50 épisodes

Brain fun for curious people.

Science Friday WNYC

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Brain fun for curious people.

    Nuclear Plant Decommissioning, Fauci Kid’s Book, Pigeon Vs Shoebill. Sept 24, 2021, Part 2

    Nuclear Plant Decommissioning, Fauci Kid’s Book, Pigeon Vs Shoebill. Sept 24, 2021, Part 2

    Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant To Say Goodbye To Its Radioactive Waste
    Just before Thanksgiving, the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth is expected to reach a historic milestone. All the radioactive fuel that generated electricity—and controversy—for nearly half a century will finally be removed from the reactor building. It will be stored outside in special steel and cement casks.

    The rare occasion will be celebrated by both supporters and opponents of the plant. But as the decommissioning of Pilgrim proceeds, concern over the long-term safety of the highly radioactive waste continues.

    Even though Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant stopped producing electricity two years ago, there are still armed guards in watchtowers, surveillance cameras spread over the site, mazes of barbed wire fences and concrete vehicle barriers. 

    Bruce Gellerman, a senior reporter at WBUR in Boston, Massachusetts, explains what the decommissioning process has been like and the future of nuclear power in the Northeast.

     


     

    Dr. Fauci’s Life Illustrated In A New Book For Kids
    Dr. Anthony Fauci became a household name at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, he’s the subject of a children’s book too: Dr: Fauci: How a Boy From Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor. The book takes us back to Fauci’s childhood filled with games of baseball in the streets of Brooklyn, bike rides to deliver medications for his family’s pharmacy, and his long history of asking questions about how the world works.

    Author Kate Messner talks to Ira about the surprises she found in Fauci’s life story, the value of showing kids that scientists were once children too, and why curiosity is such an important value to teach children.

     


     

    A Charismatic Match-up Between Two Feathered Friends
    It’s the third and final matchup of this fall’s Charismatic Creature Carnival, our celebration of six overlooked, and often unfairly maligned, species that deserve a chance under the spotlight. Our audience submitted the carnival candidates, but only one will be crowned the very first inductee into the Charismatic Creature Corner Hall of Fame.

    This week, our match-up is between two fabulous, feathered creatures: the pigeon and the shoebill stork. Defending the pigeon is Elizabeth Carlen, postdoctoral research fellow at Washington University in St. Louis. Representing the shoebill stork is Judith Mirembe, shoebill researcher and chair of Uganda Women Birders based in Kampala, Uganda. 

    • 47 min
    Two Climate Change Bills, COVID Vaccine Boosters. Sept 24, 2021, Part 1

    Two Climate Change Bills, COVID Vaccine Boosters. Sept 24, 2021, Part 1

    Ice-Hunting Lunar Rover Robot Gets A Landing Site
    This week, NASA announced that it had selected a destination for a planned robotic lunar rover called VIPER, the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover. The mission is planned for launch in 2023, and will rove about the Moon’s south pole, mapping the location and concentration of water ice deposits. The plan is for a commercial spaceflight mission to deliver the rover to a spot near the western edge of the Nobile Crater at the Moon’s south pole.

    Sophie Bushwick, technology editor at Scientific American, joins Ira to talk about the mission and other stories from the week in technology and science—including tiny airborne micro-machines, an upcoming voyage for the James Webb Space Telescope, and the discovery of ancient kids’ handprints that could be the world’s oldest-known art.


     

    Congress Is Considering Two Climate Change Bills. What’s In Them?
    President Biden has made many promises about slowing climate change. During his campaign, he pledged to bring the United States’ energy sector to zero carbon emissions by 2035. On Earth Day this year, he pledged to reduce total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, and by 100% by 2050.

    But the key policy changes that will help the country get there remain pending as the relevant bills continue to make their way through Congress. The first is an infrastructure bill that would pledge billions toward cleaner transit and resiliency projects in disaster-stricken communities. But that measure is tied intricately with the fate of a second, $3.5 trillion budget bill that would direct billions of dollars to incentivize coal and natural gas-burning utilities to switch over to renewable energy.

    If both are to pass without substantial changes, they rely on consensus among the narrow majorities of Democrats in the Senate and the House—neither of which is guaranteed.

    New York Times reporter Coral Davenport walks through what’s in the bills, and why so much is still up in the air even after a summer of climate-driven disasters.


