Are Ketones the Key?

Steve-Phinney-Portrait_Ketones (start time 6:40) A growing body of scientific research demonstrates health benefits for many people with a diet that’s lower in carbohydrates, and higher in fats.  In fact, some of this research indicates great therapeutic benefits,.  One reason why may be that, when carbohydrate consumption is low enough, the body enters a state of “nutritional ketosis,” where it transforms fats into a molecule called, beta-hydroxy-butyrate, or  “ketones”.  In the absence of sugar and carbs, the body can use ketones as its primary fuel.

One of the scientists who has pioneered research into nutritional ketosis is Dr. Steve Phinney, and one of the populations who he believes gets special benefits from a ketone-producing diet is endurance athletes.  For 30 years, Phinney has studied nutritional ketosis and athletic performance — including performance among bicycle racers, the winners of 100-mile ultra-marathons, and recently, a two-person rowing team that was among the top finishers in a rowing race that went from California to the Hawaiian Islands – rowing the whole way on a very low-carb, high fat, ketone-producing diet.

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

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Science of Booze // Rosetta Mission

Booze coverProof: The Science of Booze (starts at 8:09): Science journalist Adam Rogers, who claims to have taken a liking to single-malt whiskey when he reached drinking age, has immersed himself further into alcohol–particularly, the history and science of making booze, tasting it, and enjoying–or suffering—the effects of it. Booze is a big story: Indeed, making it was a key piece of the dawn of human civilization, as Rogers, who is articles editor at Wired magazine, shows in his inaugural book, called  Proof: The Science of Booze. Rogers talks with How On Earth host Susan Moran about fascinating fungi, sugar molecules and other key ingredients, as well as our human taste buds for alcohol. We have a couple of copies of Proof from our recent pledge drive, so call KGNU (303-449-4885) this week and pledge at least $60 to get your own copy.

Joel Parker standing in front of an image of the Rosetta spacecraft with the jet coming off it. Photo credit: Joel Parker

Joel Parker (SwRI) is the Deputy Principal Investigator of the “Alice” ultraviolet spectrograph instrument on the Rosetta spacecraft.
Photo credit: Joel Parker

Rosetta’s Rendezvous (start time: 17:40): How On Earth’s own Joel Parker, whose “real” job as a planetary scientist is a director at the Southwest Research Institute, a collaborating partner on the Rosetta Mission. The mission last week successfully became the first to land a craft on a comet flying through our solar system. It was a well earned landing: Rosetta left earth in March of 2004 and has traveled about 3 billion miles to rendezvous with this moving target. To learn more, read this recent Q&A with Joel in the New York Times.

Also, Shelley Schlender offers a special headline (starts at 3:39), an interview with CU-Boulder’s Dr. Kenneth Wright, an integrative physiologist, about his new study offering new clues about why shift work can lead to extra weight.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Kendra Krueger
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Kendra Krueger
Additional contributors: Beth Bennett, Shelley Schlender
Executive Producers: Kendra Krueger, Jane Palmer

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Gulp-cover-350Gulp [starts at 4:25] Bestselling author, Mary Roach has been billed as American’s funniest science writer.  In “Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal“ she takes readers on a journey through the alimentary canal, extolling the marvels of spit on the beginning end, then moving on to the man who had a hole in his stomach that allowed a doctor to observe his digestion.  And . . . on.  Roach even interviews a prison inmate about “rectal smuggling” (including cell phones).  So get ready – here’s Shelley Schlender’s conversation with Mary Roach, author of “Gulp”.

