Composting & Carbon Farming

Eco-Cycle truck dumping organic waste at a compost facility. Photo credit: Dan Matsch

Eco-Cycle truck dumping organic waste at a compost facility. Photo credit: Dan Matsch

Why Compost? (start time: 7:01) Many of us may feel a little less guilty letting fruits and vegetables go bad, because we figure that this waste, thanks to curbside compost pickup, will be turned into nutritious food for crops, lawns or grasslands down the road. And landfills will spew less methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. The story of food waste and reuse is a complicated one. Our two guests are working on getting composting right — and ultimately on how to make our food-production and consumption systems more sustainable, starting here on the Front Range.  Dan Matsch directs the compost department for Eco-Cycle, the nonprofit recycler that works with cities along the Front Range. He also directs Eco-Cycle’s Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials (CHaRM). Mark Easter is an ecologist at Colorado State University’s Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory.  Matsch and Easter discuss with host Susan Moran the journey of a rotten zucchini, how composting is tied to the emerging practice of carbon farming, and how we all do our part.

Calendar advisory: Join KGNU and Eco-Cycle on Thursday, January 31, at the Longmont Museum (6:30 to 8:00 P.M) for a special community conversation on plastic waste–challenges and solutions. The event will include representatives from Eco-Cycle, the Inland Ocean Coalition, and local business and sustainability leaders. For more info, go to this website.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Chip Grandits
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Chip Grandits
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Additional contributions: Beth Bennett

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Wisdom of the Body

NourishmentAnimal scientists have long considered domestic livestock to be too dumb to know how to eat right, but the lifetime research of animal behaviorist Fred Provenza and his colleagues has debunked this myth. Their work shows that when given a choice of natural foods, livestock have an astoundingly refined palate. Like these animals, humans too, have an innate ability to determine what nutrients they need, but we are losing the information from our foods that allow us to make this determination. To view the book, go to: https://chelseagreen.biz/product/nourishment/
Host:
Producer: Beth Bennett
Engineer: Beth Bennett
Additional contributions: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
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A Tale of Two Missions: OSIRIS-REx and New Horizons

OSIRIS-REx (starts at 1:00) IBennuNorthPolePassDec4n today’s first feature, we hear about OSIRIS-REx, NASA’s first mission to do a sample return from an asteroid.  Our guest is Dr. Vicky Hamilton, a Staff Scientist at the Southwest Reserarch Institute’s Boulder office, and a member of that mission.  She talks about the scientific goals of OSIRIS-REx, and how it plans to obtain and return a sample of the asteroid Bennu.

 

New Horizons (starts at 14:05) Year-of-KBO-artworkOur second spacey feature is about a mission that you might describe as exploring “beyond the beyond”. The piano-sized, nuclear-powered New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto over 3 years ago, and now has its sights set on an even more distant target named Ultima Thule. To talk about that, we have another local scientist from Southwest Research Institute, Dr. Cathy Olkin, Institute Scientist and also a New Horizons mission Deputy Project Scientist.  We hear about the flyby events that will take place on New Year’s Eve.

 

Host, Producer, and Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Soft Robotic Muscles

HASEL "Soft Robotic Muscles" lift a Raspberry

HASEL “Soft Robotic Muscles” lift a Raspberry

Soft Robotic Muscles (WHOLE SHOW)  Robotic Materials are going beyond gears and levers toward powerful components that are softer and more muscular.  These materials may someday soon help build more human like prosthetic limbs for amputees. . . . or help a harvesting machine pluck ripe strawberries without squishing them. PhD students Nick Kellaris and Shane Mitchell  are with CU Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science — Keplinger  Lab.  They call their soft robotic muscles HASEL actuators.  HASEL stands for Hydraulically Amplified Self-healing Electrostatic actuators. 

Hosts, Producer and Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Titan Talk with Sarah Hörst

Headlines: Inheritance of mitochondrial DNA.  Coffee and Parkinson’s disease. Sending your name and a message to the New Horizons spacecraft.  Winds on Mars.  Water on Asteroids.

16278_PIA20016Feature: Titan (starts at 8:55) The solar system has so many different worlds that come in all shapes and sizes and histories, from boiling hot Mercury and Venus to icy Pluto and the Kuiper belt.  Such extreme alien worlds are exciting, but perhaps the places that catch our imaginations the most are the ones that are more familar – perhaps with the hope of humans one day visiting there and even living there.  So we think of places that have atmospheres and have – or once had – liquid water. But then there are those places that live in what you might call “the uncanny valley” between familiar and alien, and perhaps Saturn’s moon Titan fits into that category, with an atmosphere (but not one that you would want to breathe) and lakes (but not ones you would want to swim in).

Our guest today is Titan researcher  Dr. Sarah Hörst, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, where she also is a member of the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute. She is a Co-Investigator in the proposed Dragonfly mission to Titan.  You can also follow her on Twitter as @PlanetDr.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Chip Grandits, Gretchen Wettstein
Producer and Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Contributor: Beth Bennett

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National Assessment on Climate Change

coverClimate Change (starts at 6:30)  Volume II of the fourth National Assessment on Climate Change was released on the day after Thanksgiving. The findings are stark. It is already too late to prevent major long term effects of climate change.  The scientific community has now turned to predicting and quantifying those effects and how human civilization can respond to mitigate what might be catastrophic results. Today we talk with one of the co-authors of the chapter on Transportation,  Professor Paul Chinowksy, of the CU Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering.  He elaborates on the findings of the report and his frustration at the lack of a serious response by the federal government.

