Science Friday

Science Friday

www.wnycstudios.org/shows/science-friday
Brain fun for curious people.


SciFri Extra: About Time
Jun 25 • 14 min
The official U.S. time is kept on a cesium fountain clock named NIST-F1, located in Boulder, Colorado. On a recent trip to Boulder, Ira took a trip to see the clock. He spoke with Elizabeth Donley, acting head of the Time and Frequency Division at the…
Smoke Chasers, Colorado Apples, Pikas. June 21, 2019, Part 2
Jun 21 • 48 min
When wildfires rage in the West, Colorado State University atmospheric scientist Emily Fischer hops into a plane, and flies straight into the smoke. The plane is a flying chemistry lab, studded with instruments, and Fischer’s goal is to uncover the…
Cephalopod Week 2019, Climate and Microbes, Puppy Eyes, Wave Energy. June 21, 2019, Part 1
Jun 21 • 48 min
For eight glorious days during the end of June, Science Friday honors the mighty mollusks of the ocean—Cephalopod Week returns for the sixth year! And we’re cephalo-brating with a tidal wave of ways for you to participate. This year, we want to know your…
Degrees Of Change: Urban Heat Islands. June 14, 2019, Part 1
Jun 14 • 45 min
We’ve known for more than 200 years that cities are hotter than surrounding rural areas. All that concrete and brick soaks up the sun’s rays, then re-emits them as heat long after night has fallen. On top of that, waste heat from the energy we use to…
The Best Summer Science Books. June 14, 2019, Part 2
Jun 14 • 46 min
The Best Science Books To Read This Summer They say a vacation is only as good as the book you bring with you. And these days it feels like there are as many ways to consume science writing as there are fields of science. Whether you’re a fan of…
Quantum Leaps, Cancer Drugs, Cat Cameras. June 7, 2019, Part 2
Jun 7 • 47 min
The “spooky physics” of the quantum world has long been marked by two key ideas: The idea of superposition, meaning that a quantum particle can exist in multiple states simultaneously, and the idea of randomness, meaning that it’s impossible to predict…
Gender Bias In Research Trials, Antarctica, Tornado Engineering. June 7, 2019, Part 1
Jun 7 • 47 min
For half a century, most neuroscience experiments have had one glaring flaw: They’ve ignored female study subjects. The reason? Researchers claimed, for example, that female rats and mice would skew their data, due to hormonal cycling. Writing in the…
SciFri Extra: Remembering Murray Gell-Mann
Jun 4 • 43 min
Physicist Murray Gell-Mann died recently at the age of 89. He received the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles, and is credited with giving quarks their name. But he was known for more than just physics—he was a…
Climate Politics, Football and Math, Ether. May 31, 2019, Part 2
May 31 • 47 min
A green wave is sweeping through Washington, and it’s picking up Republicans who are eager to share their ideas on clean energy and climate change. But even as Republican lawmakers turn to shaping climate policy, the White House is doubling down on…
Spoiler Alert, Glyphosate, Unisexual Salamanders. May 31, 2019, Part 1
May 31 • 47 min
How many times has this happened to you? You’re standing in front of an open freezer, wondering what type of mystery meat has been left in there, when you purchased it, and if it’s still safe to eat? If you’re puzzled by sell-by dates, freezer burn, and…
SciFri Extra: A Relatively Important Eclipse
May 28 • 14 min
This week marks the 100th anniversary of an eclipse that forever changed physics and our understanding of the universe. In May 1919, scientists set out for Sobral, Brazil, and Príncipe, an island off the west coast of Africa, to photograph the momentarily…
Bees! May 24, 2019, Part 2
May 24 • 46 min
For the hobby beekeeper, there’s much to consider when homing your first domestic honey bee colonies—what kind of hive to get, where to put them, where to get your bees, and how to help them survive the winter. But when left to their own devices, what do…
Ebola Outbreak, Climate Play, Navajo Energy. May 24, 2019, Part 1
May 24 • 46 min
What would it take to power a subsea factory of the future? Plus, other stories from this week in science news. Then, as the last coal-fired power plant plans to shut down at the end of the year, the Navajo Tribe is embracing renewables. Next, in the…
