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Science Friday

Science Friday

Brain fun for curious people.

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Ice Cream Science, Online Language. July 26, 2019, Part 2

Have you ever tried to make your favorite rocky road flavored ice cream at home, but your chocolate ice cream turns out a little crunchier than you hoped? And your ribbons of marshmallow are more like frozen, sugary shards? Chemist Matt Hartings and ice cream maker Ben Van Leeuwen, co-founder of Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream in New York City, talk about the science behind how milk, sugar, and eggs turn into your favorite frozen desserts. They?ll chat about the sweet science behind other frozen delights, too?like how the size of water crystals affect texture and how you can make a scoopable vegan ice cream. 

Are you a fluent texter? Are you eloquent with your emoji? DOES WRITING IN ALL CAPS SOUND LIKE SCREAMING TO YOU? Maybe you?ve become accustomed to delivering just the right degree of snark using ~~sparkly tildes~~? Or you feel that slight sense of aggression when someone ends a simple text to you with a period.    

In her new book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch explores some of the ways that online communication has changed the way we write informally, from the early days of computer bulletin boards to today?s Facebook and Twitter memes.

2019-07-26
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Anonymous Data, Birding Basics. July 26, 2019, Part 1

The Science Friday Book Club is buckling down to read Jennifer Ackerman?s The Genius of Birds this summer. Meanwhile, it?s vacation season, and we want you to go out and appreciate some birds in the wild.

But for beginning birders, it may seem intimidating to find and identify feathered friends both near and far from home. Audubon experts Martha Harbison and Purbita Saha join guest host Molly Webster to share some advice. They explain how to identify birds by sight and by ear, some guides that can help, and tips on photographing your finds. Plus the highlights of summer birding: Shore bird migration is already underway, and baby birds are venturing out of the nest. We challenge you to get outside to see your local clever birds in action! Join the Science Friday Bird Club on the citizen science platform iNaturalist

In this era of the Equifax breach and Facebook?s lax data privacy standards, most people are at least somewhat anxious about what happens to the data we give away. In recent years, companies have responded by promising to strip away identifying information, like your name, address, or social security number. 

But data scientists are warning us that that isn?t enough. Even seemingly harmless data?like your preferred choice of cereal?can be used to identify you. In a paper from Nature Communications out this week, researchers published a tool that calculates the likelihood of someone identifying you after offering up only a few pieces of personal information, like your zip code and your birth date. 

Dr. Julien Hendrickx, co-author of the study out in Nature Communications, joins guest host Molly Webster to discuss the risk of being discovered among anonymous data. And Joseph Jerome, policy council for the Privacy and Data project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, joins the conversation to talk about whether data can ever truly be anonymous.

Plus, the Ebola crisis in the D.R.C. is now the second biggest outbreak on record. That, and other science stories in the news this week. 

2019-07-26
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Moon Art, Space History, And NASA's Megarocket. July 19, 2019, Part 2

Our Lunar Muse

Most of us remember that iconic photograph of the Apollo 11 moon landing: Buzz Aldrin standing on a footprint-covered moon, one arm bent, and Neil Armstrong in his helmet?s reflection taking the picture. 

But there?s a much longer, ancient history of trying to visually capture the moon that came before the 1969 photo?from Bronze Age disks with crescent moons to Galileo?s telescope drawings to 19th-century photos and modern photographs. For millennia, we?ve been obsessed with the moon?s glow, its craters and blemishes, its familiar, but mysterious presence in the sky. The moon has mesmerized experts from all fields of study, from scientists, historians, curators, to artists, including this segment?s guest, Michael Benson. Benson is a filmmaker, artist, and author of Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time, a history of humanity?s quest to visualize the moon and space. In his own art, he uses raw data from space missions to create lunar and planetary landscapes. 

Benson isn?t the only person who?s thinking about how science and art has impacted how we see the moon. Mia Fineman recently curated Apollo?s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The exhibit explores how humanity has interpreted the moon through drawings, paintings, and photographs for the last 400 years.

Preserving Space History

We?ve all heard the iconic stories of the early space program?from   Kennedy?s ?We choose to go to the moon? speech, to The Right Stuff, to Armstrong?s ?one small step,? to the dramatic story of Apollo 13. 

But how do we find new stories to tell, locate hidden figures of history, or even know they exist? The answer may lie in museum collections, old paper archives, and in the memories of ordinary people. Ed Stewart, the curator of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and Reagan Grimsley, head of Special Collections and Archives at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, join Ira to talk about preserving artifacts of the early space program, and the importance of the archival record in telling the tales of historic space flight.

NASA's Megarocket Bet

The Trump administration says it wants to go back to the moon?but how will we get there? You?ve seen the advances in spaceflight from private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin. But a big part of the current U.S. plan for returning to the moon involves something called SLS, the Space Launch System?a megarocket assembled from a combination of parts repurposed from the Shuttle program, and new hardware. 

John Blevins, deputy chief engineer for the Space Launch System, and Erika Alvarez, lead systems engineer for the Space Launch System Vehicle, join Ira to talk about the rocket?s design, capabilities, and NASA?s plans to use it to go back to the moon and beyond

2019-07-19
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Apollo Anniversary And Bird Book Club. July 19, 2019, Part 1

Celebrating Apollo's 'Giant Leap'

July 20, 1969 was a day that changed us forever?the first time humans left footprints on another world. In this segment, Ira Flatow and space historian Andy Chaikin celebrate that history and examine the legacy of the Apollo program.

Apollo ushered in a new age of scientific discovery, with lunar samples that unlocked the history of how the moon and the solar system formed. It accelerated the development of new technologies, like the integrated circuit. And most of all, says Chaikin, it taught us how to work together, to achieve seemingly impossible goals

We also take a look at what comes next for NASA?s historic launchpads. Science Friday producers Alexa Lim and Daniel Peterschmidt went to NASA Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida a few months ago. They got to see how the space agency is upgrading some of its storied launchpads?and leaving others behind to rising sea levels.

Take Flight With Science Friday's Book Club

Called anyone a ?bird brain? recently? There was a time when we thought this meant ?stupid,? deceived by the small size and smooth surface of birds? brains into thinking they were mere mindless bundles of feathers.

But researchers are finding out what birds themselves have always known: Our feathered friends come with mental skills that might stump even humans. Be it tool-making, social smarts, navigation across vast distances, or even the infinitely adaptable house sparrow, Jennifer Ackerman writes of dozens of examples in this summer?s SciFri Book Club pick, The Genius of Birds. Take homing pigeons, which can be released hundreds of miles from the roof and still eventually wing their way home. Or mockingbirds, who can memorize and mimic, with astonishing accuracy, the songs and calls of as many as 200 different other birds. And birds have other kinds of genius: Bowerbirds craft intricate displays to lure their mates, each species with its own particular aesthetic preferences, like the satin bowerbird?s penchant for blue.

Ira, Book Club captain Christie Taylor, and bird brain researchers Aaron Blaisdell and Lauren Riters convene for the summer Book Club kickoff, and a celebration of avian minds everywhere.

2019-07-19
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Mosquitos and Smell, Fermentation, Model Rocket Launch. July 12, 2019, Part 2

If you?ve ever tried brewing your own beer or raising your own sourdough, then you know that the process of fermentation isn't easy to get right. How do you control the growth of mold, yeast, or bacteria such that it creates a savory and delicious new flavor, and not a putrid mess on your kitchen counter? David Zilber is Director of Fermentation at the restaurant Noma, and he tells his fermentation secrets.

The human scent is made up of a combination of 100 odor compounds. Other mammals such as guinea pigs also emit the same odor compounds?just in different blends. And even though human odor can also differ from person to person, mosquitoes can still distinguish the scent of a human from other mammals. We'll talk about how mosquitos have evolved to hunt for the prey of their choice.

Next week marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. But before astronauts could take that one small step on the moon, they had to take off from Earth. On Tuesday, July 16, in commemoration of the 9:32 am launch of the Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo 11 crew, model rocketeers from around the world will conduct a global launch event?by firing off thousands of rockets planet-wide.

Plus, download the SciFri VoxPop app for iPhone or Android and contribute to the show all week long.

2019-07-12
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Degrees of Change: Food and Climate. July 12, 2019, Part 1

A quarter of the world?s greenhouse gas emissions come from putting food on the table. From the fossil fuels used to produce fertilizers, to the methane burps of cows, to the jet fuel used to deliver your fresh asparagus, eating is one of the most planet-warming things we do. In our latest chapter of Degrees of Change, we're looking at how to eat smarter in a warming world.

Plus, we?ve launched a new way for you to add your voice to the show: the SciFri VoxPop app. Download now for iPhone or Android.

2019-07-12
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The Bastard Brigade, Spontaneous Generation. July 5, 2019, Part 2

Much has been written about the Manhattan Project, the American-led project to develop the atomic bomb. Less well known is Nazi Germany?s ?Uranium Club??a similar project started a full two years before the Manhattan Project. The Nazis had some of the greatest chemists and physicists in the world on their side, including Werner Heisenberg, and the Allies were terrified that the Nazis would beat them to the bomb?meaning the Allies were willing to try anything from espionage to assassination to bombing raids to stop them.

Science writer Sam Kean joins Ira to tell the high-stakes story written in his new book The Bastard Brigade: The True Story of the Renegade Scientists and Spies Who Sabotaged the Nazi Atomic Bomb. 

