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Better hurricane forecasts and spotting salts on Jupiter’s moon Europa

We’ve all seen images or animations of hurricanes that color code the wind speeds inside the whirling mass—but it turns out we can do a better job measuring these winds and, as a result, better predict the path of the storm. Staff Writer Paul Voosen talks with host Sarah Crespi about how a microsatellite-based project for measuring hurricane wind speeds is showing signs of success—despite unexpected obstacles from the U.S. military’s tweaking of GPS signals. Also this week, Sarah talks with...


The limits on human endurance, and a new type of LED

Cheap and easy to make, perovskite minerals have become the wonder material of solar energy. Now, scientists are turning from using perovskites to capture light to using them to emit it. Staff Writer Robert Service joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about using these minerals in all kinds of light-emitting diodes, from cellphones to flat screen TVs. Read the related paper in Science Advances. Also this week, Sarah talks with Caitlin Thurber, a biologist at Nassau Community College in Garden...


Grad schools dropping the GRE requirement and AIs play capture the flag

Up until this year, most U.S. graduate programs in the sciences required the General Record Examination from applicants. But concerns about what the test scores actually say about potential students and the worry that the cost is a barrier to many have led to a rapid and dramatic reduction in the number of programs requiring the test. Science Staff Writer Katie Langin joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about this trend and how it differs across disciplines. Also this week, Sarah talks with...


New targets for the world’s biggest atom smasher and wood designed to cool buildings

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was built with one big goal in mind: to find the Higgs boson. It did just that in 2012. But the question on many physicists’ minds about the LHC is, “What have you done for me lately?” Host Sarah Crespi talks with Staff Writer Adrian Cho about proposals to look at the showers of particles created by its proton collisions in new ways—from changing which events are recorded, to changing how the data are analyzed, even building more detectors outside of the LHC...


Nonstick chemicals that stick around and detecting ear infections with smartphones

The groundwater of Rockford, Michigan, is contaminated by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, chemicals found in everything from nonstick pans to dental floss to—in the case of Rockford—waterproofing agents from a shoe factory that shut down in 2009. Science journalist Sara Talpos talks with host Meagan Cantwell about how locals found the potentially health-harming chemicals in their water, and how contamination from nonstick chemicals isn’t limited to Michigan. Also this week, host Sarah...


Probing the secrets of the feline mind and how Uber and Lyft may be making traffic worse

Dog cognition and social behavior have hogged the scientific limelight for years—showing in study after study that canines have social skills essential to their relationships with people. Cats, not so much. These often-fractious felines tend to balk at strange situations—be they laboratories, MRI machines, or even a slightly noisy fan. Online News Editor David Grimm joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss several brave research labs that have started to work with cats on their terms in order to...


The age-old quest for the color blue and why pollution is not killing the killifish

Humans have sought new materials to make elusive blue pigments for millennia—with mixed success. Today, scientists are tackling this blue-hued problem from many different angles. Host Sarah Crespi talks with contributing correspondent Kai Kupferschmidt about how scientists are looking to algae, bacteria, flowers—even minerals from deep under Earth’s crust—in the age-old quest for the rarest of pigments. Also this week, host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Andrew Whitehead, associate professor in...


Race and disease risk and Berlin’s singing nightingales

Noncancerous tumors of the uterus—also known as fibroids—are extremely common in women. One risk factor, according to the scientific literature, is “black race.” But such simplistic categories may actually obscure the real drivers of the disparities in outcomes for women with fibroids, according to this week’s guest. Host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Jada Benn Torres, an associate professor of anthropology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, about how using interdisciplinary approaches—...


How dental plaque reveals the history of dairy farming, and how our neighbors view food waste

This week we have two interviews from the annual meeting of AAAS in Washington D.C.: one on the history of food and one about our own perceptions of food and food waste. First up, host Sarah Crespi talks with Christina Warinner from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, about the history of dairying. When did people first start to milk animals and where? It turns out, the spread of human genetic adaptations for drinking milk do not closely correspond to...


A new species of ancient human and real-time evolutionary changes in flowering plants

The ancient humans also known as the “hobbit” people (Homo floresiensis) might have company in their small stature with the discovery of another species of hominin in the Philippines. Host Sarah Crespi talks to Contributing Correspondent Lizzie Wade about what researchers have learned about this hominin from a jaw fragment, and its finger and toe bones and how this fits in with past discoveries of other ancient humans. Also this week, host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Florian Schiestl, a...


