2014 Science Stories // Spacecraft Experiments

earth_NASA Earth ObservatoryFor our first show in 2014 we offer two feature interviews:
Feature #1: We continue our conversation from Dec. 31 with science writer and CU professor Tom Yulsman about what “hot” stories 2014 holds in store regarding earth and planetary science, especially climate and weather. Yulsman, who also writes a regular blog for Discover magazine, called Imageo, talks with co-host Susan Moran.

 

 

Cygnus_NASAFeature #2: In expectation of the first official cargo flight of the Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station, co-host Joel Parker interviews researchers David Klaus and Stefanie Countryman about their respective experiments: a biomedical antibiotic experiment and an educational K-12 experiment involving ant behavior in microgravity. The Cygnus spacecraft is built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, and follows the earlier, successful launch of a Cygnus demo flight on October 22.  The experiments are built by the BioServe Space Technologies Center within the Aerospace Engineering and Sciences Department at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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

Due to a technical problem at the station, unfortunately, we were not able to save the audio archive of the show. Our apologies. All other shows include the audio file.

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2013 Was a Good Year, in Science!

The team considers noteworthy science on the last day of 2013. What’s worth mentioning? Too many people, too much carbon, and way too much fun in astronomy!

AlanWeisman_Countdown.shrunkBiology and Health (start time 00:56). This year marked the passing of long-time Boulder resident, Al Bartlett. Bartlett was one of the world’s most eloquent voices calling for population control. He will be missed. One of the champions picking up the torch is New York Times bestselling author, Alan Weisman. Weisman offers exciting solutions to population growth in Countdown:  Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth.

How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender reports that this is a hard book to read, because it’s long, and thorough, and urgency of the need for population reduction worldwide is often not a happy topic. She admits that sometimes, she even switched to a detective novel before reading more of Countdown. But she kept at it because Countdown provides some exciting solutions to population growth. One of the most compelling is to provide women with education and access to birth control. It turns out these two offerings are often a key to women deciding, voluntarily, to limit their families to two children, and sometimes, fewer.

Co-host Shelley Schlender hosts this interview with Weisman about perhaps the greatest problem facing humanity–too many people.

 

The late Professor John Mainstone cared for the pitch drop experiment. (University of Queensland, Australia, School of Mathematics and Physics)

The late Professor John Mainstone cared for the pitch drop experiment. (University of Queensland, Australia)

Physics and Astronomy (start time 08:56). Co-host Jim Pullen couldn’t decide on the best physics and astronomy story of 2013, so he dipped into the rich happenings of the year, taken from all over the world: superbolides skipping over Russia, bitumen dripping in Ireland, Voyager 1 long-ranging somewhere in the galaxy, and Icecube spying far-flung neutrinos down at the bottom of the world (and beyond). We’ll learn that the news of 2013 owes much to 2012, 1977, 1944 and even 1927. And that leaves WIMPS, dark matter, LUX, two-dimensional graphene, trapped quantum states, quantum computers, and so much more for 2014!

 

 

Flood crumpled truck in Jamestown Canyon, Colorado (photo courtesy Jim Pullen)

Flood crumpled truck in Jamestown Canyon, Colorado (photo courtesy Jim Pullen)

Environment (start time 16:44). What a year it’s been! We shot past 400 ppm of CO2 in the ever-warming blanket of air skinned over the planet. And disasters! Mighty and perilous Super Typhoon Haiyan, with the fastest winds ever recorded, crashed into the Philipines in November. More locally, in September here on the Northern Front Range, a flood of historic proportion. Co-hosts Susan Moran and Tom Yulsman look at the perils of 2013 and portents.

 

 

Happy 2014 to you, our KGNU and How On Earth family!

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

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Fairy Science // Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count

We offer two features on this Christmas Eve How On Earth.

Oxygen and Hydrogen fairies bond to make water. From Real Fairy Folks: Explorations in the World of Atoms, by Lucy Rider Meyer, 1887. (Chemical Heritage Foundation collections)

Fairies in 19th century science education (start time: 3:52): Victorian educators used the magical world to teach young children about science. That was before fairies fell out of favor in science, alas. How On Earth co-host Jim Pullen talks with Melanie Keene, director of Studies for History and Philosophy of Science at Homerton College in Cambridge, England, about the understanding of fairies in science education in the Victorian age.