Plus, "spontaneous generation" was the idea that living organisms can spring into existence from non-living matter. In the late 19th century, in a showdown between chemist Louis Pasteur and biologist Felix Pouchet put on by the French Academy of Sciences, Pasteur famously came up with an experiment that debunked the theory. He showed that when you boil an infusion to kill everything inside and don?t let any particles get into it, life will not spontaneously emerge inside. His experiments have been considered a win for science?but they weren?t without controversy.

In this interview, Undiscovered?s Elah Feder, Ira Flatow, and historian James Strick talk about what scientists of Pasteur?s day really thought of his experiment, the role the Catholic church played in shutting down ?spontaneous generation,? and why even Darwin did his best to dodge the topic.

2019-07-05
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Science Road Trips, Archaeology From Space. July 5, 2019, Part 1

Summer is here?and that means it?s time for a road trip! Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton, co-authors of Atlas Obscura: An Explorer?s Guide to the Hidden Wonders of the World, join Ira to share some suggestions for sciencey things to see and do around the country, from unusual museum exhibits to outstanding natural wonders. Plus, we asked you for YOUR travel ideas?and did you deliver! We?ll share tourist tips from some regular Science Friday guests, and highlight some of your many suggestions.

Speaking of summer trips... You might consider skipping the large urban centers, like Paris or Madrid, for something a little older?like Pompeii. The ancient city in Italy is one of the country?s largest tourist attractions, receiving over 4 million visitors a year. Perhaps it's because archaeology is inspiring tourism around the world. From Egypt, China, South America to India, archaeologists are experiencing a golden era of discovery thanks to new tools that help uncover buried civilizations. Sarah Parcak, professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama Birmingham and author of the new book Space Archaeology joins Ira to talk about what past civilizations can teach us about our current moment in time

2019-07-05
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Paternity, Musical Proteins, Microbiome In Runners. June 28, 2019, Part 2

These days, a scientific paternity test is easily acquired, and its results are seen as almost indisputable. But what about the days before so-called foolproof DNA analysis? For most of human history, people considered the identity of a child?s father to be more or less ?unknowable.? Then in the 20th century, when a flurry of events sparked the idea that science could help clarify the question of fatherhood, and an era of ?modern paternity? was born. The new science of paternity, which includes blood typing and fingerprinting, has helped establish family relationships and made inheritance and custody disputes easier for the courts. But it?s also made the definition of fatherhood a lot more murky in the process.

Proteins are the building blocks of life. They make up everything from cells and enzymes to skin, bones, and hair, to spider silk and conch shells. But it?s notoriously difficult to understand the complex shapes and structures that give proteins their unique identities. So at MIT, researchers are unraveling the mysteries of proteins using a more intuitive language?music. They?re translating proteins into music, composing orchestras of amino acids and concerts of enzymes, in hopes of better understanding proteins?and making new ones.

Though the ads tell you it?s gotta be the shoes, a new study suggests that elite runners might get an extra performance boost from the microbiome. Researchers looking at the collection of microbes found in the digestive tracts of marathon runners and other elite athletes say they?ve found a group of microbes that may aid in promoting athletic endurance. The group of microbes, Veillonella, consume lactate generated during exercise and produce proprionate, which appears to enhance performance. Adding the species Veillonella atypica to the guts of mice allowed the mice to perform better on a treadmill test. And infusing the proprionate metabolite back into a mouse?s intestines seemed to create some of the same effects as the bacteria themselves.

 

2019-06-28
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Cephalopod Week Wrap-Up, USDA Climate Change, Sinking Louisiana. June 28, 2019, Part 1

The eight-day squid-and-kin appreciation extravaganza of Cephalopod Week is nearly over, but there?s still plenty to learn and love about these tentacled ?aliens? of the deep. After a rare video sighting of a giant squid?the first in North American waters?last week, NOAA zoologist Mike Vecchione talks about his role identifying the squid from a mere 25 seconds of video, and why ocean exploration is the best way to learn about the behavior and ecology of deep-sea cephalopods. Then, Marine Biological Laboratory scientist Carrie Albertin gives Ira a tour of the complex genomes of octopuses, and how understanding cephalopod genetics could lead to greater insights into human health. Finally, SciFri digital producer Lauren Young wraps up Cephalopod Week for 2019.

The USDA?s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) receives over a billion dollars a year to study issues affecting American agriculture and the food supply. Climate change is one of those issues, and in years past, the ARS has publicized its work on how farmers can reduce their carbon footprint with no-till agriculture; how climate change alters the relationship of pests and crops; or how more abundant CO2 affects the growth of grasslands, potatoes, timber, wheat, and more. But in the last several years, that steady stream of climate-related agricultural science news has dried up. One of the only recent press releases from the ARS dealing with climate change is a good news story for the beef industry, about how beef?s greenhouse gas emissions may not be that bad after all. The agency?s move away from publicizing a wide range of work on climate science is part of a troubling trend, according to a new investigation by Politico. 

The wetland marshes just outside the city of New Orleans act as natural buffers from storm surges during hurricanes. But like much of southern Louisiana, that land is disappearing. It?s partly due to subsistence and sea level rise?but also due to the thousands of miles of channels that oil companies have carved through the fragile marshes to get out to their rigs. Those channels have eroded and turned the buffering wetlands to open water. Now, New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell is suing a handful of oil and gas companies, including ExxonMobil and Chevron, for money to rebuild the marshes they helped destroy. 

2019-06-28
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SciFri Extra: About Time

The official U.S. time is kept on a cesium fountain clock named NIST-F1, located in Boulder, Colorado. On a recent trip to Boulder, Ira took a trip to see the clock. He spoke with Elizabeth Donley, acting head of the Time and Frequency Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, about keeping the official U.S. time on track?and how NIST is using advanced physics to develop ever more precise and stable ways to measure time.

2019-06-25
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Smoke Chasers, Colorado Apples, Pikas. June 21, 2019, Part 2

When wildfires rage in the West, Colorado State University atmospheric scientist Emily Fischer hops into a plane, and flies straight into the smoke. The plane is a flying chemistry lab, studded with instruments, and Fischer?s goal is to uncover the chemical reactions happening in smoke plumes, to determine how wildfire smoke may affect ecosystems and human health.

Pikas?those cute little animals that look like rodents but are actually more closely related to rabbits?used to roam high mountain habitats across the West. But global warming is pushing temperatures up in their high mountain habitats, and pikas are now confined to a few areas. And thanks to those warmer temperatures, which are threatening the pikas? way of life, they may be in danger of disappearing?potentially as early as the end of the century. In this segment, recorded as part of Science Friday?s live show at the Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder, Colorado, Ira speaks with Chris Ray, a population biologist at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Ray is tagging and tracking the pikas to investigate how closely their fate is tied to climate change?and whether there?s a way to save them before it?s too late.

In the late 1800, Colorado was one of the top apple growing states, but the industry was wiped out by drought and the creation of the red delicious apple in Washington state. But even today, apple trees can still be found throughout the area. Plant ecologist Katharine Suding created the Boulder Apple Tree Project to map out the historic orchards. She talks about Boulder?s historic orchards, some of the heirloom varieties like the Surprise and Arkansas Black, and a surprising connection to a hit Hollywood franchise. Plus, cider maker Daniel Haykin talks about how he uses the information from the Boulder Apple Tree Project combined with sugar, yeast and apples to make the bubbly beverage.

 

 

2019-06-21
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Cephalopod Week 2019, Climate and Microbes, Puppy Eyes, Wave Energy. June 21, 2019, Part 1

For eight glorious days during the end of June, Science Friday honors the mighty mollusks of the ocean?Cephalopod Week returns for the sixth year! And we?re cephalo-brating with a tidal wave of ways for you to participate. This year, we want to know your favorite cephalopod. Is it the charismatic giant Pacific octopus or the long-lived chambered nautilus? Science Friday digital producer Lauren Young and biologist Diana Li add their own favorite cephalopods to the ultimate undersea showdown. They talk about the bizarre defenses of the blanket octopus, speedy squid getaways, and octopuses that play with LEGOs.

We may refer to Earth as ?our planet,? but it really belongs to the microbes. All the plants and animals on Earth are relatively new additions to the planetary ecosystem. But despite living basically everywhere on the planet, and playing a role in many of the processes that affect the climate, the connection between microbes and the climate is often ignored. That needs to change, says a consensus statement published this week by researchers in the journal Nature Reviews: Microbiology. Take the issue of methane emissions from agriculture, particularly beef production. ?The methane doesn?t come from the cows,? said David Mark Welch, director of the Division of Research at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole. ?It comes from microbes in the cows.? In a similar way, emissions coming from rice paddies aren?t caused by the rice?they are caused by microbes living in stagnant water around the rice. David Mark Welch, one of the co-authors of the consensus statement, joins Ira to discuss the deep connections between microorganisms and the climate, and why scientists and policymakers should pay more attention to microbes in the climate arena.

If you?ve ever suspected your dog of looking extra cute to get a bite of your steak or pizza, it?s probably because you couldn?t resist their puppy dog eyes. Over time, dogs have evolved to make their eyes look bigger and more baby-like. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, researchers have discovered that dogs have muscles around their eyes that help them make puppy dog eyes at you. They also found that wolves, the wild ancestor of the dog, don?t have these muscles. Anne Burrows, one of the researchers in their study, joins Ira to discuss how dogs have evolved these muscles and why people are so susceptible to their big, sad-looking eyes. Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere also joins to talk about other ways that dogs have evolved to strengthen the human-dog bond.

