Extended Interview: Richard Dawkins, The Magic of Reality

On today’s pledge drive show we played excerpts from an interview with evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins about his new book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True. The book was also featured as a promotional gift for listeners who chose to support KGNU, the independent community radio station that makes shows like How On Earth possible. We now bring you an extended version of that interview.

The Magic of Reality is something of a departure for Dawkins. It’s a science book, of course, but aimed at an adolescent readership—though certainly adults will enjoy it too. Essentially, the book is about how human beings understand the world, and what we do and do not know.

While examining a dozen seemingly simple questions (What is a rainbow? Why are there so many different kinds of animals?) Dawkins explores both human cultural history—how various cultures have used religious stories and mythmaking to explain the world—and the scientific method—how observation and experimentation can show us what’s really happening. His message throughout is that reality has its own poetic magic that rivals or exceeds even the best-spun tales.

What’s more, The Magic of Reality is full of gorgeous, full-color illustrations by artist Dave McKean. His imaginative visual style brings Dawkins’ clear, simple prose to life and illuminates the magical power that resides in even the simplest of scientific explanations.

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Post-Wild Nature//LED Lighting

Nature means something different to everyone. It’s a towering old-growth redwood forest to some.  Deep silent canyons to others. And urban community gardens to others. Defining what is “pristine nature” is even more dicey. Just ask conservation biologists trying to figure out the best ways to preserve ecosystems and their flora and fauna.
Co-host Susan Moran interviews Emma Marris, whose new book called “Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-wild World” sheds light on how notions of wilderness preservation are evolving to accommodate the ever-changing natural world, and our own role in it.

Tom McKinnon interviews Jeff Bisberg of Albeo Technologies about the new lighting revolution in solid-state LEDs.

Hosts: Tom McKinnon & Susan Moran
Producer: Tom McKinnon
Engineeer: Shellely Schlender

Executive Producer: Tom McKinnon

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Wildfire Science

Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey collect samples of ash and burned soil after the Fourmile Canyon fire. Photo credit: Gregg Swayze, USGS

 

October is Wildfire Awareness Month, so on today’s show we look back at the Fourmile Canyon wildfire and hear from local researchers about some of the scientific opportunities that the fire afforded over the last year. Jim Roberts, an atmospheric chemist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, tells us about some of the unexpected compounds that have recently been found in the smoke of wildfires. And Deborah Martin, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, describes how post-fire runoff from rainstorms affects the forest landscape.

Hosts: Ted Burnham & Breanna Draxler
Producer: Ted Burnham
Engineeer: Shellely Schlender

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We Breathe Microbes with Noah Fierer

Noah Fierer

We explore the world microbes, and how they’re everywhere, and how the University of Colorado at Boulder has scientists such as Noah Fierer who are trying to track all those microbes down and figure out which ones help us and which ones don’t, and how they interact.  These scientists have studied the microbes on a human hand, the microbes in the air from dog feces, and they’re lastest project is known as Miasma.  That stands for Mapping and Integrated Analysis of Microbes in the Atmosphere.

Hosts: Ted Burnham and Breanna Draxler

Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Headlines: Tom Yulsman
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Pine Beetle Kill // Plight of Sharks

"Empire of the Beetle" by Andrew Nikiforuk

Feature #1: If you live on the Front Range, or just about anywhere else in Colorado, you don’t have to go far to notice huge swaths of rusty brown that have replaced green conifer forests. By now, many people are familiar at least with the devastating effects of the mountain pine beetle. But far fewer may understand just how these voracious insects actually make their living, or that this epidemic — and its causes and triggers — are far more nuanced, and controversial, than meets the eye.  How On Earth co-host Susan Moran talks with Canadian journalist Andrew Nikiforuk about the beetles that have been gorging with impunity on lodgepole pine, spruce and other forests from British Columbia down nearly to Mexico. His new book is called The Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America’s Great Forests.Previously, he wrote a best-selling book called Tar Sands.

"Demon Fish" by Juliet Eilperin

Feature #2:  Sharks have a special place in the human psyche.  Perhaps it is a combination of the mystery of the depths of the ocean and natural fear and awe of powerful beasts that can kill humans with a single bite.  But these predators also are key players in the ocean’s ecosystem. The science and legends of sharks are the subject of a new book called “Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks” by Juliet Eilperin, the environmental science and policy reporter for The Washington Post.  How On Earth’s Joel Parker talks with Juliet about her book. Listen to the extended interview here.

Hosts: Susan Moran and Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker

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Plight of Sharks – Extended Interview with Juliet Eilperin

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Wind Energy

In today’s show take a look at the future of wind energy. We have with us in the studio Sandy Butterfield. Sandy is the CEO and co-founder of Boulder Wind Power. Prior to his starting this venture, Sandy spent over 24 years at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s National Wind Test Center.

Co-hosts: Tom McKinnon and Joel Parker
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Show Producer: Joel Parker

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GMOs & Health: The Loss of Small Farms and the Rise of Immune Disorders

We look at the strange rise in autoimmune diseases, allergies and asthma, with experts from the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center and with National Jewish Health Immunlogist Andy Liu  in Denver.  And, we explore whether genetically modified crops might be increasing our chance of getting ill, with Agricultural Scientist, Charles Benbrook of The Organic Center.

In this report, Shelley Schlender takes a look at genetically modified crops and other modern farming techniques, and how they might, or might not be, connected to the dramatic rise in immune disorders.  As part of this report, she’ll look into the strange case of a bacteria in GM corn that was NOT supposed to get into human bloodstream.  Recent research indicates that it does.  And she’ll discuss the hygiene hypothesis with  health experts who suggest that our society has become so “clean” that, in some ways, it makes us sick.

Go here for extended interviews with Charles Benbrook, Andy Liu, Carol Shilson, Stefano Guandalini.

Co-hosts: Susan Moran and Joel Parker
Engineer: Tom McKinnon
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Show Producer: Shelley Schlender

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GMOs and Health – Extended Interview with Andy Liu – National Jewish Health

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GMOs and Health – Extended Interview with Stefano Guandalini – Celiac Disease Center

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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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