Twitter: @NPR (followed by 87 science writers)
2019 to present
Average episode: 13 minutes
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Podcaster's summary: New discoveries, everyday mysteries, and the science behind the headlines — all in about 10 minutes, every weekday. It's science for everyone, using a lot of creativity and a little humor. Join hosts Emily Kwong and Aaron Scott for science on a different wavelength.If you're hooked, try Short Wave Plus. Your subscription supports the show and unlocks a sponsor-free feed. Learn more at plus.npr.org/shortwave
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|2023-Mar-23 • 14 minutes|
Why Pandemic Researchers Are Talking About Raccoon Dogs
A few weeks ago, raw data gathered in Janaury 2020 from Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China — the early epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic — was uploaded to an online virology database. It caught the attention of researchers. A new genetic analysis from an international team provides the strongest evidence yet for natural origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and the role of one animal in particular: raccoon dogs. Short Wave co-host Emily Kwong talks with Katherine Wu, a staff writer at The Atlantic,...
|2023-Mar-22 • 13 minutes|
If ChatGPT Designed A Rocket — Would It Get To Space?
From text churned out by ChatGPT to the artistic renderings of Midjourney, people have been taking notice of new, bot-produced creative works. But how does this artificial intelligence software fare when there are facts at stake — like designing a rocket capable of safe spaceflight?In this episode, NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel and Short Wave co-host Emily Kwong drill into what this AI software gets wrong, right — and if it's even trying to detect the difference in the first place.Want to hear mo...
|2023-Mar-21 • 13 minutes|
What we lose if the Great Salt Lake dries up
Dotted across the Great Basin of the American West are salty, smelly lakes. The largest of these, by far, is the Great Salt Lake in Utah.But a recent report found that water diversions for farming, climate change and population growth could mean the lake essentially disappears within five years. Less water going in means higher concentrations of salt and minerals, which threatens the crucial ecological role saline lakes play across the West, as well as the health of the people who live nearby. On today's ep...
|2023-Mar-20 • 14 minutes|
Venus And Earth: A Tale Of Two 'Twins'
Planetary scientists announced some big news this week about our next-door neighbor, Venus. For the first time, they had found direct evidence that Venus has active, ongoing volcanic activity. "It's a big deal," says Dr. Martha Gilmore, a planetary geologist at Wesleyan University. "It's a big deal in that there are no other planets, actually, where we've seen active volcanism." (Moons don't count - sorry Io!) What makes that fact so striking is how inhospitable a place Venus is now – crushing pressure, a t...
|2023-Mar-18 • 20 minutes|
Tweeting Directly From Your Brain (And What's Next)
Our friends at NPR's TED Radio Hour podcast have been pondering some BIG things — specifically, the connection between our physical, mental, and spiritual health. In this special excerpt, what if you could control a device, not with your hand, but with your mind? Host Manoush Zomorodi talks to physician and entrepreneur Tom Oxley about the implantable brain-computer interface that can change the way we think. Keep an eye on NPR's TED Radio Hour podcast feed the next few weeks, as they unveil the series.
|2023-Mar-17 • 13 minutes|
Flying Into Snowstorms ... For Science!
For the past few winters, researchers have been intentionally flying into snowstorms. And high in those icy clouds, the team collected all the information they could to understand—how exactly do winter storms work? With more accurate data could come more accurate predictions about whether a storm would cause treacherous conditions that shut down schools, close roads and cancel flights. NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce recently took to the skies for one of these flights and shares her reportin...
|2023-Mar-16 • 12 minutes|
Could de-extincting the dodo help struggling species?
As a leading expert on paleogenomics, Beth Shapiro has been hearing the same question ever since she started working on ancient DNA: "The only question that we consistently were asked was, how close are we to bringing a mammoth back to life?"In the second part of our conversation (listen to yesterday's episode), Beth tells Short Wave co-host Aaron Scott that actually cloning a mammoth is probably not going to happen. "But there are technologies that will allow us to resurrect extinct traits, to move bits an...
|2023-Mar-15 • 14 minutes|
It's Boom Times In Ancient DNA
Research into very, very old DNA has made huge leaps forward over the last two decades. That has allowed scientists like Beth Shapiro to push the frontier further and further. "For a long time, we thought, you know, maybe the limit is going to be around 100,000 years [old]. Or, maybe the limit is going to be around 300,000 years," says Shapiro, Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz. "Well, now we've been working with a horse fossil in Alaska that's about 800,000 years old." Beth's car...
|2023-Mar-14 • 13 minutes|
How To Bake Pi, Mathematically (And Deliciously)
Happy Pi Day, Short Wavers! For a celebration of π and baking, we're turning to mathematician Eugenia Cheng.
|2023-Mar-13 • 14 minutes|
How Well Does A New Alzheimer's Drug Work For Those Most At Risk?
A new drug for Alzheimer's disease, called lecanemab, got a lot of attention earlier this year for getting fast-tracked approval based on a clinical trial that included nearly 1,800 people. It was the most diverse trial for an Alzheimer's treatment to date, but still not enough to definitively say if the drug is effective for Black people. "[In] the world's most diverse Alzheimer's trial, a giant trial of 1,800 people that lasted for a much longer time than most trials did, we're still not sure that all of ...
|2023-Mar-10 • 11 minutes|
Ocean World Tour: Whale Vocal Fry, Fossilizing Plankton and A Treaty
Reading the science headlines this week, we have A LOT of questions. Why are more animals than just humans saddled — er, blessed — with vocal fry? Why should we care if 8 million year old plankton fossils are in different locations than plankton living today? And is humanity finally united on protecting the Earth's seas with the creation of the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction treaty? Luckily, it's the job of the Short Wave team to decipher the science behind the headlines. This week, that decipher...
|2023-Mar-09 • 14 minutes|
'Are You A Model?': Crickets Are So Hot Right Now
Have you ever wondered how biologists choose what animal to use in their research? Since scientists can't do a lot of basic research on people, they study animals to shed light on everything from human health to ecosystems to genetics. And yet, just a handful of critters appear over and over again. Why the mouse? Or the fruit fly? Or the zebrafish? Cassandra Extavour, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard, talked with Short Wave co-host Aaron Scott about her favorite new model critter on the block: crickets....
|2023-Mar-08 • 11 minutes|
The Race To Save A Tree Species
The whitebark pine is a hardy tree that grows in an area stretching from British Columbia, Canada south to parts of California and east to Montana. It's a keystone species in its subalpine and timberline ecosystems and plays an outsized role in its interactions with other species and the land — feeding and providing habitat for other animals, and providing shade to slow glacial melt to the valleys below. But it's increasingly threatened — by more intense fires, by mountain pine beetle infestations and by a ...
|2023-Mar-07 • 12 minutes|
The $20 Billion Deal To Get Indonesia Off Coal
Indonesia is the world's largest exporter of coal for electricity. And it's also an emerging economy trying to address climate change. The country recently signed a highly publicized, $20 billion international deal to transition away from coal and toward renewable energy. The hope is the deal could be a model for other countries. But Indonesian energy experts and solar executives worry much of this deal may be "omong kosong" — empty talk. Today, NPR climate solutions reporter Julia Simon breaks down the re...
|2023-Mar-06 • 13 minutes|
Rome wasn't built in a day, but they sure had strong concrete
The Roman Colosseum is a giant, oval amphitheater built almost two thousand years ago. Despite its age and a 14th century earthquake that knocked down the south side of the colosseum, most of the 150-some foot building is still standing. Like many ancient Roman structures, parts of it were constructed using a specific type of concrete. Scientists and engineers have long suspected a key to these buildings' durability is their use of this Roman concrete. But exactly how this sturdy concrete has contributed to...
|2023-Mar-03 • 16 minutes|
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein's Disordered Cosmos
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is a theoretical physicist at the University of New Hampshire. It's her job to ask deep questions about how we — and the rest of the universe — got to this moment. Her new book, The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred, does exactly that. It's an examination of the science that underpins our universe and how the researchers seeking to understand those truths, in turn, shape the science. As we close out Black History month, we revisit this con...
|2023-Mar-02 • 15 minutes|
Honoring The 'Hidden Figures' Of Black Gardening
When Abra Lee became the landscape manager at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, she sought some advice about how to best do the job. The answer: study the history of gardening. That led to her uncovering how Black involvement in horticulture in the U.S. bursts with incredible stories and profound expertise, intertwined with a tragic past. She's now teaching these stories and working on a book, Conquer the Soil: Black America and the Untold Stories of Our Country's Gardeners, Farmers, and Gro...
|2023-Mar-01 • 13 minutes|
This Navy vet helped discover a new, super-heavy element
As a kid, Clarice Phelps dreamed of being an astronaut, or maybe an explorer like the characters on Star Trek. Her path to a career in science turned out to be a bit different than what she expected, including lengthy stints on a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. But that path led her to being a part of something big: the discovery of a new element on the periodic table. Clarice talks to Short Wave co-host Aaron Scott about her role in creating Tennessine, one of the heaviest elements known to humankind.
|2023-Feb-28 • 15 minutes|
What DNA kits leave out: race, ancestry and 'scientific sankofa'
Population geneticist Dr. Janina Jeff is the host and executive producer of In Those Genes, a hip-hop inspired podcast that uses genetics to uncover the those lost identifies of African descended Americans through the lens of Black culture. Short Wave co-host Emily Kwong speaks with Janina about what a person's genetic ancestry test does and does not reveal, and the complicated intersection of genetics, history and race.
|2023-Feb-27 • 12 minutes|
Measuring Health Risks After A Chemical Spill
This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a public hearing about its remediation plan for cleaning up chemicals in and around East Palestine, Ohio. It follows the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals like vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate near the town earlier this month. Residents were temporarily evacuated from the area two days later to allow for a controlled burn of the chemicals. EPA health officials have been monitoring the air and water in the area ...
|2023-Feb-24 • 14 minutes|
Ancient Seeds: A Possible Key To Climate Adaptation
In the Bekaa Valley region of Lebanon, there is a giant walk-in fridge housing tens of thousands of seeds. They belong to the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). Scientists from around the world use the seeds for research. ICARDA seeds have improved food security in several countries. They've transformed Ethiopian agriculture to use more drought-resistant crops. A new chickpea can be planted in winter. And now, NPR's Middle East correspondent Ruth Sherlock has found tha...
|2023-Feb-23 • 11 minutes|
Seriously...what IS life?
In this Back To School episode we consider the "List of Life": the criteria that define what it is to be a living thing. Some are easy calls: A kitten is alive. A grain of salt is not. But what about the tricky cases, like a virus? Or, more importantly, what about futuristic android robots? As part of our Black History Month celebration, developmental biologist Crystal Rogers and scientist-in-residence Regina G. Barber dig into what makes something alive, and wade into a Star-Trek-themed debate. Is there so...
|2023-Feb-22 • 10 minutes|
Understanding Earthquake Aftershocks
Monday another earthquake struck southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border. This time, the quake registered as a magnitude 6.3 — an order lower than the initial, devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake and the magnitude 7.5 aftershock that struck the area two weeks ago on Feb. 6. A magnitude 6.3 is still considered strong, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). And as NPR previously reported, some locals were inside buildings trying to recover belongings lost in the initial quake when Monda...
|2023-Feb-21 • 13 minutes|
The Fungal Science Behind HBO's 'The Last of Us'
The Last of Us is the zombie genre with a fungal twist. The fungus on the show can't infect humans, but some fungi pose real threats to humanity.
|2023-Feb-20 • 19 minutes|
Life Kit: Help Save The North American Bird Population
Many of us are off today for President's Day. In the meantime, we want to share this episode from our friends at NPR's Life Kit podcast. In it, they discuss the importance of birds as an "indicator species" – their health helps us understand the health of our environment. Plus, they collect expert tips on how we can help birds survive, and thrive. For more of Audrey's reporting, check out "North American birds are in decline. Here are 8 simple ways you can help."
|2023-Feb-17 • 12 minutes|
News Round Up: Chocolate, A Solar Valentine And Fly Pheromones
After reading the science headlines this week, we have A LOT of questions. Is chocolate really that good for your health? How do solar flares affect life on earth? And what's the big deal about scientists identifying the chemical motivation for tsetse fly sex? Luckily, it's the job of Short Wave co-hosts Emily Kwong and Aaron Scott and Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber to decipher the science behind the headlines. Hang out with us as we dish on some of the coolest science stories in this Valentines-th...
|2023-Feb-16 • 14 minutes|
The Science Fueling Disney's 'Strange World'
In Disney's new animated feature 'Strange World,' a band of multigenerational explorers journeys to the center of their fantastical homeland. Along the way, they fend off, make friends with, and unearth secrets about the curious creatures who call this place home. There's the filterlopes, six-legged deer-forms with fan-like antennae. Or scouts, squishy blue balls with 12 elastic limbs. But as fantastical as these creatures sound, each one is grounded in the physics and biology of its real-world counterpart....
|2023-Feb-15 • 10 minutes|
Congrats! It's A Tomato
A few years ago, a team of scientists set out on a field expedition in the rugged, dry Northern Territory of Australia. There, they found a plant that was both strange and familiar hiding in plain sight. After careful research during the pandemic, the newly described tomato recently made its debut in PhytoKeys, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal. Today, Short Wave Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber talks to lead author Tanisha Williams about the plant's journey from the side of a trail in the Austral...
|2023-Feb-14 • 11 minutes|
Mix Up LOVE, And You Get V-O-L-E
You may have heard of the "love hormone," or oxytocin. But you may not know that scientists have relied on cuddly rodents like the prairie vole to help us understand how this protein works in our brains.Voles are stocky, mouse-like little mammals that range over most of North America. One species in particular, the prairie vole, is known for its fidelity: Prairie voles pair-bond and mate for life. And so, for years, scientists have known that oxytocin is important in facilitating the feeling of love in both...
|2023-Feb-13 • 14 minutes|
Meet One Engineer Fixing A Racially Biased Medical Device
During the COVID-19 pandemic, one measurement became more important than almost any other: blood oxygen saturation. It was the one concrete number that doctors could use to judge how severe a case of COVID-19 was and know whether to admit people into the hospital and provide them with supplemental oxygen. But pulse oximeters, the device most commonly used to measure blood oxygen levels, don't work as well for patients of color. Kimani Toussaint, a physicist at Brown University, is leading a group trying to ...
|2023-Feb-10 • 12 minutes|
Lightning Protection: Lasers, Rockets or Rods?
Every year, lightning is estimated to cause up to 24,000 deaths globally. It starts forest fires, burns buildings and crops, and causes disruptive power outages. The best, most practical technology available to deflect lightning is the simple lightning rod, created by Benjamin Franklin more than 250 years ago. But lightning rods protect only a very limited area proportional to their height. So today's show, why a group of European researchers are hoping the 21 century upgrade is a high-powered laser. Plus: ...
|2023-Feb-09 • 14 minutes|
The Social Cost of Carbon Is An Ethics Nightmare
One of the most important tools the federal government has for cracking down on greenhouse gas emissions is a single number: the social cost of carbon. It represents all the damage from carbon emissions — everything from the cost of lost crops and flooded homes to the lost wages when people can't safely work outside and the cost of climate-related deaths. Currently, the cost is $51 per ton of carbon, but the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed raising the cost to $190. NPR climate correspondent Reb...
|2023-Feb-08 • 12 minutes|
Why Can't We Predict Earthquakes?
In the wake of the massive earthquake in Turkey and Syria, many scientists have been saying this area was "overdue" for a major quake. But no one knew just when: No scientist has "ever predicted a major earthquake," the U.S. Geological Survey says. Even the most promising earthquake models can only offer seconds of warning. In this episode, host Emily Kwong talks to geologist Wendy Bohon and NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel about why earthquake prediction can be so difficult, and the science that fu...
|2023-Feb-07 • 11 minutes|
Who Gets The First Peek At The Secrets Of The Universe?
The James Webb Space Telescope is by far the most powerful space-based telescope ever deployed by the United States. But it is only one instrument, and scientists all over the world have to share. The JWST's managers received more than 1,600 research proposals for what the telescope should look at. When an astronomer or a team does get some much-coveted telescope time, they currently get exclusive access to whatever data they collect for a full year. But there is a movement in astronomy to make most results...
|2023-Feb-06 • 13 minutes|
Can You See What I See?
Everyone sees the world differently. Exactly which colors you see and which of your eyes is doing more work than the other as you read this text is different for everyone. Also different? Our blind spots – both physical and social. As we continue celebrating Black History Month, today we're featuring Exploratorium Staff Physicist Educator Desiré Whitmore. She shines a light on human eyesight – how it affects perception and how understanding another person's view of the world can offer us a fuller, better pi...
|2023-Feb-03 • 14 minutes|
A Dirty Snowball, Cancer-Sniffing Ants And A Stressed Out Moon
A green comet, cancer-sniffing ants, stealthy moons ... hang out with us as we dish on some of the coolest science stories in the news! Today, Short Wave co-hosts Emily Kwong and Aaron Scott are joined by editor Gabriel Spitzer. Together, they round up headlines in this first installment of what will be regular newsy get-togethers in your feed. Have suggestions for what we should cover in our next news roundup? Email us at [email protected]
|2023-Feb-02 • 12 minutes|
A Fatal Virus With Pandemic Potential
The Nipah virus is on the World Health Organization's short list of diseases that have pandemic potential and therefore pose the greatest public health risk. With a fatality rate at about 70%, it is one of the most deadly respiratory diseases health officials have ever seen. But as regular outbreaks began in the early 2000s in Bangladesh, researchers were left scratching their heads. Initially, the cause of the outbreaks was unknown to them. But once they identified the virus, a second, urgent question aros...
|2023-Feb-01 • 15 minutes|
The Ancient Night Sky And The Earliest Astronomers
Moiya McTier says the night sky has been fueling humans' stories about the universe for a very long time, and informing how they explain the natural world. In fact, Moiya sees astronomy and folklore as two sides of the same coin. "To me, science is any rigorous attempt at understanding and explaining the world around you," she explained to Short Wave's Aaron Scott. "You can see that they knew enough about the world around them to predict eclipses, to predict annual floods in Egypt, for example. I think that...
|2023-Jan-31 • 13 minutes|
Can you teach a computer common sense?
Over the past decade, AI has moved right into our houses - onto our phones and smart speakers - and grown in sophistication. But many AI systems lack something we humans take for granted: common sense. In this episode Emily talks to MacArthur Fellowship-winner Yejin Choi, one of the leading thinkers on natural language processing, about how she's teaching machines to make inferences about the real world.
|2023-Jan-30 • 13 minutes|
Gas Stoves: Sorting Fact From Fiction
Gas stoves are found in around 40% of homes in the United States, and they've been getting a lot of attention lately. A recent interview with Richard Trumka, the commissioner of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), quickly became fodder for outrage, viral disinformation and political fundraising after he proposed regulating the appliance. The proposal stems from a growing body of research suggesting gas stoves are unhealthy — especially for those with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary dis...
|2023-Jan-27 • 13 minutes|
Meet The Bony-Eared Assfish And Its Deep Sea Friends
Yi-Kai Tea, a biodiversity research fellow at the Australian Museum in Sydney, has amassed a social media following as @KaiTheFishGuy for his sassy writing and gorgeous photos of fish and other wildlife. Kai recently returned from an expedition aboard an Australian research ship to explore the deep seas surrounding a new marine park in the Indian Ocean. Led by the Museums Victoria Research Institute, dozens of scientists aboard mapped the ocean floor and, using nets dropped to as deep as six kilometers, gat...
|2023-Jan-26 • 16 minutes|
6 Doctors Swallow Lego Heads ... What Comes Out?
As an emergency physician at Western Health, in Melbourne, Australia, Dr. Andy Tagg says he meets a lot of anxious parents whose children have swallowed Lego pieces. Much like Andy so many years ago, the vast majority of kids simply pass the object through their stool within a day or so. But Andy and five other pediatricians wondered, is there a way to give parents extra reassurance ... through science? So the doctors devised an experiment. "Each of them swallowed a Lego head," says science journalist Sabri...
|2023-Jan-25 • 15 minutes|
The Math And Science Powering 'Everything Everywhere All At Once'
Directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively: Daniels) on the starring role science plays in their film Everything Everywhere All At Once.
|2023-Jan-24 • 10 minutes|
Our Perception Of Time Shapes The Way We Think About Climate Change
Most people are focused on the present: today, tomorrow, maybe next year. Fixing your flat tire is more pressing than figuring out if you should buy an electric car. Living by the beach is a lot more fun than figuring out when your house might be flooded by rising sea levels.That basic human relationship with time makes climate change a tricky problem.Host Emily Kwong talks to climate correspondent Rebecca Hersher about how our obsession with the present can be harnessed to tackle our biggest climate proble...
|2023-Jan-23 • 13 minutes|
Fossil CSI: Cracking The Case Of An Ancient Reptile Graveyard
This mystery begins in 1952, in the Nevada desert, when a self-taught geologist came across the skeleton of a massive creature that looked like a cross between a whale and a crocodile. It turned out to be just the beginning. Ichthyosaurs were bus-sized marine reptiles that lived during the age of dinosaurs, when this area of Nevada was underwater. Yet paleontologists found few other animals here, which raised the questions: Why were there so many adult ichthyosaurs, and almost nothing else? What could have ...
|2023-Jan-20 • 14 minutes|
New Tech Targets Epilepsy With Lasers, Robots
About three million people in the United States have epilepsy, including about a million who can't rely on medication to control their seizures. For years, those patients had very limited options. But now, in 2023, advancements in diagnosing and treating epilepsy are showing great promise for many patients, even those who had been told there was nothing that could be done. Using precise lasers, microelectronic arrays and robot surgeons, doctors and researchers have begun to think differently about epilepsy ...
|2023-Jan-19 • 13 minutes|
What Cities Should Learn From California's Flooding
Winter storms have flooded parts of California, broken levees and forced thousands to evacuate. Climate change is altering the historic weather patterns that infrastructure like reservoirs and waterways were built to accommodate. Urban planners and engineers are rethinking underlying assumptions baked into buildings and water systems in order to adapt to the changing climate. Today, NPR climate correspondent Lauren Sommer walks us through three innovations happening around the country to help cities adapt t...
|2023-Jan-18 • 14 minutes|
Time Is So Much Weirder Than It Seems
Time is a concept so central to our daily lives. Yet, the closer scientists look at it, the more it seems to fall apart. Time ticks by differently at sea level than it does on a mountaintop. The universe's expansion slows time's passage. "And some scientists think time might not even be 'real' — or at least not fundamental," says NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel. Geoff joined Short Wave Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber to bend our brains with his learnings about the true nature of time. Along...
|2023-Jan-17 • 13 minutes|
A Course Correction In Managing Drying Rivers
Historic drought in the west and water diversion for human use are causing stretches of the Colorado and Mississippi rivers to run dry. "The American West is going to have to need to learn how to do more with less," says Laurence Smith, a river surveyor and environmental studies professor at Brown University. He recently dropped in for a chat with Short Wave co-host Emily Kwong about how scientists are turning a new page on managing two of The United States's central waterways, the Colorado and Mississippi ...
|2023-Jan-16 • 21 minutes|
How You Can Support Scientific Research
We're off today in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In the meantime, we want to share this episode from our friends at NPR's Life Kit podcast about how to become a community scientist — and better scientific research.
|2023-Jan-13 • 13 minutes|
Things Could Be Better
Are humans ever satisfied? Two social psychologists, Ethan Ludwin-Peery and Adam Mastroianni, fell down a research rabbit hole accidentally answering a version of this very question. After conducting several studies, the pair found that when asked how things could be different, people tend to give one kind of answer, regardless of how the question is asked or how good life felt when they were asked. Short Wave's Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber digs into the research—and how it might reveal a fundame...
|2023-Jan-12 • 14 minutes|
Behold! The Mysterious Ice Worm
Inside the mountaintop glaciers of the Pacific Northwest lives a mysterious, and often, overlooked creature. They're small, black, thread-like worms that wiggle through snow and ice. That's right, ice worms! Little is known about them. But one thing scientists are sure of? They can't really handle freezing temperatures. In this episode, NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce talks to Emily about how ice worms survive in an extreme environment and why scientists don't understand some of the most basi...
|2023-Jan-11 • 14 minutes|
How Glaciers Move
There's always a moment of intense isolation when Jessica Mejía gets dropped off on the Greenland ice sheet for a multi-week research stint. "You know you're very much alone," said Jessica, a postdoctoral researcher in glaciology at the University of Buffalo. Glaciers such as those that cover Greenland are melting due to climate change, causing sea levels to rise. That we know. But these glaciers are also moving. What we don't know is just how these two processes – melting and movement – interact and ultima...
|2023-Jan-10 • 12 minutes|
Zircon: The Keeper Of Earth's Time
The mineral zircon is the oldest known piece of Earth existing on the surface today. The oldest bits date back as far as 4.37 billion years — not too far from the age of Earth itself at about 4.5 billion years old. And, unlike other minerals, zircon is hard to get rid of. This resilience enables scientists to use zircon to determine when major geological events on Earth happened. As part of our series on time, host Aaron Scott talks to science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce about why this mineral is oft...
|2023-Jan-09 • 14 minutes|
Redlining's Ripple Effects Go Beyond Humans
When Dr. Chloé Schmidt was a PhD student in Winnepeg, Canada, she was studying wildlife in urban areas. She and her advisor Dr. Colin Garroway came across a 2020 paper that posed a hypothesis: If the echos of systemic racism affect the human residents of neighborhoods and cities, then it should affect the wildlife as well. Short Wave Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber talks to Chloé and Colin about their findings of how redlining and biodiversity are intertwined.
|2023-Jan-06 • 12 minutes|
An Atmospheric River Runs Through It
From space, it looks almost elegant: a narrow plume cascading off the Pacific Ocean, spilling gently over the California coast. But from the ground, it looks like trouble: flash flooding, landslides and power outages. California is enduring the effects of an atmospheric river, a meteorological phenomenon where converging air systems funnel wet air into a long, riverine flow that dumps large amounts of rain when it makes landfall. "Atmospheric rivers can transport volumes of water many times that of the Miss...
|2023-Jan-05 • 13 minutes|
The Period Talk (For Adults)
Every month, 1.8 billion people menstruate globally. For those people, managing periods is essential for strong reproductive and emotional health, social wellbeing and bodily autonomy. But a lot of people haven't been educated about periods or the menstrual cycle since they were kids — if at all.This episode, a period manual in four parts: How periods work, the different stages of the menstrual cycle, how to know when something's wrong, and whether to have a period in the first place.
|2023-Jan-04 • 12 minutes|
Houston, We Have Short Wave On The Line
Speaking to Short Wave from about 250 miles above the Earth, Josh Cassada outlined his typical day at work: "Today, I actually started out by taking my own blood," he said. The astronauts aboard the International Space Station are themselves research subjects, as well as conductors of all sorts of science experiments: Gardening in microgravity, trapping frigid atoms, examining neutron stars. Then, there's the joy of walks into the yawning void of space. Speaking from orbit, Cassada told fellow physicist and...
|2023-Jan-03 • 13 minutes|
Time Cells Don't Really Care About Time
Time is woven into our personal memories. If you recall a childhood fall from a bike, your brain replays the entire episode in excruciating detail: The glimpse of wet leaves on the road ahead, that moment of weightless dread and then the painful impact. This exact sequence has been embedded into your memory thanks to some special neurons known as time cells. Science correspondent Jon Hamilton talks to Emily about these cells — and why the label "time" cells is kind of a misnomer.Concerned about the space-ti...
|2023-Jan-02 • 7 minutes|
A New Year's Mad Lib!
To ring in the new year, producer Berly McCoy brings host Emily Kwong this homemade science mad lib!
|2022-Dec-30 • 15 minutes|
I'm Crying Cuz... I'm Human
From misty eyeballs to full-on waterworks, what are tears? Why do we shed them? And what makes humans' ability to cry emotional tears unique? Hosts Emily Kwong and Aaron Scott get into their feelings in this science-fueled exploration of why we cry. (encore) To see more of Rose-Lynn Fisher's images from Topography of Tears, visit her website.
|2022-Dec-29 • 13 minutes|
The Woman Behind A Mystery That Changed Astronomy
In 1967, Jocelyn Bell Burnell made a discovery that revolutionized astronomy. She detected the radio signals emitted by certain dying stars called pulsars. Today, Jocelyn's story. Scientist-in-residence Regina G. Barber talks to Jocelyn about her winding career, her discovery and how pulsars continue to push the field of astronomy today. (encore)
|2022-Dec-28 • 14 minutes|
Pumpkin Toadlet: Neither Pumpkin, Nor Toad
Being small has its advantages - and some limitations. One organism that intimately knows the pros and cons of being mini is the pumpkin toadlet.As an adult, the animal reaches merely the size of a chickpea. At that scale, the frog's inner ear is so small, it's not fully functional. That means the frog's movements seem haphazard. Today, with the help of Atlantic science writer Katie Wu, we investigate: If a frog can't jump well, is it still a frog? (encore)Read Katie Wu's piece in The Atlantic, A Frog So Sm...
|2022-Dec-27 • 14 minutes|
TikTok's favorite zoologist quizzes us on the most dangerous animals
Mamadou Ndiaye uses comedy to teach animal facts, but there's nothing funny about these deadly ones.
|2022-Dec-26 • 5 minutes|
A Holiday Fact Exchange!
Host Emily Kwong and editor Gisele Grayson exchange the gift of facts - in this quick hello from us to you, our wonderful listeners!
|2022-Dec-23 • 12 minutes|
Climate Change Stresses Out These Chipmunks. Why Are Their Cousins So Chill?
Kwasi Wresnford describes the subjects of his research as "elfin": skittish little squirrel-cousins with angular faces, pointy ears and narrow, furry tails. He studies two species in particular: the Alpine chipmunk and the Lodgepole chipmunk. As the climate warms, these two chipmunks have developed different ways of coping. The Alpine chipmunk has climbed higher, in search of cooler habitat, while the Lodgepole chipmunk continues to thrive in its historic habitat. On this episode, Kwasi explains to Emily Kw...
|2022-Dec-22 • 15 minutes|
Can COP 15 Save Our Planet's Biodiversity?
This week, the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) wrapped up in Montreal, Canada. Nations from around the world came together to establish a new set of goals to help preserve the planet's biodiversity and reduce the rate of loss of natural habitats. The last time biodiversity targets were set was in 2010, at COP 10. In the 12 years since, the world collectively failed to meet any of those biodiversity benchmarks.Aaron Scott talks to Giuliana Viglione, an editor at Carbon Brief covering food, land and natur...
|2022-Dec-21 • 11 minutes|
Brain Scientists Are Tripping Out Over Psychedelics
Psychedelic drugs – like LSD, salvia, ayahuasca, Ibogaine, MDMA (AKA ecstasy), or psilocybin (AKA 'magic mushrooms' or 'shrooms') – are experiencing a resurgence of interest in their potential medical benefits. At the Neuroscience 2022 meeting held by the Society of Neuroscience, the appetite for psychedelic research permeated the sessions, discussions, and even after-hours barroom talk — drawing in researchers, neuroscientists, companies, reporters, and advocates alike. "In the last couple of years there h...
|2022-Dec-20 • 13 minutes|
Confessions Of A Math Convert
Math is a complex, beautiful language that can help people understand the world. And sometimes math is hard! Science communicator Sadie Witkowski says the key to making math your friend is to foster your own curiosity and shed the fear of sounding dumb. That's the guiding principle behind her podcast, Carry the Two and it's today's show: Embracing all math has to offer without the fear of failure. We encore this episode in between Carry the Two's seasons - their second one starts on January 3, 2023!This epi...
|2022-Dec-19 • 10 minutes|
Your Multivitamin Won't Save You
Dietary supplements — the vitamins, herbs and botanicals that you'll find in most grocery stores — are everywhere. More than half of U.S. adults over 20 take them, spending almost $50 billion on vitamins and other supplements in 2021. Yet decades of research have produced little evidence that they really work. Aaron Scott talks to Dr. Jenny Jia about the science of dietary supplements: which ones might help, which ones might hurt, and where we could be spending our money instead.
|2022-Dec-16 • 12 minutes|
The Hope For Slowing Amazon Deforestation
Brazil's president-elect, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is renewing calls to protect the Amazon and reign in the deforestation. Climate scientists are encouraged but so far there aren't a lot of specifics of how this might happen. NPR's Kirk Siegler traveled to a remote Amazonian research station that is also threatened by illegal logging and talks to host Aaron Scott about his trip.
|2022-Dec-15 • 8 minutes|
A Step Closer To Nuclear Fusion Energy
On Dec. 5 at 1 o'clock in the morning local time, researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California used lasers to zap a tiny pellet of hydrogen fuel. The lasers hit their target with 2.05 megajoules of energy, and the pellet released roughly 3.15 megajoules. It's a major milestone, and one that the field of fusion science has struggled to reach for more than half a century: producing a fusion reaction that generates more energy than it consumes. While progress, the technology is stil...
|2022-Dec-14 • 12 minutes|
From Scientific Exile To Gene Editing Pioneer
Gene editing was a new idea in the mid-1970s. So when Harvard and MIT planned new research in recombinant DNA, alarm bells went off. "People were worried about a 'Frankengene,'" says Lydia Villa-Komaroff, then a freshly minted PhD. Amidst a political circus, the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts banned research into recombinant DNA, forcing scientists like Villa-Komaroff into exile. But that turned out to be just the prelude to a breakthrough. In this episode, Dr. Villa-Komaroff tells Emily Kwong the story o...
|2022-Dec-13 • 14 minutes|
You Know That Gut Feeling You Have?...
TFW when you're so excited you get those butterflies in your stomach - or maybe when you see something icky, you feel ill. On today's show, producer Berly McCoy looks at this relationship between our gut and our brain. Berly talks to host Emily Kwong about how the organs evolved to have a tight connection - connections that go beyond transient feelings of excitement or disgust. In fact, an increasing body of research shows links between the gut and conditions we typically associate mostly with the brain – l...
|2022-Dec-12 • 14 minutes|
The Myth of Plastic Recycling
For many, recycling feels like a tangible way to personally combat climate change and to positively affect the environment. But after a years long investigation, NPR correspondent Laura Sullivan finds that reality is generally the opposite: Only a small fraction of plastic is ultimately recycled. Moreover, plastic production is on the rise.Further reading:- Recycling plastic is practically impossible — and the problem is getting worse- How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled
|2022-Dec-09 • 14 minutes|
DART: The Impacts Of Slamming A Spacecraft Into An Asteroid
If an asteroid were hurling through space, making a beeline straight to Earth, how would humans prevent it from doing what it did to the dinosaurs? Would we bomb it? Would we shoot lasers at it like a scene from Hollywood's latest sci-fi flick? Well, the folks at NASA have designed and tested a theory."The DART mission, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, is essentially our first test of a kinetic impact for planetary defense." says Cristina Thomas, assistant professor of Astronomy and Planetary Science a...
|2022-Dec-08 • 15 minutes|
The Biologist Who Talks With Cells
The human body is made up of more than 30 trillion cells, but how do they all work together? It's all about communication! "They talk through molecules going from one cell to the adjacent cell," says Dr. Sandra Murray, a professor of cell biology and physiology at the University of Pittsburgh who studies how cells communicate with each other to do complex tasks, like close a wound or deliver a baby. This year, Dr. Murray became the first person of color elected as president of the American Society for Cell ...
|2022-Dec-07 • 12 minutes|
What Makes Hawaii's Erupting Volcanoes Special
Just after Thanksgiving, for the first time in almost 40 years, Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano erupted. It's one of several ongoing eruptions – including Kilauea, also on Hawaii, and Indonesia's Mount Semeru. At just over half the size of the big island of Hawaii, Mauna Loa is the world's biggest active volcano. Today, volcanologist Alison Graettinger talks to Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber about what makes Mauna Loa's eruption different than Indonesia's and others around the Pacific, and what it reve...
|2022-Dec-06 • 12 minutes|
'One Mississippi...' How Lightning Shapes The Climate
When lightning strikes a giant tree in the tropical rainforest, there's usually no fire, no blackened crater — you might not even notice any damage. But come back months later, as Evan Gora does, and you may find that tree and dozens around it dead. Gora, a forest ecologist who studies lightning in tropical forests, says we are just beginning to understand how lightning actually behaves in these forests, and what its implications are for climate change. On today's episode, Evan Gora tells Aaron Scott about ...
|2022-Dec-05 • 12 minutes|
Don't Call It Dirt: The Science Of Soil
It's easy to overlook the soil beneath our feet, or to think of it as just dirt to be cleaned up. But soil wraps the world in an envelope of life: It grows our food, regulates our climate, and makes our planet habitable. "What stands between life and lifelessness on our planet Earth is this thin layer of soil that exists on the Earth's surface," says Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, a soil scientist at the University of California-Merced. Just ... don't call it dirt. "I don't like the D-word," Berhe says. Berhe says s...
|2022-Dec-02 • 13 minutes|
Arts Week: Physics Meets The Circus
Julia Ruth's job takes a lot of strength, a lot of balance, and a surprising amount of physics. She's a circus artist — and has performed her acrobatic Cyr wheel routine around the world. But before she learned her trade and entered the limelight, she was on a very different career path — she was studying physics. Julia talks with Emily (who also shares a past life in the circus) about her journey from physicist to circus artist, and how she learned her physics-defining acts.
|2022-Dec-01 • 14 minutes|
Arts Week: The Life Cycle Of A Neuron
An exhibit that blended science and technology for an immersive art experience went on display in Washington, DC and New York City in 2021 and 2022. It invited visitors to explore the cells in their brain. The installation was a partnership between the Society for Neuroscience and technology-based art space, ARTECHOUSE. In this encore episode, producer Thomas Lu talks to neuroscientist John Morrison and chief creative officer Sandro Kereselidze about the Life of a Neuron.Curious about other ways science in...
|2022-Nov-30 • 13 minutes|
Arts Week: The Literary Magazine Dissecting Health And Healing
New York's Bellevue Hospital is the oldest public hospital in the country, serving patients from all walks of life. It's also the home of a literary magazine, the Bellevue Literary Review, which is now more than 20 years old. In today's encore episode, NPR arts correspondent Neda Ulaby tells Emily how one doctor at Bellevue Hospital decided a literary magazine is essential to both science and healing. As always, you can reach the show by emailing [email protected]
|2022-Nov-29 • 15 minutes|
Arts Week: How Art Can Heal The Brain
Arts therapies appear to ease a host of brain disorders from Parkinson's to PTSD. But these treatments that rely on music, poetry or visual arts haven't been backed by rigorous scientific testing. Now, artists and brain scientists have launched a program to change that. NPR's brain correspondent Jon Hamilton tells us about an initiative called the NeuroArts Blueprint in this encore episode. If you want to know more about the neuroaesthetics research Aaron mentioned participating in, you can read the paper T...
|2022-Nov-28 • 13 minutes|
Arts Week: Harnessing Bacteria For Art
Pull out your art supplies because it's time to get crafty—with agar! We're beginning Arts Week at the intersection of biology and art. Therein lies a creative medium that's actually alive. Scientists and artists practice etching designs on petri dishes with bacterial paint that can grow and multiply. This encore episode, Aaron talks with science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce about her foray into the agar art world. Love the science powering another craft? Email the show at [email protected]
|2022-Nov-24 • 1 minutes|
Happy Thanksgiving, All!
Emily and Aaron wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and explain how you can help the show. Hint: It's giving us feedback about what you love and think we could do better on the show. You can take our survey at npr.org/shortwavesurvey.
|2022-Nov-23 • 14 minutes|
Three Takeaways From The COP27 Climate Conference
The climate meeting known as COP27 has wrapped. Representatives from almost 200 countries attended to talk about how to tackle climate change and how to pay for the costs of its effects that the world is already seeing. Rebecca Hersher and Michael Copley from NPR's Climate Desk talk with Emily about why the meeting went into overtime, three big things that came out of it, and the long and bumpy road still ahead to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
|2022-Nov-22 • 12 minutes|
A Taste Of Lab-Grown Meat
The idea came to Uma Valeti while he was working on regrowing human tissue to help heart attack patients: If we can grow tissue from cells in a lab, why not use animal cells to grow meat? Food production accounts for as much as a third of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. The idea behind cultivated meat is to help feed the world while dramatically reducing human contributions to global warming and avoiding killing animals. NPR Health Correspondent Allison Aubrey has been visiting production facilities a...
|2022-Nov-21 • 14 minutes|
A Deeply Personal Race Against A Fatal Brain Disease
In the mornings, Sonia Vallabh and Eric Minikel's first job is to get their two garrulous kids awake, fed and out the door to daycare and kindergarten. They then reconvene at the office and turn their focus to their all-consuming mission: to cure, treat, or prevent genetic prion disease. Prions are self-replicating proteins that can cause fatal brain disease. For a decade, Sonia Vallabh has been living with the knowledge that she has a genetic mutation that will likely cause in her the same disease that cla...
|2022-Nov-18 • 14 minutes|
Science Couldn't Save Her, So She Became A Scientist
The first time Sonia Vallabh understood something was very wrong with her mother Kamni was on the phone on her mom's 52nd birthday. She wasn't herself. By the end of that year, after about six months on life support, Kamni had died. The disease she died from would upend Sonia and her husband Eric's lives, and send them on a careening journey toward a completely new calling: to prevent or cure the disease that's stalking Sonia's family." Sonia Vallabh and Eric Minikel join Short Wave to tell their story in t...
|2022-Nov-17 • 13 minutes|
Killer Proteins: The Science Of Prions
Prions are biological anomalies – self-replicating, not-alive little particles that can misfold into an unstoppable juggernaut of fatal disease. Prions don't contain genes, and yet they make more of themselves. That has forced scientists to rethink the "central dogma" of molecular biology: that biological information is always passed on through genes. The journey to discovering, describing, and ultimately understanding how prions work began with a medical mystery in a remote part of New Guinea in the 1950s....
|2022-Nov-16 • 13 minutes|
Where Do Climate Negotiations Stand At COP27?
Climate negotiations continue at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Tens of thousands of attendees from around the world have gathered in the seaside resort town. They've come to discuss some of the key issues to figure out how to combat climate change, remedy its effects, and to focus on implementing the big changes discussed last year in Glasgow. Correspondent Nathan Rott joins Emily Kwong to walk through the biggest debates at this year's COP, like loss and damage payments. And, he talks about how the war ...
|2022-Nov-15 • 15 minutes|
Searching For A New Life
Today, we pass the mic to our colleagues at All Things Considered to share the first piece in their series on the impact of climate change, global migration and far-right politics. They begin with the story of Mamadou Thiam, a Senegalese man living in a temporary shelter created by the United Nations. He is from a family of fishermen, but floods have destroyed his home. In the past when there was flooding, people could relocate for a few months and then return. But more flooding means leaving may become ...
|2022-Nov-14 • 14 minutes|
Corey Gray Is Picking Up Cosmic Vibrations
A pivotal week in Corey Gray's life began with a powwow in Alberta and culminated with a piece of history: the first-ever detection of gravitational waves from the collision of two neutron stars. Corey was on the graveyard shift at LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory in Hanford, Washington, when the historic signal came. Corey tells Short Wave Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber about the discovery, the "Gravitational Wave Grass Dance Special" that preceded it, and how he got his Bl...
|2022-Nov-11 • 13 minutes|
Climate Tipping Points And The Damage That Could Follow
If Earth heats up beyond 1.5 degrees, the impacts don't get just slightly worse--scientists warn that abrupt changes could be set off, with devastating impacts around the world. As the 27th annual climate negotiations are underway in Egypt and the world is set to blow past that 1.5°C warming threshold, Emily Kwong talks to climate correspondents Rebecca Hersher and Lauren Sommer about three climate tipping points--points of no return that could cause big changes to the Earth's ecosystems. Email the show at ...
|2022-Nov-10 • 12 minutes|
Depression And Alzheimer's Treatments At A Crossroads
Researchers are launching a make-or-break study to test the conventional wisdom about what causes Alzheimer's disease. And in a recent small study, the antidepressant effects of ketamine lasted longer when an intravenous dose was followed with computer games featuring smiling faces or words aimed at boosting self-esteem. As science correspondent Jon Hamilton heads to the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting, he talks to Aaron Scott about his most recent reporting on depression and Alzheimer's, and pre...
|2022-Nov-09 • 13 minutes|
Why Do We Cry?
Last month, Short Wave explored the evolutionary purpose of laughter. Now, we're talking tears. From glistening eyeballs to waterworks, what are tears? Why do we shed them? And what makes our species' ability to cry emotional tears so unique?
|2022-Nov-08 • 15 minutes|
Traditional Plant Knowledge Is Not A Quick Fix
Regina G. Barber talks with Dr. Rosalyn LaPier about ethnobotany--what it is and how traditional plant knowledge is frequently misunderstood in the era of COVID and psychedelics. And, how it's relevant and important for reproductive health today.
|2022-Nov-07 • 12 minutes|
COP-out: Who's Liable For Climate Change Destruction?
