Lean Deli Meat vs A Big Fat Steak . . . and Water in Outer Space

We talk with one of the nation’s leading nutrition scientists  . . . whose opinions about food and health might not be popular with the American Salt Institute . . . OR with the USDA.  Dariush Mozaffarian is with the Harvard School of Public Health, in the department of epidemiology.  Current projects include leadership of the Nutrition in Chronic Diseases Expert Group of the Gates Foundation.   He’ll explain data that indicates processed lean turkey meat and processed lean ham are a greater risk factor for diabetes and heart disease than eating an equal size serving of fresh, fat, juicy steak.  Mozaffarian talks with Shelley Schlender.  (and for an extended version of the interview, click here)

And we talk with CU astronomer Jason Glenn.   He’s one of the principal investigators on the Z-Spec telescope, operated out of Hawaii.  Recently, Glenn’s team has discovered an enormous cloud of water hanging in space—12 billion light-years away.  Astronomers have never before found water from that far back into the early universe. Glenn talks about the finding with Ted Burnham.

Also in this week’s show, we talk with Janos Perczel about a new design for an invisibility cloak. (and for an extended version of the interview, click here)

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

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Janos Perczel – Invisibility Cloak (Extended Version)

This podcast provides extended version of our interview with Janos Perczel about his new Invisibility Cloak.

Background:

An undergraduate  at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland has overcome a major hurdle in the development of invisibility cloaks by envisioning an optical device that would allow the cloak to hide things against CHANGING backgrounds.  The Institute of Physics and German Physical Society’s New Journal of Physics, published the study today, and the lead author, Janos Perczel, spoke with us about it from Hungary, via Skype,.  But first — putting aside Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility for a moment, in real life, scientists have cloaked some palm-sized objects . . . but not especially well.  Here’s Janos Perczel.
Perczel
It depends on what you mean by an invisibility cloak.  The sort of stuff you see in Harry Potter films has never been made yet.  There have been experiments to test the theory but these experiments have always featured invisibility in some reduced form.
So far, cloaking only works when an object’s against one single field of steady background wavelength, like a “blue screen.”  And even that’s complicated. “Cloaking” conceals an object by bending light around it.  Perczel says it’s similar to putting a rock in a river, where the water bends around and covers the rock and makes it “disappear..  But just as water must speed up in order to hurry around the rock, bending light has required accelerating the light.   And super-speeded light flows too fast to allow a cloaking devices to adjust to changing backgrounds.  In the new report, Perczel and colleagues offer a solution.  They call it an invisibility sphere, and it buys enough time for the cloak to adjust to changing backgrounds by, well — what else?  Their device slows down the normal speed of light.

Janos Perczel

Perczel
So that all the light speeds that we use in our cloak will be less than the speed of light, in vacuum, so that the cloak we propose here would work for any frequency and would also work against an ever-changing background and a multiplicity of colors and, well anything.
It may be decades before this technology moves from theory to real world applications.  But Perczel predicts that there will be plenty.
Perczel
I’m not sure I would want to talk about the potential military applications, because that’s not something I’m terribly keen on. But, apart from those, this whole invisibility subject is based on transformation optics.  That’s the key word here, and it tells us how to control light and how to guide it pretty much any way we want to guide it around.  This might lead to the birth of incredible optical devices.  
Perczel envisions images that are sharper than the quality of the light the first hit the lens.  And who knows?  Maybe someday invisibilites cloaks will lead to anti-wrinkle creams and perhaps lower production costs of future Harry Potter movies.  Thanks to Shelley Schlender for doing this report.  You can hear an extended version of the interview, on our website, howonearthradio.org.

 

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Harvard Epidemiologist Dariush Mozaffarian on Salt (extended version)

Here’s an extended version of Shelley Schlender’s interview with Dariush Mozaffarian on Salt.  Note that in the interview, Shelley asks Dr. Mozaffarian to comment on some of the assertions made in the popular press, Scientific American story, It’s Time to End the War on Salt.”  The interview mentions a citation in the popular press article about the Cochrane Collaboration’s view on salt.  After the interview, Mozaffarian’s pointed out this more recent assessment from the Cochrane Collaboration:

The most recent on salt and blood pressure is below:
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(3):CD004937.
Effect of longer-term modest salt reduction on blood pressure.
He FJ, MacGregor GA.

Here are the verbatim conclusions from that report:
“CONCLUSIONS: Our meta-analysis demonstrates that a modest reduction in salt intake for a duration of 4 or more weeks has a significant and, from a population viewpoint, important effect on blood pressure in both individuals with normal and elevated blood pressure. These results support other evidence suggesting that a modest and long-term reduction in population salt intake could reduce strokes, heart attacks, and heart failure. Furthermore, our meta-analysis demonstrates a correlation between the magnitude of salt reduction and the magnitude of blood pressure reduction. Within the daily intake range of 3 to 12 g/day, the lower the salt intake achieved, the lower the blood pressure.”

Additionally, Mozaffarian suggests that people interested in this topic check out a meta-analysis by the British Journal of Medicine Titled, Salt intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease: meta- analysis of prospective studies.

Last but not least, for a recent speech by Mozaffarian that provides even more detail on these topics, click here.

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Tech aspects of Boulder utility municipalization

In November Boulder will be asking the voters to approve the conversion of the electrical utility from one run by Xcel Energy to one run by the city.  While there are many, many political issues associated with this vote, there are technical ones as well.  We have on our show today Ken Regelson.  Ken is a sustainable energy consultant and member of the steering and tech modeling committees of RenewablesYes.org.  He holds a masters degree in electrical engineering.  And he tells us he’s available to speak on Boulder’s clean energy future at your neighborhood group, business, or at your next dinner party.

