The Unnatural World

the-unnatural-world-9781476743905_lgThe Unnatural World (start time: 6:58): It’s an audacious topic for a book: the planet, and audacious individuals who are working to save — actually, to remake — human civilization and our home on Earth. David Biello is the science curator at TED and a contributing editor at Scientific American. His debut book, The Unnatural World: The Race to Remake Civilization in Earth’s Newest Age (Scribner), will be out in paperback next month. It explores how we have altered “nature” in so many ways, from burning fossil fuels and warming the oceans and atmosphere, to tearing down tropical rain forests, to killing off so many species. In this newest epoch, dubbed by many the Anthropocene, humans are not just messing things up; they are also inventing solutions, as Biello notes. Daring optimists in his book include Elon Musk and his Tesla electric cars and trucks.

Hosts: Chip Grantis, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Chip Grantis
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Additional Contributions: Joel Parker

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I Contain Multitudes–Our Microbes, Ourselves

Multitudes of Microbes (start time: 3:38): You may find it unsettling to learn that our human cells make up only half of our bodies. The other half is a bunch of microbes (in the neighborhood of 40 trillion), all living and reproducing in, and on, our bodies. What’s more, these invisible machines could have a powerful influence on your brain, and on your overall health. Ed Yong, a staff writer for The Atlantic, found it disconcerting at first to learn this when he researched his book called “I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life.” The book, published earlier this year, explores the mysterious partnerships between humans, and many other species, and the mighty microbes with which we have co-evolved. Today we air the full phone interview that How On Earth host Susan Moran recently had with Yong. We played short clips of the conversation during our fall pledge-drive show last Tuesday. Thanks to you listeners who pledged! And thanks to Yong’s publisher, Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins, for donating to KGNU several copies, which some generous members are now reading. This interview continues our series called “Our Microbes, Ourselves.”

Hosts: Kendra Krueger, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Kendra Krueger
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett

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STEM Research // Sex in the Sea

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High school researchers in CU Boulder program observing photo-origami model. Photo credit: Stacey Forsyth

Today’s show offers two features:
High School STEM Stars (start time: 5:00): Developing polymers to reduce waste from biodiesel production. Using 3D printing to design ocean textures, such as fish gills and waves, that blind students can use in textbooks to better understand nature. These are the kind of vexing challenges of seasoned scientists. Well, a select group of high school students here on the Front Range are also diving into this research, through the University of Colorado’s Photo-Origami Research Project. It’s part of the Research Experience and Mentoring (REM) program. Our guests–Lindsey Welch, a sophomore at Centaurus High; and Tyco Mera Evans, a senior at Northglenn High– will give poster presentations at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM, in Washington, D.C.  this week. Joining them in the studio is Kathryn Penzkover, who directs high school programs through CU Science Discovery.

book cover-Sex (this)Sex & Evolution Beneath the Waves (start time: 14:45) Ever wonder about the sex lives of gender-bending fish, desperately virgin elephant seals, and other creatures of the sea? Marine ecologist Marah Hardt has made a career out of it. She speaks with host Susan Moran about her newly published book, Sex in the Sea: Our Intimate Connections with Sex-changing Fish, Romantic Lobsters, Kinky Squid, and Other Salty Erotica of the Deep. Dr. Hardt, who works with the nonprofit Future of Fish, illuminates how sex in the sea is at the heart of healthy and sustainable oceans. The oceans, along with their inhabitants, are under many threats, including overfishing and climate change. She will speak tonight about her book at the Boulder Book Store. For more information on ocean conservation issues, and to get involved here in land-locked Colorado, check out the nonprofit Colorado Ocean Coalition. And listen to previous related interviews, in our series “The Ocean Is Us.”

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Additional contributors: Beth Bennett
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Rust: The Longest War // The Moral Arc

rust-9781451691597_lgOn today’s spring pledge-drive show we offer segments of two feature interviews. See extended versions also below. Both books are available to those who pledge at least $60 to KGNU. Call 303.449.4885 today.

Rust: The Longest War (start time: 4:25) It is arguably the most destructive natural disaster in the modern world. And it’s the topic of local journalist Jonathan Waldman’s debut book, which has just been published. It’s called Rust: The Longest War. Jonathan talks with How On Earth host Susan Moran about the book, which included fascinating tales of the “smart pig” that inspects the Alaska pipeline, as well as Ball Corp’s Can School in Golden, Colo. Catch Jonathan tonight  7:30 at the Boulder Book Store.

bc_moral_arc_coverThe Moral Arc (start time: 13:21) Author and renowned skeptic Michael Shermer talks with How On Earth contributor Shelley Schlender about his The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom. The book addresses a wide range of modern issues, including just how science and reasons can help to pave the way toward further reductions in nuclear warheads, toward greater equality for people with different gender and sexual orientations, and toward the abolishment of the death penalty. That’s pretty optimistic for the nation’s best known skeptic!

