to determine how increased temperatures affect soil microbiome, how to protect this resource, and what our soil reserves might look like in the next fifty years.</p> <p>Plants have a unique challenge in staying alive long enough to produce offspring. Unable to move and at the mercy of their surroundings, they present a tempting source of nutrition for bacteria and animals alike. But they’re not helpless. Botanists have long known plants are capable of sensing their environments and responding to them. They can grow differently in response to shade or drought, or release noxious chemicals to fend off predators, even as a caterpillar is mid-way through chewing on a leaf. But how does that information travel? New research published in the journal Science shows a first glimpse, in real time, of <a href="" target="_blank">distress signals</a> traveling from one leaf, snipped, crushed, or chewed, to other healthy leaves in the same plant. The signal, a wave of calcium ions, seems linked to the amino acid glutamate, which in animals acts as a neurotransmitter. University of Wisconsin-Madison botany professor Simon Gilroy, a co-author on the new research, explains this chemical signaling pathway and other advances in how we understand plant communication. </p> <p>At some science fairs, baking soda volcanos can grab the blue ribbon prize. But at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), a winning project is a design to kill cancer cells. ISEF is the grand championship of science fairs, where students from around the world submit their best research projects and compete in a high-stakes, hormone-filled challenge, <a href="" target="_blank">which is showcased in full display in the new film, Science Fair</a>. Like any high school experience, it can be a pressure cooker of anxiety, but also a time when many students find their calling—a crucible from which our future scientists are born. Ira talks with one of the film’s directors, Cristina Costantini, and catches up with a former ISEF participant Robbie Barrat, to discuss life after Science Fair. View a trailer of the film below and find screening times and locations here.</p>
Sep 14, 2018
Florence Flooding, Algorithms, Dino Demise. Sept. 14, 2018, Part 1
<p>Last month, California passed a bill ending the use of cash bail. Instead of waiting in jail or putting down a cash deposit to await trial at home, defendants are released after the pleadings. The catch? Not everyone gets this treatment. It’s not a judge who determines who should and shouldn’t be released; <a href="" target="_blank">it’s an algorithm</a>. Algorithms have also been used to figure out which incarcerated individuals should be released on parole. Mathematician Hannah Fry and computer scientist Suresh Venkatasubramanian join Ira to discuss how algorithms are being used not only in the justice system, but in healthcare and data mining too. </p> <p>As Hurricane Florence approaches the Carolinas this week, forecasters and disaster management officials are stressing one key piece of advice to evacuating residents: Take the storm seriously, regardless of the category designation. Once projected to hit Category 4, Florence was at Category 2 as of Thursday morning, but that number only describes the wind speed. Meanwhile, as University of California-Irvine civil engineer Amir AghaKouchak notes, there could be <a href="" target="_blank">unusually devastating flooding</a>, as storm surge from the ocean meets rainfall from a storm that is projected to pour on the region for days. “Compound flooding” is the phenomenon that left Houston under water after Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and, at its worse, could cause rivers to run in reverse. And, AghaKouchak says, climate change and sea level rise both make such flooding more likely in storms like Florence.</p> <p>The prevailing theory says a meteorite led to the demise of the dinos. But Gerta Keller, a longtime geologist and paleontologist, isn’t buying it, and says volcanoes were the real culprit. The latest episode of <em><a href="" target="_blank">Undiscovered</a></em> tells her story, and asks whether conflict among scientists really makes science stronger. Co-hosts Elah Feder and Annie Minoff join Ira for a preview. Subscribe to <em><a href="" target="_blank">Undiscovered</a></em> wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p> </p>
Sep 14, 2018
Undiscovered Presents: I, Robovie. Sept 11, 2018.
