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Hr2: Tongue Muscles, Jill Tarter, Aging Aircraft

From Science Friday - Astronomer and SETI co-founder Jill Tarter reflects on her career as an alien hunter. Plus, simple exercise seems to be an effective way to keep the tongue muscles toned, and a look under the skin of aging aircraft.


Science Friday
Covering everything about science and technology -- from the outer reaches of space to the tiniest microbes in our bodies -- Science Friday is your source for entertaining and educational stories and activities. Each week, host Ira Flatow interviews scientists and inventors like Sylvia Earle, Elon Musk, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and more.

Hr2: Tongue Muscles, Jill Tarter, Aging Aircraft
2017-09-08 12:00:00
Astronomer and SETI co-founder Jill Tarter reflects on her career as an alien hunter. Plus, simple exercise seems to be an effective way to keep the tongue muscles toned, and a look under the skin of aging aircraft.
46 minutes, 13 seconds


CRISPR, Colors, Narwhals. June 15, 2018, Part 2
2018-06-15 14:18:15
Over less than a decade, the gene-editing technique known as CRISPR-Cas9 has taken the biology world by storm. But two new studies indicate that there could be a downside to the CRISPR approach. Did you know a blue jay's feathers and a butterfly's wings aren't actually blue? Neither are your blue eyes. From the colors we see in flowers and birds, to the hues we use in art and decoration, there's more than one way to make a rainbow—and it all starts with molecules and structures that are too small to see. The elusive narwhal has captured the imaginations of many people. Now, scientists have outfitted a group of narwhals with audio tags that allowed them to capture their echolocation and communication sounds. 


Dinosaurs, Celebrating Cephalopods. June 15, 2018, Part 1
2018-06-15 14:17:21
Like a kraken rising from the depths (or a cuttlefish emerging from the sand), Cephalopod Week is back! Every year, Science Friday spends a week honoring the mighty, clever, mysterious cephalopod. This year, Field Museum curator Janet Voight joins Ira and SciFri's chief cephalopod cheerleader Brandon Echter to talk about the unusual and brainy behaviors of these creatures—including a squid that uses bioluminescent bacteria to camouflage itself—and whether cephalopods could someday become a model organism as ubiquitous in labs as mice and fruit flies.  The story of the dinosaurs is one that's been told over millennia. But within the last few decades, what we thought we knew about their rise and fall is being rewritten.  Plus: A look at the latest science stories of the week, and a look at why Chicago Park District may shut down half of its outdoor drinking fountains. 


Mars Organics, Museum Collections, Kelp Farming. June 8, 2018, Part 2
2018-06-08 13:33:43
In 1832, less than a year into the first voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin found a beetle in Argentina. Turns out, discovering new species in the depths of museum archives is not so uncommon. 180 years later, an entomologist who happened to specialize in rove beetles requested an assortment of samples from London's Natural History Museum. There, among 24 pinned beetle specimens, was Darwin's rove beetle. Dozens of such tales of are told by biologist and author Christopher Kemp in his new book The Lost Species. He describes the treasure hunts and serendipitous finding of species like the ruby seadragon and the olinguito, and why there may be many more discoveries waiting in the backlogged shelves of museums around the world. And Regina Wetzer, associate curator and director of marine biodiversity at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, explains how combining centuries-old museum specimens with modern techniques may help turn up new clues in understanding the past, present, and future of Earth's biodiversity. This week, scientists published a study in the journal Science that described organic molecules—building blocks for life—in mudstone near Gale Crater, a 3.5 billion-year-old dry lakebed. Another study measured methane in the Martian atmosphere that varied with the seasons.  Astrobiologist Jennifer Eigenbrode, who is an author on those studies, discusses what this reveals about how ancient water and rock processes may have worked on the planet, and what the findings tells us about the possibility of life on the Red Planet. Plus: While it has been a tradition in many Asian cultures for centuries, kelp farming only reached U.S. shores in recent decades—and in part due to its environmental benefits. Ira is joined by Science Friday video editor Luke Groskin and Suzie Flores, a kelp farmer featured in our latest Macroscope video, to discuss the new wave of kelp farming.    


