150 épisodes

Brain fun for curious people.

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Brain fun for curious people.

    Best Science Books For Kids, Indigenous Science, Ignobel Prizes. November 25, 2022, Part 1

    Best Science Books For Kids, Indigenous Science, Ignobel Prizes. November 25, 2022, Part 1

    From Tiny Krill To Concrete Jungles: 2022’s Best Science Books For Kids
    The holidays are right around the corner, which means for those who give gifts in December, now is the time to start putting together that shopping list. If you have a young person in your life who loves science, why not expand their library and get a book or two?

    Joining Ira to give their recommendation for the best children’s science books of the year—both fiction and nonfiction—are Melissa Stewart, science book author based in Boston, Massachusetts, and Kristina Holzweiss, education technology specialist based on Long Island, New York.

    See the books at sciencefriday.com.


    Indigenous Knowledge Is Central To Climate Solutions
    As the United States observes Earth Day this year, many will be thinking about their personal relationship with—and responsibility to—the planet. But in an era of multiple planetary crises, including extinctions, global warming, and contaminated water, what about the Indigenous peoples whose millennia-old relationship with their land has been disrupted and sometimes severed by colonialism and other displacements? 

    Indigenous environmental scientist and author Jessica Hernandez talks to Ira about the harms the Western science has perpetuated against colonized people, as white environmentalists created national parks on Indigenous lands and “helicopter scientists” continue to do research in the global south while using the wealth of Western institutions. And she explains why greater recognition of Indigenous science, and partnerships that center Indigenous peoples and their research questions, is good for the entire planet.


     

    Prizes For Science That Makes You Laugh, Then Think
    Prizes went to researchers for analyzing what makes legal documents unnecessarily difficult to understand. And for creating a moose crash-test dummy. And for explaining, mathematically, why success most often goes not to the most talented people, but instead to the luckiest.

    If that sounds like a strange set of awards—that’s because it’s the Ignobel Prize Ceremony. This year, for the 32nd year in a row, laureates gathered (virtually) to be recognized for their unusual contributions to the world of science and engineering. In the words of Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research and awards ceremony ringleader, “It’s not about good or bad. If you win an Ignobel Prize, it means you’ve done something that will immediately cause anyone who hears about it to laugh, and then to think about it for the next few days or weeks.”

    Abrahams joins Ira to talk about the backstory of the awards, and to introduce some highlights from this year’s online prize ceremony.


     

    Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.

    • 47 min
    Largest Animal Crossing, First Complete Human Genome, Exoplanet Discoveries. November 25, 2022, Part 2

    Largest Animal Crossing, First Complete Human Genome, Exoplanet Discoveries. November 25, 2022, Part 2

    Building The World’s Largest Animal Crossing Outside of LA
    There’s a spot on Highway 101 in Agoura Hills, it’s pretty inconspicuous. There’s brown and green rolling hills on either side of the highway. Homes are sprinkled here and there. And then a small metal gate that leads off on a hiking trail. You probably wouldn’t know it, but soon this spot will be the location of the world’s largest animal crossing.

    This crossing will reconnect habitats that have been cut off from each other for three quarters of a century and it’ll do it over a highway that is constantly buzzing with cars — 300,000 pass by this spot every single day.

    In this piece we’re going on a geography voyage — from the north side of the highway to the south, and up the hills, above the highway, to get the real view.

    We’ll start here — there’s a big open space on the northern side of the highway. It’s at the entrance to Liberty Canyon and where I meet Beth Pratt.

    To continue reading, go to sciencefriday.com.


     

    Over 5,000 Exoplanets Have Now Been Discovered
    In March, the NASA Exoplanet Archive logged the 5,000th confirmed planet outside of our solar system. This marks a huge advance since the first exoplanet discovery in 1992, when astronomers Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail announced the discovery of two planets orbiting the pulsar PSR 1257+12. Now, the Archive contains confirmed sightings of planets in a wide range of shapes and sizes—from “hot Jupiters” to “super Earths”—but they still haven’t found any solar systems just like our own. In many cases, all astronomers know about these distant planets is their size and how far away from their stars they orbit.

