Science Friday

Science Friday

By Science Friday and WNYC Studios

Brain fun for curious people.

Episodes

Why Are There So Many Drug Shortages In The U.S.?

If you’ve tried to get prescriptions filled in the last year or so, a pharmacist may have told you, “Sorry, we don’t have that drug right now.” That’s because there are some 323 active and ongoing drug shortages in the United States. That’s the highest number of such shortages since the American Society of Health System Pharmacists started tracking this data back in 2001.These drug shortages touch every part of the healthcare system. Doctors are having to reconfigure their treatment plans due to short supply of certain drugs, like cancer treatments. And patients can be left going from pharmacy to pharmacy to get even the most common medications, like antibiotics.SciFri’s John Dankosky talks with freelance journalist Indira Khera and journalist and physician Dr. Eli Cahan, who looked into why drug shortages happen, how they’re affecting the healthcare system, and what solutions are on the horizon.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
18/07/2433m 57s

What The Small Intestine Can Tell Us About Gut Health

The gut microbiome is an important ecosystem of microbes that lives in each one of us, and its strength affects our overall health.However, the small intestine is an underappreciated part of the gut microbiome. Most of the research into our microbiomes has focused on the other end of the gastrointestinal tract, namely, the colon. And poop samples are an easy way to analyze the microbiome in that lower part of the gut.Better understanding microbiome disruptions in the small intestines may allow researchers to better understand disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, and celiac disease. Dr. Christopher Damman, associate professor of gastroenterology at the University of Washington, gives SciFri producer Kathleen Davis a crash course in the microbiome of the small intestine.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
17/07/2412m 37s

Helping Queen Conchs Mate In The Florida Keys

In shallow water not far from the Florida Keys’ famed Seven Mile Bridge, a herd of the state’s flamboyantly pink queen conchs is struggling to survive.Warming seas and wild swings in temperature have shut down their reproductive impulses in the waist-deep water, leaving them to creep along the ocean floor, searching for food but not love. Meanwhile, just a few miles away in deeper, cooler waters, the iconic mollusks mate freely. So scientists have a rescue plan: load the inshore conchs into milk crates, ferry them to colonies in deep water, and let nature run its course.As climate change fastracks ocean warming, the researchers hope their plan hatches enough baby conchs to help boost the flagging population.“Once you put them in a more appropriate temperature regime, snails have a remarkable capability to heal themselves,” says Dr. Gabriel Delgado, a conch scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who is leading the pilot project. “Now you have a contributing member to future populations.”To read the rest of this article (plus see stunning images of conchs!) visit our website.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
16/07/2411m 51s

How Congestion Pricing Can Impact Human Health

In early June, New York Governor Kathy Hochul blocked a congestion pricing plan from going into effect in New York City. This plan would have charged a fee for cars to enter the central business district of Manhattan, and it would have been the first congestion pricing plan to be fully implemented in the United States.While congestion pricing can be costly for commuters, the fact that it keeps some cars off the road means it can have health benefits for surrounding communities. Successfully implemented congestion pricing plans in cities such as London, Singapore, and Stockholm have led to better air quality and health.SciFri’s John Dankosky sits down with Dr. Janet Currie, co-director of Princeton’s Center for Health and Wellbeing, and Dr. Andrea Titus, assistant professor of the Department of Population Health at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, to talk about the health impacts that congestion pricing has had around the world as well as the potential effects it could have in New York City and in other cities in the United States.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
15/07/2417m 50s

Galaxies ‘Dance’ In Stunning New JWST Image | Why Some Cats Scratch Furniture

As the James Webb Space Telescope marks two years of operations, NASA unveils a new image of two galaxies interacting. And, new research shows that cats’ tendency to scratch is affected by stress, certain kinds of play, and how active they are at night.Galaxies ‘Dance’ In Stunning New JWST ImageThe James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful telescope created by humans, has been successfully operating in space for two years now. Since its launch, the telescope has dazzled astronomers and the public with new kinds of scientific data about the universe and with stunning, highly detailed pictures. And on its two-year anniversary, the telescope continues to return impressive visuals: NASA released a mesmerizing image today of two intermingling galaxies nicknamed the Penguin and the Egg.Jason Dinh, climate editor at Atmos, joins guest host Kathleen Davis to talk about that and other top science stories of the week, including a new study that shows that children with autism have a unique microbiome, new FEMA rules that factor in climate change when rebuilding in flood-prone areas, and how invasive insects use hitchhiking to spread their populations.Why Some Cats Scratch Furniture So MuchIf you have a cat, you’ve probably endured your fair share of unwanted furniture scratching. Maybe you’ve purchased scratching posts, rearranged your furniture, or played with your cats before bed, to try to prevent it. And yet, you wake up to shredded upholstery or bedding.Furniture scratching is often a stress response, and cats who live with kids or are more playful and active at night are more likely to scratch.SciFri producer Kathleen Davis spoke with Dr. Yasemin Salgirli Demirbas, a physiology professor at Ankara University in Turkey and visiting fellow at the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island, about her recently published study which tracked why some cats are more prone to scratching destruction than others and explored the best way for cat owners to achieve a mostly intact living room.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
12/07/2418m 54s

Your Pain Tolerance May Have Been Passed Down From Neanderthals

There’s a little bit of Neanderthal in most of us. Neanderthals and Homo sapiens had a long history of intermingling, before the former went extinct about 40,000 years ago. That mixing means most modern humans have some amount of Neanderthal DNA—and it accounts for up to 3% of the genome in some people.While these genetic remnants don’t have much impact on our day-to-day lives, they may be responsible for one surprising effect: pain tolerance. Recent research shows that people with Neanderthal variants in the gene SCN9A have a lower pain tolerance than people without the gene.This isn’t the only Neanderthal remnant that’s been passed down. A study from earlier this year pinpointed a certain genome region that impacts nose shape. Taller, wider noses were passed down from our Neanderthal ancestors who lived in colder climates. A larger nose warmed air before it hit the sensitive lungs. Ira speaks with Dr. Kaustubh Adhikari, assistant professor of statistics at the Open University in the United Kingdom, who worked on both of these studies.  Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
11/07/2413m 18s

How Can Iowa’s Agriculture Adapt To Climate Threats?

Climate change is having a profound effect on agriculture. Farmers over the past decade have faced intensifying drought and heat stress on crops, leading many to wonder, what will agriculture look like 50 years from now?In May, at SciFri Live at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, Ira Flatow discussed the future of agriculture, and potential solutions to these problems, from innovative farming techniques, to ensuring that Iowa’s farmers of color have the resources they need to succeed. He was joined by Todd Western III, a sixth-generation Iowan farmer with Western Family Farms and senior donor advisor at Greater Twin Cities United Way, and Dr. Patrick Schnable, a distinguished professor at Iowa State University and co-founder of Dryland Genetics.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
10/07/2417m 50s

How Do They Actually Store The Declaration Of Independence?

These days, the 4th of July is known for its fireworks and cookouts. But the holiday commemorates the ratification of the Declaration of Independence, one of the most important founding documents of the United States.The Declaration of Independence, alongside the Emancipation Proclamation, the Constitution, and countless other documents, is housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Like any other museum, the National Archives doesn’t just house these items, it preserves them, protecting them from the degradation that happens over time. In March, at SciFri Live in Washington D.C., Ira spoke to two restoration experts about what goes on behind the scenes of the National Archives: Conservator Saira Haqqi and physicist Mark Ormsby. They discuss the history of papermaking in the US, changes in restoration science, and what “National Treasure” really got right.Transcript for this segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
09/07/2417m 23s

How Politics And Diplomacy Shape Panda Conservation

Earlier this year, the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington announced that pandas would be returning to the capitol. This news was met with great fanfare because the zoo’s resident pandas had returned to China last fall, leaving the District panda-less for the first time in more than 50 years.After the pandas left D.C. in the fall, SciFri producer Rasha Aridi and journalist Aja Drain dug into the juicy political history of panda conservation and how it shaped panda research. In this segment from December 2023, they look back at 80 years of panda conservation, and how “panda diplomacy” paved the way for groundbreaking science. And they try to answer the multi-million dollar question: Was it all worth it?Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
08/07/2430m 47s

The Best Science Books For Summer 2024

It’s officially summertime, and a new season of reading is here! Two science writers and voracious readers have compiled their summer reading recommendations, just for Science Friday fans. Before you head out for a week at the beach, start packing for that road trip, or stock up for a long staycation, we’ve got the list of science-y summer reads, straight from those familiar with the best on the shelf.Joining guest host Diana Plasker to offer listeners their recommendations are Riley Black, a Salt Lake City-based science writer and the author of several books, including The Last Days of the Dinosaurs: An Asteroid, Extinction, and the Beginning of Our World; and Deborah Blum, director of the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of several books, including The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.Transcripts for this segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
05/07/2430m 16s

Avoiding Grilling and Barbecue Pitfalls

In a conversation from 2014, Ira talks marinade myths, charcoal chemistry, and the elusive “smoke ring”—the science behind barbecue and grilling.Are marinades a myth? How does the elusive “smoke ring” form? And can the debate over gas versus charcoal be settled at last? In this episode of our “Food Failures” series, barbecue and grilling expert Meathead Goldwyn looks at the science behind the grill and offers tips for controlling smoke, temperature, and moisture. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
04/07/2414m 50s

From Microbes To Mammoths: How Life Transformed The Planet

When you think about Earth, you might think of a giant rock, floating around in space, making laps around the sun. A rock that just happens to have critters, plants, and people crawling around its surface. A new book by Ferris Jabr called Becoming Earth: How Our Planet Came to Life argues otherwise: Life doesn’t just exist on Earth, but life is Earth, and the Earth itself is alive. That idea might sound radical, and it is. There’s a shift happening in how we understand the planet, and what it’ll take to save it, and ourselves, from the future humans are creating. Becoming Earth takes readers on adventures across the world to learn how life has transformed the Earth, from changing the color of the sky to reshaping the continents. Guest host Anna Rothschild talks with author Ferris Jabr, a science writer based in Portland, Oregon. Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
03/07/2427m 14s

Study Shows Which Kids Are Getting Periods Younger Than Others

If you have teenagers in your life, you may have noticed that kids these days seem to be getting their periods earlier than previous generations did. It’s not just in your head: A recent study from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health confirms what many people have assumed, as well as additional findings about period regularity in younger generations.The study, which analyzed self-reported data from more than 71,000 participants in the US, found that menstrual periods are arriving earlier for younger generations, with the average age dropping from 12.5 years old for people born in 1950 to 11.9 years old for those born in 2005. More staggering, however, is that both early menarche—a person’s first menstrual period—and irregular periods were much more common in the non-white and low-income study participants. And period irregularity has become more common for younger generations compared to their older counterparts.These findings are a big deal, because early menarche and irregular periods can be a signal of future health issues, including pregnancy complications and mental health changes. Joining guest host Anna Rothschild to discuss the findings and their implications is lead study author Dr. Zifan Wang, postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
02/07/2415m 41s

What To Do When Your Hypothesis Is Wrong? Publish!

Most scientific studies that get published have “positive results,” meaning that the study proved its hypothesis. Say you hypothesize that a honeybee will favor one flower over another, and your research backs that up? That’s a positive result.But what about the papers with negative results? If you’re a researcher, you know that you’re much more likely to disprove your hypothesis than validate it. The problem is that there aren’t a lot of incentives to publish a negative result.But, some argue that this bias to only publish papers with positive results is worsening existing issues in scientific research and publishing, and could prevent future breakthroughs.And that’s where the Journal of Trial and Error comes in. It’s a scientific publication that only publishes negative and unexpected results. And the team behind it wants to change how the scientific community thinks about failure, in order to make science stronger.Guest host Anna Rothschild talks with Dr. Sarahanne Field, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Trial And Error, and assistant professor in behavioral and social sciences at University of Groningen.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
01/07/2417m 37s

The Sample From The Far Side Of The Moon | Will The Seine Be Clean Enough For The Olympics?

China’s Chang’e 6 return capsule landed in Mongolia, carrying samples from the far side of the moon. Also, Paris has invested $1.5B in cleaning up the Seine for open-water swimming events, but recent tests indicate it’s not yet safe.A Sample From The Far Side Of The Moon Lands On EarthThis week, the return capsule from China’s Chang’e 6 lunar mission returned to Earth, touching down in a remote part of Inner Mongolia. Inside were dust and rock samples collected from the far side of the moon. Researchers hope that the samples could shed light on both the moon’s formation, and conditions in the ancient solar system.Rachel Feltman, host of the podcast “The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week,” joins guest host Anna Rothschild to talk about the mission and other stories form the week in science, including a CDC warning about dengue fever, a trans-oceanic butterfly flight, and the possibility of seeing a stellar nova in the coming weeks.Will The Seine Be Clean Enough For Olympic Swimmers?The Paris Summer Olympics are fast approaching. Opening ceremonies for the games kick off on July 26. And all eyes are on the notoriously polluted River Seine. Due to aging infrastructure, sewage has sometimes flowed directly into it. For the past 100 years swimming in the river was banned. Now, the French government has spent roughly $1.5 billion to upgrade sewage treatment in Paris in order for athletes to be able to swim in the Seine.Earlier this week, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo was set to take a dip in the river to prove its cleanliness. In protest some Parisians threatened to poop in the Seine to show their dislike of the disruptions and high price tag of the Games.The dip was postponed until after upcoming elections, but recent water quality tests indicate that the river is not yet safe to swim in.Guest host Anna Rothschild talks about the current state of the river with Dr. Dan Angelescu, founder and CEO of Fluidion, a water testing company based in Paris, France.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
28/06/2425m 13s

The Octopus Overlooked By Science | Squid With ‘Giant’ Eggs Could Be New Species

The larger Pacific striped octopus is unusually social. But it wasn’t recognized by scientists until 2015, despite one man’s efforts. And, a deep-sea squid in the family Gonatidae was filmed cradling large eggs for its body size, which suggests it’s an entirely new species.Why It Took Decades For This Octopus To Be RecognizedOctopus mating behaviors can be quite deadly. Many species are cannibalistic, making the entire prospect of mating dangerous, and female octopuses often die after laying one clutch of eggs. Their cannibalistic tendencies mean that octopuses don’t socialize as much as other animals.But the larger Pacific striped octopus (LPSO) is different. For one, they live together in colonies. And mating is not only a safer proposition, it involves beak-to-beak “kissing.” Plus, females can lay eggs repeatedly, even tending to embryos at various stages of development.But because these behaviors are so uncharacteristic of most octopuses, the scientific community didn’t officially recognize their existence until 2015, despite the decades-long effort of a Panamanian diver and artist named Arcadio Rodaniche. When he tried to share his findings about the LPSO at a symposium and publish them in a journal, he was flatly rejected. But his persistent research and documentation of the species would eventually be validated when researchers were able to obtain and observe the octopuses in captivity.SciFri producer Kathleen Davis sits down with freelance science writer Kenna Hughes-Castleberry to talk about an article she reported for Science Friday about the late Rodaniche and his yearslong effort to get official scientific recognition for the LPSO.Read the story at sciencefriday.com.Squid With ‘Giant’ Eggs Could Be A New SpeciesTo finish up our celebration of Cephalopod Week we wanted to share a bit of squid news. A group of researchers recently identified a potentially new squid species in the family Gonatidae. Scientists took a closer look at some video footage captured back in 2015 and found a deep-water squid that was cradling some rather large eggs, which was not in line with other squid of the same family.John Dankosky talks with Dr. Bruce Robison, midwater ecologist and senior scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, about this new discovery.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.  Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
27/06/2418m 31s

House Stalls On Bill To Compensate Victims Of Nuclear Testing

In July 1945, the US deployed the world’s first nuclear weapon during the Trinity Test. Since then, the US has tested more than 200 nukes above ground in places including New Mexico, Nevada, and several Pacific Islands.For decades to come, “downwinders,” or people who lived near those test sites, and those involved manufacturing these weapons, were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. They’ve disproportionately suffered from diseases like cancer, autoimmune disorders, and more.The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) was established in 1990 to provide victims of the US nuclear program a one-time payment to help cover medical bills. But the program has fallen short of helping everyone affected—like the downwinders living around the Trinity Test site in New Mexico.A new bill, which was passed in the Senate earlier this year, would expand the program to include more people and provide more money. It’s up to the House now to pass it, but Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana won’t call a vote. And the clock is ticking, because RECA expired on June 10. So what happens now?SciFri’s John Dankosky speaks with Tina Cordova, downwinder and co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium in Albuquerque; Loretta Anderson, co-founder of the Southwest Uranium Miners’ Coalition Post ‘71, from the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico; and Lilly Adams, senior outreach coordinator at the Union of Concerned Scientists.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
26/06/2417m 42s

Crowdsourced Data Identifies 126 ‘Lost’ Bird Species

Some birds are famous for being extinct, like the Dodo and the passenger pigeon.But how do we prevent species from reaching that point? One of the starting points is to try and track down the birds that are “lost to science.” These are birds that have not been documented in over a decade, but just might still be out there, if we look for them.A new study analyzed data, images, and recordings from platforms that crowdsource observations from all over the world to identify birds “lost to science.” In total, the project, called The Search for Lost Birds identified 126 such species.SciFri producer Kathleen Davis is joined by Dr. John Mittermeier, director of the Search for Lost Birds at the American Bird Conservancy to talk more about the findings of this research and what it’s like to track down a “lost” bird.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
25/06/2417m 11s

20 Years Later, How Are City Climate Plans Actually Going?

In 2005, countries around the world ratified the Kyoto Protocol. It was the first big, legally-binding international climate policy, but there was a big drawback: The United States, the world’s richest country and second-highest emitter, didn’t ratify it.In response, American mayors took action. Even if the US wouldn’t commit to cutting climate emissions, their cities would. It was the classic “think global, act local” move.It started with mayoral resolutions—a bunch of “whereases” laying out the reasons cities needed their own climate targets. Whereas manmade climate change is happening. Whereas cities are responsible for 70% of the world’s emissions. Whereas more than half the world’s people live in cities. Whereas cities are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.Therefore? Our city is going to do something about it. Mayors proclaimed, city councils adopted, and gavels cracked on podiums across the country as city climate plans were created, along with a new job to manage it all: the chief sustainability officer.Twenty years later, hundreds of US cities have climate plans. Their chief sustainability officers are responsible for aggressive decarbonization goals that require deep cuts to emissions, and fast. But are cities actually meeting their targets? And do city sustainability officers have what they need to meet them?Read the rest of this story at sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
24/06/2418m 24s

It’s Hot. But How Hot? | Canine Cancer Vaccine Shows Promising Results

Researchers say the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature is a better indicator of heat stress. Also, cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs. A new vaccine has increased survival rates in clinical trials, offering hope for dogs and humans.Yes, It’s Hot. But How Hot?Much of the country has been enduring a heat wave this week, with millions sweating from Maine to the Midwest. But describing exactly how hot it is—and when temperatures become hazardous—can be challenging. Beyond the basic temperature, there’s the heat index, invented in 1978, which incorporates humidity measurements and is supposed to give a better indication of how a person might feel outside. Some health researchers are calling for more attention to a different type of temperature measurement known as the wet bulb globe temperature. It tracks temperature, humidity, and sunlight, and improves upon the heat index standard.Umair Irfan, senior correspondent at Vox, joins SciFri’s Kathleen Davis to talk about measuring temperatures and protecting yourself from extreme heat. Plus, they discuss other stories from the week in science, including advances in tornado prediction, a delay in a return flight from the International Space Station, and a newly-described horned dinosaur that once roamed the US.A Canine Cancer Vaccine Shows Promising ResultsDogs are by far the most popular pet in the United States: 62 million households have at least one. They are humans’ best friends, after all. Sadly, cancer is the leading cause of death in domestic dogs. And when a pet gets sick, it can be devastating for the entire family.Lucky for dogs (and their people), there may soon be a breakthrough in treating canine cancer: a vaccine that can slow and even stop the spread of tumors. Clinical trial results are quite promising so far, increasing 12-month survival rates in dogs with some cancers from 35% to 60%. The research team also reports that in many dogs the vaccine shrinks tumors.Joining guest host Kathleen Davis to talk about this novel therapy is Dr. Mark Mamula, professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. Mamula discusses this important breakthrough, and possible future applications for human cancer therapies.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
21/06/2425m 54s

Mannequins Help Teach People How To Spot Ticks | Protecting A Flickering Symbol Of Summer Nights

Two mannequins walk into a science lab, and one’s got a big tick problem. She can teach humans how to check for ticks. Also, researchers used citizen science observations and machine learning to understand where fireflies are and what they need to thrive.In Wisconsin, Mannequins Help Teach People How To Spot TicksNationwide, Wisconsin is a hot spot for Lyme disease. And cases are rising, as climate change and development alter how humans interact with the ticks that transmit this disease. In Wisconsin, cases reported annually have more than doubled in the last two decades.With tick season underway, tick checks are one of the most important ways you can prevent infection. I recently visited the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-borne Disease, which is housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where researchers are using a new tool to teach people how to do tick checks — mannequins.Read the rest at sciencefriday.comProtecting A Flickering Symbol Of Summer NightsWhen people talk about watching fireflies, a common comment is “You know, I don’t see as many fireflies as I used to.” Researchers are trying to figure out whether that impression is actually accurate, and which of the over 2,000 firefly species might be affected—and to do so, they need a lot more data. A recent paper published in the journal Science of the Total Environment used over 24,000 citizen science observations as well as machine learning models to try to better identify where certain species of fireflies can be found, and what types of habitat and climate they need to thrive.Dr. Sarah Lower, a firefly researcher at Bucknell University and a co-author of the study, joins guest host Annie Minoff to talk about some ways to protect fireflies near you, including preserving darkness and providing moist, permeable, natural soils for firefly larvae.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
20/06/2418m 17s

‘The Singularity Is Nearer,’ Says Futurist Ray Kurzweil

In 2005, futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil popularized the term “the singularity” to capture the idea that man and machine will merge as the next stage of evolution. This was the basis for Kurzweil’s book The Singularity is Near, which has been essential reading for technology buffs and critics since its publication nearly 20 years ago.In the meantime, we’ve seen huge advances in artificial intelligence, computing power, and technological research. In response to all this growth, Kurzweil has published a followup to bring us up to date, The Singularity is Nearer: When We Merge With AI. Ira Flatow speaks to Kurzweil about the book and his more than six decades of experience in the field of artificial intelligence.Read an excerpt from The Singularity is Nearer: When We Merge With AI.Transcript for this segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
19/06/2418m 6s

Why Do Cephalopods Make Ink?