Ocean Conservation, Dark Matter Hunt. June 8, 2018, Part 1
2018-06-08 12:44:58
Planets, stars, and physical "stuff" make up a tiny fraction of the universe. Most of the universe's mass is instead invisible dark matter, which makes itself known not by luminance, but by its gravitational influence on the cosmos. The motions of galaxies and stars require dark matter to be explained. Yet despite decades of searching and millions of dollars spent, physicists still haven't been able to track down a dark matter particle. In this segment, physicists Jodi Cooley and Flip Tanedo, and Gizmodo science writer Ryan Mandelbaum talk about how experimentalists and theorists are getting creative in the hunt for dark matter. Plus: Earlier this year Brazil made headlines and received accolades from ocean conservation advocates for turning 900,000 square kilometers of ocean in its exclusive economic zone into a marine protected area. That's the good news. But the question remains: Does that 10 percent really need protecting? Natalie Ban, associate professor at the University of Victoria, tells Ira more. And Tanya Basu, science editor at The Daily Beast, joins Ira to talk about advances in breast cancer research and more science headlines in this week's News Round-up.


Sea Floor Mapping, Hurricane Season Forecast. June 1, 2018, Part 2
2018-06-01 13:33:44
The deep sea is the largest habitat on Earth, but it's also one of the least understood. As mining companies eye the mineral resources of the deep sea—from oil and gas, to metal deposits—marine biologists like London's Natural History Museum's Diva Amon are working to discover and describe as much of the deep sea as they can. Amon has been on dozens of expeditions to sea, where she's helped characterize ecosystems and discover new species all over the world. And she says we still don't know enough about deep sea ecology to know how to protect these species, the ones we've found and the ones we haven't yet, from mining. But accessing the deep ocean is expensive; it can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 a day to run a research ship. So roboticists and artificial intelligence designers are developing underwater drones to map and sniff out the secrets of the deep with the help of sophisticated chemical sensors.  June 1 marks the start of the official "hurricane season" in the Atlantic, the time when powerful storms are most likely to spin their way out of the tropics. Each year, teams of forecasters try to anticipate the number and severity of storms to come. Some try to run climate models that simulate atmospheric behavior over multi-month timeframes, while other teams rely on statistics and comparisons with historic data for their estimates of the upcoming storm season. Michael Bell, co-author of Colorado State University's seasonal hurricane forecast, says that after looking at factors including Atlantic sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear levels, and El Niño, their team is predicting 13 additional named storms during the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season (in addition to Alberto, which formed before the Atlantic hurricane season began). Of those storms, the forecast calls for six to become hurricanes and two to reach major hurricane strength. That's in line with a separate forecast from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center estimating between 10-16 named storms and 5-9 hurricanes.  


Scientist Politicians, Microbiome, Wildlife Car Accidents. June 1, 2018, Part 1
2018-06-01 12:48:08
This year's midterm elections have seen an upswing in the number of scientists running for office. There are approximately 60 candidates with STEM backgrounds in the races for federal offices, and 200 for state positions, according to 314 Action, an advocacy organization that helps scientists run for office. But why would a scientist want to leave the lab for the Hill? According to volcanologist and Congressional candidate Jess Phoenix, "Science by definition is political because the biggest funder of scientific research in our country is the government." And Aruna Miller, who is a Maryland State Delegate for District 15 and a former civil engineer for the Department of Transportation, says that "Your job as an engineer isn't only your profession. It is to be a citizen of your country.... You have to be engaged in our community." By now, we all know about the microbes that live in our gut and digestive tract—different species of bacteria living together in the same environment. Now researchers are trying to learn more about what keeps these bacteria living together in harmony. Scientists suspect the secret "microbe whisperer" is actually a member of the immune system—a molecule called immunoglobulin A. That molecule keeps the gastrointestinal system free of pathogens and, researchers hope, might one day be used to combat diseases of the digestive tract. States like Wyoming and Montana are high risk for wildlife-vehicle collisions. These accidents result in expensive damages and sometimes even death for both wildlife and drivers. One group of scientists found an unlikely solution. You've probably driven by one before and not noticed it, but wildlife reflectors are poles on the side of the road. There have been a lot of studies on reflectors, but Riginos said the results are mixed and not very impressive. So Riginos and her team developed an experiment. They'd cover up some reflectors, leave others uncovered, and then compare the results. "We covered them with this cheap, easily available and durable material, which just happened to be white canvas bags," Riginos said. And to their surprise—the bags turned out to be more effective than the reflectors. "We could actually see that in the white bags situation, that the deer were more likely to stop and wait for cars to pass before crossing the road, instead of just running headlong into the road," said Riginos.