A renewable energy project planned off the coast of Newport is taking a step forward. Oregon State University has submitted a final license application for a wave energy testing facility with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. If built, it would be the largest of its kind in the United States. Oregon?s potential to use the motion of the waves to generate electricity is very high. But nationally, the development of wave energy has lagged behind other green energy sources. Part of the delay is the time and expense involved in permitting new technology. Not only do companies have to pay to develop this kind of clean tech, they also have to go through a lengthy and expensive permitting process before being allowed to see if their ideas work in the real world. This is where Oregon State University?s PacWave South Project comes in. The university plans to create a wave energy testing facility about six miles off the Oregon Coast. The idea is that energy developers will be able to by-pass the permitting and just pay the University to test their wave energy converters in the water.

2019-06-21
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Degrees Of Change: Urban Heat Islands. June 14, 2019, Part 1

We?ve known for more than 200 years that cities are hotter than surrounding rural areas. All that concrete and brick soaks up the sun?s rays, then re-emits them as heat long after night has fallen. On top of that, waste heat from the energy we use to power our buildings, vehicle emissions, and even air conditioning units can cause some cities to be as many as 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than their rural surroundings?creating ?urban heat islands.? Between the toll that heat takes on the body and the concurrent air quality problems that heat exacerbates, heat waves kill more Americans per year than any other weather-related event. And if enough city residents are using air conditioning to beat the heat, power outages from overworked grids can add to the risk of mortality.

As the globe warms, urban heat islands are projected to become more pronounced, with even hotter temperatures and a more stark urban-rural divide. But scientists and engineers have been working on solutions to reflect the sun before it can raise temperatures, such as cooler roofing materials and heat-reflecting pigmentscool pavementsgreen roofs, and neighborhood green space. Ronnen Levinson of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory joins Ira to describe what we know about cool infrastructure, while Global Cool Cities Alliance executive director Kurt Shickman explains how cities around the world are implementing solutions?and why it may take something as bureaucratic as building codes to see mass adoption of cooling strategies.

Los Angeles: Cool Roofs And Fitting The Solution To Landscapes

The city of Los Angeles passed the first mandate for residential buildings to have high-reflectivity roofs, a step up from the past requirements, which only applied to flat, commercial roofs. Los Angeles is also pouring cool pavements to test their effectiveness in lowering temperatures. But how do you pick the right intervention for any given neighborhood in a city with as big and varied a landscape as Los Angeles? USC scientist George Ban-Weiss talks about his work tailoring cool solutions to individual neighborhoods.

New York City: Green Roofs And Community Activists 

While heat waves are projected to kill thousands of New Yorkers per year by 2080, that pain is not likely to be distributed evenly. Research has found hotter urban heat islands are home to higher percentages of poor people and people of color. Meanwhile, while New York City alerts residents of heat events and offers cooling shelters for them to go to, the shelters can be difficult for people to access, or even hear about. Community groups in the Bronx, Harlem, and other parts of the city are working both to cool down their neighborhoods, and connect residents to life-saving cooling. Justine Calma, a reporter for Grist, details the environmental justice problem of the urban heat island, and how New York City is responding.

Phoenix: The Hottest City In The U.S. Is Trying Everything

Phoenix, Arizona, experiences temperatures over 100 degrees in the summer, and researchers are only expecting summers to get hotter and longer. Hot season durations are projected to increase by several weeks on both ends, while the likelihood of temperatures that exceed 115 degrees is only expected to grow. In 2017, an estimated 155 people died of heat-related causes in the Phoenix area.

But the city has been taking the heat seriously. Phoenix has been painting municipal building roofs white since 2006. The city also has ambitious goals to establish shade trees, shelters along public transit routes, and a HeatReady program that would put heat planning on par with disaster preparedness?all with help from scientists like Arizona State University researcher David Hondula. Hondula joins Ira to describe the challenges of getting cities invested in heat preparedness, both short-term and long-term, and what?s next for Phoenix.

What Are The Presidential Candidates? Climate Plans?

The first Democratic presidential debate will take place at the end of the month and climate change is becoming a central issue. Former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and other presidential hopefuls have released their versions of a climate plan. The different proposals range from increases in spending to executive action. Climate and environment reporter Rebecca Leber of Mother Jones outlines the major differences between these plans.

2019-06-14
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The Best Summer Science Books. June 14, 2019, Part 2

The Best Science Books To Read This Summer

They say a vacation is only as good as the book you bring with you. And these days it feels like there are as many ways to consume science writing as there are fields of science. Whether you?re a fan of historical nonfiction, graphic novels, poetry or short essays, this year?s panel of summer science books experts has the one you?re looking for to take with you on your journey.

Alison Gilchrist is a graduate student researcher at CU Boulder and host of the podcast Buff Talk Science, and editor in chief of Science Buffs. Caren Cooper is an associate professor of public science at NC State University and author of Citizen Science: How Ordinary People Are Changing the Face of Discovery. Stephanie Sendaula is associate editor for Library Journal Reviews. They join Ira to talk about what they have chosen for their best summer science reads.

Chronic Wasting Disease In Wildlife

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal illness affecting the brains of deer, moose, and elk. Since its discovery in 1967, the disease has been detected in at least 26 states, three Canadian provinces, Norway, Sweden, and South Korea. Rae Ellen Bichell, a reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau and KUNC, talks about the disease, research into its origin and spread, and what?s known about the possible effects of human exposure.

2019-06-14
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Quantum Leaps, Cancer Drugs, Cat Cameras. June 7, 2019, Part 2

The ?spooky physics? of the quantum world has long been marked by two key ideas: The idea of superposition, meaning that a quantum particle can exist in multiple states simultaneously, and the idea of randomness, meaning that it?s impossible to predict when certain quantum transitions will take place. Writing in the journal Nature, Zlatko Minev and colleagues report that they may be able to make the quantum behavior slightly less mysterious. Minev joins Ira to talk about the finding, and what new directions it might open up in quantum research.

For patients whose cancer has metastasis, the options can be limited. While new drugs are being developed, they are often only approved for a specific subset or stage of cancer?sometimes even a specific age group. However, researchers are looking to expand on a pool of patients that can get these new drugs. Dr. Sara Hurvitz, the director of the Breast Cancer Research Program at UCLA, joins Ira to talk about how a drug that was approved for breast cancer in postmenopausal women may soon be available for younger patients. Plus, Dr. Neeraj Agarwal, the director of the Genitourinary Oncology Program, to talk about a new treatment option for patients with metastatic prostate cancer.

If you want the real scoop on what your cat is doing while you?re away, researchers are studying that very question, using cat cameras. Our feline friends spend quite a lot of time outside of our line of sight, and we imagine them napping, bathing, playing, hunting. But that?s merely speculation. To get the data, researchers need to catch them in the act. Maren Huck, Senior Lecturer at the University of Derby in the UK, recently published a methodological study where she successfully tracked the movements of 16 outdoor domestic cats to find out what they were up to. She joins Ira to discuss the findings, which she published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science. Plus, cat behavior specialist and University California Davis Veterinary School researcher Mikel Delgado joins the conversation to talk more about catching cat behavior on camera, and what we can learn from recording their secret lives.

 

2019-06-07
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Gender Bias In Research Trials, Antarctica, Tornado Engineering. June 7, 2019, Part 1

For half a century, most neuroscience experiments have had one glaring flaw: They've ignored female study subjects. The reason? Researchers claimed, for example, that female rats and mice would skew their data, due to hormonal cycling. Writing in the journal Science, neuroscientist Rebecca Shansky says that view is out of date?and it's been harming science too. She and Radiolab producer and co-host Molly Webster join Ira to talk about the past, present, and future of laboratory research, and whether science can leave these outdated gender stereotypes behind.

The Onyx River is the longest river in Antarctica, flowing for 19 miles from the coastal Wright Lower Glacier and ending in Lake Vanda. This seasonal stream also has a long scientific record?it has been continuously monitored by scientists for 50 years. Science Friday?s education director Ariel Zych took a trip to the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica to visit scientists in the field who are part of this monitoring project. She and limnologist and biogeochemist Diane McKnight, who has spent decades studying these rivers, talk about the frozen desert ecosystem these waterways transect, and how climate change has affected the continent in the last 50 years.

Plus: researchers in Missouri are examining the after-effects of recent tornadoes to engineer stronger homes. Eli Chen of St. Louis Public Radio tells Ira more in The State of Science.

And science journalist Annalee Newitz talks about the Trump Administration's recent fetal tissue research ban in this week's News Roundup.

2019-06-07
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SciFri Extra: Remembering Murray Gell-Mann

Physicist Murray Gell-Mann died recently at the age of 89. He received the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles, and is credited with giving quarks their name. But he was known for more than just physics?he was a co-founder of the Santa Fe Institute, and a champion of creativity and interdisciplinary research.  

One of his biggest interests was exploring the ?chain of relationships?  that connects basic physical laws and the subatomic world to the complex systems that we can see, hear, and experience. He joined Ira in 1994 to discuss those chains, the topic of his book ?The Quark and the Jaguar.?

2019-06-04
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Climate Politics, Football and Math, Ether. May 31, 2019, Part 2

A green wave is sweeping through Washington, and it?s picking up Republicans who are eager to share their ideas on clean energy and climate change. But even as Republican lawmakers turn to shaping climate policy, the White House is doubling down on climate denial, forming a ?climate review panel? to vet and discredit the already peer-reviewed science on climate change. So where will climate science end up? Ira?s joined by marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and climate scientist Michael Mann for a round table conversation about climate politics, policy, and science activism.

Growing up, John Urschel grew up playing both math puzzles and high school football, and he would follow both of those passions. After playing for the Baltimore Ravens, he is now currently a mathematics Ph.D. candidate at MIT. He joins Ira to discuss seeing the world from a mathematical perspective and how he was able to balance the challenges of math and football.

