About Jim Pullen


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Jim Pullen has written 33 articles so far, you can find them below.


Mother Nature Is Trying to Kill You

Riskin_bookWelcome to the Spring Pledge Drive edition of How On Earth. I’m this quarter’s Executive Producer, Jim Pullen.

We, the How On Earth team, encourage you to take a different take on the world, to examine assumptions, ideas and evidence critically. The great philosopher of science Karl Popper, a champion of the essential role of refutation in science, wrote in The Poverty of Historicism,

For if we are uncritical, we shall always find what we want: we shall look for, and find confirmations, and we shall look away from and not see, whatever might be dangerous to our pet theories.

Consider our relationship with the rest of the natural world… Do we humans have a special vitality that sets us apart or can we be best understood as just another smart ape? It’s an essential question. In our feature interview, our guest scientist, bat biologist and Animal Planet host Dan Riskin, challenges us to reconsider–humorously, disgustingly, creepily, scarily–our perceptions of nature. Dan fields questions like, what’s wrong with ‘natural’ marketing? Are killer whales cuddly? Should we feel sympathy for bed bugs? Is a father’s love the same for humans as for water buffaloes? How we can acknowledge nature in its rich complexity and have a just and loving world beyond the grip of natural selection? All this and botfly on the brain.

Dan got me thinking–a good thing–and I think he’ll get you thinking too!

Your support during KGNU’s pledge drives is critical to keeping us on the air, so a huge thanks to our listener-members who pledged during the drive! If you haven’t yet joined the team, now(!) is the right time to fortify The Show That Makes You Smarter and community radio, KGNU! Pledge securely online at kgnu.org or call 303-449-4885. Pick up one of our great science book thank-you gifts, too.

Many thanks to Beth Bartel, Maeve Conran, and Joel Parker for hosting the pledge drive show! (Go here for the pledge show with the rich banter.)

Thanks again!

Jim and the How On Earth team

Listen to my interview with Dan Riskin:

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Tracing Methane’s Source in Drinking Water // Safe Place for Captive Wolves

lee-stanish__120by180Methane in Drinking Water (start time 05:36) Flaming water faucets were infamously exposed in the documentaries Gasland and Gasland 2. The water isn’t catching fire–methane in the water is. People are deeply concerned that methane, dredged from kilometers down, is leaking into our drinking water supplies through poorly constructed and maintained oil and gas wells, but methane can be produced by living organisms much closer to the surface too. How can we tell where the methane in the water is coming from? One way is to look at stable isotopes of carbon, but the tests are expensive and require a lot of expertise. But our guest Dr. Lee Stanish explains to host Jim Pullen that she is working on much cheaper ways to trace the source of the methane. Lee is a Research Associate in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She’s trying to raise money for her research through crowd-sourcing–learn more here.

Apollo-KWHaven for Captive Wolves (start time 14:25) Right now in the United States, about a quarter of a million wolves live in captivity and fewer than 10,000 wolves in the wild. Most of the captive wolves born each year do not survive to see their first birthday.  They’re either destroyed or they die of neglect.  Colorado’s Mission Wolf refuge has rescued three dozen of these born-in-a-cage wolves to give them a better life, and to use some of them as ambassadors who educate people around the U-S about the amazing intelligence of wolves, and their plight. How On Earth’s Shelley Schlender and Boulder Naturalist and KGNU volunteer, Steve Jones, bring us the story.

Hosts: Beth Bartel and Jim Pullen
Producer/Engineer/Executive Producer: Jim Pullen
Additional contributions: Shelley Schlender and Joel Parker

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Molecular Gastronomy

Lehndorff and KleinmanWelcome to a special Radio Nibbles version of How On Earth. Nibbles’ (and pie aficionado) John Lehndorff, chef Ian Kleinman and How On Earth’s Jim Pullen set to work making and eating high-tech delicacies. Liquid nitrogen sorbets, strawberries floating above superconducting magnets, and more! Food and tech on the show that makes you smarter. Yum!