 

 

BoulderCBC_ValmontTeam2_Schmoker_14DEC2008Christmas Bird Count (start time: 12:51) It’s the time of year when humans are flying hither and yon to gather with family for Christmas. Others are heading somewhere south for vacation to escape the winter chill.  Many birds are on the move as well, heading south to overwinter. Others are sticking around.  These human and avian patterns are converging with the annual Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.  Steve Jones and William Schmoker of the Boulder County Audubon Society talk with co-host Susan Moran about how the Bird Count emerged more than 100 years ago and why it’s important.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Jim Pullen
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel
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Fireproofing Mountain Homes // Winter Solstice

Fireproofing Mountain Homes (starts at 3:20) We discuss a new study from the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, Montana.  It warns that  thinning forests may help prevent property damage from the “typical” wildfires, fire suppression can’t stand up against the 3% of fires that burn super-hot and spread super fast.  What’s more, the Missoula study warns that superhot wildfires are just the ones that burn the most homes.  The researchers conclude that the main responsibility for preventing home destruction from wildfires, lies with homeowners rather than public land managers.  They say that homeowners should do more to design homes that stand up to a super wildfire.  To find out ways to to that, we talk with Disaster Safety Senior Scientist Steve Quarles, who is with an insurance industry funded fire prevention think tank.  Quarles says that small changes in home building can reduce the chance that tiny, glowing embers blowing in the wind, will get in under the eaves and turn into a raging fire that burns down a house.

T17.1HeliosWinter Solstice (starts at 13:44) As a chart of sunrise and sunset makes clear, although the shortest day of the year is at the winter solstice, the latest sunrise occurs *after* the solstice and the earliest sunset occurs *before* the solstice… The sunset is going to get later faster and faster now, while the sunset time is going to also get later until after the solstice, then start creeping earlier.  What’s going on here?  How on Earth’s Jim Pullen explains.

Hosts: Shelley Schlender, Jim Pullen
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel

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Big Game, Warm World // Hour of Code

Bull_elk_bugling_in_the_gibbon_meadow_in_the_yellowstone_national_parkBig Game and Climate Change (start time 5:00) Last week, the National Resource Council released some serious warnings about climate change, saying its impacts could be abrupt and surprising. But as How on Earth contributor Brian Calvert reports, the National Wildlife Federation says big game is already getting hit. Species from mule deer to antelope to bear are all dealing with climate change in their own ways. Only elk are faring better, at least for now. All of that could mean serious changes for Colorado’s hunters and wildlife watchers, says, Dr. Doug Inkley, the senior wildlife biologist for the organization and the lead author of a recent report, “Nowhere to Hide: Big Game Wildlife in a Warming World.”

Cu_computer_scienceHour of Code (start time 12:30) Coding is not just a magic trick where ones and zeros make Angry Birds. But it can be surprisingly simple to learn. You can do it in an hour. But you might want to use a game built by a team here at CU-Boulder. The tutorial is being offered as part of Computer Science Week. In the studio with How On Earth’s Joel Parker to explain the university’s so-called “Hour of Code” is Alex Repenning, a computer science professor at CU.

Hosts: Brian Calvert, Joel Parker
Producer: Brian Calvert
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel

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Tesla // Octopus!

Feature 1 – Tesla (start time 5:30) Nicola Tesla is one of the iconic figures of the early electrical age. He invented AC motor technology still used today in your DVD player and also polyphase AC power. He was a brilliant demonstrator, whose images of flowers of lightning growing from his inventions and portraits of his friend Mark Twain, illuminated by Tesla’s fluorescent bulbs, are still familiar today. He worked with and fought with the mighty JP Morgan and wireless radio great Marconi. He is a figure of mystery, who many believe presaged death rays and infinite and free energy for everyone on earth.   Biographer Bernie Carlson has written the  book “Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age.” We talk with Bernie about Nicola Tesla’s mental method of invention, Colorado experiments, and modern mystique.

Feature 2 – Octopus! (start time 14:35)  If you doubt that the Octopus may be the most mysterious creature in the sea – consider this – an octopus has three hearts, eight arms, camouflaging skin, and some of them can figure out ways to do things that many humans can’t – such as getting the lid off of a child-proof bottle.  Longmont resident Katherine Harmon Courage is with us today to discuss her new book, “Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature In the Sea.”

Hosts: Jim Pullen, Joel Parker, Shelley Schlender
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel

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Engineering for Kids // Antarctica’s Ross Sea

On Tuesday, Nov. 26, How On Earth brings you two features:

Feature #1: (start time 5:53) STEM, as you may well know, stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Many math and science topics are introduced throughout most years of primary education, but technology and engineering — not so much. We live in a world surrounded by things imagined and designed and built by engineers, from roads and buildings to computers and appliances and even food, drugs and clothing. So it’s important to understand engineering if we want to understand these life necessities. An educator tackling this issue is  Dr. Christine Cunningham, vice president of research and educator resource development for a project called “Engineering is Elementary.” It was developed by the Museum of Science in Boston. Cunningham is featured in an article, written by former How On Earth contributor Breanna Draxler, called “E is for Engineering” in the December issue of Discover magazine. Cunningham talks with host Joel Parker about how teaching engineering to very young students can be done.

