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New discoveries, everyday mysteries, and the science behind the headlines — all in about 10 minutes, every weekday. It's science for everyone, using a lot of creativity and a little humor. Join host Maddie Sofia for science on a different wavelength.

New discoveries, everyday mysteries, and the science behind the headlines — all in about 10 minutes, every weekday. It's science for everyone, using a lot of creativity and a little humor. Join host Maddie Sofia for science on a different wavelength.


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New discoveries, everyday mysteries, and the science behind the headlines — all in about 10 minutes, every weekday. It's science for everyone, using a lot of creativity and a little humor. Join host Maddie Sofia for science on a different wavelength.




Lightning Bugs, Fireflies - Call Them What You Will, They're Awesome

There are thousands of species of lightning bug and they live all over the world except in Antarctica. Maddie and Emily discuss lots of other amazing tidbits about the family Lampyridae and talk about what humans can do to preserve the bugs, which are facing widespread habitat disruption.


Breaking Down The New CDC Mask Guidance

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance on wearing masks. Short Wave co-host Maddie Sofia and NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey explain what's changed and why. Plus, the latest on the Delta variant, a highly transmissible strain of the coronavirus. Want to see how widespread COVID-19 is in your local community? Check out this data tracker from NPR.


Managing Wildfire Through Cultural Burns

Fire has always been part of California's landscape. But long before the vast blazes of recent years, Native American tribes held controlled burns that cleared out underbrush, encouraged new plant growth, and helped manage wildfires. It's a tradition that disappeared with the arrival of Western settlers. NPR climate correspondent Lauren Sommer explains how tribal leaders are trying to restore the practice by partnering up with state officials who are starting to see cultural burns as a way...


Sweat: A Human Superpower

Sweating is critical to helping humans avoid overheating, and it's different than how most animals cool down. Sarah Everts wanted to understand more about how humans came to sweat like we do, and wrote a book called The Joy of Sweat - which she talked about with Rhitu for this episode. Email the show at


Can We Predict Earthquakes? (Hint: No)

It's a listener questions episode! Chuck, Short Wave fan, asks, "What is the current state of earthquake prediction systems?" For some answers, Emily Kwong chats with Wendy Bohon, a geologist and Senior Science Communication Specialist for the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS). To look at real-time seismic data from hundreds of locations around the globe, check out the IRIS Station Monitor. Have a question you want us to try answering? Email us at


The Great California Groundwater Grab

California is in the middle of a terrible drought. The rivers are running low, and most of its farmers are getting very little water this year from the state's reservoirs and canals. And yet, farming is going on as usual. NPR food and agriculture correspondent Dan Charles explains how farmers have been using wells and underground aquifers to water their crops. But that's all set to change. California is about to put dramatic limits on the amount of water farmers can pump from their wells,...


Who Runs The World? Squirrels!

Squirrels are everywhere — living in our suburban neighborhoods to our city centers to our surrounding wilderness. Rhitu Chatterjee talks with researcher Charlotte Devitz about squirrels and how studying them might help us better understand the changing urban environment. You can email Short Wave at


How Tall Is Mount Everest? Hint: It Changes

We talk to NPR's India correspondent Lauren Frayer about the ridiculously complicated science involved in measuring Mount Everest, the world's highest peak. And why its height is ever-changing. (Encore episode) Read Lauren's reporting on Mt. Everest. Have other quirks of the planet on your mind? Tell us by emailing


The Delta Variant And The Latest Coronavirus Surge

COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the last month due to the Delta variant. NPR correspondent Allison Aubrey talks with Emily Kwong about where the virus is resurging, how some public health officials are reacting and what they are recommending. Also, with a spate of outbreaks at summer camp, officials are weighing in on what parents can do before they send children to camp. You can always reach the show by emailing


Building A Shark Science Community For Women Of Color

As a kid, Jasmin Graham was endlessly curious about the ocean. Her constant questioning eventually led her to a career in marine science studying sharks and rays. But until relatively recently, she had never met another Black woman in her field. That all changed last year when she connected with a group of Black women studying sharks through the Twitter hashtag #BlackInNature. Finding a community was so powerful that the women decided to start a group. On today's show, Jasmin talks with...


