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Science Friday

Podcast Science Friday
Podcast Science Friday

Science Friday

Science Friday and WNYC Studios
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Brain fun for curious people.
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Brain fun for curious people.
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Episodios disponibles

5 de 150
  • Placebo Effect, Technoableism, Florida Citrus, Neuroscience Music. Sept 29, 2023, Part 2
    The Science Behind The Placebo EffectEarlier this month, a Food and Drug Administration panel concluded that a common decongestant ingredient used in drugs like Sudafed and NyQuil doesn’t work. The panel agreed that while the ingredient, called phenylephrine, isn’t dangerous, it doesn’t work any better than a placebo.That made us wonder: How well do placebos work? And why do they work even when people know they’re getting a placebo?Ted J. Kaptchuk, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Program in Placebo Studies and Therapeutic Encounter at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, joins guest host and musician Dessa to talk about what’s new in placebo research. They discuss the benefits placebos can offer for chronic illness management, and when doctors might start using them in treatments. Where Technology Meets AbleismWith all the bad news on our feeds, a feel-good story can be a welcome reprieve. But what happens when that story comes in the form of coverage of disability technology?You might’ve seen the videos online of a person with a physical disability being fitted with an exoskeleton, essentially “wearing” a robot, to help them walk. Onlookers cheer in the background, dramatic music swells, and we get the sense we’re watching something inspirational and empowering—a victory of the human spirit.This might seem like a triumph of scientific innovation, but our guest asks us to look again at what’s actually going on in narratives like this one.Dr. Ashley Shew, associate professor at Virginia Tech, studies the intersection of disability and technology and how our collective fixation on these fancy, supposedly transformative gadgets could be doing more harm than good. In her new book, she coins the term “technoableism” to get to the heart of the matter.Guest host and musician Dessa talks with Dr. Shew about her book Against Technoableism: Rethinking Who Needs Improvement, about what disability technology is, what the future should look like, and even how disability intersects with space travel and climate change. Sour Times For Florida’s CitrusFlorida is known for citrus, particularly its fresh-squeezed orange juice. But citrus trees in the state are struggling. For the last two decades, crops have been struck with a devastating disease called “citrus greening.” And Florida orange production has dropped some 94% over that period.                                              Citrus greening is caused by an invasive insect, the Asian citrus psyllid, which is threatening to wipe out the citrus industry in the state. One of the effects of the disease is a bitter, acidic fruit. Scientists are hard at work devising possible solutions to save Florida’s crop.Guest host and musician Dessa talks with Dr. Yu Wang, associate professor of food science at the University of Florida’s Citrus Education and Research Center, about her recent advances in making infected orange plants sweeter. Making Neuroscience Into MusicWhen composer Sarah Hennies learned about a neurological theory called “motor tapes” from Oliver Sacks’ book Musicophilia, the concept stuck with her for years. The theory comes from neuroscientist Rodolfo Llinás, who posited that many of our thoughts, memories, and physical movements operate via a series of “looping tapes,” with the goal of reducing the amount of energy the brain uses while doing common, repetitive tasks.The concept resonated with Hennies, who is also a visiting assistant professor of music at Bard College. Most of her compositions use heavy amounts of repetition, and Llinás’ theory fit with how she experienced her own memories and the evolution of her identity. Her piece “Motor Tapes” premiered in early August, performed by Ensemble Dedalus.Hennies joins guest host and musician Dessa to talk about repetition in music, how to translate neuroscience into art, and what that pairing can reveal about our bodies and the world around us. To stay updated on all-things-science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.
    29/9/2023
    47:43
  • Vision and the Brain, Jellypalooza. Sept 29, 2023, Part 1
    After 7 Years, NASA Gets Its Asteroid SampleAbout a week ago, space nerds got the delivery of a lifetime: a sample from Bennu, an asteroid soaring through the galaxy, currently about 200 million miles away. The capsule of rocks and dust came courtesy of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx, the first U.S. mission to collect a sample from an asteroid.Scientists hope it’ll help unveil some of the mysteries of our universe, like how the sun and planets came to exist or how life began. Guest host and musician Dessa talks with Sophie Bushwick, technology editor at Scientific American, about this week in science. They also chat about how antimatter interacts with gravity, the new RSV vaccine for pregnant people, why LED streetlights are turning purple, and how beetles came to dominate all other species, especially ants. How You See With Your BrainEver try to take a picture of a spectacular moon that looks like it fills up half the sky? And then you look at the photo, and the moon looks like a tiny dumb ping-pong ball? And you want to march into the Apple store and demand to know why this pocket-size device fails to capture the wonder of the cosmos properly? The majesty of that supermoon you saw might be in your head as much as it is in the sky—your brain does a lot more than just receive data reports from your eyes. Vision is complicated. Seeing involves a lot of interpretation, of which you’re usually unaware. Guest host and musician Dessa talks with neuroscientist