About Joel Parker


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Joel Parker has written 66 articles so far, you can find them below.


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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Plight of Sharks – Extended Interview with Juliet Eilperin

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Wind Energy

In today’s show take a look at the future of wind energy. We have with us in the studio Sandy Butterfield. Sandy is the CEO and co-founder of Boulder Wind Power. Prior to his starting this venture, Sandy spent over 24 years at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s National Wind Test Center.

Co-hosts: Tom McKinnon and Joel Parker
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Show Producer: Joel Parker

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Pluto’s Moons // Wildlife Preservation

(credit: NASA, ESA, M. Showalter, Z. Levay)”]Pluto and its moons [click to enlarge] (credit: NASA, ESA, M. Showalter, Z. Levay)Feature #1:
Last month, astronomers working on the Hubble Space Telescope announced the discovery of another, fourth moon around Pluto; this moon is so small that it could fit easily inside Boulder County (a pretty tricky thing to find at a distance of three and a half billion miles). The researchers who found the new moon were making observations in support of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which is en route to fly by and study Pluto in 2015, and continue onward to explore the mysterious region beyond Pluto’s orbit known as the Kuiper Belt. How On Earth’s Ted Burnham recently met with Alan Stern, principal investigator on New Horizons, to talk about what the discovery means for that mission. [An extended version of the interview also is available.]

Harvey Locke  in Jasper National Park, Canada.  Jasper is part of the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor (Photo credit: Marie-eve Marchand)

Harvey Locke in Jasper National Park, Canada. Jasper is part of the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor (Photo credit: Marie-eve Marchand)

Feature #2:
The significant loss of species on Earth is primarily due to human destruction of habitats, forests and other wild nature, to make room for new development and agriculture. Climate change is also accelerating the rate of species extinction. Among the efforts worldwide to protect wilderness and nature so wild animals can survive is a Boulder-based nonprofit called The WILD Foundation. Harvey Locke is the organization’s vice president for conservation strategy and he helped launch the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) several years ago and oversees a global campaign called Nature Needs Half. Y2Y’s goal is to create a continuous 2,000-mile corridor for wildlife from Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. to the Yukon in Northern Canada. Harvey joins us in the studio to talk about that campaign and the science behind wildlife preservation targets.

Co-hosts: Susan Moran and Joel Parker
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Show Producer: Joel Parker

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Ocean Acidification // Citizen Science

 

 

Top Image: Ocean Acidification process. Bottom Image: New Horizons spacecraft flies by a Kuiper belt object.

 

Feature #1: Many problems plague the oceans and the fish and other species that inhabit them: overfishing, pollution, and much more. But perhaps the greatest threat to sea life – and possibly to humans – is ocean acidification.  That’s when the chemistry of the ocean changes and causes seawater to become more acidic because the ocean is absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This increase in ocean acidity makes it difficult for many plants and animals in the ocean to make or maintain their shells or skeletons.  The head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Jane Lubchenco, recently said that the ocean is becoming more acidic at rates not seen for at least 20 million years, and that’s due mostly to increases in CO2 in the atmosphere.  The threat is so grave that NOAA recently created a distinct Ocean Acidification Program. In May, Dr. Libby Jewett was appointed the first director of the program. We talk with Dr. Jewett find out more about the problem and what she aims to do about it.

Feature #2: Some sciences have a tradition of fruitful interactions between professional researchers and amateurs, and this has been made even more accessible with data being able to be shared over the internet across the world.  Dr. Pamela Gay, an Astronomer at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, is the architect and participant in many such collaborations. In addition to her teaching and research, she does extensive public outreach to share the excitement of astronomy (such as her podcast AstronomyCast.com) and even finds ways to let anyone with an internet connection make new scientific discoveries and find new worlds that will be visited by spacecraft (IceHunters.org).  We talk with Dr. Gay about the Zooniverse and her hunt for of icy objects in the outer solar system.

Hosts: Susan Moran and Joel Parker
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Tom McKinnon

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