AI Conversation, Robot Trust, AI Music. May 18, 2018, Part 2
2018-05-25 12:48:28
Should autonomy be the holy grail of artificial intelligence? Computer scientist Justine Cassell has been working for decades on interdependence instead—AI that can hold conversations with us, teach us, and otherwise develop good rapport with us. She joined Ira live on stage at the Carnegie Library of Homestead Music Hall in Pittsburgh to introduce us to SARA, a virtual assistant that helped world leaders navigate the World Economic Forum last year. Cassell discusses the value of studying relationships in building a new generation of more trustworthy AI. Robot assistants talk to us from our phones. Home robots have faces and facial expressions. But many of the robots that might enter our lives will have no such analogs to help us trust and understand them. What's a roboticist to do? Madeline Gannon, a Carnegie Mellon research fellow, artist, and roboticist for NVIDIA, trains industrial robots to use body language to communicate, while Henny Admoni, psychologist and assistant professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, teaches assistive technology to anticipate the needs of its users.  The pop hits of the future might be written not by human musicians, but by machine-learning algorithms that have learned the rules of catchy music, and apply them to create never-before-heard melodies. Those tunes may not even require human hands to be heard, because a growing army of musical robots, from bagpipes to xylophones, can already play themselves—even improvise too. We talk with computer scientist Roger Dannenberg and artist-roboticist Eric Singer about the implications of computerized composition, and unveil a song created by AI. (We'll let you judge whether it's worthy of the top 40.)


Sleep Questions, Portable Museums, Digital Health Records. May 25, 2018, Part 1
2018-05-25 12:46:27
What's the difference between being fatigued and sleepy? Do melatonin and other sleeping aids work? And what can you do if you just can't sleep?Neurologist and sleep specialist W. Chris Winter, author of the book The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It, talks about how the brain and body regulate sleep. He also gives ideas for controlling your behavior to improve your "sleep hygiene."  Science museums can be a fun and educational way to spend a day—but what if you don't have a day? What if there's no museum near you? Or what if you don't think you like science enough to spend money on an entry fee? All of these are reasons one nonprofit is working to shrink the museum, and bring it to you—starting with the Smallest Mollusk Museum. It's a vending machine-sized exhibit on the slimy tricks, strange brains, and ecological importance of snails, squids, octopuses, and their chitinous cousins. Amanda Schochet, co-founder of the project and a former computational biologist, explains what goes into making a small museum that can still share big ideas. In recent years, medical providers have largely moved away from scrawled paper charts to electronic health records. But a team of researchers argues that the transformation of medical records hasn't gone far enough. While there has been widespread adoption of electronic health records, most are just static, flat translations of the format of the old fashioned paper file. If we can subscribe to specific categories of news online, the researchers say, why shouldn't medical specialists be able to subscribe to a given patient's medical records to get updates and alerts of specific interest to them? Why shouldn't medical teams be able to get notifications and share information when patients needing special care plans arrive at the hospital? Plus, a satellite launched this week would aid in planned Chinese lunar exploration.  


Psychedelics With Michael Pollan And Intel Student Science Fair. May 18, 2018, Part 2
2018-05-18 13:58:48
In his latest book, How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan writes of his own consciousness-expanding experiments with psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin, and he makes the case for why shaking up the brain's old habits could be therapeutic for people facing addiction, depression, or death. Pollan and psychedelics researcher Robin Carhart-Harris discuss the neuroscience of consciousness, and how psychedelic drugs may alter the algorithms and habits our brains use to make sense of the world.  This week, science students gathered in Pittsburgh for the finals of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a competition founded by the Society for Science and the Public. Nearly 2,000 students from 75 countries came to present their projects. Two of the finalists share their projects: Everett Kroll discusses how he created and tested an affordable 3D-printed prosthetic foot, while Alyssa Rawinski explains how she studied the feasibility of using mealworms to recycle plastics. 