Albert Michelson was a Polish immigrant who grew up in the hard-scrabble atmosphere of the California gold rush. In his physics career, Michelson also measured the speed of light to an unprecedented degree of accuracy, and designed one of the most elegant physics experiments in the 19th century, to detect something that ultimately didn?t even exist: the ?luminiferous ether.? Science historian David Kaiser tells the story of how that idea rose and fell in this interview with Ira and Science Friday?s Annie Minoff.

 

 

 

2019-05-31
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Spoiler Alert, Glyphosate, Unisexual Salamanders. May 31, 2019, Part 1

How many times has this happened to you? You?re standing in front of an open freezer, wondering what type of mystery meat has been left in there, when you purchased it, and if it?s still safe to eat? If you?re puzzled by sell-by dates, freezer burn, and just how long food can remain edible, you?re not alone. Studies show that more than 80 percent of Americans misinterpret date labels and throw food away prematurely to protect their families? health. That adds up to $218 billion worth of food each year. Janell Goodwin, with the USDA?s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and Francisco Diez-Gonzales, professor and director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, join Ira for a master class in food microbiology and safety. Then, Roni Neff of Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health explains how confusion over date labeling is worsening food waste and climate change.

Plus: A population of mole salamanders in the Midwest is throwing a curveball at our understanding of sex and reproduction. Some populations of this salamander are unisexual?they?re females that can reproduce without males. Katie Greenwald, an associate professor of biology at Eastern Michigan University, joins Ira to explain what advantages living a single-sex life may have for the mole salamander.

The herbicide glyphosate, found in products such as Roundup, has become a crucial tool on midwestern farms?but weeds are becoming resistant. What's next? Chris Walljasper, a reporter from the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, tells Ira more on the State Of Science.

And The Atlantic's Sarah Zhang tells us what's whipping up 2019's active tornado season in this week's News Roundup.

2019-05-31
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SciFri Extra: A Relatively Important Eclipse

This week marks the 100th anniversary of an eclipse that forever changed physics and our understanding of the universe.

In May 1919, scientists set out for Sobral, Brazil, and Príncipe, an island off the west coast of Africa, to photograph the momentarily starry sky during a total eclipse. Their scientific aim was to test whether the sun?s gravity would indeed bend light rays from faraway stars, as predicted by Einstein?s theory of general relativity. After analyzing the data from the brief minutes of darkness, they declared Einstein correct.

Carlo Rovelli, physicist and author, tells Ira the story.

2019-05-28
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Bees! May 24, 2019, Part 2

For the hobby beekeeper, there?s much to consider when homing your first domestic honey bee colonies?what kind of hive to get, where to put them, where to get your bees, and how to help them survive the winter.

But when left to their own devices, what do the bees themselves prefer? From smaller nests to higher openings, wild honey bees seem to prefer very different conditions from the closely clustered square boxes of traditional beekeeping.

But there are ways to adapt! Seeley joins Ira to explain his theory of ?Darwinian beekeeping? as a way to keep bees healthy even in the age of varroa mites and colony collapse.

Plus, apiculturalist Elina L. Niño of the University of California Davis talks about the microbial world of bees, such as whether probiotics could benefit bee health, and how honey bees and bumblebees could be used to distribute beneficial microbes to plants, an idea called ?apivectoring.?

2019-05-24
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Ebola Outbreak, Climate Play, Navajo Energy. May 24, 2019, Part 1

What would it take to power a subsea factory of the future? Plus, other stories from this week in science news.

Then, as the last coal-fired power plant plans to shut down at the end of the year, the Navajo Tribe is embracing renewables. 

Next, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, distrust of the government and healthcare workers are hampering efforts to contain the current outbreak.

Finally, in a new climate change play, a playwright explores what kinds of narratives we need to stir action on climate. 

2019-05-24
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New Horizons Discovery, Science Fair Finalists, Screams. May 17, 2019, Part 2

The most happening New Year?s Party of 2019 wasn?t at Times Square or Paris?it was in the small town of Laurel, Maryland, halfway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. There, scientists shared the stage with kids decked out in NASA gear, party hats, and astronaut helmets. They were there to count down not to the new year, but to the New Horizons spacecraft flying by a very distant, very ancient, snowman-shaped object: MU69. Now, the first haul of data about that mysterious object has returned. They reveal that MU69 is one of the reddest objects we?ve explored in the solar system, built from two skipping-stone-shaped bodies, each the size of small cities. Those details are featured in a cover story in the journal Science. Lead author Alan Stern joins Ira here to talk about it.

This week, more than 1,800 student scientists from 80 countries converged in Phoenix to present their projects for Intel?s International Science and Engineering Fair, a competition founded by the Society for Science and the Public. Ira chats with two of the finalists. Colorado high school junior Krithik Ramesh came up with an idea for a real-time virtual tool for surgeons doing spinal surgeries, and Arizona high school freshman Ella Wang, along with her partner Breanna Tang, cooked up an innovative use for waste from soybean food products?enriching depleted farm soils.

When you hear a scream, you automatically perk up. It catches your attention. But scientists are still working to define what exactly makes a scream. People scream when they are scared or happy. It?s not just a humans, either?all types of animals scream, from frogs to macaques. Psychologist Harold Gouzoules and his team measured the acoustic properties of a human scream by actually playing screams for people: Screams of fright, screams of excitement, and even a whistle. He joins Ira to talks about the evolutionary basis of screaming and what it can tell us about how human nonverbal communication.

2019-05-17
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Degrees Of Change: Sea Level Rise, Coal-Use Decline. May 17, 2019, Part 1

As the frequency of tropical storms and droughts increase and sea levels rise with climate change, forested wetlands along the Atlantic coast are slowly filling with dead and dying trees. The accelerating spread of these ?ghost forests? over the past decade has ecologists alarmed and eager to understand how they are formed and what effect they will have regionally and globally.

 One interdisciplinary group of researchers from North Carolina State University and Duke University are examining the causes and effects of repeated saltwater exposure to the coastal wetlands of North Carolina. Using soil and sediment sampling, remote hydrological monitoring, vegetation plotting, as well as spatial maps, the research team is determining the tipping point for when a struggling forest will become a ghost forest. According to ecologist Emily Bernhardt, their preliminary findings suggest that climate change is not the only culprit in the region.

Agricultural irrigation and wastewater ditches that criss-cross much of the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula facilitate the flow of saltwater intrusion deep into the landscape, wreaking ecological and economic havoc. Working with Brian Boutin, director of the Nature Conservancy?s Albemarle-Pamlico Program, Dr. Bernhardt and colleagues hope to provide valuable scientific insights to local farmers, wetlands managers, and regional decision-makers to plan for the further intrusions and hopefully mitigate the effects.

Meanwhile, less than 100 miles up the coast from the Albemarle-Pamlico peninsula, the cities of Hampton Roads, Virginia along the Chesapeake Bay are facing some of the worst flooding due to sea level rise in the country. In Norfolk, home of the United States Navy, tides have increased as much as eight inches since the 1970s, and roads that lead from the community directly to naval installations are particularly vulnerable to flooding.

But in the last 10 years, Hampton Roads has begun to adapt. ?When we first started having these discussions, there was a lot of concern about, should we be having discussions like this in public. What would be the potential impacts on economic development or on the population growth here?? said Ben McFarlane, senior regional planner with the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. ?Now it?s recognized and people know it?s happening. I think the strategy has changed to being more of a ?Let?s stop talking about how bad it is and how bad it?s going to get. And let?s start talking about solutions.??

The Planning District Commission supports the use of living shorelines and ordinance changes that discourage developing in flood prone areas. Norfolk has even been named one of the Rockefeller Foundation?s 100 Resilient Cities in part for its efforts promoting coastal resiliency in the face of sea level rise.

Plus, the latest investment report from the International Energy Agency was released this week, and shows that in 2018, final investment decisions were made to support bringing an additional 22GW of coal-fired electric generation online?but in the same year, around 30 GW of coal-burning generating capacity were closed. Of course, coal plants are still under construction, and there are thousands of terawatts of coal-generating capacity worldwide, so the end of coal is nowhere in sight yet?but the investment report may indicate a tipping point in the global energy budget.

Kendra Pierre-Louis, a reporter on the climate desk at the New York Times, joins Ira to talk about that and other climate news?including the President?s energy policy remarks at a natural gas plant, the discovery of another ocean garbage patch of plastic, and the rise of ?climate refuge cities.?

2019-05-17
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Biodiversity Report And The Science Of Parenting. May 10, 2019, Part 2

According to a new UN report on global biodiversity, as many as one million species?both plants and animals?are now at risk of extinction, according to a new UN report on global biodiversity. That number includes 40% of all amphibian species, 33% of corals, and around 10% of insects.

One might assume that this type of devastating species loss could only come as a result of one thing?climate change. But in fact, as the report highlights illustrate, it?s deforestation, changes in land and sea use, hunting, poaching, pollution, invasive species?in short, human interventions?that are causing species to disappear at a rate tens to hundreds of times higher than what has been seen over the last 10 million years. Walter Jetz, professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University, joins Ira to discuss why the damage we do to biodiversity in our lifetimes may never be undone.

Plus, if you're a new parent, you?ve probably had one of these nights. You?re up at 3 a.m., baby screaming, searching the internet for an answer to a question you?ve never thought to ask before: Are pacifiers bad for your baby? What about that weird breathing? Is that normal? Or is it time to head to the emergency room? 

Emily Oster is a health economist and mother of two who had a lot of those same questions as she raised her kids. She dove into the data to find out what the science actually says about sleep training, breastfeeding, introducing solid foods, and lots more in her new book, Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool.