Adelie Penguins in the Ross Sea
Photo courtesy John Weller

Feature #2: (start time 14:45) Arguably the healthiest marine ecosystem on Earth is the Ross Sea in Antarctica. It’s so pristine largely because it is protected by a 500-mile-wide shield of floating sea ice, and, well, it’s not exactly easy to get to.  But in recent years the Ross Sea has come under threat, largely from New Zealand industrial fishing ships that are hunting as far south as they can for the Antarctic toothfish, which was rebranded as Chilean sea bass for U.S. and other consumers. John Weller is a nature photographer and conservationist living in Boulder. He has documented the beauty and fragility of the Ross Sea in his new book, The Last Ocean. Weller also co-founded a nonprofit, called The Last Ocean Project, that is dedicated to protecting the Ross Sea and other fragile marine ecosystems. Weller talks about the science and art of these environments with host Susan Moran. (You also can hear a previous interview with Weller on KGNU’s Morning Magazine.)

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel
Additional contributions: Brian Calvert, Jim Pullen

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Carnegie Professor of the Year // Measuring Oil and Gas Air Pollution

Dr. Steven Pollock, Carnegie Professor of the Year in 2013.

Feature 1 – Carnegie Professor of the Year (start time 5:40):  Join the KGNU How On Earth team and CU physicist and Carnegie Teacher of the Year Dr. Steve Pollock to learn about the pain and pleasure of learning physics. Pollock teaches both upper and lower division physics classes, and according to a former student and oceanographer who now teaches at Front Range Community College he is “a huge bundle of energy!” Faculty from four institutions are given the Carnegie Award each year. At CU, Pollock joins physicist and Nobel-prize winner Carl Wieman, who was honored by Carnegie in 2004.

Dr. Chelsea Stephens in Utah.

Feature 2 – Oil and Gas Air Pollution (start time 14:48): CU atmospheric chemist Dr. Chelsea Stephens shares what she’s learning about air pollution near Front Range oil and gas wells. That’s especially timely now that the state is reconsidering its oil and gas air quality regulations.

Hosts: Jim Pullen, Joel Parker
Producer: Jim Pullen
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel
Additional Contributions: Beth Bartel and Brian Calvert

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The Sports Gene // These Shining Lives


THE SPORTS GENE:  
Running has become a great elite sport, thanks in part to the amazing sprinters from Jamaica  and the long distance runners from the African equator.  How much is all that running talent nature, and what’s the power of nurture?  In his book, The Sports Gene, David Epstein says it’s definitely both.

THESE SHINING LIVES:   Now playing at CU Boulder, is a story about one of the most stunning technologies to ever harm U-S workers.  It involves a technique from the early 1900s that made it possible for the hands of watches to glow in the dark.  The “Glow” came from radium-laced paint, which killed many of the young women who were told to lick their paint brushes to make sure that the dials were painted properly.  The new play is titled, “These Shining Lives.” and it’s fitting that it will open at CU just 10 miles from the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant, where controversy still rages over radioactive contamination.  Here to tell us more is the director of “These Shining Lives,” Elizabeth Dowd.

Hosts: Shelley Schlender, Jim Pullen
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel
Additional Contributions: Jim Pullen

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Salt Lake City’s Drier Future // Spruce Beetle Outbreak

On Tuesday, Nov. 5, How On Earth brings you one short report and two features:

Feature 1 – Salt Lake City’s Drier Future (start time 4:25): Guests Laura Briefer and Tim Bardsley talk with How On Earth’s Jim Pullen about how science is helping water management planners in Salt Lake City prepare for an uncertain—and drier—future.  Briefer is the water resource manager for Salt Lake City’s Department of Public Utilities and Bardsley is a hydrologist working with Salt Lake City via University of Colorado’s Western Water Assessment.

bark beetleFeature 2 – Spruce Beetle Outbreak (start time 15:12): We continue with the climate theme, but bring it away from the cities and into the forests.  Picture this: Up high, in the mountains of Colorado, a small beetle, about the size of a grain of rice, works its way into the bark of a spruce tree, where it burrows in to find some tasty morsels—the tree’s reproductive tissues.  Here it will feast, and, under the right conditions, kill the tree.  This is not the more familiar mountain pine beetle, but a spruce beetle.  Same idea, different tree.  And the scale of a current spruce beetle outbreak in our state is being referred to by CU researchers as “massive.”  University of Colorado ecologist Sarah Hart tells How On Earth’s Beth Bartel more about Colorado’s spruce beetle outbreak and the drought that’s causing it.

Short Report – Animal Tagging (start time 1:07): Does tagging animals affect the very behavior scientists are trying to study? Susan Moran reports on how one study finds that even small tags and equipment can drag marine creatures down. For more information, check out NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center page and photos or, better yet, videos of model (mock?) turtles and their wind tunnels.

Hosts: Beth Bartel, Jim Pullen
Producer: Beth Bartel
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel
Additional Contributions: Susan Moran

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