The most wonderful time of the year has arrived: Cephalopod Week, Science Friday’s annual tradition of spotlighting all things octopus, squid, and cuttlefish.One of the many things that make cephalopods special is their ink. What’s it made of? Why do they shoot it at their predators? And why did they evolve this incredible skill?To talk all about inking, guest host Annie Minoff is joined by Dr. Lauren Simonitis, research and biological imaging specialist at Florida Atlantic University.Learn more about how to get involved in Cephalopod Week!Transcript for this segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
18/06/2418m 19s

Meet The Emotions Behind Teenage Angst In ‘Inside Out 2’

In the 2015 film “Inside Out,” audiences met 11-year-old Riley and her team of emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger, each represented by a different character. They lived inside Riley’s mind to help guide her feelings and actions, and towards the end of the film, their emotional control center gets an upgrade with a puberty button.That’s where the new film “Inside Out 2” picks up. Riley is now 13 years old and dealing with the slew of emotions that come with puberty. In the new film, moviegoers meet a new crew of characters: Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment, and Ennui, who is always bored.But what’s the science behind Riley’s newfound teenage angst? Guest host Annie Minoff talks with psychologist Dr. Lisa Damour, who served as a science advisor to the film.“Inside Out 2” is now playing in theaters.Transcript for this segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
17/06/2418m 23s

Elephants Seem To Use Names For Each Other | Kids Discover Rare T. Rex Fossil

A new study used machine learning to analyze elephant vocalizations and identified “contact rumbles” that appear to function as names. Also, on a hike in the Badlands, a family found a dinosaur bone sticking out of a rock. It joined the few teenage T. rex fossils ever discovered.Elephants Seem To Use Names For Each OtherScientists have long known that elephants exhibit some advanced social behaviors that we humans find familiar, including tool use and funerals.And a new study from Colorado State a university offers compelling evidence that African savannah elephants might engage in another human social behavior: having names for each other. Researchers applied machine learning to a database of 600 elephant vocalizations, which included “contact rumbles,” vocalizations that researchers observed that other elephants responded to. The algorithm identified repeated sections of those recordings that might represent names.When the researchers played these possible “name” sections of audio to pairs of elephants—one of which was the suspected owner of the name—the appropriate elephant responded at a rate significantly better than random chance.Guest host Annie Minoff is joined by Tim Revell, deputy editor at New Scientist, to talk about this and other science stories from the week, including the possible effects a freezing interstellar cloud had on Earth a few million years ago, the biological effects of short term spaceflight on private citizen passengers on SpaceX flights, and a new species of pterosaur found in the Australian outback with a killer tongue.Kids Discover Extremely Rare T. Rex FossilFor one family, a summer hike in the badlands of North Dakota turned into the discovery of a lifetime when they spotted a fossil jutting out of a rock. Two brothers, their dad, and a cousin found the fossil, and with the help of some dinosaur experts, they eventually learned it was a T. rex.The fossil wasn’t just of any T. rex, but a teenage one. These fossils are incredibly rare—there are only a handful of them in the world.Guest host Annie Minoff discusses this dino discovery and what it means for science with 12-year-old Jessin Fisher, a budding paleontologist and one of the brothers who discovered the fossil, as well as Dr. Tyler Lyson, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Colorado who helped excavate the fossil.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
14/06/2425m 7s

How Sound Rules Life Underwater

Many people think of the ocean as a quiet and serene place: Take a dip underwater and the cacophony of the world melts away.But the ocean is quite noisy, full of whale songs and echolocation, which whales and dolphins use to communicate. Cephalopods can make and hear sounds too, even without ears.Then, there’s human-made noise, including the giant ships that crisscross the globe. The effects of this continuous low-volume noise are harder to track because they do not result in immediate injury or death. Rather, scientists are studying the long-term effects on animals’ communication, mating, and food gathering.Ira talks with Amorina Kingdon, science journalist and author of the new book Sing Like Fish: How Sound Rules Life Underwater.Read an excerpt of Sing Like a Fish: How Sound Rules Life Underwater.Transcript for this segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
13/06/2417m 46s

Metal-Absorbing Plants Could Make Mining Greener | A Tiny Fern's Gigantic Genome

Plants called “hyperaccumulators” have evolved to absorb high levels of metals. Scientists want to harness them for greener metal mining. And, a little fern from New Caledonia is just a few inches tall, but its genome has 160.45 billion base pairs—50 times more DNA than a human.How Metal-Absorbing Plants Could Make Mining GreenerScientists are exploring a somewhat unusual green energy solution: mining metals from the earth using plants.Typically, if soil has high levels of metal, plants will either die or do everything they can to avoid it. But, one group has taken a different path: evolve to be able to safely absorb large amounts of the metals. These special plants are called hyperaccumulators. And their ability to suck metals like nickel from the earth is called phytomining.The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy announced in March up to $10 million in funding for phytomining research.Ira talks with Dr. David McNear, professor of plant and soil sciences at the University of Kentucky, about these fascinating flora and their promise as a greener option to metal mining.A Tiny Fern Has The Largest Genome Ever DiscoveredScientists just discovered the largest genome of any living thing on Earth, and it belongs to a small, unassuming fern called Tmesipteris oblanceolata. If you were to split open one of its cells and unwind the DNA that’s coiled up in the nucleus, it would stretch out more than 300 feet—taller than the Statue of Liberty.Scientists reported the finding last week in the journal iScience. The fern is only a few inches tall and is found on the island of New Caledonia in the Southwest Pacific. Its DNA is made up of 160.45 billion base pairs—50 times more than the human genome.This finding has left scientists scratching their heads, wondering how and why a fern ended up with so much DNA. Ira Flatow talks with co-lead author of this study Dr. Jaume Pellicer, evolutionary biologist at the Botanical Institute of Barcelona, about this research and why this fern’s DNA is so puzzling.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
12/06/2421m 56s

How Psychological Warfare Moved From Battlefields To Politics

When you think about connections between science and war, the obvious links are in technology—advanced radar, spy satellites, more powerful explosives—and in medical innovations that seek to heal the wounds caused by conflict. But in a new book, Stories are Weapons: Psychological Warfare and the American Mind, author Annalee Newitz says that stories and narrative can be weapons too, used in battle on a psychological battlefield.Ira talks with Newitz about the history of psychological warfare, from Sun Tzu to Benjamin Franklin, and its modern American incarnation under the guidance of Paul Linebarger, who was also a science fiction author known by the pen name Cordwainer Smith. They discuss the characteristics of a psyop, how techniques of psychological warfare have been co-opted into modern politics, and whether there’s a route toward “psychological disarmament.”Read an excerpt from Stories are Weapons: Psychological Warfare and the American Mind.Transcript for this segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
11/06/2418m 23s

Step Aside, DNA. It’s RNA’s Time To Shine.

DNA has long been studied and understood as the genetic blueprint for life on Earth. And related scientific endeavors, like the Human Genome Project, have received enormous attention. But DNA’s lesser-known counterpart, RNA, which translates the instructions from those blueprints into proteins in our cells, has received far less focus.But a lot’s changed in the last few years. The success of the mRNA COVID vaccines has led to a renewed interest in the potential medical therapies for this tiny molecular powerhouse, with applications ranging from CRISPR gene-editing to an mRNA-based cancer vaccine.Dr. Thomas Cech, distinguished professor in biochemistry at University of Colorado, Boulder, and the author of the book The Catalyst: RNA and the Quest to Unlock Life’s Deepest Secrets, joins Ira Flatow to tell us how why RNA has gotten the shorter end of the research stick for so long, how it could help us understand the origins of life, and why this misunderstood molecule might be the key to a next generation of big scientific discoveries.Read an excerpt from The Catalyst: RNA and the Quest to Unlock Life’s Deepest Secrets at sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.  Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
10/06/2417m 22s

A Week Of Milestones For Spaceflight | Mexico Has Elected A Scientist President

A Week Of Milestones For SpaceflightThis has been a week of milestones for human spaceflight. After years of delays, Boeing’s Starliner capsule, carrying astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, successfully launched Wednesday on the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket. On Thursday, it docked with the International Space Station.Also on Thursday, SpaceX’s Starship rocket made its first successful launch and reentry after three previous attempts (the massive rocket burned up in the atmosphere on the last launch). And on a more sobering note, NASA announced that its famous 34-year-old Hubble Space Telescope is experiencing issues with its gyroscopes and is opting to only use one for the time being. The agency says Hubble can still do science, but less efficiently than it once could.Maggie Koerth, science writer and editorial lead for Carbon Plan, joins Ira to discuss those and other top stories in science this week, including why the viral Joro spider you may have seen online does not pose a threat to humans, how a virus that’s spreading due to deforestation in South America could overwhelm local healthcare, and why the FDA voted against the medical use of MDMA.Mexico Has Elected A Scientist President. What Will That Mean?This week, Mexico elected a historic president: Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, who will be the first woman to lead the nation, and was also an environmental engineer before entering politics.Despite the president-elect’s scientific past, Sheinbaum Pardo has committed to following the lead of her predecessor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose science policies were deeply unpopular with many researchers in the country.Mexico’s scientific community is split on how this election will impact science and research in the country. Rodrigo Pérez Ortega, a reporter at Science Magazine, joins Ira to talk through the complexities of this election and how scientists are reacting.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
07/06/2421m 31s

The Organ That Gives Birds Their Voices | Common Loons Are Pop Music Icons

Scientists are studying birds’ unique vocal organ, the syrinx, to better understand its evolutionary history. Also, the eerie calls of the common loon have been heard in songs by Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, and more.The Organ That Gives Birds Their VoicesHave you ever wondered how a bird sings? Or made some of their less melodic vocalizations, like squawks, trills, or chirps? It all happens in the syrinx, a vocal organ unique to birds. Reptiles, amphibians, and mammals, including humans, use their larynx to produce sounds.The syrinx varies widely between bird species and there’s still a lot that scientists don’t understand about how it works and its evolutionary history. Better understanding the syrinx of living birds can help scientists get closer to figuring out what dinosaurs sounded like. (No, the dinosaur sounds in “Jurassic Park” are not scientifically accurate.)Guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross talks with Dr. Julia Clarke, professor of vertebrate paleontology at the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas, Austin, about her recent research studying the syrinxes of ostriches and hummingbirds.Common Loons Are Pop Music IconsFor decades now, one music star has managed to show up on tracks spanning multiple genres and appear alongside many famous artists—while also remaining bafflingly under-recognized. Any guesses?Of course, we’re talking about none other than the common loon—a waterbird with striking red eyes and black-and-white checkerboard plumage. This bird’s calls have been used in songs by artists like Michael Jackson, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Doja Cat, and Lana Del Rey. They’ve also been used as a sound effect in Hollywood blockbusters like “Harry Potter” and the TV show “Game of Thrones.”So how did this bird’s call become a regular in everything from hip hop and EDM to pop music? A story in Audubon Magazine dove into this, and guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross talks with author Maddie Burakoff, an associate editor at Audubon.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
06/06/2418m 34s

Indigenous Nations Are Fighting To Take Back Their Data

You might’ve heard this phrase before: data equals power. Because when you have data, you can decide how they’re used and who gets to use them.The history of research on Indigenous communities in the United States is full of stories of exploitation, power imbalances, and stolen knowledge. Be it through the iodine experiments of the 1950s in Alaska, the racist and pseudoscientific conclusions drawn by American anthropologists in the 20th century, or through more recent examples in which genetic data from communities were used in studies without their consent— these practices have caused lasting mistrust and harm.The growing field of Indigenous data sovereignty demands that Native communities maintain the right to decide how data about their people are collected, owned, and used.Guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross talks with two people at the forefront of this movement: Dr. Stephanie Carroll is the director of the Collaboratory for Indigenous Data Governance and an associate professor of public health at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She is also Ahtna and a citizen of the Native Village of Kluti-Kaah in Alaska. Dr. Krystal Tsosie is a co-founder of the Native BioData Consortium and an assistant professor and geneticist-bioethicist at Arizona State University in Tempe. She’s a member of Navajo Nation. They discuss how data on Indigenous Peoples has been used and abused, why data sovereignty is more important than ever, and what solutions look like.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
05/06/2418m 52s

The Unseen World Of Plant Intelligence

Are plants intelligent? Until recently, botanists were hesitant to ask that question, at least publicly. But that’s changing.In recent years researchers have learned more about how plants communicate with each other, respond to touch, store memories, and deceive animals for their own benefit: All bits of evidence that suggest plants possess a unique form of intelligence that humans have been overlooking.Guest host Arielle-Duhaime Ross talks with science journalist Zoë Schlanger about her new book, The Light Eaters: How The Unseen World Of Plant Intelligence Offers A New Understanding Of Life On Earth. Schlanger is currently a staff writer at the Atlantic covering climate change. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
04/06/2427m 6s

Right-To-Repair Laws Gain Steam In State Legislatures

If you have a problem with your phone, like a bad battery or a cracked screen, you might decide to just buy a new one. That’s partly because we don’t have a lot of options to repair our devices: Manufacturers can make it extraordinarily difficult—or expensive—to do so.But for years now, the right-to-repair movement in the US has been pushing for legislation that forces companies to provide consumers with more options to fix the products they actually own, instead of having to go through manufacturers to get them fixed.And in the past year, multiple states, including California, New York, Minnesota, and Oregon, have adopted such laws. Companies like Apple and John Deere have been fighting these kinds of measures for years.Guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross speaks to Jason Koebler, co-host of the 404 Media podcast, about the growing adoption of legislation, why companies have been lobbying against it, and what he thinks the future of the movement is.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
03/06/2412m 19s

Starliner Crewed Test Flight Rescheduled | Slugs And Snails Like Cities

The much-delayed crewed test flight is back on the calendar, despite a helium leak. Also, researchers used data from the crowd-sourcing nature observation app iNaturalist to rank animals’ tolerance of urban environments.Starliner Crewed Test Flight Rescheduled For This WeekendA long-delayed test flight of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is back on the calendar for Saturday, June 1, carrying astronauts to the International Space Station. It’s a demonstration flight as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, intended to show that the new spacecraft design can be a practical and safe way to get people into space. If the flight is successful, NASA can then consider using the Boeing Starliner system for crewed flights to the ISS, joining the current fleet of craft from SpaceX and the Russian Soyuz program.The Starliner launch has been delayed numerous times. Its most recent launch attempt, on May 6, was scrubbed when systems flagged a bad valve in a rocket booster. That booster valve was replaced, but engineers then detected a small leak in the spacecraft’s helium thruster system, which led to still further delays. They have now determined that the flight can proceed even with the leaky system, allowing the upcoming launch attempt.Science Friday senior producer Charles Bergquist joins guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross to talk about the upcoming launch, and about other stories from the week in science, including the return of an active solar region responsible for recent fantastic aurora displays, research into how the brain decodes the meaning of “not,” and the announcement of two new giant pandas headed to the National Zoo.Which Animals Like Cities Most? Slugs And Snails Top The List.If you live in an urban environment, it might seem like the animals you see every day—birds, bugs, squirrels—have adapted perfectly fine to city life.But according to a new study in PLOS ONE, that isn’t always the case. Urbanization is directly linked to biodiversity loss, but researchers at UCLA, including Joey Curti and Dr. Morgan Tingley, wanted to find out specifically which animals thrive and which struggle in urban environments. So they turned to iNaturalist, a crowd-sourcing app where users upload photos of flora and fauna they see, along with information like location and date.The team combed through years of iNaturalist data in the Los Angeles metro area and developed an “urban tolerance score” for 511 animal species. This score, which incorporated data such as light and noise pollution from different sections of the city, was a factor tied to those species’ level of tolerance to the local environment.They found that snails and slugs love urban environments, likely thanks to increased moisture from local landscaping. But most other animals, including native species, and especially bugs like butterflies and moths, were not as tolerant to the region.Joey Curti, a PhD candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA and a co-author on that study, sits down with guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross to discuss the results of the study and what cities can learn from this kind of research to encourage healthy biodiversity.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
31/05/2421m 51s

Your ‘Biological Age’ Could Be Different Than How Old You Are

Aging often looks very different on different people. There are some 70-year-olds that exercise regularly, have no trouble going for a walk around the block, and remain mentally sharp. Others really struggle at 70, and aren’t able to maintain a quality of life they’ve had in the past.There’s a growing field of medicine dedicated to better understanding how we age. And this field is looking less at the number on one’s birth certificate than you might expect. Dr. Aditi Gurkar, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh’s Aging Institute, is one of the researchers working to better understand why two different people may age very differently.Earlier this year, Dr. Gurkar and her team published a study that identified certain metabolites that seem to be reliable markers to index biological age. Dr. Gurkar joins Ira to talk about this study and the implications of better understanding a person’s biological age.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
30/05/2417m 32s

High-Speed Rail Gets A Boost In The U.S.

While the US was known for its railroads in the 1800s, we’ve fallen behind places like Japan, China, and Europe, which have invested in trains that go upwards of 200 miles per hour. There are economic, environmental, and practical benefits of electrified high-speed rail. But for generations, the US decreased passenger rail service and invested instead in highways and car-centric infrastructure.But it appears we’re hitting a turning point. After decades in development, major sections of California’s high-speed rail project, which aims to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco, have been completed. And the project recently received a $3.1 billion federal grant to aid in further construction. Additionally, Amtrak is expanding service and increasing the speed of its trains. And private industry is also stepping in to fill the void—a rail company called Brightline has been operating in Florida since 2018. It now provides service between Miami and Orlando, and just broke ground on a high-speed route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.But it’s not just California and Florida where growth is happening. Multiple regions in the US, including Texas and the Pacific Northwest, are actively planning high-speed rail lines between cities that are generally too long to drive between, but too close to justify air travel. (France recently banned short-hop flights over those kinds of distances to reduce carbon emissions and encourage people to take existing passenger rail.)Rod Diridon Sr., co-chair for the US High Speed Rail Association, fills Ira in on the current state of faster passenger rail in the US, what challenges it still faces, and why he thinks there’s been a shift in public opinion about expanded train service.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
29/05/2416m 15s

Using A Lab On Wheels To Study Weed From Dispensaries

Cannabis is legal in some form or another in over half of US states. But federally, it’s illegal and has no accepted medical use. However, the Biden administration is moving to reclassify cannabis as a less dangerous drug under the Controlled Substances Act.Studying strictly controlled drugs like cannabis is a major challenge for scientists, because they have to meet specific registration and sourcing requirements. And researchers can’t give commercially available cannabis from dispensaries to study participants, or bring it onto campus at all. But questions around the health impacts of these widely available products continue to mount.A team of scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder is driving around these federal roadblocks by bringing a mobile lab—nicknamed the CannaVan—to people, so they can consume weed in their own homes and then come outside for some routine tests.SciFri producers Emma Gometz and Rasha Aridi visited the CannaVan last year and join Ira to unpack how this research gets done, what the CannaVan has taught us about weed, and how reclassifying cannabis might affect research.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
28/05/2417m 57s

Jelly Creatures That Swim In Corkscrews | Keeping Wind Turbines Safe For Birds

For the first time, scientists have recorded how salps form chains and swim in corkscrews to reach the ocean’s surface each night. Also, a wind utility company in Wyoming is trying to make wind turbines more visible to birds by painting just one blade black.The Small Jelly Creatures That Link Up And Swim in CorkscrewsSalps are small, transparent barrel-shaped jelly creatures. They are sometimes confused with jellyfish, but they are so much more complex. Salps have nervous, circulatory, and digestive systems that include a brain, heart, and intestines.Salps are known to link themselves together in long chains. And each night they journey from the depths of the ocean to the surface to feast on algae. New research shows that the key to their efficiency is swimming in corkscrews.Ira talks with Dr. Kelly Sutherland, associate professor of biology at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Oregon, about her work studying salp swimming patterns.Painting Wind Turbine Blades To Prevent Bird CollisionsWind energy is expected to be a big part of the transition away from fossil fuels. But that comes with consequences, including the potential for more deadly collisions between turbines and birds and bats. One experiment underway in Wyoming is studying a potentially game-changing—and simple—solution to this problem.In the Mountain West, large and iconic avian species—such as owls, turkey vultures and golden eagles—are consistently colliding with the human world. At the Teton Raptor Center in Wilson, Wyo., veterinarians, avian scientists and volunteers often treat birds for lead poisoning, crashes into infrastructure, gunshot wounds or other injuries.For the center’s conservation director, Bryan Bedrosian, his work is about preserving the wildlife that makes Wyoming special.“We should be proud of the fact that we in Wyoming have some of the best wild natural spaces and some of the best wildlife populations,” he said. I think, unfortunately, it comes with a higher degree of responsibility.”Wyoming is a critical habitat area for many species, especially golden eagles. Tens of thousands live here year-round and the state is also a huge migration corridor between Alaska and Mexico. Unlike its cousin the bald eagle, the golden eagle population is stable at best and could potentially decline in parts of the U.S. Bedrosian said wind energy growth is a threat for a species that has always been “at the top of the food chain.”Read the full story at sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
27/05/2420m 52s

Zapping Nerves Into Regrowth | Celebrating the Maya Calendar In Guatemala’s Highlands

An early study found that electrical stimulation could improve hand and arm function in people with spinal cord injuries. Also, for thousands of years, Indigenous communities in Guatemala have used observations and mathematics to track astronomical events.Zapping Nerves Into RegrowthResults of an early trial published this week in the journal Nature Medicine found that people with cervical spinal cord damage showed some improvements both in strength and movement in arm and hand function after they received electrical stimulation near the site of their injury. The improved function persisted even after the stimulation stopped, indicating that the treatment may be inducing nerve cells to regrow in the damaged area.Sophie Bushwick, senior news editor at New Scientist, joins Ira to talk about the work and what it could mean for people with severe spinal cord injuries. They also talk about other stories from the week in science, including creating the most powerful X-ray pulse ever reported, investigations into the microbiome of the scalp, and some epic cosplay—testing out the practicality of some ancient Greek armor in combat scenarios.Celebrating the Maya Calendar In Guatemala’s HighlandsEvery 260 days, Indigenous communities in the highlands of Guatemala celebrate a new cycle of the Maya calendar. This ceremony has persisted for thousands of years, from pre-Columbian times to today. The latest of these ceremonies happened in early May.Joining Ira to talk about the importance of astronomical ceremony is Willy Barreno, a Maya calendar keeper based in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, and Dr. Isabel Hawkins, astronomer and senior scientist at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, California.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
24/05/2421m 45s

Fine-Tuning Grapes For Iowa’s Wine Industry

Did you know that almost all the wine we drink, no matter what color it is or where it’s produced, comes from a grape species called Vitis vinifera? But these grapes can’t survive the cold, harsh winters of Iowa, so researchers at Iowa State University are growing special varieties that can withstand a wider range of temperatures. Through this effort, they’re even hoping to expand Iowa’s wine industry.Onstage in Ames, Iowa, Ira talks with Dr. Erin Norton, director of the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute at Iowa State University. They chat about the science of growing cold-hardy grapes, taste a selection of Iowan wines, and explore the basics of viticulture.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
23/05/2417m 22s

