Kepler’s Prospects // Oncofertility

For the August 20 How On Earth show we offer two features:

Kepler spacecraft

Kepler Spacecraft’s Uncertain Future: (start time 5:48) Are we alone in the cosmos? Are there other planets out there, and could some of them support life?  Or, is Earth somehow unique in its ability to support life?  The Kepler mission was designed to start addressing that question by searching for planets around other stars.  Since its launch in March 2009, the Kepler spacecraft has discovered many diverse candidate planets around other stars, but recently the spacecraft has run into some technical problems.  Dr. Steve Howell from NASA’s Ames Research Center talks with co-host Joel Parker about Kepler’s past, present and future.

Laxmi Kondapalli, courtesy of CU Cancer Center.

Cancer’s Impact on Fertility: (start time 14:52) It’s tough enough to receive a cancer diagnosis. For many patients, an added insult is that chemotherapy treatments can render them infertile.  However, there are many options for cancer patients who want to have children, or more children – both men and women. A key problem has been that many of them aren’t educated by oncologists about their fertility options and they jump right into drug treatments. Dr. Laxmi Kondapalli, an assistant professor of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Colorado Denver and head of the CU Cancer Center’s Oncofertility Program, talks with co-host Susan Moran about the medical science of take cancer therapies and the latest in fertility-preservation options.

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

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Everything died under a broiling sky

Extinction at the K-Pg boundary

Illustration courtesy NASA/JPL

CU professor Doug Robertson and a multidisciplinary team  argue afresh that a global firestorm swept the planet in the hours after a mountain-sized asteroid vaporized above the Yucatan, 66 million years ago. When the blown-out rock missiled back to earth, Robertson says the atmosphere became so hot the whole world burned. Almost every organism above ground and in the air perished. We talk to Dr. Robertson about that terrible day and how some species reemerged. His team just published their research in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences.

Host: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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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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We Are the Martians

Orion spacecraft docked to a Mars Transfer Vehicle (NASA)

(Start time 5:15) “The Men of Earth came to Mars. They came because they were afraid or unafraid, because they were happy or unhappy, because they felt like Pilgrims or did not feel like Pilgrims. There was a reason for each man. They were leaving bad wives or bad towns; they were coming to find something or leave something or get something, to dig up something or bury something or leave something alone. They were coming with small dreams or large dreams or none at all…it was not unusual that the first men were few. The numbers grew steadily in proportion to the census of Earth Men already on Mars. There was comfort in numbers. But the first Lonely Ones had to stand by themselves…”

That’s from Ray Bradbury’s great 1950 collection of short stories, The Martian Chronicles. Today, there are plans being made to send people to Mars, a fraughtful trip of a hundred and a half million kilometers and more than a year, each way. To learn whether we will be the Martians, we chat with Brian Enke. Brian is a Senior Research Analyst at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, a member of The Mars Society, and the author of the 2005 science fiction novel about Mars, Shadows of Medusa.

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

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U.S. Climate Report // Antarctics Sounds

 

A drying Western U.S.
Photo courtesy www.earthtimes.org.

Feature #1 (starts 05:25): A sweeping new report on the state of climate change and its current and future impacts in the United States was recently released in draft form. It’s called the National Climate Assessment.  It comes at a time when major storms and wildfires are increasing in many areas. And last year the continental U.S. experienced its hottest year ever recorded. How On Earth co-host Susan Moran interviews  one of the participating authors of the report, Dr. Dennis Ojima. He’s a professor at Colorado State University in the Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Department, and a senior research scientist in the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory. Dr. Ojima co-wrote the chapter on the Great Plains.

DJ Spoky performs at CU (photo by Beth Bartel)

DJ Spooky performs a composition based on the geometric structure of ice during a recent visit to CU Boulder’s ATLAS center, accompanied by CU student musicians. (Photo by Beth Bartel)

Feature #2 (starts 16:30): Paul D. Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky, says the pallet of a 21st-century artist is data. That’s certainly the approach he took after visiting Antarctica in 2007—Miller used scientific data from ice cores and other Antarctic sources to create musical motifs representing the southern continent, then blended them with live performers and his own hip-hop beats. Co-host Ted Burnham speaks with Miller about the process of “remixing” the frozen Antarctic landscape, and about how music and art offer new ways to make scientific topics such as climate change accessible and meaningful.

Producer: Susan Moran
Co-Hosts: Ted Burnham, Susan Moran
Engineer: Ted Burnham
Additional Contributions:
Shelley Schlender

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Dr. David Wineland

Dr. David Wineland (photo courtesy of NIST)

Today on How On Earth, KGNU’s award-winning science show, we sit down with Boulder’s Dr. David Wineland and chat about his Nobel-prize-winning research. The NIST scientist shared the 2012 physics award with Frenchman Serge Haroche. They’ve developed experimental methods for trapping and holding particles so that weird quantum behaviors can be studied. The research is critical to developing extreme quantum computers that may someday break today’s best encryption algorithms…and make truly unbreakable ones.

Host: Jim Pullen
Producer: Jim Pullen
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Big Waves // Omega 3 Fatty Acids

University of Colorado applied mathematics researchers Mark Ablowitz and Douglas Baldwin stand with photographs of an "x wave" on an Oregon beach.