World leaders have gathered in Egypt this week to begin climate talks at the 27th Conference of the Parties. However, there are still outstanding questions about who should pay for climate change losses and damages. Vulnerable countries hit hardest by climate change are asking the wealthier countries most responsible for these damages for compensation.Climate change correspondent Lauren Sommer joins Emily Kwong to talk about this debate — and the case one island nation is making to seek payment.
|2022-Nov-04 • 14 minutes|
Control: Eugenics And The Corruption Of Science
In his new book Control, Adam Rutherford discusses the intertwining of politics and science, and why the shadow of eugenics must be confronted now.
|2022-Nov-03 • 14 minutes|
Should Daylight Saving Time Be Permanent?
Correspondent Allison Aubrey talks to host Emily Kwong about the pros and cons of adopting permanent Daylight Saving Time or year-round Standard Time.
|2022-Nov-02 • 14 minutes|
Allergic To Cats? There's Hope Yet!
Katie Wu is a cat person. She has two of them: twin boys named Calvin and Hobbes. But up until grad school, she couldn't be anywhere close to a cat without her throat tightening and her nose clogging up. In a stroke of luck, Katie's cat allergy suddenly disappeared. The reasons for her night-and-day immune overhaul remain a mystery.In this episode, Katie walks host Aaron Scott through the dynamic world of allergies and what it reveals about our immune systems. Calvin and Hobbes make cameo appearances.
|2022-Nov-01 • 16 minutes|
Saving The Pacific Lamprey
Pacific lamprey have lived on Earth for about 450 million years. When humans came along, a deep relationship formed between Pacific lamprey and Native American tribes across the western United States. But in the last few decades, tribal elders noticed that pacific lamprey populations have plummeted, due in part to habitat loss and dams built along the Columbia River. So today, an introduction to Pacific lamprey: its unique biology, cultural legacy in the Pacific Northwest and the people who are fighting to ...
|2022-Oct-31 • 13 minutes|
Donate Your Body To Science?
Halloween calls to mind graveyards and the walking dead, so, naturally, Short Wave wanted to know what happens when you donate your body to real scientists?
|2022-Oct-28 • 14 minutes|
100 Years Of Box Turtles
The common box turtle is found just about anywhere in the continental United States east of Colorado. For all their ubiquity, it's unclear how many there are or how they're faring in the face of many threats—from lawn mowers to climate change to criminals. So today, science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce presents the researchers hunting for turtles—and for answers. They're creating a century-long study to monitor thousands of box turtles in North Carolina.Heard about other ambitious research? We want to...
|2022-Oct-27 • 13 minutes|
He Had His Father's Voice: Tracking A Rare Bird Hybrid
When Steve Gosser heard the song of a scarlet tanager in the woods, he knew to look for a bright-red bird with black wings. But when he laid eyes on the singer, he saw instead a dark-colored head, black-and-white body, with a splash of red on its chest. "Well, that sort of looks like a first-year male rose-breasted grosbeak," he said. The song of one bird coming out of the body of another suggested this little guy could be a rare hybrid. Gosser enlisted the help of some pros, including biologist David Toews...
|2022-Oct-26 • 12 minutes|
The Tigray Medical System Collapse
The civil war in Ethiopia is destroying the medical system in the northern Tigray region, which serves nearly 7 million people. Doctors are operating without anesthesia and re-using medical equipment. Sporadic electricity and water are also causing problems for hospitals and clinics. NPR's Ari Daniel talks to host Aaron Scott about how people who need and provide medical care are coping.
|2022-Oct-25 • 11 minutes|
When Autumn Leaves Start To Fall
Botanist and founder of #BlackBotanistsWeek Tanisha Williams explains why some leaves change color during fall and what shorter days and colder temperatures have to do with it. Plus, a bit of listener mail from you! (Encore)You can always reach the show by emailing [email protected] We're also on Twitter @NPRShortWave!
|2022-Oct-24 • 11 minutes|
New Discoveries In Underwater Plant Sex
Plants living underwater can't count on pollinating insects to get it on. The prevailing theory has been that pollen moves underwater simply by floating around in water currents. But a team of researchers co-led by Dr. Vivianne Solís-Weiss, have discovered a helper organism pitching in to pollinate seagrasses: marine worms. In today's episode, Vivianne tells Short Wave Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber how she happened to catch these worms, called polychaetes, in the act of pollinating seagrass flower...
|2022-Oct-21 • 14 minutes|
Brain Cells In A Dish Play Pong And Other Brain Adventures
The world of brain research had two incredible developments last week. Researchers have taught a dish of brain cells to play the video game Pong to help develop more intelligent AI. Separately, scientists transplanted human brain organoids into a living animal with the hope of using them as models of human disease. Jon Hamilton talks with host Aaron Scott about this research and its implications.
|2022-Oct-20 • 13 minutes|
These Animals Will Mess You Up
The natural world is filled with treats ... and tricks. Today, Internet zoologist and TikTok star Mamadou Ndiaye takes over to talk about some of those tricks — specifically the murderous ones. He turns the tables on Emily and Aaron, quizzing them on some of the animals in his new book 100 Animals That Can F*cking End You. Special guests span land and sea, including the hippopotamus, blowfish, snails, snakes — and more!We're always excited to hear what's on our listeners' minds. You can reach the show by em...
|2022-Oct-19 • 13 minutes|
Contraceptive research has historically prioritized women because they bear the burden of pregnancy and most contraceptive options available today are for women. But there are efforts to widen the contraceptive responsibility. Today, Scientist-in-Residence Regina G. Barber talks to host Emily Kwong about the state of research into male contraceptives and which method researchers expect to hit the market first.We're always excited to hear what's on our listeners' minds. You can reach the show by emailing sho...
|2022-Oct-18 • 12 minutes|
Choose Your Own (Math) Adventure
Ever read those Choose Your Own Adventure books of the 80s and 90s? As a kid, Dr. Pamela Harris was hooked on them. Years later she realized how much those books have in common with her field: combinatorics, the branch of math concerned with counting. It, too, depends on thinking through endless, branching possibilities. She and several students set out to write a scholarly paper in the style of Choose Your Own Adventure books. Dr. Harris tells Regina G. Barber all about how the project began, how it gets c...
|2022-Oct-17 • 14 minutes|
You're 50, And Your Body Is Changing: Time For The Talk
Perimenopause, the period of transition to menopause, is still a largely misunderstood chapter of reproductive life. It brings about both physical and mental health changes that patients might not hear about from their doctors. Emily talks with health correspondent Rhitu Chatterjee about perimenopause, and how to advocate for yourself as you're going through it.
|2022-Oct-14 • 14 minutes|
Pop Quiz! Short Wave Birthday Edition
Short Wave hosts Aaron Scott and Emily Kwong quiz All Things Considered hosts Mary Louise Kelly and Sacha Pfeiffer on some science questions Short Wave has reported on over the past year. They say they consider all the things, but do they consider the science enough? Quantum physics, prehistoric creatures and spelunking are all fair game in this friendly battle of the brains.-P.S. Short Wave is continuing our birthday celebration by hanging out with all of you on Twitter Spaces! We'll be on NPR's Twitter ac...
|2022-Oct-13 • 13 minutes|
Why Do We Laugh?
Laughter: We do it spontaneously, we do it forcefully, we do it with each other and by ourselves. But why did we evolve to giggle in the first place? Emily and Regina explore the evolutionary underpinnings of laughter — from chimpanzees to modern-day humans — and the ways it unites us. Keep laughing with us on Twitter — we're at @NPRShortWave — or email the show at [email protected]
|2022-Oct-12 • 14 minutes|
We Baked A Cake For Our 3rd Birthday!
Of course we have to have cake for Short Wave's third birthday! Sugar-ologist and biochemist Adriana Patterson talks to producer Berly McCoy to give us some tips from chemistry - the secret to making a fluffy cake and how honey can help a buttercream frosting.Check out Adriana's Cakeculator - https://cakeculator.sugarologie.com/.
|2022-Oct-11 • 12 minutes|
The Quest To Save The California Condor
The California condor used to soar across the western skies of North America, but by the 1980s, the bird was on the edge of extinction — just 22 remained. Thanks to decades of conservation work, the California condor population has rebounded to a couple hundred birds in Central California and Arizona. This past May, a large partnership led by the Yurok Tribe re-introduced the birds to Northern California. Today, host Aaron Scott talks to Yurok biologist Tiana Williams-Claussen about the years-long quest to ...
|2022-Oct-07 • 13 minutes|
IVF Has Come A Long Way, But Many Don't Have Access
Since the first successful in vitro fertilization pregnancy and live birth in 1978, nearly half a million babies have been born using IVF in the United States. Assisted reproductive technology has made it possible for more people to become parents, but it's not accessible to everyone. Reproductive endocrinologist Amanda Adeleye explains the science behind IVF, the barriers to accessing it and her concerns about fertility treatment in a world without the legal protections of Roe v. Wade.
|2022-Oct-06 • 12 minutes|
The Scorpion Renaissance Is Upon Us
Scorpions: They're found pretty much everywhere, and new species are being identified all the time. Arachnologist Lauren Esposito says there's a lot to love about this oft-misunderstood creature. Most are harmless — they can't even jump — and they play a critical role in their diverse ecosystems as a top invertebrate predator.Want to hear us talk about other newly identified animal species? We'd love to know! We're at @NPRShortWave on Twitter, and our email is [email protected]
|2022-Oct-05 • 13 minutes|
A New Drug For A Relentless Brain Disease
ALS is a disease that destroys the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord we need for voluntary movement. There is no cure, but now there is a newly approved medication that may slow down the disease and extend patients' lives. The drug, called Relyvrio, got its start with a couple of college students, some "ice bucket challenge" money, and a new approach to targeting this disease. Neuroscience correspondent Jon Hamilton checks in with host Emily Kwong about why some advisors aren't persuaded the drug wor...
|2022-Oct-04 • 13 minutes|
Why Disaster Relief Underserves Those Who Need It Most
When a disaster like Hurricane Ian destroys a house, the clock starts ticking. It gets harder for sick people to take their medications, medical devices may stop working without electricity, excessive temperatures, mold, or other factors may threaten someone's health. Every day without stable shelter puts people in danger.The federal government is supposed to help prevent that cascade of problems, but an NPR investigation finds that the people who need help the most are often less likely to get it. Today we...
|2022-Oct-03 • 14 minutes|
Predicting Landslides: After Disaster, Alaska Town Turns To Science
On August 18, 2015, in Sitka, Alaska, a slope above a subdivision of homes under construction gave way. This landslide demolished a building and killed three people. Today on the show, host Emily Kwong recounts the story of the Kramer Avenue landslide and talks about how scientists and residents implemented an early warning system for landslides to prevent a future disaster.
|2022-Sep-30 • 14 minutes|
Sustainable Seafood? It's A Question Of Data
The last several decades have taken a toll on the oceans: Some fish populations are collapsing, plastic is an increasing problem and climate change is leading to coral bleaching — as well as a host of other problems. But marine biologist and World Economic Forum programme lead Alfredo Giron says there's room to hope for the seas. He works to create systems that governments and the fishing industry can use to make sure fishing is legal and sustainable so oceans thrive for years to come. He talks to host Aaro...
|2022-Sep-29 • 13 minutes|
Why The Bladder Is Number One!
When's the last time you thought about your bladder? We're going there today! In this Short Wave episode, Emily talks to bladder expert Dr. Indira Mysorekar about one of our stretchiest organs: how it can expand so much, the potential culprit behind recurrent urinary tract infections and the still-somewhat-mysterious link between the aging brain and the aging bladder. ----------------------------------------... third birthday is coming up on October 15th and we want your voice on our show! Send us a voice r...
|2022-Sep-28 • 14 minutes|
Grasslands: The Unsung Carbon Hero
What's in a grassland? There are all sorts of wildflowers, many insects, animals like prairie dogs, bison and antelope — and beneath the surface, there's a lot of carbon. According to some estimates, up to a third of the carbon stored on land is found in grasslands. But grasslands are disappearing — just like forests. Today, journalist Julia Rosen shares her reporting on the hidden majesty and importance of the grasslands.To learn more, including what colonialism has to do with disappearing grasslands, chec...
|2022-Sep-27 • 16 minutes|
One Park. 24 Hours.
It's easy to take city parks for granted, or to think of them as separate from nature and from the Earth's changing climate. But the place where many of us come face-to-face with climate change is our local park. On today's episode, Ryan Kellman and Rebecca Hersher from NPR's Climate Desk team up with Short Wave producer Margaret Cirino to spend 24 hours in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park.
|2022-Sep-26 • 13 minutes|
Asteroid Deflection Mission, Activate!
In movies, asteroids careening towards Earth are confronted by determined humans with nuclear weapons to save the world! But a real NASA mission wants to change the course of an asteroid now (one not hurtling towards Earth). The Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, launched in 2021 and on Monday, September 26, 2022, makes contact with the celestial object. In 2021, NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce talked about what it takes to pull off this mission and how it could potentially protect th...
|2022-Sep-23 • 14 minutes|
Rise Of The Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs ruled the earth for many millions of years, but only after a mass extinction took out most of their rivals. Just how that happened remains a mystery — sounds like a case for paleoclimatologist Celina Suarez! Suarez walks us through her scientific detective work, with a little help from her trusty sidekick, scientist-in-residence Regina G. Barber.
|2022-Sep-22 • 14 minutes|
Working With Tribes To Co-Steward National Parks
In the final episode of Short Wave's Summer Road Trip series exploring the science happening in national parks and public lands, Aaron talks to National Park Service Director Charles Sams, who recently issued new policy guidance to strengthen the ways the park service collaborates with American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, the Native Hawaiian Community, and other indigenous peoples. It's part of a push across the federal government to increase the level of tribal co-stewardship over public lands. Aaron ...
|2022-Sep-21 • 19 minutes|
Water Water Everywhere, But How Much Do You Really Need?
On this episode we produced with our colleagues at Life Kit, hosts Aaron Scott and Emily Kwong get to the reality behind the science of hydration.
|2022-Sep-20 • 12 minutes|
Three Sisters And The Fight Against Alzheimer's Disease
Nearly a decade ago, Karen Douthitt and her sisters June Ward and Susie Gilliam set out to learn why Alzheimer's disease was affecting so many of their family members. Since then, each sister has found out whether she carries a rare gene mutation that makes Alzheimer's inescapable. Jon Hamilton talks to Emily about the sisters and how all three have found ways to help scientists trying to develop treatments for the disease. Thoughts or comments? Get in touch — we're on Twitter @NPRShortWave and on email at ...
|2022-Sep-19 • 10 minutes|
How Muggy Is It? Check The Dew Point!
Last week, Lauren Sommer talked with Short Wave about the dangerous combination of heat and humidity in the era of climate change and how the heat index can sometimes miss the mark in warning people how hot it will feel. That reminded us of producer Thomas Lu's conversation about relative humidity with Maddie Sofia. He digs into why some meteorologists say it's important to pay attention to dew point temperature and how moisture in the air and temperature influence the way our body "feels" when we're outsi...
|2022-Sep-16 • 13 minutes|
How Freaked Out Should We Be About Ukraine's Nuclear Plant?
The world has been warily watching the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine. The nuclear complex is being held by Russian forces, while the plant itself is being run by an increasingly ragged and exhausted Ukrainian workforce. Shells have fallen on the complex, and external power sources have been repeatedly knocked out, endangering the system that cools the nuclear reactors and raising the specter of a meltdown. NPR's Kat Lonsdorf reports from inside Ukraine.
|2022-Sep-15 • 11 minutes|
Heat Can Take A Deadly Toll On Humans
Heat—it's common in summer in much of the world, but it's getting increasingly more lethal as climate change causes more extreme heat. NPR climate correspondent Lauren Sommer talks with Short Wave's Regina G. Barber about how human bodies cope with extended extreme heat and how current information on how hot it feels need updating.Follow Short Wave on Twitter @NPRShortWave. Or email us — we're at [email protected]
|2022-Sep-14 • 11 minutes|
What The Universe Is Doing RIGHT NOW
A century ago, astronomers were locked in a debate about the scope of our universe. Were we it? The answer is no. There are other galaxies beyond the Milky Way, and they are speeding away from us. Answering that question left astronomers with an even bigger puzzle. Why is everything sprinting away from us and what does that mean for the center of the universe? Today, Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber brings back astronomer Dr. Vicky Scowcroft for the final episode in our series on cosmic distances and...
|2022-Sep-13 • 11 minutes|
When Should I Get My Omicron Booster Shot?
Updated COVID boosters are now available that target the Omicron subvariant and many Americans 12 and older are eligible for the shot. Host Emily Kwong and health correspondent Allison Aubrey talk about who should get it, when, and whether there's a case to be made for skipping this booster. You can read more about Allison's reporting at "Omicron boosters: Do I need one, and if so, when?" Follow Short Wave on Twitter @NPRShortWave. You can also email us at [email protected]
|2022-Sep-12 • 13 minutes|
Name That Tune! Why The Brain Remembers Songs
Why do some songs can stick with us for a long time, even when other memories start to fade? Science reporter (and former Short Wave intern) Rasha Aridi explains the neuroscience behind that surprising moment of, "Wow, how do I still remember that song?!" (Encore)
|2022-Sep-09 • 13 minutes|
The Race To Rescue The Guadalupe Fescue
Big Bend National Park in Texas is home to the only remaining Guadalupe fescue in the United States. The grass is tucked away in the Chisos Mountains, high above the Chihuahuan Desert. These mountaintops form a string of relatively wet, cool oases called "sky islands" — unique, isolated habitats. But as the planet warms, species that depend on "sky island" habitats tend to get pushed even higher up the mountain — until they eventually run out. Carolyn Whiting, Park Botanist at Big Bend, talks to host Aaron ...
|2022-Sep-08 • 13 minutes|
Short Wave Goes To The Circus
Julia Ruth has a pretty cool job: it takes a lot of strength, a lot of balance, and a surprising amount of physics. As a circus artist, Julia has performed her acrobatic Cyr wheel routine around the world. But before she learned her trade and entered the limelight, she was on a very different career path--she was studying physics. Julia talks with Emily (who also shares a past life in the circus) about her journey from physicist to circus artist, and how she learned her physics-defining acts.
|2022-Sep-07 • 15 minutes|
'Scallop Discos': How Some Glitzy Lights Could Lead To A Low-Impact Fishery
Scientists in the UK have discovered that if they take a pot meant for catching crabs and just add some bright lights, scallops flock through the door like it's Studio 54. Scallops are normally fished via trawling or dredging—methods that can cause lasting damage to delicate seafloor ecosystems. So this accidental discovery (the lights were initially added to attract crab) could have a significant impact on scallop fishing. We talk with one of the scientists, Robert Enever of Fishtek Marine, a company that ...
|2022-Sep-06 • 12 minutes|
Surf's Always Up — In Waco, Texas
Some of the world's best artificial waves are happening hundreds of miles from the ocean—in Waco, Texas. They're so good, they're attracting top professionals, casual riders and a science correspondent named Jon Hamilton. Jon's been following the wave technology for years and says the progress is huge. These days, pro surfers come from all over to try the "Freak Peak" of Waco.
Happy Labor Day!
We're taking the day off for the Labor Day holiday! We hope you're also able to get some rest. We'll be back with another episode tomorrow.You can now chat us up on Twitter @NPRShortWave. We'd love to hear from you! You can also reach us by emailing [email protected]
|2022-Sep-02 • 13 minutes|
Worm Blobs From The Bowels Of The Earth
In the toxic waters of Sulphur Cave in Steamboat Springs, Colo. lives blood-red worm blobs that have attracted scientific interest from around the world. We don special breathing gear and go into the cave with David Steinmann, the spelunking scientist who first documented the worms, along with a trio of science students from Georgia Tech, to collect worms and marvel at the unique crystals and cave formations (ever heard of snottites??) that earned Sulphur Cave a designation as a National Natural Landmark in...
|2022-Sep-01 • 11 minutes|
The Stars That Settled The Great Debate
It may seem obvious now that other galaxies lie beyond the Milky Way, but less than 100 years ago, some astronomers held a view of our universe that was a little more ... self-centered. In the 1920s, astronomers were locked in the "Great Debate" — whether Earth was center of the universe and if the universe was just the Milky Way. Today, Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber talks to Dr. Vicky Scowcroft about the stars that ended astronomy's Great Debate. Follow Short Wave on Twitter for more on everythin...
|2022-Aug-31 • 14 minutes|
Quiz Bowl! How Animals Sense The World
Put your animal knowledge to the test in this quiz show based on science writer Ed Yong's new book An Immense World.
|2022-Aug-30 • 14 minutes|
The Man Who Shot The Moon
NASA's Artemis Moon mission was supposed to launch Monday. But it was delayed due to a problem one of the rocket engines. When it launches, it will be a giant step towards sending humans back to the moon. We're eager to know: What leaps in scientific knowledge will be gained?It's a question planted in our minds by the scientist Hal Walker, who led an experiment during the first lunar landing half a century ago. The goal: Beam a laser at the moon. This encore episode, Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber ...
|2022-Aug-29 • 13 minutes|
988: An Alternative To 911 For Mental Health
People experiencing a mental health crisis have a new way to reach out for help in the U.S. — calling or texting the numbers 9-8-8. Today, health correspondent Rhitu Chatterjee joins Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber to talk about how the hotline works, the U.S. mental health system and what this alternative to 911 means for people in crisis.Further Reading:- The new 988 mental health hotline is live. Here's what to know- Social Media Posts Criticize the 988 Suicide Hotline for Calling Police. Here's ...
|2022-Aug-26 • 13 minutes|
Experience The Quietest Place On Earth
In a crater at the top of a dormant volcano lies a place so quiet, the ambient sound is right near the threshold of human hearing. Visitors to the crater say they can hear their own heartbeats. This spot, in Haleakalā National Park, has been nicknamed the "quietest place on Earth."Getting there is no small feat--the ascent involves hiking upward through five different climate zones. But the reward is an experience of natural silence that is increasingly difficult to find.Conservationists, park scientists, a...
|2022-Aug-25 • 12 minutes|
Artemis: NASA's New Chapter In Space
Humans haven't set foot on the moon in 50 years, but NASA hopes to take one step closer with the launch of a new rocket and space capsule on Monday. Today, science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce joins Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber to talk about what NASA hopes to learn from this test flight and why it might be difficult to justify the program's cost.Planning to tune in for Monday's launch? Email us at [email protected]
|2022-Aug-24 • 10 minutes|
Searching The Ocean's Depths For Future Medicines
Plunge into the ocean off the west coast of Ireland...and then keep plunging, down to where there's no light and the temperature is just above freezing. That's where underwater chemist Sam Afoullouss sends a deep sea robot to carefully collect samples of marine organisms. The goal? To search for unique chemistry that may one day inspire a medicine. Sam talks giant sponges, dumbo octopuses and bubblegum coral with host Emily Kwong – how to use them as a source for drug discovery while also protecting their w...
|2022-Aug-23 • 14 minutes|
Sweating Buckets... of SCIENCE!
Sweating can be unpleasant, but consider the alternatives: You could roll around in mud. You could spend all day panting. You could have someone whip you up a blood popsicle. Sweating turns out to be pretty essential for human existence, AND arguably less gross than the ways other animals keep from overheating. On today's episode, a small army of NPR science reporters joins host Emily Kwong to talk about how humans developed the unique ability to perspire, how sweat works in space and the neat things other ...
|2022-Aug-22 • 12 minutes|
Micro Wave: How to Build a Sandcastle Dreamhouse!
Grab your towels and flip flops, because we're heading to the beach. Whether you love playing in the sand, or dread getting it off your feet, building a sandcastle is an often underappreciated art form. In today's encore episode, Emily Kwong asks, scientifically, what is the best way to make a sandcastle? What's the right mix of water and sand to create grand staircases and towers? Sedimentologist Matthew Bennett shares his research and insights.
|2022-Aug-19 • 12 minutes|
Eavesdropping On A Volcano
Volcanoes are "talking" to us all the time. Scientists say the sooner we learn to interpret their normal chatter, the quicker we'll know when something unusual — and potentially dangerous — is happening. But volcanoes often sit on protected land, so that detection work sometimes brings scientists into conflict with conservationists. Today, the tug-of-war over a sleeping giant in the Pacific Northwest. This episode is part of our series about the science happening on public lands, dropping every Friday the r...
|2022-Aug-18 • 12 minutes|
A Rising Demand for Coal Amidst War in Ukraine
Demand for coal in Europe is rising as Russia's invasion of Ukraine threatens the country's vast natural resource and fossil fuel reserves - and subsequently, the world's energy supply. With trillions of dollars of Ukrainian energy deposits now under Russian control, the effects of the war are being felt far beyond the country's borders.
|2022-Aug-17 • 15 minutes|
Ode To The Manta Ray
On a trip to Hawaii, Short Wave host Emily Kwong encountered manta rays for the first time. The experience was eerie and enchanting. And it left Emily wondering — what more is there to these intelligent, entrancing fish? Today, Emily poses all her questions to Rachel Graham, the founder and executive director of MarAlliance, a marine conservation organization working in tropical seas. (encore)Have you been completely captivated by an animal too? Share your story with us at [email protected]
|2022-Aug-16 • 12 minutes|
How To Brew Amazing Coffee With Science
The perfect cup of joe might be a matter of taste, but knowing the science behind the coffee-making process could help you elevate your at-home brewing game. Today, barista champion Sam Spillman on the chemical processes behind coffee and her technical approach to the craft. Have your own approach to coffee chemistry? Tell us at [email protected]
|2022-Aug-15 • 13 minutes|
The Radio Wave Mystery That Changed Astronomy
In 1967 Jocelyn Bell Burnell made a discovery that revolutionized the field of astronomy. She detected the radio signals emitted by certain dying stars called pulsars. Today, Jocelyn's story. Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber talks to Jocelyn about her winding career, her discovery and how pulsars are pushing forward the field of astronomy today.Have cosmic queries and unearthly musings? Contact us at [email protected] We might open an intergalactic case file and reveal our findings in a future episo...
|2022-Aug-12 • 10 minutes|
Tick Check! The Tiny Bloodsuckers In Our Backyards
Short Wave is going outside every Friday this summer! In this second episode of our series on the National Park system, we head to Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas. Among the trees and trails, researchers like Adela Oliva Chavez search for blacklegged ticks that could carry Lyme disease. She's looking for answers as to why tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease are spreading in some parts of the country and not others. Today: What Adela's research tells us about ticks and the diseases they carry, and ...
|2022-Aug-11 • 14 minutes|
The Brazilian Scientists Inventing An mRNA Vaccine — And Sharing The Recipe
When Moderna and Pfizer first came out with their mRNA vaccines for COVID-19, supply was limited to rich countries and they did not share the details of how to create it. That left middle income countries like Brazil in the lurch. But for Brazilian scientists Patricia Neves and Ana Paula Ano Bom, that wasn't the end. They decided to invent their own mRNA vaccine. Their story, today: Aaron talks to global health correspondent Nurith Aizenman about the effort and how it has helped launch a wider global projec...
|2022-Aug-10 • 12 minutes|
Twinkle, Twinkle, Shooting Star
Ahead of the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, we're re-airing our first episode with Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber. In it, Regina and planetary scientist Melissa Rice explore all things shooting star. They talk about the different types, where they come from and what they actually are (hint: not stars). Learn more about viewing the Persieds in the next few days here: Get ready to look up in the night sky at all those meteor showers.
|2022-Aug-09 • 13 minutes|
How Monkeypox Became A Public Health Emergency
Today's show: Health reporter Pien Huang on how the monkeypox outbreak began and whether it can be stopped now.
|2022-Aug-08 • 14 minutes|
Carry The Two: Making Audio Magic With Math
Math is a complex, beautiful language that can help us understand the world. And sometimes ... math is also hard! Science communicator Sadie Witkowski says the key to making math your friend is to foster your own curiosity. That's the guiding principle behind her new podcast, Carry the Two. It's also today's show: Embracing all math has to offer without the fear of failure. --------Callout time! Do you have a favorite space fact? Send it to us in a voice memo in 20 seconds or less. Include your name and lo...
|2022-Aug-05 • 14 minutes|
A Tale Of Two Parks And The Bats Within Them
Buckle up! Short Wave is going on a road trip every Friday this summer. In this first episode of our series on the research happening in the National Park system, we head to Shenandoah National Park and the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Some bats there are faring better than others against white-nose syndrome, a fungus that has killed more than 7 million bats in the last decade. Today — what researchers like Jesse De La Cruz think is enabling some bat species to survive. As we road trip, we w...
|2022-Aug-04 • 16 minutes|
Abortion Laws in Texas are Disrupting Maternal Care
New abortion bans have made some doctors hesitant to provide care for pregnancy complications. That's led to life-threatening delays, and trapped families in a limbo of grief and helplessness. Today, senior health editor Carrie Feibel shares the story of one woman in Texas, whose pregnancy became a medical crisis because of the state's abortion laws.Read Carrie's full reporting: https://n.pr/3zpDXK0
|2022-Aug-03 • 11 minutes|
The Secret History of DNA
It's been over 150 years since the first article was published about the molecular key to life as we know it — DNA. With help from expert Pravrutha Raman, Short Wave producer Berly McCoy explains how DNA is stored in our cells and why the iconic double helix shape isn't what you'd see if you peeked inside your cells right now. (encore)Curious about all the other biology that defines us? Email the show at [email protected] — we're all ears ... and eyes and toes and ... a lot of things. Thanks, DNA!
|2022-Aug-02 • 14 minutes|
Wild Horses Could Keep Wildfire At Bay
Under a 1971 Congressional Act, the Bureau of Land Management has the right to round up wild horses on public lands. Oftentimes, those horses are shipped to holding facilities, where they are kept in captivity and separated from their families. William Simpson wants to change that. He wants to deploy the wild horses across public lands, to live and graze — and ultimately, prevent the worst wildfires.
|2022-Aug-01 • 14 minutes|
TASTE BUDDIES: The Controversial World Of Taste Science
Not much is known about why people experience tastes differently and why some people can detect certain tastes and not others. There also might be other tastes out there to add to the list beyond the five known ones now. In this finale to Short Wave's Taste Buddies series, we're tackling the science of the five tastes, and in this episode, we look at why there is so much more research to be done. Host Aaron Scott talks to Danielle Reed from the Monell Chemical Senses Center about the controversy in taste sc...
|2022-Jul-29 • 14 minutes|
Spice, Spice, Baby! Why Some Of Us Enjoy The Pain Of Spicy Foods
Today, we talk about spicy food and its intersection with pleasure and pain as part of our "Taste Buddies" series — Short Wave's ode to "taste." In this episode, Host Emily Kwong talks to food reporter Ruth Tam and researchers Julie Yu and Nadia Byrnes about the science behind our love for spicy foods and what drives some of us to seek out the pain. Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyKwong1234. You can email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2022-Jul-28 • 11 minutes|
TASTE BUDDIES: No Sugarcoating How Sweet Affects The Brain
Our ancestors evolved the ability to taste the sweet goodness of foods like pastries and creamy chocolates. They were enticed to consume quick calories that might only be available sporadically. What does that mean today for our brains and bodies in a world where sugar is much more abundant? Host Aaron Scott talks to taste and smell researcher Paule Joseph about the sticky science of sugar and how we can have too much of a good thing.-Separately, we want to feature YOU in an upcoming episode! Is there a mom...
|2022-Jul-27 • 14 minutes|
TASTE BUDDIES: Feeling Salty?
Today, we're getting salty as we continue our series "Taste Buddies" — Short Wave's ode to taste buds. In this encore episode, Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber goes on a salty flavor journey with scientist Julie Yu. Along the way, Julie explains salt's essential role in our daily lives and how it affects our perception of food. Follow Regina on Twitter @ScienceRegina. Reach the show by sending an email to [email protected]
|2022-Jul-26 • 15 minutes|
TASTE BUDDIES: Umami And The Redemption Of MSG
We're continuing our celebration of taste with another episode in our "Taste Buddies" series. Today: Umami.In the early 1900s a Japanese chemist identified umami, but it took a century for his work to be translated into English. In this encore episode, Short Wave host Emily Kwong talks with producer Chloee Weiner about why it took so long for umami to be recognized as the fifth taste.Follow Emily on Twitter @emilykwong1234. Reach the show by sending an email to [email protected]
|2022-Jul-25 • 16 minutes|
TASTE BUDDIES: Pucker Up! It's The Science Of Sour
This week Short Wave is celebrating our sense of taste with an entire week of themed episodes, covering everything from sugar and spice to what's beyond our classic ideas of taste. It's a series we're calling, "Taste Buddies."In today's encore episode with Atlantic science writer Katherine Wu, we take a tour through the mysteries of sourness — complete with a fun taste test. Along the way, Katie serves up some hypotheses for the evolution of sour taste because, as Katie explains in her article, "The Paradox...
|2022-Jul-22 • 13 minutes|
The Accelerated Approvals Process: Are Drugmakers Fulfilling Their Promises?
The Food and Drug Administration allows faster drug approvals based on preliminary study data if the drug fulfills an unmet medical need. But the speedy approval comes with a promise that the drugmaker does another clinical trial once the drug is on the market to prove it really works. If not, the FDA can rescind the approval. How are the companies doing and how well does the agency enforce that system? Pharmaceuticals correspondent Sydney Lupkin investigated the 30-year track record for accelerated approva...
|2022-Jul-21 • 12 minutes|
Russia's War In Ukraine Is Hurting Nature
The war in Ukraine is devastating that nation's rich, natural environment - from chemical leaks poisoning water supplies and warships killing dolphins to explosions disrupting bird migrations. NPR Environmental Correspondent Nate Rott has been reporting from Ukraine. He sits down with Short Wave's Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber to talk about how the Russian invasion is harming the environment even beyond Ukraine's borders. Read more of Nate's reporting: https://n.pr/3PkuKcEWant to get in touch? Rea...
|2022-Jul-20 • 15 minutes|
Keeping Score On Climate: How We Measure Greenhouse Gases
Host Emily Kwong wants to keep an eye on her carbon footprint. Most of it consists of greenhouse gas emissions from driving her car or buying meat at the grocery store. But it's not so obvious how to measure those emissions, or how factories, cargo ships, or even whole countries measure theirs.Enter: NPR science reporter Rebecca Hersher. Together, Rebecca and Emily break down how greenhouse gas emissions are tallied ... and why those measurements are so important in figuring out who's responsible for cleani...
|2022-Jul-19 • 10 minutes|
Venus And The 18th Century Space Race
In the 18th century the world was focused on Venus. Expeditions were launched in pursuit of exact measurements of Venus as it passed between Earth and the Sun. By viewing its journey and location on the Sun's surface, scientists hoped to make a massive leap in scientific knowledge. With a little help from math, Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber recounts how humanity came closer to understanding our cosmic address — and relative distances to other planets — in the solar system. You can follow Regina on...
|2022-Jul-18 • 12 minutes|
How Clarice Phelps Put Her Mark On The Periodic Table
As a kid, Clarice Phelps dreamed of being an astronaut, or maybe an explorer like the characters on Star Trek. And while her path to a career in science was different than what she expected, it led her to being a part of something big: the discovery of a new element on the periodic table. Clarice talks to host Aaron Scott about her role in creating Tennessine, one of the heaviest elements known to humankind.Do you have a great science discovery story? Tell us about it at [email protected]
|2022-Jul-15 • 14 minutes|
The Universe's Baby Pictures (Squee!) From The James Webb Space Telescope
Earlier this week we got a look at one of the highest-profile scientific photo dumps of all time. The James Webb Space Telescope is the most powerful telescope ever sent into space, and it is producing some of the most detailed, rich, and far-reaching images of the universe we have seen – including the birth of stars, galaxies colliding, and the bending of space-time itself. Today, Host Emily Kwong talks with Short Wave Scientist-in-Residence Regina G. Barber and NPR's Joe Palca about these mind bending new...
|2022-Jul-14 • 14 minutes|
Making Space Travel Accessible For People With Disabilities
This week NASA released some of the sharpest images of space ever from the James Webb Space Telescope. The telescope's camera gives us a glimpse into distant galaxies and a picture of the makings of our universe. Tomorrow, we'll nerd out about those photos. But today, we're revisiting the idea of space travel. This encore episode, science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel talks to New York Times Disability Reporting Fellow Amanda Morris about one organization working to ensure disabled people have the chance to ...
|2022-Jul-13 • 14 minutes|
Real Life 'Goonies'? A Mysterious Shipwreck Found Off the Oregon Coast
For centuries, mysterious blocks of beeswax and Chinese porcelain have washed up on the Oregon coast, leading to legends of pirates, treasure, and a sunken Spanish galleon. It became known as the Beeswax Wreck, and it inspired centuries of treasure hunters—and maybe even Steven Spielberg, as he created The Goonies. Now, researchers have found nearly 330-year-old timbers from the ship in a hard-to-access cave. This is the story of how a team of volunteer archeologists are working to solve one of the most end...
|2022-Jul-12 • 8 minutes|
BA.5: The Omicron Subvariant Driving Up Cases — And Reinfections
BA.5 is now the dominant SARS-CoV-2 subvariant in the United States. It's driving up COVID cases and hospitalizations across the country. It's also causing quicker reinfections. More people appear to be contracting the virus multiple times in relatively quick succession. Today, host Emily Kwong talks with science correspondent Allison Aubrey about this dominant subvariant: What it means for mask mandates, "long COVID" — and why infectious disease experts think this wave will be more manageable than last win...
|2022-Jul-11 • 15 minutes|
Everything On A Bagel: A Conversation With Daniels
Directing Duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, (collectively: Daniels) are known for their first feature film Swiss Army Man and DJ Snake's and Lil Jon's music video "Turn Down For What." This year, they've taken their directing to a whole different universe. Host Emily Kwong chats with the Daniels about their new film Everything Everywhere All At Once and how their indie film about laundry and taxes melds the arts with sciences. You can follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyKwong1234. Email Short Wave at ShortWav...
|2022-Jul-08 • 14 minutes|
Tiny Critter Week Finale: Nudibranchs Do It Better
We're wrapping up Tiny Critter Week with a reprise of one of our favorite episodes — nudibranchs. In this episode, Maddie and Emily got super nerdy, diving into the incredible world of nudibranchs. These sea slugs eye-catching for their colors, and some of them have evolved to "steal" abilities from other organisms — from the power of photosynthesis to the stinging cells of their venomous predators.We'd love to hear which tiny critters you love — and which leave you puzzled. Reach us by sending an email to ...
|2022-Jul-07 • 12 minutes|
Liquid Gold: The Wonder Of Honey
Honey bees know a lot about honey, and humans are starting to catch up. Scientists are now looking at how the chemicals in honey affect bee health. With the help of research scientist Bernarda Calla, Short Wave producer Berly Mccoy explains the chemical complexities of honey, how it helps keep honey bees resilient, and what role it may play in saving the bees. (encore)
|2022-Jul-06 • 13 minutes|
Spiders Can Fear Other Spiders
If you're not so fond of spiders, you may find kindred spirits in other spiders! Researcher Daniela Roessler worked with jumping spiders and found that they know to get away from the presence of other possible predator spiders, even if they've never encountered them before. She talks with host Maria Godoy about her research and what Halloween decorations do to the poor spiders, if arachnids can have arachnophobia. (Encore)Read Daniela's research and watch videos of the experiment: https://besjournals.online...
|2022-Jul-05 • 12 minutes|
Against All Odds, The Pumpkin Toadlet Is
Being small has its advantages ... and some limitations. One organism that intimately knows the pros and cons of being mini is the pumpkin toadlet. As an adult, the animal reaches merely the size of the skittle. At that scale, the frog's inner ear is so small, it's not fully functional. That means when the frog moves, it's haphazard and seems kind of drunk. And so today, with the help of Atlantic science writer Katie Wu, we investigate: If a frog can't jump well, is it still a frog?Read Katie's piece in The...
|2022-Jul-04 • 1 minutes|
Tiny Critters On The Way This Week
Hey, Short Wavers!We're off today, but wanted to give you a sneak peek into this week's episodes. To inject a little levity into your (and our) lives, we're celebrating some of the smaller animals in our midst all week long. Tomorrow — an animal probably most aptly described as an orange Skittle. Any guesses?
|2022-Jul-01 • 14 minutes|
If Monkeys Could Talk...
... Could a monkey host this podcast?Aaron Scott and Resident Neuroscience Nerd Jon Hamilton discuss the vocal capabilities of our primate relatives. From syllables and consonants to rhythm and pitch, certain monkeys and apes have more of the tools needed for speech than was once thought. Now scientists are looking to them for insights into the origins of human speech. What animal should we study next? Email the show at [email protected]
|2022-Jun-30 • 9 minutes|
Micro Wave: Scientists Discover GINORMOUS Bacteria
The Caribbean is home to gorgeous beaches, mangroves and ... the biggest bacteria known to humankind. Find out exactly how big from science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce in this Micro Wave. Then, stay for the listener mail, where we answer YOUR questions — all hosted by our new senior editor, Gabriel Spitzer!Do you have a question for Short Wave? Email us a voice memo at [email protected]
|2022-Jun-29 • 12 minutes|
Climate Change Is Tough On Personal Finances
A majority of people say they have experienced extreme weather in the last five years, according to a nationwide survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. And events like floods, wildfires and hurricanes are emptying bank accounts--especially when insurance can't cover the damage. Aaron Scott talks to science reporter Rebecca Hersher about the new survey, and the hidden ways climate change could impact your finances.
|2022-Jun-28 • 12 minutes|
The Quest To Save The California Condor
Historically, the California condor soared across the western skies of North America. But by the 1980s, the bird was on the edge of extinction — just 22 remained.Thanks to decades of conservation work, the California condor population has rebounded to a couple hundred birds in Central California and Arizona. And this May, a large partnership led by the Yurok Tribe re-introduced the birds to Northern California. Today, host Aaron Scott talks to Yurok biologist Tiana Williams-Claussen about the years-long que...
|2022-Jun-27 • 15 minutes|
The Public Health Implications Of Overturning Roe V. Wade
The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday. We're revisiting an episode that may give us insight into pregnant people's lives in a post-Roe United States. We talked to Dr. Diana Greene Foster, the lead researcher on the interdisciplinary team behind The Turnaway Study. For over a decade, she and her fellow researchers followed just under a thousand women who sought an abortion across 21 states. These data reveal the outcomes of unwanted pregnancies and compare the physical, mental and financial cons...
|2022-Jun-24 • 11 minutes|
Let's Get Crafty With Agar Art!
Pull out your art supplies because it's time to get crafty--with agar! At the intersection of biology and art lies a creative medium that's actually alive. Scientists and artists practice etching designs on petri dishes with bacterial paint that can grow and multiply.Aaron Scott talks with science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce about her foray into the agar art world.Have another craft suggestion? Email the show at [email protected]
|2022-Jun-23 • 14 minutes|
Dino-mite! Meet The Real Stars of 'Jurassic World: Dominion'
Move over, T-Rex. There are new, (mostly) more accurate dinosaurs to squeal over in 'Jurassic World: Dominion', the sixth and reportedly final film of the Jurassic film franchise. Join us to get to know them a little more with help from Riley Black, a paleontologist and author of the book The Last Days of the Dinosaurs.Want to hear more about the science in pop culture? Or maybe just want to show your support for our continued coverage of dinosaurs? Let us know by e-mailing [email protected]
|2022-Jun-22 • 12 minutes|
'Smell Ya Later, COVID!' How Dogs Are Helping Schools Stay COVID-free
A Massachusetts elementary school welcomes "Huntah," the COVID-sniffing dog. Scientist-in-residence Regina Barber talks with NPR science reporter Ari Daniel about how a specialized K-9 unit is helping keep kids in classrooms.For more of Ari's reporting, check out "Dogs trained to sniff out COVID in schools are getting a lot of love for their efforts."You can follow Regina on Twitter @ScienceRegina and Ari on Instagram @mesoplodon_. Email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2022-Jun-21 • 12 minutes|
Good Things Come In Trees
Do you ever feel better after walking down a street that's lined with lush, green trees? You're not alone! For decades, researchers have been studying the effects of nature on human health and the verdict is clear: time spent among the trees seems to make us less prone to disease, more resistant to infection and happier overall. Aaron Scott talks with environmental psychologist Ming Kuo about why we need greenery and how you can bring more of it into your life.
