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Gene-Editing Humans, Asymmetry, Ancient Whale Ancestor. Nov 30, 2018, Part 2

From Science Friday - The first CRISPR-edited babies are (probably) here. The news raises social, ethical, and regulatory questions—for both scientists and society. Then, why are human bodies asymmetrical? A single protein could help explain why. And finally, ever wondered how whales got their mouth bristles? It's possible that they went through a phase where they sucked up their food like vacuums before they evolved baleen.

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.

Gene-Editing Humans, Asymmetry, Ancient Whale Ancestor. Nov 30, 2018, Part 2
2018-11-30 14:03:50
The first CRISPR-edited babies are (probably) here. The news raises social, ethical, and regulatory questions—for both scientists and society. Then, why are human bodies asymmetrical? A single protein could help explain why. And finally, ever wondered how whales got their mouth bristles? It's possible that they went through a phase where they sucked up their food like vacuums before they evolved baleen.
47 minutes, 26 seconds

Future Telescopes, Caterpillars. Dec 14, 2018, Part 2
2018-12-14 13:58:26
28 years ago, astronauts on the space shuttle Discovery gently raised the Hubble Space Telescope, or HST, up from the shuttle bay, and released it into space. Geologist and astronaut Kathryn Sullivan commemorated the moment with a short speech, as she floated in the shuttle. It would be a few years (and a repair job) before the truly historic nature of the telescope was revealed, showing us new views of the cosmos, and wonders it wasn't even designed to study, like exoplanets. But Hubble is getting up there in years, and it's time for new history to be made. Lots of new telescopes are waiting in the wings: The James Webb Space Telescope, W-FIRST, plus a collection of others vying to be the next big thing in space telescopes. Caterpillars might be the squirming, crawling larval stage of butterflies and moths, but they have defenses, behaviors, and lives of their own. Second grader Nina Del Bosque from Houston, Texas was stung by an asp caterpillar. She wanted to know about other stinging caterpillars in the world and what role they play in the ecosystem—so she sent Science Friday a handwritten letter with her questions. We invited Nina on the show with biologist David Wagner, author of Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History, to talk about the stinging asp caterpillar, the woolly bear, and all things caterpillar. View a few of these unique critters below.

Cancer Immunotherapy, Raccoons, Frog Calls. Dec 14, 2018, Part 1
2018-12-14 13:57:47
For years, cancer treatment has largely involved one of three options—surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. In recent years, however, a new treatment option, immunotherapy, has entered the playing field. It has become the first-line preferred treatment for certain cancers. Immunotherapy is a class of treatments that use some aspect of the body's own immune response to help battle cancer cells. There are several different approaches, each with their own advantages and weaknesses.This year, the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo "for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation." The Nobel committee called their discoveries a landmark in our fight against cancer. Treatments based on their work are now in use against several forms of cancer, with many more trials underway. Still, the approach doesn't work in all cases, and researchers are working to try to better understand why. How do raccoons keep getting into people's trash? It might just be one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of our time. No matter what kind of fancy lid, bungee cord, or alarm system we use, somehow these masked creatures always find a way into our smelly garbage. But are they just dexterous or actually smart? Lauren Stanton, Ph.D. candidate in the Animal Behavior and Cognition Lab at the University of Wyoming, joins Ira to talk about testing the animal's smarts. City mouse and country mouse aren't just characters from stories—cities are unique ecosystems built by humans, and animals adapt when they move into urban areas. Researchers recently compared the calls of male túngara frogs in Panama that lived in the forest with those in the city. They found that the city frogs had more complex calls and that female frogs preferred these calls—but the less complex calls of country frogs made them easier to hide from predators. Biologist Alex Trillo, an author on the study, talks about the costs and benefits of changing calls for the túngara frog.

Microbes and Art, Science Books 2018. Dec 7, 2018, Part 2
2018-12-07 13:46:53
Here at Science Friday, our jobs involve reading a lot of science books every year. We have piles and piles of them at the office. Hundreds of titles about biology and art and technology and space, and sometimes even sci-fi. Now, the time has come for our annual roundup of the books we couldn't forget. We have plenty of picks from you, our listeners, as well as from our panel of expert guests: Stephanie Sendaula of Library Journal Reviews, Deborah Blum of MIT's Knight Science Journalism Program, and Dr. Eric Topol of Scripps Research. See our favorite science books of 2018 here. Fungi, bacteria and lichens can grow on paintings, monuments, and other types of artwork. They feed on different pigments, oils, and canvas. In a study out this week in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers analyzed a 17th century painting and found microbes that could degrade and others that could protect the painting. Robert Kesseler, the Director of the Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute (who was not a part of that study), discusses why microbes like to munch on paintings and what can be done to protect these works of art.    