    The TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) mission currently in orbit may eventually add ten thousand more candidates to the lists of possible planets. The Nancy Grace Roman Space telescope and ESA’s ARIEL mission, both planned for launch later this decade, could add thousands more. And the James Webb Space Telescope, currently undergoing commissioning, will attempt to characterize the atmospheres of some of the planets astronomers have already discovered.

    Astronomer Jessie Christiansen, the NASA Exoplanet Archive Project science lead, joins John Dankosky to talk about what we know about planets around distant suns, and how researchers are working to learn more about these far-off worlds.


     

    Scientists Release The First Fully Complete Human Genome
    Two decades ago, scientists announced they had sequenced the human genome. What you might not know is that there were gaps in that original sequence—about 8% was completely blank.

    Now, after a years-long global collaboration, scientists have finally released the first fully complete assembly of the human genome. Researchers believe these missing pieces might be the key to understanding how DNA varies between people.

    Six scientific papers on the topic were published in a special edition of the academic journal Science.

    Ira talks with Karen Miga and Adam Phillippy, co-founders of the Telomere to Telomere Consortium, an international effort that led to the assembly of this new fully complete human genome.


     

    Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.

    • 47 min
    NASA Artemis Mission Launches To The Moon, Science Behind Thanksgiving Meals. November 18, 2022, Part 2

    NASA Artemis Mission Launches To The Moon, Science Behind Thanksgiving Meals. November 18, 2022, Part 2

    The Science Behind Your Favorite Thanksgiving Dishes
    Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and for many people, that means it’s time to start thinking about what will be on the menu for dinner that night. Many people will opt for a classic turkey: others, a vegetarian-focused meal. Regardless of the plan, preparing food for the holiday can take some planning, and there’s a lot of science that goes into it.

    Cookbook author Kenji López-Alt thinks about the science behind cooking a lot. He’s the author of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, and he lists Thanksgiving as his favorite holiday. That makes him the expert on all things brine, sides, and pie. López-Alt joins Ira from his home in Seattle, Washington, to answer questions about the science behind Thanksgiving foods.


     

    NASA’s Massive Rocket Finally Launches To The Moon
    Early Wednesday morning the Artemis 1 mission launched, the first integrated flight test of NASA’s Space Launch System—a massive rocket that NASA hopes will enable an eventual lunar landing. The uncrewed launch was a long time coming. Elements of the program have been under development for over a decade. If all goes according to plan, a second Artemis flight—this time, with crew—will take place in 2024, with a crewed lunar landing in 2025.

    Another component of the program, a tiny spacecraft called Capstone, entered into lunar orbit several days prior to Artemis. It will test a complicated orbit planned for a potential lunar space station called Gateway, which would serve as a way station for astronauts moving between Earth and the Moon.

    Ira talks with Jim Free, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development, and Brendan Byrne, space reporter for WMFE and host of the Are We There Yet podcast, about the test flight and what lies ahead for the Artemis program.


    Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.

    • 47 min
    What Is The Metaverse, Missouri Groundwater Contamination, Eight Billion People On Earth. November 18, 2022, Part 1

    What Is The Metaverse, Missouri Groundwater Contamination, Eight Billion People On Earth. November 18, 2022, Part 1

    There Are Now Eight Billion People On Earth. What’s Next?
    Humankind just hit a big milestone this week: a world population of eight billion people. A hundred years ago, there were less than two billion, and now we’ve more than quadrupled that. But after decades of quick population growth, what will the next few decades hold?

    Sophie Bushwick, technology editor at Scientific American, explains this to Ira live from the studio. They also talk about other science news this week, like a new initiative from COP 27 to help transition poor countries away from fossil fuels, an ambitious plan to put solar panels in space, how mental health apps aren’t protecting user data, what the discovery of the earliest cooked meal in history tells us about human evolution, and the very first lab-grown meat to gain FDA approval.