How To Recycle Rare Earth Elements

Rare earth elements are a group of 17 metals used in a wide range of things that make modern life possible, including batteries, magnets, LED light bulbs, phone screens, and catalytic converters.These elements are essential to a green economy because they are integral to many technologies designed to have low environmental impact. However, mining these metals is a dirty, complex, and costly process. And as the world transitions towards more clean energy production, the demand for them will continue to grow.One possible solution is to recycle rare earth elements when they’re discarded in electronics waste. On stage in Ames, Iowa, Ira Flatow talks with Dr. Ikenna Nlebedim and Dr. Denis Prodius, two materials scientists from the Critical Materials Institute at the Ames National Laboratory who have developed a new acid-free method to recycle rare earth metals found in magnets.Transcript for this segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
22/05/2417m 52s

New Evidence Questions Dark Energy’s ‘Constant’ Nature

After the Big Bang, the universe expanded rapidly. And, once upon a time, conventional wisdom held that that expansion would eventually slow, dragged back inwards by the gravitational pull of all the matter in the universe. But in 1998, two groups studying supernovae discovered that not only was the universe continuing to expand, but that the expansion was accelerating.That accelerating expansion has been attributed to a force cosmologists have called dark energy. The energy itself has been represented by a number—thought to be a universal constant—called the cosmological constant. But recent data presented by a group called DESI, the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, says that possibly, the constant may not be a constant. Instead, dark energy may be evolving over time.The finding, if it holds true, would be a big deal, requiring cosmologists to redo their equations for the way the universe works and, possibly, develop new physics to explain the phenomenon. Dr. Dillon Brout, an assistant professor of astronomy at Boston University and part of the DESI collaboration, joins Ira to talk about the data from the first year of the DESI instrument, and what may lie ahead in years to come.Transcript for this segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
21/05/2418m 47s

New Guidelines Recommend Earlier Breast Cancer Screening

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has updated its recommendations for breast cancer screening once again. The recommendations now stipulate that women and people assigned female at birth should begin getting mammograms at age 40, and continue every other year until age 74. The previous guidelines recommended beginning screening at age 50. These guidelines carry a lot of weight because they determine if mammography will be considered preventive care by health insurance and therefore covered at no cost to the patient.Why have the guidelines changed? And how are these decisions made in the first place? To answer those questions and more Ira Flatow talks with Dr. Janie Lee, director of breast imaging at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and professor of radiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.Transcript for this segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
20/05/2417m 31s

New Rule Sets Stage For Electric Grid Update | Harnessing Nanoparticles For Vaccines

Upgrades to the power grid under a new rule could help accommodate an increasing renewable energy supply and meet data center demands. Also, extremely small particles might help scientists develop vaccines that are stable at room temperature and easier to administer.New Rule Sets Stage For Electric Grid UpdateThe US electric grid is straining to keep up with demand. For starters, our warming climate means more electricity is needed to keep people cool. Last summer—which was the hottest on record—energy demand in the US experienced an all-time hourly peak. And even though more renewable energy is being produced, our current grid, largely built in the 1960s and 1970s, was not built to handle those needs. Increased use of AI and cryptocurrency, which require power-hungry data centers, have only increased the burden on the grid.But on Monday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved new rules to upgrade the grid to accommodate rising demands. The policy includes approval for the construction of new transmission lines and modification of existing transmission facilities.Casey Crownhart, climate reporter for the MIT Technology Review, joins Ira to talk about this and other science stories of the week, including how a recent ocean heatwave will impact ocean life and the upcoming hurricane season, a new self-collection test for cervical cancer, and how a tiny beetle uses audio mimicry to avoid being eaten by bats.Could Vaccines Of The Future Be Made With Nanoparticles?In 2021, vaccines for COVID-19 were released, a little over a year after the SARS-CoV-2 virus triggered a global pandemic. Their remarkably short production time wasn’t the result of a rush-job, but a culmination of decades of advancements in infrastructure, basic science, and mRNA technology.But despite the years of innovations that allowed those vaccines to be developed and mass-produced so quickly, their delivery method—an injection—still has some drawbacks. Most injected vaccines need to be kept cold, and some require multiple trips to a pharmacy. And people with needle phobias may be reluctant to get them altogether. So what could the vaccines of the future look like?Dr. Balaji Narasimhan, distinguished professor and director of the Nanovaccine Institute at Iowa State University, joins Ira Flatow onstage in Ames, Iowa, to talk about how his lab is using nanotechnology to develop the next generation of vaccines, and how they could be more effective than current vaccines in the face of the next pandemic.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.  Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
17/05/2426m 36s

How Climate Change Is Changing Sports

Sports are a critical part of human culture just about everywhere in the world. Maybe you played little league as a kid, or like to go to the park for a game of pickup basketball, or even just cheer for your favorite team on the weekends.Unfortunately, like so many other things, climate change is taking a toll on the world of sports. It’s getting too warm for appropriate ski conditions at ski resorts. Rising temperatures put athletes at risk of heat stroke.Globally, sports are a trillion dollar industry, and billions of people rely on them for their jobs, fitness, and health.Guest host Sophie Bushwick talks with Dr. Madeleine Orr, sports ecologist and author of Warming Up: How Climate Change is Changing Sport, about how our warming climate is altering how we play sports, and what to do about it.Read an excerpt from Warming Up at sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
16/05/2417m 46s

Why Is Tinnitus So Hard To Understand And Treat?

Tinnitus, a condition commonly described as a persistent ringing in the ears, affects millions of people around the world. In the US, the prevalence of tinnitus is estimated at around 11% of the population, with 2% affected by a severe form of the condition that can be debilitating. But despite it being so common, the exact causes of some tinnitus, and how best to think about treating the condition, are still unclear. In some cases, it’s brought on by exposure to loud noise, while in others, an ear infection or even earwax can be to blame.Dr. Gabriel Corfas, director of the Kresge Hearing Research Institute at the University of Michigan, joins guest host Sophie Bushwick to talk about current research into the condition and possible treatments, from regrowing nerve cells, to devices that provide electrical stimulation.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
15/05/2417m 50s

Finding Purpose In A ‘Wild Life’

Wildlife ecologist Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant has tracked bears through the mountains, lived with lions, been chased by elephants, and trekked after lemurs in a rainforest. Now, she co-hosts the renowned nature television show “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild.”Dr. Wynn-Grant’s new memoir, Wild Life: Finding My Purpose in an Untamed World, documents her many adventures as well as her experience navigating conservation as a Black woman and landing her dream job as a nature television host.Read an excerpt from Wild Life here.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
14/05/2417m 59s

Archeopteryx Specimen Unveiled | Trees And Shrubs Burying Great Plains' Prairies

The Field Museum has unveiled a new specimen of Archaeopteryx, a species that may hold the key to how ancient dinosaurs became modern birds. Also, a “green glacier” of trees and shrubs is sliding across the Great Plains, burying some of the most threatened habitat on the planet.Remarkably Well-Preserved Archeopteryx Specimen UnveiledThe Field Museum in Chicago just unveiled a new specimen of one of the most important fossils ever: Archaeopteryx. It lived around 150 million years ago, and this species is famous for marking the transition from dinosaurs to birds in the tree of life.The Field Museum now has the 13th known fossil—and it may be the best-preserved one yet. So what makes this specimen so special? And what else is there to learn about Archaeopteryx?To answer these questions, guest host Sophie Bushwick talks with Dr. Jingmai O’Connor, associate curator of fossil reptiles at the Field Museum, about what makes Archaeopteryx such an icon in the world of paleontology and why they’re so excited about it.Trees And Shrubs Are Burying Prairies Of The Great PlainsIn the Flint Hills region of Kansas, the Mushrush family is beating back a juggernaut unleashed by humans — a Green Glacier of trees and shrubs grinding slowly across the Great Plains and burying some of the most threatened habitat on the planet.This blanket of shrublands and dense juniper woods gobbling up grassland leads to wildfires with towering flames that dwarf those generated in prairie fires.It also eats into ranchers’ livelihoods. It smothers habitat for grassland birds, prairie fish and other critters that evolved for a world that’s disappearing. It dries up streams and creeks. New research even finds that, across much of the Great Plains, the advent of trees actually makes climate change worse.Now a federal initiative equips landowners like Daniel Mushrush with the latest science and strategies for saving rangeland, and money to help with the work.Read more at sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
13/05/2424m 58s

JWST Detects An Atmosphere Around A Rocky Exoplanet | Boeing Plans To Fly Humans To The ISS Next Week

Astronomers have confirmed they found an atmosphere around an Earth-like rocky exoplanet for the first time. Also, Boeing’s Starliner craft was scheduled to carry humans to the International Space Station in 2017. Its launch is now set for May 17, 2024.In A First, JWST Detects An Atmosphere Around A Rocky ExoplanetEarlier this week, astronomers announced they had discovered an atmosphere around a rocky Earth-like planet named 55 Cancri e, about 40 light-years away from Earth, thanks to instruments onboard the JWST telescope. Finding an atmosphere around a rocky planet is a big step for exoplanet exploration: Earth’s atmosphere is crucial to its ability to sustain life, and astronomers need to be able to identify rocky planets that have atmospheres to search for life outside the solar system.However, 55 Cancri e is likely far too hot to have any life: Researchers estimate the surface temperature to be about 3,100 F, thanks to its close proximity to its sun and a probable magma ocean that envelops the planet. But this could also give clues to Earth’s formation, as its own surface was also once covered by lava.Jason Dinh, climate editor at Atmos, joins guest host Sophie Bushwick to talk about this and other top news in science this week, including tightening restrictions on risky virus research in the US, possible evidence for a sperm whale “alphabet,” and how environmental changes are leading to an increase in disease in humans, animals, and plants.Boeing Plans To Fly Humans To The ISS Next WeekWhen NASA retired its space shuttle program in 2011, the agency had to find a new way to transport astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Russia’s Soyuz program has met that need in the meantime, but NASA has wanted a more local solution. So they started awarding contracts to private US companies who could act as space taxis, including SpaceX, with its Dragon capsule, and Boeing with its Starliner capsule, through the United Launch Alliance (ULA).Unlike SpaceX, Boeing has yet to fly humans in its spacecraft. But it plans to do so no earlier than next Friday, carrying Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, NASA astronauts and former Navy pilots to the ISS. Starliner was originally supposed to launch this week, but due to issues with a pressure regulation valve on the Atlas V rocket’s upper stage, ULA had to delay the launch to replace the valve.Brendan Byrne, assistant news director at Central Florida Public Media, talks with guest host Sophie Bushwick about Boeing’s rocky road to the ISS and how NASA hopes to split the workload of ferrying astronauts between Boeing and SpaceX.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
10/05/2418m 14s

Challenging The Gender Gap In Sports Science

The first Women’s World Cup was in 1991, and the games were only 80 minutes, compared to the 90-minute games played by men. Part of the rationale was that women just weren’t tough enough to play a full 90 minutes of soccer.This idea of women as the “weaker sex” is everywhere in early scientific studies of athletic performance. Sports science was mainly concerned with men’s abilities. Even now, most participants in sports science research are men.Luckily things are changing, and more girls and women are playing sports than ever before. There’s a little more research about women too, as well as those who fall outside the gender binary.SciFri producer Kathleen Davis talks with Christine Yu, a health and sports journalist and author of Up To Speed: The Groundbreaking Science of Women Athletes, about the gender data gap in sports science.Read an excerpt of Up to Speed: The Groundbreaking Science of Women Athletes at sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.  Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
09/05/2416m 6s

What Martian Geology Can Teach Us About Earth

At first glance, Mars might seem rather different from our own planet. Mars is dry, with little atmosphere, and no liquid water on its surface. It is half the size of Earth, lacks a planetary magnetic field, and does not appear to have active plate tectonics or volcanic activity. In some ways it is a world frozen in time, affected only by the force of wind and the occasional meteorite impact.That static nature, however, could give scientists clues to conditions that once existed on Earth, but have been lost to the effects of plate tectonics and weathering. Ira talks with planetary geologist Dr. Valerie Payré of the University of Iowa about her research into the geology of Mars, and what it could tell scientists about early Earth.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
08/05/2418m 14s

How Louisiana Is Coping With Flooding In Cemeteries

Emily Dalfrey lives across the street from Niblett’s Bluff Cemetery, where generations of her family are buried, in Vinton, Louisiana.In 2016, a period of prolonged rainfall caused flooding so severe that people could drive boats over the cemetery. The water put so much pressure on the graves that some of the vaults, which are located near the surface, popped open. Some of Dalfrey’s own family members’ caskets were carried away and deposited in her yard.Unsure how to restore the cemetery, the community contracted Gulf Coast Forensic Solutions, a company that helps people locate and rebury loved ones after natural disasters damage cemeteries.Read the rest of this article on sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
07/05/2411m 19s

Inside Iowa State’s Herbarium | Science-Inspired Art From ‘Universe of Art’ Listeners

The Ada Hayden Herbarium preserves hundreds of thousands of specimens, including some collected by George Washington Carver. And, as the “Universe of Art” podcast turns one, listeners discuss solar music boxes and what it’s like making art with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.Inside Iowa State’s Herbarium With 700,000 Plant SpecimensHerbariums are plant libraries—they contain fragile specimens of plants collected from near and far, and they are meticulously described and cataloged so that someone can reference them in the future. At Iowa State University, the Ada Hayden Herbarium contains more than 700,000 specimens, about half of which are from Iowa.Ira talks with herbarium’s director, Dr. Lynn Clark, and curator Deb Lewis about how plants are preserved, why herbariums are so important, and what it takes to manage a plant archive.Science-Inspired Art From Two ‘Universe of Art’ ListenersLast week, we kicked off a first-anniversary celebration for Universe of Art, our science-meets-art spinoff podcast. A lot of listeners have written in since the start of the podcast, telling us about the science-inspired art they’ve made in their spare time.Last week, host D. Peterschmidt spoke with Todd Gilens, a visual designer who worked with the city of Reno, Nevada, to create a mile-long poem on the city’s sidewalks about the connections between urbanism and stream ecology.This time, we’ll meet two listeners. Craig Colorusso is a punk rock guitarist-turned-sound artist who creates public sculptures and experiences that enhance visitors’ connection to nature. Two of his projects, Sun Boxes and The Bridges At Coler, use solar panels to play reflective, calming music he composed. “You have this idea where you are in nature and you are listening to something that is powered by nature,” he said. “I think that’s perfect.”And we’ll meet a listener who prefers to go by Chris, who was an engineer and avid artist who made mosaics and crocheted before developing Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). It’s a debilitating condition characterized by extreme fatigue that can’t be improved by rest, and can also include brain fog, pain, and dizziness. It’s similar to what many Long COVID patients experience. Chris’ condition is considered severe, and caused her to lose the use of her hands, and thus her preferred art mediums.However, Chris could still use her left hand with a rollerball mouse and realized that she could use programs like Chaotica to create fractals that she adds to collages in Photoshop, resulting in colorful collages. “They’re just beautiful and I’m doing art again and I’m so happy about it,” she said.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
06/05/2424m 2s

Science From Iowa’s Prairies | Planning To Go See Cicadas? Here’s What To Know

Science Friday is in Ames, Iowa, home to prairies, greater prairie chickens, and an array of wildlife. Also, the co-emergence of two periodical cicada broods is underway. Scientists have tips for how to experience the event.Science From Iowa’s PrairiesThis week, SciFri is coming to you from Ames, Iowa. We’re kicking off the sciencey Iowa celebrations by spotlighting some of the plants, animals and unique ecosystems of the Hawkeye state. Ira talks with Charity Nebbe, host of the “Talk of Iowa” at Iowa Public Radio, about the state’s largest prairie restoration project, the conservation of prairie chickens, and its rebounding wildlife.Planning To Go See Cicadas? Here’s What To KnowIn parts of the American South and Midwest, two broods of cicadas are emerging: Brood XIX, known as the Great Southern Brood, and Brood XIII, called the Northern Illinois Brood.The dual emergence of these two particular broods is a rare event, since the Great Southern Brood emerges on a 13-year cycle and the Northern Illinois Brood emerges on a 17-year cycle. The last time they were seen together was in 1803. The two could overlap this spring in parts of Illinois and Iowa, where cicada enthusiasts will gather in parks to observe the emergence.“Plan to spend an afternoon or two,” recommends entomologist Dr. Laura Iles from Iowa State University. “Here in Iowa it tends to be pretty patchy even within a park, so talk to someone, a ranger, about what path to hike on and the best places to go see them.”Ira Flatow speaks with Dr. Iles about the fascinating life cycle of cicadas, how best to approach cicada tourism, and why gardeners should hold off on planting new trees this year.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
03/05/2425m 8s

Maybe Bonobos Aren't Gentler Than Chimps | Art Meets Ecology In A Mile-Long Poem

A study found aggression between male bonobos to be more frequent than aggression between male chimpanzees. Also, visual artist Todd Gilens created a walkable poem along Reno’s Truckee River that draws parallels between urbanism and stream ecology.Bonobos Are Gentler Than Chimps? Maybe Not.Bonobos are a species of great ape, along with gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees. Over the years, they’ve gained a reputation as being calmer and more peaceful than other ape species. But recent work published in the journal Current Biology finds male bonobos may be just as aggressive as male chimpanzees, if not more so.Dr. Maud Mouginot, a postdoctoral associate in anthropology at Boston University, led the study, in which observers followed individual chimps and bonobos in the wild from morning to night, keeping track of all their interactions. The researchers found that bonobos engaged in 2.8 times more aggressive interactions and 3 times as many physical aggressions as the chimpanzees in the study.Dr. Mouginot joins guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross to discuss the findings, what might account for the differences in aggressiveness, and what it can teach researchers about primate behavior.Art Meets Ecology In A Mile-Long PoemOne year ago this month, we launched our podcast Universe Of Art, which features arts-focused science stories, like the science behind “Dune” and why a group of science illustrators created an online celebration of invertebrate butts. And to our surprise, a lot of you wrote in to tell us about your own science-inspired art projects, including artist Todd Gilens.Gilens is a visual artist and designer who collaborated with the city of Reno, Nevada, to create a mile-long poem, called “Confluence,” printed on the city’s sidewalks bordering the Truckee River. He was interested in how water shapes landscapes, and how urban architecture can mirror those natural processes. He later found the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory, a University of California field station near Mammoth Lakes, and spent several field seasons with them to learn about stream ecology.Universe Of Art host D. Peterschmidt sat down with Todd to talk about how the poem came together and why he spent four field seasons in the Sierra Nevada with stream ecologists to create the piece.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
02/05/2417m 56s

When Products Collect Data From Your Brain, Where Does It Go?

There are products on the market that monitor your brain waves through caps or headbands: Some aim to improve mental health, sleep, or focus, while others can plunge users into virtual reality for gaming.What happens to the neural data that neurotechnology companies collect from these devices? Consumers may be accustomed to their personal data from apps and social media being sold to third parties. However, the potential sale of brain data to a third party raises additional privacy concerns.There are no federal laws governing the data collected by these wearable devices. But Colorado recently became the first state in the country to pass legislation protecting neural data in consumer products.Guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross talks with Jared Genser, general counsel and co-founder of The Neurorights Foundation about the current landscape of neuro privacy.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
01/05/2417m 52s

Visualizing A Black Hole’s Flares In 3D

The words “black hole” might bring to mind an infinite darkness. But the area right around a black hole, called the accretion disk, is actually pretty bright, with matter compressing hotter and hotter into a glowing plasma as it is sucked in. And amid that maelstrom, there are even brighter areas—bursts of energy that astronomers call flares.Scientists are trying to better understand what those flares are, and what they can tell us about the nature of black holes. This week in the journal Nature Astronomy, a group of researchers published a video that they say is a 3D reconstruction of the movement of flares around the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way.Dr. Katie Bouman, an assistant professor of computing and mathematical sciences, electrical engineering and astronomy at Caltech in Pasadena, California, joins guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross to talk about the research, and how computational imaging techniques can help paint a picture of things that would be difficult or impossible to see naturally.Transcripts for this segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
30/04/2418m 16s

The 4,000-Year History of Humans and Silk

Silk is one of the most luxurious fabrics for clothing and bedding. Unlike cotton or linen, silk is made most commonly by insects—often the Bombyx mori, a domesticated moth that feeds on the leaves of mulberry trees. Humans have a 4,000-year history with the textile and the creatures that make it, as documented in the new book Silk: A World History.Since silk has an unconventional origin as a secretion rather than a plant product, it has unique biological qualities that make it strong and enduring. And because it’s a natural protein fiber, it’s biodegradable, so scientists think it could have a future as a sustainable alternative to plastics and electronic parts.Guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross speaks with Dr. Aarathi Prasad, biologist and author of Silk: A World History. They discuss the ways humans have changed silk-creating creatures through domestication, future applications of the textile, and Prasad’s experience growing silkworms of her own.Read an excerpt from Silk: A World History at sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
29/04/2417m 13s

Flint’s Water Crisis, 10 Years Later | Underwater Cables Could Help Detect Tsunamis

While progress has been made in replacing water pipes in Flint, many residents say they still don’t know if their tap water is clean or not. Also, scientists are adding sensors to an underwater cable network to monitor changes in the ocean and quickly detect earthquakes and tsunamis.10 Years Later, Flint’s Water Crisis Still Isn’t OverIn 2014, city officials in Flint, Michigan, switched their water source to the Flint River, a move that was projected to save the city $5 million. Instead, the water corroded the city’s lead pipes, which led to multiple negative health impacts for local residents, including lead poisoning, and a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that resulted in a dozen deaths.Now, almost 30,000 homes and businesses have had their water lines replaced, but 1,900 others have still not been reviewed. The city says they’ve reached out to owners of these properties with no response and have not been able to move forward, but activists claim that the city hasn’t contacted them.Guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross is joined by Vox senior correspondent Umair Irfan to talk about this and other top science news from this week, including new Long COVID trials that are underway, regulations from the EPA that require new coal and gas plants to limit 90% of their CO2 emissions, and a positive software update for Voyager 1.How Underwater Telecom Cables Could Help Detect TsunamisDeep under the sea, a wide network of cables crisscrosses the ocean floor, keeping the internet and other telecommunications online. While these cables have a big job to do, researchers want to make them even more important by giving them the ability to detect seismic activity and alert those on land of a tsunami risk earlier than is currently possible.Portugal is about to be the testing ground for these new, integrated cables, with a 3,700-kilometer cable to be installed between the Iberian country and the Madeira and Azores archipelagoes. This is a fitting place to pilot this, as Lisbon was the site of a devastating 1755 earthquake and tsunami that killed tens of thousands.Joining guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross to discuss the potential of smart cables is Dr. Bruce Howe, research professor of engineering at the University of Hawaii and chair of the United Nation’s SMART Cables Joint Task Force.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.   Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
26/04/2425m 28s

Fighting Banana Blight | Do Birds Sing In Their Dreams?

