About Joel Parker


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Joel Parker has written 60 articles so far, you can find them below.


Bright Meteor // Dark Matter

Russian Meteor (starts at 4:28) Just a few days ago on February 15th,  a large meteor broke up in the skies over Russia, creating an air blast and sonic boom, which caused damage to buildings that injured over 1,000 people. We talk with Dr. Clark Chapman to ask why the universe is taking potshots at us.  Dr. Chapman is an astronomer and Senior Scientist at the Boulder office of the Southwest Research Institute, and is recognized as a leading researcher in planetary cratering and in the physical properties asteroids, comets, and moons.  For more than a decade Dr. Chapman has been studying the risks of comets and asteroids hitting the Earth and has been a member of Congressional and international committees regarding impact hazards. He is a founding member of the B612 Foundation, which is developing ways to detect and deflect hazardous asteroids.

Dark Matter (starts at 12:45) Maybe you’ve heard about it.  Maybe you even know that it is everywhere throughout the universe.  But for such a ubiquitous material, what do you really know about Dark Matter?  If the answer is “Not much,” don’t worry, you are in good company; many scientists would say the same thing. But, you’re in luck because we have Dr. Martin Huber with us today talk about Dark Matter – what is known know about it and how we can detect it.  Dr. Huber is Professor of Physics and Director of the Master of Integrated Sciences program at the University of Colorado, Denver.  He is a member of the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search project, and on today’s show he sheds some light on Dark Matter.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Jim Pullen
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Robert Arentz – Asteroid Impact Hazards & Ball Aerospace

Main Feature (starts at 5:25). We talk with Dr. Robert Arentz from Ball Aerospace in Boulder about what’s new and interesting at Ball and in space missions in general including asteroid impact hazards on Earth and what can be done about it.

Hosts: Joel Parker and Jim Pullen
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Jim Pullen

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The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson

The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson (start time 6:20). The book Silent Spring, published in 1962, is widely credited for setting the stage for the modern environmental movement. Its author, Rachel Carson, an unassuming field biologist and writer, uncovered how in the process of killing crop pests, chemicals such as DDT were also killing birds, fish and other wildlife.  Fifty years after Silent Spring was published, several of the worst offending toxins are off the market – at least in the U.S. – but many more persist and new ones have emerged. And they’re wreaking havoc on human health, not just wildlife. How On Earth co-host Susan Moran talks with William Souder, author of the new book On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, which was just published last month to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of Silent Spring.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: 
Joel Parker
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: 
Jim Pullen

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Bees and Pesticides // Radiometers and Weather

Bees and Pesticides (start at 6:40). Two studies published last week in the journal Science (here and here) make a strong case for beekeepers who worry that a new class of pesticides called “neonicotinoids” hurts honeybees and bumblebees.   In recent years, honeybee populations have rapidly declined, in part due to a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Bumblebee populations have been suffering as well. Researchers have proposed many causes for these declines, including pesticides, but it’s been unclear exactly how pesticides cause damage. Both of the new studies looked at the effects of neonicotinoid insecticides, which were introduced in the early 1990s and have now become one of the most widely used crop pesticides in the world. One study, from the United Kingdom, shows that the pesticides reduce a bee’s ability to store enough food and to produce new queens.  In a second study, French researchers tied tiny radios to honeybees then exposed them to low levels of the pesticides; a high number of the bees lost their sense of direction and died away from the hive.  These two new studies add to concerns raised in January by a Purdue University study, which indicated that neonicotinoids persist, as poisons, in both plants and soil for much longer than thought, increasing the chance of the pesticide to harm bees and other insects.  Despite the increasing number of studies calling into question the safety of these pesticides, the EPA has done little to restrict their use.  Local beekeeper Tom Theobald talks with How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender that when it comes to honeybees, these are dangerous pesticides.  You can hear the extended version of this interview on this website.

Radiometers and Weather (start at 12:50). Predicting the weather is a tough job, and climate change is bringing unseasonal conditions that make it even more difficult to predict.  But a monitoring device produced here in Boulder may be able to improve local weather forecasts significnatly.  These radiometers work by creating 3-D profiles of the moisture in the air, which is a key element for meteorologists and climate modelers alike.  They are now being put to various weather-related uses all over the planet.  Stick Ware is the founder and lead scientist of the Boulder-based company, Radiometrics, and he’s here in the studio with us today to give us the scoop on these radiometers.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Breanna Draxler
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Headline Contributors: Susan Moran, Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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The Science of Habit Formation [extended version]

The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

This is the extended version of the interview by How On Earth host Susan Moran of New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg, author of a new book titled The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business.  The interview first aired on March 27, 2012

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The Accelerating Expansion of The Universe // Pine Bark Beetles

The Accelerating Expansion of The Universe (start at 5:11).   Have you ever had the feeling that things are moving faster and faster these days?  Well, maybe it’s not your imagination.  Proof that the universe is not just expanding but is accelerating garnered a Nobel Prize last year.   To help explain what’s going on, we talk to Dr. Adam Riess, a professor of physics and astronomy at the Johns Hopkins University and is a scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.   When he was a research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1996 to 1999, Dr. Riess and his colleagues conducted the research that was to win him a share of the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics.  The citation for the prize stated it was: “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae.”  In today’s show, Dr. Riess translates what that means and the implications about the ultimate fate of the universe.