New Horizons Discovery, Science Fair Finalists, Screams. May 17, 2019, Part 2
May 17 • 46 min
The most happening New Year’s Party of 2019 wasn’t at Times Square or Paris—it was in the small town of Laurel, Maryland, halfway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. There, scientists shared the…
Degrees Of Change: Sea Level Rise, Coal-Use Decline. May 17, 2019, Part 1
May 17 • 46 min
As the frequency of tropical storms and droughts increase and sea levels rise with climate change, forested wetlands along the Atlantic coast are slowly filling with dead and dying trees. The accelerating spread of these “ghost forests” over the past…
Biodiversity Report And The Science Of Parenting. May 10, 2019, Part 2
May 10 • 46 min
According to a new UN report on global biodiversity, as many as one million species—both plants and animals—are now at risk of extinction, according to a new UN report on global biodiversity. That number includes 40% of all amphibian species, 33% of…
Superconductivity Search, Ride-Share Congestion, Lions Vs. Porcupines. May 10, 2019, Part 1
May 10 • 47 min
Six decades ago, a group of physicists came up with a theory that described electrons at a low temperature that could attract a second electron. If the electrons were in the right configuration, they could conduct electricity with zero resistance. The…
Neuroscientists Peer Into The Mind’s Eye, Alexander von Humboldt. May 3, 2019, Part 2
May 3 • 47 min
It sounds like a sci-fi plot: Hook a real brain up to artificial intelligence, and let the two talk to each other. That’s the design of a new study in the journal Cell, in which artificial intelligence networks displayed images to monkeys, and then…
Business Planning For Climate Change,The Digital Afterlife. May 3, 2019, Part 1
May 3 • 47 min
Scientists have built all sorts of models to predict the likelihood of extreme weather events. But it’s not just scientists who are interested in these models. Telecomm giant AT&T teamed up with scientists at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois to…
Measles, Poetry Month, Lemur Hibernation. April 26, 2019, Part 2
Apr 26 • 45 min
Back in 1963, before the development of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, there were 4 million cases of measles every year. It took nearly four decades, but by 2000, enough people had become vaccinated that the measles virus was eliminated in…
Degrees of Change: Sponge Cities and Pocket Prairies. April 26, 2019, Part 1
Apr 26 • 46 min
Climate change is happening—now we need to deal with it. Degrees of Change, a new series of hour-long radio specials from Science Friday, explores the problem of climate change and how we as a planet are adapting to it. In this first chapter, SciFri looks…
5G, Pig Brains, Privacy For Nature. April 19, 2019, Part 1
Apr 19 • 47 min
Last week, President Trump announced a new initiative to push forward the implementation of 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity for smartphones and other devices. How is this faster speed possible, and how quickly will it become accessible to…
New Human Species, Census, Plankton, Brain Etchings. April 19, 2019, Part 2
Apr 19 • 46 min
Last week, researchers announced they’d found the remains of a new species of ancient human on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. It was just a few teeth and bones from toes and hands, but they appeared to have a strange mix of ancient and modern…
Year In Space Results, Citizen Science Day, Cherry Blossoms. April 12, 2019, Part 2
Apr 12 • 46 min
To find out what was happening to astronauts over longer periods of space flight, NASA put together a 10-team study of twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly. Scott spent a year on International Space Station, while his brother Mark lived a relatively…
Event Horizon Telescope, Biosphere 2. April 12, 2019, Part 1
Apr 12 • 46 min
“As I like to say, it’s never a good idea to bet against Einstein,” astrophysicist Shep Doeleman told Science Friday back in 2016, when the Event Horizon Telescope project was just getting underway. At an illuminating press conference on Wednesday, April…
SciFri Extra: Picturing A Black Hole
