Science

Science news

Land on Fire

Jun 14, 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 Wednesday to talk about the role fire should play in a healthy ecosystem and the new reality of wildfire in the West.

The Nature Fix

Jun 6, 2017
Mark Stevens via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0/Flickr http://bit.ly/1hYHpKw

 

For centuries, great minds like Beethoven, Tesla, and Einstein have extolled the benefits of the outdoors. But these days, our lives are increasingly lived indoors and onscreen. Wondering if we could all use some more exposure to the natural world, the writer Florence Williams set out to explore the science of “our deep, cranial connection to natural landscapes.” She’ll join us to discuss how nature can make us healthier, happier, and more creative. [Rebroadcast]

Pinpoint

Jun 1, 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)

Benjamin Bergen is a cognitive scientist and he loves swearing. He actually studies it for a living. In a fascinating book, Bergen examines why we use swear words, why they’re so powerful, and how they work in our language and on our minds.  Swearing, he says, can be useful, funny, and cathartic. It also helps us express the strongest human emotions. Friday, we’re airing that conversation, but don’t worry: we’ve bleeped all the swear words. (Rebroadcast)

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

 

Wednesday, 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 explain how long walks, afternoon naps, vigorous exercise, and "deep play" stimulate creative work and sustain creative lives. (Rebroadcast)

The Story of Pain

Apr 28, 2017

What is pain? You know it when you feel it, but it’s almost impossible to properly describe. And it turns out, our idea of what that suffering is and means has changed significantly over the centuries. Friday, Doug’s guest is British historian Joanna Bourke, who has written a book that investigates “The Story of Pain.” We’ll explore how knowing the history of pain helps us acknowledge our own sorrows and the suffering of others. (Rebroadcast)

In America today, nearly 10% of the population has diabetes; more than two-thirds of us are overweight or obese; and one out of 10 kids are thought to have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. The journalist Gary Taubes blames all of these afflictions on one culprit: sugar. In his latest book, Taubes argues that sugar is the “principal cause of the chronic diseases most likely to kill us … in the 21st century.” Taubes joins us to make the case against sugar and why we’d be healthier without it. (Rebroadcast)

Cannibalism

Apr 20, 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 Thursday to talk about it.

Being a Beast

Apr 5, 2017
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)

The Science of Fat

Mar 13, 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)

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