Hi Short Wavers, The team is off today in continued commemoration of Juneteenth, a holiday honoring the freedom of all Americans, by marking the emancipation of enslaved Americans in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. We'll be back tomorrow with more Short Wave, from NPR.
|2022-Jun-17 • 13 minutes|
Science In The City: Cylita Guy Talks Chasing Bats And Tracking Rats
Cylita Guy was a curious child who enjoyed exploring the beaches, parks and animals that shared her hometown of Toronto, Canada. She's an urban ecologist interested in city-dwelling bats. Cylita talks to guest host Lauren Sommer about the importance of studying wildlife in cities and about her children's book, Chasing Bats and Tracking Rats: Urban Ecology, Community Science and How We Share Our Cities. (Encore)
|2022-Jun-16 • 14 minutes|
Can The Next School Shooting Be Prevented With Compassion?
The Uvalde school shooting has renewed questions of how to prevent the next shooting. For many who've opened fire in schools, the path to violence has common traits. A growing number of schools are adopting an evidence-based approach to preventing violence on their campuses. The plan recognizes that a student contemplating violence is a student in crisis. Today, a look at that plan in action: how a school district in Oregon has been turning troubled youth away from violence for nearly two decades.
|2022-Jun-15 • 13 minutes|
War On Earth, Cooperation In Space
For decades, U.S. astronauts and Russian cosmonauts have lived side-by-side aboard the International Space Station. Host Aaron Scott talks with Science Correspondent Geoff Brumfiel about how a war on planet Earth is changing life in space and what those changes say about the limits of science as a tool for diplomacy. For more of Geoff's reporting, check out "Russia's war in Ukraine is threatening an outpost of cooperation in space."You can follow Aaron on Twitter @AaronScottNPR and Geoff @GBrumfiel. Email S...
|2022-Jun-14 • 10 minutes|
How Politics And Health Are Intertwined
Political polarization is affecting Americans' health, according to a new study. Researchers find higher levels of premature death in Republican-leaning counties compared to those in Democratic-leaning ones. The higher mortality in GOP counties is across the board – everything from heart disease to suicide. Allison Aubrey talks to Emily Kwong about what may be causing these disparities.
|2022-Jun-13 • 13 minutes|
Wok This Way: A Science Cooking Show
Host Emily Kwong talks with chef J. Kenji López-Alt about his new cookbook The Wok and the science of cooking.
|2022-Jun-10 • 25 minutes|
Pride Week: The Importance Of Inclusion In Sex Education
Life Kit spoke with sexuality educators to understand what sex education could look like for queer students and the importance of including everybody in the discussions.
|2022-Jun-09 • 13 minutes|
Pride Week: How Organic Chemistry Helped With Embracing Identities
As a kid, Ariana Remmel had a hard time figuring out where they fit in. They found comfort in the certainty and understanding of what the world was made of: atoms and molecules and the periodic table of elements.Years later, Ari went on to become a chemist and science writer. On today's show, Ari talks with host Maddie Sofia about how chemistry has helped them embrace their mixed identities.For more, read Ari's recent essay in Catapult Magazine: https://catapult.co/stories/ariana-remmel-essay-mixed-identiti...
|2022-Jun-08 • 15 minutes|
Pride Week: Beginning Hormone Replacement Therapy
Medical transition-related treatments like hormone replacement therapy are associated with overwhelmingly positive outcomes in terms of both physical and mental health for transgender people. But, it can be hard to know exactly how to get started. Reporter James Factora explains where to start, common misconceptions about HRT, and the importance of finding community through the process. Read James' full reporting for VICE here: "A Beginner's Guide to Hormone Replacement Therapy."(www.vice.com/en/article/dyv...
|2022-Jun-07 • 15 minutes|
Pride Week: TikTok Queen Brings Math To The Masses
Kyne is the stage name of Kyne Santos, a math communicator and a drag queen. The former Canada's Drag Race contestant posted her first video explaining a math riddle in full drag on TikTok during the pandemic. Since then, Kyne's videos, under the username @onlinekyne, have have attracted 1.3 million followers and generated 40.7 million likes. Kyne talks to host Emily Kwong about bringing STEM to the drag scene. (Encore)
|2022-Jun-06 • 15 minutes|
Pride Week: Loving Sally Ride
Tam O'Shaughnessy and Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, met as kids in the early 1960s and developed an instant connection. Years later, they fell in love. They also were dedicated to STEM education and founded Sally Ride Science in 2001, a company focused on equity and inclusion in science education. Tam talks about this, and her relationship with Sally Ride, with Maddie Sofia. (encore)
|2022-Jun-03 • 12 minutes|
It's Been A Minute: Digital Privacy In A Possible Post-Roe World
Today, we're passing the mic to our friends at It's Been A Minute. Recently, they dug into how the anticipated repeal of Roe v. Wade will affect broader privacy issues. Will tech platforms continue to provide the same information, in states where the procedure is outlawed? What risk does your digital footprint create, if you seek information about abortion or other reproductive health care? Guest host Elise Hu talks it out with Rachel Cohen, senior policy reporter at Vox News, and Lil Kalish from CalMatters...
|2022-Jun-02 • 10 minutes|
How To Keep Meat Juicy With Science
How do you make the perfect stir-fry chicken without drying it out? Today, we answer that question with cookbook author and chef J. Kenji López-Alt and science! Host Emily Kwong talks to Scientist-In-Residence Regina G. Barber about velveting, a technique used to seal in moisture during high heat cooking. Then, some listener mail!If you're hungry for more food-based episodes, check out our TASTE BUDDIES series.
|2022-Jun-01 • 13 minutes|
What Research Says About Mass Shootings
Parkland, Fla. Buffalo, NY. Uvalde, Texas. Every mass shooting in the U.S. raises calls for better policies to prevent such tragedies. There's evidence suggesting that certain kinds of laws may reduce deaths from mass shootings, say scientists who study the field — but those policy options are not the ones usually discussed in the wake of these events. Furthermore, the amount of resources devoted to studying gun violence is paltry compared to its public health impact.
|2022-May-31 • 14 minutes|
Telehealth Abortions Are Changing The Culture Of Medicine
Recent rule changes have increased access to abortion pills through the mail, using telehealth services. As many U.S. states gear up to restrict abortion access in anticipation of the Supreme Court possibly overturning Roe v. Wade, the medical professionals behind these services are preparing for an even bigger surge in demand. Groups that provide abortion pills are also preparing to face significant new obstacles, as anti-abortion states push back against expanded online access. Both patients and clinician...
|2022-May-27 • 11 minutes|
James Kagambi: The 62 Year Old Who Just Summited Everest
The first all-black team of climbers reached the summit of Mount Everest last week, including the first Kenyan ever to do so. Today on the show Short Wave Host Aaron Scott talks with Science Reporter Ari Daniel about his interview with James Kagambi, a snow-loving, 62-year-old with a bum knee who made the trek despite his doctor's orders. You can follow Aaron on Twitter @AaronScottNPR and Ari on Instagram @mesoplodon_. Email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2022-May-26 • 13 minutes|
Dog Breeds Are A Behavioral Myth... Sorry!
Is your border collie a lethargic couch potato? Is your golden retriever bad with kids? Is your German shepherd too timid to guard your home?Turns out, there may be good reason why your pooch doesn't act as expected. Regina G. Barber talks with writer Katie Wu about the science of dog breeds, including how much a dog's personality is linked to breed. (Hint: less than you might think!)Got personal stories of your dog breaking its behavioral mold? Share with us at [email protected]
|2022-May-25 • 12 minutes|
How Changes in Abortion Law Could Impact Community Health
Depending how the Supreme Court votes on a pending case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, many pregnant people may lose the right to seek an abortion in their state. Host Emily Kwong talks to research scientist Liza Fuentes about the shifting reality of abortion as health care — and how the states with the greatest restrictions generally invest the least in maternal and children's health. Today is part two of Emily and Liza's conversation. Listen to part one of Emily and Liza's conversation to ...
|2022-May-24 • 12 minutes|
Why Abortion Access Is Important For A Healthy Community
Abortion access has been leading political news in recent weeks. But what happens when we look at abortion as a health care tool that betters public health? Today, Emily talks to Liza Fuentes, a Senior Research Scientist at the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that focuses on sexual and reproductive health. Fuentes says abortion access is an important part of health care for a community and losing access can exacerbate income and health inequalities.
|2022-May-23 • 15 minutes|
The Queen of Nuclear Physics (Part Two): Forming Chien-Shiung Wu's Story
Growing up, Jada Yuan didn't realize how famous her grandmother was in the world of physics. In this episode, Jada talks to Emily about the life of physicist Chien-Shiung Wu, whom Jada got to know much better while writing the article Discovering Dr. Wu for the Washington Post, where she is a reporter covering culture and politics.Check out part one in which Emily talks to Short Wave's scientist-in-residence about how Chien-Shiung Wu altered physics. She made a landmark discovery in 1956 about how our unive...
|2022-May-20 • 13 minutes|
The Queen of Nuclear Physics (Part One): Chien-Shiung Wu's Discovery
In the 1950's, a particle physicist made a landmark discovery that changed what was known about how the universe operates. Chien-Shiung Wu did it while raising a family and an ocean away from her relatives in China. Short Wave's Scientist-In-Residence Regina Barber joins host Emily Kwong to talk about that landmark discovery—what it meant for the physics world, and what it means to Regina personally as a woman and a Chinese and Mexican American in physics. Email the show at [email protected]
|2022-May-19 • 13 minutes|
TASTE BUDDIES: Why Bitter Tastes Better For Some
Love the bitter bite of dark chocolate, leafy greens or black licorice? Your genetics may be the reason why. Today on the show, host Aaron Scott talks to scientist Masha Niv about how our bitter taste buds work and how a simple taste test can predict your tolerance for some bitter things. Plus, what bitter receptors elsewhere in the body have to do with your health. To listen to more episodes about how we taste, check out our TASTE BUDDIES series: https://n.pr/3LkXOh7
|2022-May-18 • 15 minutes|
Who Else Can See Your Period Tracker Data?
Apps can be a great way to stay on top of your health. They let users keep track of things like exercise, mental health, the quality of their skin, and even menstrual cycles.But health researchers Giulia De Togni and Andrea Ford have found that many of these health apps also have a dark side — selling your most personal data to third parties like advertisers, insurers and tech companies. Emily talks to the researchers about the commodification of data, and their suggestions for increasing the security of y...
|2022-May-17 • 9 minutes|
How Vaccine Misinformation Spread Through The Parenting World
Any hour now, the U.S. is expected to officially mark one million lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Health correspondent Allison Aubrey shares how this misinformation first entered the parenting world--and how some are fighting back. Email the show at [email protected]
|2022-May-16 • 14 minutes|
The Importance Of The Vaginal Microbiome
Today on Short Wave, researcher Fatima Aysha Hussain talks to host Emily Kwong about how microbes in the vagina can impact health and how transplanting vaginal microbiomes from one vagina to another could help people managing bacterial vaginosis. To learn more about the vaginal microbiome transplant study, visit https://motifstudy.org/.
|2022-May-13 • 12 minutes|
Who Would Be Most Affected By Roe Reversal
If the U.S. Supreme Court rules in line with the draft decision leaked in early May, the decision to reverse Roe v. Wade affect a much broader group than people who get pregnant. But research shows abortion restrictions have a disproportionate impact on young women, poor women and especially those in communities of color. NPR health correspondent Yuki Noguchi talks to Short Wave scientist-in-residence Regina G. Barber about how this ruling would affect those women and how groups helping them get abortions a...
|2022-May-12 • 13 minutes|
A Climate Time Capsule, Part 2: The Start of the International Climate Change Fight
In 1992, diplomats and scientists at the United Nations negotiated the first-ever treaty intended to tackle the climate change. This brought the issue to the forefront and led to a series of conferences that have occurred almost every year for the next 30 years. Short Wave host Emily Kwong talks to freelance climate reporter, Dan Charles about how those at the conference wrote a clear and ambitious goal that they didn't even fully understand. Plus — why it rattled the fossil fuel industry. This is part 2 of...
|2022-May-11 • 14 minutes|
A Climate Time Capsule (Part 1): The Start of the International Climate Change Fight
In 1992, diplomats and scientists at the United Nations negotiated the first-ever treaty intended to tackle the scientific phenomenon now known as climate change. This brought the issue to the forefront and led to a series of conferences that would occur almost every year for the next 30 years. Short Wave host Emily Kwong talks to freelance climate reporter, Dan Charles, about how those at the conference wrote a clear and ambitious goal that they didn't even fully understand.Email the show at [email protected]
|2022-May-10 • 14 minutes|
Stephanie's Story: How COVID Misinformation Affected One Family
Stephanie was usually careful about her health and regular vaccinations. But then she got into sharing conspiracy-filled videos and fringe ideas. When COVID hit, misinformation put her and her husband at risk. Science correspondent and editor Geoff Brumfiel shares with Emily Kwong what he learned in reporting Stephanie's story. You can follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyKwong1234 and Geoff at @GBrumfiel. Email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2022-May-09 • 15 minutes|
The Turnaway Study: What The Research Says About Abortion
A leaked draft opinion in the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization has placed uncertainty on the future of abortion rights in the United States. As written, the opinion would overturn Roe v. Wade protections. We at Short Wave were immediately curious about the data behind abortions: What happens when pregnant people are denied abortions? For answers, we turned to Dr. Diana Greene Foster, the lead researcher on the interdisciplinary team behind The Turnaway Study. For over a decade...
|2022-May-06 • 12 minutes|
Lessons From HIV On Ending The COVID Pandemic
The world has come a long way since the COVID-19 pandemic began. There are now vaccines, at-home tests, masks and treatments. With all of these tools available, why is COVID still here?Health policy correspondent Selena Simmons-Duffin talks to Scientist-In-Residence Regina Barber about what we can learn from the public health advocates working to end the HIV epidemic, how those lessons may translate to ending COVID and why having the scientific tools isn't enough.
|2022-May-05 • 12 minutes|
When Our Star Erupts - The 1859 Solar Storm And More
In 1859, astronomer Richard Carrington was studying the Sun when he witnessed the most intense geomagnetic storm recorded in history. The storm, triggered by a giant solar flare, sent brilliant auroral displays across the globe and causing electrical sparking and fires in telegraph stations.Short Wave's scientist-in-residence Regina G. Barber talks to solar physicist Dr. Samaiyah Farid about what's now known as the Carrington event and about what may happen the next time a massive solar storm hits Earth. Yo...
|2022-May-04 • 12 minutes|
Emotions — They're Not Just For Humans
Scientists have discovered the underpinnings of animal emotions. As NPR brain correspondent Jon Hamilton reports, the building blocks of emotions and of emotional disorders can be found across lots of animals. That discovery is helping scientists understand human emotions like fear, anger — and even joy. Express your joy, fear and fine — even your scientific rage to us. We're at [email protected]
|2022-May-03 • 13 minutes|
Why You Should Give A Dam About Beavers!
Beavers have long been considered pests by landowners and government agencies. But now, many are starting to embrace them. Today on the show, Host Aaron Scott tells Host Emily Kwong how these furry ecosystem engineers are showing scientists a way to save threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead. Watch the video Aaron filmed with Oregon Field Guide about beavers and stream restoration. For more videos check out Oregon Field Guide.You can follow Aaron on Twitter @AaronScottNPR and Emily @EmilyKwong123...
|2022-May-02 • 14 minutes|
Why Did The Scientist Cross The Road?...To Meet Kasha Patel!
When Kasha Patel decided to try out stand-up comedy, she was told to joke about what she knew. For her, that was science. Today on Short Wave, Kasha talks to host Emily Kwong about how she developed her sense of humor, how she infuses science into her comedy and why on Earth she analyzed 500 of her jokes. Listen to the end for bonus audio!
|2022-Apr-29 • 13 minutes|
All Tied Up: The Study of Knots
Climbing enthusiast and producer Thomas Lu has long wondered what makes knots such a powerful tool. Today, Thomas digs into the research with the help of Matt Berry, Quality Assurance Manager at the outdoor gear company Black Diamond Equipment, and researcher Vishal Patil.Reach the show by emailing [email protected]
|2022-Apr-28 • 12 minutes|
Planetary Scientists Are Excited About Uranus
Probes to Uranus and to one of Jupiter's moons where conditions might support life; a better plan high-quality science on the moon--those are some of the recommendations in a new 700 page report to NASA. NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce has looked at that report and talked to the experts. Today, she sifts through all the juicy details of where NASA is headed the next few decades.Read the decadal survey. Probe the Short Wave minds by emailing [email protected]
|2022-Apr-27 • 11 minutes|
U.S. COVID Case Increases Unlikely To Become A Surge
COVID cases are up due to the Omicron sub-variants and masking is likely to remain optional as the courts wrangle with the transportation mask mandate that a Federal judge struck down last week. NPR correspondent Allison Aubrey talks about both of these issues with host Emily Kwong, and updates listeners on what to expect with children and the vaccine.
|2022-Apr-26 • 8 minutes|
The Environmental Cost of Crypto
Short Wave host Aaron Scott talks to producer Eva Tesfaye about the environmental impacts of cryptocurrencies.
|2022-Apr-25 • 14 minutes|
Cryptocurrency Is An Energy Drain
As cryptocurrencies become increasingly popular, the environmental impact of the technology is gaining more attention. Local, state and national governments are trying to figure out how to regulate the massive amounts of energy that some cryptocurrencies consume.Short Wave host Aaron Scott and producer Eva Tesfaye are joined by Planet Money reporter Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi who unpacks what cryptocurrencies are, how the technology works and why it all sucks up so much energy. Check out the episodes of Planet Mo...
|2022-Apr-22 • 14 minutes|
Fresh Banana Leaves — An Indigenous Approach To Science
Dr. Jessica Hernandez's new book Fresh Banana Leaves
|2022-Apr-21 • 10 minutes|
The Indicator: How Green Laws Stop Green Projects
The United States has a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Without serious changes to lifestyles, that means dramatic investments in green energy. But environmental laws can actually get in the way. Today, our colleagues at NPR's daily economics podcast, The Indicator from Planet Money, compare the threats to two bats on opposite ends of the planet. The bats show the tension between local and global environmentalism and how building a green economy is forcing people to have tough conversations about...
|2022-Apr-20 • 16 minutes|
The Science Behind The Delta-8 Craze
In the cannabis industry, the chemistry lab meets agriculture. A cannabis product called Delta-8 has been popping up in smoke shops, CBD shops and even gas stations.Dr. Katelyn Kesheimer, a researcher at Auburn University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, joins the show to demystify Delta-8. In this encore episode, we'll learn what it's made of, where it comes from, why it's so popular, and why science and the federal government are falling so far behind the cannabis industry. Email the show at ...
|2022-Apr-19 • 14 minutes|
TASTE BUDDIES: Y U Salty?
Salt has such a rich history that it was once (and is perhaps still) a sign of wealth. In this latest installment of our series on flavor and taste, "Taste Buddies," Scientist-in-Residence Regina G. Barber goes on a salty flavor journey with scientist Julie Yu. Along the way, Julie explains salt's essential role in our daily lives and how it affects our perception of food. Follow Regina on Twitter @ScienceRegina. Email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2022-Apr-18 • 14 minutes|
The Pandemic Is Damaging Health Workers' Mental Health
A recent study found that working surge after surge in the pandemic, a majority of American health care workers experienced psychiatric symptoms — including depression and thoughts of suicide. And yet, mental health correspondent Rhitu Chatterjee found that very few got help for these symptoms.If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text the word home to 741741.
|2022-Apr-15 • 13 minutes|
Can Skiing Survive Climate Change?
Climate change poses an existential threat to the ski industry. A warmer climate means less snow and less now menas a shorter season for snowboarders and skiiers. NPR correspondent Kirk Siegler first covered the issue 15 years ago as local station reporter in Aspen. Now he returns to that world-renowned destination and tells Short Wave co-host Aaron Scott about one resort's efforts to push the nation toward clean energy while it continues catering to the carbon-generating, jet-set crowd. Check out Kirk's fu...
|2022-Apr-14 • 14 minutes|
Addressing Water Contamination With Indigenous Science
Ranalda Tsosie grew up in the Navajo Nation, close to a number of abandoned uranium mines. The uranium from those mines leached into the groundwater, contaminating some of the unregulated wells that Ranalda and many others relied on for cooking, cleaning and drinking water. Today on the show, Ranalda talks to host Aaron Scott about her path to becoming an environmental chemist to study the extent of contamination in her home community using a blend of western and Diné science methods.
|2022-Apr-13 • 12 minutes|
Voices From A Ukrainian Hospital Damaged By Russian Attacks
In the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv at least half a dozen hospitals have been damaged by Russian attacks. The Emergency Department of City Hospital No. 2, located on the ground floor, was instantly destroyed. In addition, the shock wave shattered windows across all nine floors of the building, showering everything with broken glass. Correspondent Ari Daniel talks to Emily about the attack and brings Short Wave the voices of three people who were there for the attack and the aftermath.Feel free to ...
|2022-Apr-12 • 22 minutes|
Planet Money: How Manatees Got Into Hot Water
Today we share the mic with our colleagues at Planet Money to talk about one of our favorite aquatic creatures: manatees. Decades ago, manatees nearly went extinct as their habitat dwindled and boats threatened their lives. But power companies noticed something: manatees were hanging out near their power plants, seeking out warm water. So, the power companies teamed up with environmentalists to turn the warm waters near power planets into manatee refuges — saving manatee lives and the power companies money ...
|2022-Apr-11 • 12 minutes|
Lemurs Will Rock You
There's a lot for scientists to learn about the origins of humans' musical abilities. In the last few years, though, they've discovered homo sapiens have some company in our ability to make musical rhythm. Producer Berly McCoy brings the story of singing lemurs to host Aaron Scott. She explains how their harmonies could help answer questions about the beginnings of our own musical abilities, and what all of this has to do with Queen.
|2022-Apr-08 • 10 minutes|
War In Ukraine Sets Back Tuberculosis Treatment
According to the World Health Organization, Ukraine has the fourth highest incidence of tuberculosis in Europe — and one of the highest rates of multidrug resistant TB anywhere in the world. The country had been making progress but then came the pandemic, and now the war. Reporter Ari Daniel says doctors worry about increased spread of this contagious and deadly disease.
|2022-Apr-07 • 15 minutes|
TASTE BUDDIES: The Origins Of Umami
Short Wave host Emily Kwong talks with producer Chloee Weiner about why it took so long for umami to be recognized as the fifth taste.
|2022-Apr-06 • 10 minutes|
The Indicator: Destroying Personal Digital Data
We're turning over the mic to NPR's daily economics podcast, The Indicator from Planet Money. It's filled with one of our favorite topics: Data.
|2022-Apr-05 • 11 minutes|
When To Consider Another COVID-19 Booster
This week, U.S. Food and Drug Administration vaccine advisors will meet to discuss long-term COVID vaccine strategy. This follows the recent FDA authorization and CDC recommendation of a second booster available for people 50 and older and some immunocompromised people. Going forward, will the strategy change from counting boosters to making a COVID vaccine a seasonal shot? Allison Aubrey talks to Emily Kwong about the latest on boosters, what's known about the vaccination timeline for younger children, and...
|2022-Apr-04 • 12 minutes|
What We Gain From Dark Night Skies
For many of us, seeing stars in the night sky is challenging because of light pollution. But there are some communities that are trying to change that. Today on the show, we visit cultural astronomer Danielle Adams in the world's first international dark sky city. Theoretical physicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein also joins us to explain why access to dark night skies is so important.
|2022-Apr-01 • 14 minutes|
What Octopus Minds May Tell Us About Aliens
Octopuses! They are escape artists, they camouflage in all kinds of surroundings, and they are incredibly intelligent creatures--and that intelligence evolved completely separately from humans'. That separate evolution makes them the perfect animal to study for Dominic Sivitilli, a PhD candidate in astrobiology and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Washington.Short Wave co-host Aaron Scott and Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) camera person Stephani Gordon visited Dominic's lab to learn about oc...
|2022-Mar-31 • 12 minutes|
The Peculiar Physics Of The Wiffle Ball
Shall we play a game - of Wiffle ball? Invented in 1953, this lightweight alternative to a baseball is perfectly suited for back yard romping. Today we explain why the design of the Wiffle ball guarantees that you don't need a strong arm to throw a variety of pitches. More about Jenn Stroud Rossmann's work on Wiffle Balls here:https://www.theatlantic.com/technol...
|2022-Mar-30 • 15 minutes|
The Community Scientists Who Helped Discover A New Planet
Short Wave host Emily Kwong talks with astronomer Paul Dalba and community scientist Tom Jacobs about how their collaboration led to the discovery of a new exoplanet.
|2022-Mar-29 • 13 minutes|
To Be DST, Or Not To Be. That Is The Question.
This month, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a bill to make daylight saving time permanent. Now sleep scientists are weighing in and are suggesting the opposite — that standard time might be a better choice. Correspondent Allison Aubrey talks to host Emily Kwong about the pros and cons of adopting permanent daylight saving time or year-round standard time.You can follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyKwong1234 and Allison @AubreyNPR. Email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2022-Mar-28 • 13 minutes|
Indoor Air Quality is Cool for Schools
The benefits of indoor air quality in schools are substantial, but American school buildings are old and many face major challenges when it comes to upgrades. Science and health correspondent Maria Godoy talks to host Aaron Scott about how there are a few hopeful signs that indoor air quality in schools will be improved- including some federal money and a new awareness of air quality because of the pandemic. Read Maria's story on indoor air quality in schools here: n.pr/3uy3A93Email the show at [email protected]
|2022-Mar-25 • 13 minutes|
Hal Walker: The Man Who Shot The Moon
In addition to flying, landing, and returning from the moon in 1969 — NASA's Apollo 11 crew helped with a series of scientific experiments. One of them was to leave a special instrument with lots of little reflectors on the surface of the moon. The goal of that experiment was to beam a laser at the moon. Today on the show, Scientist-In-Residence Regina G. Barber talks to host Aaron Scott about the lunar laser ranging experiment — and how shooting that laser helped us better understand one of Einstein's theo...
|2022-Mar-24 • 13 minutes|
Can Nuclear Power Save A Struggling Coal Town?
A struggling Wyoming coal town may soon go nuclear with help from an unlikely partner, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates. NPR Correspondent Kirk Siegler takes us to Kemmerer, Wyo., where Gates' power company, supported by public funds, plans to open a new type of nuclear energy plant in hopes of replacing a closing coal plant. The model facility would create jobs and provide the flexible baseline energy needed to back up solar, wind and other renewables. But is it a good fit for rural Kemmerer?
|2022-Mar-23 • 12 minutes|
Should Bulldogs Exist?
Cute, wrinkly faces aside, bulldogs have myriad health problems. Science points to purebred breeding practices as the reason. NPR Science correspondent Lauren Sommer talks to host Aaron Scott about how a bulldog breeding ban in Norway has fueled an ongoing debate on the practice of breeding dogs with low genetic diversity and, as a result, high instances of health problems.
|2022-Mar-22 • 8 minutes|
COVID-19 Cases Rise In The U.K., U.S. Watches For New Wave
The omicron outbreak has slowed dramatically in the U.S. But cases are rising in Britain due to an omicron subvariant. There are signs the U.S. could also see a bump in cases in the coming weeks. Stay safe out there, fabulous listeners! Feel free to drop us a line at [email protected]
|2022-Mar-21 • 16 minutes|
Parents Of Transgender Youth Fear Texas' Anti-Trans Orders
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has directed the state's Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate certain gender-affirming care as possible child abuse, leaving parents of transgender youth feeling caught between two choices: support their children or face a possible investigation. Annaliese and Rachel are mothers living in Texas and both have transgender children. They speak to NPR about the emotional and mental toll this order has had on their families. And while the order is currently block...
|2022-Mar-18 • 14 minutes|
How Art Can Heal The Brain
Arts therapies appear to ease a host of brain disorders from Parkinson's to PTSD. But these treatments that rely on music, poetry or visual arts haven't been backed by rigorous scientific testing. Now, artists and brain scientists have launched a program to change that. NPR's brain correspondent Jon Hamilton tells us about an initiative called the NeuroArts Blueprint.
|2022-Mar-17 • 15 minutes|
Fighting Misinformation With Science Journalism
On December 31, 2021, The Joe Rogan Experience podcast on Spotify posted an episode with an interview with physician Dr. Robert Malone full of misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine. This sparked outrage, a letter from a group of medical professionals, scientists and educators to Spotify and a series of creators pulling their content from the platform. Science Vs., a podcast produced by Gimlet Media which is owned by Spotify, decided to take a stand too.Listen to the episodes of Science Vs discussed here...
|2022-Mar-16 • 13 minutes|
What Mount Kilimanjaro Has To Do With The Search For Alien Life
Understanding how life survives in extreme Earth environments could point to ways life can survive on other worlds. Astrobiologist Morgan Cable talks to host Emily Kwong about how her missions here on Earth have guided two upcoming NASA missions in search for alien life, not in a far off galaxy, but here in our solar system. The Titan Dragonfly and the Europa Clipper missions will each explore an ocean world in our solar system, where scientists believe we could find life--life that may be unlike anything w...
|2022-Mar-15 • 12 minutes|
Humble Pi: Enjoying When Math Goes Awry
We celebrate math with stand-up mathematician Matt Parker, who talks about his book, Humble Pi. (encore)
|2022-Mar-14 • 15 minutes|
Genetic Fact Vs. Fiction And Everything In Between With Janina Jeff
Geneticist Janina Jeff is back on the show to talk with host Emily Kwong about season 2 of her podcast In Those Genes. They talk about rhythm, aging and navigating what can be ascribed to our genes and what is determined by society.Check out more of Janina's work on In Those Genes: inthosegenes.comEpisodes referenced in today's Short Wave include:- R&B: Rhythm & Blackness- Black Don't CrackAnd listen to our last episode with Janina: n.pr/35TPyWJEmail the show at [email protected]
|2022-Mar-11 • 14 minutes|
A Physics Legend Part Two: Chien-Shiung Wu's Granddaughter Reflects
Growing up, Jada Yuan didn't realize how famous her grandmother was in the world of physics. In this episode, we delve into the life of physicist Chien-Shiung Wu from her granddaughter's perspective. Jada talks to host Emily Kwong about writing the article Discovering Dr. Wu for the Washington Post, where she is a reporter covering culture and politics. Check out part one in which Emily talks to Short Wave's scientist-in-residence about how Chien-Shiung Wu altered physics. She made a landmark discovery in 1...
|2022-Mar-10 • 12 minutes|
A Physics Legend Part One: How Chien-Shiung Wu Changed Physics Forever
In the 1950's, a particle physicist made a landmark discovery that changed what we thought we knew about how our universe operates. And Chien-Shiung Wu did it while raising a family and an ocean away from her relatives in China. Short Wave's Scientist-In-Residence Regina Barber joins host Emily Kwong to talk about that landmark discovery--what it meant for the physics world, and what it means to Regina personally as a woman and a Chinese and Mexican American in physics.
|2022-Mar-09 • 15 minutes|
TASTE BUDDIES: Science of Sour
Pucker up, duderinos! Short Wave's kicking off a series on taste we're calling, "Taste Buddies." In today's episode, we meet Atlantic science writer Katherine Wu and together, we take a tour through the mysteries of sourness — complete with a fun taste test. Along the way, Katie serves up some hypotheses for the evolution of sour taste because, as Katie explains in her article, "The Paradox of Sour," researchers still have a lot to learn about this weird taste.Baffled by another mundane aspect of our existe...
|2022-Mar-08 • 11 minutes|
Checking In On Our Pandemic Habits: What To Lose And What To Keep?
Over the last few years, we've all found different ways to cope with the pandemic. Some people started drinking more, moving less, maybe eating more. Now that the pandemic is at a lull, health experts say it's time to take stock of these habits. Short Wave host Aaron Scott chats with health correspondent Allison Aubrey about how our daily habits have been affected and changed — for better or worse — and how one might start to change ones they want to change.You can follow Aaron on Twitter @AaronScottNPR and...
|2022-Mar-07 • 13 minutes|
Dr. Thomas Insel On Why The U.S Mental Health System Has Failed And What Can Be Done
Health correspondent Rhitu Chatterjee talks with Dr. Thomas Insel about his new book, Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health.
|2022-Mar-04 • 23 minutes|
Emily Runs A Marathon
In collaboration with our colleagues at Life Kit, host Emily Kwong talks about her experience and discusses keys to training with running coach Laura Norris.
|2022-Mar-03 • 10 minutes|
Silver Linings From The UN's Dire Climate Change Report
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just released the second of three reports on climate change. Nearly 300 scientists from all over the world worked together to create this account of how global warming is affecting our society. NPR climate reporter Rebecca Hersher fills us in on this major climate science report and actually brings three empowering takeaways hidden within it. Read the report here: https://bit.ly/3hzWNFvAnd listen to Rebecca Hersher's hopeful takeaways from ...
|2022-Mar-02 • 14 minutes|
How A Collection Of Threatened Bird Calls Swept The Australian Album Charts
Host Emily Kwong quizzes musician and nature enthusiast Anthony Albrecht on the threatened Australian birds calls on his new album, Songs of Disappearance.
|2022-Mar-01 • 14 minutes|
Orcas: Apex Predators Or Marine Park Stars?
NPR science correspondent Lauren Sommer joins Short Wave host Emily Kwong to talk about a team of researchers who were the first to document a pack of orcas attacking a blue whale. Their work shows that killer whales, while stars in marine parks and movies, are also the ocean's top-- and often vicious-- predators. Humans' complex relationship with them may say more about humans than about the orcas.
|2022-Feb-28 • 15 minutes|
What Led To The Massive Volcanic Eruption In Tonga
Scientists are piecing together what led up to a massive volcanic eruption in Tonga last month. NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel joins the show to talk about the likely sequence of events— and what it can teach us about future eruptions like this one.Email the show at [email protected]
|2022-Feb-25 • 11 minutes|
Twinkle, Twinkle, Shooting Star . . .
One of the video games that Short Wave's Scientist in Residence has been playing a lot in the pandemic is Animal Crossing, in which bits of stars fall along the beach. It got Regina thinking — what ARE shooting stars? For answers on all things asteroid, meteoroid and comet, she turns to planetary scientist Melissa Rice. Haven't had any luck Googling to learning more about a cool phenomenon? Shoot us an email [email protected], and we'll dig up some answers.
|2022-Feb-24 • 13 minutes|
Schedule Those Doctor's Appointments!
The pandemic is at a turning point. Hospitalizations in this country are down. Deaths are starting to decline. Some of the states that have had the strictest COVID restrictions are starting to dial back. With fewer cases, and more tools to manage COVID, we can start putting more focus on other diseases again. Doctors are encouraging patients to get the checkups they've been holding off on. NPR science correspondent Allison Aubrey talks about the future of masking, virus detection and routine preventive care...
|2022-Feb-23 • 13 minutes|
Do You See What I See?
Everyone sees the world differently. Exactly which colors you see and which of your eyes is doing more work than the other as you read this text is different for everyone. Also different? Our blind spots – both physical and social. As we continue celebrating Black History Month, today we're featuring Exploratorium Staff Physicist Educator Desiré Whitmore. She shines a light on human eyesight – how it affects perception and how understanding another person's view of the world can offer us a fuller, better pi...
|2022-Feb-22 • 13 minutes|
Vacuuming DNA Out Of The Air
A few years ago, ecologist Elizabeth Clare had an idea--what if she could study rare or endangered animals in the wild without ever having to see or capture them? What if she could learn about them by only pulling data out of thin air? It turns out, the air's not so thin. There are bits of DNA floating around us, and Elizabeth figured out how to collect it. She talks to guest host Lauren Sommer about testing her collection method in a zoo, how another science team simultaneous came up with and tested the sa...
|2022-Feb-18 • 12 minutes|
The Good and the Bad of TV Forensics
Raychelle Burks is a forensic chemist and an associate professor at American University. She's also a big fan of murder mysteries. Today, we talk pop culture forensics with Raychelle and what signs to look for to know whether or not a tv crime show is getting the science right. (ENCORE)What else bothers you about TV accuracy? E-mail the show at [email protected]
|2022-Feb-17 • 12 minutes|
How Women Of Color Created Community In The Shark Sciences
As a kid, Jasmin Graham was endlessly curious about the ocean. That eventually led her to a career in marine science studying sharks and rays. But until relatively recently, she had never met another Black woman in her field. That all changed in 2020 when she connected with a group of Black women studying sharks through the Twitter hashtag #BlackInNature. Finding a community was so powerful that the women decided to start a group. On today's show, Jasmin talks with host Maddie Sofia about Minorities in Shar...
|2022-Feb-16 • 11 minutes|
How Many Senses Do We Really Have?
You're likely familiar with touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing - but there are actually more than five senses. Emily Kwong speaks to neurobiologist André White, assistant professor at Mount Holyoke College, about the beautiful, intricate system that carries information from the outside world in. (ENCORE)
|2022-Feb-15 • 15 minutes|
Tracing A Fraught And Amazing History Of American Horticulture
When Abra Lee became the landscape manager at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, she sought some advice about how to best do the job. The answer: study the history of gardening. That led to her uncovering how Black involvement in horticulture in the U.S. bursts with incredible stories and profound expertise, intertwined with a tragic past. She's now teaching these stories and working on a book, Conquer the Soil: Black America and the Untold Stories of Our Country's Gardeners, Farmers, and Gro...
|2022-Feb-14 • 16 minutes|
How to Talk About Hair Like a Scientist
Humans have scalp hair. But why is human scalp hair so varied? Biological anthropologist Tina Lasisi wanted to find out. And while completing her PhD at Penn State University, she developed a better system for describing hair — rooted in actual science. (Encore)To hear more from Tina, check out these webinars: Why Care About Hair (https://bit.ly/3liJZ96) and How Hair Reveals the Futility of Race Categories (https://s.si.edu/3Dik6g8). And to dive deep into Tina's research, we recommend her paper, The constra...
|2022-Feb-11 • 12 minutes|
How climate change is forcing cities to rebuild stormwater systems
Deep below our city streets lie intricate networks of underground piping built to carry away excess rainfall run off. These stormwater systems mostly go unnoticed until heavy rains overwhelm them, causing streets to flood. Now, with rising rainfall averages in much of the nation, cities need to plan for more water. Guest host Dan Charles talks to climate correspondent Lauren Sommer about the challenges of such planning and why many cities aren't set up to handle the coming rains.
|2022-Feb-10 • 14 minutes|
The (Drag) Queen Of Mathematics
Kyne is the stage name of Kyne Santos, a drag queen math communicator. The former Canada's Drag Race contestant posted her first video explaining a math riddle in full drag on TikTok during the pandemic.Since then Kyne's math videos, under the username @onlinekyne, have have attracted 1.2 million followers and generated 33.2 million likes. Kyne talks to host Emily Kwong on how to present math to the masses – and about bringing STEM to the drag scene. Check out Kyne's TikTok videos: tiktok.com/@onlinekyneEm...
|2022-Feb-09 • 13 minutes|
Without Inventor James West, This Interview Might Not Have Been Possible
For Black History Month, Short Wave is celebrating Black voices in STEM - bringing back some of our favorite conversations, as well as new guests with expertise and insights to share. In this encore episode, former Short Wave host Maddie Sofia talks to inventor James West about his life, career, and about how a device he helped invent in the 60's made their interview possible. (Encore)Email us at [email protected]
|2022-Feb-08 • 16 minutes|
The Complete Guide To Absolutely Everything (Abridged)
At Short Wave, it's an unspoken goal to ask and answer every question under the sun — after all, science underpins the entire universe. Today, we think we've finally met our curiosity match in mathematician Hannah Fry and geneticist Adam Rutherford. They're the duo behind the science mystery podcast The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry and co-authors of the new book Rutherford & Fry's Complete Guide to Absolutely Everything (Abridged). In the book, they ask questions like: How old is the Earth? Does your...
|2022-Feb-07 • 11 minutes|
The Physics Of Figure Skating
Triple axel, double lutz, toe loops, salchows — it's time to fall in love again with the sport of figure skating. The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are underway, and today on the show, Emily Kwong talks with biomechanic Deborah King about some of the physics behind figure skating. Plus, we go to an ice rink to see it all in action. You can email the show at [email protected]
|2022-Feb-04 • 13 minutes|
Chimp Haven Welcomes New Retirees
In 2015, the National Institutes of Health ended invasive biomedical research on its hundreds of chimps. Since then, it's been gradually moving the animals to a sanctuary in Louisiana called Chimp Haven. NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce joins the show to talk about the NIH's effort to retire research chimps and why it's complicated.Read more of Nell's reporting about chimp retirement:https://n.pr/3HsgmLq, https://n.pr/3AW3smo and https://n.pr/3sbHyaVEmail the show at [email protected]
|2022-Feb-03 • 13 minutes|
Science In The City: Cylita Guy Talks Chasing Bats And Tracking Rats
Cylita Guy was a curious child who enjoyed exploring the beaches, parks and animals that shared her hometown of Toronto, Canada. She's a scientist – an urban ecologist – interested in city-dwelling bats. Cylita talks to guest host Lauren Sommer about the importance of studying wildlife in cities, and about her children's book, Chasing Bats and Tracking Rats: Urban Ecology, Community Science and How We Share Our Cities. This episode was produced by Berly McCoy, edited by Stephanie O'Neill and fact checked by...
|2022-Feb-02 • 12 minutes|
Should Big Oil Pick Up The Climate Change Bill?
NPR climate correspondent Rebecca Hersher, brings an update on a climate liability lawsuit.
|2022-Feb-01 • 11 minutes|
Omicron Ebbing Gives Time to Boost Vaccinations
As COVID-19 cases in the U.S. drop, the hospitalization rate remains high — as does the death rate. Experts say getting a COVID vaccine booster is key to maintaining immunity, but only about half of all vaccinated people in the U.S. have gotten the booster, which increases protection against both serious illness and death from the Omicron variant. Still, many infectious disease experts are cautiously optimistic for the coming months, pointing to it as a time to bolster our defenses against the virus. Reach ...
|2022-Jan-31 • 19 minutes|
'Station Eleven': A Home At The End Of The World
Today on the show, NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour reviews HBO Max miniseries Station Eleven.
|2022-Jan-28 • 12 minutes|
Omicron Around The World: From "Zero COVID" To Rising Cases
The Omicron surge may have peaked in the U.S., but parts of the world are seeing crippling levels of cases. Jason Beaubien, NPR global health and development correspondent, joins the show to talk about where the virus is spreading, different countries' strategies for controlling the pandemic and what vaccinations look like globally.You can email the show at [email protected]
|2022-Jan-27 • 13 minutes|
Did E.T. Phone Us?
A few years back, a radio telescope in Australia picked up a radio signal that seemed to be coming from a nearby star. One possibility? Aliens! NPR science correspondent, Geoff Brumfiel, joins the show to talk about the signal and how a hunt for extra-terrestrial life unfolded.Check out the work from Sofia Sheikh and her team at the Berkeley SETI Research Institute about what they learned from the signal: https://bit.ly/3rM6hCoYou can email the show at [email protected]
|2022-Jan-26 • 12 minutes|
Megadrought fuels debate over whether a flooded canyon should reemerge
In the 1960s, the Bureau of Reclamation built a dam that flooded a celebrated canyon on the Utah-Arizona border. Today, it's known as Lake Powell — the second-largest reservoir in the U.S.A half billion dollar tourism industry has grown in the desert around the reservoir but a decades-long megadrought is putting its future in question. With what some call America's 'lost national park' reemerging, an old debate is also resurfacing: should we restore a beloved canyon or refill a popular and critical reservoi...
|2022-Jan-25 • 8 minutes|
What's Next For The Pandemic? Will COVID-19 Become Endemic Soon?
Many experts warn there will be more infections on the downslope of the omicron surge, but the U.S. is on the path to the virus becoming endemic — and that should mean fewer interruptions to daily life. Take a listen to Rachel Martin chat with health correspondent Allison Aubrey about what's next in the pandemic on Morning Edition. You can email the show at [email protected]
|2022-Jan-24 • 14 minutes|
Placebos Vs Parkinson's: The Power Of Joy
Parkinson's disease is a brain disorder that leads to difficulty with walking, balance and coordination. There is currently no cure, but scientists in Pittsburgh, PA have an ambitious plan to develop a treatment based on the placebo effect. NPR science correspondent, Jon Hamilton, tells the story of how this plan came to be. It involves a batch of illegal drugs, the rabies virus, and figuring out what makes a monkey really happy. Watch the video of the cyclist with Parkinson's disease here: https://bit.ly/3...
|2022-Jan-21 • 14 minutes|
Fighting Bias In Space: When There's A New Telescope, Who Gets To Use It?
The James Webb Space Telescope's mirrors are almost in place and soon it'll be a million miles away from Earth, ready to provide clues to the history of the universe. Naturally, many scientists have research they'd like to do that involve the telescope. Today on the show, Emily talks with correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce about who gets time on it, and how decision-makers are working to stay focused on the proposed science instead of who will be doing it, in the hopes of making the process fair for all pr...
|2022-Jan-20 • 21 minutes|
The Hodgepodge Of COVID Testing In The U.S.
