Palm oil and rainforest devastation

NASA satellite image of slash and burn being used to clear rainforest in Sumatra.

(start time: 07:23) We talk with Lindsey Allen, the Executive Director of the Rainforest Action Network, about the destruction of rainforest from the proliferation of palm oil plantations.

Hosts: Jim Pullen, Joel Parker
Producer: Jim Pullen
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Larry Gold – Gold Lab Symposium

We talk with Larry Gold about this year’s Gold Lab Symposium at CU-Boulder.  It features, “The Biological and Social Evolution of Healthcare: Rube Goldberg and Time.  Friday, May 17th – Saturday, May 18th, 2013, Muenzinger Auditorium, University of Colorado Boulder.  NOTE:  After the conference, speaker presentations will be posted at the Gold Lab Symposium site.

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

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Brain Trust // Drought

Brain Trust (starts at 4:23)  When you are trying to make a decision about something important or having a disagreement with someone, don’t you sometimes wish you had a scientist with you – a world expert on the topic at hand – to help you out?  In fact, it would be great to have dozens of experts in many fields available, sort of your own personal Brain Trust.  Well, luckily Garth Sundem can help you out with his book called: “Brain Trust,” where he has interviewed 93 of the top scientists in fields like physics, genetics, cognitive science, economics, nutrition, mathematics, and talked to them about very important topics in their fields.  And not the easy topics like Higgs Bosons, Fermat’s Last Theorem, and inflationary cosmology, but rather the much more difficult – and immediately useful – topics like: the best design for a paper airplane, how to survive Armageddon, how to create giant man-eating plants, successful dating techniques (and we don’t mean carbon dating), and how to tell when someone is lying.  Host Joel Parker talks with Garth about his book.

Drought (starts at 15:10) Given all the rain and snow on the Front Range and beyond lately, you’d think that Colorado is emerging from the persistent drought, right? But last year was one of the hottest and driest on record in the state and some regions have yet to recover.  Among those who have suffered the most from the persistent drought are farmers and ranchers. In fact, some have sold off cattle and even shuttered their businesses. That said, high prices have boosted profits for some wheat farmers, for instance.  To find out just how badly many farmers and ranchers have been hit by the drought, researchers at Colorado State University have been surveying them annually for a while.  Host Susan Moran talks with Christopher Goemans, a resource economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at Colorado State University, and Ron Nelson, a graduate student also at CSU, about a recent survey of drought conditions and the broader environment.

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

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Dr. David Wineland and the human side of winning the Nobel Prize

Dr. David Wineland (photo courtesy of NIST)

Today on How On Earth, KGNU’s award-winning science show, we continue our discussion with Boulder’s Dr. David Wineland about the human side of winning the Nobel Prize. The National Institute of Standards and Technology scientist shared the 2012 physics award with France’s 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
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Mapping Pain in the Brain – CU Scientist Tor Wager

Brain Pain Signature

Headlines:

  1. Climate Change Accelerates Changing Climate Zones – CU-Boulder and CIRES Scientist Irina Mahlstein (starts at 1:00)
  2. Family Dogs Harber Family Microbes – CU Boulder Scientist Rob Knight (and the American Gut Project) (starts at 2:26)
  3. Sound from the Big Bang – from John G. Cramer (starts at 4:45)

Mapping Pain in the Brain (starts at 7:30 )

If you hit your thumb with a hammer, you feel physical pain.  Terrible sunburn? Pain.  A muscle cramp?  Pain.  In each case, you know it’s pain.  But how a body senses this pain has been elusive.  Surgeons have tried to cut out what they think of as the brain’s pain center.  This often doesn’t work, and it has side effects.  Painkilling drugs?  Sometimes they help, sometimes they cause addiction.  Understanding the brain’s pain circuits might help scientists find better ways to deal with pain.  Last week, CU-Boulder researchers took a step in that direction by publishing a magnetic resonance imaging  map that they believe shows the signature of physical pain response within the brain.  The lead researcher on this project is Tor Wager.  Wager is the director of the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience laboratory at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Chip Grandits
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Conference on World Affairs Special with SETI’s Seth Shostak

One of the SETI Institute’s telescopes in the Allen array. (2007 photo courtesy of Colby Gutierrez-Kraybill and used under a Creative Commons license.)

Welcome to a special episode of How On Earth with Dr. Seth Shostak, the Senior Astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute. We’ve been listening for their tell-tale signal for 50 years with no luck, but Seth says that he’ll bet a cup of coffee we’ll hear from them in the next few decades. We explore what might happen if we find these brainy aliens or if we don’t find them at all. It’s part of the Conference on World Affairs.

Host: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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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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Tom’s River // Making Primitive Fire

Tom’s River (starts at 5:03) Susan Moran interviews Dan Fagin, author of the new book Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation.  You’ve likely heard of the chemical contamination of Love Canal at Niagara Falls, in the mid-1970s. And the leukemia cluster linked to water pollution in Woburn, Massachusetts,in the mid-80s — made famous by the book Civil Action. But you may not have heard of another cancer cluster –- also linked to industrial chemicals – this one in the small town of Toms River, N.J. Fagin’s book about Tom’s River is far more than a gripping investigation of one town’s struggle; it is a cautionary and illuminating tale about the complexities of finding a causal, not just associative, link between pollution and cancer. And it is a story for anyone concerned about whether the air they breathe, and the water they drink is in jeopardy.

 

2013-03-26 Making Fire on KGNU’s How on Earth Science Show from Shelley Schlender on Vimeo.

Making Primitive Fire (starts at 15:40) Roger Wendell interviews Michael and Lorritta Slayton, who are longtime practitioners of primitive fire making and survival skills. Teaching at rendezvous, schools, and outdoors shows Michael and Lorritta have delighted thousands with their “Backup to the Bic”  demonstrations – how to create a lifesaving fire during an emergency when matches and high-tech lighters won’t do the trick.  Primitive fire making focuses on very old, but tried and true ways of making fire. Today, Michael “Big Smoke” and Lorritta “Flint Woman” Slayton will teach us about Bow Drill Fire Sticks and the flint-and-steel methods for creating fire – assuring us that what we learn from the past will make us wiser for the future.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Roger Wendell
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Neil Shubin -The Universe Within

In this spring pledge drive show, How on Earth’s Chip Grandits talks with Neil Shubin, author of the new book, The Universe Within:  Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets and People.  We offer this book to listeners to who call KGNU to pledge their support and bring you more programs like this.  Additionally, we have thank you gifts for listeners who pledge that include, Facing the Wave, Pandora’s Lunchbox, The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, and The Fat Switch.  These are all books we’ve featured, along with authors interviewed, thanks to the efforts of your all-volunteer science show team, How on Earth.  You can pledge securely on line to support this show and others at kgnu.org.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker, Chip Grandits
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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How On Earth is produced by a small group of volunteers at the studios of KGNU, an independent community radio station in the Boulder-Denver metro area. KGNU is supported by the generosity and efforts of community members like you. Visit kgnu.org to learn more.

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