Nuclear Tests and the Van Allen Belts

explosion-beltsIn 1963, the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, agreeing to not test nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, underwater, or in outer space.  France continued atmospheric testing until 1974, and the last atmospheric test was done by China on October 16, 1980. Over 500 atmospheric nuclear tests have been performed before then, but none since.

That could soon change.  North Korea has threatened to do an atmospheric nuclear test.  Even if that test doesn’t lead to a chain of more dangerous events, and considering the potential health impacts of the dispersed radiation, it turns out that simply testing a missile in the atmosphere could lead to highly charged electrons that would tend to fry the electronics of Earth-orbiting satellites.

It’s a complex issue, and one that ties in with the huge magnetic fields that protect the Earth and the satellites orbiting around it.  Those magnetic fields include some areas that attract highly charged particles, called the Van Allen belts.  Earlier this year, we reported on a discovery from the Laboratory of Atmospheric Space Physics in Boulder, about how very low frequency radio transmissions sent to military submarines deep under that water, accidentally help satellites high above the Earth by reducing the impact of the Van Allen belts’ highly charged particles.  So, could those very low frequency waves also protect us from the satellite-frying effects of an atmospheric nuclear weapons test?  If things get too crazy here on Earth, could a spacecraft with a well-designed magnetic field help people escape?  Those are questions that come to mind for How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender.  Now here’s Shelley’s investigation about the Van Allen belts, whether cell phones would work after a nuclear explosion, and escaping to outer space.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Chip Grandits
Producer, Engineer: Joel Parker
Additional Contributions: Beth Bennett, Alejandro Soto
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett

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The Cassini Mission to Saturn

pia03883-nohuygensThe Cassini mission to Saturn launched 20 years ago, on October 15, 1997.  It took seven years to reach Saturn, and has been orbiting and intensely studying Saturn ever since…until last week when the mission ended in a final dive into Saturn’s atmosphere.  The mission studied Saturn, its famous rings, and its many moons using a suite of instruments that observed a broad range of wavelengths from ultraviolet, to visible, infrared, and radio as well as examining dust, charged particles, and magnetic fields.  It also delivered the Huygens probe that descended through the atmosphere of Saturn’s giant moon, Titan.

In this edition of How on earth, we have two scientists from the Cassini mission team.  Dr. Larry Esposito is a Professor at the Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences department at the University of Colorado at Boulder and member of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at CU.  Dr. Carly Howett is a planetary scientist and manager at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder.  They share with us some of the science from Cassini-Huygens and experiences working on such a long-term and successful space mission.

Host / Producer / Engineer: Joel Parker
Additional Contributions: Beth Bennett, Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Alejandro Soto

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2017 Graduation Special (part 2)

diploma-and-graduation-hatWith graduation season is upon us, or in many cases in the rearview mirror, today’s edition of How on Earth is the second of a two-part “Graduation Special”. Our guests in the studio today are scientists who recently graduated with – or soon will receive – their Ph.D.  They talk about their thesis research, their grad school experiences, and what they have planned next.

abbyAbby Koss – CU Boulder, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Topic: New Insights into Fossil Fuel Volatile Organic Compound Emissions and Chemistry using H3O+ and NO+ Chemical Ionization Mass Spectrometry

 
matteoMatteo Crismani – CU Boulder, Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences
Topic: Cometary Gas and Dust Delivered to Mars

 

Version 2Callie Fiedler – CU Boulder, Electrical Engineering
Topic: Characterizing the Properties of 3D Printed Hydrogels for Regenerative Medicine

 

 

Host / Producer / Engineer : Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Health Impacts of Oil/Gas Drilling

A well site next to Silver Creek elementary school in Thorton, Colo. Photo credit: Ted Wood/The Story Group

A well site next to Silver Creek elementary school in Thorton, Colo.
Photo credit: Ted Wood/The Story Group

Drilling’s Health Impacts (start time: 7:50): A pressing question on the minds of many Colorado residents, health experts, and others amidst a surge of oil and gas activity is this: Does living near an oil and gas well harm your health? A scientist at the forefront of exploring such questions is Dr. Lisa McKenzie, a professor of environmental epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz. She is the lead author on a recently published study that examines the potential impact of nearby oil and gas drilling on childhood cancer rates. The study’s important findings were challenged by the state Health Department, whose recent assessment concludes that nearby oil and gas operations poses minimal risk to residents. Dr. McKenzie  talks with How On Earth’s Susan Moran about her study, and the complex science of risk, correlation and causation.

