About Tom McKinnon


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Tom McKinnon has written 16 articles so far, you can find them below.


Haitian Seismologists//Changing Antarctic Climate

Roby Douilly and Steeve Symithe

Feature #1: (start time: 06:03) On January 12, 2010, just over three years ago, a magnitude 7 earthquake shook Haiti, taking more than 200,000 lives and displacing an estimated 2 million. Still today, the International Organization for Migration estimates hundreds of thousands of people are without permanent homes, and in many ways Haiti seems no closer to rebuilding than it did three years ago.  Co-host Beth Bartel speaks to Haiti’s first seismologists — Roby Douilly and Steeve Symithe, both graduate students at Purdue University — about the future of Haiti and a career in seismology there

Feature #2: (start time: 15:42) You’ve probably heard by now that 2012 was the warmest ever in the U.S.  We’re not the only ones overheating. At the bottom of the world, over the last 50 years, West Antarctica has warmed more than scientists had thought. The implications are huge; an enormous ice sheet there  may be at risk of long-term collapse, which could cause sea levels to rise alarmingly.  Co-host Susan Moran speaks with Andrew Monaghan, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, or NCAR, here in Boulder. Dr. Monaghan co-authored the study, which was recently published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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

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Neanderthals//Antarctica


Feature #1: Neanderthals
(start time: 6:01)
Our Neanderthal ancestors have long been maligned as rather dim-witted cave-dwellers. But they may have been brighter — and more colorful — more like us, shall we say.  We turn to the BBC’s Science in Action for a look at new research into who these ancestors really were. Here’s BBC’s Jon Stewart.

Feature #2: Antarctica (start time: 11:03)
It may be hard for people living in Colorado and other land-locked states to grasp that our daily lifestyles – burning fossil fuels every time we turn on the lights or drive our car, for instance – affects the delicate marine ecosystems of the Southern Ocean, from the ice algae to the penguins and whales. And in turn, the health of the plants and animals, and indeed the ice they depend on, in Antarctica, affects our own health.  Cohost Susan Moran interviews Dr. James McClintock, a marine biologist at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, about his new book, Lost Antarctica: Adventures in a Disappearing Land.” He shares his adventures waaayy down under, and his concerns about the future of the fragile and stunning continent. 

Hosts: Ted Burnham, Susan Moran
Producer:
Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Edelstein
Executive Producer:
Jim Pullen

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The Idea Factory – Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation

Bell Labs thrived from the 1920s to the 1980s, when it was most innovative and productive institution of the twentieth century. Long before America’s brightest scientific minds began migrating west to Silicon Valley, they flocked to the Bell Labs campus in the New Jersey suburbs. At its peak, Bell Labs employed nearly fifteen thousand people, twelve hundred had PhDs. Thirteen eventually won Nobel prizes. How did they do it?  How can we learn from their successes, so we can do it here in Colorado?  New Your Times journalist Jon Gertner has written a book that provides some answers.  He calls it:  The Idea Factory – Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation.  Inside that book, you can learn how radar came to be, and lasers, transistors, satellites, mobile phones, and much more.   How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender spoke with Mr. Gertner about his new book.

Hosts: Tom McKinnon and Jim Pullen
Producer: Tom McKinnon
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Mountain Wildfires

With record high temperatures along with record low snowpack, the Colorado Front Range has been ravaged by increasingly expensive wildfires.  For today’s show, How on Earth brings in two fire experts for a panel discussion.  John Daily is a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado and the director of the Center for Combustion and Environmental Research.  Michael Kodas is a journalist and principal at Narrative Light.  He has been reporting on fire for over a decade and is currently working on a book on megafires.

Hosts: Beth Bartel and Jim Pullen
Producer: Tom McKinnon
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Additional contributions: Shelley Shlender
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Nicotine Patches // Restoring the Desert

Do nicotine patches really help you stop smoking?  Shelley Schlender interviews a scientist who says they don’t.  Lois Biener and her colleagues at the University of Massachusetts and Harvard University  have done a study that  indicates that out in the real world, people who use nicotine replacement therapy in the hopes of an easier “quit” don’t fare any better than people who use will power and community support.  Some people who use nicotine replacements are actually MORE likely to relapse.  (Extended interview version here).

Great plumes of dust rising from the desert forms an iconic image of the West, but much of that dust is a result of humans altering the desert soil structure.  Several Boulder scientists are investigating a new technology that may allow us to restore the desert, and sequester large amounts of carbon at the same time.  Tom McKinnon interviews Jim Sears, president of  A2BE Carbon Capture and  Bharath Prithiviraj, a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Colorado.  They are developing a large scale deployable technology that would enable agricultural aircraft to re-inoculate and restore arid soils using indigenous strains of soil-crust-based cyanobacteria. For additional information on airborne soil crust reseeding, its research and its applications please contact jimsears@algaeatwork.com for an overview paper on the topic.