Hemp and CBD, Phytosaurs, Mosquito Control. Dec 7, 2018, Part 1
2018-12-07 12:51:37
Good news could be coming soon for anyone interested in hemp, the THC-free, no-high strain of cannabis whose use ranges from fibers to food to pharmaceuticals. If the 2018 Farm Bill passes Congress in its current form, growing hemp would be legal and products derived from hemp would be removed from their current legal gray area. Cornell horticulture professor Larry Smart explains why a plant that hasn't been grown legally in the U.S. for nearly a century will require a monumental effort from scientists to catch up to crops like soybean and tomatoes. Plus, Dr. Esther Blessing, an assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone Health, breaks down where the research stands on other uses of CBD, and what we still don't know. Then: Mass extinctions are a window into past climate disasters. They give a glimpse of the chemical and atmospheric ingredients that spell out doom for the Earth's biodiversity. Scientists have identified five big mass extinctions that have happened in the past. The end Triassic mass extinction—number four on the list—happened around 200 million years ago, when three-quarters of the Earth's species went extinct. But the exact play-by-play is still a mystery. Paleontologist Randy Irmis at the Natural History Museum of Utah and his team are searching for phytosaur fossils, and Science Friday producers Katie Hiler and Lauren J. Young joined him in the field. Plus, could the answer to controlling mosquitos be...more mosquitos? Or, at least, more mosquitos with a bacterial infection. We check in with Valley Public Radio reporter Kerry Klein on the State Of Science. And it's been a big week for space news. Science Friday director Charles Bergquist joins Ira for the News Round-up.  

Gene-Editing Humans, Asymmetry, Ancient Whale Ancestor. Nov 30, 2018, Part 2
2018-11-30 14:03:50
The first CRISPR-edited babies are (probably) here. The news raises social, ethical, and regulatory questions—for both scientists and society. Then, why are human bodies asymmetrical? A single protein could help explain why. And finally, ever wondered how whales got their mouth bristles? It's possible that they went through a phase where they sucked up their food like vacuums before they evolved baleen.

Climate Report, Wind Energy, SciFri Educator Collaborative. Nov 30, 2018, Part 1
2018-11-30 14:02:38
This Monday, Mars fans rejoiced as NASA's lander Mars InSight successfully parachuted safely onto the large, flat plain of Elysium Planitia. In the days that followed, the lander successfully has deployed its solar panels and begun to unstow its robotic arm. Learn more about the landing, plus the latest science news.  Then, wind energy development is spreading around the nation. But as developers move to identify promising locations for wind farms, however, they may need to consider more than just logistics, wind speeds, and distribution lines. Researchers report that "wake effects" from one wind farm can sap the energy of a downwind generating facility as far as 50 km away. Part II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment describes how every part of our society and every state in our country will be impacted by a warmer world. Not just by hurricanes, floods and wildfires, but by more rainfall in the Midwest, thawing permafrost in Alaska, and drier air in the Southeast.  And finally, calling all science educators! We're teaming up with science educators across the country in our Science Friday Educator Collaborative Program, in which educators work with SciFri staff to develop resources for science learners everywhere. Applications are open now. 

Caves And Climate, Environmental Archeology, Scanning The Past. Nov 23, 2018, Part 2
2018-11-23 09:00:00
When you think of an archaeologist, you might imagine a scientist in the field wielding shovels and pickaxes, screening through dirt to uncover artifacts and structures buried deep in the ground. But what about those areas that you can't reach or even see? That's when you call archaeologist Lori Collins from the University of South Florida. Collins uses LIDAR—a detection system that uses lasers—to map out the cracks and details of a prehistoric cat sculpture created by the Calusa people, sinkholes that pop up in Florida, and even a former NASA launch pad. She talks how this technology can preserve these archaeological finds in the face of climate change, natural disaster, and war. When archaeologists unearth past societies, the story of those people is written in human remains and artifacts. But it's also written in environmental remains: bones of animals, preserved plants, and even the rocks around them. Kitty Emery and Nicole Cannarozzi, both environmental archaeologists at the Florida Museum, lead an onstage expedition through the earliest known domestication of turkeys in Guatemala and Mexico, the 4,000-year-old shell middens of indigenous people of coastal Southeast United States, and even sites that could tell us more about the African American diaspora and the lives of slaves mere hundreds of years ago. Plus, the two archaeologists tell us how understanding the environmental choices of past people can lead to better insight into ourselves. Sea level rise and fall over hundreds of thousands of years. Ancient vegetation. The diets of early human ancestors and the temperatures they lived in. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and how it changed over time. All of these are data sought by paleoclimatologists, who study the prevailing climate during times past. And the clues of this data are buried in the rock formations of caves around the world. Paleoclimatologist and cave researcher Bogdan Onac of the University of South Florida travels from New Mexico to Romania to Spain to find the stories hidden in millenia-old cave ice, bat guano, and rock formations. He joins Ira to tell tales from the trail.

