Eclipse 2017

NSO eclipse announcementEclipse 2017 (start time 5:56): This summer America will experience its first total solar eclipse in almost 30 years. How on Earth’s Alejandro Soto speaks with Dr. Claire Raftery from the National Solar Observatory (NSO) about the upcoming eclipse. Dr. Raftery talks about the science and history of eclipses, the best ways to view the eclipse in August, and how to safely look at an eclipse. Fortunateley, viewing the eclipse only requires a few simple steps and some inexpensive tools, so anyone can experience this exciting event — as long as they can drive to a place in the path of the eclipse. Dr. Raftery also talks about the NSO’s webseries about the eclipse and our Sun. Finally,  there is the opportunity to participate in solar science research by taking part in the Citizen Cate program, a citizen science project that uses telescopes scattered along the path of the eclipse to collaboratively monitor the entire eclipse event.

Hosts: Alejandro Soto and Joel Parker
Producer: Alejandro Soto
Engineer: Joel Parker
Additional contributionsBeth Bennett
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Of Wasps and Figs

511tQZJac7L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Today’s feature has How on Earth’s Beth Bennett talking with Dr. Mike Shanahan, a biologist who has a degree in rainforest ecology.  He has lived in a national park in Borneo, bred endangered penguins, and investigated illegal bear farms.  His writing has appeared in The Economist, Nature, and The Ecologist, and he also was the illustrator for the book: Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals.  His interests delve into what people think about nature and our place in it.  Beth had a chance to talk with Dr. Shanahan about his new book: Gods, Wasps and Stranglers: The Secret History and Redemptive Future of Fig Trees.

Host: Joel Parker
Producer, Engineer, Executive Producer: Joel Parker
Additional contributions: Beth Bennett, Shelley Schlender

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Citizen Science

Citizen ScienceCitizen Science (start time: 5:32): For those who would love to track birds and other creatures or to test drinking water quality in their community, for instance, but think it would require a degree in science to contribute to important scientific discoveries, our guest today aims to set the record straight. Dr. Caren Cooper is an associate professor of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University. An ornithologist, she studies bird ecology, conservation and management through the use of citizen science. She wrote a recently published book called Citizen Science: How Ordinary People are Changing the Face of Discovery. It highlights many examples of inspiring and important citizen science projects, including a meteorological-forecasting program and some others here in Colorado. Dr. Cooper is also director of research partnerships at SciStarter.com, which connects interested volunteers to a diverse range of research projects that they can work on. Additional citizen science programs can be found at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon Society’s Rockies chapter.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Alejandro Soto
Producer: Alejandro Soto
Engineer: Joel Parker
Additional contributionsBeth Bennett
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Clinical Trials Test MDMA as PTSD Treatment

Artwork credit: MDMA trial participant Allison Heistand-Phelps

Artwork credit: MDMA trial participant Allison Heistand-Phelps

This week on How on Earth host Susan Moran interviews two investigators of FDA-approved clinical trials testing the efficacy and safety of the illegal drug MDMA — known in an altered form as Ecstasy or Molly — as a treatment (along with psychotherapy sessions) for Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Our guests are Marcela Ot’alora and Bruce Poulter, investigators of the Colorado trial. Marcela is a licensed psychotherapist and Bruce is a registered nurse with a masters degree in public health

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that affects up to one in 12 people in the United States, and it’s at least as common in some other countries. It is a serious, and costly, public health problem. If the trials are successful,  MDMA, which has its critics, could become commercially available as a medically prescribed treatment by 2021. The trials are being funded by a nonprofit organization, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which promotes careful and beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana.

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

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Earth in Human Hands – Shaping our Planet’s Future

Dr. David Grinspoon (photo by Lawrence Cheng)

Dr. David Grinspoon
(photo by Lawrence Cheng)

Sometimes when we are having personal or health problems, it helps to get an outside perspective: talk to other friends who have experienced similar problems and how they dealt with them, and other friends about how they avoided those problems.  Talk to experts.  Then using all that input, we try to make the best choice to solve the problems and to live a long and happy life.  This is perhaps the situation we find ourselves in now with the health of our environment and the long-term viability of the human race.  So where to we look for that “outside perspective” and expert help?  The answer may be: look to other planets and talk to those who study them.  This is the approach astrobiologist Dr. David Grinspoon takes in his new book: “Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future”. Dr. Grinspoon is a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado, and in 2013 he was appointed the inaugural Chair of Astrobiology at the Library of Congress.  We had a chance to talk with Dr. Grinspoon about how he compares Earth’s story to those of other planets, and how our present moment is not only one of peril, but also great potential, especially when viewed from a 10,000-year perspective.

