Science Friday

Brain fun for curious people.


  • Undiscovered Presents: The Magic Machine. Sept. 25, 2018

    Sep 25 2018

    As a critical care doctor, Jessica Zitter has seen plenty of “Hail Mary” attempts to save dying patients go bad—attempts where doctors try interventions that don’t change the outcome, but do lead to more patient suffering. It’s left her distrustful of flashy medical technology and a culture that insists that more treatment is always better. But when a new patient goes into cardiac arrest, the case doesn’t play out the way Jessica expected. She finds herself fighting for hours to revive him—and r...more

  • Endangered Crow, Hawaiian Biodiversity, Mars Simulation. Sept. 21, 2018, Part 2

    Sep 21 2018

    About five million years ago, the island of Kauai emerged from the ocean waves, and a new chain of island habitats was born, right in the middle of the Pacific. In those Hawaiian islands, birds would have found a multitude of microclimates, a lack of most predators, and a pretty safe spot to grow and evolve—which they did, diversifying into a wide range of species, each suited to a different lifestyle and habitat. But today Hawaii’s diverse birds are under attack by invasive mongooses, cats, rat...more

  • Utah Dino Bones, Salt Lake Migrations, Tree Canopies. Sept. 21, 2018, Part 1

    Sep 21 2018

    If you stood in southeastern Utah over 200 million years ago, you’d be overlooking the ocean. The landlocked state wasn’t quite the same landscape of scarlet plateaus and canyons you might see today, but a coastal desert where sand dunes butted up right against the sea. And it was home to some of the earliest dinosaurs. In this region of Utah, today known as Indian Creek in Bears Ears National Monument, the remains of dinosaur relatives, known as protodinosaurs or “dinosaur aunts and uncles,” ar...more

  • Undiscovered Presents: The Holdout. Sept 18, 2018.

    Sep 18 2018

    Since the 1980s, Gerta Keller, professor of paleontology and geology at Princeton, has been speaking out against an idea most of us take as scientific gospel: That a giant rock from space killed the dinosaurs. Nice story, she says—but it’s just not true. Gerta's been shouted down and ostracized at conferences, but in three decades, she hasn’t backed down. And now, things might finally be coming around for Gerta’s theory. But is she right? Did something else kill the dinosaurs? Or is she just too...more

  • Soil Future, Plant Feelings, Science Fair. Sept 14, 2018, Part 2

    Sep 14 2018

    Climate change is increasing temperatures and causing heavier rainfalls across the country. Scientists are studying how these changes will affect different natural resources, including the soil ecosystem. For example, in Wisconsin, soil erosion is predicted to double by 2050 due to heavier rainfalls, according to a report by the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. Agricultural scientist Andrea Basche talks about how soil formation and health is tied to climate. She joins microbiologi...more

  • Florence Flooding, Algorithms, Dino Demise. Sept. 14, 2018, Part 1

    Sep 14 2018

    Last month, California passed a bill ending the use of cash bail. Instead of waiting in jail or putting down a cash deposit to await trial at home, defendants are released after the pleadings. The catch? Not everyone gets this treatment. It’s not a judge who determines who should and shouldn’t be released; it’s an algorithm. Algorithms have also been used to figure out which incarcerated individuals should be released on parole. Mathematician Hannah Fry and computer scientist Suresh Venkatasubra...more

  • Undiscovered Presents: I, Robovie. Sept 11, 2018.

    Sep 11 2018

    A decade ago, psychologists introduced a group of kids to Robovie, a wide-eyed robot who could talk, play, and hug like a pro. And then, the researchers did something heartbreaking to Robovie! They wanted to see just how far kids’ empathy for a robot would go. What the researchers didn’t gamble on was just how complicated their own feelings for Robovie would get. Annie and Elah explore the robot-human bond. Subscribe to Undiscovered HERE, or wherever you get your podcasts   VIDEOS I Spy, And The...more

  • Grazing, Work-Life Imbalance. Aug. 7, 2018, Part 2

    Sep 07 2018

    Each spring, animals move from their winter grazing grounds in search of greener pastures. For birds, where and when to start that journey is based on genetics, and signals from stars, and magnetic fields from the earth. But for some larger mammals like sheep and moose, they’re not born knowing where to go. They need to learn a mental migratory map—and it’s often passed down from other herd members. Ecologists Matthew Kauffman and Brett Jesmer join Ira to tell us more. Plus: Employers tend to de...more