2018 Ig Nobel Prizes. Nov 23, 2018, Part 1
2018-11-23 09:00:00
When you go to the zoo, maybe you imitate the chimps, copying their faces, their gestures, or their walk. But it turns out the chimps imitate you just about as often—and as well, according to scientists. Other researchers have found that a trained nose can detect the odor of a single fly floating in a glass of wine. And that sometimes, a trip to the amusement park may be an effective treatment to aid in the passage of kidney stones.   These projects are among the 10 selected by the editors of the Annals of Improbable Research to be honored at this year's 28th first annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremonies. The prizes, awarded in September at Harvard's Sanders Theatre, salute work that "first makes you laugh, and then, makes you think."

California Fires, Fire Engineering, Flu Near You. Nov 16, 2018, Part 1
2018-11-16 14:14:37
When wildfires strike, the conversation typically centers around natural factors: forest management, climate change, or hot dry winds that fan the flames. But there's another important factor in wildfire risk: what humans build. Not just where we build, adjacent to flammable landscapes, but how we build it. Fire historian Stephen Pyne joins us to talk about what we might learn from the way we build in big city centers, where we've been largely successful at stamping out big blazes, and Sascha von Meier of UC Berkeley tells us a few ways power companies might fortify the grid to avoid sparking fires. And could California use more planned burns to prevent forest fires? Molly Peterson of KQED tells us more. Plus: Flu season has already begun, and Science Friday is teaming up with Flu Near You to recruit a national team of everyday citizens to build a real-time map of the rise and fall of influenza-like-illness in the United States. It's as simple as reporting how you feel each week. Science Friday education director Ariel Zych and Flu Near You co-founder John Brownstein of Boston Children's Hospital kick off the project with information and some of the trends they'll be tracking throughout the season, and biologist Matt Smith tells about the dangers of flu season for people living with cystic fibrosis. Plus, Annalee Newitz joins Ira to tell us the latest science news in the News Round-up.

Smell Science, Reader Come Home, Sonar Smackdown. Nov 16, 2018, Part 2
2018-11-16 14:13:46
If you had to give up one of your senses, which would you pick? If you think that "smell" might be the obvious answer, consider that your nose plays a crucial role in how you perceive the taste of your food or that it's a sophisticated sensor capable of synthesizing the hundreds of different molecules into the floral fragrance we know as "roses."  University of Florida professor Steven Munger explains the nuances of smell. Plus: The digital world is changing how we read. What does that mean for the next generation of readers? As Maryanne Wolf describes in her newest book, Reader, Come Home, we may be at risk of raising a generation of people who don't have those skills simply because of our changing reading habits. She joins Ira to discuss how our reading brain has changed since moving into the digital world and what we can do to fall in love with reading again. Are you team bat? Or team dolphin? Earlier this month at the Acoustical Society of America Conference two groups of scientists argued the finer points of each animal's echolocation excellence. Things got heated, words were exchanged. But in this battle between the sonar specialists, which creature comes out the winner? To settle the debate, two researchers join Ira for a good, old-fashioned "rumble on the radio." Laura Kloepper, assistant professor at St. Mary's College backs up the agile, winged masters of the sky, while Brian Branstetter, research scientist at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego, vouches for the swift swimmers of the sea. Both are ready for Science Friday's first ever "Sonar Smackdown."

Immigration and the Microbiome, Spice Trends. Nov 9, 2018, Part 1
2018-11-09 14:07:24
'Tis the season for pumpkin spice lattes. Even if you're not a fan of the fall beverage, we've all been touched by the 15-year dominance of Starbucks' signature PSL (that's pumpkin spice latte in coffee lingo) and its pumpkin spice spawn. So what is it about pumpkin spice that made it a blockbuster, not just today, but centuries ago? And how do spice makers predict if something is going to be a hit or a bust? Senior flavorist Terry Meisle and food scientist Kantha Shelke join guest host Flora Lichtman to talk about spice trends old and new. Plus: Last week, researchers described the differences between ethnic Hmong and Karen people living in Thailand, to members of same groups after recent emigration to the United States. Not only were the new U.S. residents likely to have different microbes than those living in Thailand, but the diversity of their gut microbiota was much lower. This change persisted and even worsened in the second generation. Study co-author Dan Knights, a professor of computational microbiology at the University of Minnesota, explains the findings. Plus, NYU Medical School professor Martin Blaser weighs in on our growing understanding of how our gut microbes interact with our health, and the declining diversity of gut microbes in developed nations. Also, it's not aliens—probably. Ryan Mandelbaum of Gizmodo joins Flora to talk about the mysterious object Ê»Oumuamua and other science stories of the week in the News Round-up.      