<p>A decade ago, psychologists introduced a group of kids to Robovie, a wide-eyed robot who could talk, play, and hug like a pro. And then, the researchers did something heartbreaking to Robovie! They wanted to see just how far kids’ empathy for a robot would go. What the researchers didn’t gamble on was just how complicated their own feelings for Robovie would get. Annie and Elah explore the robot-human bond. Subscribe to Undiscovered <a href="" target="_blank">HERE</a>, or wherever you get your podcasts</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>VIDEOS</strong></p> <p><strong>I Spy, And The Closet</strong></p> <p>A fifteen-year-old study participant plays a game of I Spy with Robovie—and then watches as the robot is ordered into the closet. (Video courtesy of the <a href="" target="_blank">HINTS lab</a> at the University of Washington. Read the <a href="" target="_blank">full study</a>.) </p> <p><div class="user-embedded-video"><div id="videoplayer_idm14056307475248054ed6de7-f863-485b-9224-9c3d9cfaa442"><iframe width="465" height="349" src=";autohide=1&amp;rel=0&amp;showinfo=0&amp;feature=oembed&amp;enablejsapi=1" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" id="a-3196081511759509822" class="youtube_video" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" data-original-url=""></iframe></div></div>  </p> <p><strong>Introductions</strong></p> <p>A 15-year-old study participant meets Robovie for the first time. (Video courtesy of the <a href="" target="_blank">HINTS lab</a> at the University of Washington. Read the <a href="" target="_blank">full study</a>.)</p> <p><div class="user-embedded-video"><div id="videoplayer_idm14056311147641645e96cb0-d452-4af4-b41d-9cf0d3df210e"><iframe width="465" height="349" src=";autohide=1&amp;rel=0&amp;showinfo=0&amp;feature=oembed&amp;enablejsapi=1" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" id="a5802918182725980112" class="youtube_video" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" data-original-url=""></iframe></div></div></p> <p><strong>Chit-Chat</strong></p> <p>Robovie and a 9-year-old study participant talk about the ocean. (Video courtesy of the <a href="" target="_blank">HINTS lab</a> at the University of Washington. Read the <a href="" target="_blank">full study</a>.)</p> <p><div class="user-embedded-video"><div id="videoplayer_idm1405631014890566bb0ee60-774d-4b7c-a4fb-daf65afbc163"><iframe width="465" height="349" src=";autohide=1&amp;rel=0&amp;showinfo=0&amp;feature=oembed&amp;enablejsapi=1" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" id="a1730695336409880602" class="youtube_video" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" data-original-url=""></iframe></div></div>  </p> <p><strong>Xavier Buys A Cup Of Coffee</strong></p> <p>A robot named Xavier orders coffee at the kiosk in Carnegie Mellon’s computer science building. (Video courtesy of <a href="" target="_blank">Yasushi Nakauchi</a>. Read <a href="" target="_blank">the study</a> about how Xavier does it.)</p> <p><div class="user-embedded-video"><div id="videoplayer_idm140563118538176da8adfa9-afe0-4b2e-95ee-bf0ef361d21a"><iframe width="465" height="349" src=";autohide=1&amp;rel=0&amp;showinfo=0&amp;feature=oembed&amp;enablejsapi=1" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" id="a-2890547912366187555" class="youtube_video" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" data-original-url=""></iframe></div></div>  </p> <p><strong>GUESTS</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Peter Kahn</a>, professor of psychology, and environmental and forest sciences at the University of Washington, and leader of the <a href="" target="_blank">HINTS lab</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Rachel Severson</a>, assistant professor of psychology, University of Montana</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Nathan Freier</a>, principal program manager, Microsoft</p> <p>Ryan Germick, principal designer, <a href="" target="_blank">Google Doodles</a> &amp; Assistant Personality</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>FOOTNOTES</strong></p> <p>Read the Robovie study: <a href="" target="_blank">“Robovie, You’ll Have to Go into the Closet Now”: Children’s Social and Moral Relationships With a Humanoid Robot”</a></p> <p>Read about how Xavier <a href="" target="_blank">stands in line</a>.</p> <p>Check out the work of Robovie’s creators, roboticists <a href="" target="_blank">Hiroshi Ishiguro</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Takayuki Kanda</a>.</p> <p>People did <em>not</em> want to hit Frank the robot bug with a hammer. <a href="" target="_blank">Here’s why.</a></p> <p>The HINTS lab did more studies with Robovie. <a href="" target="_blank">Read</a> about them (and watch more Robovie <a href="" target="_blank">videos</a>.)</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>SPECIAL THANKS</strong></p> <p>Thanks to sci-fi author <a href="" target="_blank">Daniel H. Wilson</a>, who first told us about Xavier the coffee robot and the Robovie experiment. (Need a good book about a robot apocalypse? <a href="" target="_blank">He’s got your back.</a>)</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>CREDITS</strong></p> <p>This episode of Undiscovered was reported and produced by <a href="" target="_blank">Annie Minoff</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Elah Feder</a>. Our senior editor is <a href="" target="_blank">Christopher Intagliata</a>. Original music by <a href="" target="_blank">Daniel Peterschmidt</a>. Fact-checking help from Michelle Harris. Our theme music is by <a href="" target="_blank">I am Robot and Proud</a>.</p> <p> </p>
Sep 11, 2018
Grazing, Work-Life Imbalance. Aug. 7, 2018, Part 2