Co-hosts: Tom McKinnon and Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Joel Parker
Producer: Tom McKinnon
Executive producer: Shelley Schlender

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Incentives for Renewable Energy//Climate Change and Biodiversity

In last month’s election, Boulder voters gave the go-ahead for the city to move forward on municipalizing the electrical utility.  The chief motivation for that decision was to put more renewable energy on the grid.  There are a large number of policy options to incentivize renewable energy – so many that it’s hard to keep them all straight.  John Farrell, a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, joined us by phone to explain the situation.  (interview begins at 6:25)

Mountainous areas like the Rockies are hotspots for plant and animal biodiversity but as the climate warms many of these species – including Colorado’s iconic pica — are under threat.  Much research has focused on the effects of temperature change, but less has focused on the interactions of temperature and precipitation in a changing climate.  University of Colorado biologist Christy McCain is closely examining those inter-relationships.  She’s been studying patterns of diversity for plants and critters on mountains around the world. She co-authored a paper that was recently published in the journal Ecology Letters about how precipitation changes appear to be far more risky than temperature change. And it doesn’t bode well for many species. (interview begins at 14:58).

Producer: Tom McKinnon
Co-Hosts: Susan Moran and Tom McKinnon
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Tom McKinnon

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Future of Electric Vehicles//Diet and Acne

Jim Motavalli joins us by phone from his home in Fairfield, Connecticut.  Jim is the author of a new book titled “High Voltage: The Fast Track to Plug In the Auto Industry” and helped us sort out some of the issues around EVs.  Mr. Motavalli is an auto journalist who writes for the New York Times, Car Talk, the Mother Nature Network and PlugInCars.com.  Jim has been covering the emerging electric vehicle industry for the last decade.   He reported that if he finds some extra money in his sofa cushions he’ll be buying a Tesla Roadster.   Rodale Press has donated some copies of “High Voltage” as premiums for new and renewing members.  Give us a call at 303-449-4885 and you’ll be reading Jim’s book faster than you can charge up your Nissan Leaf. (Motavalli interview starts at 4:39).

Shelley Schlender visited with Colorado State University Scientist and Paleolithic Lifestyle expert Loren Cordain to talk about acne prevention.    Cordain asserts that the best “prescription” for preventing acne is to eat the foods that have always helped traditional cultures be acne-free.  That means lots and lots of vegetables, along with some fruit.  Meanwhile, kick out modern foods–especially high glycemic foods . . . that means avoid sugary and starchy modern stuff  — you know, sodas, candy, bread and pasta.  Cordain also says to eliminate dairy.  (Cordain interview starts at 16:05).

Producer: Tom McKinnon
Co-Hosts: Breanna Draxler and Tom McKinnon
Engineer: Ted Burnham
Executive Producer: Tom McKinnon

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Water Crisis // Maker Movement

Susan Moran has a telephone interview with Cynthia Barnett.   Cynthia is a journalist and author of Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis.” She calls the U.S. one of the most “water-wasting places on the planet.” But in her book she also draws from positive examples of water conservation in the country to propose a new “water ethic.”  (start – 4:20).

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Jeff Branson of the SparkFun Electronics Department of Education joins Tom McKinnon in the Boulder studio to discuss the so-called Maker Movement.  In particular, he describes how it is revolutionizing K-12 education. (start 13:20).

Producer: Beth Bartel and Tom McKinnon
Co-Hosts: Susan Moran and Beth Bartel
Engineer: Ted Burnham
Executive Producer: Tom McKinnon

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National Perspective on Municipalization//Science of Fall Colors

Tom McKinnon and Peter Asmus of Pike Research discuss electrical utility municipalization from a national perspective.  Peter adds an interesting statistic — the photovoltaic industry already has created more jobs than coal mining even though at present it produces much less power.

Shelley Schlender interviews Bill Hoch of Montana State University about why leaves turn colors in the fall.  Bill punches some holes in the conventional wisdom on the topic and notes that the color change is a critical step in the trees retaining important nutrients.

Hosts: Tom McKinnon & Ted Burnham
Producer: Tom McKinnon
Engineeer: Ted Burnham
Headlines: Beth Bartel
Executive Producer: Tom McKinnon

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Post-Wild Nature//LED Lighting

Nature means something different to everyone. It’s a towering old-growth redwood forest to some.  Deep silent canyons to others. And urban community gardens to others. Defining what is “pristine nature” is even more dicey. Just ask conservation biologists trying to figure out the best ways to preserve ecosystems and their flora and fauna.
Co-host Susan Moran interviews Emma Marris, whose new book called “Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-wild World” sheds light on how notions of wilderness preservation are evolving to accommodate the ever-changing natural world, and our own role in it.

Tom McKinnon interviews Jeff Bisberg of Albeo Technologies about the new lighting revolution in solid-state LEDs.

Hosts: Tom McKinnon & Susan Moran
Producer: Tom McKinnon
Engineeer: Shellely Schlender

Executive Producer: Tom McKinnon

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