Consciousness In 'Westworld,' Heart Cells On Graphene, Bike Safety App. May 18, 2018, Part 1
2018-05-18 13:47:47
In HBO's series Westworld, human-like robots populate a theme park where human guests can have violent, gory adventures in the Wild West without the repercussions. The robots are so lifelike that they fool the visitors and themselves. They bleed, die, grieve, and love—thinking themselves human. But as Westworld's robots grow increasingly independent of their repetitive, programmed loops, the show incites viewers to question whether AI can truly be autonomous or conscious—and who in this story deserves empathy. Roboticist Robin Murphy and neuroscientist Steve Ramirez discuss the show's science and social commentary.   The jury is still out on whether graphene—the carbon-based substance people have called "wonder material"—will be part of every gadget in the future, but scientists are finding it to be an extremely powerful tool in the biomedical laboratory. In a study out this week in the journal Science Advances, scientists used graphene's electrical properties to stimulate lab grown heart cells that could be used in patients after they've had a heart attack. Plus, a Pittsburgh cyclist designed a crowdsourcing navigation app to help other city bikers find the safest roads to travel.


Does Time Exist, Elephant Seismology, Produce Safety. May 11, 2018, Part 2
2018-05-11 13:35:13
How do you think about time? Most people experience it as Newton described it—as something that passes independent of other events, that's the same for everyone, and moves in a straight line. Still, others have come to embrace Einstein's view that time instead forms a matrix with space and acts like as a substance in which we are submerged. But physicist and author Carlo Rovelli has an even different approach to time. He's working on a way to quantify gravity in which time doesn't exist.  An adult African elephant can weigh as much as two tons. Their activities—walking, playing, even bellowing—might shake the ground beneath them. But new research finds that the signals from an elephant's walk are capable of traveling as far as three kilometers, while a male elephant might be detectable a full six kilometers away with just seismological monitoring tools. This new research could protect endangered elephants from poaching. The E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce has now spread to 29 states, and it's claiming more victims. The CDC now reports that 149 people have been infected, more than a dozen have developed kidney failure, and one victim has died. In this segment, Ira talks with Rachel Noble, a molecular biologist at the University of North Carolina, about current methods of testing farm fields for pathogens like E. coli, which can take 24 to 48 hours to show results, and a DNA test Noble has developed that could cut that to less than an hour.


Hawaii Eruption, Antibiotic Resistance, Florida Sea Rise. May 11, 2018, Part 1
2018-05-11 12:48:24
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano—located on the Big Island—has been continuously erupting for the past 30 years. But on May 3, magma began spewing through fissures in the Puna district, forcing nearly 2,000 residents to flee. Reporter Ku`uwehi Hiraishi of Hawaii Public Radio spoke to residents in the area of these 15 fissures and describes what type of evacuation efforts have been happening on the ground. Ten years ago, Dr. Gautam Dantas had one of those rare moments you hear about in science—a serendipitous discovery. He and his colleagues were trying to kill some bacteria they had collected from soil. So, naturally, they tried knocking them out with some antibiotics. They were unsuccessful. The soil bacteria were resistant to the drugs—but the bacteria ate the very antibiotics that were meant to kill them. The discovery came as a shock to Gautam and he says it changed the course of his career. According to middle-of-the-road predictions, seas will rise by as much as two feet by 2060 in South Florida. Residents of Miami and surrounding counties have already seen that rise in action. Citing a lack of action at the state and federal level to help the region adapt and plan, the editorial boards of three major newspapers, The Miami Herald, The Sun Sentinel, and The Palm Beach Post, are teaming up. The papers say the new The Invading Sea project will prioritize sea level rise as an issue in this year's midterm elections. And Sophie Bushwick of Popular Science tells Ira about how the Leaning Tower of Pisa has managed to withstand weather, wars, and earthquakes, among other science headlines in this week's News Round-up.