<p><span>Each spring, animals move from their winter grazing grounds in search of greener pastures. For birds, where and when to start that journey is based on genetics, and signals from stars, and magnetic fields from the earth. But for some larger mammals like sheep and moose, they’re not born knowing where to go. They need to learn a mental migratory map—and it’s often passed down from other herd members. Ecologists Matthew Kauffman and Brett Jesmer join Ira <a href="">to tell us more</a>.</span></p> <p>Plus: Employers tend to design offices and other workspaces to maximize productivity and minimize costs—hence the rise of the open office plan. But a recent study of two large companies published<span> in <em>Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B</em></span> found that open office plans reduced face-to-face contact and productivity, a counterintuitive effect. What else is changing work-life balance into an imbalance? Researchers Ethan Bernstein, <span>Nancy Rothbard, and Sarah Andrea discuss <a href="">the changing science of work</a>.</span></p>
Sep 07, 2018
Tick Repellents, Robot Relationships. Aug. 7, 2018, Part 1
<p>If you were given a robot and asked to break it, would you do it? The amount of Furby destruction videos on Youtube suggest it wouldn’t be that hard. But that’s not true for all robots. According to researchers, knowing more about a robot or bonding with it can make you hesitant to harm it. And if the bond between you and a robot is strong enough, you might even go out of your way to protect it. Kate Darling, robot ethicists from the MIT Media Lab, and Heather Knight, robotics researcher from Oregon State University, join Ira to talk about how we become attached to robots, and <a href="">how this relationship can even influence our behavior</a>.</p> <p>Plus, our spinoff podcast, Undiscovered, is back! Hosts Elah Feder and Annie Minoff chat about the upcoming season, and give us <a href="">a sneak preview</a> of the first episode. Can't wait? <a href="">Listen to the trailer here.</a></p> <p>With Lyme disease on the rise, New Hampshire is asking the EPA to speed up the approval process for tick repellant. New Hampshire Public Radio's Annie Ropeik joins Ira to <a href="">tell us more</a>.</p> <p>And Gizmodo's Ryan Mandelbaum tells us the top science headlines in this week's <a href="">News Round-up</a>.</p>
Sep 07, 2018
Eric Kandel and the Disordered Mind, Death. Aug 31, 2018, Part 2
<p>The human brain contains an estimated 100 billion neurons. When those cells malfunction, the disrupted process can lead to schizophrenia, PTSD, and other disorders. In his book <em>The Disordered Mind</em>, Nobel Prize-winning neuropsychiatrist Eric Kandel looks at where the processes fault to give insight into how the brain works. <a href="" target="_blank">According to Kandel</a>, the understanding of these disorders offers a chance “to see how our individual experiences and behavior are rooted in the interaction of genes and environment that shapes our brains.”</p> <p><span>Earlier in 2018, Utah became the 15th state to legalize water cremation, or alkaline hydrolysis. Unlike traditional cremation, which burns human remains at 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit, water cremation uses a mixture of water and lye, along with heat and pressure, to break down the remains. Meanwhile, many cemeteries across the country now offer green burial sites—sites that ban embalming fluid and use biodegradable caskets. </span>As climate-conscious consumers consider their final arrangements, alternative funerals like a water cremation or a green burial are <a href="" target="_blank">becoming more popular in the face of resource-heavy traditional funerals</a>. </p>
Aug 31, 2018
Outdoor Influencers, Northwest Passage, Undersea Volcanoes. Aug 31, 2018, Part 1
<p>NASA is exploring a deep-sea volcano off the coast of Hawaii as a test run for human and robotic missions to Mars and beyond. The mission, dubbed SUBSEA, or Systematic Underwater Biogeochemical Science and Exploration Analog, will examine microbial life on the Lō`ihi seamount. <a href="" target="_blank">The mission has two objectives</a>. The first is to learn about the operational and communication challenges of a real space mission through a deep ocean dive. The second is to learn more about the geology and chemistry that support life in the deep ocean, as a glimpse of what alien life might require in places like the oceans of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.</p> <p>You’ve probably had the experience of scrolling through your Instagram feed, coming across a picture of some hidden swimming hole, secluded mountain trail, or pristine beach, and thought, “I want to go THERE.” Popular accounts on Instagram and other social media services can increase the visibility of remote places, making them more accessible and encouraging people to venture into the outdoors. But some are worried that the accounts can attract <a href="" target="_blank">too much attention to fragile places</a> that may not be able to withstand hordes of visitors. Zoe Schiffer, who recently wrote about the issue for <em>Racked</em>, joins Ira to talk about social media and the great outdoors, and whether guidelines for “leaving no trace” need to be updated for the digital age.</p> <p>On August 23rd, a team of scientists, students, and a professional film crew aboard the research vessel <em>Academik Ioffe</em> set out from Resolute Bay in Northern Canada. Their mission? To study the arctic environment as part of the Northwest Passage Project. The expedition was supposed to last three weeks, but just one day after the crew embarked the vessel <a href="" target="_blank">became grounded and the expedition had to be suspended</a>. Brice Loose, chief scientist aboard the <em>Academik Ioffe</em>, and microbiologist Mary Thaler, a passenger aboard the vessel, join Ira to share what happened and discuss the science that had to be put on hold.</p> <p> </p>
Aug 31, 2018
SciFri Special Edition: A Time Traveler Cocktail Party. Aug 28, 2018.