A radioactive waste standoff and science’s debt to the slave trade

A single factory in Malaysia supplies about 10% of the world’s rare earth oxides, used in everything from cellphones to lasers to missiles. Controversy over the final resting place for the slightly radioactive byproducts has pushed the plant to the brink of closure. Host Meagan Cantwell talks with freelance writer Yao Hua Law about calls to ship the waste back to where it was originally mined in Australia, and how stopping production in Malaysia would mean almost all rare earth production...


Mysterious racehorse injuries, and reforming the U.S. bail system

Southern California’s famous Santa Anita racetrack is struggling to explain a series of recent horse injuries and deaths. Host Meagan Cantwell is joined by freelance journalist Christa Lesté-Lasserre to discuss what might be causing these injuries and when the track might reopen. In our second segment, researchers are racing to understand the impact of jailing people before trial in the United States. Host Sarah Crespi talks with Online News Editor Catherine Matacic about the negative...


Vacuuming potato-size nodules of valuable metals in the deep sea, and an expedition to an asteroid 290 million kilometers away

Pirate’s gold may not be that far off, as there are valuable metals embedded in potato-size nodules thousands of meters down in the depths of the ocean. Host Meagan Cantwell talks with Staff Writer Paul Voosen about the first deep-sea test of a bus-size machine designed to scoop up these nodules, and its potential impact on the surrounding ecosystem. In an expedition well above sea level, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft touched down on the asteroid Ryugu last month. And although the craft won’t...


Mysterious fast radio bursts and long-lasting effects of childhood cancer treatments

Host Sarah Crespi talks with Staff Writer Daniel Clery about the many, many theories surrounding fast radio bursts—extremely fast, intense radio signals from outside the galaxy—and a new telescope coming online that may help sort them out. Also this week, Sarah talks with Staff Writer Jennifer Couzin-Frankel about her story on researchers’ attempts to tackle the long-term effects of pediatric cancer treatment. The survival rate for some pediatric cancers is as high as 90%, but many survivors...


Clues that the medieval plague swept into sub-Saharan Africa and evidence humans hunted and butchered giant ground sloths 12,000 years ago

New archaeological evidence suggests the same black plague that decimated Europe also took its toll on sub-Saharan Africa. Host Sarah Crespi talks with Contributing Correspondent Lizzie Wade about diverse medieval sub-Saharan cities that shrank or even disappeared around the same time the plague was stalking Europe. In a second archaeological story, Meagan Cantwell talks with Gustavo Politis, professor of archaeology at the National University of Central Buenos Aires and the National...


Measuring earthquake damage with cellphone sensors and determining the height of the ancient Tibetan Plateau

In the wake of a devastating earthquake, assessing the extent of damage to infrastructure is time consuming—now, a cheap sensor system based on the accelerometers in cellphones could expedite this process. Host Sarah Crespi talks with Contributing Correspondent Lizzie Wade about how these sensor systems work and how they might assist communities after an earthquake. In another Earth-shaking study, scientists have downgraded the height of the ancient Tibetan Plateau. Most reconstructions...


Spotting slavery from space, and using iPads for communication disorders

In our first segment from the annual meeting of AAAS (Science’s publisher) in Washington, D.C., host Sarah Crespi talks with Cathy Binger of University of New Mexico in Albuquerque about her session on the role of modern technology, such as iPads and apps, in helping people with communication disorders. It turns out that there’s no killer app, but some devices do help normalize assistive technology for kids. Also this week, freelance journalist Sarah Scoles joins Sarah Crespi to talk about...


How far out we can predict the weather, and an ocean robot that monitors food webs

The app on your phone tells you the weather for the next 10 days—that’s the furthest forecasters have ever been able to predict. In fact, every decade for the past hundred years, a day has been added to the total forecast length. But we may be approaching a limit—thanks to chaos inherent in the atmosphere. Staff writer Paul Voosen joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about how researchers have determined that we will only be adding about 5 more days to our weather prediction apps. Also this week,...


Possible potato improvements, and a pill that gives you a jab in the gut

Because of its genetic complexity, the potato didn’t undergo a “green revolution” like other staple crops. It can take more than 15 years to breed a new kind of potato that farmers can grow, and genetic engineering just won’t work for tackling complex traits such as increased yield or heat resistance. Host Sarah Crespi talks with Staff Writer Erik Stokstad about how researchers are trying to simplify the potato genome to make it easier to manipulate through breeding. Researchers and...


Treating the microbiome, and a gene that induces sleep

Orla Smith, editor of Science Translational Medicine joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about what has changed in the past 10 years of microbiome research, what’s getting close to being useful in treatment, and how strong, exactly, the research is behind those probiotic yogurts. When you’re sick, sleeping is restorative—it helps your body recover from nasty infections. Meagan Cantwell speaks with Amita Sehgal, professor of neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania and an investigator at...