     

    Groundwater Contamination In Springfield, Missouri Kept Secret From Residents
    Early in 2019, Ed Galbraith faced a crowd of some 200 unhappy Springfield, Missouri residents. He wanted to make amends. Galbraith, then director of Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ environmental quality division, acknowledged that the state agency in charge of protecting the environment should have announced sooner that contaminated water had spread from an old industrial site near the Springfield-Branson National Airport. Residents had recently found out that a harmful chemical known to cause cancer had been detected in the groundwater. The contamination came from the site of the now-shuttered Litton Systems, a former defense contractor that had employed thousands of people in Springfield to make circuit boards for the Navy and telecommunications industry.

    Read the rest at sciencefriday.com.


     

    Can A New Surge Of Tech Interest Make The Metaverse A Thing?
    Late last year, Mark Zuckerberg took the company then known as Facebook in a new direction. He renamed it Meta, short for “metaverse.” And he promised the company would go all in on building a virtual reality world like the first famous metaverse—the fictional topic of Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel “Snow Crash.”

    While many companies have tried to make metaverses in the 30 years since “Snow Crash” came out, including the popular virtual world called Second Life, we seem to be entering a new era of metaverse hype: besides Zuckerberg, Apple seems to be investing in a VR world. And even Nike wants to make a metaverse.

    So what are users actually getting if these companies succeed at their goals? And are there other, perhaps better, ways to go about bringing people together virtually? Ira talks to science fiction writer and tech journalist Annalee Newitz, and Avi Bar-Zeev, a pioneer of extended-reality technologies for companies like Disney, Apple, and others.

    • 47 min
    Dr. Fauci’s Exit Interview, Goodnight Oppy Mars Film, Science On The Ballot. Nov 11, 2022, Part 1

    Dr. Fauci’s Exit Interview, Goodnight Oppy Mars Film, Science On The Ballot. Nov 11, 2022, Part 1

    Science Was Big On The Ballot This Week. Here’s What Went Down
    Another chaotic election week has come and gone. Across the U.S., science was on the ballot, and people cast their votes on issues like healthcare, climate change infrastructure, conservation, and abortion policy.

    Nsikan Akpan, health and science editor at WNYC in New York City, joins Ira to talk about how the science ballot initiatives panned out this week. They discuss the outcomes of the abortion initiatives, California’s move to ban flavored tobacco, and what this election could mean for the future of the U.S.’ climate goals.

    Plus, they discuss the mess that is COP 27 climate conference, why this hurricane season is so strange, how an in utero procedure successfully treated a rare genetic disorder, and new footage of octopuses hurling objects at each other.


     

    As Anthony Fauci Steps Down, A Look Back At His Storied Career
    In recent years, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, has become a prominent public figure and one of the public faces of the U.S. government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    However, Science Friday has been talking to Dr. Fauci for decades, beginning in 1994, about topics ranging from HIV/AIDS to Ebola, interviewing him about everything from the Zika virus to advances in allergy research. Fauci has been in his current role at NIAID for 38 years, and has served as an advisor to seven presidents. He is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    He spoke with Ira about his career in medical research, the things he’s most proud of achieving in his time with the NIH, and the challenges the nation still faces in dealing with the pandemic, and other disease outbreaks yet to come.


     

    New Documentary Is Endearing Tribute To NASA’s Rover Program
    In 2003, the world became captivated by two rovers launched by NASA on a mission to Mars, known as Spirit and Opportunity. The rovers were sent to the Red Planet to discover what was on the surface. The rovers were only expected to last 90 days. Instead, Opportunity led a 15-year life of discovery, including the bombshell that Mars may once have been suitable to sustain microbial life.

