Science Friday

Fridays 11:00 am - 1:00 pm

Covering the outer reaches of space to the tiniest microbes in our bodies, Science Friday is the trusted source for news about science, technology, and other cool stuff. Each week host Ira Flatow mixes it up with people in the know and those who want to be. It's brain fun, for curious people. For over 22 years, Science Friday has brought the top stories in science to radio listeners and given them a chance to join in the discussion by asking questions and making comments during the live broadcast. http://www.sciencefriday.com/

For those who think the forces of natural selection no longer apply to modern humans, paleoanthropologist John Hawks would urge you to reconsider. In recent times — that's 10 to 20 thousand years, for a paleoanthropologist — Hawks says we've picked up genetic variations in skin color, and other traits that allow us to break down starch and digest cheese.

Transcript

JOHN DANKOSKY, HOST:

Now you've probably seen a cutaway section of a tree trunk, those rings inside? Well, they tell a story about the conditions the tree faced year after year. It turns out that whales contain a similar record inside their ears. Joining me now to talk about it are two researchers looking into this record. Stephen Trumble is an assistant professor of biology. Sascha Usenko is an assistant professor of environmental science. They're both at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY.

Birding the Fall Migration

Sep 20, 2013

September is peak season for the fall bird migration. Hummingbirds have already made the trip south while songbirds have been slow to move this year. Naturalist and author Kenn Kaufman shares tips on spotting different species and making your yard bird-friendly.

Science Fairs 2.0

Sep 20, 2013

The science fair is a nearly century-old right of passage for students. What role does the traditional science fair play in the digital age? How can these competitions be reworked to include broader participation and encourage students, and teachers, to explore hands-on learning?

Food Failures: When Home Canning Goes Wrong

Sep 13, 2013

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow.

(SOUNDBITE OF POP)

BILL: Ooh, there it goes. Cool.

(SOUNDBITE OF POP)

LINDA: Ooh, I love it.

(LAUGHTER)

LINDA: It makes me giggle every time.

FLATOW: Oh, they're happy people. They're Bill and Linda, two home cantors on YouTube. If you can your own pickles and salsas and jams, I'm sure you, too, know that satisfying popping sound as your jars cool.

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY, I'm Ira Flatow. I don't have to tell you that the southwest is in the midst of a record drought, some 14 years in the making, which means the water supply for many Western states - California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada - is drying up. Last month the Bureau of Reclamation announced they're cutting the flow of water into Lake Mead, which has already lost 100 feet of water since the drought began.

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. It's one of the most enduring questions in modern space exploration, a puzzle scientists have been trying to solve for years. Are we there yet? Where is the Voyager 1 spacecraft? Where is it right now in relationship to where we are?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED SHOW)

FLATOW: Well, it's 11 billion miles out...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Voyager 1 will be leaving the region called the Helio...

FLATOW: Tell us where it is? How do you know that it's at the edge of our solar...

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

Next up, if you like to meet a doctor - I'd like you to meet him - who prescribes not only medicine to his patients, but smartphone apps as well. And now there are apps that can measure your blood pressure, your glucose level. It can take and EKG or an ultrasound. It can even monitor your sleep. You need an add-on gadget to plug into your phone to do these things, but in many cases, it's a lot cheaper than getting the actual lab test done.

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. Back in 1972, during Apollo's final mission to the moon, Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan spotted a strange phenomenon, a glow along the horizon of the moon just before sunrise, followed by mysterious streamers of light, sort of like, you know, the rays of sunlight you see peaking through a cloud. Well, he made a sketch describing it, and since then, scientists have been trying to figure out what the heck he saw.

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

Next up: wildfires. California's Rim Fire is not 80 percent contained, with some 4,000 firefighters still on the job. All that emergency response, of course, costs money, which federal government budgets for each year. But it doesn't seem to be enough, because three weeks ago, the head of the U.S. Forest Service announced that the Forest Service had burned through its firefighting budget, and would have to drain money earmarked for other things, like fire prevention.

Food Failures: Beer Home Brew

Aug 30, 2013

Is your wort too hot? Have wild yeast taken over your brew? Are you experiencing bottle bomb? Home brewing beer is a combination of art and science. Chris Cuzme from 508 GastroBrewery discusses common pitfalls of home brewing and tips to perfect your process.

Ancient Beads with an Otherworldly Origin

Aug 30, 2013

Researchers analyzed ancient Egyptian iron beads fashioned out of meteoric iron and crafted 2,000 years before the Iron Age. Archaeometallurgist Thilo Rehren discusses how the beads were made before the prevalence of iron mining and smelting.

Diagnosing Self-Destruction

Aug 30, 2013

Suicide kills twice as many people as murder each year in the United States, and rates in the military recently surpassed those among civilians. But while scientists have identified some risk factors for suicide being white, being male, substance abuse, mental illness — they still have little idea what spurs people to take their own lives.

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

When you last visited your local science museum, what did you see? Those cavernous dark halls, the dinosaurs, a bone frozen into place. The dioramas of stuffed big-horn sheep in a painted habitat. We all know of those. At least that might be how you remember it. But museum directors today are reimagining that Victorian-era museum, reimagining it for the 21st century. They envision using everything from smartphone apps to walk-through labs and meet and greet with actual scientists.

Judging Music With Visual Cues

Aug 23, 2013

Musical performances may not be a completely auditory experience, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Study author Chia-Jung Tsay discusses how visual cues can influence our judgments about music and other social settings.

A Robot Lab to Survey the Sea Floor

Aug 23, 2013

Imagine a robotic lab that can sample ocean organisms on its own and perform DNA analysis of what it finds. William Ussler, of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, describes how a prototypical robotic explorer is helping study the life around undersea thermal vents.

Strengthening the Grid, Ten Years Later

Aug 16, 2013

Ten years ago this week, a massive electrical blackout struck the northeastern US and parts of Canada, affecting some 55 million people. IEEE Spectrum journalist Bill Sweet describes the causes of the outage and how the electrical grid has changed since the 2003 failure.

Experimenting on Consciousness, Through Art

Aug 16, 2013

Performance artist Marina Abramovic's piece Measuring the Magic of Mutual Gaze is both art installation and science experiment, in which volunteers sit facing one another while having their brain waves measured. Abramovic discusses these arts and science experiments with neuroscientist Christof Koch, an expert in consciousness.

For a Greener Yard, Lose the Lawn

Aug 16, 2013

Across the Southwest, cities are banning water-thirsty front lawns. Cado Daily of the University of Arizona's Water Wise Program views that as an opportunity to plant a "rainscape" — a yard with drought-friendly native plants that she says can look as lush as a lawn, and lure wildlife back, too.

Climate Update: Warming Temperatures

Aug 9, 2013

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its annual "State of the Climate" assessment. Deke Arndt, an editor of the report, discusses warming temperatures and other climate trends from 2012. Plus, Sol Hsiang, who studies climate and violence, discusses his research connecting rising temperatures to increases in human conflict.

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