Science

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Tuesday, we continue our Through the Lens series with a poetic and provocative documentary film about terraforming. That’s the idea of altering another planet and making it suitable for life. Director Ian Cheney’s film “Bluespace” is a kind of thought experiment, asking what it would take to reshape Mars in Earth’s image. In the end, it’s less about the red planet than it is about our own very blue planet. As Cheney says, “The more you study other worlds, the more we come to understand our own.”

Researcher Jeffrey Anderson says Karl Marx wasn’t far off when he likened religion to opium. Anderson is a neuroradiologist at the University of Utah, and he’s been studying how the brain reacts to religious experiences. What he’s found is that religion works like love, gambling, drugs, and music: they all light up the brain’s reward center. He’ll join us Monday. We’ll also talk to science journalist Erik Vance, whose cover article for this month’s National Geographic looks at faith and healing.

The Gene

Nov 18, 2016

Friday, the writer and oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee is our guest. He’s written a book that tells the epic tale of our quest to unravel the human genome. It’s the story of a long lineage of scientists—from Mendel, to Darwin, Watson, Crick, and countless others—and their efforts to understand the workings of the very threads of our existence. But how, Mukherjee wonders, can we best apply that knowledge? And what does it mean to be human when we can read and write our own genetic information? (Rebroadcast)

Science Vs

Nov 7, 2016

Monday, we’re offering a break from the political hubbub and talking about an awesome podcast called Science Vs. It’s created and hosted by the young Australian journalist Wendy Zukerman. In each episode, she pits a scientific fad against scientific facts. She’s tackled stuff like organic food, gun control, fracking, and, perhaps most memorably, the female G-spot. Zukerman will join us to talk about using facts, heart, and humor to confront the uninformed opinions we’re all at least a little guilty of.

The Hidden Brain

Oct 18, 2016

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 Tuesday, he joins us to explain how science and storytelling can improve the human experience. (Rebroadcast)

Sarah Zuckoff (resized) via Flickr/CC, https://goo.gl/d5NiVm, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

Entomologist Justin O. Schmidt is on a mission. Some say it’s a brave exploration, others shake their heads in disbelief. His goal: to catalogue the painful effects of stinging insects on humans, mainly using himself as the gauge. Most people regard stinging insects as horrible pests, but by investigating their lifestyles and adaptations, Schmidt hopes to spread his passion for the inherently interesting story every animal on earth has to tell. Schmidt joins us to explore the world of stinging insects. (Rebroadcast)

Coyote America

Sep 23, 2016
Andy Simonds via CC/Flickr, https://goo.gl/F46KAg

Friday we’re talking about a homegrown American success: coyotes. The country has been at war with the iconic species since white settlers first reached the heartland plains. But coyotes, according to historian Dan Flores, not only survived our assault on them, they simultaneously expanded their range across the continent and into our cities. Flores joins us Friday to explore the coyote’s fascinating story of resilience and adaptability and how it parallels our own version of Manifest Destiny. (Rebroadcast)

Being a Beast

Sep 13, 2016
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 trashcans 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 Tuesday to talk about his experiment and the values of wildness, both outside us and within us.

Public domain

 

When you think about military science, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Bombs and guns, right? Well, that’s not what interests the writer Mary Roach, who has a habit of seeking out eccentric scientific corners. She’s not so much curious about the killing as she is about the keeping alive. That curiosity led her to research into the battlefield’s more obscure threats: exhaustion, shock, bacteria, panic, even turkey vultures. Roach joins us Tuesday to explore the curious science of humans at war. [Rebroadcast]

Sanofi Pasteur (changes made) via CC/Flickr, https://goo.gl/rm35f8, https://goo.gl/cefU8

New York Times reporter Donald McNeil’s new book begins with a mysterious illness that broke out in Brazil in March 2015. The rash and flu-like symptoms were temporary and few were hospitalized. When the Zika virus was pinned as the culprit, Brazil’s health minister brushed it aside as “a benign disease.” Then, nine months later, the babies arrived. Babies with tiny heads. McNeil’s new book tells the story of Zika and he joins us Thursday to assess the very real threat posed by the emerging epidemic.

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