    The story of these twin rovers is the subject of a new documentary out this month: “Good Night Oppy,” evoking the nickname of the Opportunity rover. The film features footage taken over nearly two decades, from the building of the rovers to recent interviews with scientists involved in the mission.

    Ira speaks with “Good Night Oppy” director Ryan White, as well as featured scientist Doug Ellison, engineering camera payload uplink lead at NASA, based in Alhambra, California.


     

    Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.

    • 47 min
    The US Battles RSV, Neural Connections, La Brea Tar Pits. Nov 11, 2022, Part 2

    The US Battles RSV, Neural Connections, La Brea Tar Pits. Nov 11, 2022, Part 2

    How Past Extinctions At The La Brea Tar Pit Can Teach Us About Our Climate Future
    If you drive through Los Angeles, you’ll pass by some of California’s most iconic sites—the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Universal Studios, the Santa Monica Pier. But if you don’t look for it, you may miss the La Brea tar pits—a place where Ice Age life from around 50 thousand years ago got trapped and preserved in sticky black ooze. Visitors can see megafauna, including skeletons of saber tooth cats and dire wolves, along with a vast collection of specimens, including things as small as beetle wings and rodent dung.

    La Brea was recently named as one of the world’s most important geological heritage sites by the International Union of Geological Sciences. The museum is currently planning an extensive redesign that will seek to connect visitors to research, offering lessons about climate, extinction, and survival. Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, president and director of the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, joins Ira to explain the significance of the site, and how a trove of Ice Age specimens can serve as a modern-day climate laboratory.


     

    Across The Country, RSV Is Overwhelming Medical Systems
    If you have a child—or interact with children on a regular basis—odds are you’ve heard about a very contagious virus: RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus. This isn’t a new illness, but it has been surging across the country. This has left parents and caretakers stressed about how to keep their kids safe.

    Hospitals across the country are having trouble coping with this year’s surge, which has come earlier and stronger than normal. This week, Science Friday is spotlighting two regions affected by the wave: Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.

    The two regions have their own challenges when it comes to the RSV surge. In Wisconsin, care deserts and a large elderly population make containing this virus important to avoid dangerous consequences. In Washington, D.C., hospitals are feeling the effects of years of shutting down pediatric units to make room for adult beds.

    Joining Ira to talk about RSV in Wisconsin and Washington D.C. are two journalists who have been following this: Jenny Peek, news editor for Wisconsin Public Radio and Aja Drain, reporter at WAMU public radio.


     

    What You Should Know About This RSV Surge
    Respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, is the number one cause of infant hospitalizations in the United States, and cases are soaring this year. Because young children have spent part—if not most—of their childhoods isolated, masking, or staying home due to the pandemic, many of their immune systems haven’t been exposed to RSV until now. It’s caused a huge surge in cases, and placed a heavy burden on pediatric clinics and hospitals.

    What do you need to know about the spike in infections? Ira talks with Dr. Carol Kao, a pediatrician and assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who has treated RSV for years. They dig into why this surge is happening now, the basics of the virus, how RSV is treated, and where we stand with an RSV vaccine.


     

    Mapping Brain Connections Reinforces Theories On Human Cognition
    Brain regions are associated with different functions—the hippocampus is responsible for long-term memory, for example, and the frontal lobe for personality, behavior, and emotions.

    After decades of research using sophisticated brain imaging, there’s a growing consensus among neuroscientists that understanding the connections between brain regions may be even more important than the functions of the regions themselves. When it comes to understanding human cognition, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    Ira speaks with Dr. Stephanie Forkel, assistant professor at the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging at Radboud University in Nijmegen in the Netherlands, who wrote a review article in the journal Science about the importance of brain connectivity, and what it me

    • 47 min

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It is good. Every week, this show presents new discoveries from all branches of science, with interviews of the scientists involved. The only thing that annoys me a bit is the way the host cut abruptly from time to time to remind people "this is science Friday from PRI...". This comes from it being a radio show and not a real podcast I guess.

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