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

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2016 Graduation Special (part 2)

diploma-and-graduation-hatIn this follow-up episode of our “Graduation Special” we talk with three more guests graduating with science Ph.D.’s from the University of Colorado in Boulder.  They join us to talk about their thesis research, their grad school experiences, and what they have planned next:

CarleighSamson_headshotCarleigh SamsonEnvironmental Engineering Program
Topic: Modeling Relationships between Climate, Source Water Quality and Disinfection Byproduct Formation and Speciation in Treated Drinking Water

 

View More: http://americanchemicalsociety.pass.us/headshotsPatrick BarbourDepartment of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Topic: Property-Guided Synthesis of Tricyclic Indolines to Confront Antibiotic Resistance in Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus

94938Greg ThompsonDepartment of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
Topic: Advances in a Microphysics Parameterization to Predict Supercooled Liquid Water and Application to Aircraft Icing

Host / Engineer : Shelley Schlender
Producer : Joel Parker
Executive Producer : Shelley Schlender

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2016 Graduation Special (part 1)

diploma-and-graduation-hatThe graduation season is upon us and our guests in today’s show will be graduating with science Ph.D.’s from the University of Colorado in Boulder.  They join us to talk about their thesis research, their grad school experiences, and what they have planned next:

greg_banditGreg SalvesenDepartment of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences
Topic: Rethinking Accretion Disks Around Black Holes

 

small_headshotJesse NusbaumerDepartment of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
Topic: An Examination of Atmospheric River Moisture Transport and Hydrology Using an Isotope-enabled Climate Model

Odessa ReunionOdessa GomezEnvironmental Engineering Program
Topic: Characterizing Responses of Primary Biological Aerosols to Oxidative Atmospheric Conditions

 

Host / Producer / Engineer : Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Electric Car Road Trips // Renewable Energy Nation . . . in 15 Years

Tesla Superchargers - Rural Arizona

Tesla Superchargers – Rural Arizona

Electric Car Road Trips (starts 3:42): We go on a road trip with How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender to see how all-electric vehicles are exceeding “range anxiety” by driving coast to coast, all on electricity.  Along the way we talk with Boulder Nissan’s Nigel Zeid about regional plans to help more drivers “plug in” and with Hunter Lovins, head of Natural Capitalism Solutions.

courtesy Solar Praxis

courtesy Solar Praxis

Renewable Energy Nation (starts 11:53): Joel Parker talks live with NOAA scientist Alexander MacDonald and Christopher Clack, a mathematician at the University of Colorado-Boulder. They have developed a model that demonstrates how the entire U.S. can run on solar and wind power–with existing technologies, with no batteries, and at lower cost than today’s prices–within 15 years. For more information, see this video and these animations of:
U.S. Wind Power Potential
U.S. Solar Power Potential
U.S. Power Flow

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

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Using the Microbiome to Determine Time of Death

MicrobiomeUsing the Microbiome to Determine Time of Death (starts at 5:40): This week on How on Earth, we speak with Jessica Metcalf, an evolutionary biologist, who studies bacteria, specifically the microbiome. One of her research interests is using molecular biology to address basic hypotheses about the role of microbes in corpse decomposition. The time since death, or postmortem interval, also known as (PMI), is important for criminal investigations because it can lead to the identification of the deceased and validate alibis. PMI is critical to both forensic science and pop culture (e.g. TV shows Bones, CSI). Recently she co-authored a paper published in Science, describing how various species of the microbiome can be used to accurately and repeatedly determine the post-mortem interval.

Host: Beth Bennett
Producer: Beth Bennett
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Grad School Science

Neuro_lab112.1.2_student-and-faculty-in-lab-e1374187050580

What is graduate school and how does it differ from the undergraduate experience?  What drives people to go through another 4…5…6…or more years of school? Today’s show features some people who might be able to tell us about the grad school experience in the sciences.  We have three grad students from the University of Colorado at Boulder:
* Joe Villanueva in the Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology department.
* Annie Miller, in the Integrative Physiology department.
* Marcus Piquette, in the Astrophysical and Planetary Science department.
Each of them works in a lab with an advisor and is doing projects that will eventually lead to a thesis and getting a PhD, and they talk about what they do and what grad school is like.

Host: Joel Parker
Producer and Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Additional Contributions: Beth Bennett, Susan Moran

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How the Brain Matures

The teenaged brain is wired differently than the adult.

The teenaged brain is wired differently than the adult.

Brains (starts at 4:35) This week on How on Earth we interview Professor Marie Banich, from the University of Colorado here in Boulder. Dr Banich uses cutting edge methodologies, particularly structural and functional MRI, to examine the role of the prefrontal cortex, as well as other brain regions, in executive function. Today she tells us about work that was recently funded by NIH to characterize how these systems change over the course of development.

Hosts: Beth Bennett and Joel Parker
Producer: Beth Bennett
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett

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