  • Tick Repellents, Robot Relationships. Aug. 7, 2018, Part 1

    Sep 07 2018

    If you were given a robot and asked to break it, would you do it? The amount of Furby destruction videos on Youtube suggest it wouldn’t be that hard. But that’s not true for all robots. According to researchers, knowing more about a robot or bonding with it can make you hesitant to harm it. And if the bond between you and a robot is strong enough, you might even go out of your way to protect it. Kate Darling, robot ethicists from the MIT Media Lab, and Heather Knight, robotics researcher from Or...more

  • Eric Kandel and the Disordered Mind, Death. Aug 31, 2018, Part 2

    Aug 31 2018

    The human brain contains an estimated 100 billion neurons. When those cells malfunction, the disrupted process can lead to schizophrenia, PTSD, and other disorders. In his book The Disordered Mind, Nobel Prize-winning neuropsychiatrist Eric Kandel looks at where the processes fault to give insight into how the brain works. According to Kandel, the understanding of these disorders offers a chance “to see how our individual experiences and behavior are rooted in the interaction of genes and enviro...more

  • Outdoor Influencers, Northwest Passage, Undersea Volcanoes. Aug 31, 2018, Part 1

    Aug 31 2018

    NASA is exploring a deep-sea volcano off the coast of Hawaii as a test run for human and robotic missions to Mars and beyond. The mission, dubbed SUBSEA, or Systematic Underwater Biogeochemical Science and Exploration Analog, will examine microbial life on the Lō`ihi seamount. The mission has two objectives. The first is to learn about the operational and communication challenges of a real space mission through a deep ocean dive. The second is to learn more about the geology and chemistry that s...more

  • SciFri Special Edition: A Time Traveler Cocktail Party. Aug 28, 2018.

    Aug 28 2018

    In 2009, Stephen Hawking decided to throw a party for time travelers, famously sending the invitations after the date of the party. For the 30th anniversary of Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, the SciFri Book Club decided to throw our own party—a Time Traveler Cocktail Party, live at Caveat in New York City! We had hands-on physics demonstrations, built 2018 time capsules, and heard conversations about black holes, gravity and the fabric of our universe with Ryan Mandelbaum (Gizmodo), Rae Paol...more

  • Yellow Fever and Ebola, Trans-boundary Aquifers, Probiotics. Aug 24, 2018, Part 2

    Aug 24 2018

    From 1976 to 2017, the Democratic Republic of the Congo experienced eight outbreaks of the deadly Ebola virus. Then, for 10 weeks earlier this year, the virus reemerged in the country, killing 33 people. Ministry of Health officials finally declared the crisis over on July 24. But just one week later, on August 1, the DRC reported a new outbreak of the Ebola virus in North Kivu province. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the The National Inst...more

  • Hurricane Lane, Disposable Contacts, Brief History of Time. Aug 24, 2018, Part 1

    Aug 24 2018

    This year was both the 30th anniversary of Stephen Hawking’s science blockbuster A Brief History of Time, but also the year the famed physicist himself passed away. In memory of Hawking and celebration of his work, Science Friday Book Club listeners joined up to read A Brief History of Time, ask questions, and explore the far reaches of what we know about the universe—how it began, how it will end, and what it’s made of in the meantime. In the final chapter of this summer’s book club, Yale astro...more

  • Ant Traffic Flow, Natural Reactors, David Quammen. August 17, 2018, Part 2

    Aug 17 2018

    Worker ants keep the nest alive. They look for food, take care of the eggs, and dig all the tunnels. Fire ant colonies, for example, have hundreds of thousands of worker ants. You’d think traffic jams happen all the time. But they don’t! The majority of the ants aren’t working, according to a study published in Science this week from the Georgia Institute of Technology. They remain idle to stay out of the way, leaving only 30% of the ants to dig a new hole. The researchers also believe the dynam...more

  • Coastal Flooding, Elephants and Cancer, Yosemite Bears. August 17, 2018, Part 1

    Aug 17 2018

    More than five years after the devastating 14-foot high waters of Superstorm Sandy flooded New York and New Jersey, the Army Corps of Engineers is studying methods for reducing the damage of future high waters in the New York Bay and Hudson River estuary—whether with levees, seawalls, beach nourishment, or even a gate that would span from Sandy Hook to the Rockaways. But would such barriers be sufficient as sea levels rise? Is building big structures—like those protecting the Netherlands—the bes...more

  • The Story Of Sand, Science And Dance. August 10, 2018, Part 2.