Hosts: Shelley Schlender, Beth Bennett
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producers: Jane Palmer and Kendra Krueger

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Greenback Cutthroat Trout // Migraines

serverGreenback Cuttthroat Trout (starts at 6:06)  Colorado has always been a state of nature lovers, which is why, in the era of our great great grandfathers, citizens even designated an official state fish. It’s the Greenback Cutthroat Trout that thrived in the mountain streams above Boulder and Denver. Colorado wildlife officials had long assumed that Greenback Cuttthroat Trout still live in our mountain streams. The problem is, they were wrong. Through a complex set of Sherlock Holmes investigations begun in recent years, scientists at CU-Boulder figured out a “fish switch” decades ago, meant Greenback Cutthroat Trout were missing from our streams, and possibly extinct. Since then, we have much better news about the fish that “almost” got away.  In this feature, How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender, speaks with CU-Boulder biologist, Jessica Metcalf. (To access photos of greenback cutthroat trout go to and type “cutthroat” in the search box.)

mmmMigraines (starts at 14:28) One of the most painful conditions to suffer through is a migraine headache.  Sometimes, these headaches begin with strange visual auras or loss of vision; sometimes they’re accompanied by nausea.  Most of all, they’re a head-splitting pain.  Interestingly, these headaches are rare among the world’s few remaining hunter-gatherer populations.  In contrast, they’re common in modern western life.  Roughly 10% of Americans have suffered from a migraine headache.  One of the people who used to suffer from them frequently is a medical doctor with advanced degrees in neurology.  He’s Doctor Josh Turknett.  Dr. Turknett used to get 60 migraines a year – on average, that’s over one a week.  As a board certified neurologist, Turknett treated the migraines of his clients, and his own migraines, in typical medical ways – urging people to drink enough water, get enough sleep, avoid too much stress, try to figure out triggers, such as maybe foods or smells, and to take strong medications when the headaches got unbearable.  For Turknett, his whole life changed dramatically when he made a basic lifestyle change that he believes many neurologists and migraine sufferers overlook.  In his own case, his change meant that the number of migraines he suffers these days has gone from around 60 headaches a year, down to only two or three. While his approach is controversial, Turknett believes it could help many, perhaps most, migraine sufferers.  How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender caught up with Turknett this weekend at the Ancestral Health Symposium in Berkeley, California, where Turknett was a speaker.  Up next, here’s Neurologist and former big time migraine sufferer, Josh Turknett.

Hosts: Kendra Krueger, Joel Parker
Producer & Engineer: Joel Parker
Additional Contributions: Beth Bennett, Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Astronomy Through the Ages


Tycho Brahe’s observatory at Uranienborg (Wikimedia Commons)

Astronomy Through the Ages (starts at 4:10): If I ask you to close your eyes and imagine an astronomer, what do you see? Maybe you think of a lone figure hunched all night over the eyepiece of a telescope in a big, domed observatory. Maybe you think of Jodie Foster, as Ellie Arroway in the movie Contact, wearing headphones to listen in on cosmic radio waves at Arecibo.

My mind always wanders back to a woodcut of Tycho Brahe’s 16th-century observatory, filled with intricate equipment for making naked-eye observations of the night sky.

But do any of these ingenious images actually resemble the life of an astronomer today? And how are new technologies and “big data” changing the way we study stars today and in years to come?

To discuss those questions, we’re joined in our Boulder studio by Dr. John Bally, a professor of astronomy at the University of Colorado, and Dr. Seth Hornstein, director of the Sommers-Bausch Observatory on the CU campus.

Hosts: Shelley Schlender, Ted Burnham
Producer: Ted Burnham
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Additional Contributions: Jane Palmer
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Gold Lab // National Climate Assessment

For our May 13th show we offer two features:
REVISED_GLS 2014 artwork_borderGold Lab Symposium (starts at 3:42): Biotech entrepreneur Larry Gold, a CU Boulder professor at the BioFrontiers Institute, talks with How On Earth’s Shelley Schlender about the annual Gold Lab Symposium, which will be held in Boulder May 16th and 17th.  This year’s theme is Embracing the Reptile Within: Head, Heart and Healthcare.  The event will focus on research and educational approaches that can potentially help improve the U.S. healthcare system.