Pine Bark Beetle - photo by Jeff Mitton

Pine Bark Beetles (start at 19:22).  The tree-killing pine bark beetles used to breed once a year.  Warming annual temperatures now allow them to breed twice, resulting in 60 times more offspring.  Hungry, tree-eating offspring.  University of Colorado biologists Jeff Mitton and Scott Ferrenberg have just published their findings that the doubled-up breeding season explains why the recent pinebark beetle epidemic has killed so many trees.  And it’s not over yet.  How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender talks with the scientists about which trees are the most vulnerable to pinebark beetles.  You also can hear the extended version of that interview.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Beth Bartel
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Headline Contributor: Susan Moran
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Leaky Natural Gas Wells // Measuring Glaciers and Ice Caps

Leaky Natural Gas Wells (start time 6:22).   We speak with Greg Frost, a scientist from the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), about a new study, which is being published by the Journal of Geophysical Research.  The study indicates that natural gas drilling creates higher amounts of methane leakage into the atmosphere than previous estimates had indicated.  Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and unless this problem of leakage is solved, there is concern that drilling for natural gas might cause higher levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than burning coal.  We also offer an extended version of this interview.

Recent Contributions of Glaciers and Ice Caps to Sea Level Rise (start time 14:25).  Scientists at CU’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research now have used eight years worth of satellite data to a clearer picture of how climate change is impacting the cryosphere, or ice-covered parts of the planet. (See animations here.)  Knowing how much ice has been lost during this time can help scientists understand how melting ice might contribute to sea level rise, both now and in the future. But there have been conflicting stories in the press about how the results should be interpreted.  We talk with Tad Pfeffer, one of the study’s coauthors, to discuss what’s really happening to the Earth’s ice.

Hosts: Joel Parker & Breanna Draxler
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineers: Jim Pullen & Shelley Schlender
Additional contributions: Beth Bartel
Executive producer: Shelley Schlender

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Underwater Volcanoes // Sleep

Underwater Volcanoes (start time 5:45). Most of our planet’s volcanoes are out of sight, and largely out of mind. Hidden under sometimes thousands of feet of water, volcanoes on the sea floor bubble and boil away without our knowledge and largely without our understanding. We talk with Oregon State University volcanologist Bill Chadwick about some of his research on these buried giants. More information (with photos and videos) are available at NOAA’s VENTS Program.

Sleep (start time 15:50).  As any mother knows, when children get cranky, one of the best solutions is to “go take a nap.” What is less understood is whether or not those naps can be now and then, or whether it’s important to keep them regular. We speak with an expert who has just published a study that looks at the question of napping among preschool children. Her name is Monique LeBourgeois and she’s a professor of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado’s Sleep and Development Lab.

Co-hosts: Joel Parker and Shelley Schlender
Contributors: Beth Bartel, Breanna Draxler, Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Producer: Joel Parker
Executive producer: Shelley Schlender

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Of Math and Wizards

Math for Life: Crucial Ideas You Didn’t Learn in SchoolOne often hears people state “I’m not good at math” or that they don’t like math because it they don’t think it has any relevance to their day-to-day life (other than, maybe, to balance a checkbook). However, both of those myths are addressed head-on in a new book titled “Math for Life: Crucial Ideas You Didn’t Learn in School.” The author of that book is Dr. Jeffrey Bennett, an astrophysicist and educator. He has written several text books and books for the general public including the popular series of children’s books (“Max goes to the Moon” and other places around the solar system) and now another new children’s book called “The Wizard Who Saved the World.” We are happy to have Jeff back on our show in this episode to talk about the importance of math to how we make decisions in our personal lives, in our community, and in Congress…and about being a Wizard.The Wizard Who Saved the World

Hosts: Joel Parker, Breanna Draxler
Headlines: Breanna Draxler, Beth Bartel
Engineer: Joel Parker
Producer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Tom McKinnon

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Colorado & Oceans // Nitrogen & Snails

Feature #1 (time mark 5:30)  When people think of Colorado, they usually don’t think about “oceans”.  After all, Colorado doesn’t have much of a coastline these days, though it was definitely had oceanfront property a few hundred million years ago.   However, being in a landlocked state doesn’t mean that there isn’t any thing we can do to impact the health and ecology of the ocean and marine biology.  Co-host Joel Parker talks with  Vicki Goldstein, founder and president of the Colorado Ocean Coalition about the “Making Waves in Colorado” symposium and what all of us around the world (leaving near or far from oceans) do that impact and can help oceans.

Feature #2 (time mark 14:10)  Nitrogen – we can’t live without it, but you can have too much of a good thing. In its gaseous form nitrogen is harmless and makes up nearly 80 percent of the atmosphere. The worldwide population never would have reached 7 billion people without nitrogen, in the form of chemical fertilizer. But excess nitrogen –from fertilizer runoff, manure, human sewage and other sources is wreaking havoc on the environment.  Co-host Susan Moran talks with John Mischler, a PhD student at CU Boulder, who is researching worms and snails in Colorado and Africa. He talks about how excess nutrients in ponds, lakes and elsewhere can lead to the spread of parasitic disease from trematodes to snails to us.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Headlines: Breanna Draxler, Tom Yulsman, Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Producer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Tom McKinnon

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