Science

Science news

American Eclipse

Aug 15, 2017
Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, Public Domain via Wikipedia

With a rare total solar eclipse slated to hit parts of the United States next week, we’re taking the opportunity to talk to science journalist David Baron. In his new book, he tells the story of the 1878 eclipse which had throngs of American scientists racing West to witness and study the celestial phenomenon. Baron is obsessed with eclipses himself, and he joins Doug to talk about how mind-blowing a total solar eclipse can be to both 19th and 21st-century observers.

Why Time Flies

Aug 8, 2017

Tuesday, we’re taking a scientific and philosophical look at “time.” If you’ve ever sat through an hour-long meeting that lasted forever, or watched a child grow up in the blink of an eye, you know that time isn’t just a quantifiable measurement. New Yorker science staff writer Alan Burdick says that writing a book about time was actually like “peering into the bottom of existence.” He joins Doug to talk about the clock, our relationship to it, and “Why Time Flies.”

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.

Phenomena

Jul 20, 2017
Photo by Tim Wang, CC via Flickr, http://bit.ly/2q4xD8L

 

If you’re a skeptic, you’re going to be outraged by the “scientific projects” conducted by the U.S. government into mind reading and other paranormal phenomena. For more than 40 years the government hired magicians and hypnotists to try to figure out what the enemy was up to. Investigative journalist Annie Jacobsen’s latest book tells the story of this top secret program, and Thursday, she joins us to explain what would make people spend so much time, energy, and money on such strange ideas. (Rebroadcast)

Where the Water Goes

Jul 12, 2017

36 million people rely on the Colorado River for water, but how often do they think about what happens downstream? Journalist and New Yorker staff writer David Owen wanted to understand the ecosystem, culture, and politics that surround the crucial waterway, so he trekked from the headwaters to the once-lush, now desert terminus. The result is his latest book, and Wednesday, Owen joins Doug to explain “Where the Water Goes.”

You may have said this before … a lot of us do … “I’m completely OCD.” Though doubling back to make sure you locked the doors and turned off the coffee maker or constantly reaching for your phone to check for text and other alerts may not be signs of clinical Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, science writer Sharon Begley says that compulsion is a way of coping with our daily anxieties. Begley joins Doug to talk about the neuroscience of compulsion, and why we “Can’t Just Stop.”

The Science of Fat

Jul 3, 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 her book, Tara explores the science behind our least appreciated organ, and she joins us Monday to talk about it. (Rebroadcast)

Cannibalism

Jun 30, 2017

Scientists have long regarded cannibalism as a bizarre phenomenon with little biological significance. In Western culture, it’s regarded as the ultimate taboo, the subject of horror movies or sensational tales of real-life flesh-eaters. But the true nature of cannibalism, says zoologist Bill Schutt, is even more intriguing, and more normal, than the misconceptions we often accept as fact. Schutt has written about the natural and cultural history of cannibalism, and he joins us Friday to talk about it. [Rebroadcast]

The Seeds of Life

Jun 23, 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.

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 is coming to Utah, so we're rebroadcasting our conversation with her about the science of humans at war. (Rebroadcast)

Pages