America’s most-consumed fruit is at risk from a fungal disease. Researchers in North Carolina are on a mission to save Cavendish bananas. Also, birds move their vocal organs while they sleep, mimicking how they sing. Scientists have translated those movements into synthetic birdsong.Fighting Banana Blight In A North Carolina GreenhouseBananas are the world’s most popular fruit. Americans eat nearly 27 pounds per person every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A deadly fungus could destroy most of the world’s crops, but a company in Research Triangle Park is trying to save the banana through gene editing.When it comes to growing bananas, RTP may not be the first place that pops in your head. But Matt DiLeo has a greenhouse full of them.DiLeo is Vice President of Research and Development at Elo Life Systems, a biotechnology firm that’s exploring how gene editing can improve fruits and vegetables.On a cloudy afternoon in early April, DiLeo opened the greenhouse door and stepped into a steamy atmosphere with a slightly floral odor. This greenhouse is packed floor to ceiling with banana trees. You’ve got to duck to keep the giant leaves from hitting your face. Some of the bananas are yellow, some are green, some are tiny and pink. DiLeo says they all share an important trait.“Many of these are naturally resistant to the TR-4 fungus,” DiLeo said.Read the rest of the article at sciencefriday.com.Do Birds Sing In Their Dreams?When birds sleep, what are they dreaming about? Researchers from the University of Buenos Aires have figured out a way to tap into bird dreams. When a bird slumbers, its voice box, called the syrinx, can move in ways that are similar to when they sing while they’re awake. Essentially, birds are silently singing in their dreams.Now, researchers have figured out how to translate that vocal muscle movement into a synthetic bird song, meaning you can listen to how birds sing in their dreams.Guest host Maggie Koerth talks with Dr. Gabriel Mindlin, professor of physics at the University of Buenos Aires about his latest bird dream research, published in the journal Chaos.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
25/04/2419m 2s

Why Is Solving The Plastic Problem So Hard?

One of the biggest environmental issues in our modern world is plastic, which has become integral in the manufacturing of everything from electronics to furniture. Our reliance on plastic has led to a recycling crisis: A vast amount of plastic that winds up in our recycling bins isn’t actually recyclable, and ultimately winds up in landfills.Large companies have committed to reducing plastic packaging and cutting back on waste. But there’s still no good way to scale up the removal of plastic that already exists. Waste-eating bacteria and enzymes have been shown to work in lab settings, but the scale-up process has a long road ahead.Judith Enck, former EPA regional administrator and founder of the organization Beyond Plastics, has dedicated her career to advocating for making plastics more recyclable and keeping toxic chemicals out of the manufacturing process. She joins guest host Maggie Koerth to talk about why plastics are such a difficult environmental issue to solve, and what makes her feel hopeful this Earth Day.Transcripts for this segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
24/04/2417m 53s

What Worsening Floods Mean For Superfund Sites

Superfund sites are some of the most polluted areas in the country, containing highly toxic waste such as asbestos, lead, and dioxin. Cleaning them up, which follows a systematic, science-based process as required by law, can take decades.There are more than 1,300 of these sites across the US, from Florida’s Panhandle to the banks of the Rio Grande in New Mexico. They’re found in nearly every state, often near residential areas. The EPA estimates that 78 million people live within three miles of a Superfund site—nearly 1 in 4 Americans.But these waste dumps face a growing threat: the worsening effects of climate change. The EPA has determined that more than 300 Superfund sites are at risk of flooding. The actual number of flood-prone sites, however, may be more than twice that amount, according to a 2021 Government Accountability Office report. Floodwaters can move toxic waste into neighboring communities, which threatens drinking water, agriculture, and broader ecosystem health.Read more at sciencefriday.comTranscripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
23/04/2417m 52s

The Global Mental Health Toll Of Climate Change | Capturing DNA From 800 Lakes In One Day

An explosion of research is painting a clearer picture of how climate change is affecting mental health across the globe. Also, a citizen science project aims to find species that have gone unnoticed by sampling the waters of hundreds of lakes worldwide for environmental DNA.Assessing The Global Mental Health Toll Of Climate ChangeAs the effects of climate change become more visible and widespread, people around the globe are dealing with the mental health impacts. But what are those impacts exactly, and how do they differ between people in different parts of the world? That’s been the focus of a rapidly growing area of research, which is seeking to understand the psychological impacts of climate change, sometimes referred to as “eco-anxiety.”Guest host Maggie Koerth is joined by Dr. Alison Hwong, a psychiatry fellow at University of California San Francisco, to talk about what scientists have learned about global eco-anxiety and what strategies they’ve found to reduce its more harmful effects.Citizen Scientists Will Capture DNA From 800 Lakes In One DayTaking an accurate census of the organisms in an ecosystem is a challenging task—an observer’s eyes and ears can’t be everywhere. But a new project aims to harness the growing field of environmental DNA (eDNA) to detect species that might escape even the most intrepid ecologists. In the project, volunteers plan to take samples from some 800 lakes around the world on or around May 22, the International Day for Biological Diversity. Those samples will then be sent back to a lab in Zurich, Switzerland, where they’ll be analyzed for the tiny traces of DNA that organisms leave behind in the environment.Dr. Kristy Deiner, organizer of the effort, hopes that just as lakes collect water from many streams across an area, they’ll also collect those eDNA traces—allowing researchers to paint a picture of the species living across a large area. She talks with SciFri’s John Dankosky about the project, and how this type of citizen science can aid the research community.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
22/04/2418m 9s

Clean Energy Transition Progress | Avian Flu In Cattle And Humans Has Scientists Concerned

Global temperature increases are slowing, electric vehicle sales are growing, and renewable energy is now cheaper than some fossil fuels. Also, in a recent outbreak of avian flu, the virus has jumped from birds to cows, and to one dairy worker. A disease ecologist provides context.Progress Toward A Clean Energy TransitionIn honor of Earth Day, we’re highlighting a few positive trends and some promising solutions to the climate crisis. Globally, a clean energy transition is underway. A recent column in cipher, an online news outlet focused on climate solutions, recapped some encouraging progress, including a rise in electric car sales, a drop in the cost of renewable energy, and a slowing of global temperature increases.SciFri’s John Dankosky is joined by Casey Crownhart, climate reporter at MIT Technology Review, to talk through some climate solutions news and other top science stories of the week, including a record year for wind energy, a proposal to swap out power lines to increase grid capacity, and hibernating bumble bees who can live for a week underwater.Why Avian Flu In Cattle And Humans Has Scientists ConcernedDuring the last few weeks, you may have heard about an ongoing outbreak of avian flu in which the virus has jumped from wild birds and poultry to cattle in eight states, and now to one dairy worker. While transmission to cattle and humans is new, avian flu has been spreading and decimating wild bird populations for years, and has led to many farmers to “depopulate” their poultry stock to contain the spread of the deadly virus, with limited success.Guest host Maggie Koerth is joined by Dr. Nichola Hill, assistant professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Boston, to talk about how devastating this virus has been to birds across the world, why the jump from birds to mammals is making virologists anxious, and how concerned the rest of us should be.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
19/04/2425m 12s

A Cheer For The Physics Of Baseball

College basketball’s March Madness concluded this week, meaning that now the national sports attention can turn fully to baseball.The next time you’re at the ballpark—whether you’re devoted enough to fill in the box scores by hand, or are just there for the peanuts and crackerjacks—take some time to appreciate the physics of the game. There are tricky trajectories, problems of parabolas, converging velocities, and the all-important impacts.Dr. Frederic Bertley, the president and CEO of the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio, joins Ira to talk about the science of sports, and about how sports can be a gateway to scientific literacy.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
18/04/2417m 37s

Carbon Cost Of Urban Gardens And Commercial Farms | Why There's No Superbloom This Year

Some food has a larger carbon footprint when grown in urban settings than on commercial farms, while for other foods the reverse is true. Also, what’s the difference between wildflowers blooming in the desert each spring, and the rare phenomenon of a “superbloom”?The Carbon Cost Of Urban Gardens And Commercial FarmsIf you have a home garden, you may be expecting that the food you grow has less of an environmental impact than food grown on large commercial farms. But new research throws some cold water on that idea. A study led by scientists at the University of Michigan examined 73 small urban gardening sites across the U.S., the U.K., France, Poland, and Germany, and found that food grown in urban settings produced six times more carbon emissions per serving than commercially grown food. The bulk of these emissions (63%) came from the building materials used for items like raised garden beds.However, there are some foods that have a smaller carbon footprint when grown at home. They include crops like tomatoes and asparagus, which sometimes need to be flown long distances or require power-hungry greenhouses when grown commercially.Jason Hawes, PhD candidate in the School for Environment and Sustainability at University of Michigan and lead author of the study which was published in Nature Cities, breaks down the results of the research with Ira. They talk about how urban farmers have responded to the findings, the positive social benefits of community gardens, and what home gardeners can do to lessen their carbon footprint.Why There Won’t Be A Superbloom This YearIn California, wildflowers are in bloom.Last year, there was a superbloom. Though there’s no official criteria, a superbloom is when there is an above average number of wildflowers blooming, mostly in desert regions of California and Arizona. It’s an explosion of color in regions that typically have sparse vegetation.About a month ago, a few news articles hinted that maybe, just maybe, we were in for another superbloom year. Turns out we’re not.Who decides when there’s a superbloom anyway? And why did this year turn out not to be a superbloom after all?To answer those questions and provide an update on the state of California’s wildflowers, SciFri producer Kathleen Davis talks with Dr. Naomi Fraga, director of conservation programs at the California Botanic Garden, and research assistant professor at Claremont Graduate University.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
17/04/2418m 51s

Inside The Race To Save Honeybees From Parasitic Mites

Last year, almost half of the honeybee colonies in the U.S. died, making it the second deadliest year for honeybees on record. The main culprit wasn’t climate change, starvation, or even pesticides, but a parasite: Varroa destructor.“The name for this parasite is a very Transformer-y sounding name, but … these Varroa destructor mites have earned this name. It’s not melodramatic by any means. [They are] incredibly destructive organisms,” says Dr. Sammy Ramsey, entomologist at the University of Colorado Boulder.These tiny mites feed on the bees and make them susceptible to other threats like diseases and pesticides. They’re also highly contagious: They arrived in the US in 1987, and now they live in almost every honeybee colony in the country. Honeybees pollinate many important crops, like apples, peaches, and berries, and their pollinator services add up to billions of dollars.Ramsey and his lab are trying to put an end to the varroa mites’ spree. Part of their research includes spying on baby bees and their accompanying mites to learn how the parasites feed on the bees and whether there’s a way to disrupt that process.In Boulder, Colorado, SciFri producer Rasha Aridi speaks with Dr. Ramsey and fellow entomologist Dr. Madison Sankovitz about how the varroa mites terrorize bees so effectively, and what it would take to get ahead of them.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
16/04/2418m 9s

The Brain’s Glial Cells Might Be As Important As Neurons

Half of the cells in the brain are neurons, the other half are glial cells.When scientists first discovered glia over a century ago, they thought that they simply held the neurons together. Their name derives from a Greek word that means glue.In the past decade, researchers have come to understand that glial cells do so much more: They communicate with neurons and work closely with the immune system and might be critical in how we experience pain. They even play an important role in regulating the digestive tract.Ira is joined by Yasemin Saplakoglu, a staff writer at Quanta Magazine who has reported on these lesser-known cells.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
15/04/2415m 50s

Limits On ‘Forever Chemicals’ In Drinking Water | An Important Winter Home For Bugs | Eclipse Drumroll

A long-awaited rule from the EPA limits the amounts of six PFAS chemicals allowed in public drinking water supplies. Also, some spiders, beetles, and centipedes spend winter under snow in a layer called the subnivium. Plus, a drumroll for the total solar eclipse.EPA Sets Limits On ‘Forever Chemicals’ In Drinking WaterThis week, the EPA finalized the first-ever national limits for the level of PFAS chemicals that are acceptable in drinking water supplies. Those so-called “forever chemicals,” per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, have long been used in products like fire retardants and oil-and water-repellent coatings, and are now ubiquitous in the global environment. Water treatment plants will now have to test and treat for several varieties of the chemicals, which have been linked to a variety of health problems in people.Sophie Bushwick, senior news editor at New Scientist, joins SciFri producer Kathleen Davis to talk about the rule and its potential impact on water agencies. They’ll also talk about other stories from the week in science, including research into a new vaccine against urinary tract infections, theories that extend the multiverse into a many-more-worlds interpretation, the passing of particle physicist Peter Higgs, and a new front in the war on pest rats: rodent contraceptives.Where Snowpack Meets Soil: An Important Winter Home For BugsWhen winter rolls around and snow piles up, many insects head down to a small layer called the subnivium for the season.. This space, between snowpack and soil, shelters small insects, amphibians,and mammals from freezing temperatures.Arthropods as a whole are understudied, says Chris Ziadeh, graduate of the University of New Hampshire and lead author of a recent study about the distinct communities that live in the subnivium. Better understanding which creatures call the subnivium home in the winter, as well as their behavior, could help us conserve them as the climate warms.Guest host Kathleen Davis talks to Ziadeh about winter arthropod activity, species diversity, and why we should all care about protecting insects in our communities.Drumroll Please! A Performance For The Solar EclipsePeople found all manner of ways to celebrate the solar eclipse that happened earlier this week, but one Science Friday listener found a particularly musical way to take in the experience.Matt Kurtz, a sound artist and musician based in Akron, Ohio, realized his town would be in the path of totality for the April 8 eclipse. So with some funding from Akron Soul Train, a local artist residency, he put together a percussion section (complete with a gong) to perform a drumroll and build suspense up until the moment of totality. They performed in Chestnut Ridge Park to a crowd of onlookers.“When you hear a [drumroll], it forces you to be like, something’s about to happen,” he said in an interview. “It’s a way to pay attention.”As the gong rang out and the crowd cheered, Kurtz put down his sticks and experienced his first solar eclipse totality. “It was a release,” he said. “I had a couple minutes of peace where I got to look at the stars and feel where all this work went to.”Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
12/04/2425m 43s

Investigating Animal Deaths At The National Zoo

When a critter meets its end at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, it ends up on a necropsy table—where one of the zoo’s veterinary pathologists will take a very close look at it, in what is the animal version of an autopsy. They’ll poke and prod, searching for clues about the animal’s health. What they do—or don’t—find can be used to improve the care of living animals, both in the zoo and in the wild.On stage in Washington, D.C., Ira talks with Dr. Kali Holder, veterinary pathologist at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, about her work, and they embark on a case of CSI: Zoo.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
11/04/2417m 41s

Eating More Oysters Helps Us—And The Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay produces around 500 million pounds of seafood every year, providing delicious blue crabs, striped bass, oysters, and more to folks up and down the coast. It’s one of the most productive bodies of water in the world, but the bay is constantly in flux due to stressors like overfishing, pollution, and climate change. But scientists have a plan to conserve the bay’s biodiversity, support the people who rely on it, and keep us all well fed—and it involves oyster farming.On stage in Washington, D.C., Ira talks with Imani Black, aquaculturist, grad student at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and founder of the nonprofit Minorities in Aquaculture, as well as Dr. Tara Scully, biologist and associate professor at George Washington University. They discuss the bay’s history, the importance of aquaculture, and how food production and conservation go hand in hand.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
10/04/2418m 37s

How Trees Keep D.C. And Baltimore Cool

Springtime is a great reminder of just how beautiful trees can be. Cherry blossoms and magnolias put on a gorgeous show, but trees aren’t just there to look good. They play an important role in absorbing heat, sequestering carbon dioxide, and preventing soil erosion.Dr. Mike Alonzo, assistant professor of environmental science at American University, is using satellites to determine just how effective urban trees are at keeping neighborhoods cool. He’s been able to track changes to the tree canopy over time, and identify when during the day trees do their best cooling work.In Baltimore, Ryan Alston with the Baltimore Tree Trust has been working with the community to help residents understand the importance of planting trees. The city has a history of redlining, which affected the number of big trees in historically Black neighborhoods, leading to major differences in how hot certain neighborhoods get in the summer.Alonzo and Alston join Ira Flatow live on stage at George Washington University to discuss the power of urban trees.The transcript for this segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
09/04/2412m 57s

Predicting Heart Disease From Chest X-Rays With AI | Storing New Memories During Sleep

Dr. Eric Topol discusses the promise of “opportunistic” AI, using medical scans for unintended diagnostic purposes. Also, a study in mice found that the brain tags new memories through a “sharp wave ripple” mechanism that then repeats during sleep.How AI Could Predict Heart Disease From Chest X-RaysResearch on medical uses for artificial intelligence in medicine is exploding, with scientists exploring methods like using the retina to predict disease onset. That’s one example of a growing body of research on “opportunistic” AI, the practice of analyzing medical scans in unconventional ways and for unintended diagnostic purposes.Now, there’s some evidence to suggest that AI can mine data from chest x-rays to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease and detect diabetes.Ira talks with Dr. Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute and professor of molecular medicine.Neurons ‘Tag’ New Memories For Storage During SleepAll day long we’re taking in information and forming memories. Some stick around, others quickly fade away. But how does your brain push those memories into long term storage? And how does our brain recognize which memories should be kept and which should be discarded?This topic has been debated for decades, and a recent study in mice may help scientists understand this process.Researchers found that during the day, as the mice formed memories, cells in the hippocampus fired in a formation called “sharp wave ripples.” These are markers that tell the brain to keep those memories for later. Then, while the mice slept, those same sharp wave ripples activated again, and locked in those memories.Ira talks with Dr. György Buzsáki, professor of neuroscience at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, about the findings of the study, which was published in the journal Science.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.  Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
08/04/2418m 21s

Recipient Of Pig Kidney Transplant Recovering | Answering Your Questions About April 8 Eclipse

A Massachusetts man who received a kidney from a genetically modified pig is recovering well. Also, on April 8, a total solar eclipse will plunge parts of North America into darkness. Scientists answer the questions you asked.Recipient Of Pig Kidney Transplant Leaves The HospitalLast month, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston announced that a team of doctors had transplanted a kidney from a genetically engineered pig into a living human for the first time. This week, that patient, a 62-year-old man living with end-stage kidney disease, was sent home from the hospital, having recovered enough to be discharged. Sixty-nine genes were edited in the donor pig, including three that coded for a certain sugar found on the surface of pig cells. The edits, hopefully, will make it less likely for the human recipient to reject the transplant.Umair Irfan, senior correspondent at Vox, joins Ira Flatow to talk about the xenotransplantation advance, and how it could affect patients awaiting donor organs. They’ll also talk about other stories from the week in science, including how power grid operators are preparing for the upcoming solar eclipse, NASA’s search for a new lunar rover, an advance in getting robots to make appropriate faces, research into using a drug similar to the obesity medication Ozempic to delay Parkinson’s symptoms, and plans for a new time zone—on the moon.Answering Your Questions About Monday’s EclipseAfter months of excitement, the 2024 total solar eclipse is almost here! On Monday, April 8, the moon will line up perfectly between the Sun and the Earth. For a few short minutes, it’ll plunge parts of North America into total darkness—right in the middle of the day.More than 30 million people live in the path of totality—where the moon will completely block off the sun. It stretches from northwest Mexico, across the US, and into southeastern Canada. Depending how far you are from the path, you might experience a partial eclipse. Magical, nonetheless.Ira talks with Dr. Padi Boyd, astrophysicist at NASA and host of the agency’s podcast Curious Universe, and Mark Breen, meteorologist and planetarium director at the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium in Vermont. They answer questions our readers and listeners have submitted about the eclipse, and discuss why we should be excited, how to prepare, and what scientists can learn from this phenomenon.For more eclipse-day tips and facts, visit our website.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
05/04/2430m 42s

Our Inevitable Cosmic Apocalypse

When it comes to the eventual end of our universe, cosmologists have a few classic theories: the Big Crunch, where the universe reverses its expansion and contracts again, setting the stars themselves on fire in the process. Or the Big Rip, where the universe expands forever—but in a fundamentally unstable way that tears matter itself apart. Or it might be heat death, in which matter and energy become equally distributed in a cold, eventless soup.These theories have continued to evolve as we gain new understandings from particle accelerators and astronomical observations. As our understanding of fundamental physics advances, new ideas about the ending are joining the list. Take vacuum decay, a theory that’s been around since the 1970s, but which gained new support when CERN confirmed detection of the Higgs Boson particle. The nice thing about vacuum decay, writes cosmologist Dr. Katie Mack in her book The End of Everything: (Astrophysically Speaking), is that it could happen at any time, and would be almost instantaneous—painless, efficient.The End Of Everything is our SciFri Book Club pick for April—you can join in on the community conversation and maybe even win a free book on our book club page. In this interview from 2020, Mack joins Ira to talk about the diversity of universe-ending theories, and how cosmologists like her think about the big questions, like where the universe started, how it might end, and what happens after it does.Also, Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Dr. Daniel Kahneman died this week at the age of 90. His work turned many traditional ideas about economics upside-down, arguing that people often make bad decisions that go against their own self-interest. It’s something he continued to study throughout his career, and that he wrote about in the 2022 book Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment. At the end of this segment, we revisit an interview from 2022 with Kahneman in remembrance of his long career studying cognitive biases.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
04/04/2418m 14s

The Complicated Truths About Offshore Wind And Right Whales

By the time researchers found the dead whale on a Martha’s Vineyard beach, her jet-black skin was pockmarked by hungry seagulls, her baleen had been dislodged from her mouth, and thin rope was wrapped tightly—as it had been for 17 months—around the most narrow part of her tail.Researchers quickly learned this was a 12-ton, 3-year-old female known as 5120, and that she was a North Atlantic right whale, a species with just about 360 members left.A few weeks later, NOAA Fisheries announced that the entangling rope came from lobster fishing gear set in Maine state waters. The pain and discomfort of the entanglement likely affected 5120’s ability to swim and eat until finally, experts say, exhaustion or starvation probably killed her. A final cause of death is still pending.The death of 5120 was devastating to right whale advocates, who know that losing a female doesn’t just mean losing one whale, but dozens of others that could have come from her future calves. For them, a death is often followed by a period of grief, and a renewed commitment to their work. And that might have been the end of 5120’s story.But then came the online comments. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, across social media blamed offshore wind farms—the noise, electricity generated, and the mere presence of turbines. Along the way, the truth about 5120 became a non-concern.In many cases, the rumors about offshore wind hurting and killing right whales are quite possibly spread from a place of concern, mistrust, or fear by well-meaning people who want to know our oceans are safe for marine mammals. But few people want that more than right whale scientists, who have dedicated their careers to saving a species that appears to be just a few decades from extinction. For many of them, talking about offshore wind has its own challenges, both because of the unknowns that come with a nascent industry and the knee-jerk reactions from people on all sides of the issue. So they say that yes, they’re uneasy about the potential threats of wind farms. But they agonize over the prospect of climate change destroying right whales’ shot at survival via their food web and ecosystem.Read more at sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
03/04/2418m 2s

