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Each week join Martha Foley and Professor Curt Stager from Paul Smith's College as they discuss various topics from the world of nature.

Each week join Martha Foley and Professor Curt Stager from Paul Smith's College as they discuss various topics from the world of nature.
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Canton, NY


Each week join Martha Foley and Professor Curt Stager from Paul Smith's College as they discuss various topics from the world of nature.




How do cats purr?

(May 17, 2018) As the secrets of the natural world give way to science, it's nice to know some mystery remains. Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley explore one of the last great conundrums: How do cats purr? Science has theories, but no definitive answer.


Shrews: living in the fast lane

(May 10, 2018) Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley revisit this feisty predator, whose fierce reputation comes from a high metabolism and the need to consume 80-90 percent of their body weight in food each day to survive. The small insectivore is active throughout the winter and shrinks in size until spring.


How are pencil leads and diamonds made from the same stuff?

(May 3, 2018) Pencil leads and diamonds are chemically identical; the difference is in the crystal structure. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager talk about carbon crystals, and what it takes to form a natural diamond.


Blister beetles are nasty in many ways

(Apr 26, 2018) Blister beetles are common in many parts of the world, including the Northeast. Oily secretions from their joints can raise blisters on skin.The oil has other qualities. It the source of the highly toxic male aphrodisiac, Spanish Fly. Curt Stager and Martha Foley discuss the life cycle and habits of this beetle.


Mutants: not just creepy brain domes

(Apr 19, 2018) Mutants are neither the creepy brain domes of science fiction, nor the smart-mouth turtles of the cartoons. Mutations arise all the time from environmental exposure to mutagenic substances and from imperfections in cellular reproduction. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager talk change, genetic change.


What makes a new species?

(Apr 12, 2018) What draws the line between one species and another?


Daddy Long Legs: not quite a spider

(Apr 5, 2018) This familiar household "spider" is not a spider, but an ancient, near relative in the arachnid family.


Why does the moon look bigger when it's on the horizon?

(Mar 29, 2018) Why does the moon look bigger when it's on the horizon, than it does when it is high in the sky? Curt Stager shoots down all of Martha Foley's theories.There are a couple ways it could be a trick of the mind, but why then doesn't it work all the time? After physics, optics, geometry and psychology, what are you left with? "Wow, big moon."


Why is carbon dating harder than it used to be?

(Mar 22, 2018) Scientists use isotopes of carbon, carbon-13 and carbon-14, to study the age of organic material. But the activity of humans is distorting the clock. Curt Stager tells Martha Foley how added carbon in the atmosphere, pollution, and nuclear testing have made it harder to study the natural world.


What makes some eyes shine at night?

(Mar 15, 2018) Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager talk about eye shine, and why some animals' eyes reflect light and others' don't.


Where did all the insects go?

(Mar 8, 2018) Curt Stager reports on a long-term study of flying insects in Germany that records an astounding 76% drop in the total biomass of flying insects entering their traps over the last 30 years. This is not a decline as happens in a single species, but appears to affect the whole spectrum of species.Martha Foley wonders if this could explain the decline in insect-eating birds that appear around her house, or the steep decline in bug spats Stager observes on his car compared to...


A warmer future means fewer cold water refuges for Adirondack lake trout

(Mar 1, 2018) Lake trout thrive in deep, cold water with lots of oxygen, and are stressed by being in warm summer shallows with lower pressure and oxygen levels. But as the climate warms, fewer Adirondacks lakes will have the right combination of factors they need. During a recent hot summer drought, fishing guides steered clear of many favorite spots, not wanting to draw remaining trout into danger.Martha Foley and Curt Stager look into the future of this popular sports fish and where...


From Pyrex to Bioglass: Glass is all around you, even in you

(Feb 22, 2018) A lot of different things are mixed with silicon dioxide to make different kinds of glass. Added lead makes crystal. Most ordinary glass is made with the addition of soda lime. Pyrex glass has boron to give it heat resistance. Fiberglass contains aluminum. Amorphous substances like porcelain and polycarbonate plastic can also count as glass, as can certain amorphous mixtures of metal. One of the most interesting new technologies is Bioglass, where calcium, phosphorus and...


How your glass of red could become a glass of lead

(Feb 15, 2018) Glass is basic stuff - melted sand, pretty much. But your lovely crystal decanter or goblet gets its heft and clarity from a big dose of lead, up to one-fourth by weight. That lead can leach out into liquids containing alcohol, such as wine or brandy - significant enough amounts to be a health risk if stored in crystal over a long period of time.Martha Foley and Curt Stager clear up the differences between glass and crystal, and explain how lead can become...


Camel and caribou adapt in similar ways to different "deserts"

(Feb 8, 2018) While the sub-Arctic and the Sahara are very different environments, both present extreme challenges to large mammals that live there.Martha Foley and Curt Stager compare the camel and the caribou, which, while not closely related, have made similar evolutionary adaptations to survive in barren terrain.Both need coats that can insulate against temperature extremes, complex nasal equipment to preserve hydration, and digestive tracts adapted to handle a wide range of coarse and...


Adirondack lakes recover from acid rain, but with an altered ecosystem

(Feb 1, 2018) The success of the Clean Air Act in reducing acid deposition in Adirondack lakes is an under-reported good news story. Many lakes once devoid of life can now support healthy fish populations and other aquatic life.But as Curt Stager discusses with Martha Foley, the life that returns to recolonize the water is not the same as what was lost. Sediment cores show that the original algae and plankton varieties that form the base of the food chain and were unchanged for hundreds of...


What is cheese, anyway?

(Jan 25, 2018) You can make cheese from the milk of any mammal, but who wants to go out and milk the pigs? Curt Stager came back from a trip to Italy with some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. He shares a taste with Martha Foley while they run down different processes used to make a number of varieties of cheese from the same starting point, milk. Saturday was National Cheese Lovers Day, but isn't every day, really?


Cats are liquids, except when not

(Jan 18, 2018) A recent article in Science magazine highlighted the work of a French scientist who was the recipient of a 2017 Ig Nobel Prize. He posited that because cats can fill up the shape of whatever container they are put in, they must be liquid.


Are your tonsils as useless as they seem?

(Jan 11, 2018) When infected, your tonsils may be useful to doctors to keep up their bottom line, and to Popsicle vendors to provide the means to soothe recovering children. But when healthy, they also have a use as part of the front-line in the human immune system.Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss an oft-removed portion of the human anatomy.


Nature journals put the history in natural history

(Jan 4, 2018) Martha Foley has never succeeded in keeping a nature journal long-term, but Curt Stager finds them invaluable in his work. He records his observations on paper, but also finds great data through researching the journals of past observers, from Samuel de Champlain to Thomas Jefferson, to ordinary little-known North Country folk.His hint - always put it on paper. Whatever became of all that stuff on your floppy diskettes?


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