Host, Producer, Engineer: Chip Grandits
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Never Home Alone by Rob Dunn

NeverHomeAloneNever Home Alone (starts at 4:26) In this week’s How on Earth, Beth interviews Professor Rob Dunn. In his recent book, Never Home Alone, he gives a sneak peak into the natural history of the wilderness in our homes, from the microbes in our showers to the crickets in our basements. You can find out more about his book here, find out more about his lab and research at http://robdunnlab.com, and to contribute to their project visit the iNaturalist site.

 

Hosts: Beth Bennett, Gretchen Wettstein
Producer: Beth Bennett
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Additional Contributions: Alejandro Soto, Gretchen Wettstein
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Baking Soda for Autoimmune Disease // Crickets for the Gut

baking soda boxBaking Soda for Autoimmune Disease (starts at 1:00)  Georgia Medical College researcher Paul O’Connor reports that a small amount of baking soda in water, for two weeks, shifts the immune cell known as macrophage away from “attack” mode and more toward, “repair” mode.  He says this research comes, in part, from studies involving the benefits of baking soda for people whose kidneys are stressed and failing.  There’s more research ahead, but O’Connor suspects that someday, these findings might mean that baking soda becomes a safe part of calming down an autoimmune disease attack.

cricketCrickets for the Gut (starts 10:25)  New research from Colorado State University reveals that adding just a few teaspoons of cricket powder to a milkshake, or to a muffin, may reduce an inflammatory marker in the blood and increase levels of an intestinal microbe that is known for reducing the chance of a leaky gut that can lead to excess inflammation.  The leader of this cricket powder study CSU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition professor Tiffany Weir.
See other related features in our Our Microbes, Ourselves series. 

Host, Producer and Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Nature and Health

Photo: Jennifer Miller

Photo: Jennifer Miller

Nature Rx (start time: 9:33): Nature is good for your health. Sounds obvious, but what does science tell us? A walk in the woods can help to calm your nervous system and spark novel ideas, and spending time in nature can reduce symptoms of PTSD or ADHD.  Little is actually known about how nature offers healing effects. How much nature is enough, and to do what, exactly? How enduring are the effects?  “Nature” isn’t only limited to places like Yellowstone or Rocky Mountain National Park.  Nature abounds in some cities, as well.  City parks, tree-lined neighborhoods, your own garden — these are slices of nature that can improve your physical and mental well-being.  Researchers are measuring the effect of living near trees, for instance, on cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.  Today’s show is the first in a series we’ll offer on the connections between nature and human health. It’s called “Nature Rx.” 

Our three guests today are working in the nexus between environmental conservation and human health, to make cities part of the solution: Dr. Ted Smith, director of the Center of Healthy Air, Water and Soil, at the University of Louisville’s Envirome Institute; Christopher Hawkins, Urban Conservation Program Manager at The Nature Conservancy; Janette Heung, principal and owner of JWG Global, a management consulting and research think tank in Colorado focusing on environmental conservation and public health. Read more in the Colorado Outdoor Rx report and the UN Environment Programme report on air pollution.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer and Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Contributors: Beth Bennett, Shelley Schlender

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Living in a World of Thinking Machines

solomonscodebookimg

Book Cover: Solomon’s Code by Olaf Groth and Mark Nitzberg, published by Pegasus Books, November 2018

It has been 50 years since the original 2001, A Space Odyssey, where movie viewers first heard Captain Powers asking, “Open the pod bay doors, HAL” and found HAL thought differently about whether that was a good idea.  For most of that half-century, artificial intelligence still seemed a long way off, but in the last decode, it has permeated our every day life with unexpected swiftness and thoroughness.

Do we currently live in a world of thinking machines?  Is it just around the corner? Far off? Never?  And what will that really be like for us humans (I’ll assume for the moment your not a machine reading this…)   This is the subject  of Solomon’s Code: Humanity in a World of Thinking Machines by Olaf Groth and Mark Nitzberg.  With the recent backlash against Facebook, fake news algorithms or headlines about Cambridge Analytica and Russian bots, this book’s release on November 6 could not be more well timed.  The book covers economic, social, personal and political implications of living in a world of thinking machines.  For this edition of How On Earth, we spoke with co-author Mark Nitzberg, Executive Director of the Center for Human compatible Artificial Intelligence at UC Berkeley and principal at Cambrian.ai.  Dr. Nitzberg studied AI at M.I.T. and completed his PhD at Harvard university.  His co-author Olaf Groth is Professor of Strategy, Innovation and Economics at Hult International business School, and founder and CEO of Cambrian.ai.  The name Cambrian.ai is taken from a metaphor from biological evolution and the Cambrian Geological Period, where most of the major groups of animals first appeared in the fossil record; an event sometimes also known as the “Cambrian Explosion.”

Are we now at a similar point in the evolution of artificial intelligence?  Is the metaphor fanciful or very accurate.  Chip Grandits talks with Mark Nitzberg co-author of Solomon’s Code to find out what are the forms of AI, if they are different from their progenitors, and whether they really can think.

Host: Chip Grandits
Producer: Chip Grandits
Engineer: Chip Grandits
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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