    Aug 10 2018

    When you think of sand, thoughts of the ocean and sand castles probably come to mind. But sand can be found in much more than beachfronts. Sand is a key ingredient in concrete for skyscrapers, silicon for computer chips, and the glass for your smartphone. Vince Beiser, journalist and author of the book The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How it Transformed Civilization, tells Ira more. How would you choreograph the heft of the Higgs boson, the plight of an endangered species, or the batt...more

  • Parch Marks, Wildfires, The Beatles. August 10, 2018, Part 1

    Aug 10 2018

    The Mendocino Complex fire in northern California has spread to more than 300,000 acres—a swath of land bigger than New York City. The blaze is the state’s largest wildfire in recorded history, edging out last year's record-setting Thomas Fire, which devastated communities north of Los Angeles. While climate change is certainly to blame in fanning the flames of wildfires (by boosting temperatures, parching landscapes, and causing more erratic rainfall) there's another factor that's making today'...more

  • "Lost in Math," Alan Alda, A Radical Brain Surgery, New Jersey Floods. August 3, 2018. Part 1

    Aug 03 2018

    For decades, physicists trying to uncover the large and small structures of the universe have been coming up empty—no evidence of supersymmetry at the Large Hadron Collider, no dark matter particles, no new evidence explaining dark energy. That’s the main conundrum in theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder’s book, Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray. She talks with Ira about the problems facing physics, and where new ideas could come from. This week, Alan Alda spoke publicly about l...more

  • Bacteria Extinction, Facial Recognition, Solar Probe. August 3, 2018, Part 2

    Aug 03 2018

    Long before we walked the Earth, bacteria took it over. They’re in every ecosystem on the Earth, and researchers have hopes to someday find them on other planets. The tiny cells have even helped make our atmosphere oxygen-rich and liveable. But do bacteria—numerous and adaptable as they are—ever go extinct? New research suggests they do.  Facial recognition systems—the type of technology that helps you tag your friends on Facebook—is finding its way offline and into real world environments. Some...more

  • PFAS, Urban Evolution, Science Diction. July 27, 2018, Part 1

    Jul 27 2018

    If you thought city life was stressful, imagine being a wild animal trying to outlive speeding cars, toxic chemicals and heavy metals, or even the unnaturally bright nights and din of traffic. Why stick around at all? Yet our urban areas still teem with wildlife. Pigeons, mice, lizards, moths, and plants all eke out their livelihoods in sidewalk cracks, subway tunnels, and building ledges. But how is city living affecting how these organisms evolve? Evolutionary biologist Menno Schilthuizen, aut...more

  • Ant Socialization, Smoky Skies, Dust Storm, Mars Lake. July 27, 2018, Part 2

    Jul 27 2018

    Many ant species have a queen, the member of the colony that lays eggs. The rest of the ants are divided into different roles that support the queen and the colony. So what ants become queens versus workers? Scientists found that the gene ilp2 that regulates insulin played a role in determining what ant becomes the queen. Biologist Ingrid Fetter-Pruneda talks to John Dankosky about how this gene works in determining a queen. The Rocky Fire and the Jerusalem Fire scorched nearly 100,000 acres in ...more

  • Heredity, Oldest Bread, Jupiter's Moons. July 20, 2018, Part 2

    Jul 20 2018

    Have you ever taken a peek at your family tree? If you trace back along those branches, you might discover some long ago celebrities, kings, and philosophers among your ancestors. But what does it even mean to be “related” to an ancient queen when it’s hard to know what’s lurking inside our own DNA? It turns out even one generation back, the question of who we are gets made complicated. “We’re primed to think of our genomes as some kind of magical book. We just understand so little about genetic...more

  • Yeast Superbug, Dino Dinner, Toxic Algae. July 20, 2018, Part 1

    Jul 20 2018

    If you hear the word “superbug,” you’re likely to think about drug-resistant bacteria or even viruses. But in a case that’s been unfolding since 2009, a drug-resistant yeast is increasingly worrying epidemiologists. The yeast, Candida auris, has popped up in 27 countries so far, with 340 cases in the United States. It has a mortality rate of 60 percent. Unlike other kinds of fungal infection, C. auris seems able to hop from person to person and persists on sterile surfaces. Inconveniently, the y...more

