Science

Science news

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)

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.”

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