Ira chats with Oster and Nikita Sood of Cohen Children?s Medical Center, who monitors the underground market for breastmilk and explains why parents should be cautious. 

2019-05-10
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Superconductivity Search, Ride-Share Congestion, Lions Vs. Porcupines. May 10, 2019, Part 1

Six decades ago, a group of physicists came up with a theory that described electrons at a low temperature that could attract a second electron. If the electrons were in the right configuration, they could conduct electricity with zero resistance. The Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer theory, named after the three physicists, is the basis for how superconductivity works at a quantum level. Superconductivity would allow electricity to flow with no loss of heat from its system.

Since that time, scientists have been trying to find a real-world material that fits that theory. One way to achieve this is by turning hydrogen into a metal. This is accomplished by squeezing hydrogen gas between two diamonds at such a high pressure that it solidifies. That metal then becomes a superconductor at room temperature. Previously, achieving zero resistance had only been possible by cooling the superconductor to near absolute zero.

Ira and Gizmodo science writer Ryan Mandelbaum talk with physicist Maddury Somayazulu and theoretical chemist Eva Zurek about the progress towards creating a room-temperature superconductor and how this type of material could be used in quantum computing and other technology.

During times of drought or disease, lions have to turn to other sources of food like the East African porcupine. But while the lion may get a quick meal when it attacks a porcupine, the porcupine may win in the long run. Writing in the Journal of East African Natural History, Julian Kerbis Peterhans and colleagues found that an untreated porcupine quill wound is often enough to severely injure a lion. If the wound becomes infected or hinders eating, it can lead to death. And, when a lion is injured and has difficulty hunting its usual prey, it can sometimes turn to easier sources of food?like humans. Kerbis joins Ira to talk about the study, and what this seemingly mismatched battle can teach us about survival in the animal kingdom.

Plus, a new study found that the presence of services like Uber and Lyft increased road congestion in San Francisco. And a roundup of the week's science news, including a rattling remark about climate change from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at an Arctic Council meeting.

2019-05-10
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Neuroscientists Peer Into The Mind's Eye, Alexander von Humboldt. May 3, 2019, Part 2

It sounds like a sci-fi plot: Hook a real brain up to artificial intelligence, and let the two talk to each other. That?s the design of a new study in the journal Cell, in which artificial intelligence networks displayed images to monkeys, and then studied how the monkey?s neurons responded to the picture. The computer network could then use that information about the brain?s responses to tweak the image, displaying a new picture that might resonate more with the monkey?s visual processing system.

In 1799, the Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt embarked on the most ambitious scientific voyage of his life. On the Spanish ship Pizarro, he set sail for South America with 42 carefully chosen scientific instruments. There, he would climb volcanoes, collect countless plant and animal specimens, and eventually come to the conclusion that the natural world was a unified entity?biology, geology and meteorology all conjoining to determine what life took hold where. In the process, he also described human-induced climate change?and was perhaps the first person to do so. Author Andrea Wulf and illustrator Lillian Melcher retell the voyages of Alexander von Humboldt in a new, illustrated book that draws upon Humboldt?s own journal pages.

2019-05-03
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Business Planning For Climate Change,The Digital Afterlife. May 3, 2019, Part 1

Scientists have built all sorts of models to predict the likelihood of extreme weather events. But it?s not just scientists who are interested in these models. Telecomm giant AT&T teamed up with scientists at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois to build a climate map of the Southeastern part of the country, overlaid with a map of AT&T?s infrastructure. Climate scientist Rao Kothamarthi from Argonne Labs discusses the process of creating hyperlocal climate change models, and Shannon Carroll, director of environmental sustainability at At&T, talks about how the company can use that information for making decisions on how to protect their infrastructure.

Social media is, in many ways, the record keeper of our lives. It may be time to start thinking about how we preserve that record for the future. How should we think about the online profiles of the deceased? As the person?s property or as their remains? Should they be inherited or passed on? Preserved or deleted? We discuss planning for the digital afterlife. 

2019-05-03
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Measles, Poetry Month, Lemur Hibernation. April 26, 2019, Part 2

Back in 1963, before the development of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, there were 4 million cases of measles every year. It took nearly four decades, but by 2000, enough people had become vaccinated that the measles virus was eliminated in the U.S.

But since then, the ranks of unvaccinated people have grown, and the measles virus has been reintroduced into the U.S. This week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials report over 600 cases of measles across 22 states. Dr. Saad Omer, professor of Global Health, Epidemiology, and Pediatrics at Emory University joins Ira to answer questions about the current outbreak, including how much worse conditions could get.

Every year, hundreds pack Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, New York for ?The Universe In Verse,? a live celebration of writing that has found inspiration from science and scientists. This year?s event, which featured readings from guests including Amanda Palmer, David Byrne, and Josh Groban, celebrated the 100th anniversary of Sir Arthur Eddington?s groundbreaking experiment to prove general relativity. The poems also honored Albert Einstein?s legacy in describing the universe as we understand it today.

Maria Popova, founder and editor of Brain Pickings, and astrophysicist Janna Levin, both writers as well, join Ira for a conversation about the enduring link between art and science, and share readings of their favorite works.

What has big eyes, a bushy tail, and is the only primate to go into hibernation six months out of the year? It?s the fat-tailed dwarf lemur, an endangered species endemic to the island of Madagascar. During their hibernation period, the lemurs enter a state of torpor, which essentially disables the animals? internal thermostat. It turns out we humans possess the same gene that is activated when the lemur initiates torpor?we just don?t know how to activate it. Science Friday video producer Luke Groskin traveled to the only captive colony of dwarf lemurs in the world outside of Madagascar, the Duke Lemur Center in North Carolina, to investigate the sleeping cuties? hibernation habits?and how they could apply to humans.

2019-04-26
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Degrees of Change: Sponge Cities and Pocket Prairies. April 26, 2019, Part 1

Climate change is happening?now we need to deal with it. Degrees of Change, a new series of hour-long radio specials from Science Friday, explores the problem of climate change and how we as a planet are adapting to it. In this first chapter, SciFri looks at how climate change affects water systems. This year, there were record downpours in the American Midwest that washed out levees and caused catastrophic flooding. Meanwhile, California is recovering from a seven year-long drought that led to water shortages across the state.

Cities are starting to rethink their water futures and how they can make their communities more resilient. Here are two examples of how cities around the world are adapting to their climate change future.

The ?Sponge Cities? Of China

In China, more people are leaving the countryside and moving into big cities. Shenzhen in the south has gone from a city of 50,000 people to over 13 million in just three decades. This rapid urbanization has led to more construction, more concrete, and entire landscapes that have been paved over. Mix that with stronger storms driven to climate change, and the stage is set for future water disasters.

To combat this, the Chinese government started the ?Sponge Cities? program in 2014, which calls for cities to soak up and reuse 70% of their rainwater.

Journalist Erica Gies and Chris Zevenbergen, flood risk management expert, talks about the pedestrian bridges, green roofs and terraced urban landscapes that architects and engineers are designing to build resiliency and what needs to be done to expand these ideas to the rest of the country.

The ?Pocket Prairies? Of Houston

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit some areas of Houston with nearly four feet of rain, causing widespread flooding throughout the city. As the city rebuilds, ?pocket prairies? are among the tools being used to manage future flooding. These patches of native prairie grass can be planted anywhere?in front yards, traffic medians, parking lots, vacant lots, and between city buildings?and high quality prairie habitat can hold up to nine inches of rainwater during a storm, reducing the likelihood of catastrophic floods.

?At a neighborhood level, they can manage the ?flash? part of ?flash floods,?? says Laura Huffman, Texas regional director of The Nature Conservancy. Plus, pocket prairies provide additional benefits, she says. As rainwater seeps into soil, it pre-treats chemicals in the rain, helping to keep them out of the water supply. In this conversation, Gies and Huffman explain the benefits of pocket prairies and other green infrastructure.

The Climate Effects Of A Heated Campaign Season

The Democratic presidential primary field is vast?where do the candidates stand on climate issues? Scott Waldman, White House reporter with Climatewire and E&E News, joins Ira to talk about how 2020 presidential campaigns are addressing climate change, plus other climate-related stories of the week?from Facebook's plans to fact-check hot button issues like climate change to a new study that attempts to put a price tag on the effects of Arctic melting.    

2019-04-26
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5G, Pig Brains, Privacy For Nature. April 19, 2019, Part 1

Last week, President Trump announced a new initiative to push forward the implementation of 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity for smartphones and other devices. How is this faster speed possible, and how quickly will it become accessible to consumers? Washington Post technology reporter Brian Fung explains the innovations that would enable greater rates of data transmission. Plus: Harold Feld, a lawyer and consumer advocate, says not everyone will benefit equally from 5G as plans currently stand?including rural communities.

One of the top technology candidates for 5G relies on higher frequencies and bringing more smaller-signal base stations much closer to the people using them. But what does research say about how it will affect human health? Researchers review what the literature has suggested so far about non-ionizing radiation from 2G and 3G, including a 2018 study from the National Toxicology Program (NTP) that found an increase in tumors for male rats. The NTP?s John Bucher and Jonathan Samet of the Colorado School of Public Health join Ira to discuss the data, and the limitations of research to date. Plus, toxicologist and epidemiologist Devra Davis of the Environmental Health Trust provides a statement on the health concerns of 5G.

 

Plus: Spring is a great time to get out and enjoy the outdoors?and increasingly, people are using citizen science apps like eBird and iNaturalist to record sightings and share data. But the public nature of some citizen science platforms can make them liable for abuse, such as people using location data collected by the apps to disturb?or even poach?threatened species. April Glaser, a technology reporter for Slate, tells Ira more.