The U.S. government has launched a website where people can request up to four free coronavirus tests per household--shipping is scheduled to begin in late January. They're responding to the fact that many Americans are really struggling to find tests as omicron surges across the country. (https://special.usps.com/testkits) Today on the show, our colleagues at Planet Money try to get tested — and they run into problems. From scammy testing sites to no tests at all, they explain what's behind the nation's C...
|2022-Jan-19 • 13 minutes|
A Clean Energy Future: How Hawaii Is Sparking The Push
Sixty percent of electricity in the U.S. comes from fossil fuels, like natural gas and coal. Today on the show, guest host Dan Charles talks with reporter Julia Simon about how Hawaii is fighting climate change by throwing out what's been standard for many decades and encouraging the state's power company to make clean electricity. For more of Julia's reporting, check out "Biden's climate agenda is stalled in Congress. In Hawaii, one key part is going ahead." >Email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2022-Jan-18 • 14 minutes|
When Tracking Your Period Lets Companies Track You
Health apps can be a great way to stay on top of your health. They let users keep track of things like their exercise, mental health, menstrual cycles — even the quality of their skin. But health data researchers Giulia De Togni and Andrea Ford have found that many of these health apps also have a dark side — selling your most personal data to third parties like advertisers, insurers and tech companies.Email us at [email protected]
|2022-Jan-14 • 14 minutes|
The Debate About Pablo Escobar's Hippos
Pablo Escobar had a private zoo at his estate in Colombia, with zebras, giraffes, flamingoes - and four hippopotamuses. After Escobar was killed in 1993, most of the animals were relocated except for the so-called "cocaine hippos." Authorities thought they would die but they did not and now, about a hundred roam near the estate. Conservationists are trying to control their population because they worry about the people and the environment. But some locals like the hippos and a few researchers say the animal...
|2022-Jan-13 • 9 minutes|
How COVID Is Affecting Kids' Mental Health
It's likely the last week has been rough if you're either going to school or in a family with kids trying to navigate school, be it virtual or in person. Thousands of schools around the country have shifted to remote learning. Others have changed testing protocols, are seeing staff and students out sick while trying to stay open during the midst of this latest surge. NPR health correspondent Rhitu Chatterjee and NPR education correspondent Anya Kamenetz talk to All Things Considered host Ailsa Chang about ...
|2022-Jan-12 • 13 minutes|
Wingspan! It's Got Birds, Science, Caterpillars - An Ideal Night In
Wingspan is a board game that brings the world of ornithology into the living room. The game comes with 170 illustrated birds cards, each equipped with a power that reflects that bird's behavior in nature. Wingspan game designer Elizabeth Hargrave speaks with Short Wave's Emily Kwong about her quest to blend scientific accuracy with modern board game design. (encore)
|2022-Jan-11 • 15 minutes|
Pondering A New Normal As The Omicron Surge Continues
The U.S. is experiencing a viral blizzard which will likely continue through January, 2022. The omicron variant's surge is pushing hospitalization rates up across the country and most of the seriously ill are not vaccinated. With likely weeks still to go before infections with this variant reach their peak, the message is get vaccinated and get boosted. Emily Kwong talks to Short Wave regular Allison Aubrey about what researchers know about omicron's severity and how the vaccines are changing health outcom...
|2022-Jan-10 • 14 minutes|
The Electric Car Race! Vroom, Vroom!
Electric cars can help reduce greenhouse gases and companies are taking note — racing to become the next Tesla. Today on the show, guest host Dan Charles talks with business reporter Camila Domonoske about how serious the country is about this big switch from gas to electric cars. Plus, what could get drivers to ditch the gas guzzlers?For more of Camila's reporting on electric cars, check out "The age of gas cars could be ending" and "2 little-known automotive startups are leading the race to become the nex...
|2022-Jan-07 • 15 minutes|
Man's Best Friend Is Healing Veterans
Service dogs have long helped veterans with physical disabilities. While there have been stories about veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder being transformed by service animals, the peer-reviewed science wasn't there to back up the claims. Health reporter Stephanie O'Neill reports that's changed in recent years. Studies suggest service dogs can be effective at easing PTSD symptoms and used alongside other treatments. Now, the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act will help connect specially trained dogs to ...
|2022-Jan-06 • 16 minutes|
How To Talk About The COVID-19 Vaccine With People Who Are Hesitant
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Jasmine Marcelin has spent the last year talking to a lot of people about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Today on the show, in part two of a two part series, Dr. Marcelin shares with Emily Kwong what she's learned and how to talk about the vaccine with people who have doubts about getting vaccinated. You can follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyKwong1234. Email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2022-Jan-05 • 13 minutes|
Doctor Finds Hope In Helping Inform And Vaccinate Her Community
On today's show, Emily Kwong checks in with infectious disease physician Dr. Jasmine Marcelin at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Jasmine spoke to Short Wave last year about how COVID-19 affected her as a doctor. In part one of a two part episode, Emily talks with her about how she's feeling a year in and how getting involved in community vaccination clinics has made a difference in her life. You can follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyKwong1234. E-mail Short Wave at [email protected]
|2022-Jan-04 • 15 minutes|
An Ode To The Manta Ray
A few months ago, on a trip to Hawaii, Short Wave host Emily Kwong encountered manta rays for the first time. The experience was eerie and enchanting. And it left Emily wondering — what more is there to these intelligent, entrancing fish? Today, Emily poses all her questions to Rachel Graham, the founder and executive director of MarAlliance, a marine conservation organization working in tropical seas.Have you been completely captivated by an animal too? Share your story with us at [email protected]
|2022-Jan-03 • 15 minutes|
The Science Of The Delta-8 Craze
The cannabis industry is where the chemistry lab meets agriculture. Delta-8-THC is chemically derived and the hemp industry's fastest growing product. It has been popping up in smoke shops, CBD shops and even gas stations.Dr. Katelyn Kesheimer, a researcher at Auburn University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, joins the show to demystify Delta-8. We'll learn what it's made of, where it comes from, why it's so popular, and why science and the federal government are falling so far behind the cann...
|2021-Dec-31 • 18 minutes|
This New Year - Slow Down, It Doesn't Mean You're Lazy
Social Psychologist Devon Price says instead of viewing "laziness" as a deficit or something people need to fix or overcome with caffeine or longer work hours, think of it as a sign you probably need a break. Short Wave has this episode from our colleagues at Life Kit.
|2021-Dec-30 • 14 minutes|
2021: Celebrating The Joy Of Birds
Lot of people took up bird watching in some form during the pandemic, including Short Wave editor Gisele Grayson. She edited this episode about 2021's #BlackBirdersWeek — it about celebrating Black joy. Co-organizer Deja Perkins talks about how the week went and why it's important to observe nature wherever you live.
|2021-Dec-29 • 14 minutes|
Meet the Dermatologists Changing Their Field
Many skin conditions, from rashes to Lyme disease to various cancers, present differently on dark skin. Yet medical literature and textbooks don't often include those images, pointing to a bigger problem in dermatology. Today on the show, we take a close look at how the science of skincare has evolved to better serve patients of color, but still has a long way to go.
|2021-Dec-28 • 15 minutes|
Our Favorite Things: Math And Community In The Classroom
That's right — Day 2 of Short Wave's Favorite Episodes Week is pure math goodness! This encore episode, we revisit a conversation with mathematician Ranthony Edmonds. She reminds us that the idea of a lone genius scribbling away and solving complex equations is nothing more than a myth — one she actively tries to dispel in her classroom at The Ohio State University. Instead, Ranthony focuses on the community aspects of math: the support systems behind each mathematician and the benefits of a collaborative, ...
|2021-Dec-27 • 12 minutes|
Our Favorite Things, Short Wave-style
Forget raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens. How about bright bubbling beakers and warm, wavy wavelengths – "My Favorite Things," Short-Wave STYLE!
|2021-Dec-23 • 65 minutes|
Octavia Butler: Visionary Fiction
Today we are wrapping up Science Fiction Week with a very special episode from our friends at NPR's history podcast Throughline. As a part of their Imagining New Worlds series, they dive into the life of visionary science fiction writer Octavia Butler. Octavia crafted cautionary tales combined with messages of hope and resilience. Her work made her the first Black woman to win the Hugo and Nebula, science fiction's most prestigious awards. (Encore episode)
|2021-Dec-22 • 20 minutes|
Want To Start Reading Sci-Fi And Fantasy? Here's A Beginner's Guide
Today we're bringing you a beginner's guide to reading science fiction and fantasy from our friends at NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour and Life Kit.So whether you're a longtime fan or a stranger in these strange lands, we've got you covered with the basics of what defines this genre and some solid recommendations to get you reading.
|2021-Dec-21 • 13 minutes|
Sci-Fi Movie Club: 'Contact'
Today we're throwing back to one of our favorite Science Movie Club episodes: 'Contact' featuring Jodie Foster. It was a real crowd pleaser, especially among extraterrestrials and Carl Sagan fans, and features the work of beloved Short Wave alumni and sci-fi aficionados Maddie Sofia and Viet Le. The 1997 film got a lot of things right ... and a few things wrong. Radio astronomer Summer Ash, an education specialist with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, breaks down the science in the film. (Encore ep...
|2021-Dec-20 • 13 minutes|
Happy Science Fiction Week, Earthlings!
It's Science Fiction Week on Short Wave, earthlings! So strap on your zero gravity suits and polish your light sabers because we're about to get nerdy ... starting with today's episode. It's one of our science fiction myth busting favorites from earlier this year. Contrary to sci-fi depictions in shows like Iron Man and Star Wars, getting from point A to point B in space is a tough engineering problem. NPR Science Correspondent Geoff Brumfiel, with help from scientist Naia Butler-Craig, explains how space ...
|2021-Dec-19 • 9 minutes|
Ellen Ochoa's Extraordinary NASA Career
Ellen Ochoa didn't get picked the first time she applied to become an astronaut--nor the second. But she eventually went to space four times. In this excerpt from the podcast Wisdom from the Top, host Guy Raz talks to Ochoa about how she became an astronaut and her career at NASA. Here is a link to the entire interview, in which they cover a lot of ground--from her love of calculus and physics to shaping NASA culture: https://www.npr.org/2021/12/07/1062084978/nasa-ellen-ochoa...
|2021-Dec-18 • 14 minutes|
Safety Precautions For The Holiday Season
The Omicron variant is spreading across the U.S. as the holidays are upon us. Science Desk reporter Maria Godoy has the latest on the variant and tips for reducing your risk of contracting the virus this holiday season. Short Wave brings you a special episode courtesy of our colleagues at Life Kit.
|2021-Dec-17 • 14 minutes|
The James Webb Space Telescope Is About To Launch
Soon the highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope will blast off into space, hurtling almost a million miles away from Earth, where it will orbit the Sun. Decades in the making, scientists hope its mission will last a decade and provide insights into all kinds of things, including the early formation of galaxies just after the Big Bang.Curious about the extraterrestrial facets of our universe? Email the show your questions at [email protected] We might be able to beg Nell to find answers and come back...
|2021-Dec-16 • 13 minutes|
Striving To Make Space Accessible For People With Disabilities
As spaceflight inches closer to becoming a reality for some private citizens, science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel chats with the New York Times disability fellow Amanda Morris about why one organization wants to insure people with disabilities have the chance to go to space.Email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2021-Dec-15 • 16 minutes|
NIH Director Talks The Pandemic, Vaccine Hesitancy And Americans' Health
Dr. Francis Collins talks with health correspondent Selena Simmons-Duffin about Americans' overall health, how tribalism in American culture has fueled vaccine hesitancy, and advises his successor on how to persevere on research of politically charged topics — like guns and obesity and maternal health. Selena talks with host Emily Kwong about the conversation.
|2021-Dec-14 • 13 minutes|
The Winter Twindemic: Flu And COVID
The U.S. is approaching 800,000 COVID-19 deaths as the Omicron variant spreads and the Delta variant continues to circulate. Hospital admissions are up more than 20 percent over the last two weeks. But — as NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey tells Emily — there's new survey data pointing to relaxed attitudes across the country, even amid the surges. Allison explains what all of this means for the coming weeks — especially with flu season getting started.
|2021-Dec-13 • 13 minutes|
Concussions: How A Mild Brain Injury Can Alter Our Perception Of Sound
Headaches, nausea, dizziness, and confusion are among the most common symptoms of a concussion. But researchers say a blow to the head can also make it hard to understand speech in a noisy room. Emily Kwong chats with science correspondent Jon Hamilton about concussions and how understanding its effects on our perception of sound might help improve treatment.For more of Jon's reporting, check out "After a concussion, the brain may no longer make sense of sounds."You can follow Emilly on Twitter @EmilyKwong1...
|2021-Dec-10 • 13 minutes|
What Does A Healthy Rainforest Sound Like? (encore)
On a rapidly changing planet, there are many ways to measure the health of an ecosystem. Can sound be one of them? Researcher Sarab Sethi explains how machine learning and soundscape recordings could be used to predict ecosystem health around the world.
|2021-Dec-09 • 16 minutes|
What's Driving The Political Divide Over Vaccinations
An NPR analysis shows that since the vaccine rollout, counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump have had nearly three times the COVID mortality rates of those that voted for Joe Biden. That difference appears to be driven by a partisan divide in vaccination rates. As NPR correspondent Geoff Brumfield reports, political polarization and misinformation are driving a significant share of the deaths in the pandemic.Read more of Geoff's reporting on vaccine misinformation:- Inside the growing alliance between...
|2021-Dec-08 • 14 minutes|
Seeking Answers To The Universe Deep In A Gold Mine
An underground lab is opening early next year in Australia. Its quest: to help detect dark matter and thereby also help answer some of physics' biggest questions about this mysterious force. It is the only detector of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Swinburne University astronomer Alan Duffy takes us on a journey to the bottom of this active gold mine, where researchers will try to detect a ghost-like particle.E-mail us with your deep questions at [email protected]
|2021-Dec-07 • 14 minutes|
What A New Antiviral Drug Could Mean For The Future Of COVID
An advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel has voted to recommend that the FDA approve a new antiviral drug to treat COVID-19. The FDA decision is expected soon. Host Emily Kwong chats with health reporter Pien Huang on the state of treatments and how this drug and other treatment options may change the pandemic. For more of Pien's reporting, check out "New antiviral drugs are coming for COVID. Here's what you need to know." >You can follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyKwong1234 and...
|2021-Dec-06 • 14 minutes|
The 2021 Hurricane Season Wrapped
The end of the 2021 hurricane season was officially November 30. This year, there was a lot of hurricane activity. Today on the show, producer Thomas Lu talks to meteorologist Matthew Cappucci about this year's hurricane season — the ups, the lulls, and the surprising end. Plus — how climate change might be affecting these storms. You can follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasUyLu and Matthew @MatthewCappucci. Email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2021-Dec-03 • 8 minutes|
Jane Goodall Says There's Hope For Our Planet. Act Now, Despair Later!
Jane Goodall is a renowned naturalist and scientist. She's made a career studying primates and chimpanzees. But lately — something else has been on her mind: climate change. It might feel like there's nothing we can do, but in her new book, The Book of Hope, co-authored with Douglas Abrams, Jane reflects on the planet and how future generations will fight to protect it. Check out "Jane Goodall encourages all to act to save Earth in 'The Book of Hope'" for a review of her new book. Email Short Wave at ShortW...
|2021-Dec-02 • 12 minutes|
No sperm? No problem.
Scientists have discovered that some female condors don't need males to reproduce. This phenomenon is known as parthenogenesis, and it's been observed in other animals too. The Atlantic's Sarah Zhang explains how it was found in California condors and its implications for these endangered birds.
|2021-Dec-01 • 14 minutes|
Using Math To Rethink Gender (encore)
Gender is infused in many aspects of our world — but should that be the case? According to mathematician Eugenia Cheng, maybe not. In her new book, x+y, she challenges readers to think beyond their ingrained conceptions of gender. Instead, she calls for a new dimension of thinking, characterizing behavior in a way completely removed from considerations of gender. Cheng argues that at every level — from the interpersonal to the societal — we would benefit from focusing less on gender and more on equitable,...
|2021-Nov-30 • 12 minutes|
Omicron's Arrival Is 'Wake-Up Call' That The Pandemic Is Ongoing
The coronavirus is still circulating and mutating — case in point, the World Health Organization has designated a new variant of concern, called omicron. The variant appears to have some characteristics that may make it more transmissible than others, but much about it is still unknown. NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey talks with Emily Kwong about how researchers and public health experts are racing to learn all they can about it — including how transmissible it actually is and how it responds to cur...
|2021-Nov-29 • 15 minutes|
Why Puerto Rico Is A Leader In Vaccinating Against COVID-19
Puerto Rico was still recovering from Hurricane Maria and a string of earthquakes when the pandemic started. The island was initially hit hard by COVID-19, but is now is a leader in vaccination rates across the United States. Ciencia Puerto Rico's Mónica Feliú-Mójer explains the cultural factors that may have contributed to the success of Puerto Rico's COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
|2021-Nov-24 • 19 minutes|
How To Choose A Health Insurance Plan
Health insurance can be tremendously confusing, with its complexity, jargon and acronyms. But putting in a bit of time to learn what these health insurance terms mean can empower you to better understand what signing on to a plan might mean for your budget and your health.Whether you're picking a plan for the first time, thinking of changing a plan, or want to see your options, NPR health correspondent, Selena Simmons-Duffin offers tips for browsing and choosing a health insurance plan. This episode is brou...
|2021-Nov-23 • 13 minutes|
Celebrate The Holidays Safely This Pandemic
Millions of Americans are planning to travel this week and gather inside for Thanksgiving — many in groups of 10 or more. At the same time, COVID-19 cases are rebounding. NPR correspondent Allison Aubrey's been talking to experts to find out how to gather in-person as safely as possible and minimize a new surge. Read the CDC's tips on gathering for the holidays: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays/celebration...
|2021-Nov-22 • 13 minutes|
A Mission To Redirect An Asteroid
In movies, asteroids careening towards Earth confront determined humans with nuclear weapons to save the world! But a real NASA mission to change the course of an asteroid (one not hurtling towards Earth), the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), is about to launch. NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce joins the show to talk about what it takes to pull off this mission and how it could potentially protect the Earth in the future from killer space rocks. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Nov-19 • 15 minutes|
Two Sides Of Guyana: A Green Champion And An Oil Producer
For Guyana the potential wealth from oil development was irresistible — even as the country faces rising seas. Today on the show, Emily Kwong talks to reporter Camila Domonoske about her trip to Guyana and how it's grappling with its role as a victim of climate change while it moves forward with drilling more oil. For more of Camila's reporting and pictures from her visit, check out "Guyana is a poor country that was a green champion. Then Exxon discovered oil." https://n.pr/3nBLMHT>>You can follow Emily on...
|2021-Nov-18 • 12 minutes|
Bee Superfood: Exploring Honey's Chemical Complexities
Honey bees know a lot about honey, and humans are starting to catch up. Scientists are now looking at how the chemicals in honey affect bee health. With the help of research scientist Bernarda Calla, Short Wave producer Berly McCoy explains the chemical complexities of honey, how it helps keep honey bees resilient, and what role it may play in saving the bees. Read Berly's full story on honey in Knowable Magazine: https://bit.ly/3qIXRN3
|2021-Nov-17 • 13 minutes|
One Woman's Quest For The (Scientifically) Best Turkey
Turkey is the usual centerpiece of the Thanksgiving dinner, but it's all too easy to end up with a dry, tough, flavorless bird. For NPR science correspondent Maria Godoy, it got so bad that several years ago, her family decided to abandon the turkey tradition altogether. Can science help her make a better bird this year? That's what she hopes as she seeks expert advice from food science writers and cookbook authors Nik Sharma and Kenji López-Alt.
|2021-Nov-16 • 14 minutes|
Parents, We're Here To Help! Answers To Your COVID Vaccine Questions
Now that the Pfizer COVID vaccine is authorized for children five to eleven years old, a lot of parents are deliberating about what to do next. NPR health policy correspondent Selena Simmons-Duffin answers your questions about vaccine safety for kids, shedding masks at school and how soon you can schedule that long awaited indoor playdate.Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Nov-15 • 14 minutes|
Experiencing The Emergence, Life And Death of A Neuron
A new exhibit in Washington, DC, mixes science and technology for an immersive art experience — taking visitors not to a distant land, but into their brains. This installation is a partnership between the Society for Neuroscience and technology-based art space, ARTECHOUSE. Producer Thomas Lu talks to neuroscientist John Morrison and chief creative officer Sandro Kereselidze about the "Life of a Neuron."You can follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasUyLu. Email us at [email protected]
|2021-Nov-12 • 14 minutes|
Camilla Pang On Turning Fear Into Light
Camilla Pang talks with Short Wave host Emily Kwong about her award-winning memoir, "An Outsider's Guide to Humans: What Science Taught Me About What We Do And Who We Are." Diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age 8, the scientist and writer pairs her favorite scientific principles with human behavior and navigating daily life.
|2021-Nov-11 • 10 minutes|
The secret history of DNA: Pus, fish sperm, life as we know it
Short Wave producer Berly McCoy talks about the molecule responsible for all of life as we know it — DNA.
|2021-Nov-10 • 10 minutes|
Who pays for climate change?
A coalition of wealthier countries have promised that they'll provide $100 billion each year to help developing countries tackle climate change. So far, most haven't delivered on their promises, and it's a huge point of contention in the talks in Glasgow right now. Today on the show, NPR climate correspondent Lauren Sommer reports on how it looks when one country does get help, and how much more is needed for climate equity.Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Nov-09 • 12 minutes|
Can climate talk turn into climate action?
In the first week of COP26, the UN climate conference, world leaders took to the podium to talk about what their countries are going to do to fight climate change. They made big pledges, but protestors in the streets call their promises "greenwashing" and are calling for more action. Joining the show from Glasgow, Scotland, NPR science correspondent, Dan Charles, talks about how the conference is going. Will the diplomats follow the science on climate change? And will the nations of the world follow through...
|2021-Nov-08 • 15 minutes|
What happens in the brain when we grieve
When we lose someone or something we love, it can feel like we've lost a part of ourselves. And for good reason--our brains are learning how to live in the world without someone we care about in it. Host Emily Kwong talks with psychologist Mary-Frances O'Connor about the process our brains go through when we experience grief. Her book, The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss, publishes February 1, 2022.
|2021-Nov-05 • 10 minutes|
Why Aduhelm, a new Alzheimer's treatment, isn't reaching many patients
Aduhelm, known generically as aducanumab, is the first drug to actually affect the underlying disease process associated with Alzheimer's. Yet sales have been limited, and the drug is reaching very few patients — at least so far. It's expensive, risky and likely doing little to improve patients' lives. NPR science correspondent Jon Hamilton explains why doctors and patients aren't excited about the new drug and what it could mean for future Alzheimer's drugs.Additional links:- Jon's reporting on aducanumab:...
|2021-Nov-04 • 13 minutes|
Housing and COVID: Why helping people pay rent can help fight the pandemic
When people can't afford rent, they often end up in closer quarters. NPR health policy correspondent Selena Simmons-Duffin shares two stories from her reporting and the research being done on housing and eviction policies in the US. For more of Selena's reporting, check out "Why helping people pay rent can fight the pandemic" (https://n.pr/3BIluHt).Follow Selena on Twitter @SelenaSD. You can email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2021-Nov-03 • 14 minutes|
Planning for a space mission to last more than 50 years
NPR reporter, Nell Greenfieldboyce, talks about a possible successor to NASA's Voyager mission.
|2021-Nov-02 • 11 minutes|
A new step toward ending 'the wrath of malaria'
Scientists have been trying to figure out how to eradicate malaria for decades. Globally, a child under the age of five dies from the disease every two minutes, and even for kids who do survive there can be long term complications. A big breakthrough finally came in October when the World Health Organization endorsed MoSQUIRIX, the first malaria vaccine. It has relatively low efficacy, just about 30%, but malaria researcher Winter Okoth explains how the new vaccine could still make a big difference.
|2021-Nov-01 • 12 minutes|
The history and future of mRNA vaccine technology (encore)
(Encore) The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are the first authorized vaccines in history to use mRNA technology. In light of the authorization for some children and teens now, we are encoring the episode in which Maddie Sofia chats with Dr. Margaret Liu, a physician and board chair of the International Society for Vaccines, about the history and science behind these groundbreaking vaccines. We'll also ask what we can expect from mRNA vaccines in the future. Have a question for us? Send a not...
|2021-Oct-29 • 14 minutes|
The countries left behind in climate negotiations
NPR climate correspondents Lauren Sommer and Dan Charles join the show before the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland (COP26) starts on Sunday. Diplomats, business executives, climate experts, and activists from all around the world will gather to discuss the question: Is the world on track to avoid the worst effects of climate change?Lauren and Dan introduce us to two climate activists from countries that will be heavily impacted by climate change. Hilda Flavia Nakabuye from Uganda and María ...
|2021-Oct-28 • 13 minutes|
How metaphors and stories are integral to science and healing
New York's Bellevue Hospital is the oldest public hospital in the country, serving patients from all walks of life. It's also the home of a literary magazine, the Bellevue Literary Review, which turns 20 this year. Today on the show, NPR's arts reporter Neda Ulaby tells Emily how one doctor at Bellevue Hospital decided a literary magazine is essential to both science and healing. You can follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyKwong1234 and Neda @UlaBeast. As always, email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2021-Oct-27 • 12 minutes|
Spiders can have arachnophobia!
If you're not so fond of spiders, you may find kindred spirits in other spiders! Researcher Daniela Roessler worked with jumping spiders and found that they know to get away from the presence of other possible predator spiders, even if they've never encountered them before. She talks with host Maria Godoy about her research and what Halloween decorations do to the poor spiders, if arachnids can have arachnophobia.Read Daniela's research and watch a video of the experiment: https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-243...
|2021-Oct-26 • 16 minutes|
The opioid epidemic
Patrick Radden Keefe—Empire of Pain author—discusses what went wrong in science and industry to make the opioid epidemic what it is today
|2021-Oct-25 • 10 minutes|
The zombies living in our midst
The idea of human zombies probably seems pretty far-fetched. But there are real zombies out there in the animal kingdom. To kick off Halloween week, science writer Ed Yong of The Atlantic creeps us out with a couple of examples. Hint: they involve fungus. (Encore episode) Read more of Ed's reporting on:- The zombie fungus controlling ants' brains: https://bit.ly/2Zk79nA- How to Tame a Zombie Fungus: https://bit.ly/3E13QAcHaunted by other creepy crawlies in the animal kingdom you think we should know about?...
|2021-Oct-22 • 33 minutes|
Code Switch: Archeological skeletons in the closet
Today, we present a special episode from our colleagues at Code Switch, NPR's podcast about race and identity. In a small suburb of Washington, D.C., a non-descript beige building houses thousands of Native human remains. The remains are currently in the possession of the Smithsonian Institution, but for the past decade, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has been fighting to get some of them back to Florida to be buried. The controversy over who should decide the fate of these remains has raised questions about...
|2021-Oct-21 • 17 minutes|
An ode to the Pacific lamprey
Pacific lamprey may have lived on Earth for about 450 million years. When humans came along, a deep relationship formed between Pacific lamprey and Native American tribes across the western United States. But in the last few decades, tribal elders noticed that pacific lamprey populations have plummeted, due in part to habitat loss and dams built along the Columbia River. So today, an introduction to Pacific lamprey: its unique biology, cultural legacy in the Pacific Northwest and the people who are fighting...
|2021-Oct-20 • 13 minutes|
A biodiesel boom (and conundrum)
There's a biodiesel boom happening! It's fueled by incentives and policies intended to cut greenhouse emissions, and is motivating some oil companies like World Energy in Paramount, California to convert their refineries to process soybean oil instead of crude. NPR's food and agriculture correspondent Dan Charles explains why farmers are happy, bakers are frustrated and people who want to preserve the world's natural forests are worried. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Oct-19 • 11 minutes|
COVID-19 boosters are here
The United States is on the verge of dramatically expanding the availability of COVID-19 vaccine boosters to shore up people's immune systems. As NPR health correspondent Rob Stein reports, the Food and Drug Administration is poised to authorize the boosters of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Still, many experts argue boosters aren't needed because the vaccines are working well and it would be unethical to give people in the U.S. extra shots when most of the world is still waiting for their firs...
|2021-Oct-18 • 9 minutes|
How do we make sense of the sounds around us?
How do our brains create meaning from the sounds around us? That is the question at the heart of a new book from neuroscientist Nina Kraus, called Of Sound Mind.
|2021-Oct-15 • 12 minutes|
The Mighty Mangrove
Along certain coastlines near the equator, you can find a tree with superpowers. Mangroves provide a safe haven for a whole ecosystem of animals. They also fight climate change by storing tons of carbon, thanks to a spectacular above-ground network of tangled roots. Ecologist Alex Moore talks to guest host Maria Godoy about how mighty this tree is, and why it is under threat.
|2021-Oct-14 • 13 minutes|
The mystery of the mummified Twinkie
A box of Twinkies, left alone for eight years, held some surprises for Colin Purrington. Upon having a sugar craving, combined with being "just so bored, with the pandemic," Purrington opened the box a few weeks ago. Like many people, Purrington believed Twinkies are basically immortal, although the official shelf life is 45 days. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce talked to Purrington and explains how two scientists got involved and started unraveling the mystery of the mummified Twinkie. (Encore episode)
|2021-Oct-13 • 13 minutes|
White scholars can complicate research into health disparities
The COVID-19 has exposed longstanding and massive health disparities in the U.S., resulting in people of color dying at disproportionately higher rates than other races in this country. Today on the show, guest host Maria Godoy talks with Usha Lee McFarling about her reporting — how new funding and interest has led to increased attention to the topic of disparities in health care and health outcomes, but also left out or pushed aside some researchers in the field — many of them researchers of color. You c...
|2021-Oct-12 • 13 minutes|
Cockroaches are cool!
Cockroaches - do they get a bad rap? Producer Thomas Lu teams up with self-proclaimed lesbian cockroach defender Perry Beasley-Hall to convince producer/guest host Rebecca Ramirez that indeed they are under-rated. These critters could number up to 10,000 species, but only about 30 are pesky to humans and some are beautiful! And complicated! And maybe even clean. What insect do you think gets a bad rap? Write us at [email protected] You can follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasUyLu and Rebecca @RebeccalRamire...
|2021-Oct-08 • 13 minutes|
Bonobos and the Evolution of Nice
How did humans evolve some key cooperative behaviors like sharing? NPR Science Correspondent Jon Hamilton reports back from a bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where scientists are trying to answer that very question. (Encore episode) If you have something nice to say - email the show at [email protected]!
|2021-Oct-07 • 13 minutes|
Why Music Sticks in Our Brains
Why do some songs can stick with us for a long time, even when other memories start to fade? Science reporter (and former Short Wave intern) Rasha Aridi explains the neuroscience behind that surprising moment of, "Wow, how do I still remember that song?!" Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Oct-06 • 16 minutes|
Here's a better way to talk about hair
Humans have scalp hair. But why is human scalp hair so varied? Biological anthropologist Tina Lasisi wanted to find out. And while completing her PhD at Penn State University, she developed a better system for describing hair — rooted in actual science. To hear more from Tina, check out these webinars: Why Care About Hair (https://bit.ly/3liJZ96) and How Hair Reveals the Futility of Race Categories (https://s.si.edu/3Dik6g8). And to dive deep into Tina's research, we recommend her paper, The constraints of ...
|2021-Oct-05 • 14 minutes|
How foraging reconnected Alexis Nikole Nelson with food and her culture
Our colleagues at the TED Radio Hour introduce us to forager and TikTok influencer Alexis Nikole Nelson. She shares how the great outdoors has offered her both an endless array of food options and an outlet to reconnect with her food and her culture. Listen to the full TED Radio Hour episode, The Food Connection, here. Follow TED Radio Hour and host Manoush Zomorodi on Twitter.
|2021-Oct-04 • 13 minutes|
The Toll Of Burnout On Medical Workers — And Their Patients
Burnout has long been a problem among health care workers. The pandemic has only made it worse. Some were hopeful COVID vaccines would provide some relief, but that hasn't been the case. Now, health care workers are leaving the industry — and they're taking their expertise with them. Plenty of surveys say that burnout hurts patient care. NPR correspondent Yuki Noguchi spoke to medical workers who agree, the burnout they see on the job means that sometimes patients are not getting what they need.Listen to ou...
|2021-Oct-01 • 8 minutes|
SURPRISE! It's A...Babbling Baby Bat?
A paper published recently in the journal Science finds similarities between the babbling of human infants and the babbling of the greater sac-winged bat (Saccopteryx bilineata) — a small species of bat that lives in Central and South America. As science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel reports, the researchers believe both bats and humans evolved babbling as a precursor to more complex vocal behavior like singing, or, in the case of people, talking.Wondering what similarities humans have to other animals? Emai...
|2021-Sep-30 • 10 minutes|
Goodbye, Climate Jargon. Hello, Simplicity!
People are likely to be confused by common climate change terms like "mitigation" and "carbon neutral," according to a recent study. So how can everyone do a better job talking about climate change so that no one's left confused? NPR climate correspondent Rebecca Hersher tells us the key turns out to be pretty simple.Read more of Rebecca's reporting on climate jargon: https://n.pr/2XdfYOCRead the study: https://bit.ly/3Adj8QTYou can always reach the show by emailing [email protected] — but please, hold the ...
|2021-Sep-29 • 15 minutes|
How To Help Someone At Risk Of Suicide
Suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020, according to the most current data. But research shows that suicide is preventable. Host Emily Kwong talks with NPR health correspondent Rhitu Chatterjee about the signs that someone you know may be thinking about dying, the ways you can support them, and how to possibly prevent suicide. (Encore episode.)
|2021-Sep-28 • 11 minutes|
Scientists Are Racing To Save Sequoias
Based on early estimates, as many as 10,600 large sequoias were killed in last year's Castle Fire — up to 14% of the entire population. The world's largest trees are one of the most fire-adapted to wildfires on the planet. But climate change is making these fires more extreme than sequoias can handle. It's also worsening drought that is killing other conifer trees that then become a tinder box surrounding the sequoias, reports climate correspondent Lauren Sommer. Scientists warn that giant sequoias are runn...
|2021-Sep-27 • 12 minutes|
A Science Reporter And A 'Mild' Case Of Breakthrough COVID
Will Stone is a science reporter for NPR. He's been reporting about the pandemic for a while now, so he knows the risks of a breakthrough infection, is vaccinated, and follows COVID guidelines as they change. Nonetheless, he got COVID - and today on the show, Will shares what he learned about his breakthrough infection, and what he wish he'd known before his "mild" case.For more of Will's reporting, check out "I Got A 'Mild' Breakthrough Case. Here's What I Wish I'd Known"(https://www.npr.org/sections/heal....
|2021-Sep-24 • 14 minutes|
After Years Of Delays, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope To Launch In December
In December, NASA is scheduled to launch the huge $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope, which is sometimes billed as the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope. NPR correspondents Rhitu Chatterjee and Nell Greenfieldboyce talk about this powerful new instrument and why building it took two decades. For more of Nell's reporting on the telescope, check out "NASA Is Launching A New Telescope That Could Offer Some Cosmic Eye Candy." (https://www.npr.org/2021/09/16/10366003... can follow Rhitu on Twitt...
|2021-Sep-23 • 12 minutes|
The Surf's Always Up — In Waco, Texas
Some of the world's best artificial waves are happening hundreds of miles from the ocean—in Waco, Texas. They're so good, they're attracting top professionals, casual riders and a science correspondent named Jon Hamilton. Jon's been following the wave technology for years and says the progress is huge. These days, pro surfers are coming from all over to try out Waco's "Freak Peak."Read more of Jon's reporting on artificial waves: https://n.pr/3zAX95kWondering what insights science has to offer for other spo...
|2021-Sep-22 • 12 minutes|
Mapping The Birds Of Bougainville Island
In the early 1900s, the Whitney South Sea expedition gathered 40,000 bird specimens for the American Museum of Natural History. The collection is an irreplaceable snapshot of avian diversity in the South Pacific, but is missing key geographic data. To solve this mystery, student researchers dug into field journals to determine where birds from one island came from.
|2021-Sep-21 • 13 minutes|
How Long Does COVID Immunity Last Anyway?
With booster shots on the horizon for some people, one of the biggest questions is: Am I still protected against COVID-19 if I've only had two doses of the vaccine? As science correspondent Michaeleen Doucleff reports, the answer is...complicated.Read more of Michaeleen's reporting on COVID immunity: https://n.pr/2XIQ6KXReach the show by emailing [email protected]
|2021-Sep-20 • 14 minutes|
Afraid of Needles? You're Not Alone
Many people are afraid of needles in some capacity — about 1 in 10 experience a "high level" of needle fear, says clinical psychologist Meghan McMurtry. But that fear is often underrecognized or misunderstood. That's why today's show is all about needle fear: what it is, tools to cope, and why it's important to address beyond the pandemic.Some strategies Meghan suggests to help cope with the fear of needles:- the CARD System for adults: bit.ly/3nHIKlw - muscle tension technique: bit.ly/3CBki9ZListen to Tom'...
|2021-Sep-17 • 14 minutes|
A Great Outdoors For Everyone
Fatima's Great Outdoors, a new children's book, centers on a girl named Fatima, who's struggling to adjust to her new life in the U.S. But on her very first camping trip with her family, Fatima unexpectedly discovers courage and joy in the outdoors. Today on the show, Emily talks to Ambreen Tariq about her new book and her social media initiative, BrownPeopleCamping. For Tariq, both efforts are a part of a common vision — to increase diversity in the outdoors and challenge definitions of what it means to be...
|2021-Sep-16 • 12 minutes|
A Lotl Love For The Axolotl
It is found in only one lake in the world, never grows up, and occasionally takes bites of its friends: who could we be talking about? The axolotl of course! With some help from Dr. Luis Zambrano, producer Berly McCoy tells us all about this remarkable creature and the ongoing efforts to protect axolotls from extinction.
|2021-Sep-15 • 10 minutes|
Climate Change Means More Subway Floods; How Cities Are Adapting
Millions of people rely on subways for transportation. But as the world warms, climate-driven flooding in subways is becoming more and more common. NPR correspondents Lauren Sommer and Rebecca Hersher talk about how cities across the world are adapting. For more of Rebecca's reporting on climate-driven flooding, check out "NYC's Subway Flooding Isn't A Fluke. It's The Reality For Cities In A Warming World."(https://www.npr.org/2021/09/02/1... can follow Lauren on Twitter @lesommer and Rebecca @rhersher. Ema...
|2021-Sep-14 • 10 minutes|
Breakthrough Infections, Long COVID And You
In rare cases, the delta variant of the coronavirus is causing vaccinated people to get sick — so-called "breakthrough infections." Now researchers are asking: Could these infections lead to long COVID, when symptoms last weeks and months? Today, science correspondent Rob Stein makes sense of the latest data, explaining what we know so far about long COVID in vaccinated people.Read more of Rob's reporting here: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/09/13/1032844687/what-we-know-abo...
|2021-Sep-13 • 13 minutes|
The Pervasiveness Of Transgender Health Care Discrimination
A new report from the Center for American Progress finds that nearly half of transgender people have experienced mistreatment at the hands of a medical provider. NBC OUT reporter Jo Yurcaba explains the long-term impacts of this discrimination, plus a few potential solutions. • "Nearly half of trans people have been mistreated by medical providers, report finds," NBC OUT • "Protecting and Advancing Health Care for Transgender Adult Communities," Center for American Progress Follow Brit (@bnhanson) and Jo (@...
|2021-Sep-10 • 9 minutes|
9/11 First Responders Have Higher Cancer Risks But Better Survival Rates
Twenty years later, first responders during the 9/11 attacks have an increased risk of getting some kinds of cancer. But, research shows that they're also more likely to survive. Host Emily Kwong talks to NPR correspondent Allison Aubrey about why. Read more about Allison's reporting here. You can follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyKwong1234 and Allison @AubreyNPR. Email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2021-Sep-09 • 11 minutes|
For Successful Wildfire Prevention, Look To The Southeast
Another destructive fire season has Western states searching for ways to prevent it. As climate correspondent Lauren Sommer reports, some answers might lie in the Southeastern U.S. The region leads the country in setting controlled fires — burns to clear vegetation that becomes the fuel for extreme fires. Read more of Lauren's reporting on wildfire prevention.(https://www.npr.org/2021/08/... check out our previous episode on cultural burns here. (https://www.npr.org/2021/07/21/10188867... the show at short...
|2021-Sep-08 • 13 minutes|
Fewer COVID Vaccine Doses Materialized Last Fall Than The U.S. Government Hoped
Manufacturers can expect to face unforeseen hurdles when they begin to mass-produce a brand new pharmaceutical product, and in a pandemic, there are bound to be supply chain problems as well. But in late 2020, Pfizer was delivering fewer doses than the government expected and then-federal officials told NPR they did not know why.
|2021-Sep-07 • 14 minutes|
The Peculiar Case Of Dark Matter
The universe is so much bigger than what people can see, and astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan is trying to figure out that which we can not see. Producer Rebecca Ramirez talks with Priya and reports on the theory about some of the secret scaffolding of the universe: dark matter.
|2021-Sep-03 • 15 minutes|
So Long, Sofia
Today, we bid farewell to our founding host, Maddie Sofia! In this special episode, the Short Wave team and some of our listeners remind Maddie of the huge impact she's had on all of us. There is laughter, a lot of crying, and so, so much appreciation for our duderino.Maddie, may you come back into our orbit soon. We're so excited to cheer you on in your future adventures!
|2021-Sep-02 • 13 minutes|
Nudibranchs Do It Better
Maddie and Emily get super nerdy one last time as they dive into the incredible world of nudibranchs. Not only are these sea slugs eye-catching for their colors, some of them have evolved to "steal" abilities from other organisms — from the power of photosynthesis to the stinging cells of their venomous predators. These sea slugs are going to blow your mind!You can email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2021-Sep-01 • 14 minutes|
Pandemic Dispatches From The ER
We're marking Maddie's last week on Short Wave! Today, Maddie wanted to highlight a COVID-related episode from earlier this year. The pandemic has been a big part of our coverage and this particular episode stands out. We hear reflections from two emergency room health workers on the pandemic, how their lives have changed and their hopes as more and more people get vaccinated. Tomorrow, a new episode!Are you a healthcare worker who would be willing to share your experience with the Short Wave team? Email u...
|2021-Aug-31 • 12 minutes|
You Mite Want To Shower After This
It's Day 2 of our trip down Maddie Sofia memory lane! Today's encore episode is all about how you're never really alone. We look at the tiny mites that live on your skin — including your face. They come out at night and mate. And we're not totally sure what they eat. See? Don't you feel better already? Researcher Megan Thoemmes tells us about the lives of these eight-legged creatures — and what they can tell us about ourselves.
|2021-Aug-30 • 12 minutes|
Why A Good Scare Is Sometimes The Right Call
This week is our last with Maddie as a host, so we're spending it with a trip down memory lane. The first episode Maddie invites us to relive and enjoy is our first listener question episode on the science behind thrill-seeking. She talks to psychologist Ken Carter about why some people love to get scared.Reach the show by emailing [email protected]
|2021-Aug-27 • 10 minutes|
Is It Muggy Out? Check The Dew Point!
Going on a run and curious about how muggy it's going to be out? Maddie Sofia chats with producer Thomas Lu about relative humidity and why some meteorologists are telling us to pay more attention to dew point temperature, not relative humidity. Plus — how moisture in the air and temperature influence the way our body "feels" when we're outside. Click here for the National Weather Service Heat Index chart referenced in the episode.Follow Maddie on Twitter @maddie_sofia and Thomas @thomasuylu. You can email ...
|2021-Aug-26 • 12 minutes|
The Fight To Save Sunflower Sea Stars
Sunflower sea stars play a key role in ocean ecosystems on the West Coast - and they are disappearing in record numbers. Science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce tells us about the plight of the Sunflower sea star and one biologist's unique fight to save them.
|2021-Aug-25 • 14 minutes|
How To Start Hormone Replacement Therapy
Medical transition-related treatments like hormone replacement therapy are associated with overwhelmingly positive outcomes in terms of both physical and mental health for transgender people. But, it can be hard to know exactly how to get started. Reporter James Factora explains where to start, common misconceptions about HRT, and the importance of finding community through the process.Read James' full reporting for VICE here: "A Beginner's Guide to Hormone Replacement Therapy."(www.vice.com/en/article/dyv3...
|2021-Aug-24 • 12 minutes|
Ultracold Soup - The 'Superfluid' States Of Matter
(Encore episode) Class is back in session. We're going "back to school" to dig a little deeper on a concept you were taught in school: states of matter. Today, Emily and Maddie explore OTHER states of matter — beyond solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. Martin Zwierlein, professor of physics at Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT), discusses his work with ultracold quantum gases and observing superfluid states of matter.
|2021-Aug-23 • 12 minutes|
To Build, Or Not To Build? That Is The Question Facing Local Governments
NPR climate correspondent Lauren Sommer talks with Emily about a dilemma facing many local governments now. Should they develop in areas vulnerable to rising sea levels? On today's episode, we look at Sunnyvale, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. It's a situation complicated by a landowner that really wants to continue expanding there, Google. In an episode last week, we asked who should be paying for climate change — taxpayers or private landowners with waterfront property? For more on this story, ...
|2021-Aug-20 • 12 minutes|
Micro Wave: Build Your Own Sandcastle Dreamhouse
It's summer, which for some means spare time at the beach, splashing in the waves and...building sandcastles. On today's episode, Emily Kwong asks: Scientifically, what is the best way to make a sandcastle? What's the right mix of water and sand to create grand staircases and towers? Sedimentologist Matthew Bennett shares his research — and personal — insights. Happy building! Wondering what science and engineering are behind other summertime activities? Or just want to share your greatest sandcastle creati...
|2021-Aug-19 • 12 minutes|
When Sea Levels Rise, Who Should Pay?