The podcast of the show is below, and you also can hear the extended interview here.

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

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Earth in Human Hands – extended interview

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This is the full interview with Dr. David Grinspoon, author of the book “Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future”.  Excerpts of this interview by Joel Parker aired on How on Earth on our January 10, 2017 show.

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2016 Retrospective

2016-resetFor this end-of-the-year How on Earth show, we look back to 2016 with clips from some of our features from the past year: selections from the Our Microbes, Ourselves series, research about Zika, gravitational waves, and carbon farming.  Those are just a few of the topics we covered in 2016, which also included: electric cars, electric airplanes, renewable energy, climate change, using the microbiome as indicator of length of time after death, star gazing, pesticides, life on other planets, planets around other stars, stars in other galaxies, eggs, plant diversity, marine animal sex, wildfires, recent science graduates describing their thesis work, PTSD, light pollution, pollinators, lead in water supplies, Alzheimer’s research, the Rosetta mission, the New Horizons mission, missions to Mars – past, present, and future, sleep, cell phones, and more!

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

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The Rosetta Mission

rosetta_descent_smallRosetta [feature starts at 5:27]
The Rosetta Space Mission has been in flight for ever 12 years and will be ending with a dramatic crash this Friday morning around 10:40 UT (4:40 am Mountain time) – it’s an event that will be watched and talked about by people around the world.

Rosetta is run by the European Space Agency, with contributions from NASA. The mission’s goals have been to study a comet to learn not only about how comets work, but what comets can tell us about the origins of the solar system, and perhaps connections to water and life. Rosetta was the first spacecraft to orbit and escort a comet as the comet approached and flew past the Sun, and Rosetta also carried a smaller spacecraft, named Philae, that performed the first landing on a comet.

The Rosetta mission has a very strong Colorado connection, since one of the instruments – an ultraviolet spectrograph called “Alice” – was operated from the offices of Southwest Research Institute right here in Boulder.We have three members of the Rosetta team here in the studio to talk about Rosetta, comets, and the rather exciting ending planned for the spacecraft in just a few days. Our guests are Andrew Steffl from Southwest Research Institute, John Pineau from Stellar Solutions, and John Noonan who is a recent astronomy graduate from the University of Colorado and is working at Southwest Research Institute.

There’s more information on the Rosetta Blog about how to follow the final events of the Rosetta mission.

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

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Gregory Benford – Science Fiction/Fact and Starshot

What are the qualities that make a good scientist?
What are the qualities that make a good science fiction writer?
515tlGA1GTL._UX250_Those skills do not necessarily overlap, but when they do, they not only can produce wonderful works of speculative fiction based on hard science, but they also can generate exciting new ideas for science research.

Our guest on today’s show inhabits both worlds; he is a professional scientist and a well-known science fiction writer. Dr. Gregory Benford is a professor of physics at the University of California, Irvin, where he has been a faculty member since 1971. Benford conducts research in plasma turbulence theory and experiment, and in astrophysics. He has published papers in fields of physics including condensed matter, particle physics, plasmas, mathematical physics, and even in biological conservation and geoengineering.

image3Dr. Benford also is a Nebula Award winning author of over twenty novels, including “Timescape”, “Jupiter Project”, “Artifact”, and “Against Infinity”, and the 6-book “Galactic Center Saga” series.  He also is an advisor on the Breakthrough Starshot project that has the goal to fly a spaceship to the nearest star.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Alejandro Soto
Producer and Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Our Microbes, Ourselves: Soil Bacteria Treat Stress Disorders

Photo credit: Susan Moran

Photo credit: Susan Moran

Microbes and Stress Resilience (starts 5:13) If you’re worried that some dirt still clings to your skin under your fingernails after planting or weeding in the garden, fear not. In fact, the more you feel and even breathe its fumes, the better, research suggests. As part of our series called “Our Microbes, Ourselves,” we explore today a newly published study that adds to a growing body of research into the benefits of certain soil and gut microbes on our mental and physical health. Dr. Christopher Lowry, an associate professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado-Boulder, discusses with host Susan Moran the study, which he led. It shows that a common soil bacterium called M. vaccae can boost the immune system to help fight stress and inflammation. The research, published last week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was conducted on mice, but the health implications for humans are far-reaching.

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

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