The Joy Of Ice Cream's Texture

July is National Ice Cream Month — and Sunday, July 18 is National Ice Cream Day (in the US)! Flavors range from the classics — vanilla and chocolate — to the adventurous — jalapeño and cicada. But for some people, including ice cream scientist Dr. Maya Warren, flavor is only one part of the ice cream allure. So in today's episode, Emily Kwong talks with Short Wave producer Thomas Lu about some of the processes that create the texture of ice cream, and how that texture plays into our...


Three Guidelines To Understanding The Delta Variant

Delta is quickly becoming the dominant coronavirus variant in multiple countries. The variant has spread so fast because it is more contagious than the variants that came before it. At the same time, the U.S. is equipped with highly effective vaccines. Ed Yong, science writer for The Atlantic, talks with Maddie about the interaction between the variants and the vaccines and how that will be crucial in the months ahead. Reach the show by emailing


What Science Fiction Gets Wrong About Space Travel

Contrary to sci-fi depictions in shows like Iron Man and Star Wars, getting from point A to point B in space is a tough engineering problem. NPR Science Correspondent Geoff Brumfiel explains how space propulsion actually works, and why some new technologies might be needed to get humans to Mars and beyond. Follow Geoff Brumfiel and Short Wave co-host Emily Kwong on Twitter. Email the show at


The Ripple Effects Of A Huge Drop In Cancer Screenings

At the height of the pandemic, routine cancer screenings declined by 90 percent. Screenings are resuming and doctors are diagnosing later-stage cancers — cancers that might have been caught earlier. NPR science correspondent Yuki Noguchi of talks about whom this affects most, and about the ripple effects that missing cancer screening may have for years to come.


The Mysterious Ice Worm

On the mountaintop glaciers of the Pacific Northwest lives a mysterious, and often, overlooked creature. They're small, thread-like worms that wiggle through snow and ice. That's right, ice worms! NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce talks to Emily about how they survive in an extreme environment and why scientists don't understand some of the most basic facts about them. For more of Nell's reporting, you can follow her on Twitter @nell_sci_NPR. You can follow Emily...


Micro Wave: What Is 'Brain Freeze'?

Summer's here. Time for a cool treat. So, you grab a popsicle from the freezer. Ahh ... that's better. Until, out of nowhere, a sharp sudden pain rushes to your forehead. You've got brain freeze! We talk with neuroscientist Caroline Palavicino-Maggio about the science behind these short-lived cold-induced headaches. Plus, some listener mail. What are your daily science curiosities? Email the show at


FEMA Has An Equity Problem, Part Two: Race

FEMA acknowledges that the way it distributes aid often benefits some people more than others--and those who receive less aid are those people with the fewest resources to begin with. Rhitu Chatterjee talks with NPR climate correspondent Rebecca Hersher about her investigation into FEMA and why the federal government's response to disasters may disproportionately hurt people of color and their communities. Read more of Rebecca's reporting in "Why FEMA Aid Is Unavailable To Many Who Need It...


Teens Ask, We Answer: What's Up With COVID Vaccines?

People between the ages of 12 and 17 are now eligible to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and health officials expect this age group will soon be able to receive the Moderna one. So, health reporter Pien Huang and Short Wave producer Rebecca Ramirez talked to teens about their questions about the vaccine and what a strange year the pandemic has been for them. Do you have questions about the coronavirus and the pandemic? Email


FACT SMACK: Bats! They're Cooler Than Birds

With the help of ecologist Rodrigo Medellín, the "Bat Man of Mexico," Rasha Aridi (former Short Waver) presents the case for why bats are the best and coolest flying creatures out there! Are you a scientist who thinks Rodrigo is wrong and that the animal you study is superior? Let us know! You can email us at We'd love to hear the case for your critter.


'Arrival': How To Talk To Aliens

(Encore episode) The 2016 movie Arrival, an adaptation of Ted Chiang's novella Story of Your Life, captured the imaginations of science fiction fans worldwide. Field linguist Jessica Coon, who consulted on the film, breaks down what the movie gets right — and wrong — about linguistics.