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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Flood Winners & Losers // 100 Year Starship Symposium

Feature 1 - Flood Winners & Losers : Last month’s deluge cut canyons, real and felt, through many of our lives, but nature helps us remember that floods can build too. In this feature, How on Earth’s Jim Pullen speaks with Boulder’s wetland and riparian ecologist Marianne Giolitto about flood “winners and losers”.   Marianne watches over 45,000 acres of the city’s open space and mountain parks wetlands and riparian habitats. Jim and the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks are working together on a series of radio vignettes; the first two are “Monitoring Bats” and “Great Storms and Chautauqua.”

Feature 2 - 100 Year Starship Symposium : Back in June we had a feature about a project called the 100 Year Star Ship.  During that show we talked with Alires Almon, a member of the project, about the challenges and vision of creating a long-duration mission to send humans to another star.  A few weeks ago in Houston, the project held their annual symposium; this year’s theme was titled: “Pathway to the Stars, Footprints on Earth.”  Ms. Almon is back with us today to talk about the symposium and what new ideas were discussed.

And as we mentioned in today’s headlines,  you can learn more about shale oil and gas boom and bust by listening to Jim Pullen’s hour-long talk with expert Deborah Rogers on KGNU’s “It’s the Economy.”

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

Due to technical problems, this show was not recored to the archive.  We apologize that this post does not have an audio podcast of the entire show, but below we do have the audio file of the pre-recorded interview of the “Flood Winners and Losers” :

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Antarctica Research // The Cancer Chronicles

We offer two features on the Tuesday, Oct. 22, show:

Lake Hoare, Antarcita / Photo: Beth Bartel 2004

The camp at Lake Hoare in Taylor valley, Antarctica. (Photo: Beth Bartel)

Feature 1 – Antarctica Research (start time 4:15): Diane McKnight, a professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, talks with How On Earth contributor Brian Calvert about scientific discoveries from Antarctica. During the temporary government shutdown the United States Antarctic Program, which facilitates government-funded scientific research in Antarctica, was unplugged. Several expeditions were cancelled. Her research on the McMurdo Dry Valleys on the continent will resume, but a future government shutdown would threaten scientific research on penguins, extreme microbes, climate change-induced sea ice melt and so many other subjects.

Feature 2 – The Cancer Chronicles (start time 12:22): In his new book, The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine’s Deepest Mystery , science writer George Johnson takes readers on his very personal quest to understand cancer on a cellular level: how it begins with one “renegade cell” that divides, mutates, and becomes a tumor. In the process Johnson also digs deep into history – per-history, in fact — to learn that not only our ancient human ancestors had cancer, but even some dinosaurs suffered from them. And the author dissects many scientific studies that debunk myths about the role environmental toxins play in cancer. And he challenges false beliefs that cancer in modern times is on the rise. “Yet running beneath the surface is a core rate of cancer, the legacy of being multicellular creatures in an imperfect world,” he writes. Johnson speaks via phone to host Susan Moran about the mysteries and discoveries of cancer.

And as we mentioned in today’s headlines, if you want to see the large fragment of the Chelyabinsk meteor being recovered from Lake Chebarkul, you can see the video here.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel

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The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

In this pledge drive show for KGNU, we feature an interview with David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene.  Through his new book, Epstein looks straight at a debate that’s as old as physical competition. Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to be top athletes? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?  This book tackles the nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving this great riddle.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Beth Bartel, Susan Moran, Jim Pullen, Shelley Schlender, Kate Fotopoulos
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel

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