     

    Behind The Booster Battle
    Update 9/24/2021: This week, CDC director Rochelle Walensky overruled the recommendations of an advisory panel and authorized a third dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for the elderly and certain “high risk” individuals, mirroring an earlier FDA decision. In late August, President Biden had said that COVID-19 vaccine booster shots might soon be on the horizon for many Americans.

    In late August, President Biden said that COVID-19 vaccine booster shots might soon be on the horizon for many Americans. But last Friday, an FDA advisory committee voted to recommend booster doses only for people over age 65—and this Wednesday, the FDA authorized Pfizer boosters for use in the elderly and “high risk” individuals.

    In the republished article (which you can read on sciencefriday.com) from September 16, written before the FDA review, Kaiser Health News’ Arthur Allen and Sarah Jane Tribble examine the backstory behind the debate over boosters, and how leaders from the NIH got out in front of FDA and CDC recommendations.

    • 47 min
    Endemic Diseases, Insects and Light, Opossum vs Aye-Aye. Sept 17, 2021

    Endemic Diseases, Insects and Light, Opossum vs Aye-Aye. Sept 17, 2021

    Nighttime Streetlights Are Stressing Out Urban Insects
    As insect populations—including bees, moths, and other pollinators—decline worldwide, researchers have established a variety of potential causes, including climate change, pesticides, and habitat loss. But now, new findings suggest yet another culprit may be part of the equation: night-time lighting, like street lights in populated areas.

    A team of entomologists in the United Kingdom looked at populations of moth caterpillars under street lights, compared to populations that lived in darkness all night. In conditions with night-time lighting, they found nearly half as many caterpillars, in some cases. In addition, caterpillars that grew up under street lights were bigger, suggesting that they might be stressed and attempting to rush into metamorphosis earlier than they should. Furthermore, the greatest threat seems to be coming from energy-efficient LED lights, whose bluer wavelengths may be more stressful than the warmer, redder light of older sodium bulbs.

    The team published their work in the journal Science Advanceslate last month. Guest host Umair Irfan talks to co-author Douglas Boyes about why nighttime lighting might be so bad for insects, and why ditching LED lights isn’t actually the best solution.

     


     

    The Endemic End To The Pandemic
    Over the past year and a half, we’ve been talking about the COVID-19 pandemic. But there’s another stage of global virus spread to consider as well—the endemic stage. Instead of a sudden cacophony of viral noise, you can think of it as a constant low-level hum, with occasional bleeps.  Viruses such as the coronaviruses responsible for many colds, or the influenza virus, are already endemic worldwide. They’re pretty much everywhere, all the time—and sometimes make you ill. But they don’t usually threaten to overwhelm health systems the way COVID-19 is currently.

    Maureen Miller, an infectious disease epidemiologist and medical anthropologist at  Columbia University, joins guest host Umair Irfan to talk about pivoting from pandemic to endemic conditions, and what past outbreaks can teach us for future health decisions. 

     


      

    Charismatic Creature Carnival: Who Rules The Night?
    We’re in week two of our Charismatic Creature Carnival, our celebration of six overlooked or unfairly maligned species that deserve a closer look. Our audience submitted our candidates, but only one will be crowned the very first carnival inductee into the Charismatic Creature Corner Hall of Fame.

    This week’s friendly head-to-head battle is between the opossum and the aye-aye, submitted by listeners who remarked these creatures are cute, though unconventionally so. Defending the opossum is Lisa Walsh, postdoctoral researcher at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, based in Washington, D.C. Squaring up against them to support the aye-aye is Megan McGrath, education programs manager at the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, North Carolina. Find out how to participate in the final creature face-off and check out what you said about the last round between the mantis shrimp and the hellbender salamander! 

     

    • 47 min
    Living With Wildfire, 7,000 Steps A Day Okay, Kids’ Mars Questions. Sept 17, 2021, Part 1

    Living With Wildfire, 7,000 Steps A Day Okay, Kids’ Mars Questions. Sept 17, 2021, Part 1

    Scientists Potty Train Cows To Lower Greenhouse Gasses
    Scientists have known it for a long time: Cattle are a major source of nitrogen emissions, contributing to the global warming crisis. Alternatives have been tossed around for years: from eating less meat to feeding cows seaweed. Now, a new study out of Germany and New Zealand has a more outside-the-box solution: potty-training calves.

    Scientists trained cows to pee in just one spot—dubbed the “MooLoo”—so their urine can be cleaned before it seeps into the environment. Most calves got the hang of it within 20-25 pees.