<p>In 2009, Stephen Hawking decided to throw a party for time travelers, famously sending the invitations after the date of the party. For the 30th anniversary of Hawking’s <em>A Brief History of Time</em>, the SciFri Book Club decided to throw our own party—a Time Traveler Cocktail Party, live at Caveat in New York City!</p> <p>We had hands-on physics demonstrations, built 2018 time capsules, and heard conversations about black holes, gravity and the fabric of our universe with Ryan Mandelbaum (Gizmodo), Rae Paoletta, and physicist Jillian Bellovary (American Museum of Natural History). We also revealed the winning art commissioned as part of a contest challenging artists all over the world to interpret Stephen Hawking’s vivid depictions of the universe.</p> <p>We closed the evening with a poem written by Marie Howe and read by renowned theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin. “Singularity,” by Marie Howe, was originally composed for and performed at The Universe in Verse, a celebration of science through poetry hosted by Janna Levin, and curated by Maria Popova at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn.</p>
Aug 28, 2018
Yellow Fever and Ebola, Trans-boundary Aquifers, Probiotics. Aug 24, 2018, Part 2
<p><span>From 1976 to 2017, the Democratic Republic of the Congo experienced eight outbreaks of the deadly Ebola virus. Then, for 10 weeks earlier this year, the virus reemerged in the country, killing 33 people. Ministry of Health officials finally declared the crisis over on July 24. </span>But just one week later, on August 1, the DRC reported <a href="" target="_blank">a new outbreak of the Ebola virus in North Kivu province</a>. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the The National Institutes of Health, joins Ira for an update on the latest outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.</p> <p>Plus, <span>public health officials may not be able to control when and where a viral outbreak will occur. But, with the right strategy, they can keep it from becoming an epidemic. One of these strategies was used on yellow fever, a virus that emerged in Brazil last year and threatened major population centers like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Nuno Faria of the University of Oxford describes <a href="" target="_blank">how his team used real time genome sequencing of the Yellow Fever virus</a> to track where it came from and which groups might be at risk.</span></p> <p><span>In the Southwest, water is at a premium, with every drop in demand from agriculture, industry, and growing populations. The Mexico-Texas border is no exception. Strict rules govern who can take water from the Rio Grande, with each country owing a certain amount of water to the other as the river winds back and forth. </span>But the surface water isn’t the only liquid in play. Far below the surface, hidden aquifers straddle the border—and the water within them is largely unregulated. <span>Rosario Sanchez of the Texas Water Resources Institute and Zoe Schlanger, environment reporter for <em>Quartz </em><a href="" target="_blank">discuss the water regulations and border disputes</a>. </span></p> <p>Plus, <a href="" target="_blank">are probiotics good for you</a>? A new study suggests too much "good bacteria" could poison your brain.</p>
Aug 24, 2018
Hurricane Lane, Disposable Contacts, Brief History of Time. Aug 24, 2018, Part 1
<p><span>This year was both the 30th anniversary of Stephen Hawking’s science blockbuster </span><em>A Brief History of Time</em><span>, but also the year the famed physicist himself passed away. In memory of Hawking and celebration of his work, Science Friday Book Club listeners joined up to read </span><em>A Brief History of Time, </em><span>ask questions, and explore the far reaches of what we know about the universe—how it began, how it will end, and what it’s made of in the meantime. <a href="" target="_blank">In the final chapter of this summer’s book club</a></span>, Yale astronomer and physicist Priya Natarajan and physicist Clifford Johnson of the University of Southern California join Ira Flatow and SciFri producer Christie Taylor to talk about the man, the book, and the science—and where the field has gone since.</p> <p>Unlike their reusable counterparts that are changed out weekly or even monthly, daily single-use contact lenses don’t need to be cleaned and stored at the end of the day. While these contacts are better for the health of your eyes, it also means throwing out little pieces of plastics every day—and some of these contact lenses are infiltrating our waterways. Research <span>from Arizona State University estimates that 20 to 23 metric tons of contact lenses end up in waterways each year. </span>Charles Rolsky<span>, a Ph.D. student in the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering at Arizona State University, joins Ira Flatow to discuss <a href="" target="_blank">how contacts are polluting our water</a>.</span></p> <p>Plus, <a href="" target="_blank">a strong Pacific hurricane</a>, fueled by unusually warm water, has Hawaii in its sights—and more short stories in science news.  </p>
Aug 24, 2018
Ant Traffic Flow, Natural Reactors, David Quammen. August 17, 2018, Part 2
<p><span>Worker ants keep the nest alive. They look for food, take care of the eggs, and dig all the tunnels. Fire ant colonies, for example, have hundreds of thousands of worker ants. You’d think traffic jams happen all the time. <a href="" target="_blank">But they don’t</a>! </span><span>The majority of the ants aren’t working, according to a study published in </span><em>Science </em><span>this week from the Georgia Institute of Technology. They remain idle to stay out of the way, leaving only 30% of the ants to dig a new hole. The researchers also believe the dynamic between idle and active ants could be applied to teaching small robots to dig together at an earthquake site or find shelter underground during a natural disaster.</span></p> <p><span>Long before humans enriched uranium to create nuclear fission, the Earth was doing it on its own. Two billion years ago, some natural deposits of uranium contained enough Uranium-235 to undergo spontaneous fission reactions. </span>Those deposits are no longer undergoing fission. But, new research of the Oklo natural nuclear reactor in Gabon has found something curious. Not all the cesium (a toxic waste product of fission reactions both natural and man-made) was released into the environment. Rather, <a href="" target="_blank">some remained bound in the reactor</a>, with the help of other molecules. How could<span> this finding help lead to safer nuclear waste storage?</span></p> <p><span>In </span><em>The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life</em><span>, science writer David Quammen tells the tale of the microbiologist Carl Woese, who discovered in 1977 that a certain methane-belching microbe was not a bacterium, but instead belonged to another, altogether new branch of the evolutionary tree, the Archaea. <a href="" target="_blank">The news shook up scientists’ understanding of the tree of life</a>, Quammen writes—and our human place in it.</span></p>
