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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Birds v. Cats // Humor Science

robin-male-and-fledgling

Robin male and fledgling chick. Photo courtesy Jon Erickson, Creative Commons

Birds v. Cats (start time 4:35): Spring is in full bloom on Colorado’s Front Range. Robins and other birds wake us up before the crack of dawn with their choruses.  This is also a time when many chicks will hatch and then fledge — a time when they are most vulnerable to predators. The biggest single threat to birds is a favorite household pet – yes, cats. Actually, feral and pet cats alike.  Dr. Amanda Rodewald, an ecologist and director of conservation science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University, discusses with host Susan Moran the various threats to birds and their habitat, and how humans can be part of the solution. Spoiler alert: Keep Felix inside, at least during nesting season. For more info on how you can get involved, go to the American Bird Conservancy‘s Cats Indoors program.

Humor CodeThe Science of Humor (start time: 14:32): Have you ever laughed at something you know you shouldn’t have? Like when someone you know falls down the stairs? Dr. Peter McGraw discusses with How On Earth contributor Daniel Strain the roots of humor — why we find some things funny, and other things not. He’s a quantitative psychologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder where he heads up the Humor Research Laboratory, or HuRL. Yup, HuRL.  He’s also coauthor of the book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny. And he will be speaking this Thursday, May 21, at The Science Lounge, a monthly event at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Daniel Strain
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Beth Bennett
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Headline contributions: Daniel Strain

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The Universe Within // De-Extinction

The Universe Within (starts at 4:40) Within each and every one of us is the history of life on this planet, the planet itself and the entire universe.  This is the theme of a new book “The Universe Within.”  The author, Neil Shubin, is a professor of Paleontology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago.  Starting with what physically constitutes a human being and what makes a human life possible, Shubin surveys many domains of science to find out what we can learn about what’s out there from what’s inside of us.   It’s a fantastically broad scope, bringing together the common history of Rocks, Planets and People.  As professor Shubin explains to How On Earth’s Chip Grandits, it is the very concept of this common history that binds all of these topics, which are normally found scattered throughout disparate domains of science and academia.

Image by Jonathan S. Blair, National Geographic

De-Extinction (starts at 14:15) You may think that when a species dies, it’s gone forever.  But with enough motivation, scientists might be able to return some species to life.  Popular science writer Carl Zimmer has written about “de-extinction” in the cover story of April’s issue of National Geographic magazine. So, is the movie Jurassic Park a good primer on de-extinction?

Hosts: Susan Moran, Jim Pullen
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Pluto’s Moons // Wildlife Preservation

(credit: NASA, ESA, M. Showalter, Z. Levay)”]Pluto and its moons [click to enlarge] (credit: NASA, ESA, M. Showalter, Z. Levay)Feature #1:
Last month, astronomers working on the Hubble Space Telescope announced the discovery of another, fourth moon around Pluto; this moon is so small that it could fit easily inside Boulder County (a pretty tricky thing to find at a distance of three and a half billion miles). The researchers who found the new moon were making observations in support of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which is en route to fly by and study Pluto in 2015, and continue onward to explore the mysterious region beyond Pluto’s orbit known as the Kuiper Belt. How On Earth’s Ted Burnham recently met with Alan Stern, principal investigator on New Horizons, to talk about what the discovery means for that mission. [An extended version of the interview also is available.]

Harvey Locke  in Jasper National Park, Canada.  Jasper is part of the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor (Photo credit: Marie-eve Marchand)

Harvey Locke in Jasper National Park, Canada. Jasper is part of the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor (Photo credit: Marie-eve Marchand)

Feature #2:
The significant loss of species on Earth is primarily due to human destruction of habitats, forests and other wild nature, to make room for new development and agriculture. Climate change is also accelerating the rate of species extinction. Among the efforts worldwide to protect wilderness and nature so wild animals can survive is a Boulder-based nonprofit called The WILD Foundation. Harvey Locke is the organization’s vice president for conservation strategy and he helped launch the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) several years ago and oversees a global campaign called Nature Needs Half. Y2Y’s goal is to create a continuous 2,000-mile corridor for wildlife from Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. to the Yukon in Northern Canada. Harvey joins us in the studio to talk about that campaign and the science behind wildlife preservation targets.

Co-hosts: Susan Moran and Joel Parker
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Show Producer: Joel Parker

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