Wildfires & Water Reservoirs // Comet ISON

For the Sept. 3rd How On Earth show we offer two features:

The Hetch Hetchy reservoir

Wildfires Threaten Water Supplies: (start time 5:45) The wildfire burning in and around Yosemite National Park is now the fourth-largest in California’s history. Covering nearly 350 square miles, the Rim Fire is threatening the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which supplies residents in the San Francisco Bay Area with most of their water and power. It’s a lot like the 2012 High Park Fire—which sent ash and debris into the water supply of Fort Collins. These fires offer lessons on the risks wildfires pose to reservoirs.  Dr. Bruce McGurk, a former water manager for Hetch Hetchy and a water consultant, speaks with How On Earth contributor Brian Calvert about the risks and future prospects.

Comet ISON Cometh: (start time 12:50) Comets have fascinated humans for millenia.  Aristotle argued comets were hot, dry exhalations gathered in the atmosphere and occasionally burst into flame.  Some people thought that comets replenished Earth’s air. Still others  believed they were a source of disease.  Scientists today study comets because some are thought to be relatively pristine leftover debris from the formation of the solar system. And studying what comets are made of can provide us a glimpse back to the beginning of the solar system 4 billion years ago.  Comet ISON, as scientists call it, is one that scientists predict will be relatively easy to view later this year. Dr. Carey Lisse, a senior research scientist at the Johns Hopkins Institute Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, speaks with co-host Joel Parker about comet ISON and its fascinating tails. For more information on ISON, go to NASA’s ISON toolkit, and this cool interactive model.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Additional contribution: Brian Calvert
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

Listen to the show:

Play
Share

Noise Pollution

Population impacted by aircraft noise greater than 55 dB day–night noise level in 2005 (from “Development of an income-based hedonic monetization model for the assessment of aviation-related noise impacts” by Q. He, MIT Master’s thesis) [click on image to see large version]

Noise Pollution (starts at 6:15) –  How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender talks with research scientist Larry Finegold about noise pollution and about a workshop being held today in Denver about Noise Management in Communities and Natural Areas.  Dr. Finegold has authored or contributed to over 80 publications on noise including the US National Academy of Engineering report, “Technology for a Quieter America,” the World Health Organization report, “Burden of Disease from Environmental Noise,” and the article “Community Annoyance and Sleep Disturbance: Updated Criteria for Assessing the Impacts of General Transportation Noise on People.”

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

Listen to the show:

Play
Share

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

Listen to the show:

Play
Share

Too Hot To Touch

Today we’re joined by Dr. William Alley and Rosemarie Alley to learn about the nuclear waste crisis in the United States. Bill Alley, a distinguished hydrologist, was in charge of the USGS’s water studies at Yucca Mountain from 2002 until 2010, when the Obama administration ended the project. Rosemarie Alley is a writer and educator and is passionate about the nuclear waste issue. Together, they’ve written a highly readable and informative book published by Cambridge University Press in 2013: Too Hot To Touch: the Problem of High Level Nuclear Waste. The Alley’s also discuss the Ft. St. Vrain Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation near Platteville, where 15 MTHM (metric tons of heavy metal) are housed until a more permanent home can be found. We’ll be bringing you more on the Ft. St. Vrain facility later in the year.

Host: Jim Pullen
Producer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

Listen to the show:

Play
Share

Smoke Free Casinos Reduce 911 Calls // Mirrors and Water = Hydrogen Fuel

Smoke free casinos mean fewer Ambulance Calls

Smoke Free Casinos Reduce 911 Calls (starts at 2:41) Colorado’s ban on smoking up at Central City and Black Hawk casinos has not only reduced second hand smoke.  It’s reduced the number of 911 calls for ambulances.    A new study in this week’s journal, Circulation, reports that ambulance calls to casinos in Gilpin County fell 20 percent after smoking was banned.  For more, we speak with the study’s lead author Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education

CU-Boulder – Artist’s Image of Hydrogen Fuel Plant, including mirrors

Mirrors and Water = Hydrogen Fuel (starts at 7:40) We hear how to make hydrogen fuel, from water,  sunshine and mirrors, from  Chris Muhich, a PhD student at CU-Boulder whose dream is to create affordable, clean burning hydrogen available to everyone.

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

Listen to the show:

Play
Share

Buzz Aldrin’s Vision for Space//The Bees Needs

Buzz Aldrin’s Vision for Space Exploration (starts at 6:14) Dr. Buzz Aldrin advocates that the United States should not enter a space-race to the moon against the Chinese, or a race to Mars against the Russians, but rather show leadership by cooperating with the major space-faring nations to systematically step across the great void to the Red Planet. This is his personal Unified Space Vision. He is also working toward an independent council, a United Strategic Space Enterprise, that would advise American citizens about the nation’s space policy. USSE experts would draw on a deep knowledge of America’s previous successes and failures to present a unified plan of exploration, science, development, commerce, and security within a national foreign policy context. Buzz shared these visions with How On Earth’s Jim Pullen. Here’s an excerpt from his hour-long discussion with Jim. Stay tuned for the rest of his discussion, in which he shares little-known insights into why Apollo 11, not Apollo 12, was first to land humans on the moon, and never-before-shared honors for Neil Armstrong and Pete Conrad.

