Scientific Citizen Astronauts // Scientific Performance Art

Scientists may soon ride along on "tourist" suborbital flights to do research.

This week on How On Earth, we talk with two Boulder researchers, Dan Durda and Cathy Olkin, who are training to become “scientist astronauts” on some of the first suborbital space flights provided by private companies in the post-shuttle era (extended interview available here).  We also hear about a show performed by Michelle Ellsworth, and developed in collaboration with scientist Rob Guralnick,that presents science using dance and theater performance art.

 

Hosts: Joel Parker, Breanna Draxler

Producer: Joel Parker

Listen to the show:

Play
Share

Colorado Growth Model is Replacing CSAPs // Boulder Valley Science Fair

Boulder Math Scores - How they rank statewide (from schoolview.org)

In honor of KGNU’s Kid’s Week, we go to the Boulder County Science Fair with How on Earth’s Tom McKinnon.  In turns out three of the five students Tom interviewed before the judging began ended up as winners at the science show!  Then, we look at CSAPs-Colorado’s Student Assessment Program.  That style of standardized test for Reading, Writing, Math and Science is being phased out, in favor of The Colorado Growth Model that’s so innovative, it’s being adopted in several other states.  How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender interviews cognitive scientist Bill Bonk, who’s on the team developing the Colorado Growth Model, which you can see at schoolview.org.

Hosts: Joel Parker and Tom McKinnon

Producer: Shelley Schlender

Play
Share

Bioastronautics at CU Bioserve // Boulder County EnergySmart energy efficiency service

Ted Burnham inteviews CU PhD student Christine Fanchiang on her role in helping the BioServe  program prepare experiments for a ride on the Space Shuttle.

Tom McKinnon talks to Beth Beckel, an Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Specialist with Boulder County EnergySmart Service. Beth tells us how this new county program can help homeowners and renters save money, increase indoor comfort, and help the environment.  Click here for the EnergySmart portion of HOE.

Hosts: Ted Burnham and Tom McKinnon

Producer: Tom McKinnon

Listen to the show:

Play
Share

CU Medical Professor Shares Love of Science


CU Medical Professor John Cohen. Image courtesy of John Cohen.

This week we’ll feature CU Medical School Immunologist John Cohen, who has just received the American Association for the Advancement of Science top award for promoting public understanding of Science.  In addition to teaching at the Medical School, Cohen is the founder of Mini Med and the lead “disorganizer” of the Denver Cafe Sci.  We’ll also talk with Emory University researcher Zixu Mao about a new link between Parkinson’s disease and the health of the mitochondria within a cell, and we’ll hear from BBC Science in Action about some top choices in Europe for new Astronomy pursuits.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Susan Moran

Producer: Shelley Schlender

Listen to the show:

Play
Share

Mitochondrial Health Influences Risk of Parkinson’s Disease – Scientist Zixu Mao

. . . Short Feature from this week’s How on Earth:

Parkinson’s and Mitochondria (6 minutes)

EDITOR’S NOTE:  The written version below includes further clarifications from Emory scientist Zixu Mao:


We all know about how our blood can give clues about our health, and disease.  But it turns out levels of some health markers aren’t always evident just by looking in the blood.  Inside a cell, some substances can be higher, or lower.  That’s true, for instance, for calcium.  For sugar.  And even for something such as uric acid.  So scientists have been figuring out better ways to check the amounts of these substances not just in our blood, but INSIDE our cells.  The need to look closely doesn’t stop there–it can extend to the organelles within the cells.  And researchers at Emory University School of Medicine have just made a breakthrough about why to look inside these tiny components of a cell.  Their discovery involves a disease made famous by Michael J. Fox.   It’s Parkinson’s, also known as, “The Shaking Disease.”  And the thing inside a cell — which needs to be monitored — is mitochondria.   Mitochondria are often called the miniature power plants within our cells.  But they do much more, according to Zixu Mao, a researcher at Emory University School of Medicine who’s been studying mitochondria and Parkinson’s.  Mao says if mitochondria are sick, the entire cell can be sick.

Emory Research Scientist Zixu Mao

MAO
If mitochondria disfunction, it sends out signals to the rest of the cell and may even execute cell death.  In addition to that if mitochondria is disrupted, it produces toxic signals to cells that stress cells.  That’s oxidative stress.  So it does multiple things.

In other words, if enough mitochondria are sick, not only does the cell lack energy . . . the mitochondria can generate signals that range from stressing the cell to directing the cell to kill itself.

One protein that helps cells deal with stress is called MEF2-D.  MEF2-D is important, because it helps protect a cell’s DNA from damage when oxidative stress starts going high.  Many researchers have believed that inside our cells, healthy levels of MEF2-D, and healthy mitochondria, both play a role in reducing the chance of Parkinson’s disease.  But there’s been a puzzle, because sometimes, people have Parkinson’s even when they have adequate levels of MEF2-D inside their cells.

That’s where Mao’s team has made a breakthrough, and their breakthrough came from a basic understanding of those tiny cellular power-stations, the mitochondria.  You see, mitochondria are actually tiny cells themselves that, billions of years ago, took up residence inside our cells.  It’s a great team – our cells give mitochondria food and a safe place to live, and in return, the mitochondria generate easy-to-use energy for the cell.  There’s plenty that’s interesting about a mitochondria.

A key thing that interested Mao’s team is that mitochondria have their own DNA that’s distinct from the larger cell’s nuclear DNA.  Because MEF2-D affects the health of the larger cell’s DNA, the Emory researchers wondered whether MEF2-D might play a role in the mitochondria’s DNA.  This was a new idea, because scientists have generally assumed that MEF2-D is only important for the nuclear DNA.