Heart History, Disease Seasonality, Beatboxing. Nov 9, 2018, Part 2
2018-11-09 14:06:56
The case presented a medical mystery. A man had entered his doctor's office complaining of chest pain, so his doctors ordered an angiogram, an X-ray of the arteries of his heart. His condition was serious: a complete blockage of one of his coronary arteries, and a severe dysfunction of his left ventricle. The doctor realized his patient had been having a heart attack for more than 24 hours. On the face of it, nothing would seem unusual about the case. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the U.S., claiming more than 600,000 lives a year. But this case was different. This man had none of the risk factors. He wasn't diabetic, or a smoker, and had no hypertension. Even more confounding: He was only 30 years old. He was, however, of South Asian descent—a group that suffers a disproportionate risk of heart problems with no obvious cause, according to cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar. Jauhar writes about that, and the daring and sometimes tragic treatments that revolutionized how we fix the heart, in his new book Heart: A History. He joins guest host Flora Lichtman to talk about it. You've heard of flu season, of course (consider this your friendly reminder to get a flu shot!). But a surprising number of other illnesses also have a seasonal component, peaking at certain times of the year. Chickenpox outbreaks peak each spring, for instance, while polio historically tended to surge in the summer. Micaela Martinez, an environmental health researcher at Columbia University, believes that all infectious diseases may have some seasonal aspect to them. She collected information on almost 70 different human diseases from African sleeping sickness to Zika and looked at factors that could connect each to the calendar. In some cases, the seasonality of the disease is due to weather, while in other cases more complex interactions of host, vector, and human behavior come into play.  Beatboxers can create the sound of snare drums, bass lines, high hats and other beats all at once. And while it's entertaining to listen to, what's the science behind those beats? Scientists scanned beatboxers in a MRI machine to figure out how these musicians manipulate their vocal tracts to keep the beat. They found that beatboxers may use parts of their vocal tract in a way different way than is used when speaking. In fact, some of the sounds were unlike any found in human language. Linguist Reed Blaylock and beatboxer Devon Guinn break down how beatboxers coordinate their lips, tongue and throat to create a beat and how this compares to human speech.

Physics Mysteries, Appendix and Parkinson's, Paralysis Treatment. Nov 2, 2018, Part 2
2018-11-02 14:54:02
Ever wondered why your dog's back-and-forth shaking is so effective at getting you wet? Or how bugs, birds, and lizards can run across water—but we can't? Or how about why cockroaches are so darn good at navigating in the dark? Those are just a few of the day-to-day mysteries answered in the new book How to Walk on Water and Climb Up Walls: Animal Movement and the Robots of the Future, by David Hu. Once upon a time, there was very little hope for patients paralyzed by a spinal cord injury. The prevailing wisdom was that unless you could regenerate neurons across the spinal region of the injury these patients would never walk again. Now researchers say that perspective is based on an outdated way of thinking about the role of the spinal cord in movement. A new technique that delivers an electrical signal directly to the spinal cord has given a handful of patients the ability to move again and, as reported in a new study out this week in the journal Nature, has allowed them to walk. You've probably heard that you don't necessarily need your appendix, especially if you've had it removed. But the appendix does have a function and scientists are learning more about how it affects our health. The organ plays a role in regulating the immune system, microbiome, and even Parkinson's disease. A misfolding in the protein called alpha-synuclein has been linked to the disease, and researchers found abnormal clumps of this protein in the appendix. This week, a team of scientists found more evidence for the link. Reporting in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the researchers found that, for Parkinson's patients, there was a 3.6 year delay in onset of the disease for those who had an appendectomy.