Aug 17, 2018
Coastal Flooding, Elephants and Cancer, Yosemite Bears. August 17, 2018, Part 1
<p>More than five years after the devastating 14-foot high waters of Superstorm Sandy flooded New York and New Jersey, the Army Corps of Engineers is studying methods for reducing the damage of future high waters in the New York Bay and Hudson River estuary—whether with levees, seawalls, beach nourishment, or even a gate that would span from Sandy Hook to the Rockaways. <a href="" target="_blank">But would such barriers be sufficient as sea levels rise?</a> Is building big structures—like those protecting the Netherlands—the best use of resources? </p> <p>Cancer happens when a cell picks up a mutation that causes it grow and divide out of control. Statistically, you would think then that larger-bodied organisms would have more cells and therefore more opportunities for mutation—increasing the risk of cancer. <a href="" target="_blank">But for some bigger animals, this idea doesn’t hold true</a>. This conundrum was first observed by epidemiologist Richard Peto and has become known as Peto’s Paradox. The elephant is one animal that falls under this paradox and has a lower cancer risk despite its large size. Scientists investigated the elephant genome to try to understand why this might happen—and identified a “zombie” gene, which is dormant in most mammals, but in elephants identifies and kills cells with damaged DNA. </p> <p>People love seeing black bears when they visit Yosemite National Park in California. But encounters don’t always go well. The park has come up with a new way to keep humans and bears safe. But tracking data from the past few years points to a new trend: <a href="" target="_blank">Bears are being hit by cars, and speeding is now their biggest threat</a>. Leahy says 28 were hit in 2016, and many of them died. In 2017, 23 bears were hit and four died. “You’re talking about 10 percent of our bears potentially being hit by vehicles each year,” said <span>Yosemite National Park wildlife biologist Ryan Leahy in</span> 2017. “Just slowing down a little bit will give you that stopping distance required to prevent a collision.” The key, he says, is education. His team has created an interactive map-based website where the public can track the lives of selected bears and see general areas where they’re hit the most.</p>
Aug 17, 2018
Parch Marks, Wildfires, The Beatles. August 10, 2018, Part 1
<p>The Mendocino Complex fire in northern California has spread to more than 300,000 acres—a swath of land bigger than New York City. The blaze is the state’s largest wildfire in recorded history, edging out last year's record-setting Thomas Fire, which devastated communities north of Los Angeles. While climate change is certainly to blame in fanning the flames of wildfires (by boosting temperatures, parching landscapes, and causing more erratic rainfall) there's another factor that's making today's fires increasingly dangerous: a nearly 1,400 percent increase in the number of people building homes in harm's way since the 1940s. <span>Stephen Strader of Villanova University, Jon Keeley of the U.S. Geological Survey, and Erin Questad of Cal Poly Pomona join Ira <a href="">to talk about people in the way of fire</a>—and how we can nurse those ecosystems back to health.</span></p> <p>If you had a number one hit song, you would probably remember writing it. John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote over 200 songs together over 50 years ago. So it’s no surprise that memories have gotten a little fuzzy when it comes to who wrote which Beatles song. Mark Glickman, senior lecturer in statistics at Harvard University and Beatles super-fan, developed an algorithm<span> to determine the authorship of “In My Life” and several other contested Beatles songs. <a href="">He (and his guitar) join Ira to discuss his findings.</a></span></p> <p><span>Plus: It’s been hot in the United Kingdom this summer. </span>But as lawns parch and grasses turn brown, the landscape is also revealing <a href="">the buried remains of valuable archaeological finds</a>. Aerial archaeologist Robert Bewley, at Oxford University, describes how “parch marks” can reveal hidden treasures.</p> <p>And Vox staff writer Umair Irfan joins Ira to discuss what the researchers discovered about the benefits—and downsides—of a future geoengineered climate, and other science headlines <a href="">in this week’s News Round-up</a>.</p> <p><span> </span></p>
Aug 10, 2018
The Story Of Sand, Science And Dance. August 10, 2018, Part 2.
<p>When you think of sand, thoughts of the ocean and sand castles probably come to mind. But sand can be found in much more than beachfronts. Sand is a key ingredient in concrete for skyscrapers, silicon for computer chips, and the glass for your smartphone. Vince Beiser, journalist and author of the book <em>The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How it Transformed Civilization</em>, <a href="">tells Ira more</a>.</p> <p><span>How would you choreograph the heft of the Higgs boson, the plight of an endangered species, or the battle between the body and tumors? For marine conservationist Lekelia Jenkins, dance has been as important a part of her life as a scientist; she’s created dances about the success of devices that can keep sea turtles out of fishing nets, and is working on researching the ways dance can enhance learning. And a Yale University duo, dancer Emily Coates and particle physicist Sarah Demers, are working beyond interpretive dance to create works where dance informs physics just as much as physics can inform dance.  They all join Ira to <a href="">discuss the intersection of science and dance</a>.</span></p>