Hosts: Kendra Krueger, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Kendra Krueger
Executive Producer: Kendra Krueger

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War of the Whales: A True Story

War of the Whales: A True StoryWar of the Whales: A True Story (starts at 3:35): In the early hours of March 15th, of the year 2000, a Cuvier beaked whale washed ashore a mere 100 feet from Ken Balcomb’s house on the island of Abaco in the Bahamas. It was, for the whale, a fortuitous coincidence: Balcomb was a marine mammal researcher who was uniquely placed to rescue the creature. But that day 17 more whales of various species washed up on nearby islands and some of them weren’t quite so fortunate. The event was the largest mass stranding in recent history but what might have caused it was a total mystery. To Balcomb, it was a mystery that cried out for a solution.

So begins the book “War of the Whales: A true story.” It’s a book that has been described by critics as a tense, page turning eco-thriller, even though it is a work of non-fiction. How On Earth’s Jane Palmer talks with author Joshua Horwitz about what happened after Ken Balcomb’s discovery, and the attempts to solve the mystery.

Hosts: Beth Bartel, Jane Palmer
Producer: Beth Bartel
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Additional Contributions: Beth Bennett
Executive Producer: Kendra Krueger

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Engineering for Kids // Antarctica’s Ross Sea

On Tuesday, Nov. 26, How On Earth brings you two features:

Feature #1: (start time 5:53) STEM, as you may well know, stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Many math and science topics are introduced throughout most years of primary education, but technology and engineering — not so much. We live in a world surrounded by things imagined and designed and built by engineers, from roads and buildings to computers and appliances and even food, drugs and clothing. So it’s important to understand engineering if we want to understand these life necessities. An educator tackling this issue is  Dr. Christine Cunningham, vice president of research and educator resource development for a project called “Engineering is Elementary.” It was developed by the Museum of Science in Boston. Cunningham is featured in an article, written by former How On Earth contributor Breanna Draxler, called “E is for Engineering” in the December issue of Discover magazine. Cunningham talks with host Joel Parker about how teaching engineering to very young students can be done.

Adelie Penguins in the Ross Sea
Photo courtesy John Weller

Feature #2: (start time 14:45) Arguably the healthiest marine ecosystem on Earth is the Ross Sea in Antarctica. It’s so pristine largely because it is protected by a 500-mile-wide shield of floating sea ice, and, well, it’s not exactly easy to get to.  But in recent years the Ross Sea has come under threat, largely from New Zealand industrial fishing ships that are hunting as far south as they can for the Antarctic toothfish, which was rebranded as Chilean sea bass for U.S. and other consumers. John Weller is a nature photographer and conservationist living in Boulder. He has documented the beauty and fragility of the Ross Sea in his new book, The Last Ocean. Weller also co-founded a nonprofit, called The Last Ocean Project, that is dedicated to protecting the Ross Sea and other fragile marine ecosystems. Weller talks about the science and art of these environments with host Susan Moran. (You also can hear a previous interview with Weller on KGNU’s Morning Magazine.)

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel
Additional contributions: Brian Calvert, Jim Pullen

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Antarctica Research // The Cancer Chronicles

We offer two features on the Tuesday, Oct. 22, show:

Lake Hoare, Antarcita / Photo: Beth Bartel 2004

The camp at Lake Hoare in Taylor valley, Antarctica. (Photo: Beth Bartel)

Feature 1 – Antarctica Research (start time 4:15): Diane McKnight, a professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, talks with How On Earth contributor Brian Calvert about scientific discoveries from Antarctica. During the temporary government shutdown the United States Antarctic Program, which facilitates government-funded scientific research in Antarctica, was unplugged. Several expeditions were cancelled. Her research on the McMurdo Dry Valleys on the continent will resume, but a future government shutdown would threaten scientific research on penguins, extreme microbes, climate change-induced sea ice melt and so many other subjects.

Feature 2 – The Cancer Chronicles (start time 12:22): In his new book, The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine’s Deepest Mystery , science writer George Johnson takes readers on his very personal quest to understand cancer on a cellular level: how it begins with one “renegade cell” that divides, mutates, and becomes a tumor. In the process Johnson also digs deep into history – per-history, in fact — to learn that not only our ancient human ancestors had cancer, but even some dinosaurs suffered from them. And the author dissects many scientific studies that debunk myths about the role environmental toxins play in cancer. And he challenges false beliefs that cancer in modern times is on the rise. “Yet running beneath the surface is a core rate of cancer, the legacy of being multicellular creatures in an imperfect world,” he writes. Johnson speaks via phone to host Susan Moran about the mysteries and discoveries of cancer.

And as we mentioned in today’s headlines, if you want to see the large fragment of the Chelyabinsk meteor being recovered from Lake Chebarkul, you can see the video here.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel

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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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