The Bumpy Road To Approving New Alzheimer’s Drugs

In the past few years pharmaceutical companies have developed a string of new Alzheimer’s drugs called anti-amyloids, which target amyloid plaques in patients’ brains. These plaques are one of the key biomarkers of the disease.The first of these drugs, Aduhelm, was approved by the FDA in 2021 amid enormous controversy. The FDA approved the drug despite little evidence that it actually slowed cognitive decline in patients. Biogen, the maker of Aduhelm, pulled the plug on further research or sales of the drug last month.In January 2023 The FDA approved another anti-amyloid medication from Biogen, lecanemab, sold under the brand name Leqembi. This time, there was much stronger evidence. Clinical trial results showed that the drug showed a modest improvement in cognitive decline in the early phases of the disease. But the drug comes with risks, including brain swelling and bleeding.Most recently, at the beginning of March, the FDA delayed approval of another anti-amyloid drug, donanemab, created by Eli Lilly. The FDA said it will be conducting an additional review to further scrutinize the study design and efficacy data.From the outside looking in, these Alzheimer’s drugs appear to be mired in controversy. How well do they actually work? And why has there been so much back and forth with the FDA?To answer those questions and more, guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross talks with Dr. Jason Karlawish, professor of medicine, medical ethics and health policy, and neurology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, and co-director of the Penn Memory Center.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
02/04/2417m 52s

‘3 Body Problem’ And The Laws Of Physics | In Defense Of ‘Out Of Place’ Plants

Particle accelerators, nanofibers, and solar physics: The science advisor for the Netflix adaptation breaks down the physics in the show. Also, in her new book, Jessica J. Lee looks at how humans have moved plants around the globe–and how our migrations are intertwined with theirs.How ‘3 Body Problem’ Explores The Laws Of PhysicsLast week, Netflix released its adaptation of the Hugo Award-winning sci-fi book The 3 Body Problem by Cixin Liu. It follows the journey of several scientists, from the Chinese Cultural Revolution to the present day, as they seek to understand why their fellow researchers are dying and why their scientific results no longer make sense. Along the way, they discover an ultra-advanced VR game and a dark secret that suggests we might not be alone in the universe.Guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross sits down with the show’s science advisor, Dr. Matt Kenzie, an associate professor of physics at the University of Cambridge, to talk about what exactly the three body problem is, why he gave the actors physics lessons, and what he hopes audiences take away from a show focused on scientists.In Defense Of ‘Out Of Place’ PlantsThe new book Dispersals: On Plants, Borders, and Belonging unpacks how we think about the migrations of both plants and humans, as well as how those ideas shape our perceptions of what we call “non-native” or “invasive” plants like giant hogweed or English ivy.Dispersals traces the history of how we moved plants around—including cherry blossoms, mangoes, and soy—and asks: What does it mean to be a plant out of place? And how does the migration of plants mirror our own?Guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross talks with environmental historian and author Jessica J. Lee about Dispersals and what we can learn from the histories of plants.Read an excerpt from Dispersals at sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
01/04/2423m 10s

Baltimore Bridge Collapse | Mapping How Viruses Jump Between Species

We look into the engineering reasons why the Francis Scott Key bridge collapsed after a ship crashed into it. Also, a new analysis finds that more viruses spread from humans to animals than from animals to humans.The Engineering Behind Why The Bridge In Baltimore CollapsedOn Tuesday, a large section of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key bridge collapsed after an enormous container ship lost power and collided with the structure. Two people were rescued from the water, two bodies were recovered, and four others are unaccounted for and presumed dead.The structural failure of the bridge, which cut off a key roadway and a major international shipping port, has many wondering why this happened. Does the fault lie in aging infrastructure or in the manner the container ship struck one of the bridge’s main supports?Guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross talks to journalist Swapna Krishna about the engineering reasons behind why the bridge collapsed and other top stories in science this week, including rockets NASA is launching during next week’s solar eclipse, new research about how Homo sapiens traveled out of Africa, and visualizing the magnetic field of the black hole at the center of our galaxy.Mapping Out How Viruses Jump Between SpeciesIn the world of emerging infectious diseases, one of the looming threats comes from the so-called zoonotic diseases—pathogens that somehow make the jump from an animal host to a human one. This includes pathogens such as COVID-19 and avian influenza, a.k.a. bird flu, which can sometimes cross the species divide. But a new analysis published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution finds that when it comes to viruses, more viral species appear to have jumped from humans to animals than the other way around. And even more cases of interspecies transmission don’t involve humans at all.Cedric Tan, a PhD student in the University College London Genetics Institute and Francis Crick Institute, joins guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross to talk about the analysis, and what it tells us about our place in a global web of viruses.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.  Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
29/03/2420m 28s

The Legacy Of Primatologist Frans de Waal

It wasn’t that long ago that scientists didn’t think animals could rival humans in terms of intelligence, emotions, or empathy. But the groundbreaking work of Dr. Frans de Waal helped change all of that. De Waal spent his life studying the lives of animals — especially our closest cousins, chimpanzees and bonobos.The primatologist died last week at the age of 75, and we wanted to remember him by sharing one of our favorite conversations with him on the show. It’s from 2019, when he published his book Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves.In it, he tells the story 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 his hands, and whimpering sadly if he tried to leave.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
28/03/2418m 7s

The ‘Asteroid Hunter’ Leading The OSIRIS-REx Mission

Ever since we learned that an asteroid slammed into Earth, wiped out the dinosaurs, and changed the course of life on this planet, scientists have wondered if it could happen again. It turns out there is an asteroid, called Bennu, that has a very small chance of colliding with our planet in the year 2182.But beyond that, Bennu could hold information that would help unlock our solar system’s secrets, like how it began and where life originated. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission launched in 2016 to collect a sample from Bennu. It was successful, and this past fall, the spacecraft safely delivered its asteroid sample to scientists waiting on Earth.In a new memoir, The Asteroid Hunter: A Scientist’s Journey to the Dawn of our Solar System, Dr. Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of OSIRIS-REx, gives readers a behind-the-scenes account on this high-stakes mission.Ira talks with Dr. Lauretta, a planetary scientist at University of Arizona in Tucson, about why he chose to study Bennu, what it was like to run such a nail-biting mission, and what Bennu could reveal about our galaxy.Read an excerpt from The Asteroid Hunter.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
27/03/2418m 44s

Swimming Sea Lions Teach Engineers About Fluid Dynamics

The next time you go to the zoo, take a few minutes by the sea lion habitat to watch the way they swim. While most high-performance swimmers use powerful kicks from hind appendages to power through the water, sea lions instead use their front flippers, moving with a pulling motion. With their propulsion source close to their center of gravity and their flexible bodies, sea lions are extremely agile under water, able to weave in and out among the stalks of an undersea kelp forest.Researchers are studying the movements of these exceptional swimmers to try to design improved underwater vehicles. Mimicking some of the sea lion’s tricks could allow more maneuverable, quieter vehicles that produce less turbulence in the water.SciFri’s Charles Bergquist talks with Dr. Megan Leftwich of George Washington University about her work with sea lions, and other research into fluids and biomechanics, including the fluid mechanics of human birth.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
26/03/2417m 35s

Botanical Rescue Centers Take In Illegally Trafficked Plants

There’s a thriving black market to buy and sell endangered plants, and the Department of Agriculture and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service monitor endangered species that are brought into the United States illegally. When they are discovered, the plants’ home country has 30 days to accept them. If they aren’t claimed, they get rescued. Then where do they go? To one of 62 plant rescue centers across the country at botanic gardens, zoos, and arboretums, operating according to an agreement through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).Ira talks with Dr. Susan Pell, executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden, and Amy Highland, plant curator at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, DC, about the garden’s plant rescue program.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
25/03/2417m 31s

2023 Was Hottest Year On Record | The NASA Satellite Studying Plankton

The World Meteorological Organization’s report confirms last year had the highest temperatures on record and predicts an even hotter 2024. Also, NASA’s new PACE satellite will study how these tiny creatures could affect Earth’s climate, and how aerosols influence air quality.UN Report Confirms 2023 Was Hottest Year On RecordA new report from the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization shows that last year had the hottest average global temperatures since recording began 174 years ago. Ocean temperatures also reached a 65-year high last year, and 2024 is on track to be even hotter.Ira talks with Jason Dinh, climate editor at Atmos Magazine about that and other top science news of the week including cannibal birds, fighting Dengue fever with bacteria-infected mosquitos and the evolutionary benefit of whale menopause.Why This NASA Satellite Is Studying PlanktonDid you know you can see plankton … from space? Earlier this year, NASA launched a satellite to do exactly that. It’s called PACE, which stands for Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, and ocean Ecosystem, and NASA hopes that the satellite can tell us more about how these tiny creatures interact with Earth’s atmosphere and influence our climate.Some species of plankton, called phytoplankton, are microscopic plants that absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. PACE has equipment that can identify different species of phytoplankton by the kind of light they give off, giving NASA real-time information about their location and population size, which can also aid fisheries and coastal communities when algal blooms occur.PACE will also study how aerosols affect air quality on Earth. Additional instruments on the satellite can differentiate between different kinds of aerosols by studying how they reflect light back into space, which will help scientists refine their climate models so that more accurate forecasts can be made.Ira Flatow talks to Dr. Ivona Cetinic, PACE’s science lead for ocean biogeochemistry, about the satellite, her favorite species of plankton, and how the public can benefit from the data that the mission will provide.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
22/03/2424m 44s

A Strange-Looking Fish, Frozen In Time

The term “living fossil” has been applied to any number of animals, from sharks to turtles to the coelacanth. It’s the idea that those animals look very much the same way their species may have looked millions of years ago, with limited evolutionary change over that time.After analyzing the genomes of many different species on that “living fossil” list, researchers report they may have found an animal that evolves more slowly than all the others—a group of fish called gar. The rate of molecular change in gar genomes is the slowest of any jawed vertebrate, the researchers say. In fact, gar genomes change so slowly that two gar species that diverged from each other over 105 million years ago can still interbreed and produce fertile offspring. In evolutionary time, that’s comparable to the distance between humans and elephants. The researchers believe that the slow rate of change in gars may be due to an exceptional ability to repair mutations and other errors in their genes.Dr. Solomon David, assistant professor of aquatic ecology at the University of Minnesota, and Chase Brownstein, a graduate student in Yale’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology, join Ira to discuss the findings, recently reported in the journal Evolution.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
21/03/2417m 39s

What We Know After 4 Years Of COVID-19

Four years ago this week, the world as we know it changed. Schools shut down, offices shuttered, and we hunkered down at home with our Purell and canned foods, trying to stay safe from a novel, deadly coronavirus. Back then most of us couldn’t fathom just how long the pandemic would stretch on.And now four years later, some 1.2 million people have died in the U.S alone and nearly 7 million have been hospitalized as a result of a COVID-19 infection, according to the CDC.So, what have we learned about how COVID-19 attacks the body? What can be done for long COVID sufferers? And what can we expect in the future?Ira analyzes this era of the pandemic with Hannah Davis, co-founder of the Patient-Led Research Collaborative in New York City, and Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, immunobiologist at Yale Medical School in New Haven, Connecticut.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
20/03/2418m 15s

Science Unlocks The Power Of Flavor In ‘Flavorama’

Think about the best meal you’ve ever eaten: Maybe it was in a restaurant in a far-off city, or perhaps it was a home-cooked meal made by someone you love. No matter where or what it was, odds are what made it so memorable was the flavor.Flavor is arguably the most important part of a meal. If the flavor of something is off, or undetectable, it can jeopardize your enjoyment. There’s a lot of chemistry and biological science behind how and what we taste.Flavorama: A Guide to Unlocking the Art and Science of Flavor is a new book that breaks down the mechanisms that go into these processes. Ira is joined by author Arielle Johnson, who holds a PhD in chemistry and co-founded the fermentation lab at the world-famous Copenhagen restaurant Noma.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
19/03/2417m 30s

Abortion-Restrictive States Leave Ob-Gyns With Tough Choices

Roe v. Wade was overturned almost two years ago, and a lot has changed in terms of abortion choices in the United States. Some states have effectively banned abortion, while others have such confusing laws that it’s difficult for the people who live there to know what their reproductive rights are.The post-Dobbs landscape hasn’t just affected the care people can receive: It’s also changed where physicians choose to work, especially if they’re in states where they can be criminally prosecuted for performing abortions.Last month, the Idaho Coalition for Safe Healthcare published a report that found that 22% of ob-gyns have left the state since June of 2022 — a massive amount for a state that already has the fewest physicians per capita in the country. Ongoing research in Wisconsin has found that the Dobbs decision has affected where medical students choose to study, and has even dissuaded some from choosing obstetrics as a specialty.Joining Ira to talk about this are two ob-gyns from states with abortion restrictions: Dr. Sara Thomson, based in Boise, Idaho, and Dr. Abby Cutler, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.Transcript for this segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
18/03/2418m 22s

Nasal Rinsing Safely | How Your Brain Constructs Your Mental Health

A recent study looked into life-threatening Acanthamoeba infections, and a few deaths, linked to the use of tap water with devices like neti pots. And, in ‘The Balanced Brain,’ Dr. Camilla Nord explores the neuroscience behind mental health, and how our brains deal with life’s challenges.Scientists Warn Against Nasal Rinsing With Unboiled Tap WaterResearchers at the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention published a study Wednesday that examined 10 cases of life-threatening Acanthamoeba infections that occurred after people cleaned their sinuses with neti pots, squeeze bottles, or other nasal rinsing devices. In most of these cases, which occurred in immunocompromised individuals over the span of a few decades, individuals had used tap water for nasal rinsing.Tap water, while generally safe to drink, is not sterile. Microorganisms and germs live in distribution systems and pipes that the water travels through, and Acanthamoeba amebae was the main link between the 10 cases, three of which resulted in death.Although contracting the Acanthamoeba pathogen is extremely rare, many people are unaware of the unsterile nature of tap water and use it for their sinuses, according to a survey study published last year. A third of participants incorrectly believed U.S. tap water is sterile, and almost two-thirds assumed it was safe to rinse your sinuses with it.The CDC and FDA recommend using distilled or sterile water for nasal rinsing. If you want to use tap water, they recommend boiling it for three to five minutes and allowing it to cool. While slightly more time consuming, it is an effective way to get sterile water.Rachel Feltman, host of “The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week,” joins Ira to talk about this story and other news in science this week, including a new study that links microplastics in the human body to increased risk of heart disease and death, why the U.S. maternal mortality rate might be inflated, and why cicadas produce high-speed jets of urine.How Your Brain Constructs Your Mental HealthIf you’ve ever struggled with a mental health issue like anxiety or depression, or know someone who has, it’s pretty clear that what works for one person might not work for another. Antidepressants only work in about 50-60% of patients. Meditation or yoga may be a gamechanger for some people, but ineffective for others.Over the past few decades, neuroscientists have made huge advances in our understanding of the human brain. How can we use the latest neuroscience research to help improve our mental well-being? And what is the relationship between physical and mental health?To answer those questions and more, SciFri producer Shoshannah Buxbaum talks with Dr. Camilla Nord, director of the Mental Health Neuroscience Lab at the University of Cambridge and author of the new book The Balanced Brain: The Science of Mental Health.Read an excerpt of The Balanced Brain at sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.  Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
15/03/2424m 40s

A New Book Puts ‘Math in Drag’

It’s a common refrain from elementary school to adulthood: “I’m bad at math.” It’s a hard subject for a lot of people, and it has a reputation for being—let’s face it—boring. Math isn’t taught in a flashy way in schools, and its emphasis on memorization for key concepts like multiplication tables and equations can discourage students.It’s not hard to understand why: Math has long been seen as a boy’s club, and a straight, cis boy’s club at that. But Kyne Santos, a drag queen based in Kitchener, Ontario, wants to change that.Kyne is on a mission to make math fun and accessible to people who have felt like math isn’t for them. Her new book, “Math in Drag,” is one part history lesson, one part math guidebook, and one part memoir. Kyne speaks with Ira about “celebrity numbers,” Möbius strips, and why math and drag are more similar than you may think.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
14/03/2418m 12s

With This Rare Disorder, No Amount Of Sleep Is Enough

Humans need sufficient sleep to function. The conventional wisdom is that we need around 8 hours each night to be at peak performance.But for people with idiopathic hypersomnia, or IH, no amount of sleep can shake a profound feeling of sleepiness. Some can sleep for over 24 hours, despite using stimulants and multiple alarm clocks. Others fall asleep while driving or doing other daily activities.IH is rare. It affects just a small fraction of 1% of people, and the underlying cause is unknown. Now, scientists are doing more research into the condition, thanks in large part to patients organizing and advocating for better treatment options. Unlocking what causes this excessive sleepiness may be key to understanding the bigger picture of how the body enters and wakes from sleep.Ira discusses the science of sleepiness with Dr. Quinn Eastman, science writer and author of The Woman Who Couldn’t Wake Up: Hypersomnia and the Science of Sleepiness, and Diana Kimmel, co-founder of the Hypersomnia Alliance, and board member of the Hypersomnia Foundation.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
13/03/2416m 37s

How Election Science Can Support Democracy | The Genetic Roots Of Antibiotic Resistance

How Election Science Can Support DemocracyThis week, the election season shifted into full gear with the Super Tuesday slate of primaries. But as the ballot options become more cemented, it’s not just pollsters and campaign operatives who are preparing for the elections—scientists are too.The Union of Concerned Scientists has established what it calls an election science task force, looking at everything from ballot design to disinformation to voting security. Dr. Jennifer Jones, program director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, joins Ira to describe the goals of the effort in the weeks and months ahead.The Genetic Roots Of Antibiotic ResistanceAntibiotic resistance—when pathogens no longer respond to the conventional antibiotic medications—is a serious medical problem. According to the CDC, over 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year, causing some 35,000 deaths. It’s in part due to overprescription of antibiotics in medicine, and the widespread use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. But the problem isn’t entirely of humans’ making. The roots of antibiotic resistance go back millions of years.A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences collected hundreds of soil and poop samples from around the world, to try to trace back the genetics of how resistance arose in Enterococcus, a genus of bacteria that live in the guts of pretty much every land animal. In the course of their analysis, the researchers identified 18 entirely new species in the genus Enterococcus, with over 1,000 genes that had never been seen before.Dr. Michael Gilmore, the Chief Scientific Officer at Mass Eye and Ear, joins Ira to talk about the study and what the team hopes to learn about the causes of antibiotic resistance.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
12/03/2418m 44s

Triple Feature: Dune, Mars, And An Alien On Earth

Could A Planet Like Arrakis From ‘Dune’ Exist?“Dune: Part II” is one of the year’s most highly anticipated films, and it picks up where the first film left off: with Paul Atreides escaping into the desert on the planet Arrakis. It’s a scorching-hot world that’s covered in dunes, and home to giant, deadly sandworms.Obviously “Dune” and its setting are fictional, but could there be a real planet that resembles Arrakis? And if so, could it sustain life?Ira talks with Dr. Mike Wong, astrobiologist and planetary scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, about what Arrakis’ atmosphere is like, the search for life in the universe, and what sci-fi films get wrong—and right—about alien planets.Preparing Astronauts For The Loneliness Of A Mars MissionNASA is preparing to send humans to Mars. Although the launch date has been pushed back over the years, the agency says it wants to get there in the 2030s. And it has a lot on its to-do list. NASA needs to build new rockets, new habitable living spaces, new spacesuits, and new radiation shielding, just to name a few items.But what if the one of the biggest challenges of these missions is not the engineering, but the mental health of the astronauts? Can all of the crew members get along with each other and stay alive over the course of three years in tight quarters and unforgiving environments? How will they cope with being separated from their families and friends for so long? And what lessons can they learn from astronauts who’ve lived on the International Space Station—and from our collective experience of isolation during the pandemic?A new documentary, out March 8, explores all these questions and more. It’s called "The Longest Goodbye," and it dives into NASA’s Human Factors program, which includes a group of psychologists who are trying to figure out the best way to preserve astronauts’ mental health on a long and demanding mission.SciFri producer and host of Universe Of Art, D. Peterschmidt, spoke to the film’s director, Ido Mizrahy, and one of its featured astronauts, Dr. Cady Coleman, about how NASA is thinking about tackling loneliness in space and what we can learn from astronauts who’ve already lived on the space station.Should The Aliens In “65” Have Known About Earth’s Dinos?Some science fiction movies, like “Alien,” are instant classics. A good sci-fi movie weaves together themes of science and technology with a gripping narrative structure to create a memorable story that leaves the viewer with something to think about. But some (many) sci-fi movies leave the viewer with one thought: “Huh?”The 2023 movie “65” is in some ways a reversal of “Alien.” Instead of humans coming to an alien world and getting attacked by aliens, in “65,” an alien that existed 65 million years ago crash lands on Earth and gets attacked by dinosaurs. Oh, and the alien is Adam Driver. What’s not to get?Sometimes, calling in a real-life scientist is the best way to wrap your head around science fiction. Dr. Lisa Kaltenegger, an astrobiologist at Cornell University, says that if there were advanced extraterrestrials near Earth during the age of the dinosaurs, our planet’s life should have been no mystery to them. That’s because around 300 million years ago, Earth’s atmosphere had abundant oxygen and methane, two of the building blocks of life. Kaltenegger’s own research has shown how Earth’s atmosphere during that period would have been visible through a telescope—and indicated an even stronger potential for life than Earth’s atmosphere today. She also saw “65” on a plane.Based on Kaltenegger’s research, should Adam Driver have seen those dinosaurs coming? In an interview with Digital Producer Emma Gometz, she shares how telescopes can spot exoplanet atmospheres, why Jurassic Earth’s atmosphere was special, and a few of her thoughts on “65.”Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
11/03/2430m 41s

Could This Be The End Of Voyager 1?