Local Science Issues, Dolphin Calls, Kepler Death. Nov 2, 2018, Part 1
2018-11-02 14:53:30
With the midterm elections less than a week away, science is on voters' minds even when it's not on the ballot. From coastal floods in Florida, to the growing pains of renewable energy in Hawaii, to curbing the opioid addiction crisis in Kentucky, different stories hit closer to home depending on what state you're in. We'll share stories of salmon conservation policy, meat substitute labeling, renewable energy expansion, and more from their respective states. And they take listener input: What's the most important science story YOU see in your state? The oceans can be a noisy place filled with boats and an increasing number of wind farms. The animals who call the sea home have had to adapt to the increased sounds. Researchers found that bottlenose dolphins in the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Maryland were simplifying the calls that they use to identify one another. Their results were published in the journal Biology Letters. Marine biologist Helen Bailey, who was an author on that study, talks about the benefits and costs that these adaptations have on the health of these dolphins. This week, NASA announced we will soon be saying goodbye to another old friend. For nine years, NASA's Kepler space telescope has been orbiting deep space, giving us an unprecedented look at the objects within it. But after confirming the existence of over 2,600 exoplanets, and extending its mission for another five and half years, Kepler has run out of fuel. NASA says that the agency will soon be sending it's final command to the telescope, shutting it down permanently.  

Science Goes To The Movies: First Man, Driverless Car Ethics, Beetle Battles. Oct 26, 2018, Part 2
2018-10-26 13:48:15
Damien Chazelle's film First Man reconstructs the personal trials of astronaut Neil Armstrong in the years leading up to his famous first steps on the moon—as well as the setbacks and losses that plagued the U.S. space program along the way. This week in "Science Goes To The Movies," our panel of space exploration experts weighs in. Is this an authentic story of Apollo 11's triumphs and costs? And what are the stories Hollywood could tell—about the history of space exploration, or its present—that we haven't heard yet? If you're a casual student of ethics—or just even just a fan of the television show The Good Place—you've most likely heard of the trolley problem. It goes like this: A runaway trolley is on course to kill five people working further down the track—unless you pull a lever to switch the trolley to a different track, where only one person will be killed. The trolley problem is designed to be moral thought experiment, but it could get very real in the very near future. This time, it won't be a human at the controls, but your autonomous vehicle. The United Nations recently passed a resolution that supports the mass adoption of autonomous vehicles, which will make it more likely that a driverless car might cross your path (or your intersection). Who should an autonomous vehicle save in the event that something goes wrong? Passengers? Pedestrians? Old people? Young people? A pregnant women? A homeless person? Sohan Dsouza, research assistant with MIT's Media Lab, discovered that the way we answer that question depends on the culture we come from. He joins Ira to discuss how different cultural perspectives on the trolley problem could make designing an ethical autonomous vehicle a lot more challenging. The male Japanese rhinoceros beetle lives a life of insect warfare. These large beetles sport elaborate horns that they use in a type of mating ritual joust, defending territories from other males in the hopes of attracting female beetles. But biologist Jillian del Sol noticed that this beetle love fest includes another component—squeaky songs. del Sol, featured in our latest video of The Macroscope series, tells us how males court their potential mates by serenading them and what this tells us about sexual selection among the rhino beetles.  

Blood, Spatial Memory, Gerrymandering. Oct 26, 2018, Part 1
2018-10-26 13:43:53
Blood is essential to human life—it runs through all of our bodies, keeping us alive—but the life-giving liquid can also have a mysterious, almost magical quality. As journalist Rose George points out, this association goes back to thousands of years, even showing up in "The Odyssey." Odysseus, while traveling in Hades, comes across his mother Anticlea, who will not speak to him. At least, she says, "Not until she drinks the blood that Odysseus has taken from reluctant sheep. For Homer, blood had a power as fierce and invisible as electricity: a mouthful of blood, a switch flicked, and Anticlea could now speak to her son." George's new book, "Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood," traces the cultural significance and business of blood. She talks about how we've tried to harness blood through the idea of the blood banking happened in 1937 at Chicago's Cook County Hospital and the search for possible synthetic substitutes. Take a deep breath in. With one single inhalation, the human nose takes in a bunch of information about your environment. And unlike vision and hearing, that information goes straight to the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls emotion and memory. Recent studies suggest that rhythmic breathing through the nose (as opposed to mouth breathing) can have a have a positive impact on these brain regions.  On November 6th, millions of Americans will cast their votes in districts that have been declared unconstitutional by a federal court. A panel of three judges ruled that North Carolina's congressional districts had been unfairly gerrymandered to favor Republicans over Democrats—and the key evidence in the case? Math. Annie Minoff and Elah Feder tell the story of that case—now waiting to be considered by the Supreme Court—in the next episode of Undiscovered.