NCA_2014U.S. Climate Change Report (starts at 11:50) The National Climate Assessment, a sobering new report on the science and impacts of climate change in the U.S., makes it starkly clear that human-induced climate change is already affecting all parts of the country. It is making water more scarce in some regions while bringing torrential rains elsewhere. It is making heat waves more common and severe, and it’s causing more severe and destructive wildfires. How On Earth co-host Susan Moran talks with two guests: Kristen Averyt, PhD, is a lead author of a chapter on Energy, Water and Land. She is associate director for Science at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at CU Boulder.  Dan Glick is a journalist who helped edit the report. His company, The Story Group, also produced a series of videos that highlight the report’s key findings and how climate change is affecting many people’s lives and livelihoods.

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

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Baseball Vision // Emerald Ash Borer

Today, April 29th, we offer two features:
baseball - sports-glasses (1)Baseball Vision (starts at 5:42): The major league baseball season is now in full “swing.” Fans may  take it for granted that these professional athletes are in top physical condition.  What’s less known is how important it is for baseball players to have perfect eyesight.  Batters in particular have some of the best vision in the world.  To find out how scientists know this, and study it, and even make it better, How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender last month headed down to spring training in Arizona.  There, she caught up with two of the nation’s top experts on the science of vision, and sports.

emerald ash borer, courtesy Encyclopedia of Life

emerald ash borer, courtesy Encyclopedia of Life

Emerald Ash Borer (starts at 11:21): It’s been called the most destructive looming pest blight to hit Colorado in ages. The perpetrator in question is the emerald ash borer, a small shimmery green beetle. It is believed to have hitchhiked to the U.S. and Canada on cargo ships, or airplanes, from its native Asia, in 2002. Since then it has wiped out  millions of ash trees in many states. Last September, the ash borer was first found in Colorado. Ash trees have had no time to develop resistance against the exotic invader.  And meanwhile, the ash borer has no predators here to keep it in check. Dr. Whitney Cranshaw, an entomologist at Colorado State University, talks with host Susan Moran about what we should know about the emerald ash borer.

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

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Beringia // Dolphins & Climate Change // The Ogallala Road

Beringia_land_bridge-noaagovBeringia (start time 0:55). We present an excerpt of  Shelly Schlender’s  interview with University of Colorado scientist John Hoffecker, lead author of a recent paper in Science magazine about the Beringia land bridge and the people who lived there 25,000 years ago.  The full interview can be found here.


Dolphins & Climate Change (start time 4:40). Dr. Denise Herzing, the founder of the Wild Dolphin Project, has been building relationships with Atlantic Spotted Dolphins for 28 years. meet-dolphins2 Her quest to learn whether dolphins have language, and to learn that language, is notable for its longevity. But her relationship with them is remarkably respectful, too. We last spoke to Dr. Herzing in the spring of 2012, about her book Dolphin Diaries: My 25 Years With Spotted Dolphins in the Bahamas. We’re very glad that she’s with us again, to help us learn about how large marine mammals may be responding in unusual ways to changes in the oceans.

the-ogallala-road-coverThe Ogallala Road (start time 15:15).  We often hear about how the Colorado River is running dry. The Western  states that rely on its flowing water are struggling to reckon with how its depleting reservoirs will satiate growing  populations. You’ve probably seen images of the white “bathrub rings” at Lake Powell and Lake Mead that expose the water line rings of years ago.  But there’s an equally dramatic and dangerous drop in an invisible source of water. That’s the Ogallala Aquifer – an underground basin of groundwater that spans eight states on the High Plains, including Colorado. Nearly one third of irrigated cropland in the country stretches over the aquifer. And the Ogallala yields about a third  of the ground water that’s used for irrigation in the U.S.  The story of the Ogallala’s depletion is a very personal one for author Julene Bair. She lives in Longmont, but years ago she learned that the family farm in Kansas that she inherited had been a big part of the problem. Julene has written about her journey, including her desire to make the farm part of the solution. Julene joins us on the show to talk about her new book  The Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning.

Hosts: Jim Pullen, Susan Moran
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Jim Pullen
Additional contributions:  Shelley Schlender

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2013 Was a Good Year, in Science!

The team considers noteworthy science on the last day of 2013. What’s worth mentioning? Too many people, too much carbon, and way too much fun in astronomy!