  • Nerve Agents, Straws, Soccer Flops, Happiness. July 13, 2018, Part 2

    Jul 13 2018

    Four months ago, an ex-Russian spy and his daughter were hospitalized in the U.K. They came into contact with a substance known as Novichok—a nerve agent developed by Soviet scientists during the Cold War. And recently, two U.K. citizens were hospitalized. One died after apparent exposure to Novichok. Russia has so far denied any involvement in the attacks. The nuclear arms race wasn’t the only focus for the U.S. and Soviets during the Cold War. The proliferation of chemical weapons—nerve and bl...more

  • Neutrinos, Book Club, Air Conditioning. July 13, 2018, Part 1

    Jul 13 2018

    In 1988, physicist Stephen Hawking’s wildly popular A Brief History of Time introduced general audiences around the world to scientists’ questions about the Big Bang, black holes, and relativity. Many of those questions remain unanswered, though the science has advanced in the 30 years since the book was first published. Hawking, who passed away this spring, was known not just for this book, but for his enthusiastic and persistent communication with the public about science. And this summer, the...more

  • 19th-Century Surveyor, News Roundup, Eagles' Nests. July 6, 2018, Part 1

    Jul 06 2018

    In the 19th century, the American West was an arid climate yet to be fully explored. But surveyors like geologist John Wesley Powell, the second director of the United States Geological Society, would chart out the natural wonders that lied beyond the Mississippi. While at the USGS, Powell would lead a project to create the first map of the country to integrate geographical features and some of the first survey expeditions along the snaking Colorado River and Grand Canyon. But he also proposed r...more

  • Jurassic World, Rhino Comeback, Uranus Collision. July 6, 2018, Part 2

    Jul 06 2018

    It’s the 25th anniversary of the debut of Jurassic Park. And with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom currently at the top of the summer movie food chain, its progeny continue to dominate the box offices. But even as the original Jurassic Park gave viewers the latest in paleontological science in dino looks, the research has progressed to include feathers and wildly different body shapes for old favorites like Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor. Even newer research into dinosaur vocalization suggest they...more

  • Bee News, Summer Science Reading. June 29, 2018, Part 2

    Jun 29 2018

    Bumblebees and honeybees are two species of bees that form colonies. The colonies of bumblebees are smaller compared to their honeybee cousins, who’s hives can house tens of thousands of individuals. But both of these colonies have complicated compositions and structures that help them thrive. For bumblebees, recent studies showed that colonies located in urban areas may actually be more successful than nests located in agricultural areas. Plus, how do bees pick a new queen? Biologist Ash Samuel...more

  • Beef Genetic Testing, Chasing Whales, Radiolab Gonads. June 29, 2018, Part 1

    Jun 29 2018

    Whales are majestic, awe-inspiring animals. Some species can reach up to 150 tons and take in a living room-sized volume of water in one gulp. They can even dive thousands of feet into the ocean while holding their breath all the way down. It’s hard to imagine that the earliest ancestors of these graceful creatures of the deep were four-legged dog-like animals that lived on land. In his book Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures, paleontologist Nick Py...more

  • Math And Social Justice, Chicago Coyotes, Meteorites. June 22, 2018, Part 2

    Jun 22 2018

    Math isn’t often thought of as a tool for social justice. But mathematical thinking can help us understand what’s going on in society too, says mathematician Eugenia Cheng. For example, abstract math can be used to examine the power structures between men and women, or white and black people, and to more clearly define the relationships and power differentials at play. At our live event at the Harris Theater in Chicago, we called on WBEZ’s Curious City to help us out. Chicago resident Devin Hend...more

  • Alcohol Study, Cephalopod Week, Coral Oasis. June 22 2018, Part 1

    Jun 22 2018

    Last week, the National Institutes of Health cancelled a $100 million study of alcohol and health after an internal investigation found “early and frequent” engagement with none other than the alcohol industry, to an extent that would “cast doubt” on the scientific results. But prior to the cancellation, the research was setting out to answer an ongoing question about alcohol and our health: Are moderate drinkers actually better off than nondrinkers? Study after study has found that light or mod...more

  • CRISPR, Colors, Narwhals. June 15, 2018, Part 2

    Jun 15 2018

    Over less than a decade, the gene-editing technique known as CRISPR-Cas9 has taken the biology world by storm. But two new studies indicate that there could be a downside to the CRISPR approach. Did you know a blue jay’s feathers and a butterfly’s wings aren’t actually blue? Neither are your blue eyes. From the colors we see in flowers and birds, to the hues we use in art and decoration, there’s more than one way to make a rainbow—and it all starts with molecules and structures that are too smal...more