Host/Producer/Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Jim Pullen

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CO2 from the Amazon // US Smokestacks

amazonAmazon CO2 (start time 04:37) The Amazon basin contains the largest tropical rainforest on the planet. It’s been critical not only for its beauty and biodiversity but also for its ability to store more carbon dioxide than it emits. The soil and above-ground biomass of the Amazon makes it one of the largest reservoirs of carbon dioxide. And that has helped to keep climate change from accelerating even faster. But a new study shows that the Amazon’s tropical ecosystems may actually give off more CO2 into the atmosphere than they absorb. To learn what’s shifting in the Amazon basin and the implications of this shift, host Susan Moran speaks with one of the authors of the study. John Miller is a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder. Specifically, he’s with NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, which is at the University of Colorado.

cires-joost-in-lab_500Power Plant Smokestacks (start time 14:43) To understand the global greenhouse gas budgets, it’s critical to characterize their sources and sinks. Electrical power generation accounts for about a third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US. While the actual generation of power is only part of the entire production and use cycle of electricity, power generation stations are an important part of the budget. A definitive study of smokestack gases shows that power plant emissions in the US are down and that combined-cycle gas powered plants have much lower emissions than the coal plants they are replacing. How On Earth host Jim Pullen talks with the study’s lead author, Dr. Joost de Gouw. Joost is also with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado in Boulder and also NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL), Chemical Science Division.

Hosts: Jim Pullen, Susan Moran
Producer: Jim Pullen
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Jim Pullen
Additional contributions: Joel Parker and Kendra Krueger

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Quitting smoking//Smoke and children’s health

PrintQuitting smoking (start time 4:39) 50 years ago, the U.S. Surgeon General began a campaign against cigarettes that has saved million of lives. Cohost Jim Pullen talks with Dr. Amy Lukowski about proven strategies to stop smoking and a special quitting campaign for women who are pregnant. Dr. Lukowski is the Clinical Director of the Health Initiatives Programs for National Jewish Health.

If you’d like to learn more about kicking the habit, visit the Colorado Quitline.

 

 (photo courtesy K.West / California National Primate Research Center)

(photo courtesy K.West / California National Primate Research Center)

Smoke and children’s health (start time 13:36) It’s been known for some time that breathing in smoke from wildfires — or wood stoves, for that matter — is bad for your health.

Many studies have shown that when children are exposed to inhalable particulate matter early in life, their lungs don’t function properly. And the effect on the lungs from inhaling smoke persists as children grow older.

But what has not been well understood is precisely what is happening in a person’s body that causes the harmful effects — the biologic mechanism. Also, there is no data available on the long-term impact of exposure to air pollutants on the immune systems of human infants and school children.

A new study helps to narrow the gaps in our understanding of the effects of air pollutant exposure early in life.  And in fact, the study was conducted on monkeys, not humans.

Cohost Susan Moran’s guest is Dr. Lisa Miller, who led the new study. She’s an associate professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California at Davis. And she is Associate Director of Research at the California National Primate Research Center at the university.

Hosts: Jim Pullen, Susan Moran
Producer: Jim Pullen
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Jim Pullen
Additional contributions: Beth Bartel, Ted Burnham, Kendra Krueger, Shelley Schlender

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2013 Was a Good Year, in Science!

The team considers noteworthy science on the last day of 2013. What’s worth mentioning? Too many people, too much carbon, and way too much fun in astronomy!

AlanWeisman_Countdown.shrunkBiology and Health (start time 00:56). This year marked the passing of long-time Boulder resident, Al Bartlett. Bartlett was one of the world’s most eloquent voices calling for population control. He will be missed. One of the champions picking up the torch is New York Times bestselling author, Alan Weisman. Weisman offers exciting solutions to population growth in Countdown:  Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth.

How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender reports that this is a hard book to read, because it’s long, and thorough, and urgency of the need for population reduction worldwide is often not a happy topic. She admits that sometimes, she even switched to a detective novel before reading more of Countdown. But she kept at it because Countdown provides some exciting solutions to population growth. One of the most compelling is to provide women with education and access to birth control. It turns out these two offerings are often a key to women deciding, voluntarily, to limit their families to two children, and sometimes, fewer.

Co-host Shelley Schlender hosts this interview with Weisman about perhaps the greatest problem facing humanity–too many people.

 

The late Professor John Mainstone cared for the pitch drop experiment. (University of Queensland, Australia, School of Mathematics and Physics)

The late Professor John Mainstone cared for the pitch drop experiment. (University of Queensland, Australia)

Physics and Astronomy (start time 08:56). Co-host Jim Pullen couldn’t decide on the best physics and astronomy story of 2013, so he dipped into the rich happenings of the year, taken from all over the world: superbolides skipping over Russia, bitumen dripping in Ireland, Voyager 1 long-ranging somewhere in the galaxy, and Icecube spying far-flung neutrinos down at the bottom of the world (and beyond). We’ll learn that the news of 2013 owes much to 2012, 1977, 1944 and even 1927. And that leaves WIMPS, dark matter, LUX, two-dimensional graphene, trapped quantum states, quantum computers, and so much more for 2014!

