Snowshoe Hare // Cubelets Robotics

Snowshoe Hare Faces Uncertain Future (start time 6:35). They don’t get much cuter than bunnies. One of the cutest of them all is the snowshoe hare. It’s elusive, and well camouflaged, so you may well never have seen one. To survive, these hares change their coats with the seasons – white in the snowy winter and rusty brown in the summer.  So  now, some hares’ fur turns white before the snow covers the ground. Think what it’d be like to be naked in public, an easy meal for eagles and other predators.  Whether these fragile hares can evolve and adapt to their changing homes fast enough is a question some biologists are studying hard.  Hillary Rosner, a local science journalist and author, wrote about the plight of the snowshoe hare in the current issue of High Country News and now talks with How on Earth’s Susan Moran.

Cubelets Robotics (start time 15:00) is an award-winning modular robotics kit created and made in Boulder. The concept is simple:  you take these magnetic blocks and snap them together to make an endless variety of robots with no programming and no wires. You can build robots that drive around on a tabletop, respond to light, sound, and temperature, and have surprisingly lifelike behavior. But instead of programming that behavior, you snap the cubelets together and watch the behavior emerge like with a flock of birds or a swarm of bees.  To find out more, How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender talks with Modular Robotics Design Director, Eric Schweikardt. Cubelet theme song by Blorp Corp.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Susan Moran
Contributor: Breanna Draxler
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Algae oil omega-3 // Little Ice Age

algae samples growing in a DSM lab; photo courtesy of DSM

Algae Oil Omega-3 (start time 5:28).  Omega-3 dietary supplements are all the rage. Many studies claim that this family of fatty acids benefits your brain, heart and vision, among other things. A non-fish source that already is infused in milk and other foods we consume is oil derived from marine algae. Cohost Susan Moran interviews Dr. Bill Barclay, a microbial ecologist who manages the Boulder division of Martek Biosciences (now DSM). He talks about how he discovered how to produce DHA omega-3 oils from microalgae, and how they can boost our health in an environmentally sustainable way (or at least free of concern about overfishing).

Gifford Miller collecting dead plant samples from beneath a Baffin Island ice cap; photo courtesy of Gifford Miller

Little Ice Age (start time 15:25). Shortly after the Middle Ages, something strange happened.  Suddenly, the entire world got a little cooler.  And then it hung on. The cooling lasted over 500 years, all the way to the 1800s.  Those five cool centuries are known as the Little Ice Age.  How it happened has been a mystery that modern climate scientists have worked hard to figure out, and one they’ve argued about.  Now, a University of Colorado Boulder-led study appears to have finally solved the mystery.  HOE’s Shelley Schlender interviews the lead author of the study, CU-Boulder Professor Gifford Miller.

Hosts: Tom McKinnon, Susan Moran
Contributor: Breanna Draxler
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Underwater Volcanoes // Sleep

Underwater Volcanoes (start time 5:45). Most of our planet’s volcanoes are out of sight, and largely out of mind. Hidden under sometimes thousands of feet of water, volcanoes on the sea floor bubble and boil away without our knowledge and largely without our understanding. We talk with Oregon State University volcanologist Bill Chadwick about some of his research on these buried giants. More information (with photos and videos) are available at NOAA’s VENTS Program.

Sleep (start time 15:50).  As any mother knows, when children get cranky, one of the best solutions is to “go take a nap.” What is less understood is whether or not those naps can be now and then, or whether it’s important to keep them regular. We speak with an expert who has just published a study that looks at the question of napping among preschool children. Her name is Monique LeBourgeois and she’s a professor of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado’s Sleep and Development Lab.

Co-hosts: Joel Parker and Shelley Schlender
Contributors: Beth Bartel, Breanna Draxler, Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Producer: Joel Parker
Executive producer: Shelley Schlender

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20th Anniversary Science Show

Bucky Ball 1991 "Molecule of the Year"

We celebrate 20 years of How on Earth, featuring the 1st ever KGNU science show, 20 years ago, including Bucky Balls, Electromagnetic Radiation and Cows, Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble, and along the way, we give updates on current science issues, including Tom McKinnon talking about applications for Bucky Balls (Fullerenes) today, a conversation with CU Electrical Engineer Frank Barnes, who is one of the world’s most sought-after experts on EMFs,  Southwest Research Institute Astrophysicist Joel Parker gives an update on space telescopes, and CU Science Journalism professor Tom Yulsman talks about an issue NOT on the radar 20 years ago — global climate change.  We also share information about tonight’s Denver Cafe Sci, with Brian Hynek, about “Mars:  Are We Alone?”  Special thanks to How on Earth original producers Sam Fuqua and Jeff Orrey for being here as part of the show.

Co-hosts: Joel Parker and Susan Moran
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Executive producer: Shelley Schlender

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The first KGNU science show (Jan 1992)

Here is the ORIGINAL KGNU science show, broadcast 20 years ago in January 1992.  For our science show on January 17, 2012, we’ll feature excerpts from this show, along with interviews with two of the show’s originators, KGNU station manager, Sam Fuqua, and KGNU Volunteer, Jeff Orrey.