And Sarah Kaplan, science reporter at the Washington Post, joins Ira to talk about post-death pig brains, Jovian moons, and more in this week's News Roundup.

2019-04-19
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New Human Species, Census, Plankton, Brain Etchings. April 19, 2019, Part 2

Last week, researchers announced they?d found the remains of a new species of ancient human on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. It was just a few teeth and bones from toes and hands, but they appeared to have a strange mix of ancient and modern human traits scientists had never seen before. Enter: Homo luzonesis. However, Homo luzonesis? entry on the hominid family tree is still fuzzy and uncertain. Dr. Shara Bailey, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at New York University, joins Ira to weigh in on the new find and to discuss how we determine what makes a species ?human.?

Next year, the United States Census Bureau will send out its 10-year census to collect demographic data on every person in the country. That survey happens once a decade and asks a handful of questions, but the agency also sends out the yearly American Community Survey, or ACS, which is an ongoing survey that collects more detailed data on smaller populations. How is your data used once you turn in your survey? Demographer Catherine Fitch talks about how the information surveys are used for research and policies, why certain questions appear on the forms, and new ways that the census is trying to survey the country.

Plus: For half a century, merchant ships have hitched humble metal boxes to their sterns, and towed these robotic passengers across some 6.5 million nautical miles of the world?s oceans. The metal boxes are the ?Continuous Plankton Recorder? or CPR, a project conceived, in a more innocent time, to catalogue the diversity of plankton populating the seas. But the first piece of plastic twine got caught up in the device in 1957; the first plastic bag appeared in 1965. In the decades since, the device has picked up more and more plastic pollution. Clare Ostle, a marine biogeochemist and lead author on a study about the CPR?s plastic finds in the journal Nature Communications, joins Ira to talk about the treasures and trash the CPR has collected over the years.

And back in 2011, after Greg Dunn completed his PhD in neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania, he didn?t return to the lab. Instead, he decided to focus on art. ?The only difference between a landscape of a forest and a landscape of a brain is you need a microscope to see one and not the other,? Dunn told Science Friday. Using the techniques of microetching and lithographing, Dunn has created a project called ?Self Reflected,? which visualizes what it might look like to see all the neurons of the brain connected and firing. He joins Ira to discuss his work, which is also the subject of our latest SciArts video.

2019-04-19
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Year In Space Results, Citizen Science Day, Cherry Blossoms. April 12, 2019, Part 2

To find out what was happening to astronauts over longer periods of space flight, NASA put together a 10-team study of twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly. Scott spent a year on International Space Station, while his brother Mark lived a relatively normal life on Earth?though both regularly sent the researchers samples of their blood, urine, cognitive test results, and other data to assess their physiology over time. Scott Kelly returned to Earth in 2016, and researchers have been studying and comparing the twins ever since. The conclusion? A year in space caused a cascade of changes in Scott?s gene expression and physiology?some of which remained even after he returned to Earth. Dr. Susan Bailey, a radiation biologist at Colorado State University, explains one surprising mystery: The average length of Scott?s telomeres, a part of DNA that usually shortens with aging or other kinds of stress, increased. And Dr. Christopher Mason at Weill Cornell Medicine explains how spaceflight ramped up genes associated with Scott Kelly?s immune system and what remained different even months after his return to Earth.

Patients with Alzheimer?s disease can experience decreased blood flow in their brains caused by white blood cells sticking to blood vessels that can cause a block. Researchers at Cornell University have found that these stalls happen in the tiniest blood vessels, the capillaries. Understanding these capillary blocks could help find new Alzheimer?s treatments?and to do that, the researchers have to look through hundreds of thousands of images of blocked capillaries. Now, you can help. Physicist Chris Shaffer, who is on the Cornell University team, teamed up with Pietro Michelucci to develop a citizen science game called Stall Catchers that uses the power of the crowd to help identify these stalls. They talk about how Stall Catchers can help with their data?and the one-day megathon when you can participate.

By 1918, the British naturalist and ornithologist Collingwood Ingram had tired of studying birds, but soon became obsessed with two magnificent flowering cherry trees planted on his property. He went to Japan and hunted for wild cherries all over the country on foot, horseback, and even from the sea, using binoculars to spot prime specimens. Throughout his travels, he became convinced that Japan was in danger of losing its multitude of cherry varieties, through modernization, development, and neglect, and he went on to evangelize for the wondrous diversity of flowering cherries in Japan, and back home in the western world. In The Sakura Obsession, Japanese journalist Naoko Abe tells Ingram's story, and the cultural history of cherry blossoms in Japan.

 

2019-04-12
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Event Horizon Telescope, Biosphere 2. April 12, 2019, Part 1

?As I like to say, it?s never a good idea to bet against Einstein,? astrophysicist Shep Doeleman told Science Friday back in 2016, when the Event Horizon Telescope project was just getting underway. At an illuminating press conference on Wednesday, April 10th, scientists shared the image for the first time: a slightly blurry lopsided ring of light encircling a dark shadow. But even as the image confirms current ideas about gravity, it also raises new questions about galaxy formation and quantum physics. Event Horizon Telescope Director Shep Doelemen and Feryal Özel, professor of astrophysics at the University of Arizona and EHT study scientist, help us wrap our minds around the image. And Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo, assistant professor of physics and Canada research chair at the University of Montreal joins the conversation to talk about what scientists would like to discover next.

Plus: A project aims to use the artificial sea of Biosphere 2 as a testing ground for bringing back coral reefs affected by climate change. Christopher Conover from Arizona Public Media reports in this edition of The State Of Science.

And the image of a black hole isn't the only space news that came out this week. Umair Irfan, staff writer at Vox, joins Ira to talk about the crash of the Israeli lunar lander Beresheet and other stories from the week in science in this week?s News Roundup.

2019-04-12
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SciFri Extra: Picturing A Black Hole

The Event Horizon Telescope is tackling one of the largest cosmological challenges ever undertaken: Take an image of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, using a telescope the size of the Earth.

Now, the Event Horizon team has announced they have big news to share about those efforts. On Wednesday April 10th, it?s anticipated they will show a photo of the event horizon. Before they do, we wanted to share this 2016 conversation with Event Horizon project director Shep Doeleman and black hole expert Priya Natarajan, in which they discuss how you image an object as dark and elusive as a black hole.

2019-04-06
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Right-To-Repair, Exercise Recovery, Gov. Inslee. April 5, 2019, Part 2

Whenever your smartphone or video game console breaks down, you usually have to go back to the manufacture or a technician affiliated with the company to have your device fixed. Oftentimes, companies don?t release parts or guides to their devices, making it difficult to repair them own your own. 20 different states have introduced right-to-repair legislation, which calls for companies to open up the ability for individuals to fix their own devices. Recently, senator Elizabeth Warren called for a national right-to-repair law for farming equipment made by John Deere and other agricultural manufacturers. Jason Koebler from Motherboard and agricultural lawyer Todd Janzen discuss the debate between right-to-repair advocates who want more choice in the hands of consumers and companies who cite security issues and intellectual property rights for keep devices closed.

If you?re a runner, hitting the road after a long winter indoors feels invigorating? until you get back home, 10 miles later, and your legs feel like jelly. How do you start to recover? Ibuprofen, ice, lots of water, and stretching might sound like good place to start. But it turns out that following these seemingly logical steps for a faster recovery achieves just the opposite. Icing your muscles slows down the process of recovery. Too much water can be harmful. And stretching? You can put that in the same category as compression boots and cupping?they don?t help recovery one bit. Science writer Christie Aschwanden, author of Good To Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery, a new book on the science of recovery, joins Ira to share what she discovered debunking our most commonly-held beliefs about recovery with science.

?Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.? So goes the saying. And for Washington state governor Jay Inslee, that idea is climate change. He has staked his run for the White House in 2020 on what he calls ?America?s Climate Mission,? and his campaign platform says ?defeating climate change is the defining challenge of our time and [it] must be the foremost priority for the next president.? For a little historical perspective, however, consider that climate change was practically a non-issue in the last presidential election. There were no specific questions about climate policy in the debates. And only five minutes and twenty-seven seconds?two percent of total talking time?were spent on climate change across all three presidential debates. In this conversation, Ira discusses Gov. Inslee?s presidential ambitions, and the science issues that have defined his time as governor of Washington.

2019-04-05
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Coal Ash, Soil Loss, Sap, Bristlecone Pines. April 5, 2019, Part 1

Maple tapping season is underway in the sugar maple stands of the United States. Warm days and below-freezing nights kick off a cycle of sap flow crucial for maple syrup production. But why is the flow of sap so temperature dependent in sugar maples? University of Vermont maple researcher Abby van den Berg explains how ice crystals in the trees? cells power sap flow, while Yale University?s Craig Brodersen tackles how other trees and plants move gallons of fluid per day from roots to leaves?all without using any energy at all.

In mid-March, a late winter storm dumped inches of rain on frozen soil in the Midwest, flooding the Missouri River and tributaries?particularly in agriculture-intensive Iowa, eastern Nebraska, and western Illinois. The storm has submerged farm fields under water, washed-out roads and bridges, caused grain silos to burst from flood damage, and drowned livestock. Many farmers may be unable to plant their fields in time this year, or even at all. But soil experts looking at that same damage will notice another thing: erosion of precious topsoil. This first layer of soil is the key to the Midwest?s immense fertility and agricultural strength, but a resource that is slow to rebuild after major losses like farms are currently experiencing. Mahdi Al-Kaisi, a soil scientist at Iowa State University, explains why erosion is bad news for farmers, and how the damage from this flood event could ripple for years to come.

