Algae oil omega-3 // Little Ice Age

algae samples growing in a DSM lab; photo courtesy of DSM

Algae Oil Omega-3 (start time 5:28).  Omega-3 dietary supplements are all the rage. Many studies claim that this family of fatty acids benefits your brain, heart and vision, among other things. A non-fish source that already is infused in milk and other foods we consume is oil derived from marine algae. Cohost Susan Moran interviews Dr. Bill Barclay, a microbial ecologist who manages the Boulder division of Martek Biosciences (now DSM). He talks about how he discovered how to produce DHA omega-3 oils from microalgae, and how they can boost our health in an environmentally sustainable way (or at least free of concern about overfishing).

Gifford Miller collecting dead plant samples from beneath a Baffin Island ice cap; photo courtesy of Gifford Miller

Little Ice Age (start time 15:25). Shortly after the Middle Ages, something strange happened.  Suddenly, the entire world got a little cooler.  And then it hung on. The cooling lasted over 500 years, all the way to the 1800s.  Those five cool centuries are known as the Little Ice Age.  How it happened has been a mystery that modern climate scientists have worked hard to figure out, and one they’ve argued about.  Now, a University of Colorado Boulder-led study appears to have finally solved the mystery.  HOE’s Shelley Schlender interviews the lead author of the study, CU-Boulder Professor Gifford Miller.

Hosts: Tom McKinnon, Susan Moran
Contributor: Breanna Draxler
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
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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20th Anniversary Science Show

Bucky Ball 1991 "Molecule of the Year"

We celebrate 20 years of How on Earth, featuring the 1st ever KGNU science show, 20 years ago, including Bucky Balls, Electromagnetic Radiation and Cows, Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble, and along the way, we give updates on current science issues, including Tom McKinnon talking about applications for Bucky Balls (Fullerenes) today, a conversation with CU Electrical Engineer Frank Barnes, who is one of the world’s most sought-after experts on EMFs,  Southwest Research Institute Astrophysicist Joel Parker gives an update on space telescopes, and CU Science Journalism professor Tom Yulsman talks about an issue NOT on the radar 20 years ago — global climate change.  We also share information about tonight’s Denver Cafe Sci, with Brian Hynek, about “Mars:  Are We Alone?”  Special thanks to How on Earth original producers Sam Fuqua and Jeff Orrey for being here as part of the show.

Co-hosts: Joel Parker and Susan Moran
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Executive producer: Shelley Schlender

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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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Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

 

We hear about a book called Logicomix, featuring Christos Papidimitriou, who is one of the world’s leaders on computational complexity theory, and what happens when he consents to be interviewed by two 10-year olds.  And in the headlines, we delve into a new report published in the January issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine that indicates exercise helps kids do better in school.  We fly to the moon with two GRAIL spacecraft, which stands for “Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory.”  And we invite you to sign up for the free, “Mini Med-The Clinical Years,” being offered at the CU Medical Center.

Nora and Lee

Hosts: Joel Parker, Susan Moran
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineers: Tom McKinnon, Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Clean Water Struggles // 2011’s Big Sci-Enviro-Tech Stories

Mining retention pond in Colorado. Image courtesy of the EPA.

Clean Water Struggles. Co-host Susan Moran interviews journalist Judith Lewis Mernit about how small rural communities in the West are struggling to afford complying with federal water-quality standards as they relate to water pollutants. Mernit wrote an article on the topic in High Country News’ Dec. 12 issue. She explores the unintended consequences of complex federal  standards, which place a disproportionately heavy burden on small communities.  A big bone of contention, and a source of a flood of lawsuits, is a provision in the Clean Water Act that forces states to assess their impaired waterways and set maximum limits, or loads, for nitrates and other pollutants in them.

Bastrop, Texas fire. Photo courtesy of Michael Kodas.

2011’s Big Sci-Enviro-Tech Stories. In the second feature co-hosts Susan Moran and Tom Yulsman are joined by How On Earth’s Tom McKinnon and Shelley Schlender, as well as photojournalist Michael Kodas (author of a forthcoming book on megafires) to reflect on 2011’s major science, technology and environment stories. The list includes extreme weather events, record-high carbon dioxide levels, the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Boulder’s November vote to consider municipalizing its electricity, and advancements in proteomics. Stay tuned for plenty more coverage of these topics on How On Earth in 2012. (Scroll down to download the audio file of the show.)

Hosts: Susan Moran, Tom Yulsman
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineers: Tom McKinnon, Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Tom McKinnon

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Holiday Sci & Tech Gifts // Eating Your Heart Out?

 

We take a look at favorite holiday sci-tech gifts, including the SparkFun Inventor’s Kit, Logicomix, Manga Guide to Electricity, Lego Mindstorms,  a fun new novelty for anyone on your list – giant microbes.  After the show, we also voted to add yet one more item to your last-minute gifts – a mesh bag of any size, for . . . what else?  Catching neutrinos.

Also on the show this week,  How on Earth’s Roger Wendell describes a new way to clean irrigation ditches, called, a “Self Cleaning Trash Screen for Irrigation Water (Watch on You Tube).”

Dick Williams (left) and Chip Grandits at KGNU

Local author and scientist Dick Williams talks with How on Earth’s Chip Grandits about Dick’s new book:  Eating Your Heart Out?  Williams, with coauthors Binx Selby and Linda Fong.  In his book, Dick writes, “For over a half-century, careful scientific researchers have known what a good balanced diet really means, yet most of us have largely ignored this important information. We have preferred to continue in our culturally determined ruts, eating ourselves to death. Major research projects have noted how some peoples in the world have lived healthy lives past the 100-year mark in communities, such as the Inuit living above the Arctic circle, and the traditional villages of the island, Crete, in the Mediterranean, where cardiac events are completely unknown. ”

Producer: Shelley Schlender
Co-Hosts: Tom McKinnon & Beth Bartel, with special reports from Roger Wendell and Chip Grandits.
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Tom McKinnon

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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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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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