Science

Science news

Doubting Bigfoot

Dec 10, 2012

When we spoke last year with anthropologist Jeffrey Meldrum about his research on Bigfoot, not all of our listeners were impressed. Among them was science writer Brian Switek who says that focusing on fantastic tales comes at a cost: it blurs the line between belief and scientific method and it distracts us from the astonishing species that do exist. Well, Sasquatch is in the news again and Tuesday, Switek joins us to explain why rumors of Bigfoot DNA don't impress him either.

When photographer James Balog first headed to the Arctic for National Geographic in 2005, he says he was a skeptic about climate change. What he saw there though put his career on a new course. Balog is the founder of the Extreme Ice Survey – a project that captures visually dramatic manifestations of climate change. Thursday, Balog and filmmaker Jeff Orlowski join us to talk about the stunning documentary "Chasing Ice," which follows James Balog as he risks his life to document the impact of warming temperatures on the world's glaciers.

Bird Sense

Nov 22, 2012
<i>Image by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/7172188398/">USFWS Headquarters</a>/<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/deed.en" 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. (Rebroadcast)

Dreamland

Nov 12, 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 scientists don’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. (Rebroadcast)

Hallucinations

Nov 7, 2012

In his new 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 new book is filled with bizarre encounters with the unreal brought on by disease, syndromes and disorders. Doug talks to Oliver Sacks on Thursday about the many and fascinating ways we perceive things that aren’t there.

Fooling Houdini

Oct 17, 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. (Rebroadcast)

Spillover

Oct 15, 2012

Tuesday, Doug’s joined by the science writer David Quammen. Twelve years ago, Quammen began researching the concept of “spillover,” the sudden transfer of disease from one species to another. He traveled around the world, investigating the science, history and human impact of diseases like AIDS, SARS and Ebola. In his newest book, Spillover, Quammen says that what he’s learned makes clear “the old Darwinian truth that humanity is a kind of animal, inextricably linked with other animals: in origin and in descent, in sickness and in health.”

Richard Ruggerio via <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Licensing" 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. 

Dreamland

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="http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/7172188398/">USFWS Headquarters</a>/<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/deed.en" 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.

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