Bristlecone pine trees grow in harsh, dry mountain climates and can live up to 5,000 years old. The trees have adapted to these rough habitats by building up dense woody trunks that can hold up against insects, and rely on the wind to disperse their hard seeds. Ecologist Brian Smithers became interested in these species because ?they epitomized growing and living on the edge of what is possible.? Smithers talks about the adaptations and competition the species will face as rising temperatures from climate change force the trees to move up in elevation.

Washington University?s analysis of data from Missouri utility companies shows high levels of toxic coal ash contamination near ponds power plants use to dump waste from coal combustion. Will proposed new regulations be enough?

 

2019-04-05
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Poetry of Science, The Power of Calculus. March 29, 2019, Part 2

April is National Poetry Month, a time of readings, outreach programs, and enthusiastic celebration of the craft. And for a special Science Friday celebration, we?ll be looking at where science and poetry meet. Tracy K. Smith, the current U.S. poet laureate, wrote the 2011 book Life On Mars, which touches on dark matter, the nature of the universe, and the Hubble Telescope?all as an elegy for her deceased engineer father, Floyd. Rafael Campo, a physician, poet, and editor for the Journal of the American Medical Association?s poetry section, writes poems about illness, the body, and the narratives each patient brings to medical settings. The two talk to Ira about where science fits into their work?and how poetry can inform science and scientists. Read some of the poems, and a syllabus of science-related works suggested by SciFri listeners, here.

Calculus underpins many of the greatest ideas about how the universe works: Newton's Laws, Maxwell's Equations, quantum theory. It's been used to develop ubiquitous technologies, like GPS. It was even used to model the battle between HIV and the human immune system, which helped researchers fine tune triple-drug therapies to combat the virus. In his book Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe, mathematician Steven Strogatz takes readers on a journey around the world, detailing the bright ideas that contributed to modern calculus and citing the many ways those mathematical ideas have changed the world. Learn more here.

2019-03-29
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Growing Glaciers, Expanding Universe, Flu Near You. March 29, 2019, Part 1

Once upon a time, everything in the universe was crammed into a very small space. Then came the Big Bang, and the universe has been expanding ever since. But just how fast is it expanding? Calculating that number is a challenge that dates back almost a hundred years, when Edwin Hubble used data from Harvard astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt to try to answer that question. His value came to be called the Hubble constant, H0. But the exact value of that constant has been hard to pin down. And now two different approaches to measuring the Hubble constant have come up with close, but different answers?and each team says they're pretty confident in the accuracy of their measurements. Ira speaks to science writer and author Anil Ananthaswamy and Nobel laureate Adam Riess to discuss the discrepancy.

This flu season, Science Friday teamed up with Flu Near You to ask listeners to track their symptoms to create a map of influenza-like illness across the country. Nearly three thousand SciFri users participated. Science Friday education director Ariel Zych and biostatician Kristin Baltrusaitis, who was a research assistant for Flu Near You, tells us how the SciFri community results stacked up to the rest of participants. Plus, epidemiologist Karen Martin gives an update on how this season compares to years past and how the Minnesota Department of Health uses Flu Near You data for surveillance on a local level. See the results here.

It?s become the familiar refrain in this era of climate change: Warmer temperatures, retreating glaciers, and rising sea levels. But when it comes to Greenland?s Jakobshavn Glacier, it seems the drumbeat of disaster may have halted?for now. Scientists report in the journal Nature Geoscience this week that the once fast-retreating ice sheet has been thickening over the last few years instead. It?s a reversal of a twenty-year trend of thinning and retreating, but perhaps not for long. Ala Khazendar, researcher at NASA?s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, joins Ira to explain why this glacial about-face may not be the cause for celebration that we think it is in this week?s Good Thing, Bad Thing.

And Gizmodo writer Ryan Mandelbaum talks about the canceled all-female space walk, NASA's lunar ambitions, and more in this week's News Roundup.

 

2019-03-29
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A.I. And Doctors, Alzheimer?s. March 22, 2019, Part 2

When you go to the doctor?s office, it can sometimes seem like wait times are getting longer while face time with your doctor is getting shorter. In his book, Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again, cardiologist Eric Topol argues that artificial intelligence can make medicine more personal and empathetic. He says that algorithms can free up doctors to focus more time on their patients. Topol also talks about how A.I. is being used for drug discovery, reading scans, and how data from wearables can be integrated into human healthcare. Learn more and read an excerpt from Deep Medicine here.

Plus: Alzheimer?s disease is known for inflicting devastating declines in memory and cognitive function. Researchers are on the hunt for treatments are taking a number of approaches to slowing or preventing the neurodegenerative disease, including immune therapy, lifestyle changes, and targeting sticky buildups of proteins called amyloid beta. But at MIT, scientists have been trying something else: a combination of flashing strobe lights and a clicking sound played at 40 times per second, for just an hour a day. Mice given this treatment for a week showed significant reductions in Alzheimer?s signature brain changes and had marked improvements in cognition, memory, and learning. But could an improvements in brains of mice translate to human subjects? Dr. Li-Huei Tsai, an author on the research, talks with Ira, and Wake Forest Medical School neuroscientist Dr. Shannon Macauley, who was not involved in the research, discusses how to take promising research of all kinds to the next level.

2019-03-22
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House Science Committee, Superbloom, Snowpack. March 22, 2019, Part 1

There?s been a changing of the guard in the U.S. House of Representatives. In January, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a democrat from Texas, took over as chair of the House Committee for Science, Space, and Technology from her predecessor Lamar Smith. Smith was in charge of the House Science Committee for six years?an era that was defined by partisan attacks on climate science, and the issuing of congressional subpoenas to scientists. Chairwoman Johnson is looking to restore credibility to the House Science Committee, listening to the scientific consensus on climate change and aiming for bipartisan oversight of scientific programs. She joins Ira to talk about bringing science back to the committee, changes she plans to make from previous leadership, and how much progress will the new committee make when it?s up against an administration that?s been hostile to many of the agencies that conduct scientific research.

Plus: This El Niño year has been dumping rain and snow on California's Sierra Nevada mountains. But water managers don?t just eyeball how much snow they think is up there, tucked away in those high mountain basins. Snow inventories these days are high tech, involving airplanes and lasers. Tom Painter of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and Caltech joins Ira to explain.

The hills and deserts of the southwest have been putting on quite a show this spring?a superbloom that's better than some areas have seen in generations. Science Friday producer Christopher Intagliata headed down to Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, California, to check it out. See his photos and learn why superblooms aren't a regular occurrence in California.

The New Mexico state legislature has passed a bill calling for the state to transition entirely to renewable energy by 2050. Laura Paskus, environmental reporter for the New Mexico Political Project, joins Ira to explain the details.

And science journalist Annalee Newitz explains the surprising first results from Japan's Hayabusa2 mission to asteroid Ryugu in this week's News Roundup.

2019-03-22
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Frans de Waal, Inactive Ingredients, Street View, and Gentrification. March 15, 2019, Part 2

Primatologist Frans de Waal has spent his lifetime studying the lives of animals, especially our closest cousins, the chimpanzees. de Waal has observed their shifting alliances and the structure of their political ranks. He has seen bitter conflicts break out, only to be mended by peaceful, respected mediators. And he has witnessed chimpanzees grieve for, and attempt to comfort, their dead and dying. But one of the most touching reflections in his new book, Mama?s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves, is the story he tells of a female chimp who didn?t produce enough milk to feed her young. When de Waal taught her to feed her baby with a bottle instead, she repaid him with what most of us would recognize as gratitude: holding both of de Waal?s hands and whimpering sadly if he tried to leave. The book explores many stories of animal emotions from across the animal kingdom, and it might leave you wondering how unique humans really are.

Gentrification happens when a previously low-income or working class neighborhood sees an influx of well-off new residents. Rents go up, new development sets in, and the neighborhood?s original residents may be displaced by those with more money. Cities who can recognize gentrification in progress can take steps to prevent displacement and funnel resources, or even slow the neighborhood?s changes directly. But while a new yoga studio or fancy coffee shop may be one obvious sign of rising rents, there are earlier indications that might help cities fend off some of the side effects sooner?building improvements like new siding, landscaping, and more go markedly up as new money arrives. Writing in the journal PLOS One this week, a research team at the University of Ottawa describes one new tool in the toolkit: they turned to Google?s Street View, and taught an AI system to recognize when an individual house had been upgraded. Putting those upgrades on a map revealed not just areas the researchers already knew were gentrifying, but also other pockets where the process had begun unnoticed. Michael Sawada, a professor of geography, environment, and geomatics at the University of Ottawa, explains the big data approach to catching gentrification in action.

Anyone who has glanced at the back of a bottle of aspirin or a box of allergy tablets has seen it: the ?Inactive Ingredients? list. All medications include compounds that help stabilize the drug or aid in its absorption. They aren?t given a second thought because they?re ?inactive,? which suggests that these ingredients don?t do any harm. But in fact, according to a new study out this week, over 90 percent of medications have inactive ingredients that can cause allergic reactions in certain patients, including peanut oil, lactose, and gluten.