DNA Privacy, Dog Cognition. May 4, 2018, Part 2
2018-05-04 15:33:51
Genetic testing sites are nothing new. They've grown enough in popularity over the past decade that the idea of spitting into a tube and sending it in the mail to a website to find out more about your family tree—or even your risk of certain inherited diseases—doesn't seem all that strange to most people. But the case of the Golden State Killer has brought to light many questions about the direct-to-consumer genetic testing market that still need answering. Dr. Amy McGuire, professor of biomedical ethics at Baylor College of Medicine discusses the risks we take when we share genetic information online. Plus, Natalie Ram, assistant professor of law at the University of Baltimore School of Law discusses how this new era of genetic research is butting up against the criminal justice system. Sit. Come. Stay. Your dog knows how to do it all, and she even seems to understand what you're saying. But every dog owner has probably wondered what exactly is going inside the mind of their prized pooch. Does Spot really understand what you're saying, or is he just trained by the treat bag? Does Fluffy have a concept of time? And how do our furry companions make sense of the world? Neuroscientist Gregory Berns has trained dogs to sit inside fMRI scans to see what happens inside their brains.


Chasing Pluto, Space Warps. May 4, 2018, Part 1
2018-05-04 15:33:17
In July of 2015, the world was stunned to learn that Pluto, a tiny, distant dot that some didn't even consider a planet, was a dynamic, complex, and beautiful world. But for scientists in pursuit of Pluto's secrets since the late 1980s, it was a long wait. The mission faced political hurdles, budget battles, technical challenges, and near-disaster even as it was days away from speeding past Pluto. Alan Stern, the mission's dogged principal investigator, and astrobiologist David Grinspoon have written a new book about the decades-long effort to visit Pluto. Last week we asked you to help us spot galaxies magnified by other galaxies—a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. Over a million galactic glimpses later, we're ready to reveal what we found, including a galaxy more than seven billion light years away, and what appears to be a rare triple galactic lens. In this wrap-up segment, Space Warps co-founder Aprajita Verma and Zooniverse co-lead Laura Trouille share their favorite finds, and suggest a few other projects for armchair astronomers to dig into next. Plus, the end of net neutrality seemingly benefits corporations and harms consumers. But for small towns with slow internet speeds, this may not be the case. What does it mean for slow internet in rural Kansas?  And Rachel Feltman of Popular Science tells Ira about coral reefs and other science headlines in this week's News Round-up.


Frozen Frogs, Yeast, Paleobotany. April 27, 2018, Part 2
2018-04-27 12:48:02
When winter comes, animals have several options for survival. They can leave their habitats entirely for warmer environments, search for a cozy cave, or even find insulation under a toasty snowbank. And if you're a wood frog in chilly Ohio or Alaska, or the larvae of a certain wingless midge in Antarctica, you might also just stay put, and freeze solid until the sun returns. But to survive such extreme low temperatures, the bodies of these animals have made some special adaptations: sugars that act like antifreeze, and processes for keeping ice outside their cells to protect their tissues. Yeast helps your bread to rise and beer to brew, but did you know that there's yeast in the guts of insects? Or that your body is covered—and filled—with yeast cells? In this segment, recorded live in Miami University's Hall Auditorium in Oxford, Ohio, mycologist Nicholas Money helps Ira uncover the hidden world of the humble fungus. His new book "The Rise Of Yeast" details some of the ways that the ubiquitous microorganism has helped shape civilization, from baking to biotechnology. Paleontologists and anthropologists might look to the fossilized bones of early hominins to help fill in the evolutionary story of our species. But paleoecologists like Denise Su, curator and head of paleobotany and paleoecology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, are more interested in what type of environments these early human ancestors were living in millions of years ago.


