The Sports Gene // These Shining Lives

Running has become a great elite sport, thanks in part to the amazing sprinters from Jamaica  and the long distance runners from the African equator.  How much is all that running talent nature, and what’s the power of nurture?  In his book, The Sports Gene, David Epstein says it’s definitely both.

THESE SHINING LIVES:   Now playing at CU Boulder, is a story about one of the most stunning technologies to ever harm U-S workers.  It involves a technique from the early 1900s that made it possible for the hands of watches to glow in the dark.  The “Glow” came from radium-laced paint, which killed many of the young women who were told to lick their paint brushes to make sure that the dials were painted properly.  The new play is titled, “These Shining Lives.” and it’s fitting that it will open at CU just 10 miles from the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant, where controversy still rages over radioactive contamination.  Here to tell us more is the director of “These Shining Lives,” Elizabeth Dowd.

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


Salt Lake City’s Drier Future // Spruce Beetle Outbreak

On Tuesday, Nov. 5, How On Earth brings you one short report and two features:

Feature 1 – Salt Lake City’s Drier Future (start time 4:25): Guests Laura Briefer and Tim Bardsley talk with How On Earth’s Jim Pullen about how science is helping water management planners in Salt Lake City prepare for an uncertain—and drier—future.  Briefer is the water resource manager for Salt Lake City’s Department of Public Utilities and Bardsley is a hydrologist working with Salt Lake City via University of Colorado’s Western Water Assessment.

bark beetleFeature 2 – Spruce Beetle Outbreak (start time 15:12): We continue with the climate theme, but bring it away from the cities and into the forests.  Picture this: Up high, in the mountains of Colorado, a small beetle, about the size of a grain of rice, works its way into the bark of a spruce tree, where it burrows in to find some tasty morsels—the tree’s reproductive tissues.  Here it will feast, and, under the right conditions, kill the tree.  This is not the more familiar mountain pine beetle, but a spruce beetle.  Same idea, different tree.  And the scale of a current spruce beetle outbreak in our state is being referred to by CU researchers as “massive.”  University of Colorado ecologist Sarah Hart tells How On Earth’s Beth Bartel more about Colorado’s spruce beetle outbreak and the drought that’s causing it.

Short Report – Animal Tagging (start time 1:07): Does tagging animals affect the very behavior scientists are trying to study? Susan Moran reports on how one study finds that even small tags and equipment can drag marine creatures down. For more information, check out NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center page and photos or, better yet, videos of model (mock?) turtles and their wind tunnels.

Hosts: Beth Bartel, Jim Pullen
Producer: Beth Bartel
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel
Additional Contributions: Susan Moran


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” :


Antarctica Research // The Cancer Chronicles

We offer two features on the Tuesday, Oct. 22, show:

Lake Hoare, Antarcita / Photo: Beth Bartel 2004

The camp at Lake Hoare in Taylor valley, Antarctica. (Photo: Beth Bartel)

Feature 1 – Antarctica Research (start time 4:15): Diane McKnight, a professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, talks with How On Earth contributor Brian Calvert about scientific discoveries from Antarctica. During the temporary government shutdown the United States Antarctic Program, which facilitates government-funded scientific research in Antarctica, was unplugged. Several expeditions were cancelled. Her research on the McMurdo Dry Valleys on the continent will resume, but a future government shutdown would threaten scientific research on penguins, extreme microbes, climate change-induced sea ice melt and so many other subjects.

Feature 2 – The Cancer Chronicles (start time 12:22): In his new book, The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine’s Deepest Mystery , science writer George Johnson takes readers on his very personal quest to understand cancer on a cellular level: how it begins with one “renegade cell” that divides, mutates, and becomes a tumor. In the process Johnson also digs deep into history – per-history, in fact — to learn that not only our ancient human ancestors had cancer, but even some dinosaurs suffered from them. And the author dissects many scientific studies that debunk myths about the role environmental toxins play in cancer. And he challenges false beliefs that cancer in modern times is on the rise. “Yet running beneath the surface is a core rate of cancer, the legacy of being multicellular creatures in an imperfect world,” he writes. Johnson speaks via phone to host Susan Moran about the mysteries and discoveries of cancer.