Facebook's campus on the shoreline of San Francisco Bay is at risk from rising sea levels. So is a nearby low-income community. That's raising questions about who should be paying for climate change. Taxpayers or private landowners (in this case, some of the world's largest tech companies) with waterfront property? NPR climate correspondent Lauren Sommer explains in the first of two episodes.For more on this story, including pictures and videos, click here. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Aug-18 • 14 minutes|
Spinosaurus: The Aquatic Dinosaur
The unbelievable discovery of the Spinosaurus, the first known swimming dinosaur.
|2021-Aug-17 • 9 minutes|
COVID-19 News: A Hospital System Overwhelmed, Booster Shots Update
In the last two weeks or so, the number of new daily COVID-19 cases in the United States has increased by about 40 percent. Compared to a year ago — when we didn't have the vaccine — we have three times the number of new cases on average. NPR correspondent Allison Aubrey talks with Maddie about a hospital system in Mississippi that's struggling to find beds for patients, the push to get kids vaccinated, and booster shots for people who are immunocompromised. You can always reach the show by emailing shortw...
|2021-Aug-16 • 12 minutes|
Three (Hopeful!) Takeaways From The UN's Climate Change Report
Last week, the U.N. published a landmark report — detailing the current state of global climate change. One thing's for sure, humans are causing a lot of this extreme weather by emitting greenhouse gases. NPR's Climate Correspondent Rebecca Hersher gives Emily three key takeaways from the report that might surprisingly help everyone feel a little more hopeful.You can follow Rebecca on Twitter @RHersher and Emily @EmilyKwong1234. Email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2021-Aug-13 • 11 minutes|
Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall: Can Animals Recognize Their Reflection At All?
(Encore episode) The mirror self-recognition test has been around for decades. Only a few species have what it takes to recognize themselves, while others learn to use mirrors as tools. NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce talks us through mirror self-recognition and why Maddie's dog is staring at her. For more science reporting and stories, follow Nell on twitter @nell_sci_NPR. And, as always, email us at [email protected]
|2021-Aug-12 • 12 minutes|
Does Your Cat Like You — Or Just Tolerate You?
(Encore episode) It's another installment of our series, "Animal Slander," where we take a common phrase about animals and see what truth there is to it. The issue before the Short Wave court today: "Do cats deserve their aloof reputation?" We look at the evidence with cat researcher, Kristyn Vitale of Oregon State University. Follow Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia and Emily Kwong @emilykwong1234. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Aug-11 • 14 minutes|
Bringing Service Animals Into The Lab
(Encore episode) Joey Ramp's service dog, Sampson, is with her at all times, even when she has to work in a laboratory. It wasn't always easy to have him at her side. Joey tells us why she's trying to help more service animals and their handlers work in laboratory settings. You can read more and see pictures of Joey and Sampson in our original episode page. And you can learn about the work Joey does with service animals and their handlers here. We first read about Joey in The Scientist. Follow Sampson on Tw...
|2021-Aug-10 • 11 minutes|
Does Your Dog Love You? Science Has Some Answers
(Encore episode) Clive Wynne, founding director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, draws on studies from his lab and others around the world to explain what biology, neuroscience, and genetics reveal about dogs and love. He's the author of Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You.Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Aug-09 • 5 minutes|
Siriusly, It's The Dog Days Of Summer!
Ever wonder why we call it the Dog Days of Summer? Today on the show — Emily gives Maddie an astronomical reason why we associate the sweltering heat of summer with the dog star, Sirius. So, before the dog days are over, have a listen — perhaps as you head out to the sky in search of the dog star. You can email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Aug-06 • 14 minutes|
Gravitational Waves: Unlocking The Secrets Of The Universe
Science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce gives us the latest in gravitational waves and shares what scientists have learned (and heard) from these tiny ripples in spacetime. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Aug-05 • 14 minutes|
How To Correct Misinformation
(Encore episode) The World Health Organization has called the spread of misinformation around the coronavirus an "infodemic." So what do you do when it's somebody you love spreading the misinformation? In this episode, Maddie talks with Invisibilia's Yowei Shaw about one man's very unusual approach to correcting his family. And we hear from experts about what actually works when trying to combat misinformation.For more on how to do science communication right, check out our earlier episode How To Talk About...
|2021-Aug-04 • 12 minutes|
COVID And Aduhelm On The Agenda At Denver Alzheimer's Meeting
The Alzheimer's Association International Conference took place in Denver this year. Today on the show, NPR science correspondent Jon Hamilton talks to Maddie Sofia about what he learned at the conference, the latest on the controversial new drug Aduhelm, and the potential links between COVID and Alzheimer's. You can follow more of Jon's reporting by clicking this link.Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Aug-03 • 14 minutes|
Whales' Vital Role In Our Oceans
Whales are more than just beautiful creatures — they play a vital role in the ocean's ecosystem. Today, Asha de Vos, marine biologist and pioneer of long-term blue whale research within the Northern Indian Ocean, explains why protecting whales is crucial for protecting the entire sea in this excerpt of TED Radio Hour.Listen to the full episode, An SOS From The Ocean, here.
|2021-Aug-02 • 13 minutes|
Caregiving During The Pandemic Takes A Toll On Mental Health
Caregivers in the "Sandwich Generation" have reported a steep decline in mental health, as did others who had to juggle changes in the amount of caregiving they had to provide to loved ones. Caregivers have struggled with anxiety, depression and PTSD at rates much higher than those without caregiving roles. NPR correspondent Rhitu Chatterjee talks about the study and her reporting with Emily Kwong. If you or anyone you know is struggling, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1...
|2021-Jul-30 • 10 minutes|
Lightning Bugs, Fireflies - Call Them What You Will, They're Awesome
There are thousands of species of lightning bug and they live all over the world except in Antarctica. Maddie and Emily discuss lots of other amazing tidbits about the family Lampyridae and talk about what humans can do to preserve the bugs, which are facing widespread habitat disruption.
|2021-Jul-29 • 11 minutes|
Breaking Down The New CDC Mask Guidance
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance on wearing masks. Short Wave co-host Maddie Sofia and NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey explain what's changed and why. Plus, the latest on the Delta variant, a highly transmissible strain of the coronavirus. Want to see how widespread COVID-19 is in your local community? Check out this data tracker from NPR.
|2021-Jul-28 • 13 minutes|
Managing Wildfire Through Cultural Burns
Fire has always been part of California's landscape. But long before the vast blazes of recent years, Native American tribes held controlled burns that cleared out underbrush, encouraged new plant growth, and helped manage wildfires. It's a tradition that disappeared with the arrival of Western settlers. NPR climate correspondent Lauren Sommer explains how tribal leaders are trying to restore the practice by partnering up with state officials who are starting to see cultural burns as a way to help bring ext...
|2021-Jul-27 • 12 minutes|
Sweat: A Human Superpower
Sarah Everts discusses The Joy of Sweat, her new book about how humans came to sweat like we do and why we should celebrate it.
|2021-Jul-26 • 12 minutes|
Can We Predict Earthquakes? (Hint: No)
It's a listener questions episode! Chuck, Short Wave fan, asks, "What is the current state of earthquake prediction systems?" For some answers, Emily Kwong chats with Wendy Bohon, a geologist and Senior Science Communication Specialist for the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS). To look at real-time seismic data from hundreds of locations around the globe, check out the IRIS Station Monitor. Have a question you want us to try answering? Email us at [email protected]
|2021-Jul-23 • 13 minutes|
The Great California Groundwater Grab
California is in the middle of a terrible drought. The rivers are running low, and most of its farmers are getting very little water this year from the state's reservoirs and canals. And yet, farming is going on as usual. NPR food and agriculture correspondent Dan Charles explains how farmers have been using wells and underground aquifers to water their crops. But that's all set to change. California is about to put dramatic limits on the amount of water farmers can pump from their wells, and people have so...
|2021-Jul-22 • 13 minutes|
Who Runs The World? Squirrels!
Squirrels are everywhere — living in our suburban neighborhoods to our city centers to our surrounding wilderness. Rhitu Chatterjee talks with researcher Charlotte Devitz about squirrels and how studying them might help us better understand the changing urban environment. You can email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2021-Jul-21 • 15 minutes|
How Tall Is Mount Everest? Hint: It Changes
We talk to NPR's India correspondent Lauren Frayer about the ridiculously complicated science involved in measuring Mount Everest, the world's highest peak. And why its height is ever-changing. (Encore episode) Read Lauren's reporting on Mt. Everest.Have other quirks of the planet on your mind? Tell us by emailing [email protected]
|2021-Jul-20 • 10 minutes|
The Delta Variant And The Latest Coronavirus Surge
COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the last month due to the Delta variant. NPR correspondent Allison Aubrey talks with Emily Kwong about where the virus is resurging, how some public health officials are reacting and what they are recommending. Also, with a spate of outbreaks at summer camp, officials are weighing in on what parents can do before they send children to camp. What
|2021-Jul-19 • 11 minutes|
Building A Shark Science Community For Women Of Color
As a kid, Jasmin Graham was endlessly curious about the ocean. Her constant questioning eventually led her to a career in marine science studying sharks and rays. But until relatively recently, she had never met another Black woman in her field. That all changed last year when she connected with a group of Black women studying sharks through the Twitter hashtag #BlackInNature. Finding a community was so powerful that the women decided to start a group. On today's show, Jasmin talks with host Maddie Sofia ab...
|2021-Jul-16 • 14 minutes|
The Joy Of Ice Cream's Texture
July is National Ice Cream Month — and Sunday, July 18 is National Ice Cream Day (in the US)! Flavors range from the classics — vanilla and chocolate — to the adventurous — jalapeño and cicada. But for some people, including ice cream scientist Dr. Maya Warren, flavor is only one part of the ice cream allure. So in today's episode, Emily Kwong talks with Short Wave producer Thomas Lu about some of the processes that create the texture of ice cream, and how that texture plays into our enjoyment of the tasty ...
|2021-Jul-15 • 14 minutes|
Three Guidelines To Understanding The Delta Variant
Delta is quickly becoming the dominant coronavirus variant in multiple countries. The variant has spread so fast because it is more contagious than the variants that came before it. At the same time, the U.S. is equipped with highly effective vaccines. Ed Yong, science writer for The Atlantic, talks with Maddie about the interaction between the variants and the vaccines and how that will be crucial in the months ahead.Reach the show by emailing [email protected]
|2021-Jul-14 • 13 minutes|
What Science Fiction Gets Wrong About Space Travel
Contrary to sci-fi depictions in shows like Iron Man and Star Wars, getting from point A to point B in space is a tough engineering problem. NPR Science Correspondent Geoff Brumfiel explains how space propulsion actually works, and why some new technologies might be needed to get humans to Mars and beyond.Follow Geoff Brumfiel and Short Wave co-host Emily Kwong on Twitter. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Jul-13 • 8 minutes|
The Ripple Effects Of A Huge Drop In Cancer Screenings
At the height of the pandemic, routine cancer screenings declined by 90 percent. Screenings are resuming and doctors are diagnosing later-stage cancers — cancers that might have been caught earlier. NPR science correspondent Yuki Noguchi of talks about whom this affects most, and about the ripple effects that missing cancer screening may have for years to come.
|2021-Jul-12 • 14 minutes|
The Mysterious Ice Worm
On the mountaintop glaciers of the Pacific Northwest lives a mysterious, and often, overlooked creature. They're small, thread-like worms that wiggle through snow and ice. That's right, ice worms! NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce talks to Emily about how they survive in an extreme environment and why scientists don't understand some of the most basic facts about them. For more of Nell's reporting, you can follow her on Twitter @nell_sci_NPR. You can follow Emily @emilykwong1234. Email the sho...
|2021-Jul-09 • 9 minutes|
Micro Wave: What Is 'Brain Freeze'?
Summer's here. Time for a cool treat. So, you grab a popsicle from the freezer. Ahh ... that's better. Until, out of nowhere, a sharp sudden pain rushes to your forehead. You've got brain freeze!We talk with neuroscientist Caroline Palavicino-Maggio about the science behind these short-lived cold-induced headaches. Plus, some listener mail. What are your daily science curiosities? Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Jul-08 • 12 minutes|
FEMA Has An Equity Problem, Part Two: Race
FEMA acknowledges that the way it distributes aid often benefits some people more than others--and those who receive less aid are those people with the fewest resources to begin with. Rhitu Chatterjee talks with NPR climate correspondent Rebecca Hersher about her investigation into FEMA and why the federal government's response to disasters may disproportionately hurt people of color and their communities. Read more of Rebecca's reporting in "Why FEMA Aid Is Unavailable To Many Who Need It The Most." You ca...
|2021-Jul-07 • 14 minutes|
Teens Ask, We Answer: What's Up With COVID Vaccines?
People between the ages of 12 and 17 are now eligible to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and health officials expect this age group will soon be able to receive the Moderna one. So, health reporter Pien Huang and Short Wave producer Rebecca Ramirez talked to teens about their questions about the vaccine and what a strange year the pandemic has been for them. Do you have questions about the coronavirus and the pandemic? Email [email protected]
|2021-Jul-05 • 13 minutes|
FACT SMACK: Bats! They're Cooler Than Birds
With the help of ecologist Rodrigo Medellín, the "Bat Man of Mexico," Rasha Aridi (former Short Waver) presents the case for why bats are the best and coolest flying creatures out there! Are you a scientist who thinks Rodrigo is wrong and that the animal you study is superior? Let us know! You can email us at [email protected] We'd love to hear the case for your critter.
|2021-Jul-02 • 13 minutes|
'Arrival': How To Talk To Aliens
(Encore episode) The 2016 movie Arrival, an adaptation of Ted Chiang's novella Story of Your Life, captured the imaginations of science fiction fans worldwide. Field linguist Jessica Coon, who consulted on the film, breaks down what the movie gets right — and wrong — about linguistics.
|2021-Jul-01 • 13 minutes|
FEMA Has An Equity Problem
When a disaster like a hurricane or wildfire destroys a house, the clock starts ticking. It gets harder for sick people to take their medications, medical devices may stop working without electricity, excessive temperatures, mold, or other factors may threaten someone's health. Every day without stable shelter puts people in danger. The federal government is supposed to help prevent that cascade of problems, but an NPR investigation finds that the people who need help the most are often less likely to get i...
|2021-Jun-30 • 12 minutes|
The Climate Crisis Is A Public Health Crisis
A recent study published in Nature found that 37 percent of heat-related deaths are due to climate change. Dr. Renee Salas is seeing this in the emergency room of Massachusetts General Hospital. She's treating more and more patients for heat-related illnesses like heat stroke and intensified allergies. Today, she gives us a view into her work at the intersection of human health and climate change; plus, she envisions a new health care system that takes climate change into account.To read more on this, see o...
|2021-Jun-29 • 12 minutes|
Organic Chemistry Helped Me Embrace My Identities
As a kid, Ari Remmel had a hard time figuring how to fit in. So they found comfort in understanding what the world was made of: atoms and molecules.
|2021-Jun-28 • 15 minutes|
Lessons Learned From Hindered Contact Tracing Efforts In The U.S.
Early in the pandemic, contact tracing was viewed as one of the best options to quell the spread of coronavirus infections. The idea was to have public health workers track down people who tested positive, figure out whom they'd been in touch with and quickly get those people to quarantine. Places like Hong Kong and Singapore made headlines for their success stories. The U.S. aimed to replicate this, but came up short. Today, health reporter Selena Simmons-Duffin explains what went awry and the lessons lear...
|2021-Jun-25 • 12 minutes|
FDA Approves Aducanumab — A Controversial Drug For Alzheimer's
The FDA has approved a new drug for Alzheimer's. But a lot of experts are skeptical about whether the drug works. Rhitu Chatterjee talks with science correspondent Jon Hamilton about the controversial drug aducanumab and why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it. For more of Jon's reporting, read "For Those Facing Alzheimer's, A Controversial Drug Offers Hope."You can email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2021-Jun-24 • 12 minutes|
Climate Change Is Threatening The U.S. West's Water Supply
The past year has been the driest or second driest in most Southwestern U.S. states since record-keeping began in 1895. Climate Correspondent Lauren Sommer reports that farms and cities have begun imposing water restrictions, but the water supply will shrink no matter what the weather brings. The supply spans tens of millions of people and the farmland that produces most of the country's fruits and vegetables. As a result, the people who manage the West's complex water systems are realizing that with climat...
|2021-Jun-23 • 15 minutes|
Loving Sally Ride
Tam O'Shaughnessy and Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, shared a passion for getting girls involved in STEM. It led them to co-found Sally Ride Science, a company focused on equity and inclusion in science education. But, there was much more to Tam and Sally's relationship. Tam gives us an intimate look at their decades-long partnership: how they met and fell in love, the pressures they faced as a queer couple, and their long-awaited and public coming out with Sally's death in 2012. We w...
|2021-Jun-22 • 11 minutes|
COVID-19 Vaccines, Boosters And The Renaissance In Vaccine Technology
Health Correspondent Allison Aubrey updates us on the Biden Administration's goal to have 70 percent of U.S. adults vaccinated by the July 4. Plus, as vaccine makers plan for the possibility that COVID-19 vaccine boosters will be needed, they're pushing ahead with research into new-generation flu shots and mRNA cancer vaccines. Questions? Existential dread? Optimism? We'd love to hear it — write us at [email protected]
|2021-Jun-21 • 10 minutes|
Behold! The Anus: An Evolutionary Marvel
The anus is an evolutionary marvel. But how and when did this organ evolve into what it is today? Today on Short Wave, Maddie gets to the bottom of these questions with The Atlantic's science writer Katherine Wu. For more of Katherine's reporting, check out 'The Body's Most Embarrassing Organ Is an Evolutionary Marvel' from The Atlantic. If you have stories ideas or comments — email us at [email protected]
|2021-Jun-20 • 25 minutes|
'Where We Come From': Emily Kwong's Story
Nearly 1 billion people speak Mandarin Chinese. But Short Wave host Emily Kwong is not among them. As a third generation Chinese American, Emily's heritage language was lost through the years when her father, Christopher Kwong, stopped speaking the language at a young age in order to adjust to life in the U.S. Now, at age 30, Emily's trying to reclaim Chinese by attending virtual Mandarin classes for the first time. In conversation with her father, Emily explores how being 'Chinese enough' gets tied up in l...
|2021-Jun-18 • 1 minutes|
We're Off For Juneteenth
Hey, Nerd! NPR takes Juneteenth off. We'll be back Sunday with a special episode from NPR's Where We Come From series. It focuses on Emily Kwong's relationship to her heritage language and journey to learn Mandarin as an adult.
|2021-Jun-17 • 13 minutes|
#BlackBirdersWeek 2021: Celebrating The Joy Of Birds
#BlackBirdersWeek emerged last year from a groundswell of support for Christian Cooper, a Black man and avid birder, who was harassed by a white woman while birding in Central Park. This year is all about celebrating Black joy. Co-organizer Deja Perkins talks about how the week went and why it's important to observe nature wherever you live.Send us your birding highlights! We're at [email protected]
|2021-Jun-16 • 15 minutes|
'I'm Willing To Fight For It': Learning A Second Language As An Adult
Becoming fluent in a second language is difficult. But for adults, is it impossible? Short Wave hosts Maddie Sofia and Emily Kwong dissect the "critical period hypothesis," a theory which linguists have been debating for decades — with the help of Sarah Frances Phillips, a Ph.D. student in the linguistics department at New York University. You can watch a related video about Emily learning Mandarin here. It's part of the Where We Come From series.
|2021-Jun-15 • 16 minutes|
The Disordered Cosmos
Maddie talks with physicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein about her new book, The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred. In the episode, we talk quarks (one of the building blocks of the universe), intersectionality and access to the night sky as a fundamental right.
|2021-Jun-14 • 16 minutes|
It is one of the Earth's great migrations: each year, millions of monarch butterflies fly some 3,000 miles, from their summer breeding grounds as far north as Canada to their overwintering sites in the central Mexico. It's one of the best-studied migrations and in recent years, ecologists like Sonia Altizer have been able to better answer how and why these intrepid butterflies make the journey. Short Wave brings this episode from the TED Radio Hour's episode with Sonia Altizer, with the University of Georg...
|2021-Jun-11 • 13 minutes|
Yep, We Made Up Vegetables
After hearing a vicious rumor on the internet that vegetables aren't real, Maddie goes looking for answers. Turns out, vegetables are a mere culinary construct. Still healthful and delicious, but a kinda mythic category of food. With the help of Harvard botanist Molly Edwards, Maddie and Emily break down our favorite foods from broccoli to zucchini. Take our survey! Tell us what you love and what you would love to see more of — on our show, and also other NPR podcasts.Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Jun-10 • 12 minutes|
The Science Behind That Fresh Rain Scent
(Encore episode.) Scientists have known for decades that one of the main causes of the smell of fresh rain is geosmin: a chemical compound produced by soil-dwelling bacteria. But why do the bacteria make it in the first place? Reporter Emily Vaughn answers this mystery.Read the paper on which this episode was based.Take our survey! Tell us what you love and what you would love to see more of — on our show, and also other NPR podcasts.Other scent mysteries driving your nose wild? Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Jun-09 • 13 minutes|
Cleveland - What Climate Equity Could Look Like
The Biden Administration is working to fight climate change in a way that also address the country's economic and racial disparities. Emily talks with NPR correspondent Dan Charles about why the ground work for a climate justice plan could be laid in the city of Cleveland. For more of Dan's reporting, follow him on Twitter @NPRDanCharles.You can email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2021-Jun-08 • 9 minutes|
COVID News Round-Up: Vaccination Progress, Booster Shots, Travel
Nationwide, almost 65% of adults have had at least one vaccine shot, but vaccination rates vary significantly depending on the state. NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey gives us the latest on the country's vaccination progress: which states are on track (and which are not), new research about why it's important teenagers get vaccinated, and what we know about the possibility of booster shots.
|2021-Jun-07 • 12 minutes|
Taking A New Look At Some Old Bones
Paleontologist Yara Haridy looks at fossilized bones for a living. When she randomly walked by a scientific poster one day, she discovered an entirely new way to take pictures of her fossils. The results are shedding new light on how bones evolved.
|2021-Jun-04 • 13 minutes|
Bringing The Sensation Of Touch To A Robotic Limb
There's big change that's happening in the field of artificial limbs: artificial limbs that both move — and feel. NPR correspondent Jon Hamilton explains why touch is so important for people who are trying to control a state-of-the art robotic arm or a prosthetic limb.
|2021-Jun-03 • 15 minutes|
Scientific Sankofa And The Complexities Of Genetic Ancestry
Janina Jeff, geneticist and host of the podcast In Those Genes, explains how genes work — and the limitations to DNA kits claiming to know someone's ancestry.
|2021-Jun-02 • 13 minutes|
It's Okay To Let Go Of Herd Immunity
Researchers say the concept of achieving herd immunity threshold isn't the right finish line to end the pandemic. It's an elusive number to define in the first place, and it changes under various circumstances. Science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel talks with Maddie about the complexities in even defining the number and what the public should focus on instead.
|2021-Jun-01 • 9 minutes|
Rainbows! How They Form And Why We See Them
Happy Pride, Short Wave Listeners! Here's a fun episode from our archives to celebrate the month!It's another "Back To School" episode where we take a concept you were maybe taught in school as a kid, but didn't really learn or just forgot. Short Wave producer Thomas Lu and host Maddie Sofia go on a journey to explore what a rainbow exactly is and how we see them! We all remember ROY G BIV, right?Email us your Back-To-School ideas at [email protected]
|2021-May-28 • 14 minutes|
Disabled Scientists Are Often Excluded From The Lab
Scientists and students with disabilities are often excluded from laboratories — in part because of how they're designed. Emily Kwong speaks to disabled scientist Krystal Vasquez on how her disability changed her relationship to science, how scientific research can become more accessible, and how STEMM fields need to change to be more welcoming to disabled scientists. Read Krystal's article in Chemistry World, 'Excluded From The Lab.' You can email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2021-May-27 • 14 minutes|
Big Vape: The Incendiary Rise of Juul E-cigarettes
Juul Labs seemingly started out with the aim to reduce smoking, but the company's e-cigarettes came to symbolize something very different: a teen vaping epidemic. Host Maddie Sofia talks with Time health writer Jamie Ducharme about the science and marketing behind the rise and subsequent controversy surrounding Juul Labs. Plus, a look at what might be next in the future of e-cigarettes.Click here for links to studies mentioned in this episode.
|2021-May-26 • 13 minutes|
The Curious Stardust At The Ocean Floor
Researchers report in the journal Science that they appear to have some clues about the origin of Earth's plutonium - which has been long debated. Correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce explains that traces of rare forms of iron and plutonium have been found in extraterrestrial debris that had sunk to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, hauled up by an oil company, then donated for research. By comparing the iron and the plutonium, scientists found the plutonium was likely forged in a cosmic cataclysm, perhaps a r...
|2021-May-25 • 9 minutes|
The State Of Vaccinations In The U.S.
Eight states have passed an important milestone: getting 70% of all adults vaccinated with at least one shot. That's a number President Biden wants the country to reach by July Fourth. As cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. continue to come down, host Maddie Sofia talks with NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey about vaccination progress around the country. Have questions about the latest coronavirus headlines? Email us at [email protected] and we might cover it on a future episode.
|2021-May-24 • 14 minutes|
'Off The Charts' Rise In Alcoholic Liver Disease Among Young Women
**Heads up. This episode discusses addiction and alcoholism.**Some doctors are seeing a disturbing spike in lethal alcoholic liver disease, especially among young women. The recent trend has been supercharged, they say, in the pandemic. Emily Kwong speaks to NPR science correspondent Yuki Noguchi about this and some of the challenges to getting proper treatment. To read more on the story, check out Yuki's reporting here. You can email us at [email protected]
|2021-May-21 • 14 minutes|
Who Should Control Earth's Thermostat?
Solar geoengineering--the human attempt to cool the planet by reflecting sunlight away from Earth--is fraught with technological and ethical challenges. Maddie discusses some of these with contributor Ariela Zebede.
|2021-May-20 • 9 minutes|
Biden Proposes A 'Civilian Corps' To Address Climate Change
During the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps to improve the country's public lands, forests, and parks. Now, nearly a hundred years later, President Biden is trying to bring a similar version of it back. He wants to launch the Civilian Climate Corps to address the threat of climate change. NPR's White House correspondent Scott Detrow and National Desk Correspondent Nathan Rott report on Biden's plan and how it could play out.Click here to see photo...
|2021-May-19 • 13 minutes|
Pandemic Could Roll Back Advancements For Women in STEMM
In general, there are more men in STEMM fields than women. Representation in science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine is even lower for women of color — facing racial discrimination on top of gender discrimination. And then, the pandemic hit. Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong speaks with Dr. Eve Higginbotham about our earliest understandings of how the pandemic has impacted women in STEMM, and what support institutions can offer to make it easier for women in stay in the workforce and progress in...
|2021-May-18 • 11 minutes|
Too soon? The CDC Relaxes Mask Guidance For Fully Vaccinated
Many Americans are baring their faces in public again, following new CDC recommendations that fully vaccinated people don't need them in most settings. But there are critics who question the CDC's decision and say it's too soon. Maddie Sofia talks with NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey about this latest mask guidance and the questions it raises for businesses, essential workers, and the most vulnerable. If you'd like help finding a vaccination site, you can dial 1-800-232-0233 or go to vaccines.gov (E...
|2021-May-17 • 13 minutes|
Racism, Opioids And COVID-19: A Deadly Trifecta
(Encore.) Drug overdose deaths are on the rise all around the country, including in Chicago, Illinois. ProPublica Illinois reporter Duaa Eldeib explains how the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the opioid epidemic, and the challenges that public health officials are facing as they work to reduce opioid-related deaths.
|2021-May-14 • 14 minutes|
Animal Slander! The Origins Of "Badgering" Will Bum You Out
It's the latest installment of our series, "Animal Slander," where we take a common saying about animals and see what truth there is to it. The case before the Short Wave court today: "badgering." We look at the dark origins of the word and explore the wild world of badger biology with University of Oxford scientist Tanesha Allen.
|2021-May-13 • 14 minutes|
In The Pandemic, Children Face A Mental Health Crisis
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the proportion of emergency department visits by children in mental health crises went up significantly during the pandemic — about 30% for kids ages 12-17 and 24% for children ages 5-11 between March and October of last year, compared to 2019. For psychiatrists like Dr. Nicole Christian-Brathwaite, this is evident in her practice and personal life. We talk to her about how this past year has taken a toll on children and their mental health,...
|2021-May-12 • 13 minutes|
SCOOP: There's A Dirt Shortage
Mud and dirt have often been treated as waste products from excavation or dredging sites. But these days, coastal communities need massive amounts of mud and dirt to protect their shorelines from rising seas. This is leading to a dirt shortage, where the demand for it is higher than supply. NPR climate correspondent Lauren Sommer gives us the scoop — including why one federal agency that has dirt often disposes of it instead of reusing it for these projects.
|2021-May-11 • 11 minutes|
Pediatricians Work To Persuade Parents And Teens To Get COVID-19 Vaccine
Some colleges and universities have announced that COVID vaccination will be mandatory (with some exemptions) and the FDA has authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 12 to 15. While coronavirus infections are declining in the United States, vaccination rates also appear to be slowing down, so pediatricians and public health officials say they're trying to spread the word to overcome hesitancy, and get the vaccine out to people where they go to school and shop. Emily talks with NPR health corres...
|2021-May-10 • 12 minutes|
The Past, Present and Future of mRNA Vaccines
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are the first authorized vaccines in history to use mRNA technology. The pandemic might've set the stage for their debut, but mRNA vaccines have been in the works for more than 30 years. Host Maddie Sofia chats with Dr. Margaret Liu, a physician and board chair of the International Society for Vaccines, about the history and science behind these groundbreaking vaccines. We'll also ask, what we can expect from mRNA vaccines in the future?Have a question for u...
|2021-May-07 • 14 minutes|
'Everyone I Know Has Lost Someone': An Update From India
The numbers are staggering. India has been reporting more than 300,000 COVID-19 cases each day for the past two weeks, and recently topped more than 400,000 cases in a single day, a global record. Many more cases are likely unreported. NPR International Correspondent Lauren Frayer shares the latest from India. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-May-06 • 11 minutes|
A Fragile X Treatment May Be On The Horizon
Katie Clapp and Michael Tranfaglia's son was born with a genetic disorder that affects brain development. It makes it hard to learn language and basic daily tasks and often is accompanied by a host of other disorders. To help find a cure, they started a foundation and raised research money. After several setbacks, one treatment is showing promise. NPR neuroscience reporter Jon Hamilton tells Emily Kwong the story.
|2021-May-05 • 8 minutes|
Why Some Countries Have Low Vaccination Rates
We've been talking a lot about COVID in the US. Now, we want to look at how things are going in some other countries. NPR's correspondents — Jason Beaubien, Phil Reeves, and Anthony Kuhn — talk with Morning Edition's Noel King about why most of the world is struggling to get even a small percentage of their population vaccinated.Have questions about the latest coronavirus headlines? Email us at [email protected] and we might cover it on a future episode.
|2021-May-04 • 13 minutes|
A Vaccination Update And The CDC's Latest Guidance On Masks
The rate of vaccination in the U.S. continues to slow. Maddie Sofia talks with NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey about that and what can be done to get more people vaccinated. Also, making sense of the CDC's latest mask guidance. Have questions about the latest coronavirus headlines? Email us at [email protected] and we might cover it on a future episode.
|2021-May-03 • 14 minutes|
Burnout: The Crisis Plaguing Health Care Workers
Today, NPR's mental health correspondent Rhitu Chatterjee guests hosts Short Wave. She talks to Dr. Arghavan Salles about burnout among health care workers — what it looks like, what it's doing to the mental health of doctors and nurses and how institutions can address it. Have a scientific question you can't stop thinking about? Drop us a line at [email protected] — we'd love to hear it.
|2021-Apr-30 • 9 minutes|
The Viral TikTok Explaining mRNA Vaccines With ... Forks!
We at Short Wave are sometimes a little too aware of how difficult it can be to explain science to a general audience. So when we came across Vick Krishna's viral TikTok breaking down how the mRNA vaccine works, we were impressed and immediately like, "We've got to get him on the show!" Today's that show. Vick breaks down the inspiration, the science and his newfound responsibility as an accidental science communicator.Know someone else bringing science to the masses? Send us an email at [email protected] ...
|2021-Apr-29 • 14 minutes|
Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster: 10 Years Later
In 2011, villages and towns around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant in Japan were evacuated because of a series of meltdowns caused by a tsunami. Ten years later, some of the villages and towns are slowly reopening. Geoff Brumfiel talks with producer Kat Lonsdorf about the Fukushima nuclear accident, its lasting effects on Japan, and the future of nuclear power. You can read and listen to more of Kat's reporting about Fukushima and Japan here.
|2021-Apr-28 • 17 minutes|
5 Ways To Cut Carbon Emissions At Home
Feeling green? If you'd like to do something to slow down climate change, even if it's just a small thing, you can get started in your own apartment or house. With the help of our friends over at Life Kit, NPR correspondent Dan Charles shares five ways to cut carbon emissions in your own home. This episode was adapted from an earlier Life Kit. To hear the full version, check out npr.org/lifekit.
|2021-Apr-27 • 11 minutes|
The U.S. Vaccination Rate Continues To Slow
Short Wave's Emily Kwong talks with NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey about some of the latest coronavirus news, including the return of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the U.S. and vaccine outreach in harder to reach communities.Have questions about the latest coronavirus headlines? Email us at [email protected] and we might cover it on a future episode.
|2021-Apr-26 • 12 minutes|
A 142-Year-Old Science Seed Caper
On April 15, at four o'clock in the morning, a small group of scientists found their way to a secret location. A light wintry mix of rain and snow was falling. The lousy weather was a relief because it meant even less of a chance that someone might randomly pass by.Today on the show, NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce unearths why a new generation of scientists is digging up seeds under the cover of night buried 142 years ago.
|2021-Apr-23 • 14 minutes|
U.S. Renews Its Commitment To Addressing Climate Change
President Biden is hosting dozens of world leaders for a virtual climate summit on Thursday and Friday. The administration is trying to regain ground lost by pulling out of the Paris climate agreement during the Trump administration. The Biden team is promising dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in the next several decades. Rhitu Chatterjee talks with NPR climate reporters Rebecca Hersher and Lauren Sommer.
|2021-Apr-22 • 14 minutes|
Medicine And The Horseshoe Crab
Horseshoe crabs have been around for 450 million years — nearly unchanged. And their blood has helped the medical world make some fascinating discoveries. Emily Kwong talks with Ariela Zebede about these living fossils and their role in making medicine safer. Get in touch! You can email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2021-Apr-21 • 11 minutes|
Micro Wave: Why Hair Turns Gray
Why does hair turn gray? Stress? Age? Genetics? We turn to dermatologist Dr. Jenna Lester for answers.
|2021-Apr-20 • 13 minutes|
Half Of U.S. Adults Have Gotten A Vaccine — But Hurdles Remain For Herd Immunity
Today, NPR Health Correspondent Allison Aubrey offers perspective on how to think about the latest coronavirus news. On one hand, half of U.S. adults have been vaccinated and as of this week, everyone 16 years old and up is eligible to be vaccinated. At the same time, the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been paused and many are still hesitant to get vaccinated.Coronavirus on your mind? Email us at [email protected] — with your questions about the latest developments.
|2021-Apr-19 • 13 minutes|
A Classroom Where Math And Community Intersect
When you think of mathematicians, do you think of lone geniuses scribbling away at complex equations? This myth is one mathematician Ranthony Edmonds actively tries to dispel in her classroom as a post-doc at The Ohio State University. Instead, Ranthony focuses on the community aspects of math — the support systems behind each mathematician and the benefits of a collaborative, inclusive environment for math innovation. Think we should consider math more? Let us know by emailing [email protected]
|2021-Apr-16 • 13 minutes|
Why Scientists Are Racing To Save Historical Sea Level Records
(Encore episode.) Archival records may help researchers figure out how fast the sea level is rising in certain places. Millions of people in coastal cities are vulnerable to rising sea levels and knowing exactly how fast the water is rising is really important. But it's a tough scientific question. NPR climate correspondent Lauren Sommer explains how scientists are looking to historical records to help get at the answer. If you'd like to help transcribe old tidal data, you can get started here.For more of ...
|2021-Apr-15 • 15 minutes|
Why Baltimore Is Suing Big Oil Over Climate Change
(Encore episode.) Earlier this year, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case brought by the city of Baltimore against more than a dozen major oil and gas companies including BP, ExxonMobil and Shell. In the lawsuit, BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, the city government argued that the fossil fuel giants must help pay for the costs of climate change because they knew that their products cause potentially catastrophic global warming. NPR climate reporter Rebecca Hersher has been following ...
|2021-Apr-14 • 15 minutes|
A Rising Tide of Violence Against Environmental Activists
(Encore episode.) Global Witness documented that 212 environmental and land activists were murdered in 2019. Over half of those documented murders took place in Colombia and the Philippines, countries where intensive mining and agribusiness has transformed the environment. NPR Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong speaks with three activists about the intersection between natural resource extraction and violence, and what keeps them going in their work.
|2021-Apr-13 • 11 minutes|
What Happens When The Tides Get Higher
(Encore episode.) As sea levels rise from climate change, coastal communities face a greater risk of chronic flooding. Climate scientist Astrid Caldas and her colleagues have looked at where it's happening now and where it could happen in the future as the tides keep getting higher.Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Apr-12 • 13 minutes|
Debating When The 'Age Of Humans' Began
Humans have changed the Earth in such profound ways that scientists say we have entered a new geological period: the Anthropocene Epoch.
|2021-Apr-09 • 13 minutes|
The Resurgence Of Psychedelic Psychiatry
Psychedelics like ketamine and psilocybin are getting a second look as a way to treat psychiatric problems like depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, even PTSD. NPR neuroscience correspondent Jon Hamilton explains how these drugs are helping brain scientists understand what causes mental illness and find new ways to treat it. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Apr-08 • 13 minutes|
A curious symptom of COVID-19 that can stick with patients for a long time is loss of smell. Researchers don't know exactly how prevalent the loss of smell ism and while most people recover from it, some will not. This has given new life to a very specific treatment: smell training. Emily Kwong talks to the Atlantic's science reporter Sarah Zhang about how practicing how to smell might help those who've lost their sense of smell. For more on smell training, read Sarah's piece in The Atlantic. You can email ...
|2021-Apr-07 • 11 minutes|
The Queen's Squeak
"Dialects" is one of those words tossed around a lot when talking about human language. They indicate where a speaker is from. But dialects aren't exclusive to humans; scientists have known for a while that whales and songbirds also show these variations in language. Today, NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce explains research that expands that list to include naked mole rats.Yearning for more episodes about communication between animals? Or wish we would cover something else entirely? We'd love ...
|2021-Apr-06 • 9 minutes|
Vaccinations Are Up, But So Are COVID-19 Cases
More than 61 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. We're also now averaging over 3 million shots per day. But at the same time, in at least 20 states, reported cases are on the rise again. So today, NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey rounds up some of the latest coronavirus news – on vaccines, CDC guidance on travel, the possibility of a fourth wave, and more.Have questions or concerns around the pandemic? Email us at [email protected]
|2021-Apr-05 • 14 minutes|
How To Reach Out When Someone You Know May Be At Risk Of Suicide
Currently, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. But research shows that suicide is preventable. Host Emily Kwong talks with NPR health correspondent Rhitu Chatterjee about the signs that someone you know may be thinking about dying, the ways you can support them, and how to possibly prevent suicide.To read more of the story, find Rhitu's reporting here.You can email us at [email protected]
|2021-Apr-02 • 10 minutes|
Micro Wave: Are Seasonal Allergies Getting Worse?
We ask allergy expert Dr. Juanita Mora if seasonal allergies are getting worse. Plus, some quick tips for managing those pesky allergy symptoms.Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Apr-01 • 13 minutes|
Meet The Dermatologists Advancing Better Care For Skin Of Color
Many skin conditions, from rashes to Lyme disease to various cancers, present differently on dark skin. Yet medical literature and textbooks don't often include those images, pointing to a bigger problem in dermatology. Today on the show, we take a close look at how the science of skincare has evolved to better serve patients of color, but still has a long way to go.
|2021-Mar-31 • 9 minutes|
Fulgurite: What A Lightning-Formed Rock May Have Contributed To Life On Earth
When lightning strikes the ground, it can leave behind a root-like rock called a fulgurite. Host Maddie Sofia talks with NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce about what lightning and its funky rock creation can reveal about the origins of life. To read more of the story, check out Nell's reporting here. You can email us at [email protected]
|2021-Mar-30 • 13 minutes|
What We Can Learn From Microscopic Life In Antarctica
Our colleagues at the TED Radio Hour introduce us to wildlife filmmaker Ariel Waldman. She says the coldest continent is brimming with invisible life that can only be seen through microscopes, including tardigrades (one of Maddie's favorite critters).Listen to the full TED Radio Hour episode, Through The Looking Glass, here.
|2021-Mar-29 • 13 minutes|
Is The Future Quantum?
NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel takes us to IonQ, one of the companies betting on a quantum computing future. Along the way, Geoff explains what little researchers know about how we might actually use this technology. There are hints though quantum computing could change everything from discovering new drugs to developing advanced materials. Want us to cover another promising, complicated technology? Email us — we're at [email protected]
|2021-Mar-26 • 13 minutes|
The Purple Urchins Don't Die
NPR climate correspondent Lauren Sommer explains how scientists are getting creative to deal with the hordes of urchins overtaking kelp forests in the Pacific Ocean — and why this kind of drastic ecological change may become more common as the climate gets hotter. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Mar-25 • 14 minutes|
Brood X: The Rise Of The 17-Year Cicadas
The cicadas are coming! After 17 years, Brood X is emerging this spring to mate. If you're in the eastern part of the United States, get ready to be surrounded by these little critters! Host Maddie Sofia talks with entomologist Sammy Ramsey, aka Dr. Buggs, about what cicadas are, where they've been for the last 17 years, and — of course — why they're so loud.Email Short Wave at [email protected]
|2021-Mar-24 • 11 minutes|
Meet The 'Glacier Mice'
(Encore episode.) In 2006, while hiking around the Root Glacier in Alaska, glaciologist Tim Bartholomaus encountered something strange and unexpected on the ice — dozens of fuzzy, green moss balls. It turns out, other glaciologists had come across glacial moss balls before and lovingly called them "glacier mice." NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce and Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong talk about glacial moss balls and delve into the mystery of how they seem to move as a herd. Read more of Nell's...
|2021-Mar-23 • 9 minutes|
A Look Inside The World's Biggest Vaccine Maker
NPR's international correspondent Lauren Frayer takes us on a tour of the factory of the world's largest vaccine maker: Serum Institute of India. The company aims to manufacture 100 million doses a month of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and export them globally. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Mar-22 • 14 minutes|
How A New Deal Legacy Is Building Clean Energy In Rural North Carolina
In North Carolina, a rural electric cooperative is reliving its New Deal history, bringing technologies like fast Internet and clean, low-carbon heating to communities that some have abandoned.
|2021-Mar-19 • 13 minutes|
The U.S. Has A History Of Linking Disease With Race And Ethnicity
(Encore episode.) The coronavirus is all over the headlines these days. Accompanying those headlines? Suspicion and harassment of Asians and Asian Americans. Our colleague Gene Demby, co-host of NPR's Code Switch podcast, explains that this is part of a longer history in the United States of camouflaging xenophobia and racism as public health and hygiene concerns. We hear from historian Erika Lee, author of "America For Americans: A History Of Xenophobia In The United States."LEARN MORE:Check out Code Switc...
|2021-Mar-18 • 15 minutes|
Reflections On Coronavirus A Year In
It's been about a year since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic. The world has learned a lot in that time — about how the virus spreads, who is at heightened risk and how the disease progresses. Today, Maddie walks us through some of these big lessons.Reach the show by emailing [email protected]
|2021-Mar-17 • 9 minutes|
A Quick Dive Into How Submarines Work
Submarines can descend thousands of feet below the surface of the ocean, but to do so, they have to deal with an enormous amount of pressure. In this episode, engineer and pilot Bruce Strickrott of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution explains some of the fundamental engineering principles that allow submarines to dive so deep without imploding under the pressure.Have any questions you'd like us to try answering? Send us an email, [email protected]
|2021-Mar-16 • 12 minutes|
What Earth Looked Like 3.2 Billion Years Ago
Encore episode. The surface of the Earth is constantly recycled through the motion of plate tectonics. So how do researchers study what it used to look like? Planetary scientist Roger Fu talks to host Maddie Sofia about hunting for rocks that can tell us what Earth looked like a few billion years ago, in the early days of the evolution of life.Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Mar-15 • 13 minutes|
Our Pandemic Future
It's been about a year since the coronavirus pandemic started to take hold in the United States. Recently, NPR science correspondent Rob Stein has been talking to infectious disease experts, epidemiologists, public health officials, medical historians and for the first time, many are cautiously offering hope. They say the worst may be finally over — but factors like vaccination rates, changes to public health policy and variant resistance to vaccines could upend that recovery.Reach the show by emailing sho...
|2021-Mar-12 • 13 minutes|
A Year Into The Pandemic, The Incarcerated Among The Most Vulnerable
In the year since the pandemic began, the coronavirus has severely impacted inmates and staff in U.S. jails and prisons. According to The Marshall Project, in the last year, over 380,000 prisoners tested positive for the coronavirus. Of those, 2,400 died. The close quarters make social distancing nearly impossible, leaving the incarcerated population vulnerable. Josiah Bates, staff writer at TIME, reflects on how the pandemic has played out behind bars — in both jails and prisons. We also hear from Ronnie ...
|2021-Mar-11 • 13 minutes|
The Importance Of Diversifying Alzheimer's Research
Alzheimer's disease affects more than 6 million Americans and a disproportionate number are Black. NPR science correspondent Jon Hamilton explains why Black Americans may be at higher risk, and how diversifying Alzheimer's research could lead to a better understanding of the disease in Black Americans, and new treatments for everyone. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Mar-10 • 10 minutes|
CDC's Do's and Don'ts For Fully Vaccinated People
The CDC released new guidance Monday, allowing people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to resume some pre-pandemic activities, including gathering indoors with other vaccinated people without wearing masks. Health correspondent Allison Aubrey walks us through the new recommendations and what precautions fully vaccinated people still need to take. Read the CDC's guidance.Email the show your questions and concerns about the coronavirus at [email protected] We might cover it in our ongoing coverage of the pa...
|2021-Mar-09 • 11 minutes|
One Key To Healthy Oceans? Sharks
Shark scientist Melissa Christina Marquez explains just how important sharks are to keeping the oceans healthy, including their role in mitigating climate change. Plus, there may be some talk about shark poop.Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Mar-08 • 15 minutes|
Millions Of U.S. Homes Face An Expensive Flooding Threat
More than 4 million U.S. homes face substantial risk of expensive flood damage, according to new research. On top of that, NPR climate reporter Rebecca Hersher found that communities where flood insurance is already unaffordable face potentially catastrophic damage — including to mental and physical health.Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Mar-05 • 13 minutes|
Is The Sperm Race A Fairy Tale?
A lot of us were taught that conception happens with a survivor-style sperm race — the fastest and strongest sperm fight to make it to the egg first. In this Back To School episode, we revisit this misleading narrative and learn just how active the egg and reproductive tract are in this process. You can find Ariela @arielazebede, Lisa @CampoEngelstein, and Kristin @kristin_hook on Twitter. Email us at [email protected] Note - The introduction of this episode has been updated to reflect anthropolog...
|2021-Mar-04 • 14 minutes|
The Fight Over The Future Of Natural Gas
A growing number of cities are looking at restricting the use of gas in new buildings to reduce climate emissions. But some states are considering laws to block those efforts, with backing from the natural gas industry.Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Mar-03 • 13 minutes|
Pandemic Dispatches From The ER, One Year Later
The coronavirus has disrupted all of our lives, and that's especially true for healthcare workers. We hear reflections from Dr. Jamila Goldsmith and Mariah Clark, two emergency room workers. They tell us what the first year of the pandemic has been like for them, how their lives have changed, and what's around the corner as more people become vaccinated. Are you a healthcare worker who would be willing to share your experience with the Short Wave team? Email us at [email protected]
|2021-Mar-02 • 13 minutes|
Vaccine Distribution: An Equity Challenge
The Biden Administration has prioritized speed in its COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Also, a priority...distributing those doses to the populations most impacted by the coronavirus. Host Maddie Sofia talks with NPR science reporter Pien Huang about the challenges underserved communities face in getting the vaccine and the Biden Administration's plans to address vaccine equity in the pandemic.For more reporting on the COVID-19 vaccine, follow Pien on Twitter at @Pien_Huang. You can email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Mar-01 • 25 minutes|
Code Switch: A Shot In The Dark
Code Switch dives into why many Black people are skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccines and where that hesitancy is rooted.
|2021-Feb-26 • 10 minutes|
Micro Wave: Let's Talk About Urine
There are lots of misconceptions around urine. Can urine cure athlete's foot? Or really treat a jellyfish sting? Today on the show — we'll talk about what it actually is, debunk some common myths, and share some urine facts.Plus, we dive into some listener mail — which you can send to us by emailing [email protected]
|2021-Feb-25 • 11 minutes|
The Legacy of Trauma: Can Experiences Leave A Biological Imprint?
Descendants of trauma victims seem to have worse health outcomes. Could epigenetics help explain why? Bianca Jones Marlin and Brian Dias walk us through the field of epigenetics and its potential implications in trauma inheritance. You can follow Ariela Zebede on twitter @arielazebede. Email us at [email protected]
|2021-Feb-24 • 12 minutes|
Magnets: The Hidden Objects Powering Your Life
Magnets are everywhere: in your car, in your phone — Heck, even earth is a giant magnet. NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel explains magnetism.
|2021-Feb-23 • 13 minutes|
James West On Invention And Inclusion In Science
James West has been a curious tinkerer since he was a child, always wondering how things worked. Throughout his long career in STEM, he's also been an advocate for diversity and inclusion — from co-founding the Association for Black Laboratory Employees in 1970 to his work today with The Ingenuity Project, a non-profit that cultivates math and science skills in middle and high school students in Baltimore public schools. Host Maddie Sofia talks to him about his life, career, and about how a device he helped...
|2021-Feb-22 • 16 minutes|
Coronavirus Vaccine Q&A: Variants, Side Effects, And More
Can people who are vaccinated still carry and transmit the coronavirus to other people? How effective are the vaccines against coronavirus variants? And what's the deal with side effects? In this episode, an excerpt of Maddie's appearance on another NPR podcast, It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders, where she answered those questions and more. Listen to 'It's Been A Minute with Sam Sanders' on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Email us at [email protected]
|2021-Feb-20 • 67 minutes|
BONUS: Throughline — Octavia Butler: Visionary Fiction
To cap off our week celebrating Black excellence, we present an episode of NPR's history podcast Throughline, about acclaimed sci-fi writer Octavia Butler.
|2021-Feb-19 • 9 minutes|
Micro Wave: I'll Peanut Jam Your Brain
Today, what happens in your brain when you notice a semantic or grammatical mistake, according to neuroscience. Sarah Phillips, a neurolinguist, tells us all about the N400 and the P600 responses. Plus, we dive into some listener mail — which you can send to us by emailing [email protected] (Encore episode)
|2021-Feb-18 • 14 minutes|
Why Tech Companies Are Limiting Police Use of Facial Recognition
In June 2020, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM announced that they were limiting some uses of their facial recognition technology. In this encore episode, Maddie and Emily talk to AI policy analyst Mutale Nkonde about algorithmic bias — how facial recognition software can discriminate and reflect the biases of society and the current debate about policing has brought up the issue about how law enforcement should use this technology.
|2021-Feb-17 • 13 minutes|
Anti-Racist Science Education
Some of the most prestigious scientists in history advanced racist and eugenicist views, but that is rarely mentioned in textbooks. Maddie and Emily speak with science educators about how to broaden science education--including how they tap into kids' sense of justice by incorporating ethics into experiments and how they share contributions of scientists who may be less famous than the big names. (Encore episode)
|2021-Feb-16 • 11 minutes|
The Creation Of The Magnificent Makers
Theanne Griffith discusses her children's book series, The Magnificent Makers, and the importance of diversity in the sciences.
|2021-Feb-15 • 1 minutes|
A Week Of Black Excellence
In honor of Black History Month, Short Wave is focusing on Black scientists and educators — people doing incredible work and pushing for a world where science serves everyone. Enjoy!Follow Maddie and Emily on Twitter, @maddie_sofia and @emilykwong1234. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Feb-12 • 14 minutes|
Bring Me Chocolate Or Bring Me Dead Stuff
Happy Valentine's Day from Short Wave! We've got something special for the holiday, Maddie and Emily exchange the gift of science facts - from the process of farming and fermenting cacao to the courtship rituals of scorpions and loggerhead shrikes.Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Feb-11 • 13 minutes|
Saving Sea Level Records: What Historical Records Tell Us About The Rising Ocean
Archival records may help researchers figure out how fast the sea level is rising in certain places. Millions of people in coastal cities are vulnerable to rising sea levels and knowing exactly how fast the water is rising is really important. But it's a tough scientific question. NPR climate correspondent Lauren Sommer explains how scientists are looking to historical records to help get at the answer. For more of Lauren's reporting, follow her on Twitter @lesommer. Email us at [email protected]
|2021-Feb-10 • 15 minutes|
When Defending The Land Puts Your Own Life At Risk
Global Witness documented that 212 environmental and land activists were murdered in 2019. Over half of those documented murders took place in Colombia and the Philippines, countries where intensive mining and agribusiness has transformed the environment. NPR Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong speaks with three activists about the intersection between natural resource extraction and violence, and what keeps them going in their work.
|2021-Feb-09 • 11 minutes|
Why 500,000 COVID-19 Deaths May Not Feel Any Different
Why is it so hard to feel the difference between 400,000 and 500,000 COVID-19 deaths—and how might that impact our decision making during the pandemic? Psychologist Paul Slovic explains the concept of psychic numbing and how humans can often use emotion, rather than statistics to make decisions about risk. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Feb-08 • 14 minutes|
What's In A Tattoo? Scientists Are Looking For Answers
Three in 10 people in America have a tattoo, and those in the 18 - 34 age bracket, it's almost 40 percent. But what's in those inks, exactly? NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce talks about what researchers currently know about tattoo inks. It's not a lot, and researchers are trying to find out more. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Feb-05 • 10 minutes|
When Life Gives You Lemons...Make A Battery
We're going "Back To School" today, revisiting a classic at-home experiment that turns lemons into batteries — powerful enough to turn on a clock or a small lightbulb. But how does the science driving that process show up in household batteries we use daily? Emily Kwong and Maddie Sofia talk battery 101 with environmental engineer Jenelle Fortunato.
|2021-Feb-04 • 13 minutes|
Biden Promises To Grapple With Environmental Racism
People of color experience more air and water pollution than white people and suffer the health impacts. The federal government helped create the problem, and has largely failed to fix it. NPR climate reporter Rebecca Hersher talks about the history of environmental racism in the United States, and what Biden's administration can do to avoid the mistakes of the past. Read Rebecca's reporting on how Biden hopes to address the environmental impacts of systemic racism.Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Feb-03 • 13 minutes|
Opioids, COVID-19 And Racism: A Deadly Trifecta
Drug overdose deaths are on the rise all around the country, including in Chicago, Illinois. ProPublica Illinois reporter Duaa Eldeib explains how the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the opioid epidemic, and the challenges that public health officials are facing as they work to reduce opioid-related deaths.
|2021-Feb-02 • 12 minutes|
The Lost Joys Of Talking To Strangers
With a lot of us stuck at home, trying to physically distance from each other, one part of daily life has largely disappeared: bumping into strangers. On today's show, Maddie talks with Yowei Shaw, co-host of NPR's Invisibilia, about the surprising benefits of stranger interactions. And Short Wave tries out QuarantineChat, a workaround to our current strangerless existence. (Encore episode) Follow Maddie Sofia @maddie_sofia and Yowei Shaw @yowei_shaw on Twitter. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Feb-01 • 12 minutes|
The Complex Decisions Around Rebuilding After A Wildfire
The year 2020 saw a record-breaking wildfire season. With those wildfires came many destroyed homes. Rebuilding with fire-resistant materials reduces the risk of future fires burning down a house, but as NPR science correspondent Lauren Sommer explains, only three Western states require building with fire-resistant materials. Without such improvements, communities face increased risks with the next fire.Read Lauren's reporting on rebuilding after a wildfire.Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Jan-29 • 11 minutes|
FACT SMACK: Spider Edition
With the help of spider scientist Sebastian Echeverri, Maddie presents the case for why spiders are the best and coolest animal. Spoiler alert: some travel thousands of kilometers by "ballooning," while others live part time underwater. Are you a scientist who thinks Sebastian is wrong and that the animal you study is superior? Let us know! You can email us at [email protected] We'd love to hear the case for your critter.
|2021-Jan-28 • 13 minutes|
How Bonobos Help Explain The Evolution Of Nice
How did humans evolve some key cooperative behaviors like sharing? NPR Science Correspondent Jon Hamilton reports back from a bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where scientists are trying to answer that very question. Follow host Maddie Sofia and correspondent Jon Hamilton on Twitter, and email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Jan-27 • 16 minutes|
What The Spread Of Coronavirus Variants Means For The U.S.
Different versions of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus are emerging. Some are spreading quickly around the world, others more slowly — but several have the public health community and researchers worried because they are behaving differently than the older version of the coronavirus. Maddie talks with NPR science correspondent Michaeleen Doucleff about the coronavirus variant first identified in the UK in late 2020 — they discuss how big of a deal it is, how vaccines may be affected, and what needs to happen to ...
|2021-Jan-26 • 11 minutes|
The Surprising History of Handwashing
Washing your hands. It's one of the easiest and most effective things you can do to protect yourself from the coronavirus, the flu, and other respiratory illnesses. But there was a time when that wasn't so obvious. Dana Tulodziecki, a professor at Purdue University, tells the story of Ignaz Semmelweis, the scientist who's credited with discovering the importance of handwashing. We'll hear how he figured it out and why there's more to the story. (Encore episode)
|2021-Jan-25 • 13 minutes|
A Pesky Rumble: Pink Bollworms Vs. Cotton Farmers
The pink bollworm — an invasive species that plagues cotton farmers around the world — has been successfully eradicated from much of the U.S. and Mexico. Eradication campaigns rarely work, but this one did. NPR food and farming reporter Dan Charles gives us the play-by-play to how it took two concurrent approaches to eradicate this devastating pest. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Jan-22 • 11 minutes|
Our More-Than-Five Senses
You're familiar with touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. But your body moves through the world with more than five senses. NPR Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong speaks to neurobiologist André White, assistant professor at Mount Holyoke College, about the beautiful, intricate system that carries information from the outside world in.
|2021-Jan-21 • 14 minutes|
Baltimore Is Suing Big Oil Over Climate Change
The Supreme Court heard arguments this week in a case brought by the city of Baltimore against more than a dozen major oil and gas companies including BP, ExxonMobil and Shell. In the lawsuit, BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, the city government argues that the fossil fuel giants must help pay for the costs of climate change because they knew that their products cause potentially catastrophic global warming. NPR climate reporter Rebecca Hersher has been following the case.Read Rebecca's dig...
|2021-Jan-20 • 16 minutes|
The Social Side of Stuttering
President-elect Joe Biden has spoken publicly about his childhood stutter. An estimated 1% of the world's adults stutter, yet the condition — which likely has a genetic component — remains misunderstood. NPR Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong speaks with speech pathologist Naomi Rodgers about her research on adolescent stuttering and why the medical model of stuttering is problematic.
|2021-Jan-19 • 13 minutes|
Let's Go Back To Venus!
In 1962, the first spacecraft humans ever sent to another planet — Mariner 2 — went to Venus. The first planet on which humans ever landed a probe — also Venus! But since then, Mars has been the focus of planetary missions. NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel makes the case for why humans should reconsider visiting to Venus.For more science reporting and stories, follow Geoff on twitter @gbrumfiel. And, as always, email us at [email protected]
|2021-Jan-15 • 11 minutes|
Micro Wave: How 'Bout Dem Apple...Seeds
Many folks eat an apple and then throw out the core. It turns out, the core is perfectly ok to eat - despite apple seeds' association with the poison cyanide. In today's episode, host Maddie Sofia talks to producer Thomas Lu about how apple seeds could potentially be toxic to humans but why, ultimately, most people don't have to worry about eating the whole apple. And they go through some listener mail.
|2021-Jan-14 • 14 minutes|
How COVID-19 Affects The Brain
Many patients who are hospitalized for COVID-19 continue to have symptoms of brain injury after they are discharged. For many, brain function improves as they recover, but some are likely to face long-term disability. As NPR science correspondent Jon Hamilton explains, research into all the ways the coronavirus affects the brain is ongoing but research shows it can affect everything from loss of smell to memory problems. Read Jon's piece here.Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Jan-13 • 15 minutes|
Should Black People Get Race Adjustments In Kidney Medicine?
As the U.S. continues to grapple with systemic racism, some in the medical community are questioning whether the diagnostic tools they use may be contributing to racial health disparities.As NPR science correspondent Maria Godoy reports, that debate is playing out prominently in the world of kidney medicine — specifically, in the use of estimated glomerular filtration rate, or eGFR. The diagnostic formula most commonly used to assess the health of patients with chronic kidney disease may be unintentionally ...
|2021-Jan-12 • 11 minutes|
CubeSat: Little Satellite, Big Deal
Meet the CubeSat: a miniaturized satellite that's been growing in sophistication. In the last 20 years, over 1,000 CubeSats have been launched into space for research and exploration. We talk about three CubesSat missions, and how this satellite technology ventured from college campuses to deep space. (Encore) Tweet to Emily Kwong at @emilykwong1234 and talk #scicomm with Joe on @joesbigidea. And you can reach the show by emailing [email protected]
|2021-Jan-11 • 11 minutes|
This Teen Scientist Is TIME's First-Ever 'Kid Of The Year'
Fifteen-year-old Gitanjali Rao is a scientist, inventor, and TIME Magazine's first-ever 'Kid Of The Year.' She shares why she didn't initially think science was for her, what motivates her now, and a bit of advice for other budding innovators. Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Jan-08 • 10 minutes|
Micro Wave: What Makes Curly Hair Curl?
Hair scientist Crystal Porter explains the science behind curly hair (hint: It involves mushy cells in teeny-tiny tunnels). Plus, a bit of listener mail from you! Which you can always send by emailing [email protected]
|2021-Jan-07 • 12 minutes|
The Hunt For The World's Oldest Ice
Scientists think the world's oldest ice is hiding somewhere in Antarctica. NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce tells us how researchers plan to find it — and why. For more, you can also read Nell's story, "Scientists Have Found Some Truly Ancient Ice, But Now They Want Ice That's Even Older."Email the show at [email protected]
|2021-Jan-06 • 14 minutes|
One Page At A Time, Jess Wade Is Changing Wikipedia
By day, Jess Wade is an experimental physicist at Imperial College London. But at night, she's a contributor to Wikipedia — where she writes entries about women and POC scientists. She chats with Emily Kwong about how Wikipedia can influence the direction of scientific research and why it's important to have entries about scientists from under-represented communities. Here are the Wikipedia entries of the scientists mentioned in today's show: Sarah Gilbert, Kizzmekia Corbett, Gladys West, and of course, Jes...
|2021-Jan-05 • 14 minutes|
How COVID-19 Has Changed Science
2020 was a year like no other, especially for science. The pandemic has caused massive shifts in scientific research – how it's being done, what's being focused on, and who's doing it. Ed Yong of The Atlantic explains some of the ways, both good and bad, that COVID-19 has changed science.Read Ed's full reporting on these changes here.
|2021-Jan-04 • 11 minutes|
Meet The Ko'Ko', The Comeback Bird
For nearly forty years, the Guam Rail bird (locally known as the Ko'Ko') has been extinct in the wild — decimated by the invasive brown tree snake. But the Ko'Ko' has been successfully re-introduced. It is the second bird in history to recover from extinction in the wild. Wildlife biologist Suzanne Medina tells us the story of how the Guam Department of Agriculture brought the Ko'Ko' back, with a little matchmaking and a lot of patience. (Encore episode)Follow host Maddie Sofia @maddie_sofia and reporter Em...
|2021-Jan-01 • 4 minutes|
Happy New Year from Short Wave!
To kick off the new year right, Maddie fills out a Short Wave mad lib crafted by Emily. It's a little tribute to you, our awesome listeners. We're back with new episodes next week. Hope you had a safe and happy orbit around the sun!
|2020-Dec-31 • 16 minutes|
How Will Climate And Health Policy Look Under Biden?
Today, something special...an episode of The NPR Politics Podcast we think you might appreciate. Our colleagues take a look at Joe Biden's approach to climate and health policy.His climate agenda will look very different than President Trump's and even President Obama's. And, on top of responding to the pandemic, the president-elect will also have to wrangle all of the other problems in the American healthcare system.
|2020-Dec-29 • 12 minutes|
It's Okay To Sleep Late (Do It For Your Immune System)
Dr. Syed Moin Hassan was riled up. "I don't know who needs to hear this," he posted on Twitter, "BUT YOU ARE NOT LAZY IF YOU ARE WAKING UP AT NOON." Hassan speaks to Short Wave's Emily Kwong about de-stigmatizing sleeping in late, and why a good night's rest is so important for your immune system. (Encore episode)Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Dec-28 • 12 minutes|
2020: At Least It Was Good For Space Exploration?
Between the pandemic, protests, the recession — the list goes on — there was big space news in 2020. And there was a lot of it! To round it up, Maddie chats with NPR science correspondents Nell Greenfieldboyce and Geoff Brumfiel.Check out our list of Nell and Geoff's reporting on all of the events they talk about.For even more space and other science content, follow Nell and Geoff on Twitter at @nell_sci_npr and @gbrumfiel. Send terrestrial and extraterrestrial inquiries to the show at [email protected]
|2020-Dec-25 • 4 minutes|
Happy Holidays from Short Wave!
Maddie and Emily play a quick game of "Fact or Fiction?" with help from Ariela Zebede, our resident fact-checker. Plus, a little reminder that you can support the show by donating to your local public radio station at donate.npr.org/short. (If you're outside of the U.S., choose a lucky member station!)Follow Maddie and Emily on Twitter, @maddie_sofia and @emilykwong1234. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Dec-24 • 12 minutes|
Seeing Monsters? It Could Be Sleep Paralysis
It's a listener questions episode! Josh Smith wrote in to tell us that as a teenager, he was plagued by sleep paralysis. Now he's afraid his kid might be experiencing it too. Josh asks what the science says about this sleep disorder and what he can do to help his son. (Encore episode)For more interesting science tidbits, follow Maddie and Emily on Twitter @maddie_sofia and @emilykwong1234. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Dec-22 • 16 minutes|
Oof! 2020: A Hot Year For The Record Books
Nearly tied with 2016 for the hottest year on record, 2020 was hot, hot, hot! NPR climate reporters Rebecca Hersher and Lauren Sommer explain why more heat trapped in the atmosphere means longer heat waves, less ice in the Arctic, bigger wildfires, and more powerful hurricanes. For more reporting on the hottest decade, check out this story. You can follow Rebecca on twitter @rhersher and Lauren @lesommer. And, as always, email us at [email protected]
|2020-Dec-21 • 12 minutes|
Antimatter: Matter's "Evil Twin"
NPR's Correspondent Geoff Brumfiel explains what's up with antimatter — and why we know so little about it. (Encore episode)
|2020-Dec-18 • 11 minutes|
Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall: Can You Reveal An Animal's Inner World At All?
The mirror self-recognition test has been around for decades. Only a few species have what it takes to recognize themselves, while others learn to use mirrors as tools. NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce talks us through mirror self-recognition and why Maddie's dog is staring at her. For more science reporting and stories, follow Nell on twitter @nell_sci_NPR. And, as always, email us at [email protected]
|2020-Dec-17 • 16 minutes|
The Science Behind The Historic mRNA Vaccine
Millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, just days ago granted emergency use authorization by the FDA, are being distributed across the country. It's the first widely-available vaccine to use something called mRNA technology. So, with the help of epidemiologist Rene Najera, Maddie explains the science behind this vaccine and how it was developed so quickly.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Dec-15 • 14 minutes|
How A 100-Year-Old Treatment Could Help Save Us From Superbugs
In 2015, Steffanie Strathdee's husband nearly died from a superbug, an antibiotic resistant bacteria he contracted in Egypt. Desperate to save him, she reached out to the scientific community for help. What she got back? A 100-year-old treatment that's considered experimental in the U.S. Strathdee, an infectious disease epidemiologist, tells us how it works, its drawbacks, and its potential role in our fight against superbugs. (Encore episode.)
|2020-Dec-14 • 15 minutes|
To Unlock Sublime Flavor, Cook Like A Scientist
Nik Sharma brings scientific inquiry to the kitchen in his new cookbook, The Flavor Equation.
|2020-Dec-11 • 12 minutes|
Chang'e-5: To The Moon And Back
It's been more than 40 years since rocks from the moon have come back to Earth. But in late November, a Chinese craft landed on the moon's surface--it's the country's first mission designed to retrieve samples of the moon's surface. The mission is called Chang'e-5, in honor of the moon goddess. NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel tells us what the mission will tell us about the solar system, and how it foreshadows China's future ambitions on Earth and in space. Email us at [email protected]
|2020-Dec-10 • 14 minutes|
Climate Change And 2020's Record-Breaking Hurricane Season
The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season broke records and caused enormous damage. NPR climate reporter Rebecca Hersher talks us through the 2020 season--what was driven by climate change and what it means for the future. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Dec-08 • 14 minutes|
Science From Curiosity And A Little Paper
Manu Prakash is the co-inventor of the Foldscope, a low-cost microscope aimed at making scientific tools more accessible. We chat with him about why he wants to change how we think about science, and what it'll take to make science something everyone is able to enjoy. (Encore episode) Follow Maddie on Twitter. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Dec-07 • 12 minutes|
How Effective Are Antibody Treatments For COVID-19?
The FDA has issued emergency use authorizations for two monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 – one produced by Eli Lilly and another by Regeneron. As science correspondent Richard Harris explains, emergency use authorization doesn't assure that these new drugs are effective, but that their potential benefits are likely to outweigh the risks. So today, we get to the bottom of how this type of treatment works and if they'll really make a difference.Email the show your questions, coronavirus or otherwi...
|2020-Dec-04 • 9 minutes|
Why We See Rainbows
It's another "Back To School" episode where we take a concept you were maybe taught in school as a kid, but didn't really learn or just forgot. Short Wave producer Thomas Lu and host Maddie Sofia go on a journey to explore what a rainbow exactly is and how we see them! We all remember ROY G BIV, right?Email us your Back-To-School ideas at [email protected]
|2020-Dec-03 • 16 minutes|
Nebraska Doctor: 'Don't Call Us Heroes.' Dig Deep And Do Your Part
Like many states in the Midwest, Nebraska was somewhat spared during the early days of the pandemic. But now, the state has more cases per capita than any other in the country. We talk with two Omaha doctors who say this latest surge is exhausting health care workers, and one explains why she's tired of people calling health care workers heroes. Are you a health care worker who would like to share your experience with the Short Wave team? Email us at [email protected]
|2020-Dec-01 • 14 minutes|
Too Much Of A Good Thing: The Cautionary Tale of Biotech Crops
Some of the most popular agricultural biotech products are running into problems. These plants have been genetically modified to fend off insects, and have been great for the environment and for farmers. But now they are not working as well. NPR food and agriculture correspondent Dan Charles explains the rise and potential fall of Bt crops, and what happens when farmers use too much of a good thing.Before the year comes to a close, show your love for Short Wave and your local public radio station by making ...
|2020-Nov-30 • 13 minutes|
The Long Legacy Of The Arecibo Telescope
The National Science Foundation recently announced it plans to decommission the Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico. The world-renowned telescope has suffered substantial damage this year. Today, we revisit our conversation with planetary scientist Edgard Rivera-Valentín about the unique role Arecibo has played in both scientific research and popular culture. (Encore episode.) Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Nov-27 • 14 minutes|
How Tall Is Mount Everest REALLY?
We talk about the ridiculously complicated science involved in measuring Mount Everest with NPR international correspondent Lauren Frayer. And we'll hear why the height of the world's highest peak is ever-changing.Looking for more? You can read Lauren's story here at our episode page. It's got links, photos, and other cool information. You can find Lauren on Twitter @lfrayer and host Maddie Sofia @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Nov-26 • 12 minutes|
The Special Connection Between Smell and Memory
Why can a smell trigger such a powerful memory? Biological anthropologist Kara Hoover explains what's going on in the brain when we smell, how smell interacts with taste, and why our sense of smell is heightened in the winter. (Encore episode.) Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected] AND consider supporting Short Wave, by supporting your local NPR station here.
|2020-Nov-24 • 12 minutes|
When Critters Bleed ... On Purpose!
Some insects and reptiles have a strange self-preservation characteristic — they suddenly start bleeding from places like their eyes or knees. NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce looks at "reflex bleeding" and explores some of the creatures that bleed on purpose. For more science reporting and stories, follow Nell on twitter @nell_sci_NPR. And, as always, email us at [email protected]
|2020-Nov-23 • 12 minutes|
Ultracold Soup: Meet The 'Superfluid' States Of Matter
Sharpen your pencils. Get out your notebook. Today, we are unveiling a new series called "Back To School." In these episodes, we take a concept you were taught in school and go a little deeper with it. Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong and host Maddie Sofia explore OTHER states of matter — beyond solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. Have you heard of Bose-Einstein condensate superfluids? It's your lucky day!Email us your Back-To-School ideas at [email protected]
|2020-Nov-20 • 10 minutes|
Measuring Sea Level Rise From Space
A new satellite, scheduled to launch this weekend, is the latest in a parade of missions to measure sea level rise. As climate reporter Rebecca Hersher explains, it's vital data for scientists trying to understand how global warming is affecting the Earth's oceans. For more, you can also read Rebecca's story, "NASA Satellite To Measure Global Sea Level Rise."Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Nov-19 • 15 minutes|
Happy (Harm Reduction) Thanksgiving!
The safest way to have Thanksgiving this year is to stay at home. But realistically, we know many people will still be traveling to gather with loved ones. So in this episode, Emily and Maddie outline ways to gather as safely as possible. We'll cover best practices for quarantining before the trip, testing, ventilation and food preparation. That way, this Thanksgiving you can pass the turkey, hold the 'rona. Additional Resources:CDC Holiday Guidelines Aerosol & Ventilation FAQShort Wave Coronavirus Testing ...
|2020-Nov-17 • 13 minutes|
Trump Administration Lifts Protections For Largest National Forest In US
The Trump administration has officially eliminated federal protections for Alaska's Tongass National Forest, the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world. With the rollback of the Roadless Rule, nine million previously-protected acres are now open further to potential development. What does that mean for trees that have been storing carbon for centuries?For more on this story, check out the episode page. You can email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Nov-16 • 10 minutes|
Who Gets The Vaccine First? And How Will They Get It?
Developing a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine will be crucial to getting the pandemic under control. Also important, distributing it throughout the country once it's been approved. NPR science reporter Pien Huang tells us which high risk groups will get it first, how the vaccine will be distributed (including some challenges), and who's footing the bill for all of this.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Nov-13 • 11 minutes|
The COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Results: What They Mean, What Comes Next
Interim results are in from a large trial of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine. Drug maker Pfizer, working with German company BioNTech, says its vaccine appears to be working really well — it was found to be more than 90 percent effective. Today on Short Wave, host Maddie Sofia talks to NPR science correspondent Joe Palca about what that efficacy number means, details of the study and what more information about the vaccine researchers are awaiting.Reach the show by emailing us at [email protected]
|2020-Nov-12 • 15 minutes|
A Call For Equity In Genomics Research
In the future, genomic research could lead to new treatments for human disease. It turns the data in our DNA into a global commodity. But historically, minoritized communities have been left out of this research. Keolu Fox is a genome scientist trying to change that and advocate for a more equitable approach when Indigenous and other underrepresented communities do participate.Read Keolu's paper, "The Illusion of Inclusion", in the New England Journal of Medicine. Reach the show by emailing us at [email protected]
|2020-Nov-10 • 15 minutes|
Undisclosed: Fire And Flood Risk In The United States
There have been many climate-related disasters this year, and along with those events come a heavy emotional and financial toll for residents. But what NPR climate reporters Rebecca Hersher and Lauren Sommer have found is that most people don't realize their wildfire or flood risk — and that's putting millions in harm's way.Additional Resources:- Read Lauren and Rebecca's series, Climate Risk Hits Home. - Reach out to us if you've tried to get information about the risk of floods or wildfires when moving to...
|2020-Nov-09 • 15 minutes|
What's It Like To Be A COVID-19 'Long Hauler'
That's what they call themselves: long-haulers. They've been sick for months. Many have never had a positive test. Doctors cannot explain their illness any other way, and can only guess at why the virus appears to be with them for so long. Ed Yong of The Atlantic explains what might be going on, and why their experience mirrors that of other sufferers with chronic illnesses who battle to be believed. We also spoke with Hannah Davis, a long-hauler from New York City. (Encore episode.)Read Ed's story on long-...
|2020-Nov-06 • 12 minutes|
The US And The Paris Climate Agreement: 5 Things To Know
President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the landmark Paris climate agreement in 2017 and formally notified the United Nations last year. A mandatory yearlong waiting period ended on Wednesday. Of the nearly 200 nations that signed the agreement, the U.S. is the only one to walk away from its promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. NPR science reporter Rebecca Hersher shares fives things to know. For additional info and links, check out the episode page.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Nov-05 • 13 minutes|
Pandemic Reality Check - Where We Are. Where We're Headed.
Throughout the U.S., the pandemic is still raging. And with cooler weather and the height of flu season ahead, an already dire situation could get much, much worse. On today's show, a pandemic reality check. Short Wave's Maddie Sofia and Emily Kwong talk about how we got here and how we should all be thinking about the holidays and the coming winter.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Nov-03 • 14 minutes|
Touch And Go: NASA Samples An Asteroid
A NASA spacecraft sent out to collect a sample of rock and dust from an asteroid has nabbed so much that it's created an unexpected problem. NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce shares a cautionary tale of a scientific mission that was almost too successful. For additional info and fun links, check out the episode page.Follow Maddie and Nell on Twitter. Maddie's @maddie_sofia and Nell's @nell_sci_NPR. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Nov-02 • 9 minutes|
Welcome To The World Of Whale Falls
What happens after a whale dies? Their carcasses, known as "whale falls," provide a sudden, concentrated food source for organisms in the deep sea. Biologist Diva Amon is our guide through whale-fall ecosystems and the unique species that exist on these fallen whales. (Encore Episode.)
|2020-Oct-30 • 10 minutes|
Micro Wave: "Once In A Blue Moon" Is Happening Again This Halloween
This year, there will be a "blue moon" for Halloween. So for today's show, we're asking: What IS a blue moon? Is the moon ever blue? And are they as rare as the phrase "once in a blue moon" implies?For additional info and fun links, check out the episode page.Follow Maddie and Rebecca on Twitter for more science nuggets. Maddie's @maddie_sofia and Rebecca's @rebeccalramirez. Email the show your celestial musings and inquiries. We're at [email protected]
|2020-Oct-29 • 10 minutes|
One More Step Toward Solving The Sleep & Alzheimer's Puzzle
We know that people with Alzheimer's often have sleep problems. But does it work the other way? Do problems with sleep set the stage for this degenerative brain disease? NPR correspondent Jon Hamilton introduces us to some scientists looking into that connection in this updated report on the key role deep sleep may play in maintaining brain health and protecting the brain against Alzheimer's. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Oct-27 • 13 minutes|
The Mystery Of The Mummified Twinkie
Happy Hallo-Week! Today we have the story of Twinkies that were left alone for eight years. One grew a moldy spot and another shriveled up in its packaging, almost like a mummy. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce explains how two scientists unraveled the mystery of the mummified and moldy snack cakes.
|2020-Oct-26 • 10 minutes|
Crows: Are They Scary Or Just Super Smart?
Crows have gotten a bad rap throughout history — a group of them is called a "murder," after all. To get some insight into crows and perhaps set the record straight, we talked to Kaeli Swift. She's a lecturer at the University of Washington and wrote her doctoral thesis on crow "funerals."
|2020-Oct-23 • 11 minutes|
Micro Wave: Why Do Leaves Change Color During Fall?
Botanist and founder of #BlackBotanistsWeek Tanisha Williams explains why some leaves change color during fall and what shorter days and colder temperatures have to do with it.Plus, a bit of listener mail from you! Which you can always send by emailing [email protected]
|2020-Oct-22 • 13 minutes|
Why These Tiny Particles Are A Big Deal
For much of the pandemic, some scientists had been pushing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recognize that the coronavirus is spread through aerosols--very small particles that can linger in the air. The CDC did that this month, so we brought Senior Science Correspondent Maria Godoy onto the show to explain the distinction, and the implications for staying safe during the pandemic.Is the constant refining of the science behind the coronavirus leaving you confused? Send us your questions at ...
|2020-Oct-20 • 11 minutes|
Randall Munroe's Absurd Scientific Advice For Real-World Problems
How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems is the latest book from Randall Munroe, the cartoonist behind the popular Internet comic, xkcd.
|2020-Oct-19 • 11 minutes|
Quantum Mechanics For Beginners
Monika Schleier-Smith, associate professor of physics at Stanford University, studies quantum mechanics, the theory that explains the nature of the itty bitty parts of our universe: atoms, photons, and individual particles. It's the science responsible for innovations in computers, telecommunications, and medicine. Schleier-Smith was recently awarded a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship for her work in the field. It's research that often starts in a lab and as Schleier-Smith describes, requires both troubleshooting ...
|2020-Oct-16 • 14 minutes|
The Tricky Business Of Coronavirus Testing On College Campuses
We hit the road with NPR Education Reporter Elissa Nadworny. She's been on a weekslong road trip to get an up-close view of how colleges across the U.S. are handling the pandemic. On today's show, she tells us how one university has been using mass testing to fight the spread of the coronavirus on its campus. It's a strategy that's run into some challenges, namely, student behavior.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Oct-15 • 11 minutes|
Micro Wave: You Mite Want To Shower After This
Today's episode is about how you're never alone. That's because there are tiny mites that live on your skin — including your face. They come out at night and mate. And we're not totally sure what they eat. See? Don't you feel better already?Researcher Megan Thoemmes tells us about the lives of these eight-legged creatures — and what they can tell us about ourselves.Also, if you can believe it, Short Wave launched a year ago today. Happy anniversary to us! And thanks for listening!
|2020-Oct-13 • 14 minutes|
Gender Discrimination And Harassment At Sea
Back in December, we brought you two episodes on the MOSAiC expedition. With hundreds of scientists from 20 countries, the German-led polar research mission is the largest in history. But the mission has also been marked by reports of gender discrimination and harassment. So today, we're turning away from the research and talking to Chelsea Harvey, an E&E News reporter who joined MOSAiC for several weeks. We talk about her recent story and her own experiences on the expedition.
|2020-Oct-12 • 13 minutes|
Butterflies Have Hearts In Their Wings. You Won't Believe Where They Have Eyes
Adriana Briscoe, a professor of biology and ecology at UC Irvine, studies vision in butterflies. As part of her research, she's trained them to detect light of a certain color. She also explains why they bask in the sunlight, and why some of them have 'hearts' in their wings. Plus, you'll never guess where their photoreceptors are.She's written about the importance of teachers and mentors in diversifying the STEM fields. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Oct-09 • 10 minutes|
Micro Wave: Does Talking To Plants Help Them Grow?
Environmental scientist Heidi Appel explains how plants detect sound — and whether talking to yours could help them grow big and strong. Plus, a bit of listener mail from you! Which you can always send by emailing [email protected]
|2020-Oct-08 • 11 minutes|
What Coronavirus Test Results Do — And Don't — Mean
Even though we've been living with the pandemic for months, there's still lots of confusion about coronavirus tests and what the results do — and don't — mean. NPR correspondent Rob Stein explains the types of tests, when they are most accurate and how to make sense of the results. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Oct-06 • 14 minutes|
The Fattest Bear Wins!
In honor of Fat Bear Week coming to a close, Short Wave is revisiting our episode on black bear hibernation. (Fat Bear Week is the annual tournament celebrating some of the fattening bears of Katmai National Park.) On today's show, Rae Wynn-Grant, a large carnivore biologist, explains there's a lot more going on during hibernation than you might expect.
|2020-Oct-05 • 14 minutes|
The Nobels Overwhelmingly Go to Men — This Year's Prize For Medicine Was No Exception
From who historically wins the awards, to how they portray the process of science and collaboration, host Maddie Sofia and NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce discuss the many problems with Nobel Prizes in science. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Oct-02 • 10 minutes|
Micro Wave: Why Some Fruits Ripen Faster In A Paper Bag
Pomologist Juan Carlos Melgar explains two key factors to why some fruits ripen faster in a paper bag — and others don't. Plus, a bit of listener mail from you! Which you can always send by emailing [email protected]
|2020-Oct-01 • 13 minutes|
Want To Dismantle Racism In Science? Start In The Classroom
Some of the most prestigious scientists in history advanced racist and eugenicist views. But why is that rarely mentioned in textbooks? Today on the show, we speak with science educators building an anti-racist perspective into their curriculum and seeking to make the science classroom more inclusive.
|2020-Sep-29 • 15 minutes|
Fueled By Climate Change, Hurricanes Are Causing Industrial Accidents. Who's Liable?
Fueled by climate change, hurricanes are becoming stronger and more frequent. Those storms have repeatedly led to spills and fires at chemical manufacturing plants along the Gulf Coast. But can companies — and the people who work for them — be held responsible or even sent to prison for failing to adequately prepare for climate change? NPR's Rebecca Hersher reported on that question, which is at the center of a recent lawsuit. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Sep-28 • 15 minutes|
The CDC Doesn't Know Enough About Coronavirus In Tribal Nations
A recent CDC report is notable for what it does not say about how the coronavirus is affecting Native Americans and Alaskan Natives.
|2020-Sep-25 • 10 minutes|
Micro Wave: Mighty Mice, Drugs And Hopes For Space Voyagers
NPR Science Correspondent Jon Hamilton gives us an update on those mighty mice that went into space this past winter. The results could have big implications for the future of space travel.Check out the study to learn more about the results.Also, since it's a Micro Wave, we hear some listener mail from you! Which you can always send us by emailing [email protected]
|2020-Sep-24 • 13 minutes|
A Short Wave Guide To Joe Biden's Coronavirus Plan
With election season underway, we present a Short Wave guide (with some help from our friends at NPR Politics) to Joe Biden's plan to combat the coronavirus. Political correspondent and NPR Politics Podcast co-host Scott Detrow breaks it down for us.Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia and Scott Detrow @scottdetrow. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Sep-23 • 1 minutes|
ICYMI: 200+ Short Wave Episodes Are Waiting For You
In case you missed our announcement last week, Short Wave is temporarily shifting production schedules. We're publishing episodes in your feed four times each week instead of five. That means we'll be taking a break every Wednesday for a bit. But, don't worry! We've got a giant back catalog for you to browse in the meantime. Like this episode full of listener questions all about the flu. And, if you're needing a break from the news, check out our very first 'Animal Slander' episode to find out whether or no...
|2020-Sep-22 • 14 minutes|
Preparing For Perimenopause: You Don't Have To Do It Alone
Perimenopause, the period of transition to menopause, is still a largely misunderstood chapter of reproductive life. It brings about both physical and mental health changes that doctors rarely educate their patients about. We're joined by health correspondent Rhitu Chatterjee to talk about perimenopause, and how to advocate for yourself as you're going through it.
|2020-Sep-21 • 10 minutes|
How Hackers Could Fool Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence might not be as smart as we think. University and military researchers are studying how attackers could hack into AI systems by exploiting how these systems learn. It's known as "adversarial AI." In this encore episode, Dina Temple-Raston tells us that some of these experiments use seemingly simple techniques. For more, check out Dina's special series, I'll Be Seeing You. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Sep-18 • 13 minutes|
A Key To Black Infant Survival? Black Doctors
In the United States, Black infants die at over twice the rate of White infants. New research explores one key factor that may contribute to the disproportionately high rates of death among Black newborns: the race of their doctor. Reproductive health equity researcher Rachel Hardeman explains the findings. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Sep-17 • 13 minutes|
How The U.S. Is Caught In A "Pandemic Spiral"
Ed Yong, a science writer for The Atlantic, writes that the U.S. is caught in a "pandemic spiral." He argues some of our intuitions have been misleading our response, rather than guiding us out of disaster. For instance, flitting from from one prominent solution to another, without fully implementing any of them. To counter these unhelpful instincts, he offers some solutions.Read Ed's piece: "America Is Trapped in a Pandemic Spiral".As always, you can reach the show by emailing [email protected]
|2020-Sep-16 • 2 minutes|
Miss an episode? Now's your chance to catch up...