Bees Needs baby bee block at the KGNU Boulder studios © 2013 Jim Pullen

The Bees Needs (starts at 16:04) Colorado is home to over nine-hundred species of wild bees. Most of these solitary creatures nest in the ground, but others nest in the hollow stalks of plants, and about one hundred and fifty species nest in holes in wood. How are these bees doing? Are pesticides striking them down, like their honeybee cousins? How will they respond to changes in climate? CU scientists Dr. Alex Rose and Dr. Virginia Scott have embarked on a journey of discovery, and they’ve invited ordinary people to help. It’s the Bees Needs, a citizen-science project. How On Earther Jim Pullen is a part of that citizen-science team, and he invited Virgina and Alex to see what’s happening at the bustling bee block nest outside our studio.

Hosts: Jim Pullen and Susan Moran
Producer: Jim Pullen
Additional Contributions: Joel Parker and Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

Listen to the show:

Play
Share

Fecal Microbial Transplant for C. Diff Colitis

We bring you two recent science releases involving Colorado scientists.  One features bumblebees and the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.  The second looks at new tick-born disease from Missouri that was tracked down by Harry Savage, CDC Fort Collins.

We also share a story about an unusual medical treatment that is saving people from a devastating gut infection called recurrent C-Diff Colitis.  The treatment that cures this condition the most effectively is a fecal microbial transplant.  Giving perspectives about the “cure” are CU Health Sciences Gastroenterologist Steve Freeman, and CSU Veterinary Scientist, Rob Callan.  As for the treatment, this spring, the FDA put up hurdles so it was harder for doctors to do fecal transplants.  So much outcry arose, this summer, the FDA lifted the ban.

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

Play
Share

End of Night – Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light

The world is awash with artificial lights – so much so that most of us never experience the night sky like our ancestors did. So what?  Does it matter?  Is it simply an inevitable and acceptable result of progress?  Here in the studio with us today to talk about the personal and global effects of light pollution and the loss of dark skies at night is Paul Bogard who has written the book The End of Night. Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light,

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

Play
Share

Good & Bad Calories // PhD Comics

Good & Bad Calories (starts at 4:50) Ever since the 1970s, the rise of obesity in the United States has an epidemic. Researchers around the world are trying desperately to figure out why so many of us get fat, and what we can do to change that.  A large amount of funding, and support from public health policy, goes toward the hypothesis that we get fat because we eat too many calories and do not exercise enough; when someone eats more calories than they need, the instructions go, they should exercise.  That’s “Calories in, Calories Out.”  But recently, an expert with a different point of view spoke to a packed audience of doctors, staff and medical students at the University of Colorado Medical Center.  The expert is Gary Taubes, the author of the New York Times bestsellers “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and “Why We Get Fat“.  Taubes is also the recipient of angel investor funds: $60 million to devote to research to better understand how the kinds of foods we eat affect our metabolism.  Central to Taubes’ ideas is the opinion that “Calories in, Calories Out” simply cannot be enough to explain, or help people, maintain a healthy weight.  In this feature, we provide an excerpt from his talk at the CU Medical School.

PhD Comics (starts at 13:50) Unless you work in science, you may not always be aware of the humor that goes on among scientists and what the culture is like.  So what better way to show the comic parts of science than by way of a comic strip?  One of the more well-known science-oriented comic strips is called “PhD Comics” and is written by Jorge Cham, who is trained as an engineer, holds a bachelors degree from Georgia Tech and a PhD in robotics from Stanford.  He also was an instructor at Caltech, a researcher in a neuroscience lab, where he studied brain-and-machine interfaces, and he also has a chemistry background.  So he has a wide set of experiences to draw on…literally DRAW on…for his comic.  We talk with Jorge Cham to find out more about the comic and other ways the scientist comic artist unveils the secret lives of scientists and, in particular, science grad students.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Shelly Schlender
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

Listen to the show:

Play
Share

The Voodoo Doll Task // Drones for Climate Science

“Voodoo Doll” courtesy Creative Commons

The Voodoo Doll Task – (begins 5:30) Scientists have few ways to accurately measure agression.  How on Earth’s Garth Sundem talks with University of Kentucky psychology professor, Nathan DeWall, about a new fix. It’s called the Voodoo Doll Task. DeWall’s recent studies include over thirteen hundred subjects, and an upcoming research paper shows his voodoo doll task works darn well. What does an angry person do when holding a voodoo doll and a handful of pins, or when presented with a computerized version of the doll? The answer could indicate that person’s desire to carry out the aggressive action in real life.

CIRIES Data Hawk

Drones for Climate Science – (begins 15:00) These days they get a bad rap because of their use by the government to snoop on people, and even to kill terrorists. But unmanned aerial vehicles – often called  “drones” – are increasingly being used to save the planet, or at least to measure and understand a slice of it.  For more, How on Earth’s Susan Moran talks with Doug Weibel  who is part of a CU-Boulder science and engineering team that designed an unmanned aerial vehicle , or UAV, that they’re about to take to Alaska’s Arctic Circle. The aircraft –called DataHawk — is meant to help them better grasp how Arctic sea ice is melting, especially in the summer in areas where it used to persist for many years.

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

Listen to the show:

Play
Share

Support KGNU


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.

Podcast

Subscribe via iTunes
 
How On Earth episodes can be downloaded as podcasts via iTunes, or streamed to a mobile device via Stitcher or Science360 Radio.
 
Listen on Stitcher
 
Listen on Science360 Radio
 
For more info about podcasting, and more subscription options, visit our Podcast page.