Tracing Methane’s Source in Drinking Water // Safe Place for Captive Wolves

lee-stanish__120by180Methane in Drinking Water (start time 05:36) Flaming water faucets were infamously exposed in the documentaries Gasland and Gasland 2. The water isn’t catching fire–methane in the water is. People are deeply concerned that methane, dredged from kilometers down, is leaking into our drinking water supplies through poorly constructed and maintained oil and gas wells, but methane can be produced by living organisms much closer to the surface too. How can we tell where the methane in the water is coming from? One way is to look at stable isotopes of carbon, but the tests are expensive and require a lot of expertise. But our guest Dr. Lee Stanish explains to host Jim Pullen that she is working on much cheaper ways to trace the source of the methane. Lee is a Research Associate in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She’s trying to raise money for her research through crowd-sourcing–learn more here.

Apollo-KWHaven for Captive Wolves (start time 14:25) Right now in the United States, about a quarter of a million wolves live in captivity and fewer than 10,000 wolves in the wild. Most of the captive wolves born each year do not survive to see their first birthday.  They’re either destroyed or they die of neglect.  Colorado’s Mission Wolf refuge has rescued three dozen of these born-in-a-cage wolves to give them a better life, and to use some of them as ambassadors who educate people around the U-S about the amazing intelligence of wolves, and their plight. How On Earth’s Shelley Schlender and Boulder Naturalist and KGNU volunteer, Steve Jones, bring us the story.

Hosts: Beth Bartel and Jim Pullen
Producer/Engineer/Executive Producer: Jim Pullen
Additional contributions: Shelley Schlender and Joel Parker

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Newton’s Football // Strontium Clock

The science of football. (image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library)
The science of football. (image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library)

Newton’s Football (start time 5:45)  This Sunday the Denver Broncos face the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, so we thought we’d bring you a scientific perspective on the game of football. How on Earth’s Ted Burnham talks with the co-authors of the book Newton’s Football: The Science Behind America’s Game, journalist Allen St. John and science evangelist Ainissa Ramirez.

 

13PML042_strontium_clock_LRStrontium Clock (start time 14:10) We’ve got a full-house of physicists in the studio today to help us understand the new timepiece and why it’s important. Travis Nicholson and Sara Campbell are graduate students on the team led by Professor Jun Ye. Dr. Ye is a Fellow of JILA, a Fellow of NIST, and Adjoint Professor with CU’s Department of Physics.

Hosts: Ted Burnham, Jim Pullen
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Jim Pullen
Additional contributions:  Kendra Krueger, Beth Bartel, Joel Parker, Jim Pullen

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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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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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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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Plight of Bees // Climate and Flood

Feature 1: (start time: 03:45) Our first guest is Boulder beekeeper Tom Theobald. He talks about the current state of the bee crisis and what, if anything, the EPA is doing to address concerns that systemic pesticides like Clothianidan are properly controlled.

 

Dr. Claudia Tebaldi

Feature 2: (start time: 12:42) Then National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Dr. Claudia Tebaldi joins us. Tebaldi, a statistician, specializes in long-term modeling of climate  change. We talk to her about the relationship between flood and the warming planet. We also talk about the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which she helped lead. She also explains what the ‘fog of prediction is.

 

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

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IPCC Assessment Report 5

Tad Pfeffer was a lead author on the IPCC AR5 chapter about sea level rise. Photo: James Balog

On Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, better known as the IPCC, released the first bit of its Fifth Assessment Report, a volume with a plain name that may have a large influence on global policy. This first part of the report, part one of three, is the “sciency” part, documenting the current state of knowledge of climate change and its effects. The report sticks to the physical science of climate change—by how much the climate is changing, what’s causing it, and what the world might look like by the end of the century. The next two volumes of the report will address the societal impacts of climate change and, lastly, mitigation strategies.

