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Science Friday

WNYC

Brain fun for curious people.

Brain fun for curious people.
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Location:

New York, NY

Networks:

WNYC

Description:

Brain fun for curious people.

Twitter:

@scifri

Language:

English

Contact:

(800) 989-8255


Episodes

Heredity, Oldest Bread, Jupiter's Moons. July 20, 2018, Part 2

7/20/2018
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Have you ever taken a peek at your family tree? If you trace back along those branches, you might discover some long ago celebrities, kings, and philosophers among your ancestors. But what does it even mean to be “related” to an ancient queen when it’s hard to know what’s lurking inside our own DNA? It turns out even one generation back, the question of who we are gets made complicated. “We’re primed to think of our genomes as some kind of magical book. We just understand so little about...

Duration:00:47:53

Yeast Superbug, Dino Dinner, Toxic Algae. July 20, 2018, Part 1

7/20/2018
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If you hear the word “superbug,” you’re likely to think about drug-resistant bacteria or even viruses. But in a case that’s been unfolding since 2009, a drug-resistant yeast is increasingly worrying epidemiologists. The yeast, Candida auris, has popped up in 27 countries so far, with 340 cases in the United States. It has a mortality rate of 60 percent. Unlike other kinds of fungal infection, C. auris seems able to hop from person to person and persists on sterile surfaces. Inconveniently,...

Duration:00:48:49

Nerve Agents, Straws, Soccer Flops, Happiness. July 13, 2018, Part 2

7/13/2018
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Four months ago, an ex-Russian spy and his daughter were hospitalized in the U.K. They came into contact with a substance known as Novichok—a nerve agent developed by Soviet scientists during the Cold War. And recently, two U.K. citizens were hospitalized. One died after apparent exposure to Novichok. Russia has so far denied any involvement in the attacks. The nuclear arms race wasn’t the only focus for the U.S. and Soviets during the Cold War. The proliferation of chemical weapons—nerve...

Duration:00:47:20

Neutrinos, Book Club, Air Conditioning. July 13, 2018, Part 1

7/13/2018
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In 1988, physicist Stephen Hawking’s wildly popular A Brief History of Time introduced general audiences around the world to scientists’ questions about the Big Bang, black holes, and relativity. Many of those questions remain unanswered, though the science has advanced in the 30 years since the book was first published. Hawking, who passed away this spring, was known not just for this book, but for his enthusiastic and persistent communication with the public about science. And this summer,...

Duration:00:48:53

19th-Century Surveyor, News Roundup, Eagles' Nests. July 6, 2018, Part 1

7/6/2018
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In the 19th century, the American West was an arid climate yet to be fully explored. But surveyors like geologist John Wesley Powell, the second director of the United States Geological Society, would chart out the natural wonders that lied beyond the Mississippi. While at the USGS, Powell would lead a project to create the first map of the country to integrate geographical features and some of the first survey expeditions along the snaking Colorado River and Grand Canyon. But he also...

Duration:00:47:28

Jurassic World, Rhino Comeback, Uranus Collision. July 6, 2018, Part 2

7/6/2018
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It’s the 25th anniversary of the debut of Jurassic Park. And with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom currently at the top of the summer movie food chain, its progeny continue to dominate the box offices. But even as the original Jurassic Park gave viewers the latest in paleontological science in dino looks, the research has progressed to include feathers and wildly different body shapes for old favorites like Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor. Even newer research into dinosaur vocalization suggest...

Duration:00:47:25

Bee News, Summer Science Reading. June 29, 2018, Part 2

6/29/2018
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Bumblebees and honeybees are two species of bees that form colonies. The colonies of bumblebees are smaller compared to their honeybee cousins, who’s hives can house tens of thousands of individuals. But both of these colonies have complicated compositions and structures that help them thrive. For bumblebees, recent studies showed that colonies located in urban areas may actually be more successful than nests located in agricultural areas. Plus, how do bees pick a new queen? Biologist Ash...

Duration:00:47:08

Beef Genetic Testing, Chasing Whales, Radiolab Gonads. June 29, 2018, Part 1

6/29/2018
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Whales are majestic, awe-inspiring animals. Some species can reach up to 150 tons and take in a living room-sized volume of water in one gulp. They can even dive thousands of feet into the ocean while holding their breath all the way down. It’s hard to imagine that the earliest ancestors of these graceful creatures of the deep were four-legged dog-like animals that lived on land. In his book Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures, paleontologist...

Duration:00:48:04

Math And Social Justice, Chicago Coyotes, Meteorites. June 22, 2018, Part 2

6/22/2018
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Math isn’t often thought of as a tool for social justice. But mathematical thinking can help us understand what’s going on in society too, says mathematician Eugenia Cheng. For example, abstract math can be used to examine the power structures between men and women, or white and black people, and to more clearly define the relationships and power differentials at play. At our live event at the Harris Theater in Chicago, we called on WBEZ’s Curious City to help us out. Chicago resident Devin...

Duration:00:56:36

Alcohol Study, Cephalopod Week, Coral Oasis. June 22 2018, Part 1

6/22/2018
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Last week, the National Institutes of Health cancelled a $100 million study of alcohol and health after an internal investigation found “early and frequent” engagement with none other than the alcohol industry, to an extent that would “cast doubt” on the scientific results. But prior to the cancellation, the research was setting out to answer an ongoing question about alcohol and our health: Are moderate drinkers actually better off than nondrinkers? Study after study has found that light or...

Duration:00:47:31

CRISPR, Colors, Narwhals. June 15, 2018, Part 2

6/15/2018
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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...

Duration:00:48:18

Dinosaurs, Celebrating Cephalopods. June 15, 2018, Part 1

6/15/2018
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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...

Duration:00:48:44

Mars Organics, Museum Collections, Kelp Farming. June 8, 2018, Part 2

6/8/2018
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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...

Duration:00:48:15

Ocean Conservation, Dark Matter Hunt. June 8, 2018, Part 1

6/8/2018
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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...

Duration:00:48:47

Sea Floor Mapping, Hurricane Season Forecast. June 1, 2018, Part 2

6/1/2018
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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...

Duration:00:47:55

Scientist Politicians, Microbiome, Wildlife Car Accidents. June 1, 2018, Part 1

6/1/2018
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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...

Duration:00:47:37

AI Conversation, Robot Trust, AI Music. May 18, 2018, Part 2

5/25/2018
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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...

Duration:01:03:05

Sleep Questions, Portable Museums, Digital Health Records. May 25, 2018, Part 1

5/25/2018
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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...

Duration:00:47:37

Psychedelics With Michael Pollan And Intel Student Science Fair. May 18, 2018, Part 2

5/18/2018
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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...

Duration:00:48:00

Consciousness In 'Westworld,' Heart Cells On Graphene, Bike Safety App. May 18, 2018, Part 1

5/18/2018
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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...

Duration:00:46:47