Link to the Trojan Asteroid animation.

Co-hosts:  Chip Grandits and Tom McKinnon
Engineer: Ted Burnham
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Producer: Tom McKinnon

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Email troubles (science [a] kgnu.org)

Today it came to our attention that our show email address, science@kgnu.org, was not reliably forwarding messages for the last month or so. We know of at least a few people who tried to contact us via that address and whose messages were swallowed up by the internet. To them—and to the ones we don’t yet know about—we are deeply sorry for the trouble you experienced!

The problem has been fixed, but unfortunately we cannot recover messages that failed to go through.

If you emailed us after June 13th, please resend your message ASAP—especially if it was a submission to our theme song contest! We had no idea we were missing out on your amazing music, and we very much want you to be considered in the contest. Though tonight is the official deadline, we will of course accept any submissions that were lost due to this email issue, provided they are resubmitted in a timely fashion.

Again, to all our listeners, we’re sorry for any anxiety or inconvenience we have caused. Thanks for bearing with us and, as always, thanks for listening!

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Music producer Tom Wasinger comments on HOE theme song entries

 

Tom Wasinger in his Boulder studio

Grammy Award-winning music producer Tom Wasinger comments on the entries to the How on Earth theme song contest.  Give us comments on your favorite theme song here.  The winner will be announced on August 12, 2011.

Co-hosts:  Ted Burnham and Tom McKinnon
Engineer: Tom McKinnon
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Producer: Tom McKinnon

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Green Tech Author // NCAR Climate Scientist

energy comics, courtesy greentechhistory.com

This week’s How On Earth offers two features:
Co-host Susan Moran interviews Alexis Madrigal, a senior editor for The Atlantic magazine and author of the new book, Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. Madrigal spins tales of the bicycle boom in the 1800s and how it paved the way for cars, ironically; of a time when gasoline emerged as a waste product of kerosene for lighting; and when crude oil was what you might call the environmentally sound alternative to oil from whales, which were nearly hunted to extinction.  Madrigal also pays tribute to Colorado’s National Renewable Energy Lab and its deep history of spawning renewable energy and surviving budget cuts. And he honors green-tech (and fossil fuel) inventors and beacons of yesteryear, as he looks forward to what a greener future could be.

In the second feature, Shelley Schlender interviews Warren Washington, a ground-breaking climate scientist at the National Center of Atmospheric Research in Boulder. He’s a world leader in using computers to model climate.  Last year he was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Obama. Dr. Washington’s autobiography is  Odyssey in Climate Modeling, Global Warming, and Advising Five Presidents.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Ted Burnham
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Shelley Schlender

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Ocean Acidification // Citizen Science

 

 

Top Image: Ocean Acidification process. Bottom Image: New Horizons spacecraft flies by a Kuiper belt object.

 

Feature #1: Many problems plague the oceans and the fish and other species that inhabit them: overfishing, pollution, and much more. But perhaps the greatest threat to sea life – and possibly to humans – is ocean acidification.  That’s when the chemistry of the ocean changes and causes seawater to become more acidic because the ocean is absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This increase in ocean acidity makes it difficult for many plants and animals in the ocean to make or maintain their shells or skeletons.  The head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Jane Lubchenco, recently said that the ocean is becoming more acidic at rates not seen for at least 20 million years, and that’s due mostly to increases in CO2 in the atmosphere.  The threat is so grave that NOAA recently created a distinct Ocean Acidification Program. In May, Dr. Libby Jewett was appointed the first director of the program. We talk with Dr. Jewett find out more about the problem and what she aims to do about it.

Feature #2: Some sciences have a tradition of fruitful interactions between professional researchers and amateurs, and this has been made even more accessible with data being able to be shared over the internet across the world.  Dr. Pamela Gay, an Astronomer at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, is the architect and participant in many such collaborations. In addition to her teaching and research, she does extensive public outreach to share the excitement of astronomy (such as her podcast AstronomyCast.com) and even finds ways to let anyone with an internet connection make new scientific discoveries and find new worlds that will be visited by spacecraft (IceHunters.org).  We talk with Dr. Gay about the Zooniverse and her hunt for of icy objects in the outer solar system.

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

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Science Education, Evolution & Creationism

the book “Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails)" by Matt Young and Paul Strode

At its most basic level, science can be considered as non-political or at least politically neutral: science is dedicated to the collection of facts and interpreting them to help us understand the universe and how it works. For that reason, many people – one may even say our culture in general – places a high value in being scientifically literate. Or at least we pay lip service to that idea. But when the results of science end up contradicting and conflicting with other ideals such as religious beliefs, personal behaviors, or vested interests, then science can become very political. Perhaps the two most visible examples of this politicization of science are in the areas of climate change and evolution, where the discussion ranges from the White House and Congress to local school boards and textbooks. Our guest today has front line experience in several aspects of science and education. Dr. Paul Strode is a biology teacher in the Boulder Valley School District, and has been an instructor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado. Dr. Strode is co-author of the book: “Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails)” – also available and reviews here and here.

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

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Beekeeping in Troubled Times

Beekeeper's Lament, by Hannah Nordhaus; image courtesy of Harper Perennial

This week on How On Earth co-host Susan Moran interviews Hannah Nordhaus, Boulder-based author of the new book, The Beekeeper’s Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Feed America. Nordhaus describes how one passionate, colorful and quixotic beekeeper named John Miller struggles against all odds to keep beekeeping–and bees–alive at a time when they’re being slammed by a mysterious mixture of Colony Collapse Disorder, varroa mites and other maladies.

Nordhaus will give a reading at the Boulder Book Store on June 30, 7:30 p.m.

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

 

 

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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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