Apr 6 • 17 min
The Event Horizon Telescope is tackling one of the largest cosmological challenges ever undertaken: Take an image of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, using a telescope the size of the Earth. Now, the Event Horizon team has…
Right-To-Repair, Exercise Recovery, Gov. Inslee. April 5, 2019, Part 2
Apr 5 • 47 min
Whenever your smartphone or video game console breaks down, you usually have to go back to the manufacture or a technician affiliated with the company to have your device fixed. Oftentimes, companies don’t release parts or guides to their devices, making…
Coal Ash, Soil Loss, Sap, Bristlecone Pines. April 5, 2019, Part 1
Apr 5 • 47 min
Maple tapping season is underway in the sugar maple stands of the United States. Warm days and below-freezing nights kick off a cycle of sap flow crucial for maple syrup production. But why is the flow of sap so temperature dependent in sugar maples?…
Poetry of Science, The Power of Calculus. March 29, 2019, Part 2
Mar 29 • 48 min
April is National Poetry Month, a time of readings, outreach programs, and enthusiastic celebration of the craft. And for a special Science Friday celebration, we’ll be looking at where science and poetry meet. Tracy K. Smith, the current U.S. poet…
Growing Glaciers, Expanding Universe, Flu Near You. March 29, 2019, Part 1
Mar 29 • 48 min
Once upon a time, everything in the universe was crammed into a very small space. Then came the Big Bang, and the universe has been expanding ever since. But just how fast is it expanding? Calculating that number is a challenge that dates back almost a…
A.I. And Doctors, Alzheimer’s. March 22, 2019, Part 2
Mar 22 • 46 min
When you go to the doctor’s office, it can sometimes seem like wait times are getting longer while face time with your doctor is getting shorter. In his book, Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again, cardiologist Eric…
House Science Committee, Superbloom, Snowpack. March 22, 2019, Part 1
Mar 22 • 47 min
There’s been a changing of the guard in the U.S. House of Representatives. In January, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a democrat from Texas, took over as chair of the House Committee for Science, Space, and Technology from her predecessor Lamar…
Frans de Waal, Inactive Ingredients, Street View, and Gentrification. March 15, 2019, Part 2
Mar 15 • 46 min
Primatologist Frans de Waal has spent his lifetime studying the lives of animals, especially our closest cousins, the chimpanzees. de Waal has observed their shifting alliances and the structure of their political ranks. He has seen bitter conflicts break…
Youth Climate Protest, Science Talent Search Winners, Snowflake Changes. March 15, 2019, Part 1
Mar 15 • 46 min
It all started with 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Last August, Thunberg started skipping school on Fridays to protest outside Sweden’s parliament, insisting her country get behind the Paris Climate Agreement. Her protests have…
SciFri Extra: Celebrating The Elements
Mar 12 • 26 min
Do you have a favorite chemical element? Neurologist Oliver Sacks did—he was partial to dense, high melting-point metals, especially those metals between hafnium and platinum on the periodic table. This month marks the 150th anniversary of chemist Dmitri…
HIV Remission, Bones, Jumping Spiders. March 8, 2019, Part 2
Mar 8 • 46 min
Nearly twelve years ago, a cancer patient infected with HIV received two bone marrow transplants to wipe out his leukemia. Now, researchers in the United Kingdom reported in Nature earlier this week that their patient, a man known only as “the London…
NASA Administrator, California Wildfires, Lichens. March 8, 2019, Part 1
Mar 8 • 46 min
On December 14, 1972, as Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan prepared to board the lunar module, he gave one last dispatch from the lunar surface. And yet, 47 years later, humankind has not set another foot on the lunar surface. But now, NASA’s ready to…
Icefish, Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, Wireless Baby Monitoring. March 1, 2019, Part 2
Mar 1 • 46 min
