Distributed Energy // Pluto’s Occultation

In today’s How On Earth we have two features:
Distributed Energy (start time 5:46): Enjoying the twinkling stars without nighttime light pollution is a luxury for many of us. We can flick on the switch when we return home, after all. But think what would it be like if you were among the 1.5 billion people around the world who lack to centralized electricity. Having no lights at night keeps many of them  poor and illiterate, and it can create a public health and national security crisis. How On Earth co-host Susan Moran interviews two experts in the field of distributed and decentralized energy.  Rachel Kleinfeld is co-author (along with Drew Sloan) of a new book called Let There Be Light: Electrifying the Developing World with Markets and Distributed Energy.” She is CEO of the Truman National Security Project. Stephen Katsaros is  founder of Nokero, a Denver-based startup company that makes solar LED light bulbs.

Marc Buie of SWRI in Chile, photo courtesy of Sky and Telescope

Pluto’s Occultation (start time 16:31): It is a good time these days for watching solar system. Last week there was a solar eclipse, next week is a lunar eclipse and a transit of Venus (where Venus can be seen moving across the disk of the Sun).  Next week there is yet another solar system event of one object moving in front of another, though it’s not visible without the aid of a telescope. On June 4th Pluto will pass in front of a relatively bright star, an “occultation” event that will send teams of astronomers scrambling around the world to observe.  One team member is How on Earth’s own Joel Parker, an astrophysicist with the Boulder office of the Southwest Research Institute. He’ll be deployed to an observatory in New Zealand to observe the occultation.  Joel talks with How On Earth co-host Tom McKinnon on the eve of his adventure about the occultation and why scientists are interested in observing it. (Here’s an article and video about last year’s occulting Pluto.

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

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Thorium // Space Weather

Thorium (start time 4:54). It sits at the bottom of the periodic table of elements, among its fellow radioactive substances, including uranium and plutonium.  It’s called Thorium, named for the Norse god of thunder. Decades ago, uranium won out over thorium as the nuclear fuel of choice to power the world’s reactors. A new book makes the argument that it’s high time to revisit thorium as a way to wean ourselves off fossil fuels and deliver a safe energy source for the future. Co-host Susan Moran interviews the author, Richard Martin, a journalist and editorial director at Pike Research in Boulder. The book is calledSuperfuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future.

Space Weather (start time 13:15). It has been said that “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”  However, you DO need a weather satellite and space researchers to know which way the solar wind blows, and if that solar wind will affect anything orbiting or on the Earth.  So, today How On Earth co-host Joel Parker talks with Space Weatherman Joe Kunches, at NOAA’s National Weather Service, Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo., to explain the Sun-Earth connection and why we should care about space weather forecasts.  Kunches is a space scientist. Formerly he was Secretary of the International Space Environment Service.  Kunches says he is in his fifth solar cycle in the space weather field.

Hosts: Susan Moran and Joel Parker
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Why Calories Count//Boulder Gold Lab Symposium

Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim

Why Calories Count (start time 7:10). More than a billion people in the world suffer from too few of them. About the same number suffer from too many. We’re talking about calories. They’re vital to human health, indeed our very survival. A new book, called “Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics,” delves into the many dimensions of calories – personal, scientific, and political. How On Earth co-host Susan Moran interviews the book’s co-author, Marion Nestle, a molecular biologist and professor at New York University. Her co-author is Malden Nesheim of Cornell University.

Gold Lab Symposium (start time: 17:24). This Friday, CU Boulder presents the annual Gold Lab Symposium.  This year’s theme is “Tempus Fugit.”  That means, “Time Flies,” and speakers this year will focus on why scientists and policy makers must remember that real people and real patients need innovations that lead to better healthcare, right now.  For a sneak preview of what “better” might mean, up next, How On Earth’s Shelley Schlender talks with Symposium founder, Larry Gold about one of this year’s speakers, Allen Jacobson.  Jacobson has a cure for some, not all, but some children who have the deadly disease, muscular dystrophy.

Hosts: Susan Moran and Jim Pullen
Producer: Jim Pullen
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Headline contributions: Breanna Draxler and Joel Parker
Feature contribution: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Proteomics and the Search for a Wellness Chip

Stanford Genetist Mike Snyder

What if you could find out about dozens of diseases, all at once, from just one tube of your blood?  It might happen soon, with proteomics and the search for wellness chip.   In this episode, we talk with scientists at Boulder’s Somalogic, Dan Chan, developer of the proteomics based OVA-1 ovarian cancer test, Quest Diagnostic VP of Business Development Nick Conti, and Stanford Geneticist Mike Snyder (for an extended version of the interview with Mike Snyder, click here).  Special thanks also to Boulder playwright Len Barron for reading the poem, The Blind Men and the Elephant.

Hosts: Joel Parker and Breanna Draxler
Producer: Shelley Schlender and Susan Moran
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Headlines: Susan Moran, Joel Parker, Breanna Draxler
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

 

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Climate engineering // Jamie Williams

The Wilderness Society

Jamie Williams (start time  5:40). Today on How On Earth we speak with Jamie Williams about land conservation. It’s safe to say that Williams should take credit for large swaths of land in the West that have been preserved as wilderness. He has served as The Nature Conservancy’s director of landscape conservation for North America as part of a 20-year career at the organization.

During that time he helped forge unlikely partnerships between ranchers, other landowners and environmentalists. And he led major efforts to garner funding in Congress for conservation, including the largest conservation purchase of private land ever – of 500 square miles of forest in northwest Montana.

Williams helped develop the large landscape focus within the Obama administration’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, which aims to connect especially young kids to the outdoors.

Today, Williams takes the helm of another major conservation organization, the Wilderness Society.

Climate engineering (start time 18:12). Geoengineering means large scale, intentional manipulation of the climate to counter the effects of global climate change. Advocates have proposed ideas like placing giant shields in space to block the sun’s rays from striking the earth, and seeding the ocean with iron particles to speed up the removal of carbon from the atmosphere. Critics cite a host of social, moral, and technological problems.

Climate engineering may be a solution of last resort, but the time for last resorts may be rapidly approaching as we spew more and more carbon into the air.

We  speak with Dr. Doug Ray about the readiness of climate engineering. Ray is an expert on energy and atmospheric carbon removal science and technology and is an Associate Lab Director at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Hosts: Joel Parker and Susan Moran
Producer: Jim Pullen
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Headlines: Jim Pullen
Additional contributions: Maeve Conran
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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How On Earth is produced by a small group of volunteers at the studios of KGNU, an independent community radio station in the Boulder-Denver metro area. KGNU is supported by the generosity and efforts of community members like you. Visit kgnu.org to learn more.

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