HOE co-host Beth Bartel speaks with Tad Pfeffer, a professor at CU-Boulder jointly appointed between the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, (INSTAAR), and the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering. Pfeffer is one of the lead authors on Chapter 13 of the IPCC report, the chapter on sea level rise.

Hosts: Beth Bartel, Ted Burnham
Producer: Beth Bartel
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel

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Monarch Migration // Better Batteries

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed. Courtesy Tom Ranker.

Feature #1: (start time 4:45) As we unpack our coats and boots from storage boxes, so are insects, in their own way, planning for a seasonal change.  Monarch butterflies in our neighborhood, east of the Rockies, fly south to very specific forests high in the mountains of Mexico. Their journey, and life at their destination, is a precarious one.  Dr. Deane Bowers, a professor and curator of entomology at the CU Boulder Museum of Natural History, speaks with co-host Susan Moran about what is happening now with monarchs and other butterflies. And she discusses how the ability of certain insects, such as caterpillars, to defend themselves against predators by making themselves taste disgusting is being affected by human disturbances, such as nitrogen fertilizer runoff. To get involved in monarch conservation, go to Monarch Watch.

Feature #2: (start time 14:30) One of the greatest limitations of effectively using clean and renewable energy sources is a simple device with which we are all undoubtedly familiar — the battery.  Dr. Conrad Stoldt is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at CU Boulder and co-founder of Solid Power, Inc., where he is developing an all-solid-state lithium metal battery. Stoldt talks with co-host Beth Bartel about how batteries work, why batteries are such a stumbling block in the current race to energy solutions, and how his research may just lead to the next big thing.

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

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Facing the Wave // Pandora’s Lunchbox

Facing the Wave (starts at 04:50) Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that rocked and partially devoured the northeastern coast of Japan. Although prone to earthquakes, the Tōhoku event hit a magnitude of 9.0, tying it for fourth largest earthquake on record according to the United States Geological Survey—a magnitude greater than scientists thought possible for this region.

Last month, co-host Beth Bartel spoke with author Gretel Ehrlich about her recently published book “Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami.” When asked about her motivation to write this book, Ehrlich, a long-time traveler to Japan, said simply that she went to see the effects of the wave because she had to. (Go to our extended interview for more about how the disaster spurred activism in Japan.)

Pandora’s Lunchbox (starts at 14:38) Did you ever think how long that energy bar you ate while skiing recently would last in tact beyond the expiration date? Or that bag of Oreo cookies  you devoured last night? Melanie Warner, a local journalist and former staff writer at the New York Times, started thinking about it so much that she began experimenting with leaving some processed foods out way beyond their expiration date. What she found was shocking, and led her to explore deeply into the “processed food industrial complex.” The result is a new book called “Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal.” Co-host Susan Moran interviews Warner about the creators and health impacts of many iconic foods in the American diet.

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

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Haitian Seismologists//Changing Antarctic Climate

Roby Douilly and Steeve Symithe

Feature #1: (start time: 06:03) On January 12, 2010, just over three years ago, a magnitude 7 earthquake shook Haiti, taking more than 200,000 lives and displacing an estimated 2 million. Still today, the International Organization for Migration estimates hundreds of thousands of people are without permanent homes, and in many ways Haiti seems no closer to rebuilding than it did three years ago.  Co-host Beth Bartel speaks to Haiti’s first seismologists — Roby Douilly and Steeve Symithe, both graduate students at Purdue University — about the future of Haiti and a career in seismology there

Feature #2: (start time: 15:42) You’ve probably heard by now that 2012 was the warmest ever in the U.S.  We’re not the only ones overheating. At the bottom of the world, over the last 50 years, West Antarctica has warmed more than scientists had thought. The implications are huge; an enormous ice sheet there  may be at risk of long-term collapse, which could cause sea levels to rise alarmingly.  Co-host Susan Moran speaks with Andrew Monaghan, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, or NCAR, here in Boulder. Dr. Monaghan co-authored the study, which was recently published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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

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