Aug 10, 2018
Bacteria Extinction, Facial Recognition, Solar Probe. August 3, 2018, Part 2
<p><span>Long before we walked the Earth, bacteria took it over. They’re in every ecosystem on the Earth, and researchers have hopes to someday find them on other planets. The tiny cells have even helped make our atmosphere </span><span>oxygen-rich and liveable</span><span>. But do bacteria—numerous and adaptable as they are—ever go extinct? New research <a href="" target="_blank">suggests they do. </a></span></p> <p><span>Facial recognition systems—the type of technology that helps you tag your friends on Facebook—is finding its way offline and into real world environments. Some police departments are using the technology to help identify suspects and companies are marketing face-identifying software to schools to increase security. But a study</span><span> found that facial recognition algorithms <a href="" target="_blank">lacked in accuracy when it came to assessing different genders and skin tones. </a></span></p> <p><span>If you want to study something, the best way to do it is to go straight to the source. That goes for bodies in our solar system as well. Over the last several decades, NASA has sent space probes to study Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, Pluto, and the objects beyond them. And on </span>August 11th, NASA will launch the Parker Solar Probe, the latest mission to study our nearest star—<a href="" target="_blank">and every other star in the universe.</a></p>
Aug 03, 2018
"Lost in Math," Alan Alda, A Radical Brain Surgery, New Jersey Floods. August 3, 2018. Part 1
<p><span>For decades, physicists trying to uncover the large and small structures of the universe have been coming up empty—no evidence of supersymmetry at the Large Hadron Collider, no dark matter particles, no new evidence explaining dark energy. That’s the main conundrum in theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder’s book, </span><em><span>Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray</span></em><span>. </span><span>She talks with Ira about <a href="" target="_blank">the problems facing physics, and where new ideas could come from.</a></span></p> <p><span>This week, Alan Alda spoke publicly <span>about living with Parkinson’s Disease for the first time since his diagnosis three and a half years ago. He’s known for his work as an actor, author, and science communicator. He joins Ira to discuss <a href="" target="_blank">his life since his diagnosis.</a></span></span></p> <p><span><span>A six-year old Pittsburgh area boy underwent radical surgery in an attempt to treat a seizure-causing brain tumor. The boy’s entire occipital lobe and and much of his temporal lobe were removed—material that added up to about one-sixth of his total brain matter. Now, researchers report that the boy is <a href="" target="_blank">living a surprisingly normal life despite the missing brain matter.</a></span></span></p> <p> </p> <p><span>It’s a common tale. Homeowners affected by flooding receive insurance money and rebuild their homes, only to have yet another flood strike and damage the property again. In recent years, however, New Jersey has modified an open-space program to allow the state to offer buyouts to some homeowners in flood-stricken areas, <a href="" target="_blank">offering the pre-flood assessed value of the property. </a></span></p>
Aug 03, 2018
PFAS, Urban Evolution, Science Diction. July 27, 2018, Part 1
<p>If you thought city life was stressful, imagine being a wild animal trying to outlive speeding cars, toxic chemicals and heavy metals, or even the unnaturally bright nights and din of traffic. Why stick around at all? Yet our urban areas still teem with wildlife. Pigeons, mice, lizards, moths, and plants all eke out their livelihoods in sidewalk cracks, subway tunnels, and building ledges. But how is city living affecting how these organisms evolve? Evolutionary biologist Menno Schilthuizen, author of <a href=""><em>Darwin Comes to Town</em></a>, tells guest host John Danksosky <a href="">tales from the front lines of urban evolution research</a>.</p> <p>Plus: Did you know the word robot was only coined in 1922? And that quark was inspired by Finnegan’s Wake?Words like these weren’t just plucked from thin air… behind each one is a fascinating origin story. Scientists use words and language just like us, and encoded in the language they use are etymologies, histories, and stories that often stretch back centuries—some even bleeding into the words we use in our everyday life. SciFri digital producer Johanna Mayer joins John to <a href="">talk about our project "Science Diction."</a></p> <p>States across the country are holding public hearings on what to do about contamination with a class of persistent chemicals known as PFAS. New Hampshire Public Radio environmental reporter Annie Ropeik <a href="">tells us more in "The State of Science."</a></p> <p>And Tanya Basu, science editor at <em>The Daily Beast</em>, <a href="">explains the top science headlines</a> in the News Round-up.</p> <p><br><br></p>
Jul 27, 2018
Ant Socialization, Smoky Skies, Dust Storm, Mars Lake. July 27, 2018, Part 2
<p>Many ant species have a queen, the member of the colony that lays eggs. The rest of the ants are divided into different roles that support the queen and the colony. So what ants become queens versus workers? Scientists found that the gene ilp2 that regulates insulin played a role in determining what ant becomes the queen. Biologist Ingrid Fetter-Pruneda <a href="">talks to John Dankosky</a> about how this gene works in determining a queen.</p> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The Rocky Fire and the Jerusalem Fire <span>scorched nearly 100,000 acres in northern California in July and August of 2015… and when the prevailing winds were right, smoke drifted all the way down into the San Francisco Bay Area. </span>That’s when locals began tweeting their observations. <span>Now, scientists at the U.S. Forest Service </span><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span>have analyzed 39,000 tweets</span></a><span> like these from the 2015 wildfire season, and found that social media data can be a reliable way to augment existing air quality monitoring data in predicting the extent—and the public health effects—of wildfire smoke. Sonya Sachdeva joins <em><span>Science Friday</span></em><span> to talk about how tweets can be <a href="">a useful tool in tracking wildfires</a>.