University of Colorado applied mathematics researchers Mark Ablowitz and Douglas Baldwin with photos of an "X wave" on an Oregon beach.

Big Waves (start time 4:39):  When does one plus one not equal two? When waves behave non-linearly, according to CU researchers Mark Ablowitz and Douglas Baldwin.  The two have been researching how multiple water waves can add together to form a wave with a height much greater than twice the height of either wave. The mathematicians refer to these as X and Y waves, which sounds mathematical but actually just refers to the shape of the wave front as seen looking down on the wave from above. Rather than being rare, these waves are readily observable and may be the reason that some tsunamis are much larger than anticipated.  We spoke yesterday with the pair to find out more about these interesting waves.

Fish Oil Pills (from Wiki Commons)

Omega 3 Fatty Acids (start time 14:49): It’s widely accepted that Omega 3 supplements are good for many things, especially your heart, and that fish oil is high in Omega 3. But earlier this month, Greek researchers made a splash with a meta-analysis that concluded that fish oil supplements do not help your heart. They came to this conclusion even though, in their analysis, people taking fish oil pills or eating fish had 9 percent fewer deaths from heart disease and 11 percent fewer heart attacks than people who don’t. Fans of Omega 3 shot many other harpoons into the study, and we look at one of their most compelling complaints – it’s that the amount of Omega 3 that people’s bodies absorb depends on many things, and the Greek scientists did not examine studies that checked Omega 3 fatty acids levels where they count the most. That’s in people’s blood.  To find out more about why blood levels of Omega 3’s might matter, How On Earth’s Shelley Schlender talks with Doug Bibus. Bibus is part of the team that years ago basically discovered Omega 3s. He’s a two-time winner of the American Chemical Society’s Award in Analytical Chemistry.  Bibus says that most Americans have very low levels of Omega 3s, and they’d be healthier if their levels were higher.

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

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The Idea Factory – Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation

Bell Labs thrived from the 1920s to the 1980s, when it was most innovative and productive institution of the twentieth century. Long before America’s brightest scientific minds began migrating west to Silicon Valley, they flocked to the Bell Labs campus in the New Jersey suburbs. At its peak, Bell Labs employed nearly fifteen thousand people, twelve hundred had PhDs. Thirteen eventually won Nobel prizes. How did they do it?  How can we learn from their successes, so we can do it here in Colorado?  New Your Times journalist Jon Gertner has written a book that provides some answers.  He calls it:  The Idea Factory – Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation.  Inside that book, you can learn how radar came to be, and lasers, transistors, satellites, mobile phones, and much more.   How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender spoke with Mr. Gertner about his new book.

Hosts: Tom McKinnon and Jim Pullen
Producer: Tom McKinnon
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Planetary Sciences Budget // Curiosity’s RAD

Donald Hassler

Curiosity’s RAD (start time 7:14). To design a successful manned mission to Mars, we’ll have to know a lot about the radiation environment between the Earth and Mars and on the planet’s surface. The Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) instrument on Curiosity is designed to make those measurements. We talk with Southwest Research Institute’s Dr. Donald Hassler, the RAD instrument Principle Investigator, about RAD’s purpose, how the instrument works, and the joys and scary moments that come with working on Mars.

Planetary science budget (start time: 15:49). Despite the successes of the Mars missions and voyages to our other planetary neighbors, the White House decided that NASA’s planetary science budget should be drawn down. The hit would be substantial, a twenty percent reduction from 2012. 300 million dollars would be removed from a baseline one and a half billion dollars. We ask Dr. Alan Stern, who has served as the chief of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, about why the planetary science budget should be restored.

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

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Volcanoes & the Atmosphere // Traffic in Beijing

Nabro volcano

(Image compliments of NASA.)

Volcanoes & the Atmosphere (start time 6:17): We’ve known for a long time that volcanic particles and gases can travel around the world, often affecting climate.  The 1815 eruption of the Indonesian volcano Tambora chilled New England and Europe, resulting in what came to be known as “the year without a summer.”  More recently, the 1991 eruption of Pinatubo in the Philippines cooled temperatures throughout the Northern Hemisphere by up to 0.6 degrees Celsius. Those were both sizable eruptions.  Co-host Beth Bartel talks with Bill Randel, division director of the Atmospheric Chemistry Division at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, about what a mid-sized eruption in the horn of Africa can tell us about atmospheric circulation.

Traffic in Beijing

(Image compliments of Flickr user hldpn.)

Traffic in Beijing (start time 15:13): A new study shows that China gets a gold medal for dramatically reducing carbon dioxide emissions during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Yes, that’s Beijing, one of the most polluted cities in the world. The new study shows that China severely restricted auto traffic in the city, leading to a major reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, it could be enough to make a dent in curbing climate change if similar efforts were to be made in cities around the world, and on a sustained basis. Co-host Susan Moran discuss the new paper and its implications with Helen Worden of the National Center of Atmospheric Research.

Hosts: Beth Bartel and Susan Moran
Producer: Beth Bartel
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Additional contributions: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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