Historical Climate Change, Weighing Galaxies, Great Lakes Water Rights. April 27, 2018, Part 1
2018-04-27 12:46:44
It's not uncommon these days to hear scientists and journalists say that our planet is experiencing record-setting temperatures due to climate change. But they're talking about a small part of Earth's history—human history. The story of the earth's climate contains much more than what human beings have recorded. In their new book, Weather: An Illustrated History, longtime climate reporter Andrew Revkin and co-author Lisa Mechaley track the incredible range of climate history. They condense that history—from the formation of Earth's early atmosphere to the invention of temperature, the tracking of tornados and the discovery of greenhouse gases—into a digestible timeline of 100 weather-related events. Science Friday is partnering with citizen science platform Zooniverse to help a team of astrophysicists identify galaxies showing an astronomical phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. Gravitational lensing occurs when the light coming from a galaxy, quasar, or other bright object is bent and distorted by a massive object in front of it, giving the light the appearance of passing through a "lens," like how an image appears through a magnifying glass. These lenses are rare, but incredibly neat. So, a gravitational lens essentially allows us to weigh a galaxy. Pretty cool, right? But, we need your help to find more lenses! With the aid of the citizen science website Zooniverse, everyone can take part in this real, cutting-edge area of research. You can help contribute to making a real discovery! Plus, on this week's State of Science, Foxconn's Lake Michigan bid raises questions about interpreting a young law—when water is public and when it isn't.      


Ocean Migrations, Deep Divers, Summer Skies. April 20, 2018, Part 2
2018-04-20 14:22:04
Every night, the largest migration on Earth happens underwater, as jellies, crustaceans and fish swim up hundreds of meters towards the surface to feed. Those daily pilgrimages might also create propulsive jets behind the animals capable of stirring ocean waters, according to research in the journal Nature. Stanford engineer John Dabiri and his team investigated that phenomenon in the lab using brine shrimp (commonly known as sea monkeys). He joins Ira to discuss the theory. Plus: Consider the spleen. Many may not appreciate or even think about them very much at all, unless they've had them removed, but the Bajau people of Southeast Asia rely on them every day without even knowing it. The Bajau are "sea nomads," meaning they get everything they need to live by diving up to 65 feet under water, multiple times, for up to 8 hours a day. But it's not their large lung capacity that give them an advantage during a dive—it's their extra large spleens. Dr. Melissa Ilardo, post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Molecular Medicine at the University of Utah, and Dr. Cynthia Beall, Professor of Anthropology at Case Western Reserve University, join Ira to discuss the spleen and other evolutionary adaptations that allow humans to survive in extreme environments. And it's been a hard road getting there this year, but spring is finally in the air in much of the country. And that means summer is not far away, bringing with it warmer temperatures and lazy nights made for stargazing. Dean Regas, outreach astronomer at the Cincinnati Observatory and co-host of the PBS series 'Star Gazers,' joins Ira to talk about some of the highlights of the summer night skies, from planets to constellations to meteor showers.


Drone Radar, Fracking Seismology, Massive Earthquakes. April 20, 2018, Part 1
2018-04-20 14:21:03
The 1783 eruption of Laki in Iceland lasted eight months, blanketing parts of the island in lava flows 50 feet deep, and spewing noxious gases that devastated crops and poisoned livestock. Tens of thousands died in Iceland, but the eruption killed millions more around the world, when ash from the eruption cooled the Earth, ushering in an icy winter, and weakening monsoons across Africa and Asia. In her new book The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them), seismologist Lucy Jones describes the devastation of Laki and other geological disasters. She joins Ira to discuss natural calamities throughout human history, from Pompeii to Fukushima, and why humans have such trouble planning for and responding to the uncertainty of natural disasters. The evidence is mounting that hydraulic fracturing—fracking—is causing at least some increase in earthquakes in the U.S. From Oklahoma to Ohio, researchers have linked spikes in earthquakes to the added pressure of water too close to fault lines. Often these quakes have been linked to post-operation wastewater injections. But when will a fracking operation itself cause an earthquake? Miami University geologists Michael Brudzinski and Brian Currie join Ira to discuss their findings in the bedrock of eastern Ohio. Plus: Humans have made the world a pretty tough place for our fellow species to live. As a species, we're raising global temperatures, destroying natural habitats, and littering the oceans with our junk. But that's not bad news at all for one adaptive bacteria. In 2016, scientists discovered that Ideonella sakaiensis had evolved to produce an enzyme that enabled it to eat plastic bottles. Now this week, scientists have discovered a way to tweak that enzyme to do the work 20 percent faster. Popular Science senior editor Sophie Bushwick joins Ira to discuss how researchers are looking to harness the bacteria's penchant for plastic trash, and other science headlines, in the News Round-up. And in the State of Science, we check in on Springfield Beckley Municipal Airport in Ohio, where a new drone radar system takes flight. Ann Thompson of WVXU in Cincinnati tells Ira more.