It took meticulous lab work to figure out, but Mao’s team did discover that MEF2-D is, indeed, inside the mitochondria.  What’s more, levels in the mitochondria can be deficient — even when MEF2-D is abundant in other areas of the cell.  As further evidence of a link to disease, Mao’s team documented that certain pesticides and illegal drugs known to increase the risk of Parkinson’s also reduce the level of MEF2-D inside the mitochondria . . . even when the level of MEF2-D is normal in the rest of the cell.  So it’s looking like MEF2-D, in the mitochondria, may be a strong signal about Parkinson’s.

Mao says that right now, it’s too early to use this new-found knowledge for diagnostic purposes.  But he says it does have potential, and someday, instead of requiring complicated work in a science lab, it might even be possible to check the mitochondrial MEF-2D levels by going to a clinic and giving a tube of blood.

MAO
We did some unpublished work and we showed that we could take a patient’s blood and isolate the white blood cells from patients, then isolate the mitochondria from white blood cells and take the MEF2-D in that prep.
There’s more to work out, involving the network of problems that may link levels of MEF2-D in the mitochondria to the shaking disease known as Parkinson’s.  As for when this surprising new signal about cell health might lead to a blood test for disease, Mao says this:

MAO
I have no idea!  But we are working very hard at it.  We know it’s there.  We can detect it.  The hurdle next is to link its change to specific pathological situations.  And that’s a much harder task, I think.

It’s a harder task to do, but if Mao and his team succeed, they might unlock clues about  mitochondrial disorders observed in other neuro-degenerative diseases, plus heart disease, and how these might be linked to MEF2D.  The Emory research about Parkinson’s and mitochondria is published online this week in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Share

Front range water / Kepler planet-hunter

Rocks at Lake Mead show the drop in water levels from the high-water mark. (Image courtesy of Flickr user ChrisMRichards.)

Our two features for this week’s show:  Susan Moran interviewed Joel Smith, principal at Stratus Consulting in Boulder, who has been helping the city adapt to climate change—in particular, by smartly managing its water supply; and Tom Yulsman interviewed John Troeltzsch, the Kepler mission program manager for Boulder-based Ball Aerospace, which built one of the key instruments for the mission, as well as the spacecraft itself.

Cohosts: Susan Moran, Tom Yulsman

Producer: Susan Moran

Listen to the show:

Play
Share

From Jars to the Stars / Plants moving uphill

Artist's rendering of the Deep Impact spacecraft encountering a comet

Artist's rendering of the Deep Impact spacecraft encountering a comet. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL/UMD/Pat Rawlings.

Our guest this week is Todd Neff, who was a science reporter for Boulder’s Daily Camera newspaper and is author of a new book, From Jars to the Stars: How Ball Came to Build a Comet-Hunting Machine, about the history of Ball Aerospace. Neff joins us to speak about that history and the challenges Ball faced when designing and building the Deep Impact spacecraft that intentionally collided with a comet in 2005. We also hear from Jon Stewart of the BBC’s Science in Action about how climate change is actually driving plants downhill.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Ted Burnham

Producer: Joel Parker

Listen to the show:

Play
Share

Earthquake rocks Pakistan

Epicenter and population map for the Jan. 18th, 2011 earthquake in Pakistan.

Epicenter and population map for today's earthquake in Pakistan. Yellow and orange indicate populated areas. Image courtesy of UN World Food Program. (Click to enlarge)

On the show this morning we asked our guest, University of Colorado earth scientist Roger Bilham, about the possibility of a major earthquake in the Himalayan region. He confirmed that the region was overdue for a major quake and that people living in poor, rural areas would certainly be at risk from building collapse if — or when — such a quake were to occur.

Just a few hours later, Balochistan province in southwest Pakistan was hit with a magnitude 7.2 quake. How On Earth contributor Tom Yulsman, who hosted the interview with Bilham, has more details and further comments from Bilham at the CEJournal blog.

UPDATE: It appears that the epicenter was in a relatively unpopulated area. About 200 mud-wall homes were destroyed, but there were very few casualties. Contrast that with the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir, during which around 75,000 people died — most of them buried under the rubble of collapsed buildings.

Share

Earthquakes & corruption / Astrology shake-up

A collapsed building in Haiti following the Jan. 2010 earthquake.

Government corruption may have lead to poor building practices in Haiti prior to the Jan. 2010 earthquake. Image courtesy of AIDG.

This week on How On Earth, University of Colorado earth scientist Roger Bilham joins us in the studio to talk about his latest study, which shows a correlation between the prevalence of corruption in a country and the likelihood of civilian deaths during an earthquake. And Shelley Schlender talks to HOE contributor and astrophysicist Joel Parker about how the science of astronomy can have an impact on the pseudoscientific world of astrology.

Hosts: Tom Yulsman, Ted Burnham

Producer: Tom Yulsman

Listen to the show:

Play
Share

MAVEN: Mission to Mars // Communicating geophysics

Mars’ atmosphere may have been depleted following the loss of the planet’s magnetic field. Illustration courtesy of NASA.

On this week’s How On Earth, we’re joined by the University of Colorado’s Bruce Jakosky, principle investigator on the MAVEN satellite mission that will investigate Mars’ upper atmosphere. NASA granted final approval to MAVEN last fall, and the spacecraft is scheduled to launch in 2013. Also, Ted Burnham speaks with Carol Finn, incoming president of the American Geophysical Union, about the need for scientists to communicate better with the public.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Ted Burnham
Producer: Shelley Schlender

Listen to the show:

Play
Share
Page 36 of 36« First...1020«30313233343536

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.