Dr. Cheryl Olman, associate professor in the University of Minnesota’s psychology department, about her work to better understand how the brain processes visual information using sophisticated fMRI techniques, including studying the brains of people with schizophrenia. Are Jellyfish Smarter Than We Think?Jellyfish are known for their graceful, hypnotic movement through the water—and for occasionally stinging swimmers. One thing they’re not known for, however, is intelligence. A study published in the journal Current Biology, however, challenges the idea of the ‘brainless’ jellyfish by showing that at least one species of jelly may be capable of associative learning.The scientists were studying the Caribbean box jellyfish, which normally lives amongst a forest of tangled mangrove tree roots. In the lab, they painted false roots on the walls of the jellyfish’s tank, and watched to see what happened. At first, the jellies judged the low-contrast gray roots to be far away, and tried to swim through them. After a few collisions with the tank, however, the jellies learned that the false roots were closer than they appeared, and learned to keep their distance.Dr. Anders Garm, an associate professor of marine biology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, joins guest host Dessa to explain the experiment, and what it tells researchers about the connection between the behavior of small groups of neurons and the process of learning. The Mysteries Of Freshwater JellyfishIn 1933, a high schooler fishing along the Huron River in Ann Arbor, Michigan looked into the water and saw something weird. It turned out to be a freshwater jellyfish – the first ever discovered in the Great Lakes region. Later that year, there was another sighting in Lake Erie.Researchers think the species hitched a ride here on aquatic plants shipped from China, then spread. But there’s no evidence they harm the lake ecosystems they now call home.Since then, the jellyfish have spread across the Upper Midwest, loitering mostly in inland lakes, rivers, and streams. But we still don’t know all that much about them.A biology professor and her field research class at Eastern Michigan University are hoping to change that. Every week, they slap on masks, snorkels, and floaties, and wade out into a southeast Michigan lake on the lookout for jellyfish.Read the rest at sciencefriday.com. To stay updated on all-things-science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.
    29/9/2023
    48:03
  • Ocean Climate Solutions, Florida Corals, Climate Video Games. Sept 22, 2023, Part 2
    Florida’s Reefs Are Vanishing. Can Scientists Save Them?This was a bad year for Florida’s coral reefs. Since the 1970s, reef cover in the Florida Keys has decreased by 90%. Those remaining reefs have been subjected to water temperatures higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, alongside other threats like disease and ocean acidification. This is a big problem for the largest reef in the continental U.S., which plays an important role in protecting the shorelines from erosion and storms.Scientists are scrambling to preserve as much of the reef as possible. One method marine biologists are focused on is selectively breeding corals in labs. Scientists look for the specimens most resilient to heat stress, then breed them together to create hardy offspring. Those spawn are then implanted into the reef, with hopes of bolstering the existing structure.Vox environmental reporter Benji Jones joins Ira to talk about his dives to Florida’s Pickles Reef, and the differences he saw between this year and last year. Then, Ira speaks with marine biologist Andrew Baker at the University of Miami about his efforts to bolster Florida’s reefs.  The Ocean Is A Climate AllyDid you know that the ocean absorbs about a quarter of all CO2 emissions? And about 90% of excess heat? It’s the largest carbon sink we have—and one of our biggest allies in the climate movement.Ira talks with Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, marine biologist and co-founder of the non-profit Urban Ocean Lab, as well as the climate initiative The All We Can Save Project. They chat about climate solutions—like the newly launched Climate Corps—the power of the ocean, and steps forward. Dr. Johnson is also the curator for Climate Futurism, an art exhibition at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, New York. Feeling Hopeless About Climate Change? Try Playing These Video GamesThis segment, originally from 2022, was re-aired this week.Five years ago, Stephanie Barish was tired of the public’s attitude about climate change. “Most people at that time were just so negative about climate,” she said. “It was doom and destruction, and I thought, wow, to make positive change, you have to really look at this from a solutions perspective.” Stephanie is the founder and CEO of Indiecade, an organization that supports indie video game developers and hosts events like the Climate Jam—the goal of which was to change the gloomy public narrative around climate change. So, with the help of organizations like Earth Games, participants around the globe gather every year to make video games about climate change optimism, solutions, and justice.Teams can also consult with subject matter experts, like Dargan Frierson, an associate professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, and also a judge for the Climate Jam. If teams wonder what climate change would look like on a different planet, they can go to him for answers. “We always look for scientific accuracy,” he said. “I think it’s very important to keep things within the realm of possibility, even when you’re looking at fiction.”Read the rest at sciencefriday.com. To stay updated on all-things-science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.
    22/9/2023
    47:22
  • Our Fragile Moment, Climate Comedy. Sept 22, 2023, Part 1