And as we mentioned in today’s headlines, if you want to see the large fragment of the Chelyabinsk meteor being recovered from Lake Chebarkul, you can see the video here.

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

Listen to the show:


The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

In this pledge drive show for KGNU, we feature an interview with David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene.  Through his new book, Epstein looks straight at a debate that’s as old as physical competition. Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to be top athletes? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?  This book tackles the nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving this great riddle.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Beth Bartel, Susan Moran, Jim Pullen, Shelley Schlender, Kate Fotopoulos
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel

Listen to the show:


Plight of Bees // Climate and Flood

Feature 1: (start time: 03:45) Our first guest is Boulder beekeeper Tom Theobald. He talks about the current state of the bee crisis and what, if anything, the EPA is doing to address concerns that systemic pesticides like Clothianidan are properly controlled.


Dr. Claudia Tebaldi

Feature 2: (start time: 12:42) Then National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Dr. Claudia Tebaldi joins us. Tebaldi, a statistician, specializes in long-term modeling of climate  change. We talk to her about the relationship between flood and the warming planet. We also talk about the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which she helped lead. She also explains what the ‘fog of prediction is.


Hosts: Jim Pullen, Beth Bartel
Producer: Jim Pullen
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel

Listen to the show:


IPCC Assessment Report 5

Tad Pfeffer was a lead author on the IPCC AR5 chapter about sea level rise. Photo: James Balog

On Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, better known as the IPCC, released the first bit of its Fifth Assessment Report, a volume with a plain name that may have a large influence on global policy. This first part of the report, part one of three, is the “sciency” part, documenting the current state of knowledge of climate change and its effects. The report sticks to the physical science of climate change—by how much the climate is changing, what’s causing it, and what the world might look like by the end of the century. The next two volumes of the report will address the societal impacts of climate change and, lastly, mitigation strategies.

HOE co-host Beth Bartel speaks with Tad Pfeffer, a professor at CU-Boulder jointly appointed between the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, (INSTAAR), and the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering. Pfeffer is one of the lead authors on Chapter 13 of the IPCC report, the chapter on sea level rise.

Hosts: Beth Bartel, Ted Burnham
Producer: Beth Bartel
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel

Listen to the show:


Monarch Migration // Better Batteries

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed. Courtesy Tom Ranker.

Feature #1: (start time 4:45) As we unpack our coats and boots from storage boxes, so are insects, in their own way, planning for a seasonal change.  Monarch butterflies in our neighborhood, east of the Rockies, fly south to very specific forests high in the mountains of Mexico. Their journey, and life at their destination, is a precarious one.  Dr. Deane Bowers, a professor and curator of entomology at the CU Boulder Museum of Natural History, speaks with co-host Susan Moran about what is happening now with monarchs and other butterflies. And she discusses how the ability of certain insects, such as caterpillars, to defend themselves against predators by making themselves taste disgusting is being affected by human disturbances, such as nitrogen fertilizer runoff. To get involved in monarch conservation, go to Monarch Watch.

Feature #2: (start time 14:30) One of the greatest limitations of effectively using clean and renewable energy sources is a simple device with which we are all undoubtedly familiar — the battery.  Dr. Conrad Stoldt is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at CU Boulder and co-founder of Solid Power, Inc., where he is developing an all-solid-state lithium metal battery. Stoldt talks with co-host Beth Bartel about how batteries work, why batteries are such a stumbling block in the current race to energy solutions, and how his research may just lead to the next big thing.

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

Click on audio file below.



Safer Rocket Fuel // Inland-Ocean Connection

The Tuesday, Sept. 17, show offers two features:
Feature #1 (start time TK): Once hadrazine, now green. Ball Aerospace’s Chris McLean, the Program Manager for the Green Propellent Fusion Mission, talks with co-host Jim Pullen about testing a much safer spacecraft fuel.

