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The Ends of the World

Oct 16, 2017
Mark Byzewski via Flickr (http://bit.ly/2kLZtoW), CC BY 2.0 (http://bit.ly/1mhaR6e)

Throughout human history, people have warned that the end of the world is coming. If it does, it won’t really be all that unique. You see, the world has already ended five times. Life on earth has been broiled, frozen, gassed, smothered, and asteroided out of existence. And scientists believe that those previous mass extinctions can teach us something about the one happening right now. Monday, science writer Peter Brannen joins us to explore the Earth’s past dead ends and what they mean for the future.

 

Is there anybody out there? Is there life on other planets? If the answer is yes, and we can prove it, the physicist Jim Al-Khalili says that would be a revolutionary moment in science, up there with Copernicus proving that Earth is not the center of the universe. Considering the vastness of space, scientists mostly agree that somebody or something else is out there. Al-Khalili joins us Wednesday to explore where that life might be, what it might be like, and what would happen if we found it—or it found us. (Rebroadcast)

Greg Pye via Flickr (http://bit.ly/2mF1RKs) CC2.0 (http://bit.ly/1mhaR6e)

Friday, we’re talking about the value of rest. Of taking a break. From everything. For most of us, overwork is the new normal and rest is an afterthought. But the scholar Alex Soojung-Kim Pang says that by dismissing the importance of rest in our lives we stifle our ability to think creatively and truly recharge. Pang will join us to talk about why long walks, afternoon naps, vigorous exercise, and "deep play" stimulate creative work and sustain creative lives. (Rebroadcast)

Aj Schuster via Flickr (http://bit.ly/2wWX241), CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (http://bit.ly/ccbynca2), remixed

The devastation wrought in Mexico City by a recent massive earthquake may have rattled more than a few nerves along the Wasatch Front. Salt Lake City is, of course, overdue for a significant seismic event. So are other places in the United States, such as Los Angeles, the Pacific Northwest, even New York City. In a new book, science writer Kathryn Miles tours the country in search of the latest research on America’s next big earthquake and what’s being done to address the threat. She joins us Wednesday to talk about it.

Woolly

Sep 27, 2017

What if you could take the DNA of an ancient creature and bring it back to life? It sounds like the plot of Jurassic Park, but you can’t actually rebuild a dinosaur. You could to it with a woolly mammoth though. The writer Ben Mezrich has a new book about the scientists and researchers who are working to insert DNA from a mammoth hair sample into an elephant embryo. Wednesday, he joins Doug to tell the story, and to explain how the results could actually help save the world.

Turf War

Sep 15, 2017

It's no secret that Americans love their lawns. In fact, grass is the largest crop in the United States. But as water becomes more scarce and chemical treatments more toxic, an anti-lawn movement has sprouted. Some are questioning whether we should keep our finely-manicured grass or plant gardens instead. Friday, Doug talks lawns with The New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert about her article "Turf War," and Ted Steinberg, author of American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn. (Rebroadcast)

We all want to make good health decisions, but every day a new study comes out that seems to change the game. Fat’s bad for you; then it’s good. Count calories. Don’t. Add in all the marketing and news media, and it’s hard to tell the good stuff from the snake oil. James Hamblin is a doctor-turned-journalist, and in his writing for The Atlantic magazine he wades through the noise to find the signal. He joins us Tuesday to help us better understand how to listen to and take care of our bodies.

The Hidden Brain

Sep 4, 2017

NPR’s Shankar Vedantam says that in some ways, human behavior is the ultimate frontier of science. After all, there’s a lot we don’t know about why behave the way we do. But if we can get a glimpse at the unconscious patterns that influence us, Vedantam argues we have the potential to make big changes in our lives and our world. Shankar Vedantam is host of the popular podcast Hidden Brain, and he joins us to explain how science and storytelling can improve the human experience. (Rebroadcast)

The Seeds of Life

Aug 30, 2017
CC0 Public Domain

 

It’s a timeless question, asked by every kid that’s ever lived: where do babies come from? It turns out even the great scientific minds of the Enlightenment didn’t really have an answer. While navigators and cartographers seemed to have mastered the heavens and the Earth, other scientists were conducting bizarre experiments to put their finger on how exactly humans create life. Science writer Edward Dolnick joins us to tell the story of 250 years of searching and the meandering ways of scientific discovery. (Rebroadcast)

Land on Fire

Aug 28, 2017
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Public Domain

 

Nature writer Gary Ferguson says we are facing a “perfect storm” when it comes to wildfires. Climate change has led to less snow, longer droughts, and more wind and there’s a lot of fuel on the forest floors. The result is ten more weeks of fire season than we saw in the early '70s, and those fires are hotter and often beyond control. Ferguson joins us to talk about the role fire should play in a healthy ecosystem and the new reality of wildfire in the West. (Rebroadcast)

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