In case you missed our announcement Monday, Short Wave is temporarily shifting production schedules. We're dropping episodes into your feed four times a week instead of five. That means we'll be taking a break every Wednesday through the end of the year. But, fear not! We've got a giant back catalog for you to browse in the meantime. Like this episode from last year about three factors at the heart of why California is at such high risk for wildfires. Or this one about Giant Panda conservation and zoos. We'...
|2020-Sep-15 • 11 minutes|
Saving Water A Flush At A Time
Flushing toilets can consume a lot of water. So Tak-Sing Wong, a biomedical engineer at Penn State University, is trying to minimize how much is needed. Wong developed a slippery coating for the inside of a toilet bowl. In this encore episode, he tells us it can potentially move human waste more efficiently, leaving a cleaner bowl with less water. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Sep-14 • 15 minutes|
A Mathematician's Manifesto For Rethinking Gender
In her new book, x+y, mathematician Eugenia Cheng uses her specialty, category theory, to challenge how we think about gender and the traits associated with it. Instead, she calls for a new dimension of thinking, characterizing behavior in a way completely removed from considerations of gender. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Sep-11 • 10 minutes|
Micro Wave: Why Mosquitoes Bite You More Than Your Friends
Asked and answered: why some of you might be more prone to being bitten by mosquitoes* than others. Turns out, some interesting factors could make you more appetizing. Plus, in true micro wave fashion, we go over some of your delightful listener mail.*In general, much more research needs to be done to understand all the nuances of what makes us so appealing to some mosquitoes.Email us your scientific questions, praise, comments and concerns at [email protected] It just might end up in an episode!
|2020-Sep-10 • 11 minutes|
This Is Not A Typo: One In Four Animals Known To Science Is A Beetle
NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce had to know more when she recently heard this mind-bending fact for the first time: a quarter of all known animal species are beetles. Turns out — it's not just that beetles are incredibly diverse. It's that they inspire a lot of passionate study within the scientific community. But there's at least one other animal that might give beetles a run for their money. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Sep-09 • 13 minutes|
Managing Wildfire Through Cultural Burning
Fire has always been part of California's landscape. But long before the vast blazes of recent years, Native American tribes held controlled burns that cleared out underbrush, encouraged new plant growth, and helped manage wildfires. It's a tradition that disappeared with the arrival of Western settlers. NPR climate correspondent Lauren Sommer explains how tribal leaders are trying to restore the practice by partnering up with state officials who are starting to see cultural burns as a way to help bring ext...
|2020-Sep-08 • 14 minutes|
The International Scientists Getting Pushed Out
About 30% of people in science and engineering jobs in the U.S. were born outside the country. So when the Trump Administration suspended certain work visas in June, including one held by a lot of international scientists, research labs across the nation felt the effects. On the show, we talk to a physicist affected by the order, and The Chronicle of Higher Education's Karin Fischer about what policies like this mean for science research in the U.S.
|2020-Sep-04 • 13 minutes|
SPACE WEEK: An Astrophysicist On The End Of Everything
Astrophysicist Katie Mack breaks down some ways the universe will end — as told in her new book, The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking).
|2020-Sep-03 • 12 minutes|
SPACE WEEK: Is Space Junk Cluttering Up The Final Frontier?
Since the dawn of Sputnik in 1957, space-faring nations have been filling Earth's orbit with satellites. Think GPS, weather forecasting, telecommunications satellites. And as those have increased, so, too, has space junk. On today's show, we talk about the first mission to clean up space junk and the problem debris poses to sustainability in space. (Encore episode.)
|2020-Sep-02 • 14 minutes|
SPACE WEEK: What Would It Be Like To Fall Into A Black Hole?
Black holes are one of the most beguiling objects in our universe. What are they exactly? How do they affect the universe? And what would it be like to fall into one? We venture beyond the point of no return with Yale astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan, into a fascinating world of black holes — where the laws of physics break down. (Encore episode.)
|2020-Sep-01 • 13 minutes|
SPACE WEEK: Every Moon, Ranked
Science writer Jennifer Leman did it. She ranked all 158 moons in our solar system. The criteria? Interviews with NASA scientists, astronomers, and her own moonpinions. She talks to host Maddie Sofia about some of her favorites. Here's her full list for Popular Mechanics. (Encore episode.) Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Aug-31 • 16 minutes|
SPACE WEEK: The Mystery Of Dark Energy
It's Space Week on Short Wave! Today, an encore of our episode on dark energy. This mysterious energy makes up almost 70% of our universe and is believed to be the reason the universe is expanding. Yet very little is known about it. To figure out what we do know — and what it could tell us about the fate of the universe — we talk to astrophysicist Sarafina Nance.
|2020-Aug-28 • 12 minutes|
The Arecibo Telescope Is Damaged — And That's A Big Deal
In early August a cable snapped at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, causing substantial damage to one of the largest single dish radio telescopes in the world. Planetary scientist Edgard Rivera-Valentín explains what's at stake until the damage is repaired and the unique role the telescope plays in both scientific research and popular culture. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Aug-27 • 13 minutes|
The Science Of Wildfire Smoke
Smoke from wildfires can travel huge distances. We've already seen smoke from the fires in California reach all the way to Minnesota. And with all that smoke comes possible risks to human health. So what actually is smoke? Jessica Gilman, an atmospheric chemist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, explains what it's made of, how it behaves in the atmosphere, and smoke's role in climate change.
|2020-Aug-26 • 13 minutes|
What Does A Healthy Rainforest Sound Like?
On a rapidly changing planet, there are many ways to measure the health of an ecosystem. Can sound be one of them? We dive into a new methodology that applies machine learning technology to audio soundscape recordings. Lead researcher Sarab Sethi explains how this method could be used to potentially predict ecosystem health around the world.
|2020-Aug-25 • 14 minutes|
Scorpion Vs Mouse: A Mind-Blowing Desert Showdown
Encore episode. This one doesn't end the way you'd expect. Inspired by the Netflix documentary series "Night On Earth," we learn everything we can about a mouse and scorpion who do battle on the regular — from two scientists who study them: Ashlee Rowe at the University of Oklahoma and Lauren Esposito at the California Academy of Sciences. If you have Netflix, you can watch the critters clash about 18 minutes into the episode 'Moonlit Plains' here. Read more about Lauren's work with scorpions here, and Ashl...
|2020-Aug-24 • 13 minutes|
Safely Socializing In The Time Of 'Rona
Socializing is critical for mental and emotional health. You need it. We need it. But what's the safest way to socialize during a pandemic? We propose a few rules-of-thumb and suggestions to see you through, whether you're isolating at home or an essential worker on the job. Plus, check out Yuki Noguchi's reporting on cancer's deepening impacts during the pandemic.
|2020-Aug-21 • 13 minutes|
Science Movie Club: 'Arrival'
The 2016 movie 'Arrival,' an adaptation of Ted Chiang's novella 'Story of Your Life,' captured the imaginations of science fiction fans worldwide. Field linguist Jessica Coon, who consulted on the film, breaks down what the movie gets right — and wrong — about linguistics.Have ideas for our next installment of the Science Movie Club? Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Aug-20 • 11 minutes|
How The Lack of Fans Is Changing the Psychology of Sports
Professional sports are back - but it's anything but normal. The most obvious difference is the glaring absence of fans in the stands. This has led to some creative experimentation with recordings of crowd noise being piped into venues. We talk to a sports psychology researcher about the effects that empty bleachers and lack of real crowd noise are having on players, coaches, referees and fans.
|2020-Aug-19 • 13 minutes|
The Science Behind Storytelling
Encore episode. Storytelling can be a powerful tool to convey information, even in the world of science. It can also shift stereotypes about who scientists are. We talked to someone who knows all about this — Liz Neeley, the Executive Director of Story Collider, a nonprofit focused on telling "true, personal stories about science."
|2020-Aug-18 • 13 minutes|
Farming Releases Carbon From The Earth's Soil Into The Air. Can We Put It Back?
Traditional farming depletes the soil and releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But decades ago, a scientist named Rattan Lal helped start a movement based on the idea that carbon could be put back into the soil — a practice known today as "regenerative agriculture." NPR food and agriculture correspondent Dan Charles explains how it works and why the idea is having a moment. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Aug-17 • 14 minutes|
The Science Is Simple, So Why Is Opening Schools So Complicated?
School districts, parents and teachers are all facing big decisions about how to return to the classroom this fall. NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey and education correspondent Cory Turner join Geoff Brumfiel to discuss what the science says about kids and COVID-19, what schools are doing to try to keep students and teachers safe and why there are so many differing approaches in school districts around the U.S. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Aug-14 • 13 minutes|
Save The Parasites
Saving endangered species usually brings to mind tigers or whales. But scientists say many parasites are also at risk of extinction. Short Wave's Emily Kwong talks with Chelsea Wood, an Assistant Professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington, who tells us about the important role parasites play in ecosystems and a new global plan to protect them.
|2020-Aug-13 • 13 minutes|
How To Know If A Hurricane Is Coming For You
Federal forecasters are predicting a busy hurricane season this year — three to six of them could be major hurricanes. So how do you know if one is headed toward your community, and if so, how to prepare? There are maps and forecasts, but they're often confusing. NPR climate reporter Rebecca Hersher explains how to avoid the most common mistakes.
|2020-Aug-12 • 13 minutes|
1st U.S. Dog With COVID-19 Has Died, And There's A Lot We Still Don't Know
Buddy, an adult German shepherd from Staten Island, was the first dog in the U.S. to test positive for the coronavirus. His death reveals just how little we know about COVID-19 and pets. Natasha Daly reported on Buddy's story exclusively for National Geographic.
|2020-Aug-11 • 12 minutes|
Gene-Altered Squid Could Be The Next Lab Rats
The first genetically altered squid is here. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce explains how this breakthrough was made and why it's a game changer for scientists who study these critters.
|2020-Aug-10 • 14 minutes|
Why Herd Immunity Won't Save Us
Herd immunity. It's the idea that enough people become immune to an infectious disease that it's no longer likely to spread. It makes sense theoretically. But as NPR's Geoff Brumfiel tells us, the reality — in this coronavirus pandemic and without a vaccine — is potentially full of risk and maybe even unachievable.
|2020-Aug-07 • 9 minutes|
Micro Wave: Spreading Warm Bread With Socks
It's another Micro Wave! Today, what happens in your brain when you notice a semantic or grammatical mistake ... according to neuroscience. Sarah Phillips, a neurolinguist, tells us all about the N400 and the P600 responses. Plus, we dive into some listener mail — which you can send to us by emailing [email protected]
|2020-Aug-06 • 13 minutes|
Wearing A Mask Could Be Even More Important Than We Thought
A new paper and growing observational evidence suggest that a mask could protect you from developing a serious case of COVID-19 — by cutting down on the amount of virus that takes root in your body. Katherine Wu reported on that evidence for the New York Times. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Aug-05 • 12 minutes|
How Gene Therapy Helped Conner Run
Gene therapy has helped a 9-year-old boy regain enough muscle strength to run. If successful in others, it could change the lives of thousands of children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. NPR's Jon Hamilton tells us about Conner and his family...and one of the scientists who helped develop the treatment, a pioneer in the field of gene therapy.
|2020-Aug-04 • 12 minutes|
The Search For Ancient Civilizations On Earth ... From Space
Encore episode. Sarah Parcak explains how she uses satellite imagery and data to solve one of the biggest challenges in archaeology: where to start digging. Her book is called 'Archaeology From Space: How The Future Shapes Our Past'.
|2020-Aug-03 • 13 minutes|
Pregnancy And COVID-19: What We Know And How To Protect Yourself
How dangerous is COVID-19 for pregnant women and their babies? The research has been scant and the data spotty. Dr. Laura Riley, the chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine and the Obstetrician-in-Chief at New York-Presbyterian, explains what we know at this point and what pregnant women can do to protect themselves.
|2020-Jul-31 • 14 minutes|
Coronavirus Q&A: Running Outside, Petting Dogs, And More
What's the deal with wiping down groceries? How often should you sanitize your phone? Can you greet other people's dogs? In this episode, an excerpt of Maddie's appearance on another NPR podcast where she answered those questions and more. Listen to 'It's Been A Minute with Sam Sanders' on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Email us at [email protected]
|2020-Jul-30 • 14 minutes|
Butterflies Have Hearts In Their Wings. You'll Never Guess Where They Have Eyes
Adriana Briscoe, a professor of biology and ecology at UC Irvine, studies vision in butterflies. As part of her research, she's trained them to detect light of a certain color. She also explains why they bask in the sunlight, and why some of them have 'hearts' in their wings. Plus ... you'll never guess where their photoreceptors are.She's written about the importance of teachers and mentors in diversifying the STEM fields. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jul-29 • 10 minutes|
Mars Is The Place To Go This Summer
The United Arab Emirates launched a mission to Mars earlier this month, followed by China days later. And tomorrow, NASA is scheduled to launch its own mission to the red planet that includes a six-wheeled rover called Perseverance, as well as a tiny helicopter. Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong talks with NPR's Joe Palca, who explains why these launches are happening now and the goal of the missions when they get there.
|2020-Jul-28 • 10 minutes|
The Controversy Around COVID-19 Hospital Data
Data are so more than just a bunch of numbers, especially when it's the data hospitals are reporting about COVID-19. Earlier this month, the Trump Administration made a sudden change to the way that information is shared. The process bypasses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, raising concern among some public health officials. NPR's Pien Huang explains the recent controversy, and why the way COVID-19 hospital data are reported is such a big deal.
|2020-Jul-27 • 12 minutes|
Eavesdropping On Whales In A Quiet Ocean
The pandemic has led to a drop in ship traffic around the world, which means the oceans are quieter. It could be momentary relief for marine mammals that are highly sensitive to noise. NPR's Lauren Sommer introduces us to scientists who are listening in, hoping to learn how whale communication is changing when the drone of ships is turned down.
|2020-Jul-24 • 15 minutes|
Why Shame Is A Bad Public Health Tool — Especially In A Pandemic
So much of dealing with the pandemic is about how each of us behaves in public. And it's easy to get mad when we see people not following public health guidelines, especially when it looks like they're having fun.But Julia Marcus of Harvard Medical School says there are pitfalls to focusing only on what we can see, and more empathetic ways to create new social norms. Julia's written about that for The Atlantic. Here's some of her recent work. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jul-23 • 16 minutes|
CDC Employees Call Out A 'Toxic Culture Of Racial Aggressions'
Over 1,400 current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) employees are demanding that the organization "clean its own house" of what they're calling a "culture of toxic racial aggression, bullying and marginalization." NPR reporter Selena Simmons-Duffin broke this story and tells us what the response has been from CDC and former employees.Read the letter and Selena's reporting.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jul-22 • 12 minutes|
America's 'Never-Ending Battle Against Flesh-Eating Screw Worms'
Sarah Zhang wrote about it for the Atlantic: a decades-long scientific operation in Central America that keeps flesh-eating screw worms effectively eradicated from every country north of Panama. Sarah tells the story of the science behind the effort, and the man who came up with it. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jul-21 • 13 minutes|
Fat Phobia And Its Racist Past And Present
Where does our preference for thinness really come from? As Sabrina Strings explains in her book, Fearing the Black Body, the answer is much more complicated than health or aesthetics. She argues the origins of modern day fat phobia can be traced all the way back to slavery, and Black people are still dealing with the consequences.
|2020-Jul-20 • 12 minutes|
The Troubling Link Between Deforestation and Disease
There's evidence deforestation has gotten worse under the pandemic. It's especially troubling news. Scientists are discovering a strong correlation between deforestation and disease outbreaks. NPR correspondent Nathan Rott talks to Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong.
|2020-Jul-17 • 9 minutes|
Micro Wave: The Science Of Microwave Ovens + Listener Mail
Introducing Micro Waves: low-calorie episodes featuring bite-sized science, mail from our listeners, and...maybe other stuff in the future? We'll figure it out. Write to us at [email protected]
|2020-Jul-16 • 14 minutes|
Why The Pandemic Is Getting Worse... And How To Think About The Future
Rising cases, not enough testing, and not enough people taking the virus seriously. NPR science correspondent Richard Harris explains why the virus is surging again, what's causing lower fatality rates, and how to think about the future of the pandemic. For more on death rates in the latest surge, read: "COVID-19 Cases Are Rising, So Why Are Deaths Flatlining?"Follow Maddie at @maddie_sofia and Richard @rrichardh. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jul-15 • 13 minutes|
Understanding Unconscious Bias
The human brain can process 11 million bits of information every second. But our conscious minds can handle only 40 to 50 bits of information a second. So our brains sometimes take cognitive shortcuts that can lead to unconscious or implicit bias, with serious consequences for how we perceive and act toward other people. Where does unconscious bias come from? How does it work in the brain and ultimately impact society?
|2020-Jul-14 • 12 minutes|
Why Do Flying Snakes Wiggle In The Air?
Some snakes can fly, and we don't mean on a plane. Certain snakes that live in South and Southeast Asia can leap off branches, undulating through the air, onto another tree. But why do they wiggle? NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce shares one researcher's quest to find out.
|2020-Jul-13 • 14 minutes|
How Record Heat In Siberia Is Messing With...Everything
Climate change and this year's weather patterns are behind the record-breaking heat in Siberia. NPR Climate Reporter Rebecca Hersher tells us how it's contributed to all sorts of problems there — mosquito swarms, buckling roads, wildfires. And we'll hear how these high temps are threatening the livelihoods of Indigenous Russians.
|2020-Jul-10 • 13 minutes|
Lightbulbs Strike Back
Encore episode. Humans have a long history of inventions that shape the world around us: electricity, telephones, computers, music — the list goes on. But as Ainissa Ramirez explains in her new book, The Alchemy of Us, those inventions are shaping us, too.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jul-09 • 14 minutes|
The Congolese Doctor Who Discovered Ebola
Encore episode. Jean-Jacques Muyembe is a Congolese doctor who headed up the response to the recent Ebola outbreak in Congo. Back in 1976, he was the first doctor to collect a sample of the virus. But his crucial role in discovering Ebola is often overlooked. NPR's East Africa correspondent Eyder Peralta helps us correct the record. Follow Eyder on Twitter — he's @eyderp and Maddie's @maddie_sofia. You can always reach the show by emailing [email protected]
|2020-Jul-08 • 13 minutes|
This NASA Engineer Is Bringing Math And Science To Hip-Hop
Encore episode. NASA engineer Dajae Williams is using hip hop to make math and science more accessible to young people of color. We talk with Dajae about her path to NASA, and how music helped her fall in love with math and science when she was a teenager.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jul-07 • 12 minutes|
Honeybees Need Your Help
Encore episode. A deadly triangle of factors is killing off U.S. honeybees. Last year, forty percent of honeybee colonies died in the U.S., continuing an alarming trend. Entomologist Sammy Ramsey tells host Maddie Sofia about the "three P's" and what listeners can do to help our fuzzy-flighted friends.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jul-06 • 15 minutes|
The Importance Of Black Doctors
Though Black Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, they represent only 5% of physicians. How does that lack of diversity in the physician workforce impact Black patients' health and well-being? Dr. Owen Garrick, the CEO and President of Bridge Clinical Research, wanted to know.
|2020-Jul-03 • 44 minutes|
Typhoid Mary: Lessons From An Infamous Quarantine
A special episode from our colleagues at NPR's history podcast Throughline. When a cook who carried typhoid fever showed no symptoms and refused to stop working, authorities forcibly quarantined her for nearly three decades. Was she a perfect villain? Or a woman scapegoated because of her background? Throughline hosts Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei tell the story of Typhoid Mary — a story about journalism, the powers of the state, and the tension between personal freedom and public health.Email the sh...
|2020-Jul-02 • 10 minutes|
Backyard Birding 101
If you pay attention to what's going on in your own backyard, ornithologist Viviana Ruiz Gutierrez says the birds among us have been putting on a great show. Gutierrez explains migration, mating dances, nesting, and shares tips on how to be hospitable to the birds in your neighborhood.
|2020-Jul-01 • 12 minutes|
One Way To Slow Coronavirus Outbreaks At Meatpacking Plants? A Lot Of Testing
Meatpacking plants have been some of the biggest COVID-19 hot spots in the country. Thousands of workers have been infected, dozens have died. As plants reopen, one strategy has helped slow the virus's spread: large-scale employee testing. NPR food and agriculture correspondent Dan Charles explains how this approach could be a lesson for other industries as well.
|2020-Jun-30 • 13 minutes|
Octocopter Set to Explore Titan, Saturn's Very Cool Moon
NASA is on a mission to explore Titan — the largest moon of Saturn. To do that, scientists are building a nuclear-powered, self-driving drone (technically an octocopter) called Dragonfly. Scheduled to launch in 2026 and arrive on Titan in 2034, Dragonfly could provide clues about how the building blocks of life started here on Earth.
|2020-Jun-29 • 12 minutes|
Meet The Climate Scientist Trying to Fly Less for Work
A few years ago, climate scientist Kim Cobb had a brutal realization about how much she was flying for conferences and meetings. Those flights were adding lots of climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Host Maddie Sofia talks with her about her push to get scientists to fly less for work, and what happened when the pandemic suddenly made that idea a reality.
|2020-Jun-26 • 11 minutes|
A COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Need To Know
Approximately 200 COVID-19 vaccines are being actively developed, a process that health officials are expediting to help end the pandemic. Today on the show, NPR science correspondent Joe Palca walks us through the latest in vaccine development — from how a coronavirus vaccine would work to the challenges of distributing it to the world.
|2020-Jun-25 • 13 minutes|
Minneapolis' Bold Plan To Tackle Racial Inequity And Climate Change
Racial discrimination shaped the map of Minneapolis. Then city zoning locked many of those patterns into place. Maddie talks with NPR climate reporter Lauren Sommer about Minneapolis' bold plan to tackle housing disparities — and climate change. The new rules went into effect earlier this year. Community groups are calling on the city to follow through.
|2020-Jun-24 • 11 minutes|
The Science Behind That Fresh Rain Smell
Scientists have known for decades that one of the main causes of the smell of fresh rain is geosmin: a chemical compound produced by soil-dwelling bacteria. But why do the bacteria make it in the first place? It was a bacteria-based mystery... until now! Maddie gets some answers from reporter Emily Vaughn, former Short Wave intern.
|2020-Jun-23 • 14 minutes|
Tech Companies Are Limiting Police Use of Facial Recognition. Here's Why
Earlier this month, IBM said it was getting out of the facial recognition business. Then Amazon and Microsoft announced prohibitions on law enforcement using their facial recognition tech. There's growing evidence these algorithmic systems are riddled with gender and racial bias. Today on the show, Short Wave speaks with AI policy researcher Mutale Nkonde about algorithmic bias — how facial recognition software can discriminate and reflect the biases of society.
|2020-Jun-22 • 9 minutes|
There Is No 'Second Wave'
America is still stuck in the first one. Maddie and Emily examine how the idea of a 'second wave' of coronavirus might have taken hold. NPR science correspondent Nurith Aizenman's report on why the first wave isn't over.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jun-19 • 13 minutes|
A Kazoo And The Evolution Of Speech
Encore episode. Researchers discovered that this simple instrument could offer insights into the evolution of human speech. Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong talks with primatologist Adriano Lameira about a growing body of evidence that humans may not be the only great apes with voice control. Read the paper he published last year.P.S. Sign up for our trivia night this Tuesday, June 23, at 8 pm EDT!Follow Maddie Sofia @maddie_sofia and Emily Kwong @emilykwong1234. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jun-18 • 13 minutes|
The Inseparable Link Between Climate Change And Racial Justice
Marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson wrote a Washington Post op-ed about the ways the fight around climate change and racial justice go hand in hand. Host Maddie Sofia talks with her about that and how Ayana says the fight against climate change could be stronger if people of color weren't being constantly exhausted by racism.
|2020-Jun-17 • 11 minutes|
How Many People Transmit The Coronavirus Without Ever Feeling Sick?
It's called asymptomatic spread. Recently a scientist with the World Health Organization created confusion when she seemed to suggest it was "very rare." It's not, as the WHO attempted to clarify.NPR science reporter Pien Huang explains what scientists know about asymptomatic spread, and what might have caused the WHO's mixed messages. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jun-16 • 12 minutes|
We Don't Know Enough About Coronavirus Immunity
Does getting the coronavirus once make you immune to it or could you get it again? Many are looking to antibody tests for answers. The logic is: if I have antibodies for the coronavirus, I must be immune.Well, turns out ... it's complicated, as Katherine Wu writes for the Smithsonian Magazine. We invited her onto the show to explain. Between episodes, you can catch up with Maddie on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Plus, we always want to hear what's on your mind — coronavirus or otherwise. Tell us by emailing shortw...
|2020-Jun-15 • 12 minutes|
The Fight Over A Weedkiller, In The Fields And In The Courts
A federal court recently ordered farmers to stop spraying one of the country's most widely used herbicides, dicamba. NPR's food and agriculture correspondent Dan Charles tells us the ruling has turned the world of Midwestern agriculture upside down. Then the Environmental Protection Agency came out with its own order.
|2020-Jun-12 • 15 minutes|
Coronavirus 'Long-Haulers' Have Been Sick For Months. Why?
That's what they call themselves: long-haulers. They've been sick for months. Many have never had a positive test. Doctors cannot explain their illness any other way, and can only guess at why the virus appears to be with them for so long. Ed Yong of The Atlantic explains what might be going on, and why their experience mirrors that of other sufferers with chronic illnesses who battle to be believed. We also spoke with Hannah Davis, a long-hauler from New York City. Read Ed's story on long-haulers here. Rea...
|2020-Jun-11 • 15 minutes|
Spinosaurus Makes Waves
Get excited because today, we're talking about the Spinosaurus, the first known swimming dinosaur.
|2020-Jun-10 • 12 minutes|
How Tear Gas Affects The Body
In protests around the country, law enforcement agencies have used tear gas to disperse crowds. But is it safe? ProPublica environment reporter Lisa Song speaks with Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong about the potential dangers of that practice, especially in the middle of a respiratory pandemic.
|2020-Jun-09 • 11 minutes|
People Are Volunteering To Be Exposed To The Coronavirus...For Science
In this episode, Maddie Sofia talks with Invisibilia's Alix Spiegel about the bioethics of conducting human challenge trials with the aim of producing a viable coronavirus vaccine. We hear from James Kublin, a clinical health professor in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington, and from Lehua Gray, a 32-year-old woman interested in participating in a trial.
|2020-Jun-08 • 14 minutes|
Science Is For Everyone — Until It's Not
Encore episode. Brandon Taylor's story has a happy ending. Today he's a successful writer whose debut novel 'Real Life' received glowing reviews earlier this year. But his success only underscores what science lost when Brandon walked away from a graduate biochemistry program in 2016. He tells host Maddie Sofia why he left, and what he misses.Read his essay in BuzzFeed, 'Working In Science Was A Brutal Education. That's Why I Left.'Find and support your local public radio station at donate.npr.org/short. Em...
|2020-Jun-06 • 23 minutes|
Code Switch: A Decade Of Watching Black People Die
The last few weeks have been filled with devastating news — stories about the police killing black people. So today, we're turning the mic over to our colleagues at NPR's Code Switch. Now, as always, they're doing really important work covering race and identity in the United States. In this episode, they spoke with Jamil Smith, who wrote the essay "What Does Seeing Black Men Die Do For You?" for The New Republic. Thank you for listening.
|2020-Jun-05 • 15 minutes|
Coronavirus And Racism Are Dual Public Health Emergencies
Across the country, demonstrators are protesting the death of George Floyd and the ongoing systemic racism that is woven into the fabric of the United States. The protests come in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic that is disproportionately killing people of color — particularly black Americans. We talk to public health expert David Williams about how these two historic moments are intertwined.
|2020-Jun-04 • 12 minutes|
#BlackBirdersWeek Seeks To Make The Great Outdoors Open To All
Happy #BlackBirdersWeek! This week, black birders around the world are rallying around Christian Cooper, a black man and avid birder, who was harassed by a white woman while birding in Central Park. We talk with#BlackBirdersWeek co-founder Chelsea Connor about how black birders are changing the narrative around who gets to enjoy nature and the challenges black birders face.
|2020-Jun-03 • 11 minutes|
Meet The 'Glacier Mice.' Scientists Can't Figure Out Why They Move.
In 2006, while hiking around the Root Glacier in Alaska, glaciologist Tim Bartholomaus encountered something strange and unexpected on the ice — dozens of fuzzy, green balls of moss. It turns out, other glaciologists had come across before and lovingly named them "glacier mice."
|2020-Jun-02 • 16 minutes|
The Key To Coronavirus Testing Is Community
We examine the Unidos en Salud testing effort in San Francisco's Mission District. Doctors there noticed coronavirus was disproportionately affecting the Latinx community.
|2020-Jun-01 • 13 minutes|
The World Is Constantly Running Out Of Helium
Encore episode. Helium is the second-most common element in the cosmos, but it's far rarer on planet Earth. As part of our celebration of the periodic table's 150th birthday, correspondent Geoff Brumfiel shares a brief history of helium's ascent, to become a crucial part of rocket ships, MRI machines, and birthday parties. Read more of Geoff's reporting on helium here.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-May-29 • 12 minutes|
What We Will — And Won't — Remember About The Pandemic
There's no doubt we're living through a Big Historic Event, but that doesn't necessarily mean we'll remember it all that well. Shayla Love, a senior staff writer for VICE, explains what memory research and events from the past say we will and won't remember about living through the coronavirus pandemic. Plus, why essential workers may remember this time differently from people who are staying home.
|2020-May-28 • 15 minutes|
The Pandemic Cut Down Car Traffic. Why Not Air Pollution?
An NPR analysis of a key air pollutant showed levels have not changed dramatically since the pandemic curbed car traffic in the U.S. NPR science reporter Rebecca Hersher and NPR climate correspondent Lauren Sommer explain why — and what really makes our air dirty. Here's their story.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-May-27 • 14 minutes|
What Would It Be Like To Fall Into A Black Hole?
Black holes are one of the most beguiling objects in our universe. What are they exactly? How do they affect the universe? And what would it be like to fall into one? We venture beyond the point of no return with Yale astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan, into a fascinating world of black holes — where the laws of physics break down. Talk the mysteries of our universe with Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong on Twitter @emilykwong1234. Email the show your biggest cosmological questions at [email protected]
|2020-May-26 • 13 minutes|
Space Launch! (It's Tomorrow And It's Historic.)
Tomorrow, two NASA astronauts are set to head up into space on a brand new spacecraft, built by the company SpaceX. The last time NASA sent a crew up in an entirely new vehicle was in 1981 with the launch of the Space Shuttle. Maddie talks to NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce about tomorrow's launch and how it compares to that earlier milestone. We'll also look at how this public-private partnership is changing the future of space exploration.
|2020-May-25 • 3 minutes|
A Short Wave Mad Lib
We're off for Memorial Day, so Maddie and Emily have a special Short Wave mad lib for you. Back with a new episode tomorrow. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-May-22 • 14 minutes|
How to Correct Misinformation, According to Science.
The World Health Organization has called the spread of misinformation around the coronavirus an "infodemic." So what do you do when it's somebody you love spreading the misinformation? In this episode, Maddie talks with Invisibilia reporter Yowei Shaw about one man's very unusual approach to correcting his family. And we hear from experts about what actually works when trying to combat misinformation.
|2020-May-21 • 13 minutes|
Science Movie Club: 'Contact'
Yes, there actually are astronomers looking for intelligent life in space. The 1997 film adaptation of Carl Sagan's 'Contact' got a lot of things right ... and a few things wrong. Radio astronomer Summer Ash, an education specialist with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, breaks down the science in the film.
|2020-May-20 • 12 minutes|
What You Flush Is Helping Track The Coronavirus
More than 100 cities are monitoring sewage for the presence of the coronavirus, and public health officials think wastewater could provide an early warning system to help detect future spikes. NPR science correspondent Lauren Sommer explains how it works, and why scientists who specialize in wastewater-based epidemiology think it could be used to monitor community health in other ways. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-May-19 • 11 minutes|
The Squishy, Slimey Science Of ASMR
Encore episode. The science is nascent and a little squishy, but researchers like Giulia Poerio are trying to better understand ASMR — a feeling triggered in the brains of some people by whispering, soft tapping, and delicate gestures. She explains how it works, and tells reporter Emily Kwong why slime might be an Internet fad that is, for some, a sensory pleasure-trigger.Read more about Emily's reporting on ASMR on the NPR Shots Blog.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-May-18 • 11 minutes|
The Pandemic Time Warp
The pandemic has upended every aspect of our lives, including the disorienting way many of us have been perceiving time. It might feel like a day drags on, while a week (or month!) just flies by. We talk with Dean Buonomano, a professor of neurobiology and psychology at UCLA, about his research into how the brain tells time. We'll also ask him what's behind this pandemic time warp.
|2020-May-15 • 12 minutes|
What Did Earth Look Like 3.2 Billion Years Ago?
The surface of the Earth is constantly recycled through the motion of plate tectonics. So how do researchers study what it used to look like? Planetary scientist Roger Fu talks to host Maddie Sofia about hunting for rocks that paint a picture of the Earth a few billion years ago, in the early days of the evolution of life.Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-May-14 • 13 minutes|
The Coronavirus Is Mutating. Here's What That Means.
Ed Yong of The Atlantic explains how a viral article led to headlines about a possible coronavirus mutation. All viruses mutate — it doesn't necessarily mean the virus has developed into a more dangerous "strain." Read Ed's recent piece on coronavirus mutations here, and more of his reporting on the pandemic here. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-May-13 • 11 minutes|
Kids' Books Where Science Is The Adventure
Theanne Griffith discusses her new children's book series, Magnificent Makers, and the importance of diversity in the sciences.
|2020-May-12 • 13 minutes|
Making Music Out Of The Coronavirus
When Markus Buehler heard about the coronavirus, he wanted to know what it sounded like. Today on the show, Maddie speaks with Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong about how Markus Buehler, a composer and engineering professor at MIT, developed a method for making music out of proteins, and how music can potentially help us hear what we have trouble seeing at the nanoscale level.
|2020-May-11 • 11 minutes|
We Need More Coronavirus Testing. Are Antigen Tests The Answer?
There's a difference between diagnostic, antibody, and antigen tests. All provide different levels of reliability and speed.NPR health correspondent Rob Stein breaks down the differences and explains why public health officials are especially hopeful about antigen testing. Find out how your state is doing on overall testing.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-May-08 • 12 minutes|
Here's The Deal With 'Murder Hornets'
Reports of so-called 'murder hornets' have been all over the news this week. (Even though they were first spotted in the United States late last year.) We talk with entomologist Samuel Ramsey who explains how much of a threat the Asian giant hornet could be to honeybees throughout the country. And, he shares his own encounter fighting these insects while researching bees in Thailand.
|2020-May-07 • 12 minutes|
What We're Missing, By Missing Strangers Now
With a lot of us stuck at home, trying to physically distance from each other, one part of daily life has largely disappeared: bumping into strangers. On today's show, Maddie talks with Yowei Shaw, a reporter from NPR's Invisibilia, about the surprising benefits of stranger interactions. And Short Wave tries out QuarantineChat, a workaround to our current strangerless existence.
|2020-May-06 • 14 minutes|
Scientists Think The Coronavirus Transmitted Naturally, Not In A Lab. Here's Why.
The Trump administration has advanced the theory the coronavirus began as a lab accident, but scientists who research bat-borne coronaviruses disagree. Speaking with NPR, ten virologists and epidemiologists say the far more likely culprit is zoonotic spillover—transmission of the virus between animals and humans in nature. We explain how zoonotic spillover works and why it's more plausible than a lab accident.
|2020-May-05 • 15 minutes|
What Is Dark Energy? Physicists Aren't Even Sure
Dark energy makes up almost 70% of our universe and is believed to be the reason the universe is expanding. Yet very, very little is known about it. To figure out what we do know — and what it could tell us about the fate of the universe, we talked to astrophysicist Sarafina Nance. She studies cosmology, a field that looks at the origin and development of the universe.
|2020-May-04 • 13 minutes|
Letters From The 1918 Pandemic
The 1918 flu outbreak was one of the most devastating pandemics in world history, infecting one third of the world's population and killing an estimated 50 million people. While our understanding of infectious diseases and their spread has come a long way since then, 1918 was notably a time when the U.S. practiced widespread social distancing.
|2020-May-01 • 13 minutes|
How An Early Plan To Spot The Virus Fell Weeks Behind
In several major cities, public health officials work every year to monitor the flu. It's called sentinel surveillance. And as early as mid-February, the government had a plan to use that system to find early cases of the coronavirus, by testing patients with flu-like symptoms. But NPR's Lauren Sommer reports the effort was slow to get started, costing weeks in the fight to control the spread of the virus. Read more from Lauren's reporting here. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Apr-30 • 13 minutes|
How Bears Come Out Of Hibernation Jacked
Spring is in the air — and so are black bears coming out of hibernation. Rae Wynn-Grant, a large carnivore biologist, explains there's a lot more going on during hibernation than you might expect.
|2020-Apr-29 • 14 minutes|
Can Optimism Be Learned? (Like Right Now?)
Optimism is often thought as a disposition, something you're born with or without. So can it be learned? On today's show, Maddie talks with Alix Spiegel, co-host of NPR's Invisibilia, about "learned optimism." We'll look at what it is, the research behind it, and how it might come in handy in certain circumstances, like maybe a global pandemic?
|2020-Apr-28 • 12 minutes|
The Lightbulb Strikes Back
We chat with material scientist Ainissa Ramirez about her new book, The Alchemy of Us.
|2020-Apr-27 • 11 minutes|
The Hard Truth About Ventilators
During the pandemic, ventilators have been considered a vital medical tool to treat critically-ill COVID-19 patients. But more and more evidence is suggesting that those who go on a ventilator — don't end up surviving. NPR Science Desk correspondent Jon Hamilton tells us about how these machines work, and how, for patients who do survive, recovery can be a long road.
|2020-Apr-24 • 13 minutes|
Contact Tracing Is Key To Reopening. We're Not There Yet
The U.S. may need 100,000 people trained in the public health practice of contact tracing — tracking and isolating people who've been in contact with someone who tests positive for the coronavirus. NPR health policy reporter Selena Simmons-Duffin explains how it works, and why it's a key part of the fight against the pandemic. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Apr-23 • 12 minutes|
How Infectious Disease Shaped American Bathroom Design
We're all spending more time these days at home — including our bathrooms. But why do they look the way they do? From toilets to toothbrush holders, bioethicist and journalist Elizabeth Yuko explains how infectious diseases like tuberculosis and influenza shaped American bathroom design. And, we explore how the current pandemic could inspire a new wave of innovation in the bathroom.
|2020-Apr-22 • 14 minutes|
Animal Slander! Debunking 'Birdbrained' And 'Eat Like A Bird'
Welcome back to "Animal Slander," the series where we take common expressions about animals and debunk them with science. Today on the show, we tackle "birdbrained" and to "eat like a bird" with biologists Corina Newsome and Alejandro Rico-Guevara. Follow Maddie and Emily on Twitter. Their usernames are @maddie_sofia and @emilykwong1234. Plus, send us your animal slander—and questions and praise—by emailing the show at [email protected]
|2020-Apr-21 • 12 minutes|
On Earth Day, What You Can Do For The Environment
Happy (early) Earth Day, Short Wave listeners. We've received many questions from you about climate change, specifically what can individuals and households do to reduce their carbon footprint. So, we consulted two folks who have been thinking about this deeply and developing strategies for over a decade: Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, two architects of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
|2020-Apr-20 • 13 minutes|
Coronavirus Models Aren't "Wrong." That's Not How They Work.
Scientific models of disease don't predict the future. They're just one tool to help us all prepare for it. NPR global health correspondent Nurith Aizenman explains how scientific models of disease are built and how they're used by public health experts. We also look at one influential model forecasting when individual states might begin to reopen. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Apr-17 • 14 minutes|
When The Military Fights A Pandemic At Home
Last Tuesday, the military helped evacuate dozens of critically ill COVID-19 patients from overwhelmed hospitals in Queens. NPR's Rebecca Hersher says what happened that night shows how training for war does — and does not — prepare members of the armed services for a pandemic at home.
|2020-Apr-16 • 12 minutes|
Every Moon, Ranked
Science writer Jennifer Leman did it. She ranked all 158 moons in our solar system. The criteria? Interviews with NASA scientists, astronomers, and her own moonpinions. She talks to host Maddie Sofia about some of her favorites. Here's her full list for Popular Mechanics. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Apr-15 • 12 minutes|
Where Did The Coronavirus Start? Virus Hunters Find Clues In Bats
Bats are critically important for ecosystems around the world. But they also harbor some of the toughest known zoonotic diseases, and are the likely origin point for this coronavirus. Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong talks about leading theories on where this coronavirus came from, the work of virus hunters, and the rise of emerging zoonotic diseases.
|2020-Apr-14 • 11 minutes|
The Science of Making Bread
Social distancing has some of us taking up bread baking for the first time, including host Maddie Sofia. Chemist and baker Patricia Christie explains the science of making bread, including a few tips for when things go wrong with your bread dough. And she offers some advice for first-time bakers everywhere.
|2020-Apr-13 • 11 minutes|
How To Talk About The Coronavirus With Friends And Family
Liz Neeley, science communication expert and executive director of The Story Collider, shares some advice for how to talk to your friends and family about the coronavirus. Here's her article for The Atlantic: 'How To Talk About The Coronavirus.'Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Apr-10 • 13 minutes|
The "7 Day COVID-19 Crash"
Some patients with COVID-19 are experiencing a crash after about a week of showing symptoms of the disease. The cause?Well, as NPR's Geoff Brumfiel explains, doctors are starting to think it might not be the virus.For more reporting on the coronavirus and other science topics, follow Maddie and Geoff on Twitter. They're @maddie_sofia and @gbrumfiel.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Apr-09 • 15 minutes|
Science Is For Everyone. Until It's Not.