During an electrical system test early in in the morning of April 26, 1986, Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded. The disaster at the plant was not caused solely by the test, however—a perfect storm of engineering and design missteps,…
Synthetic Genomes, Climate Panel, Local Recycling. March 1, 2019, Part 1
Mar 1 • 47 min
DNA is the universal programming language for life, and the specific code to that program are the combination of the base pairs adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine. But are those the only base pairs that could be used to create DNA? Scientists looking…
SciFri Extra: A Night Of Volcanoes And Earthquakes With N.K. Jemisin
Feb 27 • 28 min
The Science Friday Book Club discussion of N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season may have stopped erupting for the season, but we have one more piece of volcanic goodness for you. SciFri producer and chief bookworm Christie Taylor got the chance to speak with…
Black Holes, California Megaflood. Feb 22, 2019, Part 2
Feb 22 • 46 min
When it floods in California, the culprit is usually what’s known as an atmospheric river—a narrow ribbon of ultra-moist air moving in from over the Pacific Ocean. Atmospheric rivers are also essential sources of moisture for western reservoirs and…
Telescope Decisions, Grape Plasma, Israeli Moon Lander. Feb 22, 2019, Part 1
Feb 22 • 46 min
The American Astronomical Society meeting is the largest annual gathering of astronomers and astrophysicists. It’s not known for drama. But this year, the buzz in the room wasn’t too different from the nervous energy during an awards night. That’s because…
Declining Insects, Sunny Day Flooding, Liquid Rules. Feb 15, 2019, Part 2
Feb 15 • 47 min
That once vibrant forest has gotten quieter and emptier, as many of the insects— and the animals that depend on them—have disappeared. In a worldwide report card on the state of insects in the journal Biological Conservation, the conclusion is dire: “This…
SciFri Book Club: ‘The Fifth Season.’ Feb 15, 2019, Part 1
Feb 15 • 47 min
In this final installment of the winter Book Club, we wrap up a winter of exploring The Stillness, learning how volcanologists research lava flows and crater tremors, and even diving into the center of the earth. Ira joins Science Friday SciArts producer…
Buttons, Grand Canyon Maps, Mosquitoes. Feb 8, 2019, Part 2
Feb 8 • 47 min
The button is everywhere. It allows us to interact with our computers and technology, alerts us when someone is at the front door, and with a tap, can have dinner delivered to your home. But buttons also are often associated with feelings of control,…
Earth’s Core, Govt Data In The Cloud, Book Club. Feb 8, 2019, Part 1
Feb 8 • 46 min
At the very center of the Earth is a solid lump of iron and nickel that might be as hot as the surface of the Sun. This solid core is thought to be why our magnetic field is as strong as it is. As the core grows, energy is transferred to the outer core to…
Sleep and the Immune System, Measuring Carbon, Specimens of Hair. Feb 1, 2019, Part 2
Feb 1 • 46 min
Some citizen scientists collect minerals or plants. But 19th-century lawyer Peter A. Browne collected hair—lots and lots of hair. His collection started innocently enough. Browne decided to make a scientific study of wool with the hope of jumpstarting…
Digital Art, Lava Lab, Desalination. Feb 1, 2019, Part 1
Feb 1 • 46 min
A series of lines on a wall, drawn by museum staff, from instructions written by an artist. A textile print made from scanning the screen of an Apple IIe computer, printing onto heat transfer material, and ironing the result onto fabric. A Java program…
Medical Conflict Of Interest, Saturn’s Rings, Bear Brook Podcast. Jan 25, 2019, Part 2
Jan 25 • 46 min
Most scientific journals go by the honor system when it comes to conflicts of interest: They ask, and the researchers tell. But that system might be due for an overhaul. A recent ProPublica and New York Times investigation found that a top cancer…
Weather Advances, Listening to Volcanoes, Phragmites. Jan 25, 2019, Part 1
Jan 25 • 45 min
Your smartphone gives you up-to-the-minute weather forecast updates at the tap of a button. Every newscast has a weather segment. And outlets like the Weather Channel talk weather all day, every day. But how much has the process of predicting the weather…