Science news

Richard Ruggerio via <a href="" target="_blank">Creative Commons</a>

In the desolate deserts of Namibia, the esteemed nature writer Rick Bass espied glints of hope in a time of ecological disaster. He writes in his new book that people in that nearly waterless land are pursuing new solutions to pressing problems, and they’re drawing inspiration from an incredible animal: the critically endangered black rhino. Bass joins Doug on Thursday to discuss what one country is doing to deal with one problem, “with a near-eternity of problems still remaining,” and what we can learn from those efforts. 


Aug 20, 2012

Humans spend nearly a third of their lives sleeping. Most of us love sleep, and yet we have little idea how it affects us. Indeed, sleep is largely a mystery. Even scientistsdon’t know why, exactly, we need to sleep. The reporter David Randall tours the Land of Nod in a new book, exploring the odd, sometimes disturbing and often fascinating things that happen when we’re in dreamland. That’s actually the name of the book—Dreamland—and Randall joins Doug on Tuesday to talk about it.

Bird Sense

Aug 8, 2012
<i>Image by <a href="">USFWS Headquarters</a>/<a href="" target="_blank">Creative Commons</a> via flickr</i>

Who hasn’t watched a bird soaring on high, swooping through the sky, and wondered what it would feel like to fly on feathered wings? In his book Bird Sense, the behavioral ecologist Tim Birkhead takes an inside look at the life of birds. He details the extraordinary senses, emotions and abilities of robins, finches, ducks, chickens and other avian friends. Birkhead joins Doug on Thursday to examine what it’s like to be a bird and what it's like to share a planet with such utterly different and yet recognizably similar creatures.

Fooling Houdini

Aug 6, 2012

In the insular world of magic, the ability to deceive is the most prized attribute of all. It takes training and skill, but it also relies on exploiting human psychology. Science journalist Alex Stone has been obsessed with magic since he was five, but when he wrote a revealing article about the Magic Olympics, he was kicked out of his society. Now he's written a book and joins us to talk about the subculture of magicians and how the mechanics of our brains make us susceptible to illusion.

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

Friday, we're rebroadcasting a conversation Doug had earlier this year with end-of-life care expert Ira Byock about his book "The Best Care Possible." Dr. Byock says that the one thing worse than having someone we love die is having them die badly. That's why his work has steered clear of the "more-is-always-better" philosophy that results in so many Americans experiencing painful and dehumanizing deaths. We'll talk about practical solutions for reforming our health care system and why Byock is determined to put the "care" back in healthcare.

When science writer Florence Williams was breastfeeding, she decided to have her milk tested for environmental contaminants. Her results were average for American women and included chemicals found in flame-retardants and jet-fuel. It's not, she says, what her daughter had in mind for dinner. It set her off on a journey to study the history of breasts: how they evolved and what modern life is doing to them. Wednesday, we're talking to Williams about what she calls her natural and unnatural history of breasts. (Rebroadcast)

Barefoot Running

Jul 5, 2012

Journalist Christopher McDougall points out that there is only one other animal on the planet that wears shoes, and that's just because we "grab them by the legs and hammer them on." McDougall is the author of "Born to Run" and his book is at the center of the barefoot running trend. Thursday, he joins us to explain why so many people are ditching their sneakers and reconnecting with the way he says our bodies were built to run. (Rebroadcast)

Mind Your Gray Matter

Jun 25, 2012
Photo used under <a href="" target=_blank">Creative Commons</a> <a href="" target="_blank">Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license</a>.

Severe head trauma in sports was once a minor concern. Athletes got “dinged,” or got “their bells rung.” Now the discussion is serious: concussions can result in brain injuries, especially for young people. Scientists are documenting the risks of extreme shocks to the head, leading the NFL and the NHL to crackdown. Even little leagues are changing their rules to better protect players. Tuesday on RadioWest guest host John Daley explores changes in the understanding and treatment of sports-related concussions.

How Creativity Works

Jun 18, 2012

Tuesday, science writer Jonah Lehrer is with us for a look at what the latest research can teach us about our imaginations. Creativity isn't the special purview of artists and inventors; it's an impulse that's hard-wired into our brain and we can all learn to use it more effectively. We'll talk about how techniques like daydreaming, perseverance and channeling the inner seven-year-old can help us re-imagine the world. (Rebroadcast)

Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium and one of America's most vocal proponents of space exploration, is as fascinated with the depth and mysteries of outer space as he is with its proximity. "We are part of this universe; we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us," he has said. Doug spoke with Tyson about in March of this year about his personal relationship with the cosmos and his crusade to get humanity back into space. We're rebroadcasting the conversation on Thursday at 11 a.m. and again on Friday at 7 p.m.