In 1977, NASA launched Voyager 1 and 2. Their mission? To explore the farthest reaches of our galaxy. Their missions were only supposed to last about four years, but it’s been almost 50. They’re now in interstellar space, navigating the region between stars.But since November, Voyager 1 has been sending unintelligible data back to Earth, raising concerns that it could be nearing the end of its mission.Ira talks with Maggie Koerth, science writer and editorial lead at Carbon Plan, about Voyager 1 and other science news of the week, including work on detecting neutrinos with forests, calculating the age of giant sand dunes, uncovering the origins of cells, investigating why we don’t have tails anymore, and how a man walking his dog discovered a dinosaur fossil.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
08/03/2412m 32s

What It Takes To Care For The US Nuclear Arsenal

For many people in the US, the threat of nuclear weapons is out of sight and out of mind. But the nuclear complex is alive and well. In fact, the state of nuclear weapons is evolving in the US. The United States, among other countries, is giving its nuclear arsenal—which contains about 5,000 weapons—a makeover. This modernization costs around $50 billion a year, which will amount to more than $1.5 trillion over the next few decades.With the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in place, countries should be stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and technology. That raises the question: If nearly all countries have agreed not to nuke each other, why are nuclear arsenals being updated? And what does that signal to the world?In her new book Countdown: The Blinding Future of Nuclear Weapons, science journalist and author Sarah Scoles analyzes the current nuclear age, speaks with the scientists in charge of nuclear weapons, and asks, do more nukes keep us safer?Scoles talks with Ira about why the US is modernizing its nuclear arsenal, the role of science in nuclear deterrence, and why this moment in nuclear history is so important.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
07/03/2417m 29s

A Young Scientist Uplifts The Needs Of Parkinson’s Patients

"I heard elders talk about 'the shakes,' but I now know that language reflects deep historical inequities that have denied us access to healthcare, knowledge, and research that could help us alleviate burdens and strengthen our health—enough with the shakes!" —Senegal Alfred Mabry, in CellParkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in the United States. According to a 2022 study, some 90,000 people a year in the US are diagnosed with Parkinson’s. It’s a progressive disease that worsens over time, producing unintended or uncontrollable movements, such as tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination.Researchers are working to better understand the causes of the disease, how it connects to other health conditions, and how to slow or prevent its effects. Senegal Alfred Mabry is a third year PhD student in neuroscience at Cornell University, and was recently named a recipient of this year’s Rising Black Scientist Award by Cell Press. His research involves interoception—a sense that allows the body to monitor its own processes—and the autonomic nervous system. He joins Ira to talk about his research into Parkinson’s disease, and the importance of scientific research being connected to communities.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.  Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
06/03/2418m 23s

Snakes Are Evolutionary Superstars | Whale Song Is All In The Larynx

In the trees, through the water, and under the dirt: Snakes evolve faster than their lizard relatives, allowing them to occupy diverse niches. Also, researchers are working to understand just how baleen whales are able to produce their haunting songs.Snakes Are Evolutionary SuperstarsLove ‘em or hate ‘em, new research shows that snakes deserve our recognition as evolutionary superstars. The study, published last week in the journal Science, found that snakes evolve faster than other reptiles, allowing them to thrive in a wide range of environments.It shouldn’t be too surprising: Many of the nearly 4,000 snake species occupy extremely specialized niches in their ecosystems. The blunt-headed tree snake, for example, eats through batches of treefrog eggs in Central and South America. Pythons, which can grow to 20 feet long, can take down large mammals like antelopes.Joining Ira to talk about the evolutionary speed of snakes is study co-author Dr. Daniel Rabosky, evolutionary biologist and curator of the Museum of Zoology at the University of Michigan.Whale Song Is All In The LarynxWhale songs can be both beautiful and haunting. But the exact mechanism that the 16 species of baleen whales, like humpback and minke whales, use to make those noises hasn’t been well understood. The finer points of whale anatomy are hard to study, in part because the soft tissues of beached whales often begin to decompose before researchers can preserve and study them. And until the relatively recent advent of monitoring tags that can be attached to individual whales, it’s been hard to associate a given underwater sound with any specific whale.For a recent study, published in the journal Nature, researchers took advantage of several well-preserved beached whales to investigate the mysteries of the baleen whale larynx and its role in whale song. Dr. Coen Elemans of the University of Southern Denmark joins Ira to discuss the work, which included a MacGyveresque contraption involving party balloons and exercise bands that blew air at controlled pressures through preserved whale larynx tissues. The researchers found that there are limits to both the frequencies these whales can produce, and the depths at which they are physically able to sing.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
05/03/2424m 46s

What’s Behind The Measles Outbreak In Florida?

The United States eliminated measles back in 2000, but it still pops up every now and then. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of 35 measles cases across 15 states had been reported this year as of February 22. Early last month, a measles outbreak began at an elementary school in Broward County, in southern Florida. As of February 28, the Florida Department of Health reported 9 cases for Broward County—out of 10 for the whole state.Measles is one of the most infectious diseases in the world, and it has a safe and effective vaccine called MMR—for measles, mumps, and rubella—that saves lives. Kids usually get the vaccine early in life, and it provides lifelong protection.But childhood vaccination rates have declined in some areas, so preventable diseases like measles are on the rise. In Florida, the state’s surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, has been criticized for how he’s handling the outbreak—for example, by not explicitly encouraging parents to get their kids vaccinated.So how did the measles outbreak in Florida get to this point? And is it a reflection of a broader public health risk?Ira talks with pediatrician Dr. Rana Alissa, who is vice president of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and an associate professor at the University of Florida in Jacksonville. He is also joined by Dr. Paul Offit, pediatrician and director of the vaccine education center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
04/03/2417m 45s

Pythagoras Was Wrong About Music | Biochar's Potential For Carbon Capture

The Greek philosopher Pythagoras had specific ideas about the mathematical ratios behind music. It turns out that he was wrong. Also, the charcoal-like substance known as biochar packs carbon into a stable form, making it less likely to escape into the atmosphere.Pythagoras Was Wrong About MusicThe ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras proposed a mathematical argument for what music sounds best to the ear: According to legend, he said listeners preferred music with chords adhering to perfect mathematical ratios, like 3:2. This concept has persisted in modern Western music, specifically for building harmonies.But new research out of the University of Cambridge disputes this idea. A set of behavioral experiments with more than 4,000 participants in the US and South Korea found that listeners actually prefer chords with a slightly imperfect mathematical ratio, particularly when played with non-Western instruments.Tim Revell, deputy US editor of New Scientist joins Ira to talk through this story, as well as other big science stories of the week, including a big change to YouTube’s algorithm, a new battery breakthrough for electric cars, and the Smokehouse Creek Fire in Texas.Farmers And Environmentalists Alike Are Excited About BiocharIn a former biomass plant in Greenville, wood chips are flowing from hoppers into long tubes about three feet in diameter.Pat Jones is the president of Clean Maine Carbon, which burns wood in high-temperature, low-oxygen conditions known as pyrolysis. “It starts out as wood” he said. “And as you can see when we come over here what comes out the other end is biochar.”In the quest for climate solutions, Jones is among the Maine entrepreneurs banking on this charcoal-like substance. They say it can bind up carbon for decades, and improve agricultural soils at the same time.The end product has high carbon density, and is very stable, so less of the carbon will be released into the atmosphere than if it were left to decompose. So while Jones is making biochar, his business plan is focused on selling carbon credits to corporations.Read more at sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
01/03/2418m 45s

As Space Exploration Expands, So Will Space Law

Almost 70 years ago—in the middle of the Cold War—the United States and the Soviet Union kicked off the race to space, and that high-stakes sprint transformed humanity’s relationship with space forever. Ultimately the USSR launched the first satellite, Sputnik, and the U.S. put the first humans on the moon.Now we’re in a different space race. But this time, there are a lot more contenders. There are more satellites in orbit than ever before, NASA is trying to put humans on Mars, countries are still sending landers to the moon, and billionaires are using rockets as tourist vehicles. All this activity raises some serious questions: Who is in charge of space? And who makes the rules?Journalist Khari Johnson explored these questions in a recent feature for Wired magazine, featuring experts at the forefront of these issues. Guest host Sophie Bushwick is joined by two of them: Dr. Timiebi Aganaba, assistant professor of space and society at Arizona State University, and Dr. Danielle Wood, assistant professor and director of the Space Enabled Research Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They discuss the role of space lawyers, what cases they may argue, and how the rules of space—and the potential for conflicts—are evolving.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
29/02/2418m 29s

Blood In The Water: Shark Smell Put To The Test

Sharks are somewhat notorious for their sense of smell and ability to sniff out prey deep in the ocean. There’s that persistent myth that sharks can smell a drop of human blood from a mile away. But that’s not exactly true. While sharks can smell human blood, they are more interested in sniffing out what’s for dinner: other fish, crustaceans, and molluscs. Ocean currents also play a role in how far a scent can travel. However, shark noses are just as powerful as any other fish in the sea. SciFri producer Kathleen Davis talks with Dr. Lauren Simonitis, a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow in biology at University of Washington and Florida Atlantic University, about her shark nose research, and what questions remain about shark snoots.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
28/02/2417m 49s

How Trivia Experts Recall Facts | One Ant Species Sent Ripples Through A Food Web

How can some people recall random facts so easily? It may have to do with what else they remember about the moment they learned the information. Also, in Kenya, an invading ant species pushed out ants that protected acacia trees. That had cascading effects for elephants, zebras, lions, and buffalo.A ‘Jeopardy!’ Winner Studied How Trivia Experts Recall FactsWhen contestants play “Jeopardy!,” it can be amazing to see how quickly they seem to recall even the most random, obscure facts. One multi-time “Jeopardy!” contestant, Dr. Monica Thieu, noticed something interesting about the way that she and her fellow contestants were recalling tidbits of information. They weren’t just remembering the facts, but also the context of how they learned them: where they were, what they read, who they were with. Hypothesizing that for trivia superstars, information was strongly tied to the experience of learning it, she put that anecdotal evidence to the test. The results of her research were recently published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.SciFri producer Kathleen Davis talks with Dr. Thieu, a psychology researcher at Emory University, and Dr. Mariam Aly, assistant professor of psychology at Columbia University, and a co-author of the new study. They discuss the psychology of trivia, how to get better at it, and why some people seem to be much more adept at recalling fun trivia facts than others.See if you can beat a "Jeopardy!" champ on our website!How One Invading Ant Species Sent Ripples Through A Food WebWhen people talk about the interconnectedness of nature, the usual example involves a little fish that eats a bug, a bigger fish that eats the little fish, and an even bigger fish at the top of the chain. But in reality, the interconnected relationships in an ecosystem can be a lot more complicated. That was certainly the case in a recent study, published in the journal Science, which describes how the arrival of an invasive ant species changed the number of zebras that get eaten by lions on the Kenyan savannah.The unwelcome ant is known as the big-headed ant. It’s on a list of top 100 invasive species around the world. When it arrived on the African savannah, the ant newcomer muscled out a native ant species known as the acacia ant—which, though tiny, was able to help defend acacia trees from being grazed upon by elephants (picture getting a trunkful of angry ants while snacking).With the trees undefended, hungry elephants feasted, resulting in fewer trees on the savannah and more open space. That made the hunting environment less favorable to stealthy lions, and more favorable to fleet-footed zebras. But to the surprise of the researchers involved with the study, that didn’t mean hungrier lions. Instead, the lions shifted their hunting from targeting zebras to targeting buffalo instead.Dr. Jacob Goheen and Douglas Kamaru of the University of Wyoming join guest host Sophie Bushwick to describe their research, and how a small ant can have a big effect on an ecosystem.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
27/02/2424m 36s

OpenAI’s New Product Makes Incredibly Realistic Fake Videos

OpenAI, the company behind the chatbot ChatGPT and the image generator DALL-E, unveiled its newest generative AI product last week, called Sora, which can produce extremely realistic video from just a text prompt. In one example released by the company, viewers follow a drone’s-eye view of a couple walking hand-in-hand through snowy Tokyo streets. In another, a woman tosses and turns in bed as her cat paws at her. Unless you’re an eagle-eyed AI expert, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish these artificial videos from those shot by a drone or a smartphone.Unlike previous OpenAI products, Sora won’t be released right away. The company says that for now, its latest AI will only be available to researchers, and that it will gather input from artists and videographers before it releases Sora to the wider public.But the fidelity of the videos prompted a polarizing response on social media. Some marveled at how far the technology had come while others expressed alarm at the unintended consequences of releasing such a powerful product to the public—especially during an election year.Rachel Tobac, an ethical hacker and CEO of SocialProof Security, joins guest host Sophie Bushwick to talk about Sora and what it could mean for the rest of us.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
26/02/2417m 18s

Private Spacecraft Makes Historic Moon Landing | New Cloud Seeding Technique

Private Spacecraft Makes Historic Moon LandingThursday evening, the Odysseus moon lander successfully soft-landed on the moon, becoming the first U.S spacecraft to do so in over 50 years. The lander mission wasn’t created by NASA or another government space agency, but by the company Intuitive Machines, making it the first commercial mission to successfully soft-land on the surface of the moon. The mission was part of a NASA program called the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, which aims to make lunar missions faster and cheaper. There are other commercial moon missions planned for later this year. Umair Irfan, senior correspondent at Vox, joins guest host Sophie Bushwick for an update on the mission.They’ll also talk about other stories from the week in science, including the move by some automakers toward plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, work on freezing antimatter, a strange meat-rice hybrid, and progress towards a universal snake antivenom.A New Recipe For Cloud Seeding To Boost Snowfall In IdahoWe’re taught in school that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.“It usually happens like that in the lake or on the ground,” said Derek Blestrud, a Senior Atmospheric Scientist at Idaho Power.But the process differs in the sky, he said. Clouds contain supercool water that doesn’t turn to ice until it reaches about -40 degrees F. That is, unless some other substance initiates the freezing.“Water’s really dumb,” Blestrud likes to say. “It doesn’t know how to freeze unless something else teaches it how to freeze.”That’s where scientists like Blestrud step in. They help clouds produce more snow through cloud seeding, which involves releasing tiny particles that serve as nuclei for snowflakes to form.Read the rest at sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
23/02/2418m 56s

Making Chemistry More Accessible To Blind And Low-Vision People

The field of chemistry is filled with visual experiences, from molecular diagrams to color-changing reactions to data displayed as peaks and waves on a spectrograph. Those experiences and representations are not very accessible to blind and low-vision people. In a recent article in the journal Science Advances, a group of researchers describes using 3D printing to create translucent raised images known as lithophanes that can represent high-resolution chemical data in a tactile and visual form simultaneously.Biochemist Dr. Bryan Shaw joins Ira Flatow to discuss the approach, and other techniques and tools his lab group at Baylor University is developing to make the lab more accessible to blind and low-vision researchers—from specialized devices that assist in the loading of gels for protein electrophoresis, to tiny molecular models that are best experienced by putting them on the tongue.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
22/02/2416m 53s

Understanding And Curbing Generative AI’s Energy Consumption

The explosion of AI-powered chatbots and image generators, like ChatGPT and DALL-E, over the past two years is changing the way we interact with technology. Their impressive abilities to generate lifelike images from written instructions or write an essay on the topic of your choosing can seem a bit like magic.But that “magic” comes at a steep environmental cost, researchers are learning. The data centers used to power these models consume an enormous amount of not just electricity, but also fresh water to keep everything running smoothly. And the industry shows no signs of slowing down. It was reported earlier this month that Sam Altman, the CEO of leading AI company OpenAI, is seeking to raise about $7 trillion to reshape the global semiconductor industry for AI chip production.Ira Flatow is joined by Dr. Jesse Dodge, research scientist at the Allen Institute for AI, to talk about why these models use so much energy, why the placement of these data centers matter, and what regulations these companies could face.Transcripts for this segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
21/02/2417m 37s

Which Feathered Dinosaurs Could Fly? | Some French Cheeses At Risk Of Extinction

How Do You Know If A Feathered Dinosaur Could Fly?Not all birds can fly. Penguins, ostriches, and kiwis are some famous examples.It’s pretty easy to figure out if a living bird can fly. But it’s a bit tricker when it comes to extinct birds or bird ancestors, like dinosaurs. Remember, all birds are dinosaurs, but not all dinosaurs evolved into birds.Scientists at Chicago’s Field Museum wanted to figure out if there was a way to tell if a dinosaur could fly or not. They found that the number and symmetry of flight feathers are reliable indicators of whether a bird or dinosaur could lift off the ground.Ira talks with two of the study’s co-authors about their research and how it might help us understand how dinosaur flight evolved. Dr. Yosef Kiat is a postdoctoral researcher and Dr. Jingmai O’Connor is the associate curator of fossil reptiles at The Field Museum in Chicago.Sacre Bleu! Some French Cheeses At Risk Of ExtinctionThere’s bad news for the Camembert and brie lovers out there: According to the French National Center for Scientific Research, some beloved soft cheeses are at risk of extinction. The culprit? A lack of microbial diversity in the mold strains used to make Camemberts and bries.As with many foods, consumers expect the cheese they buy to be consistent over time. We want the brie we buy today to look and taste like the brie we bought three months ago. But there’s a downside to this uniformity—the strain of Penicillium microbes used to make these cheeses can’t reproduce sexually, meaning it must be cloned. That means these microbes are not resilient, and susceptible to errors in the genome. Over the years, P. camemberti has picked up mutations that make it much harder to clone, meaning it’s getting harder to create the bries we know and love.Joining Ira to talk about this is Benji Jones, senior environmental reporter at Vox based in New York City.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
20/02/2422m 33s

Climate Scientist Michael Mann Wins Defamation Case

Climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann won a defamation lawsuit against two conservative writers last week.The verdict was 12 years in the making. In 2012 writers Rand Simberg and Mark Steyn accused Mann of manipulating his data related to his famous 1998 “hockey stick” graph, which depicts rising global temperatures after the industrial revolution. Simberg compared him to former Penn State football coach and convicted child sex abuser Jerry Sandusky in a blog post for a libertarian think tank. Steyn later referenced Simberg’s article in a National Review piece, calling Mann’s work “fraudulent.”Reviews by Penn State (Mann’s home institution at the time) and the National Science Foundation, found no scientific wrongdoing. And in fact the iconic graph has since been supported by numerous studies.What does this ruling signal about the public’s understanding of climate change research? And the limitations of free speech?Ira talks with Dr. Michael Mann, professor of Earth & environmental science at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Our Fragile Moment: How Lessons from Earth’s Past Can Help Us Survive the Climate Crisis.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
19/02/2417m 56s

Odysseus Lander Heads To The Moon | Ohio Chemical Spill, One Year Later

If successful, Odysseus will be the first U.S. spacecraft to land on the moon since the Apollo mission. And, in East Palestine, Ohio, the stream that flows under residents’ houses is still polluted following a train derailment and chemical spill.Odysseus Lander Is On Its Way To The MoonJust after 1:00 a.m. on Thursday, February 15, SpaceX successfully launched a commercial spacecraft from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Its destination? The moon. If the lander—named Odysseus—makes it all the way there, it’ll be the first U.S. spacecraft to land on the moon since the Apollo mission, more than 50 years ago.If successful, this mission will also mark another historic milestone: the first commercial spacecraft to touch down on the moon.Ira talks with Casey Crownhart, climate reporter at MIT Technology Review, about this latest lunar mission and other science news of the week, including: a satellite to detect methane leaks from space, the development of lithium-sulfur batteries, the first treatment for frostbite, the development of “heart-on-a-chip” devices, a frog with a mushroom growing out of its leg, and how eavesdropping on the love songs of Skywalker gibbons helped scientists estimate their population size.A Year After Chemical Spill, Ohio Community Is Still RecoveringChristina Siceloff and Randy DeHaven walk down a short bank to Sulphur Run, a creek that winds between houses in East Palestine, Ohio. They make their way to a section of the stream about three-quarters of a mile from where the Norfolk Southern train derailed last February 3rd. Siceloff has brought a shovel, but she doesn’t even need one to show the condition of the stream. She just pushes her rubber boot into the sandy streambed, and an oily sheen erupts out of the muddy bottom, spreading on the top of the brownish-grey water.“Kind of like what you would see in a puddle at a gas station,” Siceloff said.Siceloff has brought a mask because the creek water still gives her headaches. For much of the past year, she’s been helping DeHaven and a group of volunteers document the condition of the stream. Siceloff lives a few miles away in Darlington, Pennsylvania, and could see smoke from the 2023 derailment and subsequent fire from her bedroom window. She was sick for five and a half months, as were her father and son.“I had migraines, congestion, runny nose. I had pressure in my ears, burning in my nose, eyes and throat,” Siceloff said. She now has tremors in her hands, and her eyes twitch. She sneezes in the laundry soap aisle at Walmart and can’t stand the chlorine smell at a swimming pool.In the days after the derailment and subsequent chemical spill, over 40,000 fish and other species died. DeHaven, who lives in town and has been filming the stream for much of the past year, saw it firsthand. “Most of the frogs were belly up,” DeHaven says. “There was a few fish floating, but a lot of them were just laying on the bottom.”Now, a year after the derailment, regulators say they have cleaned up the site, and that the air in town is clear.But the stream running through the middle of town is still contaminated and some in the area still worry about whether the chemicals sitting at the bottom of the stream are going to make their way into peoples’ bodies.Read more at sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
16/02/2421m 3s

One Crisis After Another: Designing Cities For Resiliency

Over the past few years, many cities around the world have changed dramatically as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with shifts in office use and commuting patterns as well as where people choose to live, work, and play. But there are other major changes to communities on the horizon as well—such as the need to adapt to the changing climate and sea level rise, and move urban infrastructure away from dependence on fossil fuels.Andy Cohen and Diane Hoskins are co-CEOs of Gensler, a global architecture and design firm, and authors of the new book Design for a Radically Changing World. They join guest host John Dankosky to talk about how design can help communities adapt to global crises, and the importance of involving local communities in design decisions.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
15/02/2417m 54s

Using Sound To Unpack The History Of Astronomy

Looking into space can be pretty daunting. How do we make sense of the vast expanse above our heads, the millions of stars we might be able to see, and the billions more we can’t?Now, what about listening to space? That’s the task that Sam Harnett and Chris Hoff gave themselves, for their series “Cosmic Visions.” They’re the team behind “The World According to Sound,” a podcast that’s brought our listeners close to the sounds of science over the last few years.This new series takes listeners through the history of astronomy and the study of the cosmos, from ancient Babylon to the Hubble Telescope. Harnett and Hoff join guest host John Dankosky to talk about why different ways of knowing are helpful for scientists, how images of nebulae share a striking resemblance to photos of the American West, and what their favorite space sounds are.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
14/02/2417m 48s

Colorectal Cancer Rates Rising In Young People | What An AI Learns From A Baby

Colorectal Cancer Rates Are Rising In Young PeopleGastrointestinal medicine practitioners have noticed something strange in recent years: More and more young people are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.It used to be incredibly rare for anyone under the age of 50 to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Cases were generally limited to people with excess weight who live a sedentary lifestyle. But practitioners are increasingly seeing people in their 40s, 30s, and even 20s without prior risk factors being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.Jennifer Fijor is one nurse practitioner who has seen this rise in cases firsthand at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health in Seattle, Washington. Jennifer has been spreading awareness about this rise on her social media accounts.Jennifer speaks with guest host Kathleen Davis about the warning signs of colorectal cancer, such as sudden changes in bowel movements, and how patients can advocate for themselves to get screened early.What An AI Learns From A Baby’s-Eye View Of The WorldThere’s a lot to learn in the first couple of years of a child’s life—not the least of which is how to talk. But little kids don’t sit down and study a vocabulary book. They soak up language from daily experiences, which are often filled with parents and caregivers saying things like “look at the kitty cat.” Scientists wondered whether an artificial intelligence model could learn about language using a similar strategy—not by being fed a curated set of pictures and words, but by eavesdropping on the day-to-day activities of a small child.They found that associating images and sounds from 60 hours of video captured by a camera mounted on a baby’s head could teach a computer model a set of several dozen basic nouns, such as “car,” “cat,” and “ball.” And the learning was generalizable, meaning that the computer was able to properly identify cars and cats that it had not seen before.Dr. Wai Keen Vong, a research scientist in the Center for Data Science at New York University and one of the authors of a study recently published in the journal Science, joins SciFri’s Kathleen Davis to talk about the research and what it can teach us about learning.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
13/02/2423m 41s

