Science news

The End of Night

Oct 24, 2013

Friday, we're talking about the night sky and what it means when the stars are obscured by light pollution. It's not just poetry and the wonder of the cosmos that's lost. Artificial light devours energy, disrupts our sleep patterns, and has even been linked to cancer. Yet eight in ten Americans born today won't ever live where they can see the Milky Way. Our guest is the writer Paul Bogard, whose book is called The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light. (Rebroadcast)

Image by <a href=""> Leigh Anthony DEHANEY</a>/<a href'="" target="_blank">Creative Commons</a> via flickr</i>

Chances are good you’re sitting down as you read these words. After hearing what Dr. James Levine, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic, has to say about sitting, you might find yourself standing a lot more. That’s because Dr. Levine’s research suggests that spending most of your day sitting and physically inactive – at work, at home and everywhere else – won’t just give you a sore back: there’s a good chance it could lead you to an early grave. Dr. Levine joins us Wednesday to explain the dangers of inactivity.

League of Denial

Oct 4, 2013

The National Football League is a multi-billion dollar empire, but keeping 85 million fans entertained has come at great cost to the players. There's an emerging public health crisis of brain damage sustained by America's gridiron warriors and thousands are suing the NFL for burying research that links football to brain damage. Monday, Doug talks to investigative journalist Mark Fainaru-Wada about what the NFL knew, when it knew it and what risk athletes take in football. 

<i>Image by <a href="">2day929</a>/<a href="" target="_blank">Creative Commons</a> via flickr</i>

A couple months ago, Dr. Robert Lustig joined us on RadioWest to discuss the health risks of sugar. He spoke with us for 20 minutes, which was barely enough time to scratch the surface of his contention that sugar, specifically fructose sugar, is a poison that distorts our biological chemistry. And if we accept that, what do we make of the fact that Americans consume 65 pounds of high fructose corn syrup in a year, on top of a lot of refined sugar? Dr. Lustig joins us again Thursday to further explore the bitter truth about sugar.

Image by "Patriziasoliani" via CC/Flickr,

Like every other organism on the planet, humans evolved over thousands of years to survive and thrive under rather specific circumstances. But what exactly is the human body adapted for? The evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman poses and attempts to answer that question in a new book. Lieberman says the human body is in many ways a Stone Age creation, better suited to the demands of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle than to 9-to-5 office work. He’ll join us Tuesday to explore the story of the human body.

Why We Get Fat

Sep 11, 2013

Most doctors will tell you that to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you consume. The science writer Gary Taubes would tell you to ignore most doctors. He argues that calories aren’t to blame for America’s obesity problem: hormones are, and so are carbs. To lose weight, Taubes says stay away the low-fat, carb rich foods most diets recommend, and instead eat lots of meat, eggs and fat. It’s a controversial opinion, but Taubes says the proof of science is on his side, and he joins us Thursday to make the case for changing what we think about why we get fat.


Aug 27, 2013

In his latest book, the neuroscientist Oliver Sacks writes about his own history using psychoactive drugs. He’s said that apart from being both pleasurable and dangerous, those experiences gave him empathy for his patients suffering from hallucinations. Sacks says hallucinations are far more common than we realize, and his book is filled with bizarre encounters with the unreal brought on by disease, syndromes and disorders. Doug talks to Oliver Sacks on Wednesday about the many and fascinating ways we perceive things that aren’t there. (Rebroadcast)

The Sports Gene

Aug 21, 2013

Every high school has its star athletes who are so good it seems like they were born to throw a football, run the 100-meter dash or swing a baseball bat. The sports writer David Epstein has spent a lot of time around exceptional athletes, and he started to wonder if their skills were the result of freak genetic programming or just lots and lots of practice. Epstein has written a new book that examines the science of extraordinary athletic performance and he joins us Thursday to talk about it.

The Truth About Sugar

Aug 12, 2013

Sugar may be sweet, but it’s gained a bad reputation lately, and its rap sheet seems to just keep growing. Studies link its consumption to afflictions like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer.  A new University of Utah study suggests that sugar isn’t even healthy at supposedly “safe” doses. It could reduce reproduction rates and lead to an early grave. Tuesday we’re putting sugar under the microscope. We’ll take a peek at its cultural history, and we’ll also inspect the growing case for labeling sugar a toxic ingredient.

The science writer Brian Switek knows adults aren’t supposed to like dinosaurs. And yet, they’re why he chose to move to Utah from New Jersey. In the decades since Switek’s dino-crazy childhood, dinosaurs have undergone incredible change. Once thought to be scaly reptilian ancestors, scientists now suspect they were warm-blooded avian relatives covered with fuzz. In his latest book, Switek attempts to explain that change to casual dinosaur fans and to rectify the animals scientists study with their pop-cultural image. Switek joins us on Friday. (Rebroadcast)