Brandon Taylor's story has a happy ending. Today he's a successful writer whose debut novel 'Real Life' received glowing reviews earlier this year. But his success only underscores what science lost when Brandon walked away from a graduate biochemistry program in 2016. He tells host Maddie Sofia why he left, and what he misses.Read his essay in BuzzFeed, 'Working In Science Was A Brutal Education. That's Why I Left.'Find and support your local public radio station at donate.npr.org/short. Email the show at ...
|2020-Apr-08 • 10 minutes|
Science Movie Club: 'Twister'
No, tornadoes do not sound like a roaring lion. The 1996 drama 'Twister' got a lot of things wrong...and a few things right. Meteorologist Ali Burgos, an analyst at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, breaks down the science in the film. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Apr-07 • 13 minutes|
Puerto Ricans Are At Risk From The Coronavirus And A Lack Of Information
The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico has the most older Americans per capita, making their population especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. A vital tool in preventing its spread there? Timely and culturally relevant public health information in Spanish. Maddie talks with Mónica Feliú-Mójer of the group CienciaPR about their science communication efforts.
|2020-Apr-06 • 14 minutes|
The Peculiar Physics Of Wiffle Balls
Wiffle Balls are a lightweight alternative to baseballs, better suited for backyards then sports stadiums. The design of the Wiffle Ball guarantees you don't need a strong arm to throw a curve ball. But how does that happen? Engineering professor Jenn Stroud Rossman explains.
|2020-Apr-03 • 10 minutes|
How The Coronavirus Could Hurt Our Ability To Fight Wildfires
Now is when we'd normally be getting ready for fire season. And this upcoming one could be tough for states like California, which had an especially dry winter. The spread of the coronavirus however is complicating preparation efforts. Maddie talks with Kendra Pierre-Louis, a reporter on the New York Times climate team, about how the crisis we're in could hurt our response to another crisis just around the corner.
|2020-Apr-02 • 12 minutes|
Honeybees Need Your Help, Honey
A deadly triangle of factors is killing off U.S. honeybees. Last year, forty percent of honeybee colonies died in the U.S., continuing an alarming trend. Entomologist Sammy Ramsey tells host Maddie Sofia about the "three P's" and what listeners can do to help our fuzzy-flighted friends.
|2020-Apr-01 • 12 minutes|
Is This Real? Loss of Smell And The Coronavirus
Doctors around the world are sharing stories of patients losing their sense of taste or smell — and testing positive for the coronavirus. Is it a real symptom of COVID-19? There isn't scientific evidence for that. But the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery is gathering anecdotal information to find out more. Short Wave's Maddie Sofia and Emily Kwong talk about science during a pandemic.
|2020-Mar-31 • 14 minutes|
Seen Any Nazi Uranium? Researchers Want To Know
Encore episode. NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel shares the story of Nazi Germany's attempt to build a nuclear reactor — and how evidence of that effort was almost lost to history. It's a tale he heard from Timothy Koeth and Miriam Hiebert at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Maryland in College Park. Read more on their original story in Physics Today. Find and support your local public radio station here. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Emai...
|2020-Mar-30 • 13 minutes|
Lessons In Being Alone, From A Woodland Snail
Bedridden with illness, Maine writer Elisabeth Tova Bailey found an unlikely companion — a solitary snail a friend brought her from the woods. Elisabeth spent the following year observing the creature and it was the inspiration for her memoir, "The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating."
|2020-Mar-27 • 13 minutes|
No, The Coronavirus Isn't Another Flu
President Trump has compared the coronavirus to the seasonal flu. NPR reporter Pien Huang speaks to host Maddie Sofia about why the coronavirus appears deadlier and more transmissible — and why it poses such a risk to our healthcare system. Here's Pien's story. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Mar-26 • 10 minutes|
Stay Home And Skype A Scientist
The group Skype A Scientist has seen a surge in demand these last couple of weeks for its service of virtually connecting students to scientists.
|2020-Mar-25 • 14 minutes|
Exploring The Canopy With 'TreeTop Barbie'
Encore episode: Pioneering ecologist Nalini Nadkarni takes us up into the canopy — the area above the forest floor — where she helped research and document this unexplored ecosystem. Plus: the story of her decades-long effort to get more women into science, and how she found a surprising ally in the fight — Barbie. Video and more from Maddie's trip to the canopy is here. Follow Maddie on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Mar-24 • 13 minutes|
Why Is The Coronavirus So Good At Spreading?
Ed Yong rounds up some theories in a recent article for The Atlantic. He tells host Maddie Sofia one reason the virus spreads so well might have to do with an enzyme commonly found in human tissue.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Mar-23 • 10 minutes|
It's Okay To Sleep Late (But Do It For Your Immune System)
Dr. Syed Moin Hassan was riled up. "I don't know who needs to hear this," he posted on Twitter, "BUT YOU ARE NOT LAZY IF YOU ARE WAKING UP AT NOON." Hassan, who is the Sleep Medicine Fellow at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, speaks to Short Wave's Emily Kwong about de-stigmatizing sleeping in late, and why a good night's rest is so important for your immune system. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Mar-20 • 14 minutes|
Keep Your Distance
It's a phrase we're hearing a lot now, social distancing. Practicing it is essential to slowing the spread of the coronavirus. But what does it really mean? NPR's Maria Godoy gives us advice on what good social distancing looks like in our daily lives - from socializing with friends to grocery shopping to travelling.
|2020-Mar-19 • 9 minutes|
Yep. They Injected CRISPR Into An Eyeball
It's no exaggeration to say the gene-editing technique CRISPR could revolutionize medicine. We look at a new milestone — a CRISPR treatment that edits a patient's DNA while it's still inside their body. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein explains how, if this treatment works, it could open up new avenues of treatment for diseases, like a genetic form of blindness, that were previously off limits to CRISPR.
|2020-Mar-18 • 11 minutes|
Coronavirus Can Live On Surfaces For Days. What That Really Means
It actually behaves much like other viruses in that regard. NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey has more on what we know, what we don't, and tips on how to keep surfaces clean. More from her reporting is here. Following all of NPR's coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Mar-17 • 15 minutes|
Coronavirus Is Closing Schools: Here's How Families Can Cope.
As schools across the U.S. shutter for weeks at a time, Short Wave looks at the science behind the decision. Plus, tips from a psychologist on how to cope with long, unexpected periods at home.
|2020-Mar-16 • 12 minutes|
Is Failure To Prepare For Climate Change A Crime?
That's the central question of an unprecedented lawsuit against a company whose chemical plant flooded during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. Containers and trailers there caught fire, sending up a column of black smoke above the facility for days. Now Arkema (the company), an executive, and the local plant manager are facing criminal charges — recklessly emitting air pollution, and a third employee with assault. Rebecca's latest reporting on the case is here. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Mar-13 • 16 minutes|
Coronavirus Latest: Testing Challenges And Protecting At-Risk Elderly
There's a lot going on with the coronavirus. To keep you up to speed, we'll be doing more regular updates on the latest about the pandemic. Today, NPR science correspondents Jon Hamilton and Nell Greenfieldboyce discuss challenges in testing for the virus and how COVID-19 affects the elderly.Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Mar-12 • 12 minutes|
Humble Pi: When Math Goes Awry
Pi Day (3/14) approaches. To help honor the coming holiday and the importance of math, stand-up mathematician Matt Parker unspools a common math mistake known as the off-by-one-error. His new book is called 'Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong In The Real World.'Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Mar-11 • 13 minutes|
As Coronavirus Spreads, Racism And Xenophobia Are Too
Coronavirus is all over the headlines. Accompanying the growing anxiety around its spread, has been suspicion and harassment of Asians and Asian Americans. For more on this, we turned to Gene Demby, co-host of NPR's Code Switch podcast, and his conversation with historian Erika Lee. We talk about how this wave of stigma is part of a longer history in the United States of camouflaging xenophobia as public health and hygiene concerns.
|2020-Mar-10 • 11 minutes|
Freshwater Mussels Are Dying And No One Knows Why
In 2016, biologists and fishermen across the country started to notice something disturbing. Freshwater mussels were dying in large numbers. NPR National Correspondent Nathan Rott tells us about the unsolved mystery surrounding the die-off, the team racing to figure it out, and why mussels are so important for the health of our streams and rivers.
|2020-Mar-09 • 13 minutes|
Creating Antimatter: Matter's "Evil Twin"
NPR's Correspondent Geoff Brumfiel explains what's up with antimatter — and why we know so little about it.
|2020-Mar-06 • 12 minutes|
The U.S. Doesn't Use The Metric System. Or Does It?
From currency and commerce, food labels to laboratories, the metric system is the foundation of many science and math fields. To mark our 100th episode (a multiple of 10, which is the basis for the metric system!), we spoke with Elizabeth Benham, Metric Program Coordinator at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, about the presence of the metric system in our everyday lives.
|2020-Mar-05 • 13 minutes|
Mouse Vs Scorpion: A Mind-Blowing Desert Showdown
This one doesn't end the way you'd expect. Inspired by the Netflix documentary series "Night On Earth," we learn everything we can about a mouse and scorpion who do battle on the regular — from two scientists who study them: Ashlee Rowe at the University of Oklahoma and Lauren Esposito at the California Academy of Sciences. If you have Netflix, you can watch the critters clash about 18 minutes into the episode 'Moonlit Plains' here. Read more about Lauren's work with scorpions here, and Ashlee's work with g...
|2020-Mar-04 • 12 minutes|
Coronavirus Is Here. Will Quarantines Help?
Despite quarantines and other measures, the coronavirus keeps popping up. What makes it so hard to control?
|2020-Mar-03 • 10 minutes|
When The Tides Keep Getting Higher
As sea levels rise from climate change, coastal communities face a greater risk of chronic flooding. Climate scientist Astrid Caldas and her colleagues have looked at where it's happening now and where it could happen in the future as the tides keep getting higher. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Mar-02 • 12 minutes|
A Tale Of Two (Very Different) Drug Prices
NPR Pharmaceuticals Correspondent Sydney Lupkin joins us to talk about a dad who learned his daughter needed an expensive drug — but there was a nearly identical one that was thousands of dollars cheaper. It's part of NPR's Bill of the Month series, which is done in partnership with Kaiser Health News. Follow Emily and Sydney on Twitter. They're @EmilyKwong1234 and @slupkin. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Feb-29 • 16 minutes|
Short Wave Presents: Life Kit's Tips To Prepare For The Coronavirus
How can you protect yourself and your family as the coronavirus spreads around the globe? Today we're featuring an episode from our friends over at NPR's Life Kit. They'll walk you through what you need to know to prepare for and prevent the spread of the disease. To hear more from Life Kit, check out npr.org/lifekit.
|2020-Feb-28 • 12 minutes|
A Short Wave Guide To Good — And Bad — TV Forensics
Raychelle Burks is a forensic chemist AND a big fan of murder mysteries. Today, we talk pop culture forensics with Raychelle and what signs to look for to know whether or not a tv crime show is getting the science right.Follow Maddie on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Feb-27 • 14 minutes|
Vaccines, Misinformation, And The Internet (Part 2)
In the second of two episodes exploring anti-vaccine misinformation online, Renee DiResta of the Stanford Internet Observatory explains why the Internet is so good at spreading bad information, and what big tech platforms are starting to do about it. Listen to the prior episode to hear more from Renee, and the story of pediatrician Nicole Baldwin, whose pro-vaccine TikTok video made her the target of harassment and intimidation from anti-vaccine activists online. You can see Dr. Baldwin's original TikTok he...
|2020-Feb-26 • 13 minutes|
Vaccines, Misinformation, And The Internet (Part 1)
In the first of two episodes exploring anti-vaccine misinformation online, we hear the story of what happened to Cincinnati-area pediatrician Nicole Baldwin when her pro-vaccine TikTok video made her the target of harassment and intimidation from anti-vaccine activists online. Renee DiResta of the Stanford Internet Observatory explains their tactics and goals.You can see Dr. Baldwin's original TikTok here. Renee DiResta has written about how some anti-vaccine proponents harass, intimidate, and spread misinf...
|2020-Feb-25 • 12 minutes|
This NASA Engineer Is Bringing Math And Science To Hip Hop
NASA engineer Dajae Williams is using hip hop to make math and science more accessible to young people. We talk with Dajae about her path to NASA, and how music helped her fall in love with math and science when she was a teenager.Follow Maddie on Twitter. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Feb-24 • 10 minutes|
Australia's Next Danger: Mudslides
With many of Australia's hillsides stripped bare by fire, scientists are rushing to predict where mudslides could be triggered by rainfall. NPR science reporter Rebecca Hersher and photographer Meredith Rizzo traveled to Australia to learn how they're doing it. More of their reporting (with photos) is here. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Feb-21 • 12 minutes|
A Board Game Where Birds (And Science) Win
Wingspan is a board game that brings the world of ornithology into the living room. The game comes with 170 illustrated birds cards, each equipped with a power that reflects that bird's behavior in nature. Wingspan game designer Elizabeth Hargrave speaks with Short Wave's Emily Kwong about her quest to blend scientific accuracy with modern board game design.
|2020-Feb-20 • 12 minutes|
Foldscope: Science From Curiosity And A Little Paper
Manu Prakash is the co-inventor of the Foldscope, a low-cost microscope aimed at making scientific tools more accessible. We chat with him about why he wants to change how we think about science, and what it'll take to make science something everyone is able to enjoy. Follow Maddie on Twitter. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Feb-19 • 14 minutes|
Harvard Professor's Arrest Raises Questions About Scientific Openness
Harvard chemist Charles Lieber was arrested in January on charges he lied about funding he received from China. Some say the case points to larger issues around scientific collaboration in an era of geopolitical rivalry, as well as the racial profiling of scientists. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Feb-18 • 12 minutes|
Can Taking Zinc Help Shorten Your Cold?
It's possible — but it depends on a few key factors. NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey explains, and tells the story of the scientist who uncovered the importance of zinc for human health in the first place. Follow Allison on Twitter @AubreyNPRFood and host Maddie Sofia @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Feb-14 • 11 minutes|
Is This Love? Or Am I Gonna Fight A Lion.
Ever wonder what's causing all those reactions in your body when you're falling in love with someone? We certainly did. So, we called up Adam Cole, who gathered up all the science and wrote "A Neuroscience Love Song" for NPR's Skunk Bear back in the day. Follow Maddie Sofia and Adam Cole on Twitter. Email love letters to the show at [email protected]
|2020-Feb-13 • 12 minutes|
The Weedkiller That Went Rogue
A few years ago farmers started noticing their crops were developing damaged leaves. Turns out the culprit was dicamba, a weedkiller being sprayed by other farmers. Now a trial is underway to decide who's responsible. The farmer behind the lawsuit is pointing the blame, not at other farmers, but two big companies, Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) and BASF. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Feb-12 • 12 minutes|
Does Your Cat Really Hate You?
It's the latest installment of our series, "Animal Slander," where we take a common phrase about animals and see what truth there is to it. The issue before the Short Wave court today: "Do cats deserve their aloof reputation?" We look at the evidence with cat researcher, Kristyn Vitale of Oregon State University. Follow Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia and Emily Kwong @emilykwong1234. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Feb-11 • 11 minutes|
A Tiny Satellite Revolution Is Afoot In Space
Meet the CubeSat: a miniaturized satellite that's been growing in sophistication. In the last 20 years, over 1,000 CubeSats have been launched into space for research and exploration. We talk about three CubesSat missions, and how this satellite technology ventured from college campuses to deep space. Tweet to Emily Kwong at @emilykwong1234 and talk #scicomm with Joe on @joesbigidea. Plus, you can always reach the show by emailing [email protected]
|2020-Feb-10 • 11 minutes|
There's A Plan To Drive Down Global Insulin Prices. Will It Work?
Diabetes is a growing global problem, especially in low and middle income countries. Half of the 100 million in need of insulin lack reliable access. The World Health Organization wants to do something about it. Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong tells host Maddie Sofia about the WHO's pre-qualification program, a two-year plan to pave the way for more insulin manufacturers to enter the global market.
|2020-Feb-07 • 12 minutes|
A Coronavirus Listener Q&A Episode
How does the coronavirus spread? Does wearing a face mask actually help? And why is the virus getting so much media coverage? This episode, we answer your coronavirus-related questions with the help of NPR global health and development reporter Pien Huang. Follow Pien on Twitter @Pien_Huang and host Maddie Sofia @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected] Also, we're looking for a summer intern! Apply here.
|2020-Feb-06 • 13 minutes|
Service Animals In The Lab: Who Decides?
Joey Ramp's service dog, Sampson, is with her at all times, even when she has to work in a laboratory. It wasn't always easy to have him at her side. Joey tells us why she's trying to help more service animals and their handlers work in laboratory settings. We first read about Joey in The Scientist. See pictures of Joey and her service dog Sampson here, and learn more about the work she does with service animals and their handlers here. Follow Sampson on Twitter @sampson_dog and host Maddie Sofia @maddie_so...
|2020-Feb-05 • 12 minutes|
Seismologist Wenyuan Fan explains the accidental discovery — buried deep in seismic and meteorological data — that certain storms over ocean water can cause measurable seismic activity, or 'stormquakes.' He says this phenomenon could help scientists better understand the earth below the sea.The original paper Wenyuan co-authored on stormquakes is here. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Feb-04 • 11 minutes|
Sepsis Is A Global Killer. Can Vitamin C Be The Cure?
Every day, approximately 30,000 people die globally of sepsis. The condition comes about when your immune system overreacts to an infection, leading potentially to organ failure and death. There is no cure. But then in 2017, a doctor proposed a novel treatment for sepsis, a mixture that included Vitamin C, arguing it saved the lives of most of his patients. NPR's Richard Harris has been reporting on this treatment and how it's divided scientists from around the world. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @ma...
|2020-Feb-03 • 13 minutes|
From Stream To Sky, Two Key Rollbacks Under The Trump Administration
The Trump Administration has rolled back dozens of environmental regulations, which it regards as a burden to industry. Today on Short Wave, NPR National Desk correspondents Jeff Brady and Nathan Rott break down two — governing how the federal government regulates waterway pollution and emissions from coal-fired power plants.Follow reporter Emily Kwong on Twitter @EmilyKwong1234, Nathan Rott @NathanRott, and Jeff Brady @JeffBradyNews. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jan-31 • 11 minutes|
The Surprising Origin Of Some Timely Advice: Wash Your Hands
Today we know that one of the easiest and most effective things you can do to protect yourself from the cold, flu, and other respiratory illnesses (including those like the novel coronavirus) is to wash your hands. But there was a time when that wasn't so obvious. Dana Tulodziecki, a professor at Purdue University, tells the story of Ignaz Semmelweis, the scientist who's credited with discovering the importance of handwashing. We'll hear how he figured it out and why there's more to the story. Follow host M...
|2020-Jan-30 • 11 minutes|
Where The 2020 Democrats Stand On Climate Change
With the Iowa caucuses around the corner, we give you a Short Wave guide (with some help from our friends at NPR Politics) to where the top-tier Democratic presidential candidates stand on climate change and the environment. Political correspondent and NPR Politics Podcast co-host Scott Detrow breaks it down for us. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia and Scott @scottdetrow. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jan-29 • 9 minutes|
A Decade of Dzud: Lessons From Mongolia's Deadly Winters
Mongolia has a many-thousand year history of herding livestock. But in the past two decades, tens of thousands have left the countryside because of a natural disaster you may have never heard of. "Dzud" kills animals en masse during winter. Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong brings host Maddie Sofia this story from the grassland steppe, capturing how an agrarian community has adapted to environmental change. Follow host Maddie Sofia @maddie_sofia and reporter Emily Kwong @emilykwong1234 on Twitter. Email the s...
|2020-Jan-28 • 12 minutes|
A Brief History (And Some Science) Of Iran's Nuclear Program
With the Iran nuclear deal in further jeopardy, we take a look at how the country's nuclear program began with NPR's Geoff Brumfiel. (The United States has a surprising role.) We'll also hear how the 2015 agreement, putting limits on that program, came about, and what it means now that the deal is on life support. For more on Geoff's reporting on nuclear weapons, follow Geoff on Twitter — he's @gbrumfiel. Plus, you can email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jan-27 • 11 minutes|
Sarah Parcak explains how she uses satellite imagery and data to solve one of the biggest challenges in archaeology: where to start digging. Her book is called 'Archaeology From Space: How The Future Shapes Our Past'. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jan-24 • 11 minutes|
China's Coronavirus Is Spreading. But How?
A deadly virus believed to have originated in China was found in the US this week. NPR global health correspondent Jason Beaubien explains what we know and don't know about the disease — and the likelihood it will continue to spread. Follow Jason on Twitter @jasonbnpr. More of NPR's reporting on the virus can be found here. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jan-23 • 11 minutes|
The Comeback Bird: Meet the Ko'Ko'
For nearly forty years, the Guam Rail bird (locally known as the ko'ko') has been extinct in the wild — decimated by the invasive brown tree snake. But now, after a decades-long recovery effort, the ko'ko' has been successfully re-introduced. It is the second bird in history to recover from extinction in the wild. Wildlife biologist Suzanne Medina tells us the story of how the Guam Department of Agriculture brought the ko'ko' back, with a little matchmaking and a lot of patience.
|2020-Jan-22 • 10 minutes|
Can A Low-Carb Diet Prevent A Plague Of Locusts?
Swarms of locusts can destroy crops and livelihoods. Right now, countries in East Africa are dealing with the threat. At a lab in Tempe, Arizona, researchers are trying to figure out how to minimize the crop damage these voracious pests can cause. The answer, NPR's Joe Palca tells us, might be looking at what locusts like, and don't like, to eat. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jan-21 • 11 minutes|
Mighty Mice Return From Space
Some very unusual mice with big muscles are back on Earth after a month on the International Space Station. NPR science correspondent Jon Hamilton shares the story of the two researchers behind the experiment. What they learn could help people with disabling bone and muscle diseases and another group with muscle problems, astronauts. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jan-17 • 12 minutes|
2020 So Far: Fires, Floods, And Quakes
Already this year, natural disasters have wreaked havoc in Australia, Indonesia, and Puerto Rico. We look at some science behind the wildfires, floods, and earthquakes in those places with NPR reporters Rebecca Hersher and Jason Beaubien. You can find more of Jason's reporting on Australia here and follow him on Twitter @jasonbnpr. Follow NPR's Adrian Florido on Twitter @adrianflorido and find his reporting from Puerto Rico here. Rebecca Hersher is @rhersher and here's her story about wildfire embers in Aus...
|2020-Jan-16 • 12 minutes|
Can A 100-Year-Old Treatment Help Save Us From Superbugs?
In 2015, Steffanie Strathdee's husband nearly died from a superbug, an antibiotic resistant bacteria he contracted in Egypt. Desperate to save him, she reached out to the scientific community for help. What she got back? A 100-year-old treatment that's considered experimental in the U.S. Strathdee, an infectious disease epidemiologist, tells us how it works, its limitations, and its potential role in our fight against superbugs. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jan-15 • 12 minutes|
In Mozambique, Meteorologists Can't Keep Up With Climate Change
Accurate weather forecasting can be a matter of life or death. So countries with less money like Mozambique face a big challenge. They can't build and maintain their own weather radar or satellites. Instead, they rely on weather maps created by wealthier countries, like the U.S. NPR climate reporter Becky Hersher tells us what that means for Mozambique, a country where the weather's gotten worse as the climate changes. Reach the show by emailing [email protected]
|2020-Jan-14 • 13 minutes|
Your Brain On Storytelling
Storytelling can be a powerful tool to convey information, even in the world of science. It can also shift stereotypes about who scientists are. We talked to someone who knows all about this - Liz Neeley, the Executive Director of Story Collider, a nonprofit focused on telling "true, personal stories about science." You can tell us your personal science stories by emailing, [email protected] Plus, do some #scicomm with Maddie on Twitter — she's @maddie_sofia.
|2020-Jan-13 • 11 minutes|
Space Junk: How Cluttered Is The Final Frontier?
Since the dawn of Sputnik in 1957, space-faring nations have been filling Earth's orbit with satellites. Think GPS, weather forecasting, telecommunications satellites. But as those have increased, so, too, has space junk. On today's show, we talk about the first mission to clean up space junk and the problem debris poses to sustainability in space.
|2020-Jan-10 • 10 minutes|
Animal Slander! - "Blind As A Bat" And "Memory Of A Goldfish"
Host Maddie Sofia and reporter Emily Kwong evaluate what truth there is to the popular phrases "blind as a bat" and "memory of a goldfish." Hint: The phrases probably weren't born out of peer-reviewed science. Tweet Maddie at @maddie_sofia and Emily at @emilykwong1234. Plus, encourage our editor to make this a series by sending fan mail to [email protected]
|2020-Jan-09 • 13 minutes|
The Link Between Kitchen Countertops And A Deadly Disease
It's called silicosis, and it's been known about for decades. So why is it now emerging in new numbers among workers who cut kitchen countertops? NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce explains. More of her original reporting on silicosis is here. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jan-08 • 11 minutes|
What's Behind Australia's Historic Fires
Biologist Lesley Hughes from Macquarie University in Australia explains why the recent bushfires there could change the country forever. Hughes is a former federal climate commissioner, and has been the lead author on two reports for the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jan-07 • 10 minutes|
Food Waste + Poop = Electricity
Some dairy farmers in Massachusetts are using food waste and manure to create renewable energy. Each farm produces enough to power about 1,500 homes. Not only does this process create electricity, NPR Science Correspondent Allison Aubrey tells us it also prevents the release of methane, a greenhouse gas. Follow Short Wave's Emily Kwong on Twitter @emilykwong1234. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jan-06 • 11 minutes|
A Star In Orion Is Dimming. Is It About To Explode?
Okay, it wouldn't technically be an explosion. And if it's "about" to happen, it already happened. About 650 years ago. We'll explain, with astronomer Emily Levesque, who studies massive stars at the University of Washington. Follow Short Wave's Emily Kwong on Twitter @emilykwong1234. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jan-03 • 12 minutes|
Short Wave Presents: Life Kit Tips For Dealing With Anxious Kids
A special adaptation of a Life Kit episode about how to help a child with anxiety. Full version at npr.org/lifekit.
|2020-Jan-02 • 8 minutes|
Compost Your Loved Ones
There aren't that many options for putting your loved ones to rest. There's burial. There's cremation. Now, later this year in Washington state, it'll be legal to compost a human body. Soil scientist Lynne Carpenter-Boggs tells us how the process works and why she describes it as "beautiful." Carpenter-Boggs is also a research advisor at Recompose, a human composting company in Washington. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2020-Jan-01 • 1 minutes|
Happy New Year!
We're back with a new episode tomorrow! Hope you had a safe and happy orbit around the sun.
|2019-Dec-31 • 10 minutes|
Tennessine's Wild Ride To The Periodic Table
There are rare chemical elements, and then there is tennessine. Only a couple dozen atoms of the stuff have ever existed. For the 150th anniversary of the periodic table, NPR science correspondent Joe Palca shares the convoluted story of one of the latest elements to be added. Follow Maddie on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the team at [email protected]
|2019-Dec-30 • 11 minutes|
The Decade In Science
As 2019 draws to a close, we enlisted the help of two NPR science correspondents — Nell Greenfieldboye and Joe Palca — to look back on some of the biggest science stories of the past 10 years. Follow host Maddie Sofia on twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Dec-27 • 12 minutes|
Sci-Fi Movies Of The Decade (Sort Of)
Astrophysicist Adam Frank is a big fan of science and movies. He's even been a science adviser to Marvel's "Doctor Strange." So we asked Adam to give us his sci-fi films of the decade - movies that tell us about striking the right balance between science and storytelling. Here are the movies we couldn't get to in the episode: 'Annihilation' (2018), 'Coherence' (2013), 'Gravity' (2013) and 'Looper' (2012). Plus, Adam's favorite TV show of the decade was 'The Expanse.' | Follow Maddie on Twitter @maddie_sofia...
|2019-Dec-26 • 7 minutes|
One Of The Germiest Places In The Airport
Hint: it's not the bathroom. Niina Ikonen and Carita Savolainen-Kopra from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare studied high-traffic areas in the Helsinki airport to identify where germs were most prevalent. Also, tips on how to stay healthy during your holiday travel. Here's their original paper in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Dec-25 • 3 minutes|
Maddie and Emily wish you Happy Holidays and share some science facts you can show off at your next holiday party. Plus, a little reminder of how you can show your support for the show. Find and donate to your local public radio station at donate.npr.org/short. Follow Maddie and Emily on Twitter, @maddie_sofia and @emilykwong1234. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Dec-24 • 10 minutes|
A Shortwave Christmas Carol
On Christmas Eve, scientists at field stations across Antarctica sing carols to one another...via shortwave. On today's episode, the Short Wave podcast explores shortwave radio. We speak with space physicist and electrical engineer Nathaniel Frissell about this Antarctic Christmas Carol tradition and his use of shortwave radio for community science.
|2019-Dec-23 • 13 minutes|
Iridium's Pivotal Role In Our Past And ... Maybe Our Future?
The story of how a father and son team - one a physicist, one a geologist - helped solve a big scientific mystery. What brought the reign of dinosaurs to an end? NPR Science Correspondent Richard Harris tells us how they turned to an element, iridium, for answers. Plus, how iridium could help prevent another potential future global catastrophe. It's our celebration of 150 years of the periodic table of elements. Follow Maddie on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the team at [email protected]
|2019-Dec-20 • 13 minutes|
What Happened To The American Chestnut Tree?
In the early 20th century, a blight fungus wiped out most of the 4 billion American chestnut trees on the eastern seaboard. The loss was ecologically devastating. Pod reporter Emily Kwong tells us how scientists are trying to resurrect the American chestnut tree — and recent controversy over a plan to plant genetically modified chestnuts in the wild.
|2019-Dec-19 • 12 minutes|
The First African American Face Transplant
In 2013, Robert Chelsea was hit by a drunk driver and sustained third-degree burns on more than half of his body. Nearly six years later, he became the first African American recipient of a full face transplant. We talk with Chelsea and Jamie Ducharme, a Time staff writer who followed his journey, about the procedure and how his story could help encourage organ donation by African Americans. Follow Maddie on Twitter @maddie_sofia. And email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Dec-18 • 10 minutes|
And The Winner Is...Science!
Camille Schrier, a 24-year-old pharmacy student, competed in the Miss Virginia pageant over the summer with a "talent" that caught our attention. It put her love of science center stage. On today's episode, we tell you how she won her state crown. This Thursday, Camille may have a chance to show off that talent again under a much bigger spotlight, Miss America 2020. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Dec-17 • 11 minutes|
The Science Behind Whakaari/White Island's Eruption
The volcano of Whakaari or White Island in New Zealand erupted just over a week ago. More than a dozen people were killed, including tourists to the popular attraction. Volcanologist Alison Graettinger explains the science behind this particular eruption, a hydrothermal eruption and why they can be especially difficult to predict. Reach out to the show at [email protected] Plus, keep the conversation going with host Maddie Sofia on Twitter — she's @maddie_sofia.
|2019-Dec-16 • 12 minutes|
A Polar Expedition To The Top Of The World: Part 2
Our journey continues on MOSAiC: the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate. Physicists, chemists, and biologists are all working to understand more about why Arctic ice is diminishing, and what it means for the planet. In this episode, Reporter Ravenna Koenig introduces us to some scientists, what they're studying, and life aboard a floating research center. You can find photos from her trip here. Follow Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia or Ravenna @vennkoenig. Email the...
|2019-Dec-13 • 11 minutes|
A Polar Expedition To The Top Of The World: Part 1
A massive scientific mission is underway in the Arctic. Physicists, chemists, and biologists are studying the changing region, so they can better predict what might be ahead for the Arctic...and the planet. But first, they had to find a patch of ice suitable to get stuck in, so they could freeze in place and study it for an entire year. Reporter Ravenna Koenig was along for the journey. You can find photos from her trip here. Follow Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia or Ravenna @vennkoenig. Email the sh...
|2019-Dec-12 • 12 minutes|
Invasive Species: We Asked, You Answered
We couldn't stop at the spotted lanternfly! (We covered that invasive species in an earlier episode.) We wanted to hear about the invasives where you live. You wrote us about cane toads in Australia, zebra mussels in Nevada; borers, beetles, adelgids, stinkbugs, and so many more. From your emails, we picked three invaders to talk about with NPR science correspondent Dan Charles. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Dec-11 • 13 minutes|
The Congolese Doctor Who Discovered Ebola
Jean-Jacques Muyembe is a Congolese doctor heading up the response to the current Ebola outbreak in Congo. Back in 1976, he was the first doctor to collect a sample of the virus. But his crucial role in discovering Ebola is often overlooked. NPR's East Africa correspondent Eyder Peralta helps us correct the record. Follow Eyder on Twitter — he's @eyderp and Maddie's @maddie_sofia. You can always reach the show by emailing [email protected]
|2019-Dec-10 • 12 minutes|
Aluminum's Journey From Precious Metal To Beer Can
We've been celebrating 150 years of the Periodic Table. This episode, the rise of aluminum! The element is incredibly common, but was once hard to extract. That made it more valuable than gold in the 19th century. NPR's Scott Neuman gives us a short history of aluminum. Or is it aluminium? (We'll also give you the backstory behind the confusion.) Follow Emily Kwong on Twitter @emilykwong1234. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Dec-09 • 10 minutes|
Getting Closer To The Sun Than Ever Before
An ambitious mission to get a spacecraft close to the sun has revealed a strange region of space filled with rapidly flipping magnetic fields and rogue plasma waves. Science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce explains how the Parker Solar Probe may help answer one of the biggest mysteries surrounding the sun. Follow Emily Kwong on Twitter @emilykwong1234. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Dec-06 • 12 minutes|
If You Give An Orangutan A Kazoo...
If you give an orangutan a kazoo, will it produce a sound? Researchers discovered that this simple instrument could offer insights into the vocal abilities of orangutans — and the evolution of human speech. Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong talks with primatologist Adriano Lameira about a growing body of evidence that humans may not be the only great apes with voice control.
|2019-Dec-05 • 11 minutes|
Is CBD Safe? The FDA Can't Say
Use of CBD — cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component in cannabis — has exploded in the last few years. But while it's marketed as a solution for stress, anxiety, insomnia, and pain, the Food and Drug Administration can't say it's safe. NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey helps parse the science behind a new set of government warnings about CBD. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Dec-04 • 12 minutes|
The Evolution Of HIV Treatment
A lot has changed since the first cases of AIDS were reported in 1981. Globally, AIDS-related deaths have dropped by more than 55% since 2004, the deadliest year on record. But, the road to effective treatment for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was long. Maggie Hoffman-Terry, a physician and researcher who's been on the front lines of the epidemic for decades, explains how treatment has evolved, its early drawbacks, and the issue of access to medications. Follow Maddie on Twitter — she's @maddie_sofia. An...
|2019-Dec-03 • 11 minutes|
An Interstellar Wanderer Is Coming Our Way
Comet 2I/Borisov will reach its closest approach to the sun on December 8, 2019. We talk to planetary astronomer Michele Bannister about where the heck this comet came from, and what it tells us about our galaxy. Follow Maddie on Twitter — she's @maddie_sofia. And email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Dec-02 • 11 minutes|
Does Your Dog REALLY Love You?
Clive Wynne, founding director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, draws on studies from his lab and others around the world to explain what biology, neuroscience, and genetics reveal about dogs and love. His new book is called Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at shortwave[email protected]
|2019-Nov-29 • 11 minutes|
The Science Of Smell And Memory
Why can a smell trigger such a powerful memory? Biological anthropologist Kara Hoover explains what's going on in the brain when we smell, how smell interacts with taste, and why our sense of smell is heightened in the winter. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Nov-28 • 2 minutes|
Maddie and Emily wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and explain how you can support the show. Find and donate to your local public radio station at donate.npr.org/short. Follow Maddie and Emily on Twitter @maddie_sofia and @emilykwong1234. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Nov-27 • 11 minutes|
One Small Step For Cookie Baking
Imagine having your Thanksgiving meal in microgravity? That's the reality for the six astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Today, we look at the evolution of astronaut food and a planned attempt to bake chocolate chip cookies in space.
|2019-Nov-26 • 11 minutes|
The Nightmare Of Sleep Paralysis
As a teenager, Josh Smith was plagued by sleep paralysis. Now he's afraid his kid might be experiencing it too. In this listener questions episode, Josh asks what the science says about this sleep disorder and what he can do to help his son.
|2019-Nov-25 • 11 minutes|
Uganda's Solution For Treating Extreme Pain
Uganda has come up with a low-tech solution to treat patients in a lot of pain: drinkable liquid morphine. Nurith Aizenman tell us how this model works and how other African countries are taking inspiration. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Nov-22 • 10 minutes|
The CDC, Its 'F-Word' (Firearms) & Suicide Prevention
Congress prohibits the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using any of its funding to promote or advocate for gun control. NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce looked into how that makes it difficult for the CDC to talk frankly about the role guns play in suicide. If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by te...
|2019-Nov-21 • 8 minutes|
Solving The Sleep & Alzheimer's Puzzle
We know that people with Alzheimer's often have sleep problems. But does it work the other way? Do problems with sleep set the stage for this degenerative brain disease? Jon Hamilton introduces us to some scientists looking into that connection. In a recent study, researchers observed a key role deep sleep potentially plays in maintaining brain health and protecting the brain against Alzheimer's. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Nov-20 • 13 minutes|
That Revolutionary Gene-Editing Experiment? So Far So Good.
Earlier this month NPR health correspondent Rob Stein introduced us to Victoria Gray, the woman at the center of a groundbreaking medical treatment using CRISPR, the gene-editing technique. This week, Rob reports exclusively for NPR on the first results of that closely-watched experiment. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at sho[email protected]
|2019-Nov-19 • 10 minutes|
Saving Water One Flush At A Time
Happy World Toilet Day! Flushing toilets can consume a lot of water, so Tak-Sing Wong, a biomedical engineer at Penn State University, is trying to minimize how much is needed. Wong developed a slippery coating for the inside of a toilet bowl. It can potentially move human waste more efficiently, leaving a cleaner bowl and using less water. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Nov-18 • 11 minutes|
Bye Bye, Bei Bei: Giant Panda Heads to China
The Smithsonian's National Zoo is bidding farewell to Bei Bei. The 4-year-old giant panda will be sent to China on Tuesday, Nov. 19. While born in captivity at the zoo, Bei Bei is the property of China. Reporter Emily Kwong tells us about Bei Bei's elaborate departure plans, why he's leaving now, and what it would take to ensure the survival of giant pandas in the wild.
|2019-Nov-15 • 9 minutes|
An Eyewitness to Extinction
While doing field work in Central America in the 1990's, biologist Karen Lips noticed the frogs she was studying were disappearing. Scientists in other parts of the world had documented the same thing - frogs and amphibians dying at an alarming rate. For years no one knew what was killing the animals until, finally, a bit of good luck helped solve the mystery. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Nov-14 • 11 minutes|
You Asked About The Flu
How can you tell if you have the flu, or the common cold? Why does your arm hurt after you get the flu shot? And can getting the flu shot actually give you the flu? This episode, we answer your flu-related listener questions with the help of Dr. Nicole Bouvier at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia and reporter Emily Kwong @emilykwong1234. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Nov-13 • 12 minutes|
SpaceX's Satellite Swarm: Could It Hurt Astronomy?
The private space company run by Elon Musk launched 60 satellites into orbit this week. Science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel explains why astronomers worry that kind of traffic — if it continues unabated — could permanently alter their ability to observe the night sky. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Nov-12 • 10 minutes|
Most U.S. Dairy Cows Come From 2 Bulls. That's Not Good.
NPR science correspondent Dan Charles explains why most of the dairy cows in America are descended from just two bulls, creating a lack of genetic diversity that can lead to health problems. He also visits a lab at Penn State University where scientists are trying to change that. Follow reporter/host Emily Kwong on Twitter @emilykwong1234. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Nov-11 • 11 minutes|
Can Global Shipping Go Zero Carbon?
A lot of the stuff we buy in the U.S. comes by ship — ships that use a particularly dirty kind of fuel. Now a big shipping company says it wants to go zero carbon. Climate reporter Becky Hersher tells us how some old tech might play a role and where that tech falls short. Follow Maddie on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Nov-08 • 13 minutes|
The Mind-Bending Ascent Of Helium — And Why It's Running Low
Helium is the second-most common element in the cosmos, but it's far rarer on planet Earth. As part of our celebration of the periodic table's 150th birthday, reporter Geoff Brumfiel shares a brief history of helium's ascent, to become a crucial part of rocket ships, MRI machines, and birthday parties. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Nov-07 • 10 minutes|
Life After Whale Death
What happens after a whale dies? Their carcasses, known as "whale falls," provide a sudden, concentrated food source for organisms in the deep sea. Biologist Diva Amon is our guide through whale-fall ecosystems and the unique species that exist on these fallen whales.
|2019-Nov-06 • 10 minutes|
Fighting An Insect Invasion With... An Insect Invasion
The spotted lanternfly is eating its way through trees and crops in eastern Pennsylvania. NPR science correspondent Dan Charles explains how scientists hope to stop the spread of this invasive pest by importing a natural enemy from its home in China. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Nov-05 • 9 minutes|
The U.S. Wants Out Of The Paris Agreement
It's official, but not a surprise. The U.S. has told the United Nations it wants to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the global accord to fight climate change. President Trump announced his intention to leave it back in 2017. Climate reporter Becky Hersher tells us what the Paris Agreement is, why the Trump Administration wants out and what it means now that the U.S. has made it official. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Nov-04 • 13 minutes|
A Revolutionary Experiment To Edit Human Genes
Victoria Gray has sickle cell disease, a painful and debilitating genetic condition that affects millions of people around the world. But an experimental gene-editing technique known as CRISPR could help her — and, if it does, change the way many genetic diseases are treated. Correspondent Rob Stein tells her story, an NPR-exclusive, and explains the science behind her treatment. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Nov-01 • 11 minutes|
When A Listener Calls...
It's our first-ever listener questions episode! On this Short Wave, listener Charlotte asks why some people seek out scary experiences. We reached out to Ken Carter, a psychology professor at Oxford College of Emory University, for answers. Turns out, some of us may be more wired to crave the thrill. Follow Maddie on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Oct-31 • 10 minutes|
The Zombies That Walk Among Us
The idea of human zombies probably seems pretty far-fetched. But there are real zombies out there in the animal kingdom. Ed Yong of The Atlantic creeps us out with a couple of examples. Hint: they involve fungus. Follow Maddie on Twitter - she's @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Oct-30 • 9 minutes|
Crows Don't Forget
Crows have gotten a bad rap throughout history. Think about it. A group of them is called a "murder." To get some insight into crows and perhaps set the record straight, we talked to Kaeli Swift. She's a lecturer at the University of Washington and wrote her doctoral thesis on crow "funerals." In an earlier version of this episode, we used the word "spooky" to describe crows. Because that word has a history of being used as a racial slur, we chose to replace it with the words "scary" and "creepy." Thanks to...
|2019-Oct-29 • 9 minutes|
Wildfire Season Is Here To Stay
Californians face a terrible new normal as wildfire season grows longer and more intense. Jennifer Montgomery, head of the California's Forest Management Task Force, explains three key factors at the heart of why the state is now at such high risk. It turns out, one of them goes all the way back to Spanish colonization. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter: @maddie_sofia. Or email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Oct-28 • 11 minutes|
Meet Two MacArthur 'Genius Grant' Scientists
We meet two scientists working on opposite sides of the world, both thinking creatively about rising sea levels and our changing oceans. Andrea Dutton, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Stacy Jupiter, a marine biologist and Melanesia Director with the Wildlife Conservation Society, were awarded MacArthur Fellowships this fall.
|2019-Oct-25 • 13 minutes|
Seen Any Nazi Uranium? These Researchers Want To Know
NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel shares the story of Nazi Germany's attempt to build a nuclear reactor — and how evidence of that effort was almost lost to history. It's a tale he heard from Timothy Koeth and Miriam Hiebert at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Maryland in College Park. Read more on their original story in Physics Today. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Oct-24 • 10 minutes|
Artificial intelligence might not be as smart as we think. University and military researchers are studying how attackers could hack into AI systems by exploiting how these systems learn. It's known as "adversarial AI." Some of their experiments use seemingly simple techniques. Dina Temple-Raston has been looking into this for her special series, I'll Be Seeing You. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter: @maddie_sofia. Or email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Oct-23 • 10 minutes|
Logging 'The Lungs' of North America
The world's largest intact temperate rainforest is in a place you may not expect: southeast Alaska. The Trump administration wants to eliminate a longstanding rule protecting the Tongass National Forest from logging and road construction. Why? And what might this mean for one of the top carbon sinks in the world? Maddie talks with reporter Emily Kwong about the Tongass.
|2019-Oct-22 • 12 minutes|
Finally, An All-Female Spacewalk
NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir completed the first all-female spacewalk last week. The historic moment came 35 years after Kathryn Sullivan became the first American woman to spacewalk. We hear from Koch, Meir, and Sullivan. And former NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan tells us why she says this moment is long overdue. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Oct-21 • 10 minutes|
Randall Munroe's Absurd Science For Real-World Problems
The cartoonist behind the popular Internet comic xkcd has a new book called How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems.
|2019-Oct-18 • 13 minutes|
Exploring The Rainforest With 'TreeTop Barbie'
Pioneering ecologist Nalini Nadkarni takes us up into the canopy — the area above the forest floor — where she helped research and document this unexplored ecosystem. Plus: the story of her decades-long effort to get more women into science, and how she found a surprising ally in the fight — Barbie. Video and more from Maddie's trip to the canopy is here. Follow Maddie on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Oct-17 • 11 minutes|
The Squishy Science Behind ASMR
The science is nascent and a little squishy, but researchers like Giulia Poerio are trying to better understand ASMR — a feeling triggered in the brains of some people by whispering, soft tapping, and delicate gestures. She explains how it works, and tells reporter Emily Kwong why slime might be an Internet fad that is, for some, a sensory pleasure-trigger.
|2019-Oct-16 • 10 minutes|
What We Know (And Don't) About The Dangers Of Vaping
Amid an outbreak of lung injury cases, there's a new spotlight on the dangers of vaping, a practice that's been marketed as an alternative to smoking. NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey explains, with the story of one teenager whose vaping habit landed her in the ER. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at [email protected]
|2019-Oct-15 • 10 minutes|
Kicking The Habit With 'Shrooms
Magic mushrooms — they're not just for getting weird with your friends. Researchers are increasingly looking at psychedelics to treat conditions such as depression and addiction.
|2019-Oct-06 • 2 minutes|
Introducing Short Wave
Short Wave, NPR's new daily science podcast, starts October 15th. Join host Maddie Sofia for new discoveries, everyday mysteries, and the science behind the headlines – all in about 10 minutes, Monday through Friday. Subscribe now.