2019-03-15
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Youth Climate Protest, Science Talent Search Winners, Snowflake Changes. March 15, 2019, Part 1

It all started with 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Last August, Thunberg started skipping school on Fridays to protest outside Sweden?s parliament, insisting her country get behind the Paris Climate Agreement. Her protests have inspired thousands of young people around the world to join the #FridaysForFuture movement, skipping school to demand that their governments take action against climate change. And on Friday March 15th, these young people will take things a step further?joining together across more than 90 countries and 1,200 cities in the Youth Climate Strike. Sarah Kaplan, science reporter for the Washington Post, reports live from the scene of one of those stikes in Manhattan?s Columbus Circle. Plus, Ira speaks with Isabella Fallahi, Youth Climate Strike organizer and Varshini Prakash, executive director and co-founder of the Sunrise Movement about what?s inspiring this current moment of youth-led activism.

Each year, approximately 1,800 high school science students take part in the Regeneron Science Talent Search (Regeneron STS), a program of Society for Science & the Public. This year?s projects ranged from studying the viscosity of molten lava to investigating more fuel efficient airplane designs to creating a computer model to predict refugee migrations. Senior Samuel Weissman analyzed the genetic makeup of two HIV patients, and senior Ana Humphrey created a math model to look for exoplanets. Ira talks with them about their winning projects.

As we can all attest, climate change is creating more fluctuating temperatures. Normally, snowflakes form high up in the atmosphere, and crystallize into their pretty structures as they pass through cold layers of air. But with warmer temperatures, snowflakes can partially melt on their way down. There?s more water in the air these days, and it acts like a glue that can glom onto the snowflakes, covering them with little ice pellets. Add in the wind and the snowflakes can smash together, turning into mega snowflakes. To add insult to injury, after these snowflakes land they melt faster because they?re less able to reflect light. This has serious implications for flooding and hydrology as well as spring vegetation. When melting occurs normally, the nutrients in the snowpack are absorbed into the soil. Not so when it melts away really fast.

 

 

2019-03-15
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SciFri Extra: Celebrating The Elements

Do you have a favorite chemical element? Neurologist Oliver Sacks did?he was partial to dense, high melting-point metals, especially those metals between hafnium and platinum on the periodic table.

This month marks the 150th anniversary of chemist Dmitri Mendeleev?s design for the periodic table?and we didn?t want to miss out on the party. In this special podcast, we revisit Sacks? fascination with the elements, and Ira opens up the Science Friday vaults to share two tales of chemical discovery and creation. First, we take a trip back to 2004 for a chat with nuclear chemist Joshua Patin of a scientific team responsible for the creation of two new chemical elements (elements 113 and 115). Then, a voyage to 2010, for a conversation with the late Nobel laureate and buckyball co-discoverer Sir Harry Kroto.

2019-03-12
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HIV Remission, Bones, Jumping Spiders. March 8, 2019, Part 2

Nearly twelve years ago, a cancer patient infected with HIV received two bone marrow transplants to wipe out his leukemia. Now, researchers in the United Kingdom reported in Nature earlier this week that their patient, a man known only as ?the London patient,? had been in remission and off anti-retroviral therapy for 18 months after undergoing a similar bone marrow transplant, with the same gene mutation involved, to treat leukemia. While the team is hesitant to call their patient cured, he is the first adult in twelve years to remain in remission for more than a year after stopping medication. But what do these two patients? recoveries, requiring risky and painful transplants, mean for the millions of others with HIV around the world? Two HIV researchers not involved in this research, Katharine Bar of the University of Pennsylvania and Paula Cannon of the University of Southern California, tell us about the latest treatments that could someday be more broadly accessible, including gene therapies and immunotherapy, and what hurdles clinical studies still face.

Plus: Over 500 million years of evolution has resulted in the same bony framework underlying all mammal species today. But why is the leg bone connected to the ankle bone, as the song goes? And what can the skeletons of our ancestors tell us about how humans became the walking, talking bag o? bones we are today? Science writer Brian Switek, author of the new book Skeleton Keys, joins Ira to explain why our skeletons evolved to look the way they do.

And jumping spiders are crafty hunters, but sometimes they need their own disguise to avoid their own predators. The Crematogaster jumping spider, for example, avoids detection by mimicking ants, and go as far as losing their ability to jump to look more ant-like. Sometimes, predators can be your own mates?male jumping spiders becoming a female?s meal if their courtship displays don?t impress. Biologist Alexis Dodson and  Entomologist Lisa Taylor talk about what jumping spiders can tell us about tell us about the evolution of coloration and communication in the natural world.

2019-03-08
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NASA Administrator, California Wildfires, Lichens. March 8, 2019, Part 1

On December 14, 1972, as Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan prepared to board the lunar module, he gave one last dispatch from the lunar surface. And yet, 47 years later, humankind has not set another foot on the lunar surface. But now, NASA?s ready to return, with the Moon to Mars program. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine joins Ira in this segment to talk about the agency's ambitions beyond Earth, the role of commercial space companies in getting us there, and why he thinks plant science is "critical" to NASA.

Plus: There aren?t very many old-growth forest left in North America. And while it would be wonderful to be able to preserve all of them, resources to protect those forest patches are also in limited supply. So if you?re forced to choose between two areas of old-growth forest, how do you prioritize which of these islands of biodiversity to focus on? A new study suggests to look at the lichens. Troy McMullin, a research scientist in lichenology at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, Ontario, joins Ira to talk about the stories lichens can tell about the forest ecosystem.

California has been experiencing its wettest winter in decades. That?s good news in a state that has chronic water management issues and what feels like only recently recovered from a devastating multi year drought. The bad news? Researchers say that thanks to climate change and forest management practices, a wet winter like this one will no longer make a difference come next year?s wildfire season.Valerie Trouet, Associate Professor of Dendrochronology at the University of Arizona, tells us more.

And Amy Nordrum of IEEE Spectrum tells Ira about a SpaceX "crew" visiting the International Space Station and other top science headlines in this week's News Roundup.

2019-03-08
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Icefish, Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, Wireless Baby Monitoring. March 1, 2019, Part 2

During an electrical system test early in in the morning of April 26, 1986, Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded. The disaster at the plant was not caused solely by the test, however?a perfect storm of engineering and design missteps, operational errors, and cultural problems all aligned to bring about the catastrophe. In his new book, Midnight In Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World?s Greatest Nuclear Disaster, journalist Adam Higginbotham describes the events that led up to the meltdown, the dramatic, heroic, and perhaps futile attempts to lessen the extent of the accident, and the attempts by Soviet officials to contain the political ramifications of the explosion. He joins Ira to tell us more.

Plus: Every vertebrate has red blood cells?that is, except for a small family of fish from the notothenoid family known collectively as ?icefish.? These Antarctic-dwelling fish have translucent blood, white hearts, and have somehow adapted to live without red blood cells or hemoglobin. H. William Detrich, a professor of marine and environmental sciences at Northeastern University, explains how scientists are trying to decipher the secrets of the mysterious icefish.

What?s more terrifying than becoming a new parent? Starting out as new parents in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, where babies spend their first days entangled in wires attached to sensors that monitor their vital signs. But in the digital age, why must wires and sensors take up so much real estate on a tiny baby? That?s the question driving the development of a new monitoring device?a small wireless sensor that takes the scary ?science experiment? effect out of the NICU, and gives parents more time to cuddle with their newborn. John Rogers, professor of material science and engineering and director of the Center for Biointegrated Electronics at Northwestern University, joins Ira to discuss how the new device could transform neonatal care in the U.S. and in developing nations around the world.

 

2019-03-01
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Synthetic Genomes, Climate Panel, Local Recycling. March 1, 2019, Part 1

DNA is the universal programming language for life, and the specific code to that program are the combination of the base pairs adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine. But are those the only base pairs that could be used to create DNA? Scientists looking into this question were able to create 4 different base pairs that don?t exist in nature. Chemist Floyd Romesberg, biologist Jef Boeke, and bioethicist Debra Mathews tell Ira how altered genomes could be used for creating novel medicines and fuels?and whether this is considered a new form of life.

Plus: The climate is changing. Globally, of course. But also in Washington, where growing numbers of Republicans are jumping behind policies that would result in meaningful action on climate change. And yet, even as Congress appears ready to at least discuss the issue, and the government?s own scientists and military leaders sound louder alarms about the impending dangers of global climate change, the White House is assembling a group of climate change adversaries to counter those mainstream views. David Titley, a retired rear admiral who founded the Navy's task force on climate change, explains.

Last year, China tightened standards for recycled materials it would accept, and now local recyclers nationwide find themselves struggling to find new homes for plastics, cardboard, and other materials that fell below par. Dana Bate, health and science reporter for WHYY, tells Ira how Philadelphia and its suburbs are handling the issue in the State of Science.

And Sophie Bushwick, technology editor for Scientific American, explains how extreme climate change might cause stratocumulus clouds to disappear for good, and other top science news headlines, in this week's News Roundup.

2019-03-01
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SciFri Extra: A Night Of Volcanoes And Earthquakes With N.K. Jemisin

The Science Friday Book Club discussion of N.K. Jemisin?s The Fifth Season may have stopped erupting for the season, but we have one more piece of volcanic goodness for you. SciFri producer and chief bookworm Christie Taylor got the chance to speak with Jemisin at our book club meet-up, ?Voyage To The Volcanoes,? at Caveat in New York City. Listen for Jemisin?s adventures in volcano research, how real-world events inspired her to build an entire society around disaster preparedness, and how knowing your neighbors can be lifesaving.

At the event, we also spoke to volcanologist Dr. Janine Krippner, who helped debunk volcano myths. And SciFri staffers Lauren J. Young and Johanna Mayer explained how history?s volcanic winters have influenced art (and religion) over the centuries.

So, sit back and listen while you ponder what?s percolating deep in our planet?from quakes to shifting plates.

2019-02-27
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