Mississippi River Basin
Courtesy U.S. EPA

Feature #2 (start time TK): The 100-year flood ravaging Colorado has shown us painfully clearly the power of water. We’re seeing how surging rainfall and overflowing streams can destroy homes, roads, indeed whole communities in their path.  But what’s less visible is how extreme weather events like this one in the nation’s interior affect oceans in powerful ways. Our watersheds east of the Continental Divide carry water, and tons of nutrients, into the Mississippi River Basin.  Rainfall, storm water, and fertilizer runoff from croplands and backyard lawns contribute to the humongous Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. To discuss our inland connection to oceans Dr. David Guggenheim, a marine scientist and founder of the nonprofit Ocean Doctor, talks with co-host Susan Moran. Vicki Goldstein, founder of Colorado Ocean Coalition, also discusses the inland ocean movement, including the second annual Making Waves event this coming weekend.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Jim Pullen
Producers: Jim Pullen
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

Listen to the show:


Stories from the Flood

AFTER the flood – How to Stay Safe

Kathleen TierneyNatural Hazards Center, Boulder

LISTEN (10 MINUTES)  “Many of the injuries that happen in disasters happen because people are trying to take care of disaster related problems themselves, and and they get injured.  If you’ve never handled a chain saw before in your life, this is probably not a good time to start.” – Kathleen Tierney
Boulder is a world renowned center for research into Natural Disasters.  One of the leaders in this field is Kathleen Tierney who directs CU Boulder’s Natural Hazards Center.  She speaks with KGNU’s Shelley Schlender about how to stay safe AFTER a disaster,  how to document your needs for insurance, how Boulder planners have reduced the impacts of this huge flood event, and what it’s like, personally, here in Boulder, to be a disaster victim.

Climate Change and Future Flooding

Kelley MahoneyCIRES, Boulder

(LISTEN 15 Minutes)  As for WHY this storm happened, KGNU’s Jim Pullen talks with Kelly Mahoney, a research scientist at CU Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences – also known as CIRES.  Mahoney says the Rocky Mountains are the most challenging part of the country for making climate predictions.  But the Rocky Mountains might indeed have more dry periods punctuated by more intense and very wet superstorms.

We have a pretty good handle on the trends that we might expect along the eastern two thirds of the country and also in the southwest.  So in the eastern part of the country, we do expect things to get a little more moist.  And the complete opposite in the desert Southwest.  Regarding average precipitation, we expect to see it drying.  So that places the Colorado Front Range in the unique position of being right between the two climate signals.  For the Colorado Front range, I think most folks say we feel like the region will see a mean drying, meaning longer longer stretches of dry punctuated by an increase in extremes.  But it’s still definitely an area of study.  Lots of people are continuing to look into this.”

Planning for more superstorms

Marcus Moench, Institute for Social and Environmental Transition, Boulder

LISTEN (20 Minutes)  The Institute for Social and Environmental Transition does a lot of work globally regarding flooding and climate and environment protection.    Speaking with Jim Pullen, their president, Marcus Moench, says Boulder has fared pretty well, though it faces challenges.

The main flood areas, the infrastructures through Central Boulder has functioned enormously well.  The underpasses and things like that.  We face, as everyplace does, a huge challenge particularly along minor streams, where it’s impossible to keep the vegetation clear, to keep culverts the size you want.  And where there are contrasting interests.  For example, if you have a grate in front of a school such as Flatirons school that protects kids from falling into the culverts, but at the same time it becomes the first thing that clogs and floods the street, the minute any flow comes down. “

But Moench says that even in usually arid Boulder, we can learn lessons from wetter climates, such as those in Asia:

All the infrastructures, the water heaters, the sewer, things like this, The water supply stuff is located much higher up.  The electricity.  We put a lot of that infrastructure into our basements.  And as people are mucking out here, that’s one of the largest costs a lot of people will face is replacing that water heater, that dryer, the stuff that’s in the basements. “

For a list of resources for people in our communities dealing with these disasters, check KGNU


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