    Joining guest host Umair Irfan to talk about this and other science stories of the week is Roxanne Khamsi, science journalist based in Montreal, Quebec.

    With Worsening Wildfire Seasons, How Can We Learn To Live With Them?
    It’s another record year for fire in the American West, with more than two million acres already burning in the state of California, and the Dixie Fire alone well on its way to a million acres—if it gets that big, it would be the second “gigafire” on record, after 2020’s August Complex fire.

    As climate change and human habitation collide in worsening fire seasons, what is the long-term outlook? Guest host Umair Irfan talks to fire scientist Crystal Kolden about the way fires are changing as we change the landscape, and what coexisting with fire can look like—including learning from the time-proven burning and forestry practices of Indigenous peoples of the West.

    Do I Really Need 10,000 Steps A Day? Scientists Say 7,000 Is Fine
    You’ve probably heard someone say that they have to “get their steps in.” But does the number of steps you take in a day actually matter? For years, there was a mythology around the health benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day.

    But it turned out that number wasn’t based on actual data—it grew out of a marketing effort in Japan from a pedometer company in the 1960s. Now, Amanda Paluch, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has published a paper—based on actual data—to help answer this question in the academic journal JAMA Network Open.

    Mining data collected by the CARDIA cohort study, they compared the overall health outcomes of people who walked less than 7,000 steps a day, those logging 7,000 to 10,000 steps, and those trekking over 10,000. They found that people who walked over 7,000 steps a day had a significant decrease in mortality, compared to people who took fewer steps. They’re still trying to tease out exactly what health benefits the steps may bring.

    Paluch joins guest host Umair Irfan to talk about the research, and what you should know about how walking might improve health.

    NASA Scientist Answers Kids’ Questions About The Mars Rover
    It was big news last week when the Mars rover Perseverance collected its first rock samples.

    And just in time, we invited young listeners in our audience to ask research scientist Katie Stack Morgan of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory some of their most pressing questions about the Mars 2020 mission. Questions like, “How do samples get back to Earth from Mars?” And, “How does Perseverance dust itself off … if it can?

     

     

    • 46 min
    Covid And Disabilities, Alzheimer’s And Inflammation, Ultrasonic Sound. Sept 10, 2021, Part 1

    Covid And Disabilities, Alzheimer’s And Inflammation, Ultrasonic Sound. Sept 10, 2021, Part 1

    New Policies Emerge In The Wake Of Climate-Connected Disasters
    This week, people across the United States continued to be reminded of the results of a shifting climate—with people in the Gulf states still recovering from Ida, northeastern states dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida-induced flooding, and western states battling wildfires and smoke.

    With climate-related disasters as a backdrop, President Biden announced a goal of shifting some 45% of U.S. energy production to solar power by 2050.

    Kendra Pierre-Louis, senior reporter for the Gimlet-Spotify podcast How to Save A Planet, joins Ira to talk about those stories and more, including new calculations of the importance of minimizing fossil fuel extraction, to a successful sample collection effort on Martian soil.


     

    Is Inflammation In The Brain Causing Alzheimer’s Disease?
    The brain of a person with Alzheimer’s disease has a few hallmark traits. First, a buildup of plaques made of proteins called amyloid beta. Second, are tangles of another protein, called tau, within individual neurons. A third major indicator is inflammation.

    While researchers have long thought brain inflammation was a byproduct of the disease itself, there’s a growing hypothesis that it might actually be a driver of the disease’s progression. That would help explain why researchers have found people whose brains are full of tau tangles and amyloid plaques, but with no outward symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

    Research on animals has supported this theory. But finding the same evidence in human brains is harder. Now, a team of scientists, writing in the journal Nature Medicine, thinks they have it: time-lapsed images of patient brains showing tau tangles and inflammation spreading through the brain in the exact same pattern.

    Ira talks to Dr. Tharick Pascoal, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh and the study’s first author, about this finding, and what it means for future research into Alzheimer’s therapies.


     

    The World According To Sound: Ultrasonics
    The mating calls of the katydid, a large insect, are ultrasonic, beyond the audible limit of human hearing. What if we could hear them?

    That’s the focus behind a collaboration between the abstract audio podcast The World According To Sound and scientist Laurel Symes, the assistant director of the Center for Conservation Bioacoustics at Cornell University. In this recording, you’ll hear the sounds of one of her study animals—a group of katydids in a forest in Panama.

