Science

Science news

The Science of Fat

Jan 4, 2017
Laura Lewis via Flickr/CC, http://bit.ly/2ix26sf

Body fat is a source of shame for many people, something to be hidden, fought, and burned away. But fat, says the biochemist Sylvia Tara, isn’t just unsightly blubber, it’s an essential and deeply misunderstood organ that’s vital to our existence. It enables our reproductive organs, strengthens our immune system, protects us from disease, and may even help us live longer. In a new book, Tara explores the science behind our least appreciated organ, and she joins us Wednesday to talk about it.

Pinpoint

Jan 2, 2017

Even if you didn’t use GPS to find your way around town today, there’s every chance it touched your life. The Global Positioning System is now integrated into almost every part of modern existence. It helps land planes, route cell phone calls, predict the weather, grow food, and regulate global finance. Our guest, Greg Milner, has written a book that traces the history of GPS. He also examines the frightening costs of our growing dependence on it. (Rebroadcast)

Public domain

When you think about military science, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Bombs and guns, right? Well, that’s not what interests the writer Mary Roach, who has a habit of seeking out eccentric scientific corners. She’s not so much curious about the killing as she is about the keeping alive. That curiosity led her to research into the battlefield’s more obscure threats: exhaustion, shock, bacteria, panic, even turkey vultures. Roach joins us to explore the curious science of humans at war. (Rebroadcast)

Coyote America

Dec 26, 2016
Andy Simonds via CC/Flickr, https://goo.gl/F46KAg

Monday, we’re talking about a homegrown American success: coyotes. The country has been at war with the iconic species since white settlers first reached the heartland plains. But coyotes, according to biologist Dan Flores, not only survived our assault on them, they simultaneously expanded their range across the continent and into our cities. Flores joins us to explore the coyote’s fascinating story of resilience and adaptability and how it parallels our own version of Manifest Destiny. (Rebroadcast)

Being a Beast

Dec 16, 2016
Henry Holt & Co.

Charles Foster wanted to know what it was like to be a beast. What it was really like. So he tried it out. He slept in a dirt hole and ate earthworms like a badger. He chased shrimp like an otter. He spent hours rooting in trash cans like an urban fox. A passionate naturalist, Foster came to realize that every creature creates a different world in its brain and lives in that world. He joins us to talk about his experiment and the values of wildness, both outside us and within us. (Rebroadcast)

Tuesday, we continue our Through the Lens series with a poetic and provocative documentary film about terraforming. That’s the idea of altering another planet and making it suitable for life. Director Ian Cheney’s film “Bluespace” is a kind of thought experiment, asking what it would take to reshape Mars in Earth’s image. In the end, it’s less about the red planet than it is about our own very blue planet. As Cheney says, “The more you study other worlds, the more we come to understand our own.”

Researcher Jeffrey Anderson says Karl Marx wasn’t far off when he likened religion to opium. Anderson is a neuroradiologist at the University of Utah, and he’s been studying how the brain reacts to religious experiences. What he’s found is that religion works like love, gambling, drugs, and music: they all light up the brain’s reward center. He’ll join us Monday. We’ll also talk to science journalist Erik Vance, whose cover article for this month’s National Geographic looks at faith and healing.

The Gene

Nov 18, 2016

Friday, the writer and oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee is our guest. He’s written a book that tells the epic tale of our quest to unravel the human genome. It’s the story of a long lineage of scientists—from Mendel, to Darwin, Watson, Crick, and countless others—and their efforts to understand the workings of the very threads of our existence. But how, Mukherjee wonders, can we best apply that knowledge? And what does it mean to be human when we can read and write our own genetic information? (Rebroadcast)

Science Vs

Nov 7, 2016

Monday, we’re offering a break from the political hubbub and talking about an awesome podcast called Science Vs. It’s created and hosted by the young Australian journalist Wendy Zukerman. In each episode, she pits a scientific fad against scientific facts. She’s tackled stuff like organic food, gun control, fracking, and, perhaps most memorably, the female G-spot. Zukerman will join us to talk about using facts, heart, and humor to confront the uninformed opinions we’re all at least a little guilty of.

The Hidden Brain

Oct 18, 2016

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 Tuesday, he joins us to explain how science and storytelling can improve the human experience. (Rebroadcast)

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