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Nicotine Patches // Restoring the Desert

Do nicotine patches really help you stop smoking?  Shelley Schlender interviews a scientist who says they don’t.  Lois Biener and her colleagues at the University of Massachusetts and Harvard University  have done a study that  indicates that out in the real world, people who use nicotine replacement therapy in the hopes of an easier “quit” don’t fare any better than people who use will power and community support.  Some people who use nicotine replacements are actually MORE likely to relapse.  (Extended interview version here).

Great plumes of dust rising from the desert forms an iconic image of the West, but much of that dust is a result of humans altering the desert soil structure.  Several Boulder scientists are investigating a new technology that may allow us to restore the desert, and sequester large amounts of carbon at the same time.  Tom McKinnon interviews Jim Sears, president of  A2BE Carbon Capture and  Bharath Prithiviraj, a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Colorado.  They are developing a large scale deployable technology that would enable agricultural aircraft to re-inoculate and restore arid soils using indigenous strains of soil-crust-based cyanobacteria. For additional information on airborne soil crust reseeding, its research and its applications please contact jimsears@algaeatwork.com for an overview paper on the topic.

Co-hosts: Tom McKinnon and Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Joel Parker
Producer: Tom McKinnon
Executive producer: Shelley Schlender

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Nicotine Patches Don’t Work [extended version]

This is an extended version of the interview with researchers at Harvard and the University of Massachusetts, which indicates that out in the real world, people who use nicotine replacement therapy in the hopes of an easier “quit” don’t fare any better than people who use will power and community support.  Some people who use nicotine replacements are actually MORE likely to relapse.  Here, Shelley Schlender talks with Lois Biener, a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Survey Research at the University of Massachusetts Boston.  Her research was published in the journal Tobacco Control.

 

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Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

 

We hear about a book called Logicomix, featuring Christos Papidimitriou, who is one of the world’s leaders on computational complexity theory, and what happens when he consents to be interviewed by two 10-year olds.  And in the headlines, we delve into a new report published in the January issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine that indicates exercise helps kids do better in school.  We fly to the moon with two GRAIL spacecraft, which stands for “Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory.”  And we invite you to sign up for the free, “Mini Med-The Clinical Years,” being offered at the CU Medical Center.

Nora and Lee

Hosts: Joel Parker, Susan Moran
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineers: Tom McKinnon, Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Clean Water Struggles // 2011’s Big Sci-Enviro-Tech Stories

Mining retention pond in Colorado. Image courtesy of the EPA.

Clean Water Struggles. Co-host Susan Moran interviews journalist Judith Lewis Mernit about how small rural communities in the West are struggling to afford complying with federal water-quality standards as they relate to water pollutants. Mernit wrote an article on the topic in High Country News’ Dec. 12 issue. She explores the unintended consequences of complex federal  standards, which place a disproportionately heavy burden on small communities.  A big bone of contention, and a source of a flood of lawsuits, is a provision in the Clean Water Act that forces states to assess their impaired waterways and set maximum limits, or loads, for nitrates and other pollutants in them.

Bastrop, Texas fire. Photo courtesy of Michael Kodas.

2011’s Big Sci-Enviro-Tech Stories. In the second feature co-hosts Susan Moran and Tom Yulsman are joined by How On Earth’s Tom McKinnon and Shelley Schlender, as well as photojournalist Michael Kodas (author of a forthcoming book on megafires) to reflect on 2011’s major science, technology and environment stories. The list includes extreme weather events, record-high carbon dioxide levels, the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Boulder’s November vote to consider municipalizing its electricity, and advancements in proteomics. Stay tuned for plenty more coverage of these topics on How On Earth in 2012. (Scroll down to download the audio file of the show.)

Hosts: Susan Moran, Tom Yulsman
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineers: Tom McKinnon, Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Tom McKinnon

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Holiday Sci & Tech Gifts // Eating Your Heart Out?

 

We take a look at favorite holiday sci-tech gifts, including the SparkFun Inventor’s Kit, Logicomix, Manga Guide to Electricity, Lego Mindstorms,  a fun new novelty for anyone on your list – giant microbes.  After the show, we also voted to add yet one more item to your last-minute gifts – a mesh bag of any size, for . . . what else?  Catching neutrinos.

Also on the show this week,  How on Earth’s Roger Wendell describes a new way to clean irrigation ditches, called, a “Self Cleaning Trash Screen for Irrigation Water (Watch on You Tube).”

Dick Williams (left) and Chip Grandits at KGNU

Local author and scientist Dick Williams talks with How on Earth’s Chip Grandits about Dick’s new book:  Eating Your Heart Out?  Williams, with coauthors Binx Selby and Linda Fong.  In his book, Dick writes, “For over a half-century, careful scientific researchers have known what a good balanced diet really means, yet most of us have largely ignored this important information. We have preferred to continue in our culturally determined ruts, eating ourselves to death. Major research projects have noted how some peoples in the world have lived healthy lives past the 100-year mark in communities, such as the Inuit living above the Arctic circle, and the traditional villages of the island, Crete, in the Mediterranean, where cardiac events are completely unknown. ”

Producer: Shelley Schlender
Co-Hosts: Tom McKinnon & Beth Bartel, with special reports from Roger Wendell and Chip Grandits.
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Tom McKinnon

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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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