    Bill McQuay, sound engineer and an audio producer at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, slowed down Symes’ recording so you can hear a whole world of ultrasonic activity open up, from ultrasonic mating calls of katydids to the ultrasonic pings of bats echolocating their next meal.

    The World According to Sound is a live audio show, online listening series, and miniature podcast that focuses on sound, not story. Producers Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett create intentional, communal listening experiences as a way to “reclaim autonomy in a visually dominated world that is increasingly fracturing our attention.”

    This katydid recording and more are a part of their next listening series, an immersive listening party where audiences from all over the globe will be invited to experience a world of sound together, beginning in January 2022.


     

    How COVID-19 Reveals Existing Biases Against The Disability Community
    In early July, I visit Ingrid Tischer at the Berkeley apartment she’s shared with her husband, Ken, for the past 10 years. When I arrive, she’s already sitting outside at the top of a gently sloping ramp that leads up to the door. We’re both vaccinated, but we’re still taking precautions: masks, outdoors, and social distancing. That’s because Ingrid has a severe disability.

    “I have muscular dystrophy,” she tells me, “which is a neuromuscular disorder that I’ve had my entire life because it’s genetic.” Muscular dystrophy

    • 46 min
    Oyster Breeding, Climate Communication, Hellbender Vs Mantis Shrimp. Sept 10, 2021, Part 2

    Oyster Breeding, Climate Communication, Hellbender Vs Mantis Shrimp. Sept 10, 2021, Part 2

    To Breed An Oyster
    In the ocean, climate change involves more than just warming temperatures. Water levels are shifting, and ocean chemistry is changing.  Changes to ocean salinity caused by shifting amounts of freshwater could have big effects on the health of oysters, who need a certain range of saltiness in the water to be happy.  

    As part of her doctoral work at Louisiana State University, researcher Joanna Griffiths bred hundreds of families of oysters, looking for clues to what makes an oyster more able to endure salinity changes. She found that there is a genetic component to an oyster’s salinity resilience. 

    Griffiths joins Scifri’s Charles Bergquist to talk about the work, and the challenges of conducting a laboratory oyster breeding program—in which it’s difficult convince an oyster that it’s time for romance, and often even hard to discern the sex of the oysters involved.

     


     

    Talking Through The Tangled Terms Of Climate Change
    When scientists talk about climate change, there are certain words and phrases that get brought up often. Terms like “mitigation,” “carbon neutral” and “tipping point” are used frequently to explain how the climate crisis is unfolding. They’re often found in reports meant to educate the public on climate change, such as the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    It turns out a lot of words and phrases that scientists use to talk about climate change are not understood by the general public. That’s according to a recent study from the University of Southern California and the United Nations Foundation. This begs the question: if the public scientists are trying to reach don’t understand what’s being discussed, what’s the point?

    Joining Ira to talk about better communicating climate change is Wändi Bruine de Bruin, lead author of the study and provost professor of public policy, psychology and behavioral science at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California. Also joining Ira is Anthony Leiserowitz, founder and director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication in New Haven, Connecticut.

     


      

    An Aquatic Charismatic Creature Showdown: Mantis Shrimp vs. Hellbender
    It’s time to kick off SciFri’s Charismatic Creature Carnival! Welcome to our celebration of creatures that are overlooked or unfairly maligned by the general public, which, if you look a little closer, have an undeniable charm. Six audience-suggested creatures were chosen, but only one will be crowned the very first carnival inductee into the Charismatic Creature Corner Hall of Fame.

    The first friendly head-to-head battle in this fall’s Charismatic Creature Carnival is between the mantis shrimp and the hellbender, a giant aquatic salamander. Defending the mantis shrimp is Jason Dinh, PhD candidate in biology at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. And representing the hellbender is Lauren Diaz, PhD student in fisheries science at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. Find a list of upcoming carnival celebrations below! 

    • 47 min

Avis des utilisateurs

4,3 sur 5
4,2 k notes

4,2 k notes

KaylarGochan ,

Always interesting & enlightening

From your micro biome to black holes to pandemic history… I ALWAYS learn something relevant

micah margaret ,

thank you!

thank you for showcasing diverse voices!!!!
thank you for being more gender inclusive!!!!
thank you!

Petite Koala ,

Political views make me sad

I enjoy the show very much until we are diverted from science to a political view or “politically correct” topic. It is very hard to escape media slanted to one political view or another to manipulate real time ratings these days, and I hate to see an otherwise good science program slide down this slope as it does too often.

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