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><span><span>Plus: </span></span>Earlier this month, a cloud of dust rolled into the atmosphere above Texas and the Gulf Coast. It was a remnant of a storm blown over from the Saharan desert. <span>But, according to a new study, that Saharan dust also brings with it a silver lining—it suppresses the formation of major storms. Bowen Pan joins John Dankosky to explain why a dusty atmosphere could mean <a href="">a less severe hurricane season</a>.</span></p> <p>Researchers have been scouring Mars for water since the early 1970s. Since then, they’ve found frozen water in the poles of Mars as well as trace amounts locked up in Martian soil, but nothing liquid—until this past week. A team of scientists from Italy’s National Institute of Astrophysics announced in Science they found liquid water underneath the glaciers of the planet’s south pole. <span>Angel Abbud-Madrid joins John <a href="">to talk about how the researchers found the liquid water</a> and what this discovery means for future Martian water research, and Bonnie Meinke tells SciFri the <a href="">best ways to see Mars</a> as it will be the closest it’s been to Earth in 15 years.</span></p> <p> </p>
Jul 27, 2018
Heredity, Oldest Bread, Jupiter's Moons. July 20, 2018, Part 2
<p><span>Have you ever taken a peek at your family tree? If you trace back along those branches, you might discover some long ago celebrities, kings, and philosophers among your ancestors. </span>But what does it even mean to be “related” to an ancient queen when it’s hard to know what’s lurking inside our own DNA? <a href="" target="_blank">It turns out even one generation back, the question of who we are gets made complicated</a>. “We’re primed to think of our genomes as some kind of magical book. We just understand so little about genetics. Period.” says Carl Zimmer, author of the new book <em>She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity</em>. Zimmer joins Ira to discuss Mendel’s Law, the history of eugenics, the power of CRISPR and the boundaries of what we understand of human heredity today.</p> <p>Bread is a staple food today. You can find dozens of varieties at the supermarket—tortillas and pita, naan and focaccia, rye bread and wonder bread and baguettes too. Bread is so ubiquitous that it’s hard to imagine it was once a rare commodity, a labor-intensive specialty that could be made only by husking the seeds of wild grasses, hand-pounding and grinding them, then mixing the resulting flour with water and scorching on a hearth. Archaeologists working at a 14,000-year-old site in Jordan have now found evidence of an early bakery in the form of burned crumbs, similar to the ones at the bottom of your toaster. After analyzing the crumbs’ structure with a scanning electron microscope, the researchers were able to characterize the crumbs as the charred remains of a flatbread, similar to pita, baked with ingredients like wild einkorn wheat, barley, oats, and the roots of an aquatic plant similar to papyrus. <a href="" target="_blank">They also determined that the crumbs predate the dawn of agriculture</a>.</p> <p><span>When Galileo first saw Jupiter through a telescope, he also discovered “stars” that would orbit around the planet in the night sky. While Galileo named them the </span><span>Medicean stars—after his future patron Cosimo II de’ Medici—we know them today as</span><span> Jupiter’s moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Since Galileo’s initial discovery, <a href="" target="_blank">astronomers have found dozens more moons around Jupiter</a>, and this week, researchers announced an additional 12 moons, bringing the total number up to a whopping 79.</span></p>
Jul 20, 2018
Yeast Superbug, Dino Dinner, Toxic Algae. July 20, 2018, Part 1
<p>If you hear the word “superbug,” you’re likely to think about drug-resistant bacteria or even viruses. But in a case that’s been unfolding since 2009, <a href="" target="_blank">a drug-resistant yeast is increasingly worrying epidemiologists</a>. The yeast, Candida auris, has popped up in 27 countries so far, with 340 cases in the United States. It has a mortality rate of 60 percent. Unlike other kinds of fungal infection, C. auris seems able to hop from person to person and persists on sterile surfaces. Inconveniently, the yeast’s spores are unusually resilient against standard hospital cleaning solutions. On top of that, it’s already resistant to most of the anti-fungal drugs in existence—there weren’t many of those to being with. <span>Science writer Maryn McKenna and CDC Chief of Mycotic Diseases Tom Chiller</span><em><span> </span></em><span>joins Ira</span><span> to discuss the underestimated risks of fungi and how health systems can combat them.</span></p> <p>One-hundred fifty million years ago, long-necked sauropods roamed the planet munching on plants and trees. Some of the largest herbivorous dinosaurs could grow up to 115 feet and weigh 80 tons. A team of scientists wanted to see how much nutrition this vegetarian diet provided for the dinosaurs. The group grew horsetails, ginkgos, and other plants similar to Mesozoic vegetation under high levels of carbon dioxide to mimic the atmosphere of the era. Paleontologist Fiona Gill, who is an author on that study, <a href="" target="_blank">talks about what we know about dinosaur digestion and how this could be used to model other ancient ecosystems</a>.</p> <p>Mary Radabaugh peers over her mask at the toxic algae spread across Haney Creek off of the St. Lucie River in Florida. “You can see the flies that are on the top of it. They’re eating the rot so that’s like the sewage that is out there. You can see the big brown spots that look like sewage.” Here boats bob sadly in the blue-green algae that if ingested can cause nausea, diarrhea and vomiting and even can affect the liver and nervous system. But for Radabaugh that hardly is the worst of it, which is why she wears the paper mask over her mouth and nose. “The smell is comparable to a Port-O-Let that’s been sitting in the hot sun for about three months. It’s really probably the worst smell you’ve ever smelled.”  The toxic algae bloom is <a href="" target="_blank">the worst in modern history</a> here where the Indian River Lagoon, St. Lucie River and Atlantic Ocean converge. Some 160 billion gallons of polluted water have been flushed from a rain-swollen Lake Okeechobee to the area since January, triggering the widespread bloom that has prompted emergency declarations in three counties.</p>
