Third Pod from the Sun
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Tracking Adorable Chainsaws
Northern fur seals spend more than half their lives at sea. But every summer, they congregate on the rocky, charcoal-colored beaches of Alaska’s Pribilof Islands to mate and give birth to tiny, black-furred pups. Researchers take advantage of the seals’ short time on land to learn more about them and try to understand why their populations have been declining since the mid-1970s. Part of this research involves attaching GPS trackers to the seals’ bodies so satellites can monitor their...
Bonus Clip: The Sounds of the Sun
Check out this clip that didn't make it into our recent episode, Inside the Boiling Center of the Solar System, with Dan Seaton, about what the sun actually sounds like!
Inside the Boiling Center of the Solar System
At the heart of our solar system is an enormous, churning ball of hot plasma. The Sun blows a stream of charged particles over our planet, creating the solar wind. Sometimes the Sun flares bursts of x-rays, or burps bursts of charged particles, which can sweep over Earth and potentially create havoc for power grids, satellites, and GPS networks. There is weather in space, and it has more consequences for civilization than you might think. Solar physicist Dan Seaton studies the Sun at the...
Bonus Clip: Scientists of the Corn
Check out this clip that didn't make it into our recent episode, The Dark Sound of the Moon, with Trae Winter about balloons, astronauts. and aliens!
The Dark Sound of the Moon
On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse swept across the continental United States from Oregon to South Carolina. Millions of people stood looking up at the sky, their mouths agape, as the Sun’s disk was completely covered by the Moon. For many people, the experience of day turning into night and back into day, and the sight of the Sun’s corona streaming out behind the dark circle of the Moon, is a picture they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. But what about people who are...
From Landfills to Martian Hills
Building instruments to search for the building blocks of life in the rocks of Mars is no small feat. These gadgets must endure spaceflight, landing on the Martian surface, intense radiation, wild swings in temperature, uneven surfaces and then beam data collected millions of kilometers away back to expectant researchers on Earth. In this episode, NASA geochemist Jennifer Stern gives an insider's view of the ups and downs of testing and deploying one of these instruments - a mass...
Bonus Clip: Newspaper is the New Duct Tape
Check out this clip that didn't make it into our recent episode, The Secret Lives of Tide Gauge Operators, with Stefan Talke about some correspondence he found on how operators treated their equipment.
The Secret Lives of Tide Gauge Operators
In the 1800s and early 1900s, dozens of men stationed at harbors around the United States would record water levels and send them to a central office in Washington, D.C. where they were used by engineers building the country’s infrastructure. Along with these readings, the tide gauge operators also sent letters detailing their lives at these outposts and the difficulties they faced, from extreme weather to personal dramas. Stefan Talke, an assistant professor of civil and environmental...
Bonus Clip: Wildlife of Svalbard
Check out this clip that didn't make it into our recent episode, Journey to the Center of the Ice, with glaciologist Kiya Riverman, about her close encounters with animals of the far north.
Journey to the Center of the Ice
From the outside, glaciers appear to be solid masses of unmoving ice. But meltwater flowing from the surface down to the glacier bed carves canyons, gorges and even caves into the dense sheets of ice. Over time, the fissures form labyrinthine tunnels that open into vast ice caverns few people have ever seen. University of Oregon glaciologist Kiya Riverman is one of a handful of researchers who ventures into this frozen world of glacier ice caves. What started as a hobby exploring limestone...
Alvin and the Ocean Deep
The ocean floor is a deep, dark, cold, scary place filled with terrifying creatures and scorching fissures where boiling magma emerges from Earth’s crust. So what’s it like to be a scientist whose job it is to study these dangerous things up close and personal? In this episode, Adam Soule of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution describes his experiences descending to the seafloor in the human-occupied submersible Alvin. Listen to Adam describe the painstaking work of documenting every...
Chasing Narwhals, Unicorns of the Sea
University of Washington biologist Kristin Laidre travels to the Arctic to study animals many of us have only seen in pictures. She has successfully tracked down the elusive narwhal and been up close and personal with a polar bear seeking to understand how the loss of sea ice and the effects of climate change are altering Arctic ecosystems. In this episode, Kristin talks about what it is like to study these creatures, including the first time she saw a narwhal, what polar bear fur actually...
Science at a Glacier’s Edge
In southeast Alaska, a team of scientists faced boat-blocking icebergs, calving-induced tidal waves, and cold, dreary days. All in the name of science. Using a hogde-podge of instruments ranging from radar to drone boats named Rosie and Casey, these scientists set out to brave the seas to understand a glacier. In this episode, listen to oceanographer David Sutherland describe his experiences at Le Conte glacier, the southernmost tidewater glacier in the northern hemisphere. Sutherland and...
Parking Lot Lava
In a parking lot behind the Comstock Art Facility at Syracuse University, geologist Jeff Karson and sculptor Bob Wysocki cook up something almost unimaginable – homemade lava. Using a gas furnace the size of a small truck, the two professors melt gravel typically used for roadbeds into hot molten rock that they pour onto sand to recreate natural lava flows seen in places like Hawaii, Iceland and Italy. In this episode, listen to Bob and Jeff describe their eight-year lava-making journey,...