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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

Undiscovered Presents: The Holdout. Sept 18, 2018.

9/18/2018
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Since the 1980s, Gerta Keller, professor of paleontology and geology at Princeton, has been speaking out against an idea most of us take as scientific gospel: That a giant rock from space killed the dinosaurs. Nice story, she says—but it’s just not true. Gerta's been shouted down and ostracized at conferences, but in three decades, she hasn’t backed down. And now, things might finally be coming around for Gerta’s theory. But is she right? Did something else kill the dinosaurs? Or is she just...

Duration:00:33:14

Soil Future, Plant Feelings, Science Fair. Sept 14, 2018, Part 2

9/14/2018
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Climate change is increasing temperatures and causing heavier rainfalls across the country. Scientists are studying how these changes will affect different natural resources, including the soil ecosystem. For example, in Wisconsin, soil erosion is predicted to double by 2050 due to heavier rainfalls, according to a report by the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. Agricultural scientist Andrea Basche talks about how soil formation and health is tied to climate. She joins...

Duration:00:50:58

Florence Flooding, Algorithms, Dino Demise. Sept. 14, 2018, Part 1

9/14/2018
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Last month, California passed a bill ending the use of cash bail. Instead of waiting in jail or putting down a cash deposit to await trial at home, defendants are released after the pleadings. The catch? Not everyone gets this treatment. It’s not a judge who determines who should and shouldn’t be released; it’s an algorithm. Algorithms have also been used to figure out which incarcerated individuals should be released on parole. Mathematician Hannah Fry and computer scientist Suresh...

Duration:00:50:06

Undiscovered Presents: I, Robovie. Sept 11, 2018.

9/11/2018
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A decade ago, psychologists introduced a group of kids to Robovie, a wide-eyed robot who could talk, play, and hug like a pro. And then, the researchers did something heartbreaking to Robovie! They wanted to see just how far kids’ empathy for a robot would go. What the researchers didn’t gamble on was just how complicated their own feelings for Robovie would get. Annie and Elah explore the robot-human bond. Subscribe to Undiscovered HERE, or wherever you get your podcasts VIDEOS I Spy,...

Duration:00:34:45

Grazing, Work-Life Imbalance. Aug. 7, 2018, Part 2

9/7/2018
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Each spring, animals move from their winter grazing grounds in search of greener pastures. For birds, where and when to start that journey is based on genetics, and signals from stars, and magnetic fields from the earth. But for some larger mammals like sheep and moose, they’re not born knowing where to go. They need to learn a mental migratory map—and it’s often passed down from other herd members. Ecologists Matthew Kauffman and Brett Jesmer join Ira to tell us more. Plus: Employers tend...

Duration:00:50:38

Tick Repellents, Robot Relationships. Aug. 7, 2018, Part 1

9/7/2018
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If you were given a robot and asked to break it, would you do it? The amount of Furby destruction videos on Youtube suggest it wouldn’t be that hard. But that’s not true for all robots. According to researchers, knowing more about a robot or bonding with it can make you hesitant to harm it. And if the bond between you and a robot is strong enough, you might even go out of your way to protect it. Kate Darling, robot ethicists from the MIT Media Lab, and Heather Knight, robotics researcher...

Duration:00:50:20

Eric Kandel and the Disordered Mind, Death. Aug 31, 2018, Part 2

8/31/2018
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The human brain contains an estimated 100 billion neurons. When those cells malfunction, the disrupted process can lead to schizophrenia, PTSD, and other disorders. In his book The Disordered Mind, Nobel Prize-winning neuropsychiatrist Eric Kandel looks at where the processes fault to give insight into how the brain works. According to Kandel, the understanding of these disorders offers a chance “to see how our individual experiences and behavior are rooted in the interaction of genes and...

Duration:00:50:02

Outdoor Influencers, Northwest Passage, Undersea Volcanoes. Aug 31, 2018, Part 1

8/31/2018
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NASA is exploring a deep-sea volcano off the coast of Hawaii as a test run for human and robotic missions to Mars and beyond. The mission, dubbed SUBSEA, or Systematic Underwater Biogeochemical Science and Exploration Analog, will examine microbial life on the Lō`ihi seamount. The mission has two objectives. The first is to learn about the operational and communication challenges of a real space mission through a deep ocean dive. The second is to learn more about the geology and chemistry...

Duration:00:50:35

SciFri Special Edition: A Time Traveler Cocktail Party. Aug 28, 2018.

8/28/2018
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In 2009, Stephen Hawking decided to throw a party for time travelers, famously sending the invitations after the date of the party. For the 30th anniversary of Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, the SciFri Book Club decided to throw our own party—a Time Traveler Cocktail Party, live at Caveat in New York City! We had hands-on physics demonstrations, built 2018 time capsules, and heard conversations about black holes, gravity and the fabric of our universe with Ryan Mandelbaum (Gizmodo), Rae...

Duration:00:22:34

Yellow Fever and Ebola, Trans-boundary Aquifers, Probiotics. Aug 24, 2018, Part 2

8/24/2018
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From 1976 to 2017, the Democratic Republic of the Congo experienced eight outbreaks of the deadly Ebola virus. Then, for 10 weeks earlier this year, the virus reemerged in the country, killing 33 people. Ministry of Health officials finally declared the crisis over on July 24. But just one week later, on August 1, the DRC reported a new outbreak of the Ebola virus in North Kivu province. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the The National...