Music And Technology, Social Critters, Sleep And Genetics. Oct 19, 2018, Part 2
2018-10-19 13:21:06
Mark Ramos Nishita, more popularly known as Money Mark from the Beastie Boys, has created the "Echolodeon." The custom-built machine converts original piano rolls, created from actual performances by greats like Debussy and Eubey Blake, into MIDI signals routed through modern-day synthesizers. Step aside, honeybees, there's a new pollinator in town. We talk about the intricate life cycle of bumblebees, whose queens spend most of their life cycles solitary and underground, but then emerge in the spring to single-handedly forage for food, build a nest, and start colonies that eventually grow to number hundreds. Researchers study the behavior of bees and other social insects, and why ant, bee, and spider societies are more than just an amalgam of individuals—but collective behaviors that emerge from the masses. How did you sleep last night? If you're one of the estimated one in three American adults who gets less than seven hours of sleep per night, you may not want to answer that one. As researchers cement the connection between sleep and health, others are still asking why some people have fewer problems sleeping, and others recover more easily from lost sleep. We'll talk about where our genes come into the picture when it comes to sleep. 

C-Section Increase, Puerto Rican Hurricane Recovery, A Turtle Tiff. Oct 19, 2018, Part 1
2018-10-19 13:20:15
The World Health Organization recommends that the C-section rate should be about 15% of births, for optimal outcomes for mothers and babies. But a series of studies published in The Lancet this week shows that rates worldwide are much higher. In the past 15 years, worldwide rates have nearly doubled. In the United States, one out of three children are born through the procedure. At the same time, the rate varies within countries—showing certain communities may have limited access lifesaving procedures. Even before Hurricane Maria roared across Puerto Rico, much of the food on the island was imported. Nearly a year after the storm, farmers still grapple with the storm's effects. Travis Thomas is a rookie scientist on the verge of publishing his first paper. He's about to name two new species of alligator snapping turtle when he's scooped by Raymond Hoser, an amateur herpetologist who goes by the name, "The Snakeman." Hoser has named hundreds of animals using methods that some scientists call sloppy. The latest episode of Undiscovered uncovers how an outsider is able to use the scientific communities rules against it.

Squirrel Monkeys, Salmon Migration, The Realness. Oct 12, 2018, Part 2
2018-10-12 14:17:29
Squirrel monkeys have big brains for their size, they're chatterboxes, and they've even been to space. There may even be parallels between squirrel monkey communication and the evolution of human language, says primatologist Anita Stone. She joins Ira to translate the culture of our primate cousins, and talks about what they can teach us about ourselves. To be a salmon is to live an adventurous life: They hatch in freshwater streams, travel miles downstream to the ocean, and live years dodging predators in the open sea. But in order to reproduce, they must return back to that mountain stream, however far away. Research in 2014 confirmed that Pacific salmon can sense and respond to the Earth's magnetic field—and that's at least one component of how they find their home river. Now, a group of Atlantic salmon, descended from a group that's spent 60 years in a landlocked lake, has also demonstrated this ability. Lead author Michelle Scanlon, a faculty research assistant in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University, explains the implications of this behavior for both wild Atlantic salmon and in populations kept, as many are, in fish farms nationwide. Plus: anthropologist Heather McKillop uncovered clues of a vast Mayan salt production system off the coast of Belize that may have been used to preserve fish and a place for trade. McKillop tells us how the Maya may have produced salt, and what this reveals about the economy of the civilization. And "The Realness," a new podcast from WNYC Studios, tells the story of America's relationship to sickle cell through Prodigy's life, and death, from the disease.  

Election Security, Channel Islands, IPCC Report. Oct 12, 2018, Part 1
2018-10-12 14:16:27
The voting infrastructure is a vast network that includes voting machines, registration systems, e-poll books, and result reporting systems. This summer, the federal government put out a report that stated that hackers, possibly connected to Russia, targeted the election systems of twenty-one states. No changes in voter data were detected. How can we secure our voting from malicious hacks and technological errors? Lawrence Norden, Deputy Director of NYU's Brennan Center's Democracy Program, and Charles Stewart, a political scientist at MIT's Election Data and Science Lab, discuss how to secure the voting infrastructure, and how these issues affect voting behavior. Plus: A new United Nations report published this week highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5 C compared to 2 C, or more. The conclusion: Every bit of warming of matters. Kelly Levin, senior associate with the World Resources Institute joins Ira to discuss the report. In the latest State of Science, ecologists are using tools—from captive breeding programs to ant-sniffing dogs—to restore and protect the unique ecosystem of California's Channel Islands. KCLU's Lance Orozco joins Ira to tell him more. And Popular Science's Rachel Feltman explains the latest on the aborted Soyuz launch, plus other headlines, in this week's News Round-up.