Immunotherapy, The Evolution Of Eyebrows, Unconventional Bird Calls. April 13, 2018, Part 2
2018-04-13 13:40:25
Tumors are masters of disguise. The field of immunotherapy—teaching our immune system to recognize cancer—is burgeoning with solutions to this problem.  The eyes may be the window to the soul, but it's our eyebrows that are doing all the talking. The ability to wiggle those two hairy features around isn't just some party trick, it's almost like a secret language—one that even our ancient ancestors used to their advantage.  One of the first signs of spring are the sounds of birds chirping in search of food, nesting grounds, and a potential mate. But sometimes those bird calls aren't coming from the source you'd expect. In some species, female birds also use calls, and a group of hummingbirds creates calls with their tail feathers. 


Beach Health, Extraterrestrial Communication, Maggots. April 13, 2018, Part 1
2018-04-13 12:48:49
Some private citizens, scientists, and entrepreneurs are sending some focused messages through the cosmos, which could theoretically be intercepted by any technologically advanced civilizations among the stars, essentially advertising the existence and location of Earth. Is it ethical to do that—or could it needlessly put humanity at risk? Beach nourishment, the process of dredging up sand from the seafloor to replenish eroding beaches and protect coastal ecosystems, has a history that goes back to the 1920s expansion and widening of the beach at Coney Island. But does it work as intended? And where does all that sand go once it's placed? These days, people are thinking about how to put maggots to good use before we die. That means we have to get over the ick factor and actually study these creatures. What do they eat, when do they eat, how much do they eat, and at what rate?


Levee Wars, New Neurons, Animal Farts. April 6, 2018, Part 2
2018-04-06 14:35:11
The mighty Mississippi is shackled and constrained by a series of channels, locks, and levees. The height of those levee walls is regulated by the Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that riverside districts equally bear the risk of flooding. But some districts have piled more sand atop their levees to protect against imminent flood risk during emergency conditions—and then left those sandbags there after the danger passed, leaving a system of levees with irregular heights. A team of investigative reporters at ProPublica has shown that those higher levee walls protect the people and developments behind them, but shift the risk of flooding onto neighboring communities who have followed the rules. A new study reported in Cell Stem Cell this week found evidence of new neurons and their stem cell progenitors in brains as old as 79, some with numbers of neurons on par with younger brains. Columbia University neurobiologist and study author Maura Boldrini describes the work, and why we're still resolving questions about aging brains. Not all farts are created equal—some animals don't have the affinity for flatus, while others use their stench strategically. Zoologist Dani Rabaiotti and ecologist Nick Caruso, authors of the book Does It Fart? The Definitive Field Guide to Animal Flatulence, discuss how there really is much more to flatology (the study of flatulence) once you get a closer whiff.   


Celebrating '2001: A Space Odyssey' And Whales. April 6, 2018, Part 1
2018-04-06 14:34:39
On April 3, 1968, hundreds of audience members walked out of the theatrical premier of a strange, long, dialogue-sparse science fiction film. Now regarded as one of the greatest science fiction films of all time, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey was first met with harsh reviews from critics. Writer and filmmaker Michael Benson, author of the new book Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece, reflects on the film's 50-year legacy, painstaking hand-crafted special effects, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of its making. The endangered North Atlantic right whale population took a big hit last year with a record number of animals killed by fishing gear entanglements and ship strikes. Now, the declining numbers of right whales has sparked a debate about the impact of Maine's lobster industry on the dwindling numbers. Humpback whales are known for their complex songs and melodies, but bowhead whales are the "jazz singers" of the baleen deep sea singers, according to oceanographer Kate Stafford. She explains why these whales might have such a diverse songbook.  Plus, why health and science scams are going undetected on Facebook. 