  • Dinosaurs, Celebrating Cephalopods. June 15, 2018, Part 1

    Jun 15 2018

    Like a kraken rising from the depths (or a cuttlefish emerging from the sand), Cephalopod Week is back! Every year, Science Friday spends a week honoring the mighty, clever, mysterious cephalopod. This year, Field Museum curator Janet Voight joins Ira and SciFri’s chief cephalopod cheerleader Brandon Echter to talk about the unusual and brainy behaviors of these creatures—including a squid that uses bioluminescent bacteria to camouflage itself—and whether cephalopods could someday become a model...more

  • Mars Organics, Museum Collections, Kelp Farming. June 8, 2018, Part 2

    Jun 08 2018

    In 1832, less than a year into the first voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin found a beetle in Argentina. Turns out, discovering new species in the depths of museum archives is not so uncommon. 180 years later, an entomologist who happened to specialize in rove beetles requested an assortment of samples from London’s Natural History Museum. There, among 24 pinned beetle specimens, was Darwin’s rove beetle. Dozens of such tales of are told by biologist and author Christopher Kemp in his new book...more

  • Ocean Conservation, Dark Matter Hunt. June 8, 2018, Part 1

    Jun 08 2018

    Planets, stars, and physical “stuff” make up a tiny fraction of the universe. Most of the universe's mass is instead invisible dark matter, which makes itself known not by luminance, but by its gravitational influence on the cosmos. The motions of galaxies and stars require dark matter to be explained. Yet despite decades of searching and millions of dollars spent, physicists still haven't been able to track down a dark matter particle. In this segment, physicists Jodi Cooley and Flip Tanedo, an...more

  • Sea Floor Mapping, Hurricane Season Forecast. June 1, 2018, Part 2

    Jun 01 2018

    The deep sea is the largest habitat on Earth, but it’s also one of the least understood. As mining companies eye the mineral resources of the deep sea—from oil and gas, to metal deposits—marine biologists like London’s Natural History Museum’s Diva Amon are working to discover and describe as much of the deep sea as they can. Amon has been on dozens of expeditions to sea, where she’s helped characterize ecosystems and discover new species all over the world. And she says we still don’t know enou...more

  • Scientist Politicians, Microbiome, Wildlife Car Accidents. June 1, 2018, Part 1

    Jun 01 2018

    This year’s midterm elections have seen an upswing in the number of scientists running for office. There are approximately 60 candidates with STEM backgrounds in the races for federal offices, and 200 for state positions, according to 314 Action, an advocacy organization that helps scientists run for office. But why would a scientist want to leave the lab for the Hill? According to volcanologist and Congressional candidate Jess Phoenix, “Science by definition is political because the biggest fun...more

  • AI Conversation, Robot Trust, AI Music. May 18, 2018, Part 2

    May 25 2018

    Should autonomy be the holy grail of artificial intelligence? Computer scientist Justine Cassell has been working for decades on interdependence instead—AI that can hold conversations with us, teach us, and otherwise develop good rapport with us. She joined Ira live on stage at the Carnegie Library of Homestead Music Hall in Pittsburgh to introduce us to SARA, a virtual assistant that helped world leaders navigate the World Economic Forum last year. Cassell discusses the value of studying relati...more

  • Sleep Questions, Portable Museums, Digital Health Records. May 25, 2018, Part 1

    May 25 2018

    What’s the difference between being fatigued and sleepy? Do melatonin and other sleeping aids work? And what can you do if you just can’t sleep?Neurologist and sleep specialist W. Chris Winter, author of the book The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It, talks about how the brain and body regulate sleep. He also gives ideas for controlling your behavior to improve your “sleep hygiene.”  Science museums can be a fun and educational way to spend a day—but what if you don’t ha...more

  • Psychedelics With Michael Pollan And Intel Student Science Fair. May 18, 2018, Part 2

    May 18 2018

    In his latest book, How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan writes of his own consciousness-expanding experiments with psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin, and he makes the case for why shaking up the brain’s old habits could be therapeutic for people facing addiction, depression, or death. Pollan and psychedelics researcher Robin Carhart-Harris discuss the neuroscience of consciousness, and how psychedelic drugs may alter the algorithms and habits our brains use to make sense of the world...more

  • Consciousness In 'Westworld,' Heart Cells On Graphene, Bike Safety App. May 18, 2018, Part 1

    May 18 2018

    In HBO’s series Westworld, human-like robots populate a theme park where human guests can have violent, gory adventures in the Wild West without the repercussions. The robots are so lifelike that they fool the visitors and themselves. They bleed, die, grieve, and love—thinking themselves human. But as Westworld’s robots grow increasingly independent of their repetitive, programmed loops, the show incites viewers to question whether AI can truly be autonomous or conscious—and who in this story de...more