    A Week Of Climate Protests, Meetings, Pledges, And ActionClimate Week NYC is wrapping up, where hundreds of events took place across the city (including one from Science Friday), all with the goal of encouraging conversation and action around our climate crisis.The weeklong event takes place alongside the UN General Assembly meeting, where world leaders discussed climate change, alongside other topics, including the war in Ukraine and universal health coverage.While President Biden emphasized the importance of reducing the use of fossil fuels to combat climate change, there was a notable absence of leaders from the world’s biggest polluters, including Biden and president Xi Jinping of China, from the meeting’s Climate Ambition Summit. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that in order to participate, governments need to come with “credible, serious and new climate action.”Large demonstrations also took place across the city, pressuring leaders and companies to take bigger action to end gas, oil, and coal use.Swapna Krishna, a journalist based in Philadelphia, talks with Ira about these stories and more, including a new climate jobs program from the White House, a lawsuit from California against the five big oil companies, new battery recycling rules from the EU, and data from the Parker Solar Probe’s recent flight through a sun explosion. Can Earth’s Past Climate Help Us Understand Today’s Crisis?A combination of factors led to Earth’s climate being able to support life. And changes in the climate some 6,000 years ago created the conditions for human civilization to flourish. It’s a delicate balance on the verge of collapse, due to our reliance on burning fossil fuels.Ira talks with paleoclimatologist Dr. Michael Mann about his forthcoming book Our Fragile Moment: How Lessons from Earth’s Past Can Help Us Survive the Climate Crisis, about the importance of understanding our planet’s climate history, and strategies to get policymakers to take action before it’s too late to reverse some of the worst consequences of climate change.Mann is a professor of earth and environmental science and director of the Penn Center for Science, Sustainability and the Media at the University of Pennsylvania, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Read an excerpt of the book on sciencefriday.com The Climate Movement Should Be FunnierHow do you know that climate change is funny? Even the Antarctic ice sheets are cracking up.The climate crisis is no joke, but that doesn’t mean we can’t laugh about it. Research suggests that comedy is a powerful way to connect people and get them to empathize with a cause—and the climate crisis is a pretty big one.So what does science say about the power of a good laugh? And how does that fit into the climate movement?Ira talks with Esteban Gast, comedian in residence at the clean energy non-profit Generation 180, and Dr. Caty Borum, executive director of the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University. To stay updated on all-things-science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.
    22/9/2023
    47:09
  • New Covid Vaccine, Moroccan Earthquake, Native Bees. Sept 15, 2023, Part 2
    New COVID Boosters Arrive Amid Rise In InfectionsThis past week, the FDA and CDC recommended new COVID vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna for anyone over the age of six months. They’re expected to be in larger pharmacies by the end of the week. It’s welcome news for some, as cases have ticked up over the summer, accompanied by higher hospital admissions and deaths.The boosters join a suite of other vaccines to combat respiratory illness this fall, including this year’s flu shot and the new RSV vaccine, recommended especially for children and the elderly.Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, epidemiologist, adjunct professor at UTHealth School of Public Health, and author of the Your Local Epidemiologist newsletter, joins Ira to talk about the details of the new boosters, how long you should wait to get one if you were recently infected, masking recommendations, and if you can get all three shots at once. The Science Behind Devastating EarthquakesOn September 8, 2023 at 11:11 PM local time, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Morocco’s High Atlas mountains. So far, more than 2,500 people died and thousands more were injured or lost.Other natural disasters usually give off warning signs; we can predict when a volcano will explode, ring the alarms when a tsunami starts to build, or evacuate before a hurricane makes landfall, but we still can’t detect earthquakes before they strike. And victims are left to face “the particular trauma that comes from watching the world around you crumble in an instant,” writes science journalist Robin George Andrews for The Atlantic.Ira talks with Andrews about the specifics of this earthquake, where the science stands with earthquake detection, and the particular kind of trauma that comes from watching the world crumble. The Buzz On Native Bees In Your NeighborhoodWhen you think ‘bees,’ you probably think of a neat stack of white hive boxes and the jars of honey on the store shelves.  But there’s a lot more to bees than the agricultural staple, the European honey bee. Around the world there are over 20,000 known bee species, and around 4,000 of them are native to the United States. While these native bees play a key role in pollinating our plants and ensuring the health of ecosystems, they don’t get a ton of recognition or support. Around three-quarters of flowering plant species rely on insects for pollination, and some native plants have evolved a partnership with specific native bee pollinators. Squashes, pumpkins, gourds, and the annual sunflower all have specific species of native bees as part of their life cycles. Native plants such as blueberries, cherries, and cranberries all developed without the European honeybee, which arrived in North America in 1622. Dr. Neal Williams, a professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, joins Ira to talk about native bees, bee behavior and pollination. To stay updated on all-things-science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.
    15/9/2023
    47:42

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