13,000-Year-Old Footprints, Climate Court, Native Bees, Cell Phones And Cancer. March 30, 2018, Part 1
2018-03-30 14:08:07
Planting tomatoes in the garden this year? Better hope you have bumblebees too, because tomato flowers need a good shaking to get the pollen out. "What the bumblebee does is grab a tomato flower, curve its abdomen around the bottom of the tomato flower, and then shiver its wing muscles at a specific frequency, shaking pollen out of the holes like a salt shaker," says Paige Embry, author of Our Native Bees: North America's Endangered Pollinators and the Fight to Save Them. This week, a panel of peer reviewers met for three days to discuss a draft report on two long-running studies on the potential health effects of cell phone radiation. In their conclusions, and voted to increase the level of confidence in the findings, saying that there was a clear link between the radiofrequency radiation exposure and the male rat heart tissue tumors. The National Toxicology Program now has to decide whether to accept the panel's recommendation before the final report is released.    In this week's State of Science, a judge requested a climate science tutorial in a federal lawsuit where two California cities are suing the oil company Chevron. In an unprecedented courtroom tutorial on climate science, Chevron went on record agreeing with the scientific consensus that people are causing global warming. But the company also deflected any responsibility for it under federal law and played up uncertainties in projections for both the volume and future consequences of greenhouse gas emissions. The tack signals a potential legal defense against financial liability for climate change impacts such as rising sea levels.      


Predicting Gun Deaths, Bat Flight, New Organ. March 30, 2018, Part 2
2018-03-30 13:31:52
According to CDC data, more than 13,000 people die from gun homicides every year—and most of them are people of color who live in urban areas. Many of them are children. But as scientists seek to understand the causes and solutions for gun deaths, can we also learn to predict them...and even intervene before they happen? One researcher may have the answer: social media analysis.  Friendly neighbors. Olympic divers. Little horses with wings. No matter what you call the commonly misunderstood bat, they're far more than simple nocturnal blood-drinkers. Bats have an impressive repertoire of noteworthy abilities—from super echolocation to agile, muscular wings. It's a subject that has both inspired and lured scientists, like Sharon Swartz, a biologist who researches bat flight at Brown University. In this segment, she discusses how she takes a close look at the aerodynamics and wing morphology of these creatures to pin down the evolutionary origins of bat flight. Scientists have discovered a new piece of human anatomy we never knew we had—a layer of connective tissue that exists all over the body. It sits below the skin's surface, lining the digestive tract, the lungs, and even our blood vessels. Researchers say it could be the missing link the medical community needs to move forward in a number of areas of research, including cancer and autoimmune disease.    


Dung Microbes, Gun Research, Airplane Germs, Kepler Mission. March 23, 2018, Part 2
2018-03-23 13:35:39
Guns kill more people in the United States than alcohol—from homicides and suicides, to mass shootings like the one that left dead 17 high school students in Parkland, Florida last month. But public health researchers will tell you that studying alcohol-related deaths is much easier. Gun research is so fraught politically that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't fund it (though the National Institutes of Health did for three years during the Obama presidency), and a pair of Congressional amendments continue to throw red tape on funding and access to certain kinds of data. Could private foundations, universities, and state governments fill the gap? Most zoo visitors go to see the animals. U.C. Santa Barbara chemical engineer Michelle O'Malley visits for their poop. That's because the dung of grazers like sheep, giraffes, and elephants is rich in cellulose-chomping fungi and bacteria. She joins Ira to talk about the bacterial and fungal communities within poop. When you fly on an airplane, you're trapped inside a metal tube for a few hours with hundreds of other passengers, sharing the overhead compartments, lavatories, and air. It feels like there's a good chance for disease to spread in flight—but just how likely is it? New research maps out the risks. Plus, NASA launched the Kepler space telescope in 2009, with plans for it to operate for about three and a half years. Now, nine years later, the telescope is close to running out of fuel.    


Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
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