  • Does Time Exist, Elephant Seismology, Produce Safety. May 11, 2018, Part 2

    May 11 2018

    How do you think about time? Most people experience it as Newton described it—as something that passes independent of other events, that’s the same for everyone, and moves in a straight line. Still, others have come to embrace Einstein’s view that time instead forms a matrix with space and acts like as a substance in which we are submerged. But physicist and author Carlo Rovelli has an even different approach to time. He’s working on a way to quantify gravity in which time doesn’t exist.  An adu...more

  • Hawaii Eruption, Antibiotic Resistance, Florida Sea Rise. May 11, 2018, Part 1

    May 11 2018

    Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano—located on the Big Island—has been continuously erupting for the past 30 years. But on May 3, magma began spewing through fissures in the Puna district, forcing nearly 2,000 residents to flee. Reporter Ku`uwehi Hiraishi of Hawaii Public Radio spoke to residents in the area of these 15 fissures and describes what type of evacuation efforts have been happening on the ground. Ten years ago, Dr. Gautam Dantas had one of those rare moments you hear about in science—a serendip...more

  • DNA Privacy, Dog Cognition. May 4, 2018, Part 2

    May 04 2018

    Genetic testing sites are nothing new. They’ve grown enough in popularity over the past decade that the idea of spitting into a tube and sending it in the mail to a website to find out more about your family tree—or even your risk of certain inherited diseases—doesn’t seem all that strange to most people. But the case of the Golden State Killer has brought to light many questions about the direct-to-consumer genetic testing market that still need answering. Dr. Amy McGuire, professor of biomedic...more

  • Chasing Pluto, Space Warps. May 4, 2018, Part 1

    May 04 2018

    In July of 2015, the world was stunned to learn that Pluto, a tiny, distant dot that some didn’t even consider a planet, was a dynamic, complex, and beautiful world. But for scientists in pursuit of Pluto’s secrets since the late 1980s, it was a long wait. The mission faced political hurdles, budget battles, technical challenges, and near-disaster even as it was days away from speeding past Pluto. Alan Stern, the mission’s dogged principal investigator, and astrobiologist David Grinspoon have wr...more

  • Frozen Frogs, Yeast, Paleobotany. April 27, 2018, Part 2

    Apr 27 2018

    When winter comes, animals have several options for survival. They can leave their habitats entirely for warmer environments, search for a cozy cave, or even find insulation under a toasty snowbank. And if you’re a wood frog in chilly Ohio or Alaska, or the larvae of a certain wingless midge in Antarctica, you might also just stay put, and freeze solid until the sun returns. But to survive such extreme low temperatures, the bodies of these animals have made some special adaptations: sugars that ...more

  • Historical Climate Change, Weighing Galaxies, Great Lakes Water Rights. April 27, 2018, Part 1

    Apr 27 2018

    It’s not uncommon these days to hear scientists and journalists say that our planet is experiencing record-setting temperatures due to climate change. But they’re talking about a small part of Earth’s history—human history. The story of the earth’s climate contains much more than what human beings have recorded. In their new book, Weather: An Illustrated History, longtime climate reporter Andrew Revkin and co-author Lisa Mechaley track the incredible range of climate history. They condense that ...more

  • Ocean Migrations, Deep Divers, Summer Skies. April 20, 2018, Part 2

    Apr 20 2018

    Every night, the largest migration on Earth happens underwater, as jellies, crustaceans and fish swim up hundreds of meters towards the surface to feed. Those daily pilgrimages might also create propulsive jets behind the animals capable of stirring ocean waters, according to research in the journal Nature. Stanford engineer John Dabiri and his team investigated that phenomenon in the lab using brine shrimp (commonly known as sea monkeys). He joins Ira to discuss the theory. Plus: Consider the s...more

  • Drone Radar, Fracking Seismology, Massive Earthquakes. April 20, 2018, Part 1

    Apr 20 2018

    The 1783 eruption of Laki in Iceland lasted eight months, blanketing parts of the island in lava flows 50 feet deep, and spewing noxious gases that devastated crops and poisoned livestock. Tens of thousands died in Iceland, but the eruption killed millions more around the world, when ash from the eruption cooled the Earth, ushering in an icy winter, and weakening monsoons across Africa and Asia. In her new book The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them), s...more