AlanWeisman_Countdown.shrunkBiology and Health (start time 00:56). This year marked the passing of long-time Boulder resident, Al Bartlett. Bartlett was one of the world’s most eloquent voices calling for population control. He will be missed. One of the champions picking up the torch is New York Times bestselling author, Alan Weisman. Weisman offers exciting solutions to population growth in Countdown:  Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth.

How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender reports that this is a hard book to read, because it’s long, and thorough, and urgency of the need for population reduction worldwide is often not a happy topic. She admits that sometimes, she even switched to a detective novel before reading more of Countdown. But she kept at it because Countdown provides some exciting solutions to population growth. One of the most compelling is to provide women with education and access to birth control. It turns out these two offerings are often a key to women deciding, voluntarily, to limit their families to two children, and sometimes, fewer.

Co-host Shelley Schlender hosts this interview with Weisman about perhaps the greatest problem facing humanity–too many people.


The late Professor John Mainstone cared for the pitch drop experiment. (University of Queensland, Australia, School of Mathematics and Physics)

The late Professor John Mainstone cared for the pitch drop experiment. (University of Queensland, Australia)

Physics and Astronomy (start time 08:56). Co-host Jim Pullen couldn’t decide on the best physics and astronomy story of 2013, so he dipped into the rich happenings of the year, taken from all over the world: superbolides skipping over Russia, bitumen dripping in Ireland, Voyager 1 long-ranging somewhere in the galaxy, and Icecube spying far-flung neutrinos down at the bottom of the world (and beyond). We’ll learn that the news of 2013 owes much to 2012, 1977, 1944 and even 1927. And that leaves WIMPS, dark matter, LUX, two-dimensional graphene, trapped quantum states, quantum computers, and so much more for 2014!



Flood crumpled truck in Jamestown Canyon, Colorado (photo courtesy Jim Pullen)

Flood crumpled truck in Jamestown Canyon, Colorado (photo courtesy Jim Pullen)

Environment (start time 16:44). What a year it’s been! We shot past 400 ppm of CO2 in the ever-warming blanket of air skinned over the planet. And disasters! Mighty and perilous Super Typhoon Haiyan, with the fastest winds ever recorded, crashed into the Philipines in November. More locally, in September here on the Northern Front Range, a flood of historic proportion. Co-hosts Susan Moran and Tom Yulsman look at the perils of 2013 and portents.



Happy 2014 to you, our KGNU and How On Earth family!

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


Flood Winners & Losers // 100 Year Starship Symposium

Feature 1 - Flood Winners & Losers : Last month’s deluge cut canyons, real and felt, through many of our lives, but nature helps us remember that floods can build too. In this feature, How on Earth’s Jim Pullen speaks with Boulder’s wetland and riparian ecologist Marianne Giolitto about flood “winners and losers”.   Marianne watches over 45,000 acres of the city’s open space and mountain parks wetlands and riparian habitats. Jim and the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks are working together on a series of radio vignettes; the first two are “Monitoring Bats” and “Great Storms and Chautauqua.”

Feature 2 - 100 Year Starship Symposium : Back in June we had a feature about a project called the 100 Year Star Ship.  During that show we talked with Alires Almon, a member of the project, about the challenges and vision of creating a long-duration mission to send humans to another star.  A few weeks ago in Houston, the project held their annual symposium; this year’s theme was titled: “Pathway to the Stars, Footprints on Earth.”  Ms. Almon is back with us today to talk about the symposium and what new ideas were discussed.

And as we mentioned in today’s headlines,  you can learn more about shale oil and gas boom and bust by listening to Jim Pullen’s hour-long talk with expert Deborah Rogers on KGNU’s “It’s the Economy.”

Hosts: Joel Parker, Shelley Schlender
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel
Additional Contributions: Jim Pullen

Due to technical problems, this show was not recored to the archive.  We apologize that this post does not have an audio podcast of the entire show, but below we do have the audio file of the pre-recorded interview of the “Flood Winners and Losers” :

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