This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution

9781101870204This View of Life (starts 6:56) In this episode of How on Earth, we talk with David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary biologist with a special interest in human biocultural evolution. Dr. Wilson is Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at SUNY Binghamton, and president of the Evolution Institute as well as editor in chief of its online magazine This View of Life.  It is not just about biology, these ideas are formed by decades of research and drawing on studies that cover topics from the breeding of hens to the timing of cataract surgeries for infants to the organization of of an automobile plant.  Last month he published his latest book, also titled This View of Life to present a comprehensive case for what he calls Completing the Darwinian Revolution.

Hosts: Chip Grandits, Joel Parker
Producer and Engineer: Joel Parker
Additional Contributions: Shelley Schlender, Susan Moran, Alejandro Soto
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett

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The Goodness Paradox // Pledge Drive

cover-Goodness ParadoxThe Goodness Paradox (Teaser): Today’s spring pledge-drive show features brief clips from a recent interview with Richard Wrangham, a primatologist at Harvard University, about his new book, The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution.  Wrangham discusses with How On Earth hosts Susan Moran and Chip Grandits how, and why, homo sapiens evolved to be both peaceful and violent (less reactively aggressive and more proactively aggressive, like our bonobo ancestors), and what it bodes for the future of human civilization. We will air the full interview on the March 19 science show. Thanks to Pantheon Books for offering KGNU several copies of Wrangham’s book. And thank you to listeners who pledged and received a copy of the book, and to those who have helped power this community radio station for years. If there are any copies of The Goodness Paradox remaining next Tuesday you can call in then and become a member for $60 or more. Or go to kgnu.org and pledge, or increase, your support. We couldn’t do it without you!

Hosts: Chip Grandits, Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett

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HOLOSCENES / Little Boxes: Science On a Sphere

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HOLSCENE Still. Photo courtesy of Early Morning Opera and NightLight Labs

Spend some time at the intersection of art, engineering and science; we’ll hear about the world premier of HOLOSCENES / Little Boxes February 20, 7:00 PM at Fiske Planetarium in Boulder. Get a glimpse of how cutting edge visual artists team up with world class scientists using the latest technology to complement a rational understanding of climate change with visceral images to inspire empathy with the hope to engender action and change.  In this episode hear Chip Grandits speak with Marda Kirn, director of EcoArts Connections, Shilpi Gupta software engineer at CIRESfor NOAA Science On a Sphere and Dr. Elizabeth Wetherhead a climate scientist and expert in climate forecasting and modeling, recently retired from CU Boulder and CIRES and now working at climate forecasting for Jupiter Intelligence.

     Host: Chip Grandits
Producer: Chip Grandits
Engineer: Chip Grandits
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett

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Characterizing Microbial Communities

dustMicrobesMicrobial communities are all around us: in our homes, gardens, oceans, even deep underground but their roles in the function of the biosphere are poorly understood. Today Beth spoke with Professor Noah Fierer, at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, who uses DNA to identify microbes in communities ranging from insect microbiomes to Antarctic soils. He has discovered lots of previously unknown bacteria, viruses, and other microscopic critters which are everywhere, eat everything, and perform surprising roles in ecosystems ranging from our guts to Antarctic soils. You can see more at the Fierer Lab website. And check out the New Yorker article on shower heads. With this episode we resume our series on Our Microbes, Ourselves.

Hosts: Beth Bennett & Chip Grandits
Producer: Beth Bennett
Engineer: Chip Grandits
Executive Producer
: Beth Bennett
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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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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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Living in a World of Thinking Machines

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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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How Skin Begins // Dr. Dan

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Images of Epidermis and Dermis using fluorescent tags. Courtesy of Rui Yi, CU Department Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

Boulder researchers have discovered a key mechanism by which skin begins to develop in embryos, shedding light on the genetic roots of birth defects like cleft palate and paving the way for development of more functional skin grafts for burn victims.  We bring you an interview with lead researchers, Associate Professor Rui Yi of CU Department of Molecular, Cellular and Development Biology, who explains some of the secrets he has been uncovering about “How Skin Begins” [3:27]

 

 

 

 

 

drdan

Doctor Dan

How do you reconcile a flair for competition and performance with a penchant for science and learning.  We’ll hear from Doctor Daniel Rudnicki, who’s first career was as a competitive and professional figure skater, then after getting an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and PhD in Organic Chemistry from CU he then founded a biotech company.  But still needing an outlet for his urge to perform he has created the persona of Doctor Dan to bring enthralling and flashy science presentations to local schools. [19:08]

Host: Chip Grandits
Producer: Chip Grandits
Engineer: Chip Grandits
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett

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Email Anxiety // Food Waste

Bedtime laptop workThis week’s How On Earth offers two features:
Work-Email Anxiety (start time: 7:58) If you’re wondering why you often feel anxious on Monday mornings, despite having spent time with your family and friends over the weekend, you might recall the amount of time you spent glued to your smart phone or laptop, checking email because you worried that your boss would be expecting you to be virtually on hand. You’re hardly alone. Samantha Conroy, an assistant professor of business management at Colorado State University, discusses with How On Earth host Susan Moran a new survey-based study (under review) that she co-authored. It found that not only employees but their partners at home suffer from high anxiety when the employee feels pressured to be virtually available via email after hours.

WWF-Food rpt coverFixing Food Waste  (start time: 17:59)  We’re all guilty of it: waste. Tossing out peaches, broccoli and other food that has gone bad in the fridge. Or leaving pasta on our plate untouched at an Italian bistro. More than one-third of all food that is produced in the United States is wasted – in the field, at restaurants, in our own kitchens. The conservation organization World Wildlife Fund recently published a report on the huge environmental and health impacts of food waste, and on what can be done to reduce waste, and ultimately preserve grasslands and other natural habitat. Monica McBride, manager of Food Loss & Waste  at World Wildlife Fund, co-wrote the report, called “No Food Left Behind.” She shares the findings and recommendations with Susan Moran. Check out these resources at WWF on what you can do: A Food Waste Quiz and tips on reducing waste.

Hosts: Chip Grandits, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Chip Grandits
Headline Contributions: Beth Bennett, Joel Parker, Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett

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