A Black Physician’s Analysis Of The Legacy Of Racism In Medicine

Uché Blackstock always knew she wanted to be a doctor. Her mother was a physician at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. Uché and her twin sister, Oni, would often visit their mother at work, watching her take care of patients. And they loved to play with their mother’s doctor’s bag.The sisters went on to become the first Black mother-daughter legacy students to graduate from Harvard Medical School.SciFri producer Kathleen Davis talks with Dr. Uché Blackstock, emergency physician and founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, about her new memoir, Legacy: A Black Physician Reckons with Racism in Medicine.Read an excerpt from Legacy at sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
12/02/2418m 2s

Faraway Planets With Oceans Of Magma | The Art And Science Of Trash Talk

Hycean planets were thought to be covered by oceans of water, but a new study suggests it could be magma instead. And, author Rafi Kohan explains the psychological and physiological responses to trash talk, ahead of Super Bowl Sunday.Faraway Planets Could Have Oceans Of MagmaFar beyond our solar system are hycean planets—planets that have hydrogen-rich atmospheres and are covered in giant oceans. Scientists have long believed that those oceans were made of water, but a new study throws a wrench in that idea, suggesting that they could actually be oceans of magma.SciFri’s John Dankosky talks with Sophie Bushwick, senior news editor at New Scientist based in NYC, about this and other science news of the week, including a new type of thunderstorm, how droughts are affecting the Panama Canal, inhalable nanoparticles that could carry antibiotics, which dog breeds live longest, and a fern whose dying leaves can sprout roots.The Art And Science Of Trash TalkAs frivolous as it may sound, the use of trash talk has a long, hilarious history that dates back to the Bible and the Homeric poems. Fundamentally, this insult-slinging is the presentation of a challenge, and it’s found its way into sports, politics, and even cutthroat family board game nights.But there’s a science to trash talk that explains why it’s stuck around all these millennia, the psychology behind it, and how it can either rev up or fluster an opponent.Just in time for the 2024 Super Bowl, guest host John Dankosky talks with Rafi Kohan, author of Trash Talk: The Only Book About Destroying Your Rivals That Isn’t Total Garbage.Read an excerpt from Trash Talk at sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
09/02/2420m 25s

Is Each Fingerprint On Your Hand Unique? | In This Computer Component, Data Slides Through Honey

A new study uses artificial intelligence to show that each of our ten fingerprints are remarkably similar to one another. Plus, honey could be the secret ingredient in building a more eco-friendly “memristor,” which transmits data through malleable pathways.Is Each Fingerprint On Your Hand Unique?We often think about each fingerprint as being completely unique, like a snowflake on the tip of your finger.But a new study shows that maybe each person’s fingerprints are more similar to each other than we thought. Researchers trained artificial intelligence to identify if a thumbprint and a pinky print came from the same person. They found that each of a person’s ten fingerprints are remarkably similar in the swirly center.Ira talks with study author Gabe Guo, an undergraduate at Columbia University majoring in computer science, based in New York City.In This Computer Component, Data Slides Through HoneyA honey bear is probably one of the weirder things you’d see in a science lab, especially in a lab making computer parts.“It’s just processed, store-bought honey,” said Ph.D. student Zoe Templin. “Off the shelf — a little cute bear so we can put it in photos.”But for Templin and her colleagues at Washington State University, Vancouver, the honey is key.“It is cheap and it is easily accessible to everyone,” said master’s student Md Mehedi Hassan Tanim.The honey also has natural chemical properties that make it a promising foundation for a new kind of environmentally friendly computer component — one that could make computing faster and more energy efficient while reducing the impact on the environment.Read the rest of this article on sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
08/02/2418m 33s

The FDA Approved The First CRISPR-Based Therapy. What’s Next?

Last month the FDA approved a new treatment for sickle cell disease, the first medical therapy to use CRISPR gene editing technology. It works by identifying the gene or genes causing the disorder, modifying those genes and then returning them to the patient’s body.There are now two gene therapies offered by pharmaceutical companies for sickle cell disease: Casgevy from Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics, and Lyfgenia from BlueBird Bio. But prices for these one-time treatments are steep: Casgevy costs $2.2 million per patient and Lyfgenia $3.1 million.Both promise a full cure, which would be life-changing for patients with this debilitating condition. Over 100,000 Americans, mostly of African descent, have sickle cell disease.This milestone raises more questions: What will be the next disease that CRISPR can help cure? And is it possible to reduce the costs of gene therapy treatments?Ira talks with Dr. Fyodor Urnov, professor of molecular and cell biology and scientific director of technology and translation at the Innovative Genomics Institute, based at the University of California, Berkeley, about the future of CRISPR-based cures.Transcripts for this segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
07/02/2418m 0s

Protecting The ‘Satan’ Tarantula | If Termites Wore Stripes, Would Spiders Still Eat Them?

A team of scientists in Ecuador is on a mission to describe new-to-science tarantula species to help secure conservation protections. And, undergraduate researchers pasted striped capes onto termites’ backs to see if a well-known warning sign would fend off predators.Protecting The ‘Satan’ Tarantula and Other Lovable Giant SpidersA team of scientists in Ecuador is on a mission to find and describe species of an understudied, often unpopular group of critters: mygalomorphs, a group of large, stocky spiders that includes tarantulas. In late 2023, two of these researchers published a paper in the journal ZooKeys describing two new-to-science tarantula species, including one named Psalmopoeus satanas—affectionately called the “Satan tarantula” because of its erratic behavior.Tarantulas are understudied in Ecuador, and there are many species left to describe. They’re also threatened by mining, agriculture, and the illegal pet trade. That’s what led Pedro Peñaherrera-R., a researcher at Universidad San Francisco de Quito to found the Mygalomorphae Research Group. Its members are working to describe these spiders and secure conservation protections before they possibly disappear.Producer Rasha Aridi talks with Peñaherrera-R. and his co-author and fellow group member Roberto José León about how the Satan tarantula earned its name, how they discover and classify spiders, and why we should all show spiders a little more love.If Termites Wore Stripes, Would Spiders Still Eat Them?The animal kingdom is filled with colors and patterns. Sometimes, those colors are to signal to members of an animal’s own species, in a mating display for instance. In other cases, a bright color or vibrant pattern serves as a warning to potential predators—a signal saying “don’t eat me, I’m toxic.” That type of warning coloration, known as aposematism, can be seen in the bright colors of a poison dart frog, or the black, white, and yellow stripes of a monarch butterfly caterpillar.Bigger animals, like birds, are known to consider that sort of warning signal when hunting. Researchers at the University of Florida were interested in whether jumping spiders might also take that sort of striped warning coloration into account when choosing their prey. To find out, they applied tiny striped capes to the backs of laboratory termites to study whether those stripes affected the behavior of hungry jumping spiders. They found that while the test spiders did notice the striped termites more than termites wearing solid colors, the spiders were less likely to attack striped termites when given the chance to do so.Behavioral ecologist Dr. Lisa Taylor joins Ira to discuss the purpose of the project—and former lead undergraduate researcher Lauren Gawel describes the challenges of trying to get termites to dress up as superheroes.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
06/02/2417m 44s

Scientists Are Uncovering A World Of ‘Dark Matter’ Carcinogens

Cancer, at its core, is a genetic disease: the result of DNA mutations that cause cells to grow out of control and develop tumors. And over the years, scientists have identified certain chemicals, called carcinogens, that are directly linked to those cancer-causing mutations, like those found in cigarettes.But the rates of some cancers, like colorectal and lung, are rising dramatically in certain populations, leaving scientists to wonder what carcinogens they might be missing, and how traditional models of detecting them are falling short.Last year, a landmark study published in the journal Nature confirmed a theory that toxicologists and cancer researchers had long suspected: that certain chemicals, like those found in air pollution, may not directly lead to cancerous mutations, but instead prime already vulnerable mutated cells to become cancerous. Some scientists have dubbed these chemicals “dark matter” carcinogens; they know they’re out there, exerting some kind of effect on increasing cancer rates, but they don’t fully understand what these chemicals are.Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University, wrote about this scientific detective mystery in The New Yorker. This week, he joins Ira to talk about how scientists are rethinking their approach to identifying carcinogens, and why he’s hopeful for the future of cancer research in light of this new paradigm.Transcripts for this segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
05/02/2417m 47s

Syphilis Cases Up 80% Since 2018 | The Largest Deep-Sea Coral Reef In The World

There has been a boom of syphilis cases, including a 180% increase in congenital syphilis cases, despite other STI levels staying stable. Also, the world's largest deep-sea reef stretches for hundreds of miles in near-freezing waters and total darkness, but it’s bustling with life.Syphilis Cases Are Up 80% Since 2018Syphilis is rearing its ugly head again in the United States. A new report on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a shocking statistic: Cases of syphilis are up by nearly 80% among adults since 2018. Congenital syphilis cases, which occur when an infection is passed from parent to child during pregnancy, are up by more than 180%.Strangely, cases of other STIs have stayed about the same or decreased in the same timeframe. Rachel Feltman, host of “The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week,” joins Ira to talk about this and other science stories from the week, including the first cases of transmitted Alzheimer’s disease, and why closing the toilet seat doesn’t keep aerosolized viruses from contaminating other bathroom surfaces.Revealing The Largest Deep-Sea Coral Reef In The WorldScientists recently discovered the largest known deep-sea coral reef in the world. It’s called Million Mounds, and it stretches from Miami, Florida, to Charleston, South Carolina, covering around 6.4 million acres of the seafloor.Unlike the colorful reefs found in sunlit tropical waters, this one is mostly made up of a stony coral that’s usually found from about 650 to 3,300 feet underwater—depths where it’s very cold and pitch black.Ira Flatow talks with Dr. Erik Cordes, marine biologist and professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who collaborated on the study. They discuss what makes deep-sea corals different from those found in shallower waters, why it’s important to map them, and what it’s like to visit one in a submarine.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
02/02/2425m 23s

Expanding Our Umwelt: Understanding Animal Experiences

Take a quick moment to think about your surroundings. Tune into your senses, and contemplate what’s happening around you. What do you see, hear, and smell? Now take a moment to imagine: What if you were a bat? How would you experience your environment differently? Maybe you could sense a nearby spider through echolocation, or feel minute changes in air pressure and temperature to know where to fly next. This world of perception is unique to each organism. It’s what scientists call umwelt, from the German word meaning “environment” or “surroundings,” and it is the subject of this month’s SciFri Book Club pick.Science writer, author, and birder Ed Yong returns to talk about how senses both familiar and foreign to us help animals experience their environment, and to tell us what he’s learned in the past year since his book, An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal The Hidden Realms Around Us (now available in paperback), was published.The SciFri Book Club read An Immense World together this January, and readers joined Yong and guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross via a live Zoom Call-in for a conversation on how writing about animals changed his experience in nature, how educators can help students become better connected to the Earth, and how readers are still connecting with his work on the umwelten of the animal kingdom.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
01/02/2417m 9s

How Signing Characters Help Deaf Children Learn Language

This radio interview is an abbreviated version of the full video interview, available with ASL interpretation on Youtube.Think back to your favorite childhood TV show—was it “Blue’s Clues”? “Little Bear”? “Winnie the Pooh”? Animated TV shows are important for kids because they can teach them to read, draw, spell, and talk. Plus, the ways these shows tell stories and create colorful, fictitious worlds can broaden children’s knowledge and capacity to imagine.But children’s shows aren’t accessible to all deaf children, which means they could miss out on a common learning experience. Among other things, that can set kids back in learning both American Sign Language (ASL) and English language skills during their formative early childhood years.Melissa Malzkuhn is third-generation Deaf and the founder and director of the Motion Light Lab at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. Her lab is creating ASL-focused children’s media that is made by and for the Deaf community, using motion capture technology, avatars, animation, and signing storytellers. She talks with guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross about ASL access in childhood, the science of learning, and how she’s creating “Here Comes Mavo!”—the first animated TV series with signing characters.Transcripts for this segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
31/01/2418m 16s

‘Mysterious’ Canine Illness: What Dog Owners Should Know

Over the past few months, there have been reports about a mysterious canine respiratory illness. It’s easy to get a little scared: Some dogs are developing a severe illness that lasts a long time and doesn’t respond to treatment. And in some cases, dogs have died.In the age of social media, it’s hard to know just how widespread this actually is, and how it compares to a more familiar canine illness like kennel cough. Joining guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross to break down this potential new pathogen are Dr. Deborah Silverstein, professor of critical care medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. David Needle, a pathologist at the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and a clinical associate professor at the University of New Hampshire.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
30/01/2417m 41s

An App For People Of Color To Rate Their Birthing Experiences | How Different Animals See

Irth is a “Yelp-like” app to help expectant parents make informed decisions by exposing bias and racism in healthcare systems. Also, a new video camera system shows the colors of the natural world as different animals see them.An App For People Of Color To Rate Their Birthing ExperiencesFor some patients, finding a good doctor can be as simple as looking up a doctor’s degrees and accolades. But for people who are more likely to experience discrimination in a medical setting—perhaps due to their gender, disability, sexual orientation or race—credentials only tell half the story. So how do you know where to go? And who to trust?One app aims to help Black and brown parents-to-be make informed decisions about where they choose to give birth. Black people who give birth in the United States are far more likely than their white counterparts to experience mistreatment in hospitals, develop complications, or die due to childbirth.Irth allows parents to leave reviews about how their birthing experience went, like: Did doctors and nurses listen to them? Was their pain taken seriously? Did they develop complications that could’ve been prevented?Guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross talks with Kimberly Seals Allers—journalist, activist, and founder of Irth—about why she founded the app and how it can help people.You can learn more about Irth and download the app on their website.Are Roses Red, And Violets Blue? Depends On Your SpeciesOver the millenia, animal eyes have evolved along different paths, adding or subtracting capabilities as they adapt to specific niches in the world. The result of all that evolution is that a bee, bird, or bull doesn’t see the world the same way you do. There are differences in the spatial resolution different animals can see, in the speed of their visual response, in the depth of focus, and in the way they process color.Dogs, for instance, can’t really see red—their vision is best at seeing things that are blue or yellow. Birds and bees can see into the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, making a flower look quite different from the way humans perceive it.This week, researchers published details of a video camera system that tries to help make sense of the way different animals view color. By combining different cameras, various filters, and a good dose of computer processing, they can simulate what a given video clip might look like to a specific animal species. It’s work that’s of interest to both biologists and filmmakers. Dr. Daniel Hanley, one of the researchers on the project and an assistant professor of biology at George Mason University, joins guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross to describe the system and its capabilities.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
29/01/2418m 27s

NASA Opens Canister With Asteroid Sample | ADHD Prescription Rates Spiked During The Pandemic

Engineers had to design bespoke tools to open the OSIRIS-REx capsule nearly four months after it arrived back on Earth. Also, prescription rates for ADHD drugs rose by 30% from 2020-2022, with large increases among women and young people.NASA Finally Opens Canister Containing Asteroid SampleNASA’s OSIRIS-REx was the first U.S. mission to retrieve fragments of an asteroid, which arrived in September 2023. There was just one small issue: NASA technicians couldn’t open the capsule, which held space rocks from an asteroid called Bennu. NASA announced this week that they finally managed to open the capsule on January 10. Engineers designed new tools to remove the final two of 35 fasteners, which would not budge.Guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross talks with Maggie Koerth, science writer and editorial lead for Carbon Plan, about the asteroid capsule and other top science news of the week, including chimpanzees catching human colds, advances toward a cure for autoimmune disorders and honeybee crimes.ADHD Prescription Rates Spiked During The Pandemic–Why?The rate of prescriptions for ADHD medications rose by 30% during the height of the pandemic, from 2020 to 2022. Most of these new prescriptions were given to people between the ages of 20 and 39. And the prescription rate for those assigned female at birth, including women and some trans people, doubled during this time as well, according to a recent study. Prescriptions for anxiety and depression medications did not rise at a similarly high rate during that time.While it’s still not entirely clear what led to this dramatic increase, experts point to several contributing factors: The pandemic changed routines and made lifelong ADHD symptoms more apparent, content creators on social media platforms like TikTok increased awareness of symptoms, and a proliferation of online pharmacies expedited diagnosis and prescriptions for ADHD medications like Adderall.Guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross speaks with Dr. Julia Schechter, co-director of Duke University’s Center for Girls & Women with ADHD, to make sense of these trends.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
26/01/2425m 15s

AI Helps Find Ancient Artifacts In The Great Lakes | An Artist Combines Indigenous Textiles With Modern Tech

Researchers in Michigan modeled a prehistoric land bridge and used AI to predict where caribou–and humans–might have traveled along it. Also, artist Sarah Rosalena uses Indigenous weaving, ceramics, and sculpture practices to create art that challenges tech’s future.Using AI To Help Find Ancient Artifacts In The Great LakesAt the bottom of Lake Huron there’s a ridge that was once above water. It’s called the Alpena Amberley Ridge and goes from northern Michigan to southern Ontario. Nine thousand years ago, people and animals traveled this corridor. But then the lake rose, and signs of life were submerged.Archaeologists were skeptical they’d ever find artifacts from that time. But then John O’Shea, an underwater archaeologist based at the University of Michigan, found something. It was an ancient caribou hunting site. O’Shea realized he needed help finding more. The ridge is about 90 miles long, 9 miles wide and 100 feet underwater.“Underwater research is always like a needle in a haystack,” said O’Shea. “So any clues you can get that help you narrow down and focus … is a real help to us.”That’s where artificial intelligence comes in. He teamed up with computer scientist Bob Reynolds from Wayne State University, one of the premier people creating archaeological simulations. And Reynolds and his students created a simulation with artificially intelligent caribou to help them make predictions.An Artist Combines Indigenous Textiles With Modern TechWhen multidisciplinary artist Sarah Rosalena looks at a loom, she thinks about computer programming. “It’s an extension of your body, being an algorithm,” she says.Rosalena, a Wixárika descendant and assistant professor of art at the University of California Santa Barbara, combines traditional Indigenous craft—weaving, beadmaking, pottery—with new technologies like AI, data visualization, and 3D-printing. And she also works with scientists to make these otherworldly creations come to life. She involved researchers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab to make 3D-printed pottery with simulated Martian clay. And she collaborated with the Mount Wilson Observatory to produce intricately beaded tapestries based on early-1900s glass plates captured by the observatory’s telescope, which women mathematicians used to make astronomical calculations.And that’s also a big focus for Rosalena: spotlighting the overlooked contributions women made to computer science and connecting it to how textiles are traditionally thought of as a woman-based craft. When she first started making this kind of art, Rosalena learned that the Jacquard loom—a textile advancement in the 1800s that operated on a binary punch card system which allowed for mass production of intricate designs—inspired computer science pioneer Ada Lovelace when she was developing the first computer program. “[They] have this looped history,” she says. “And when I weave or do beadwork, it’s also recalling that relationship.”But for Rosalena, there is tension and anxiety in her decision to combine new and ancient mediums. “We’re at this point of the technological frontier and that’s actually terrifying for a lot of people, especially for people from my background and my Wixárika background,” she says. “It’s progress for some, but it’s not for all.”Part of Rosalena’s work is anticipating future forms of colonization, especially amid rapid change in our planet’s climate and the rise of AI. “What happens when we bring traditional craft or Indigenous techniques with emerging technology to think about current issues that we are facing? Digital technologies are always chasing after ways that we could simulate our reality, which also produces this way that we could re-envision our reality,” she says.SciFri producer and host of our podcast Universe Of Art D. Peterschmidt sat down with Rosalena to talk about how she approaches her work, why she collaborates with scientists, and how she hopes her art makes people consider today’s technological advancements through an Indigenous lens.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
25/01/2417m 59s

When The ‘Personal’ Computer Turned 30

When Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple Macintosh in January of 1984, the visual user interface, all-in-one design, and mouse-controlled navigation were revolutionary. Design team member Andy Hertzfeld and industry observer Steven Levy look back on the early days of personal computing, and talk about how the Macintosh came to be.Transcripts for each segment are available on sciencefriday.com Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
24/01/2431m 16s

How The Moon Transformed Life On Earth, From Climate to Timekeeping

For almost their entire 4.5 billion-year existence, Earth and its moon have been galactic neighbors. And the moon isn’t just Earth’s tiny sidekick—their relationship is more like that of siblings, and they’re even cut from similar cosmic cloth.Without the moon, Earth and its inhabitants wouldn’t be what they are today: The climate would be more extreme, lunar tides wouldn’t have given rise to life on Earth, biological rhythms would be off-beat, and even timekeeping and religion would have evolved differently. The new book Our Moon: How Earth’s Celestial Companion Transformed The Planet, Guided Evolution, And Made Us Who We Are explores how our existence is tied to the moon’s.Ira Flatow and guest host Sophie Bushwick chat with journalist and author Rebecca Boyle about how the moon came to be, how it transformed life on Earth, and how our relationship with it is changing.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
23/01/2427m 2s

From Scans To Office Visits: How Will AI Shape Medicine?