Dung Beetles, Exomoon, Poison Squad. Oct 5, 2018, Part 2
2018-10-05 13:37:25
Before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was formed in 1906, you might have been more weary of pouring milk over your morning cereal. Milk could be spiked with formaldehyde, while pepper could contain coconut shells, charred rope or floor sweepings. In 1883, Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, who was appointed chief chemist of the Federal Agriculture Department, began to investigate how manufacturers used additives and unhealthy practices in food—and pulled together "The Poison Squad." Author Deborah Blum talks about how Wiley along with other scientists, journalists, and advocates fought for the health and safety of the general public.  In the past few years, the field of exoplanet discovery has really taken off. But this week, astronomers writing in the journal Science Advances up the ante—describing the possible discovery not of an exoplanet, but of a Neptune-sized moon orbiting an exoplanet. Alex Teachey, co-author of the paper and a graduate student in astronomy at Columbia University, joins Ira to talk about how the observations were performed, and the challenges of the hunt for exomoons. Plus, did you know that some dung beetles carry parasites on their genital—and it may not necessarily be a bad thing? While dung beetles put up with a lot of crap, it's hard to imagine what good could come from a relationship with a parasite. Cristina Ledón-Rettig, Assistant Research Scientist at Indiana University, joins Ira to discuss her work.

Nobels, Argument Logic. Oct 5, 2018, Part 1
2018-10-05 13:36:40
This week the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology, and medicine awarded its top scientists with its highest honor, the Nobel Prize. And this year, the annual celebration of scientific greatness was punctuated by a historic achievement: For the first time ever two female scientists won the award for both physics and chemistry, Dr. Donna Strickland and Dr. Frances Arnold. Dr. Arnold joins Ira to discuss her award and the legacy of female Nobel laureates. While most of us might think we're logical people, we still butt heads when trying to persuade people we disagree with. So how can we solve seemingly insurmountable barriers? Abstract mathematician Eugenia Cheng is the author of a new book about how logic can help us agree—or at least disagree more helpfully. She walks Ira through the fallacies, axioms, and even emotions that can inform our arguments. Plus: Sarah Kaplan, science reporter at the Washington Post, joins Ira to talk about this year's Nobel Prizes and efforts to make the awards more representative of the diversity in science, and other top science headlines, in this week's News Round-up.

Water Wars, Air Pollution And Fetuses, Electric Blue Clouds. Sept. 28, 2018, Part 2
2018-09-28 13:47:50
Yemen is gripped by civil war—and some experts say it could be the first of many "water wars" to come, as the planet grows hotter and drier. In This Is the Way the World Ends: How Droughts and Die-Offs, Heat Waves and Hurricanes Are Converging on America, Jeff Nesbit writes of the Yemeni conflict and many other geopolitical consequences of a warming world, including the precarious future of the Indus River, under the control of China, India and Pakistan, and why Saudi Arabia's biggest dairy company is buying farmland in the Arizona desert. Nesbit joins Ira to discuss the future of our planet.  Our understanding of how protective the placenta is during pregnancy has been changing. Some ingested substances, like alcohol and pthalates, are known to cross the boundary and cause harm. And in the case of air pollution, a mother's exposure is increasingly correlated with health problems in the infant, from cardiovascular to neurodevelopment. But how do inhaled particles lead to these problems? New research in the Journal of American Medicine this month points to one potential mechanism: changes in the thyroid hormones, which are critical to early development. What's going on—and what can be done to protect the most vulnerable from potentially lifelong health effects?  NASA's PMC Turbo mission sent up a balloon to capture images of one of the rarest clouds, polar mesospheric clouds. These clouds, called noctilucent clouds, only form during the summer 50 miles up in the atmosphere, and they nucleate around meteor dust. Researchers explain what these clouds tell us about climate change and the physics of gravity waves and turbulence. 

Utah National Monuments, North Carolina Coal Ash, Asteroids. Sept. 28, 2018, Part 1
2018-09-28 12:43:02
Back in December, the Trump administration announced reductions to two of Utah's national monuments: Grand Staircase-Escalante, which runs from the Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon National Park, and Bears Ears, newly established by the Obama administration just a year before. The reduction opened up nearly 2 million acres of previously protected federal land to fossil fuel and mineral exploitation, angering Native Americans, for whom the land is historically and spiritually significant, as well as environmentalists, archaeologists, and paleontologists.   Then, just this week, it was announced that a group of lawsuits to reverse the cuts would remain in federal court in Washington, D.C., rather than move to Utah, a decision the plaintiffs are celebrating. As the legal process continues, scientists are waiting to see what will happen to the newly excluded acreage, which still contains hundreds of thousands of sites they consider important. Will the Department of the Interior open the land completely to oil and gas extraction? And what specimens—ancient dinosaurs, mammals, fish, and more—could be lost? Two paleontologists and a law professor discuss the implications.  After Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina, historic flooding caused several dam breaches late last week—leading to a coal ash controversy. Now, an ongoing disagreement ensues between environmentalists and industry representatives about the levels of coal ash in the Cape Fear River near Wilmington, North Carolina. Last week, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, also known as JAXA, landed two rovers on the asteroid Ryugu. The Hayabusa2 mission will explore the surface of the asteroid, blast an impactor into it to study the core, and return to Earth with samples. And, Science Friday video producer Luke Groskin talks about his visit to a lab where scientists are mixing up recipes for asteroids here on Earth to help researchers test rovers for future missions. Plus, geologists and archeologists debate a new potential geologic age, starting around 4,200 years ago. 