 

 

Flood crumpled truck in Jamestown Canyon, Colorado (photo courtesy Jim Pullen)

Flood crumpled truck in Jamestown Canyon, Colorado (photo courtesy Jim Pullen)

Environment (start time 16:44). What a year it’s been! We shot past 400 ppm of CO2 in the ever-warming blanket of air skinned over the planet. And disasters! Mighty and perilous Super Typhoon Haiyan, with the fastest winds ever recorded, crashed into the Philipines in November. More locally, in September here on the Northern Front Range, a flood of historic proportion. Co-hosts Susan Moran and Tom Yulsman look at the perils of 2013 and portents.

 

 

Happy 2014 to you, our KGNU and How On Earth family!

Hosts: Shelley Schlender, Jim Pullen, Susan Moran
Producer: Jim Pullen
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel

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Carnegie Professor of the Year // Measuring Oil and Gas Air Pollution

Dr. Steven Pollock, Carnegie Professor of the Year in 2013.

Feature 1 – Carnegie Professor of the Year (start time 5:40):  Join the KGNU How On Earth team and CU physicist and Carnegie Teacher of the Year Dr. Steve Pollock to learn about the pain and pleasure of learning physics. Pollock teaches both upper and lower division physics classes, and according to a former student and oceanographer who now teaches at Front Range Community College he is “a huge bundle of energy!” Faculty from four institutions are given the Carnegie Award each year. At CU, Pollock joins physicist and Nobel-prize winner Carl Wieman, who was honored by Carnegie in 2004.

Dr. Chelsea Stephens in Utah.

Feature 2 – Oil and Gas Air Pollution (start time 14:48): CU atmospheric chemist Dr. Chelsea Stephens shares what she’s learning about air pollution near Front Range oil and gas wells. That’s especially timely now that the state is reconsidering its oil and gas air quality regulations.

Hosts: Jim Pullen, Joel Parker
Producer: Jim Pullen
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel
Additional Contributions: Beth Bartel and Brian Calvert

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Plight of Bees // Climate and Flood

Feature 1: (start time: 03:45) Our first guest is Boulder beekeeper Tom Theobald. He talks about the current state of the bee crisis and what, if anything, the EPA is doing to address concerns that systemic pesticides like Clothianidan are properly controlled.

 

Dr. Claudia Tebaldi

Feature 2: (start time: 12:42) Then National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Dr. Claudia Tebaldi joins us. Tebaldi, a statistician, specializes in long-term modeling of climate  change. We talk to her about the relationship between flood and the warming planet. We also talk about the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which she helped lead. She also explains what the ‘fog of prediction is.

 

Hosts: Jim Pullen, Beth Bartel
Producer: Jim Pullen
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel

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Court Orders NRC to Decide on Yucca Mountain Permit

(Proposed design of Yucca Mountain (Los Alamos National Lab)

On Tuesday, August 13th, the US Court of Appeals-DC Circuit ordered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to evaluate the application for the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository. Dr. Bill Alley and Rosemarie Alley talk with us about the significance of the decision. The Alley’s just published Too Hot To Touch: The Problem of High-Level Nuclear Waste with Cambridge University Press. They were also our guests on August 13th’s How On Earth!

Host: Jim Pullen
Producer: Jim Pullen

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Too Hot To Touch

Today we’re joined by Dr. William Alley and Rosemarie Alley to learn about the nuclear waste crisis in the United States. Bill Alley, a distinguished hydrologist, was in charge of the USGS’s water studies at Yucca Mountain from 2002 until 2010, when the Obama administration ended the project. Rosemarie Alley is a writer and educator and is passionate about the nuclear waste issue. Together, they’ve written a highly readable and informative book published by Cambridge University Press in 2013: Too Hot To Touch: the Problem of High Level Nuclear Waste. The Alley’s also discuss the Ft. St. Vrain Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation near Platteville, where 15 MTHM (metric tons of heavy metal) are housed until a more permanent home can be found. We’ll be bringing you more on the Ft. St. Vrain facility later in the year.

Host: Jim Pullen
Producer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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