Researchers continue to test out new ways to use artificial intelligence in medicine.Some research shows that AI is better at reading mammograms than radiologists. AI can predict and diagnose disease by analyzing the retina, and there’s even some evidence that GPT-4 might be helpful in making challenging diagnoses, ones missed by doctors.However, these applications can come with trade-offs in security, privacy, cost, and the potential for AI to make medical mistakes.Ira and guest host Sophie Bushwick talk about the role of AI in medicine and take listener calls with Dr. Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute and professor of molecular medicine, based in La Jolla, California.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
22/01/2433m 44s

Rhesus Monkey Cloned With Modified Approach Has Survived Into Adulthood

This week, a research team in China reported that it had successfully cloned a rhesus monkey, which has lived normally for over two years and reached maturity. It marks the first time that a rhesus monkey has been successfully cloned. Rhesus monkeys are used widely in medical research, making the advance potentially useful for medical trials.Cloning of primates in general has been difficult. Six years ago researchers cloned long-tailed macaques using the technique originally used for Dolly the cloned sheep. But an attempt to use that approach to clone a rhesus was unsuccessful, producing an animal that died after 12 hours. In the new work, the research team identified flaws in placental cells of previous cloned embryos. To address those flaws, they replaced the outer trophoblast cells from a developing cloned embryo with ones from an embryo created through an in-vitro fertilization technique—essentially providing cells that would develop into a normal placenta for the cloned embryo.Tim Revell of New Scientist joins Ira to talk about the work and its implications. They’ll also discuss other stories from the week in science, including the discovery of lots of ice buried under Mars’ equator, an AI that’s good at solving high school math challenges, and the discovery of four new species of octopus.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
19/01/2412m 54s

3,000 Types Of Brain Cells Categorized In Massive Brain Cell Atlas

In October 2023, an international group of scientists released an impressively detailed cell atlas of the human brain, published in 21 papers in the journals Science, Science Advances and Science Translational Medicine.The human brain has roughly 171 billion cells, which makes it a herculean task to categorize them all. Scientists collected samples from different parts of the brain and have identified 3,000 different types of cells. Each cell contains thousands of genes and each cell type only expresses a small fraction of those. Cataloging cells by their gene expressions, paves the way for scientists to tailor disease treatments to target only the affected cells. This human brain cell atlas is only the first draft, but it could signal a paradigm shift in how we understand and treat neurological diseases.Ira talks with one of the researchers who helped put together the cell atlas, Dr. Ed Lein, senior investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, and takes listener calls.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
18/01/2419m 9s

Brain ‘Organoids’: Lab-Grown Cell Clusters Model Brain Functions

Brain organoids are grown in a lab using stem cells, and can mimic the functions of different regions of the brain like the cortex, retina, and cerebellum. Though it may sound a bit like science fiction, this technology is increasingly being used to better understand brain disorders and eventually develop better treatments.Ira talks with neuroscientist Dr. Giorgia Quadrato, assistant professor of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at the University of Southern California, about the state of brain organoid research and her model that mimics the cerebellum.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
17/01/2413m 55s

The Lasting Allure Of Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’

In a conversation from March 2023, the maritime archeologist who found the storied wreck discusses the mission and his new book.There are few stories about heroic survival equal to Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic rescue of his crew, which turned disaster into triumph. In August of 1914, 28 men set sail from England to the South Pole. Led by Shackleton himself, the group hoped to be the first to cross Antarctica by foot. However, their ship, the Endurance, became stuck in ice. It sank to the bottom of the frigid Antarctic waters, leaving most of the men stranded on a cold, desolate ice floe.Shackleton, with five of his crew, set out in a small boat to bring help from hundreds of miles away. Finally, after many months of fighting the cold, frostbite and angry seas, Shackleton was able to rescue all his men with no loss of life.Over the years, there have been many attempts to find the Endurance shipwreck. None were successful until a year ago, when the wreck was located for the first time since it sank back in 1915. Ira is joined by Mensun Bound, maritime archeologist and the director of exploration on the mission that found the Endurance. His new book, The Ship Beneath the Ice: The Discovery of Shackleton’s Endurance, is out now.View more images of Shackleton’s last expedition from the Library of Congress.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
16/01/2418m 47s

How Close Are We To Answers About Aliens?

The idea of creatures from another planet is part of our culture, from the warnings of the alien in “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” to the plaintive desire to return home in “E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” to the hulking creature of “Nope.” Aliens appear in movies, books, comics, you name it. But are they more than science fiction? And if they were, how would scientists prove it?The government has investigated reports of alien sightings, including in Project Blue Book, which ran from 1947 to 1969. And last summer, congressional hearings into Navy pilots’ sightings of Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAPs) brought the search for intelligent life back into the public eye. But there’s more to the search for alien life than people spotting lights in the sky. Projects such as Breakthrough Listen are surveying the stars for signals. Advanced telescopes such as JWST are enabling us to collect data on the atmospheres of exoplanets, a first step in detecting biosignatures on distant worlds. And astrobiology projects such as the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission are looking for signs of ancient life elsewhere in our own solar system.Dr. Adam Frank, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester and author of The Little Book of Aliens, joins hosts Ira Flatow and Kathleen Davis to talk about the evidence for life elsewhere in the universe, and how scientists might go about trying to answer the question of whether we’re alone.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
15/01/2433m 22s

NASA Delays Crewed Moon Missions | Top Technologies To Watch In 2024

With this week’s delays to Artemis II and III, astronauts likely won’t walk on the moon until 2026 at the earliest. Also, weight-loss drugs, AI, clean-energy tech and more: digging into MIT Technology Review’s annual list with executive editor Amy Nordrum.NASA Once Again Delays Artemis Crewed Missions To the MoonThis week, NASA announced that it was delaying two of its planned crewed missions to the moon. Artemis II, which was scheduled to launch in November 2024, was pushed to September 2025. And Artemis III, originally planned for late 2025, is now looking at a September 2026 launch date. The Artemis campaign has faced challenges with its lunar landers, spacesuits, life-support systems, and the Orion capsule’s heat shield, according to NASA. When launched, Artemis II will swing around the moon and return to Earth, while Artemis III will land on the south pole of the moon, and will mark the first time humans have walked on the moon since 1972.Joining Ira to talk about this and other top science stories in the news this week is Casey Crownhart, climate reporter at MIT Technology Review. They talk about challenges facing the offshore wind industry, a Hawai‘i coal plant that was replaced by a battery farm, why AI weather forecasting is not ready for primetime, and a new discovery that giant apes went extinct earlier than we thought—and for a different reason.Top Technologies To Watch In 2024The technology world moves so fast, it can be hard to know what to pay attention to. Sometimes it’s helpful for someone to tell you straight up who the big players are, and what technologies really could change the world.Luckily for us, MIT Technology Review compiles an annual list of the 10 breakthrough technologies they say matter most. This year, that list ranges from super-efficient solar panels to weight-loss drugs, and AI in just about everything.Joining guest host Kathleen Davis to discuss this year’s list is Amy Nordrum, executive editor at MIT Technology Review based in Boston, Massachusetts.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
12/01/2424m 33s

To Get Ready For Mars, NASA Studies How The Body Changes In Space

It’s no longer just the realm of science fiction: It’s possible that in our lifetimes, astronauts will go to Mars. NASA is doing a lot of technological preparation for this, but the key to the success of these missions will be the astronauts involved. As Mars space missions will require months or even years on the red planet, the agency wants to better understand how our bodies are affected by time in space.NASA recently launched the Complement of Integrated Protocols for Human Exploration Research, or CIPHER. This is a suite of 14 studies astronauts will undergo on the International Space Station, measuring everything from bone health to brain activity to vision changes.Joining Ira to talk about CIPHER and the hopes for health data collection is Dr. Cherie Oubre, CIPHER project scientist in NASA’s human research program based in Houston, Texas.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
11/01/2417m 52s

Science Journalism Is Shrinking–Along With Public Trust In Science

In 2023, a flood of science journalists lost their jobs. At the same time, public trust in science continues to decline.Last year was a tough one for science journalism. National Geographic laid off all of its staff reporters, and Wired laid off 20 people. And the most recent blow came in November, when Popular Science announced it would stop publishing its magazine after a 151-year run, and laid off the majority of its staff.Beyond talented journalists losing their jobs, many people seem to be losing trust in science in general. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that only 57% of Americans think science has a mostly positive effect on society, down considerably since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.Is the waning trust in science reflected in the shrinking of science journalism?Ira talks about the current state of science journalism with Deborah Blum, science journalist, author, publisher of Undark magazine, and director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Sabrina Imbler, author and science reporter for Defector.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
10/01/2417m 30s

(Part 2) Endangered Species Act At 50: Orchids And Red Wolves

Continuing our exploration of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) at its 50th anniversary, we'll look at how it has helped protect a group of at-risk plants: orchids. Eight species of orchid are recognized as endangered under the ESA—and all of the world’s approximately 30,000 species are considered threatened, and entitled to trade restrictions. Ira speaks with Dr. Matthew Pace, orchid scientist and assistant curator of the Steere Herbarium at the New York Botanical Garden, about threats to orchid conservation.And finally, Ira speaks with Dr. Ron Sutherland, chief scientist at the Wildlands Network in Durham, North Carolina. Sutherland has an extensive background in red wolf conservation in the southeastern United States.Red wolves are one of the most endangered mammals in the world, with only an estimated 20 living in the wild and 267 in captivity. They discuss the dramatic swings in federal conservation efforts for red wolves, and why Sutherland isn’t ready to give up on this endangered species.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.  Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
09/01/2418m 33s

(Part 1) Endangered Species Act at 50: Hawaiian Land Snails

On December 28, 2023, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) turned 50 years old. It was enacted in 1973 with almost unanimous support in Congress, with a goal to save plants and animals from extinction. It’s considered one of the most important environmental policies in US history, and it transformed conservation. It may have even helped save one of your favorite critters, like humpback whales, bald eagles, manatees, and grizzly bears.To mark the ESA’s 50th birthday, we’re looking at how it works, how successful it’s been, and what its future may look like. Ira starts off by talking with Dr. Judy Che-Castaldo, biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Branch of Species Status Assessment Science Support.Then, we head to the extinction capital of the world: Hawai‘i. Kāhuli, also known as Hawaiian land snails, live all over the Hawaiian islands. At one point, around 750 species existed, but more than half have gone extinct. Ira talks with two conservationists dedicated to saving the snails: Dr. David Sischo, coordinator of the Hawai‘i Snail Extinction Prevention Program, and Keahi Bustamente, Maui Nui field coordinator for the program.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
08/01/2417m 19s

Solar Activity Flares Up In 2024 | Underground Hydrogen Reserves And Clean Energy

Look out for a total solar eclipse, more solar flares, and the Parker Solar Probe’s closest approach to the sun. Also, underground hydrogen stores have raised renewable energy hopes, but can the industry overcome the logistical hurdles of distributing it?Solar Activity Flares Up In 2024Look out 2024—this is going to be the sun’s year (for science, at least). There will be a total solar eclipse on April 8, and scientists are seeking volunteers to help them observe the event. Researchers also expect an uptick in solar activity—that means more sunspots and solar flares, which could increase the amount of auroras the Earth experiences and also might disrupt satellites and power systems on the ground. Plus, NASA’s Parker Solar probe is on track to make its closest pass to the sun yet in December, a mere 3.8 million miles from its surface.Umair Irfan, staff writer with Vox, sits down with Ira to talk about these and other science stories from this week, including why greenhouse gas emissions might actually start to fall this year, research showing that apes are able to recognize each other after decades apart, and the discovery of an enzyme that makes your pee yellow.Could Underground Hydrogen Reserves Put Clean Energy Within Reach?In 1987, a crew in the village of Bourakébougou, Mali, was digging for water. After drilling 108 meters deep, they still hadn’t found any, but the resulting borehole produced a steady stream of wind. When a driller lit a cigarette near the hole, the wind ignited, burning the worker. It took weeks for the crew to put out the blue flame, which produced no smoke, and they eventually capped the hole. It remained sealed until 2012 when a local oil and gas company reexamined it and found that the original crew had stumbled upon an underground store of naturally occurring hydrogen. They converted a Ford engine to burn the gas and soon connected it to a generator, providing electricity for the village.Hydrogen has long been touted as a source of renewable energy with the potential to replace fossil fuels to power transportation and factories. When burned, its only output is water—with no carbon emissions—making it extremely attractive as a clean energy source. But producing commercial hydrogen involves splitting water molecules into their hydrogen and oxygen components, an energy-intensive process typically powered by fossil fuels.But splitting water isn’t the only way to get hydrogen: It also occurs naturally in underground reservoirs when water heated by the planet’s mantle mixes with iron-rich rocks. The oil and gas industry hasn’t prioritized the search for these underground stores of hydrogen, but more of them have been found lately, including a potentially massive one in Lorraine, France that was discovered last year.Dr. Geoffrey Ellis, a research geologist at the United States Geological Survey, joins Ira to talk about hydrogen’s potential as a clean fuel, why finding stores of it has been a lower priority than finding oil and natural gas, and the hurdles the industry faces as it aims to expand.Correction: In the original interview about hydrogen reserves, our guest stated that there may be as much as 500 million megatons of hydrogen in the Earth’s crust. This number is incorrect, the actual estimate is 5 million megatons. The audio has been updated to reflect the correct number.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs onsciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
05/01/2425m 6s

SciFri Reads ‘The Alchemy Of Us’

You may have an idea of how our inventions have changed human history and transformed our relationship with the world. But the reverse can also be true. Hear from materials scientist Ainissa Ramirez, author of The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another, on the way our values and stories are baked into the things we create—and the lesser-known people who have helped bring them into reality.This event was a part of the SciFri Book Club read for November 2023. Watch the live zoom event on Youtube.Find out more about our book club on our main page. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
04/01/2436m 55s

SciFri Reads ‘The Kaiju Preservation Society’

What does it take to write a believable kaiju—as well as a charming group of scientists and explorers—onto the page? The SciFri Book Club invited John Scalzi, award-winning author of our August 2023 pick, The Kaiju Preservation Society, to discuss worldbuilding on an alternative Earth; combining ecology, biology and cultural touchpoints to create new giants; and how he used a lifetime of scientific curiosity to write a sci-fi romp in five weeks during a global pandemic.This event was a part of the SciFri Book Club read for August 2023.Watch the live zoom event on Youtube.Find out more about our book club on our main page. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
03/01/2446m 38s

Star Trek’s Science Advisor Reveals The Real Astrophysics On Screen

Few pop culture properties have lasted quite as long as Star Trek. A dozen Star Trek television shows have aired over the last sixty years—not to mention countless movies, novels, and comic books. Science concepts have always been integral to the Star Trek franchise: from warp speed travel to dilithium. But how much does the series accurately depict?Ira speaks with astrophysicist Dr. Erin Macdonald, science consultant for Star Trek about the legacy of the franchise, and how accurate the science is within the series.The transcript for this segment is available at sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
02/01/2429m 20s

A Mathematician Asks ‘Is Math Real?’

The concept of math has been around for a long time, developing independently in many different cultures. In 1650 BC, the Egyptians were creating math textbooks on papyrus, with multiplication and division tables. Geometry, like the Pythagorean theorem, was used in ancient Greece. And negative numbers were invented in China around 200 BC.Some mathematical concepts are easier to understand than others. One apple plus one apple equals two apples, for example. But when it comes to complex equations, negative numbers, and calculus, concepts become abstract. All that abstraction prompts some to wonder: Is math even real?Mathematician Dr. Eugenia Cheng has heard this question many times over her career. The quandary is the basis of her latest book, Is Math Real?: How Simple Questions Lead Us to Mathematics’ Deepest Truths. She joins Ira from Chicago, Illinois.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
01/01/2434m 2s

Unmasking Owls’ Mysteries | Why It Feels So Good To Eat Chocolate

Unmasking Owls’ MysteriesDon’t let owls’ cute faces fool you—they’re deadly predators. This duality is part of what makes them so mysterious to humans. And their contradictions don’t end there: Their hoots are among the most distinctive bird sounds, yet owls are nearly silent when gliding through the air to catch their prey.Scientists are learning more about why owls are such good predators—how their hearing and night vision are so sharp, and their flight so silent. With new technology, researchers are also decoding owl communications, increasing our understanding of their social structures and mating habits.John Dankosky talks about all things owls with Jennifer Ackerman, author of the new book, What An Owl Knows: The New Science of the World’s Most Enigmatic Birds.Why It Feels So Good To Eat ChocolateWhen you eat a piece of good chocolate, chances are you don’t just bite down and chew away. There’s a good chance you hold the chocolate in your mouth for a moment, feeling the silkiness as it softens, melting into a molten mass and mixing with your saliva. That gradual phase change process—as fats in the chocolate melt from solid to liquid—is a big part of the chocolate mouthfeel experience.Researchers at Leeds University in the UK have constructed an artificial tongue that doesn’t focus on the taste of a food, but rather its texture, and how that texture changes over time. Using the artificial tongue, they explored the textures of materials that can change phase in the mouth, such as chocolate, butter, and ice cream. They reported their findings in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. The researchers found that in dark chocolate, the sensation in the mouth is governed largely by the fat content, as the surface of the chocolate begins to soften. A few moments later, as the chocolate melts completely and mixes with saliva, the fat content of the treat is less important to the mouthfeel experience.Dr. Anwesha Sarkar, an author of the report, joins Ira to talk about the research, the challenge of designing a lower-fat chocolate that might exploit these findings, and the importance of learning about textures to determine why people like—and don’t like—certain foods. Transcripts for each segment are available on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
29/12/2320m 41s

SciFri Reads ‘The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2023’

The editors of this year’s The Best American Science and Nature Writing anthology—and special guest journalists and writers—took to the virtual stage to reflect on their favorite stories from 2023, the biggest news from this year in science, and the future of scientific discovery and journalism.The guests:Carl Zimmer is the author of many science books, including Life’s Edge: The Search of What it Means to Be Alive and She Has Her Mother’s Laugh. He’s also the guest editor of The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2023, and is based in New York, NY.Jaime Green is a science writer and author of The Possibility of Life: Science, Imagination, and Our Quest for Kinship in the Cosmos. She is also the series editor of The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2023, and is based in Connecticut.Marion Renault is a health and science writer based in Grenoble, France. Their essay, A French Village’s Radical Vision of a Good Life with Alzheimer’s, is featured in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2023.Maryn McKenna is a senior fellow at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Human Health, a former senior writer at Wired, and the author of many books, including Big Chicken, Superbug, and Beating Back the Devil. Her essay, The Provincetown Breakthrough, is featured in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2023This event was a part of the SciFri Book Club read for December 2023. Watch the live zoom event on Youtube.Find out more about our book club on our main page. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
28/12/2354m 7s

The Unseen World Of Seaweeds | Should 'Dark Fungi' Species Get Names?

The Unseen World Of SeaweedsChances are you don’t give much thought to seaweed unless you’re at the beach, or perhaps when you’re considering a dinner menu. But the thousands of seaweed species around the world are a key part of our coastal ecosystems.Seaweeds photosynthesize, provide food and shelter for marine animals, stabilize the coastlines, and even contribute to making your ice cream creamier (through an ingredient called carrageenans, extracted from red seaweeds in the Rhodophyceae family). Increasingly, they’re also being investigated as a source of biofuels and as biological factories, due to their fast-growing nature.Dr. John Bothwell, a phycologist at Durham University in the UK, has written a book in praise of seaweeds. In Seaweeds of the World: A Guide To Every Order, he highlights beautiful, unusual, and important species from each of the three seaweed lineages—green, red, and brown. In this segment, he talks with SciFri’s Charles Bergquist about some of his favorite species, where the seaweeds fit into the web of life, and the importance of seaweeds to the global ecosystem.“Dark Fungi” Species Don’t Get Names. Should They?Scientists have collected DNA samples of thousands of new fungus species over the past several decades. These fragments of fungal DNA are found nearly everywhere—in soil, decomposing logs, water, and even in the air. Mycologists have enough data to place these new species within the fungal family tree, but haven’t collected physical samples of them or been able to grow them in a lab. This means that according to the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants, these new species cannot receive scientific names.How can you understand a fungus that has no name? SciFri producer Shoshannah Buxbaum talks with fungal taxonomist Dr. David Hibbett, professor of biology at Clark University, about a proposal to give these “dark fungi” scientific names, and why naming living things might help us better protect the Earth’s biodiversity.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
27/12/2330m 12s

How 'Panda Diplomacy' Led To Conservation Success

In 1972, pandas arrived at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC, to huge fanfare. Since then, pandas have been some of the city’s most beloved residents.But for the first time in more than 50 years, DC is panda-free—indefinitely. Mama panda Mei Xiang, papa bear Tian Tian, and their youngest cub Xiao Qi Ji returned to China in November when their leases ended. This is possible because all but a few pandas residing outside of China are on loan through agreements with the country.It’s not just the National Zoo waving its pandas goodbye—the Memphis Zoo’s single panda returned to China in April, and Zoo Atlanta’s pandas will go later in 2024. The news of the pandas’ departure seemed sudden, and it stirred up some questions: Why are the pandas leaving? And why now?The news resurfaced the idea of panda diplomacy—how China introduced pandas to the world by loaning them out to other countries and using them as a symbol of cooperation.SciFri producer Rasha Aridi and freelance journalist Aja Drain look back at 80 years of panda conservation, and how panda diplomacy paved the way for groundbreaking science. And they try to answer the multi-million dollar question: Was it all worth it?This story was produced by Rasha Aridi, with help from Aja Drain. Edited by John Dankosky, with help from D. Peterschmidt and Emma Gometz. All our music and sound design is by D. Peterschmidt.Special thanks to the experts we spoke with: Dr. Chee Meng Tan, Dr. Pierre Comizzoli, Dr. Mel Songer, Michael Brown-Palsgrove, Dr. Rich Bergl, Dr. Jack Liu, Dr. Binbin Li, as well as Dr. E. Elena Songster, environmental historian at Saint Mary’s College of California, and Dr. Carolyn Lin, professor of communication at the University of Connecticut.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
26/12/2330m 10s

Music’s Emotional Power Can Shape Memories—And Your Perception Of Time

It can be hard to avoid the chime of classic Christmas songs at this time of year. Certain songs may even bring up potent memories, transporting a person to a specific moment in the past, like an afternoon baking cookies as a child, or warming up after playing in the snow.Music, when coupled with emotion, has the ability to create powerful memories. And listening to songs associated with specific memories can almost feel like going back in time.Better understanding how this mechanism works is the work of Assistant Professor Dr. David Clewett and PhD candidate Mason McClay, both in UCLA’s cognitive psychology department. They talk with SciFri producer Kathleen Davis about how this method could be used to improve therapies for PTSD and other memory disorders.Transcripts for this segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
25/12/2316m 21s

Top Science News Stories of 2023 | Solar Panels In Historic Cape Cod

The Top Science News Stories of 2023As the year comes to a close, we wanted to reflect on some of the top science stories of 2023: Scientific breakthroughs that will shape our lives in 2024 and beyond. Research that’s shifted how we understand the universe. And even a story or two that put a smile on our faces.In 2020, the story of the year was the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines. And while there are now updated versions of those, vaccine development has gone much further. This year we saw approval of two exciting new vaccines, for RSV and malaria.SciFri’s director and senior producer Charles Berquist talks with Sophie Bushwick, incoming senior news editor at New Scientist about this years vaccine breakthroughs and other top science news of the year, including a new generation of weight loss drugs, record high temperatures, completion of the human pangenome, an asteroid sample’s arrival on Earth, ripples in space-time, AI to understand pets’ emotions and T. rex’s new smile.Solar Panels In Historic Cape Cod: Who Decides Where ‘Modern’ Fits?Cape Cod is home to one of the largest historic districts in the country. In the 80 square miles that make up the Old Kings Highway Historic District, the goal of preservationists is to maintain a certain look. So from Sandwich to Orleans, some 45,000 people who live north of Route 6 are required to get approval from local historic committees for solar installations that are visible from a public way. Over the last few decades, many property owners who’ve had their solar plans challenged or denied have described the committees’ decisions as inconsistent, arbitrary, and subjective.But the committees remain steadfast: tourists and locals alike love seeing historic buildings preserved. And solar panels on the front of a house can read like billboards for modernity.“When you start messing with the street view of your house, we have a legal right, on behalf of the public, to make a judgment of the appropriateness of it,” said Jim Wilson, administrative counsel for the Old Kings Highway Regional Historic District Committee, which sets standards and hears appeals of rulings by town committees.The preservationists’ mandate is only to approve solar panels on homes when they present a minimal visual impact on the neighborhood. And that standard is often the source of the argument: what defines a minimum visual impact?Read the full story at sciencefriday.comTranscripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
22/12/2317m 52s
-
-
Heart UK
Mute/Un-mute