Undiscovered Presents: The Magic Machine. Sept. 25, 2018
2018-09-25 09:00:00
As a critical care doctor, Jessica Zitter has seen plenty of "Hail Mary" attempts to save dying patients go bad—attempts where doctors try interventions that don't change the outcome, but do lead to more patient suffering. It's left her distrustful of flashy medical technology and a culture that insists that more treatment is always better. But when a new patient goes into cardiac arrest, the case doesn't play out the way Jessica expected. She finds herself fighting for hours to revive him—and reaching for a game-changing technology that uncomfortably blurs the lines between life and death.  Subscribe to Undiscovered HERE, or wherever you get your podcasts.   Resources Talking about end-of-life stuff can be hard! Here are some resources to get you started. (Adapted from Jessica Zitter's Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life. Thanks Jessica!)   I want to...  ...figure out what kind of care I might want at end of life: Prepare uses videos of people thinking about their end-of-life preferences to walk you through the steps for choosing a surrogate decision maker, determining your preferences, etc. with family/friends about my preferences (or theirs!): The Conversation Project offers a starter kit and tools to help start the conversation.  ...put my preferences in writing (and advance directive):  Advance Directive forms connects you to advance directive forms for your state.  My Directives For those who like their documents in app form! Guides you through creating an end-of-life plan, then stores it in the cloud so it's accessible anywhere. For those who like their documents in app form! Guests Jessica Nutik Zitter, MD, MPH, Author and Attending Physician, Division of Pulmonary/Critical Care and Palliative Care Medicine, Highland Hospital Thomas Frohlich, MD, Chief of Cardiology, Highland Hospital Kenneth Prager, MD, Professor of Medicine and Director of Clinical Ethics, Columbia University Medical Center Daniela Lamas, MD, author and Associate Faculty at Ariadne Labs David Casarett MD, author and Chief of Palliative Care, Duke University School of Medicine Footnotes Read the books: Jessica Zitter's book is Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life. Daniela Lamas's book is You Can Stop Humming Now: A Doctor's Stories of Life, Death, and In Between. David Casarett's book is Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead Read the memoirs of Amsterdam's "Society in Favor of Drowned Persons," the Dutch group that tried to resuscitate drowning victims (including Anne Wortman!) Learn more about ECMO, its success rates, and the ethical questions it raises (Daniela also wrote an article about it here) Read Daniela's study about quality of life in long-term acute care hospitals (LTACHs). And for an introduction to LTACHs, here's an overview from The New York Times Watch Extremis, the Oscar-nominated documentary (featuring Jessica Zitter), about families facing end-of-life decisions in Highland Hospital's ICU. Credits This episode of Undiscovered was reported and produced by Annie Minoff and Elah Feder. Editing by Christopher Intagliata. Original music by Daniel Peterschmidt. Fact-checking help from Michelle Harris. Special thanks to Lorna Fernandes and the staff at Highland Hospital in Oakland. Our theme music is by I Am Robot And Proud. Our mid-break theme for this episode, "No Turning Back," is by Daniel Peterschmidt and I am Robot and Proud. Thanks to the entire Science Friday staff, the folks at WNYC Studios, and CUNY's Sarah Fishman. Special thanks to Michele Kassemos of UCSF Medical Center, Lorna Fernandes of Highland Hospital, and the entire staff at Highland.

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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Now Playing: Science for the People

#504 The Art of Logic
How can mathematics help us have better arguments? This week we spend the hour with "The Art of Logic in an Illogical World" author, mathematician Eugenia Cheng, as she makes her case that the logic of mathematics can combine with emotional resonance to allow us to have better debates and arguments. Along the way we learn a lot about rigorous logic using arguments you're probably having every day, while also learning a lot about our own underlying beliefs and assumptions.