Duration:00:51:59

Hurricane Lane, Disposable Contacts, Brief History of Time. Aug 24, 2018, Part 1

8/24/2018
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This year was both the 30th anniversary of Stephen Hawking’s science blockbuster A Brief History of Time, but also the year the famed physicist himself passed away. In memory of Hawking and celebration of his work, Science Friday Book Club listeners joined up to read A Brief History of Time, ask questions, and explore the far reaches of what we know about the universe—how it began, how it will end, and what it’s made of in the meantime. In the final chapter of this summer’s book club, Yale...

Duration:00:51:54

Ant Traffic Flow, Natural Reactors, David Quammen. August 17, 2018, Part 2

8/17/2018
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Worker ants keep the nest alive. They look for food, take care of the eggs, and dig all the tunnels. Fire ant colonies, for example, have hundreds of thousands of worker ants. You’d think traffic jams happen all the time. But they don’t! The majority of the ants aren’t working, according to a study published in Science this week from the Georgia Institute of Technology. They remain idle to stay out of the way, leaving only 30% of the ants to dig a new hole. The researchers also believe the...

Duration:00:51:37

Coastal Flooding, Elephants and Cancer, Yosemite Bears. August 17, 2018, Part 1

8/17/2018
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More than five years after the devastating 14-foot high waters of Superstorm Sandy flooded New York and New Jersey, the Army Corps of Engineers is studying methods for reducing the damage of future high waters in the New York Bay and Hudson River estuary—whether with levees, seawalls, beach nourishment, or even a gate that would span from Sandy Hook to the Rockaways. But would such barriers be sufficient as sea levels rise? Is building big structures—like those protecting the Netherlands—the...

Duration:00:51:29

The Story Of Sand, Science And Dance. August 10, 2018, Part 2.

8/10/2018
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When you think of sand, thoughts of the ocean and sand castles probably come to mind. But sand can be found in much more than beachfronts. Sand is a key ingredient in concrete for skyscrapers, silicon for computer chips, and the glass for your smartphone. Vince Beiser, journalist and author of the book The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How it Transformed Civilization, tells Ira more. How would you choreograph the heft of the Higgs boson, the plight of an endangered species, or the...

Duration:00:51:09

Parch Marks, Wildfires, The Beatles. August 10, 2018, Part 1

8/10/2018
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The Mendocino Complex fire in northern California has spread to more than 300,000 acres—a swath of land bigger than New York City. The blaze is the state’s largest wildfire in recorded history, edging out last year's record-setting Thomas Fire, which devastated communities north of Los Angeles. While climate change is certainly to blame in fanning the flames of wildfires (by boosting temperatures, parching landscapes, and causing more erratic rainfall) there's another factor that's making...

Duration:00:50:30

Bacteria Extinction, Facial Recognition, Solar Probe. August 3, 2018, Part 2

8/3/2018
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Long before we walked the Earth, bacteria took it over. They’re in every ecosystem on the Earth, and researchers have hopes to someday find them on other planets. The tiny cells have even helped make our atmosphere oxygen-rich and liveable. But do bacteria—numerous and adaptable as they are—ever go extinct? New research suggests they do. Facial recognition systems—the type of technology that helps you tag your friends on Facebook—is finding its way offline and into real world environments....

Duration:00:50:25

"Lost in Math," Alan Alda, A Radical Brain Surgery, New Jersey Floods. August 3, 2018. Part 1

8/3/2018
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For decades, physicists trying to uncover the large and small structures of the universe have been coming up empty—no evidence of supersymmetry at the Large Hadron Collider, no dark matter particles, no new evidence explaining dark energy. That’s the main conundrum in theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder’s book, Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray. She talks with Ira about the problems facing physics, and where new ideas could come from. This week, Alan Alda spoke publicly...

Duration:00:50:19

Ant Socialization, Smoky Skies, Dust Storm, Mars Lake. July 27, 2018, Part 2

7/27/2018
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Many ant species have a queen, the member of the colony that lays eggs. The rest of the ants are divided into different roles that support the queen and the colony. So what ants become queens versus workers? Scientists found that the gene ilp2 that regulates insulin played a role in determining what ant becomes the queen. Biologist Ingrid Fetter-Pruneda talks to John Dankosky about how this gene works in determining a queen. The Rocky Fire and the Jerusalem Fire scorched nearly 100,000...

Duration:00:50:07

PFAS, Urban Evolution, Science Diction. July 27, 2018, Part 1

7/27/2018
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If you thought city life was stressful, imagine being a wild animal trying to outlive speeding cars, toxic chemicals and heavy metals, or even the unnaturally bright nights and din of traffic. Why stick around at all? Yet our urban areas still teem with wildlife. Pigeons, mice, lizards, moths, and plants all eke out their livelihoods in sidewalk cracks, subway tunnels, and building ledges. But how is city living affecting how these organisms evolve? Evolutionary biologist Menno Schilthuizen,...

Duration:00:49:46

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:00:49:44