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.
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
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.
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
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
The World Health Organization has officially listed cells phones as a possible carcinogen. One expert who’s not surprised at the designation is University of Colorado, distinguished professor Frank Barnes. For decades, Barnes has cobbled together hard-to-find research dollars to study the biological effects of magnetic fields and radiation, including cell phone radiation. In 2008, he chaired a National Research Council report that called for more research into the health effects of all kinds of wireless technologies, including laptop computers, wireless phones, and cell phones. In today’s show, Frank Barnes talks with How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender about cell phone safety.
Hosts: Joel Parker, Tom McKinnon Producer: Joel Parker Engineer: Tom McKinnon
We talk with Sandi Copeland, Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at CU, about this story:
Two million years ago, two-legged apes roamed the African landscape. Many of these ancient hominins, lived in limestone caves in what is now South Africa. We know this through fossilized skull fragments and teeth from those caves.
But fossils only tell us where an individual died—not where it grew up, or where it traveled during its life. Or do they? New research from the University of Colorado that’s been published in the journal Nature, reveals that male hominins in South Africa grew up in the caves where they died, while the females who died there grew up elsewhere and migrated to the caves as adults.
The research not only sheds light on the behaviors of early human relatives; it makes use of a new technique, pioneered by the CU researchers, to quickly and cheaply analyze the birthplace of fossilized creatures.
This week co-host Susan Moran speaks with Dr. Doug Kenney, director of the Western Water Policy Program at the Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder’s law school. Kenney sheds light on the Colorado River Compact and how population growth, climate change, and water politics, are expected to further threaten our future water supply.
And Ted Burnham interviews skeptic and science writer Michael Shermer. His new book, “The Believing Brain,” presents a counter-intuitive explanation for how we form and reinforce our beliefs. Shermer draws on evidence from neuroscience, psychology and sociology to show that we often form beliefs first, and only then look for reasons to believe.
Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Joel Parker
We present the second part of Joel Parker’s interview of Joshua Foer, author of the book “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” (the full interview can be found here). To round out the “brain theme” of the show, we also include an excerpt of BBC’s Science in Action where Jon Stuart talks with paleontologist Timothy Rowe about how our brains evolved and how scientists can study brains from long dead, ancient mammals.
Producer: Joel Parker Hosts: Joel Parker, Susan Moran, Breanna Draxler Engineer: Ted Burnham