Cricket Chorus // Foliage Science

This week’s How On Earth features the following two segments:

Snowy Tree Cricket. Photo credit: Scott Severs

Snowy Tree Cricket.
Photo credit: Scott Severs

Late-summer Cricket Chorus (start time: 1:02) One of the most poetic sounds of the end of summer is …. no, not your kids kicking and screaming because summer is over. It’s the sound of crickets, katydids and other melodic insects “chirping” at night. Our focus here is Snowy Tree Crickets in Colorado. They are called “temperature” crickets because you can calculate what the temperature is outside based on how many times these crickets “chirp” in a certain time period. How On Earth’s Shelley Schlender took a stroll recently with two Boulder naturalists — Steve Jones and Scott Severs — to learn more about how, and why, crickets in general make their chirping sound, and why we hear so many of them in the evenings this time of year. Some resources about crickets and their brethren: 1)  http://songsofinsects.com/  2) biology and recordings of nearly all singing Orthopterans (crickets, grasshoppers, katydids), at  Singing Insects of North America (SINA)  http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/Walker/buzz/.

Big Blue Canyon, Colo. Photo credit: Jeff Mitton

Big Blue Canyon, Colo. Photo credit: Jeff Mitton

The Science of Aspen (and other) Foliage (starts: 9:40) One of the most iconic images of Colorado is aspen groves quaking in early fall in their brilliant yellow, orange and even red hues. This year, the aspen, and many other plants, are changing colors earlier than normal. Due largely to the extended warm and dry conditions, many aspen leaves are fading and shriveling without turning bright colors. Dr. Jeff Mitton, an evolutionary biologist and a professor emeritus at the University of Colorado Boulder, talks with host Susan Moran about what dictates the timing and intensity of foliage. Dr. Mitton also writes a bimonthly column, called Natural Selections, in the Daily Camera. Here’s one (of many) on crickets.

Hosts: Maeve Conran, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Contributions: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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2014 Science Stories // Spacecraft Experiments

earth_NASA Earth ObservatoryFor our first show in 2014 we offer two feature interviews:
Feature #1: We continue our conversation from Dec. 31 with science writer and CU professor Tom Yulsman about what “hot” stories 2014 holds in store regarding earth and planetary science, especially climate and weather. Yulsman, who also writes a regular blog for Discover magazine, called Imageo, talks with co-host Susan Moran.

 

 

Cygnus_NASAFeature #2: In expectation of the first official cargo flight of the Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station, co-host Joel Parker interviews researchers David Klaus and Stefanie Countryman about their respective experiments: a biomedical antibiotic experiment and an educational K-12 experiment involving ant behavior in microgravity. The Cygnus spacecraft is built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, and follows the earlier, successful launch of a Cygnus demo flight on October 22.  The experiments are built by the BioServe Space Technologies Center within the Aerospace Engineering and Sciences Department at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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

Due to a technical problem at the station, unfortunately, we were not able to save the audio archive of the show. Our apologies. All other shows include the audio file.

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Brain Trust // Drought

Brain Trust (starts at 4:23)  When you are trying to make a decision about something important or having a disagreement with someone, don’t you sometimes wish you had a scientist with you – a world expert on the topic at hand – to help you out?  In fact, it would be great to have dozens of experts in many fields available, sort of your own personal Brain Trust.  Well, luckily Garth Sundem can help you out with his book called: “Brain Trust,” where he has interviewed 93 of the top scientists in fields like physics, genetics, cognitive science, economics, nutrition, mathematics, and talked to them about very important topics in their fields.  And not the easy topics like Higgs Bosons, Fermat’s Last Theorem, and inflationary cosmology, but rather the much more difficult – and immediately useful – topics like: the best design for a paper airplane, how to survive Armageddon, how to create giant man-eating plants, successful dating techniques (and we don’t mean carbon dating), and how to tell when someone is lying.  Host Joel Parker talks with Garth about his book.

Drought (starts at 15:10) Given all the rain and snow on the Front Range and beyond lately, you’d think that Colorado is emerging from the persistent drought, right? But last year was one of the hottest and driest on record in the state and some regions have yet to recover.  Among those who have suffered the most from the persistent drought are farmers and ranchers. In fact, some have sold off cattle and even shuttered their businesses. That said, high prices have boosted profits for some wheat farmers, for instance.  To find out just how badly many farmers and ranchers have been hit by the drought, researchers at Colorado State University have been surveying them annually for a while.  Host Susan Moran talks with Christopher Goemans, a resource economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at Colorado State University, and Ron Nelson, a graduate student also at CSU, about a recent survey of drought conditions and the broader environment.

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

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Colorado Drought // A More Perfect Heaven

A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized The Cosmos, by Dava Sobel

Colorado Drought Conference (start time 4:35): Experts are meeting at a conference in Denver this week to discuss the implications of prolonged drought conditions here in Colorado. How On Earth’ Susan Moran speaks with biologist Dr. Chad McNutt of the NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information Center about wthe drought means for the ecosystem, and for Western cities — and how we can start to address the problem.

A More Perfect Heaven (start time 11:50): Joel Parker speaks with Dava Sobel, a science journalist and author who tells the stories of the science and the scientists from the past and how they connect to the present. Those stories reveal that the course of scientific progress is far from orderly — it often takes unplanned twists, has failures that require going back and starting over, and can be driven by the quirks of the personalities of individual scientists.

Today we hear about Sobel’s most recent book, A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos.  This book also contains the play And The Sun Stood Still, which will be presented in a free staged reading by the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company this Thursday, September 20th at 6:30 at the Dairy Center for the Arts.

Hosts: Ted Burnham, Joel Parker
Producer:
Ted Burnham
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer:
Susan Moran

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Colorado river crisis // “The Believing Brain”

Lake Mead's dipping water line. Image courtesy of futuretimeline.net.

This week co-host Susan Moran speaks with Dr. Doug Kenney, director of the Western Water Policy Program at the Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado,  Boulder’s law school. Kenney sheds light on the Colorado River Compact and how population growth, climate change, and water politics, are expected to further threaten our future water supply.

And Ted Burnham interviews skeptic and science writer Michael Shermer. His new book, “The Believing Brain,” presents a counter-intuitive explanation for how we form and reinforce our beliefs. Shermer draws on evidence from neuroscience, psychology and sociology to show that we often form beliefs first, and only then look for reasons to believe.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker

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Front range water / Kepler planet-hunter

Rocks at Lake Mead show the drop in water levels from the high-water mark. (Image courtesy of Flickr user ChrisMRichards.)

Our two features for this week’s show:  Susan Moran interviewed Joel Smith, principal at Stratus Consulting in Boulder, who has been helping the city adapt to climate change—in particular, by smartly managing its water supply; and Tom Yulsman interviewed John Troeltzsch, the Kepler mission program manager for Boulder-based Ball Aerospace, which built one of the key instruments for the mission, as well as the spacecraft itself.

Cohosts: Susan Moran, Tom Yulsman

Producer: Susan Moran

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