Jul 20, 2018
Nerve Agents, Straws, Soccer Flops, Happiness. July 13, 2018, Part 2
<p><span>Four months ago, an ex-Russian spy and his daughter were hospitalized in the U.K. They came into contact with a substance known as Novichok—a nerve agent developed by Soviet scientists during the Cold War. And recently, two U.K. citizens were hospitalized. One died after apparent exposure to Novichok. Russia has so far denied any involvement in the attacks. </span><span>The nuclear arms race wasn’t the only focus for the U.S. and Soviets during the Cold War. The proliferation of chemical weapons—nerve and blister agents like mustard gas—was also high on their priorities. The first nerve agent was the result of 1930’s German chemists’ experiments to develop new insecticides. The substance was toxic to insects but also, at certain doses, to animals and humans as well. <a href="" target="_blank">Luckily, a brush with a nerve agent isn’t always fatal</a></span>. Dr. Rick Sachleben joins Ira to discuss how nerve agents interact with our body chemistry and what can make a difference between life and death for someone who’s come into contact with the deadly substance.</p> <p><span>This week, coffee giant Starbucks announced that it was phasing out the use of plastic straws in its stores, instead using what some are calling “adult sippy cup” lids. Other restaurants have also made the move to scale back use of the ubiquitous plastic drinking straw, <a href="" target="_blank">while some municipalities have considered total straw bans</a>. </span><em>New York Magazine</em><span> food business reporter Clint Rainey joins Ira to talk about some of the alternatives companies are considering to plastic straws, from compostable paper straws to pasta tubes to reusable metal straws, and about the challenges restaurants need to address—from durability, to price, to usability by people with disabilities.</span></p> <p><span>In late April, FIFA announced that they would be adding four more referees to each soccer match. These refs won’t be running alongside players. Instead, they’ll be in a control room watching the match closely on computer monitors. The video assistant referees will be scanning instant replay for the typical fouls like hand balls and offside goals—but they will also be monitoring soccer dives. </span><span>Soccer players are notorious for dives, or faking injuries. If players can successfully convince a referee they are temporarily injured, their team can get rewarded with a free kick, a yellow card for the opposing team, or the coveted penalty kick. If they get caught faking it, referees don’t really punish them. <a href="" target="_blank">But there is a strategy to these flops</a>. </span><span>One study showed</span><span> that players flopped when they were closer to referees and twice as much when the score was tied. Vox reporter Umair Irfan joins Ira to discuss some of the science, strategies, and behavior economics behind these soccer dives.</span></p> <p><span>What really makes a person happy? What is “the good life”?  Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos spends her research hours studying primate and canine cognition for clues to how humans think and learn. She also teaches Yale University’s most popular course (also </span><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span>available free online</span></a><span>), </span><span>“PSYC 157: Psychology and the Good Life.” <a href="" target="_blank">She joins Ira to discuss her work and the psychology of happiness</a>.  </span></p>
Jul 13, 2018
Neutrinos, Book Club, Air Conditioning. July 13, 2018, Part 1
<p><span>In 1988, physicist Stephen Hawking’s wildly popular </span><em>A Brief History of Time</em><span> introduced general audiences around the world to scientists’ questions about the Big Bang, black holes, and relativity. Many of those questions remain unanswered, though the science has advanced in the 30 years since the book was first published. Hawking, who passed away this spring, was known not just for this book, but for his enthusiastic and persistent communication with the public about science. And this summer, the Science Friday Book Club celebrates his legacy on the page, and off. <a href="" target="_blank">Join Ira and the team at Science Friday</a></span><span> as we read </span><em>A Brief History of Time</em><span> and ponder the deep questions about matter, space, and time. We’ll read the book and discuss until late August. <a href="" target="_blank">And we want to hear from you</a>! </span></p> <p><span>Neutrinos are particles that are constantly raining down in the universe. They are created from nuclear reactions in places like our sun, distant stars, and even on Earth. But the source of higher-energy cosmic neutrinos formed deeper in the universe is still a mystery. </span>Researchers have built telescopes to detect these low and high energy neutrinos as they pass through the Earth. One of these telescopes is IceCube, which is buried deep beneath the ice in the Antarctic. In September, IceCube <a href="" target="_blank">detected one of these cosmic neutrinos</a> and alerted the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope and other observatories. These telescopes were able to trace the source of the neutrino to a flare up in a blazar—a black hole at the center of a galaxy—4 billion light-years away.</p> <p><span>When the mercury soars dangerously high, air conditioning can help save lives that might otherwise be lost to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and other stresses brought about by heat waves. But there’s a downside: it can take a lot of electricity to keep you cool. </span><span>New research</span><span> published in </span><em>PLOS Medicine</em><span> earlier this month assesses <a href="" target="_blank">what happens when the demand for air conditioning rises with the temperature</a>, and why saving those lives might also cost lives. Senior author Tracey Holloway, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explains.</span></p>
Jul 13, 2018