Stem cell science v. hype (start time: 00:57) Clinics offering stem cell therapies and other forms of so-called regenerative medicine are cropping up in many states, including Colorado. Practitioners of stem cells, are touting them as repairing damaged cartilage, tendons and joints, and even treating diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. While the science looks promising, it seriously lags the marketing of stem cell therapies. Last year the FDA, which has yet to regulate the clinics, issued a warning about stem cell therapies. Laura Beil, a science journalist and producer of the podcast Bad Batch, recently wrote a cover article in Science News about the hype and the latest science of stem cells. She talks with host Susan Moran about her reporting. (For more info, check out this new BBC program on stem cell “hope and hype.”)
Science for the Rest of Us (start time: 16:38) At a time our own government leaders vilify science and reinvent facts, it seems as important as ever that journalists and the public at large grasp and translate scientific research. A new book, The Craft of Science Writing, offers tips on how to find credible experts (whether on the corona virus or vaccines or climate change), separate truth from spurious assertions, and make sense of scientific studies. The book is aimed at science writers, but it can be a guidepost for anyone who wants to make science more accessible. Alex Witze, a science writer who co-authored the book Island On Fire: The Extraordinary Story of a Forgotten Volcano, is a contributor to the new book. She discusses the art of decoding and appreciating science with hosts Susan Moran and Joel Parker.
Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Joel Parker Executive Producer: Beth Bennet
Tackling ozone pollution in Colorado (starts at 3:55): Cooler fall weather might soon bring back the bluebird skies we all love. But last year ozone levels in the Denver metropolitan area were high enough to prompt state health officials to issue ozone action alerts an average of once a week. (This summer has fared somewhat better.) During these ozone alerts, health officials recommend that children, the elderly and people with compromised lungs do not exercise outdoors. Hosts Daniel Glick and Susan Moran interview John Putnam, the environmental programs director for Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment, about the science, the sources (the largest being oil and gas operations), the health impacts, and policy approaches to ozone pollution. Governor Jared Polis named Putnam to tackle, among other things, a longstanding problem with the state’s air quality: parts of the state have been out of compliance with federal Clean Air Act standards for more than a decade. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency upped the ante. It declared that parts of Colorado are in “serious” non-compliance of federal air quality standards for ozone, which we all know as “smog.”
For more info on health impacts, read Susan’s article. For info on in intricacies of the state’s oil and gas rules, read this article by Daniel. And the CDPHE features ongoing info on ozone here.
For info on the “climate strike” this Friday and climate activities over the next week, look here.
Hosts: Daniel Glick, Susan Moran Producers: Daniel Glick, Susan Moran Engineer: Joel Parker Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Drilling’s Health Impacts (start time: 7:50): A pressing question on the minds of many Colorado residents, health experts, and others amidst a surge of oil and gas activity is this: Does living near an oil and gas well harm your health? A scientist at the forefront of exploring such questions is Dr. Lisa McKenzie, a professor of environmental epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz. She is the lead author on a recently published study that examines the potential impact of nearby oil and gas drilling on childhood cancer rates. The study’s important findings were challenged by the state Health Department, whose recent assessment concludes that nearby oil and gas operations poses minimal risk to residents. Dr. McKenzie talks with How On Earth’s Susan Moran about her study, and the complex science of risk, correlation and causation.
Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Joel Parker Executive Producer: Joel Parker
Your Brain on Nature (start time: 5:49): You may think it’s a no-brainer: that nature is good for your mental and physical health. After all, a walk in the woods or even an urban park brightens your outlook on life, at least for a little while. Turns out, the notion that being outside in nature boosts our mood, and even our creativity, has historical roots at least as deep as Aristotle. A new book by journalist Florence Williams explores the history of our biophilia, and particularly emerging neuroscience that reveals just how our bodies and minds are affected by getting out in the natural world. The book is called The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative (Norton, 2017). The book stemmed from an article Williams wrote in National Geographic. A former Boulder resident, Williams will return to Boulder to give a talk about her book on Tuesday, February 28th, at the Boulder Book Store, at 7:30 p.m. She’ll also speak in Denver, on Wednesday, March 1st, at Tattered Cover Book Store, at 7:00 p.m.
Hosts: Maeve Conran, Susan Moran Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Maeve Conran Executive Producer: Joel Parker Additional contributions: Beth Bennett, Joel Parker, Shelley Schlender
The Science of Suggestibility (start time: 5:00) Scientists are learning more and more about how our expectations and beliefs influence how our bodies, including our neurochemistry, respond to pain and disease. The researchers are discovering that we are very suggestible creatures. But we are not all equally suggestible. Some of us can cure serious ailments even when we’ve knowingly taken a placebo remedy, but others can not. Herein lies a major puzzle that vexes drug manufacturers and medical practitioners. It’s a puzzle that has intrigued Erik Vance, a science journalist, since he nearly died from a severe illness when he was a toddler. His journey is detailed in a book that was just published today. It’s called Suggestible You: Placebos, False Memories, Hypnosis and the Power of Your Astonishing Brain (National Geographic). Listen to How On Earth’s Susan Moran’s interview with Erik Vance.
Hosts: Susan Moran, Alejandro Soto Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Maeve Conran Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Multitudes of Microbes (start time: 3:38): You may find it unsettling to learn that our human cells make up only half of our bodies. The other half is a bunch of microbes (in the neighborhood of 40 trillion), all living and reproducing in, and on, our bodies. What’s more, these invisible machines could have a powerful influence on your brain, and on your overall health. Ed Yong, a staff writer for The Atlantic, found it disconcerting at first to learn this when he researched his book called “I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life.” The book, published earlier this year, explores the mysterious partnerships between humans, and many other species, and the mighty microbes with which we have co-evolved. Today we air the full phone interview that How On Earth host Susan Moran recently had with Yong. We played short clips of the conversation during our fall pledge-drive show last Tuesday. Thanks to you listeners who pledged! And thanks to Yong’s publisher, Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins, for donating to KGNU several copies, which some generous members are now reading. This interview continues our series called “Our Microbes, Ourselves.”
Hosts: Kendra Krueger, Susan Moran Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Kendra Krueger Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
This week’s pledge- drive show features a teaser introduction to Ed Yong’s new book I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life. We play segments from the interview that host Susan Moran recently had with Yong, a science writer for The Atlantic. There still may be a copy left, so call now to have your own, with a pledge of at least $60 to KGNU. Call 303.449.4885.
The book explores the role that invisible yet mighty microbes play in our lives, as well as the lives of so many species with whom they have co-evolved. Yong highlights the research of many scientists in this emerging field who are studying how our gut microbiome influences our brain chemistry, and our overall mental and physical health. The book deepens our understanding of the ecosystems within our bodies as well as the ecosystems in the natural world.
Next Tuesday, Nov. 4, we will broadcast the complete interview with Ed Yong.
Hosts: Susan Moran, Beth Bennett, Kendra Kruger Producer: Beth Bennett Engineer: Shelley Schlender Additional Contributions: Joel Parker Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Listen to the show:
Our Microbes, Ourselves, Dec. 31, 2015: Roughly one hundred trillion bacteria are living, and gorging, in our gut–all the more so during the indulgent holidays. Microbes influence our health and well-being, by affecting our gut directly, as well as the crops we eat and the soils in which we grow crops. These microbial communities – called the gut microbiome — have been linked to many disorders, including obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, and even mental illness. We are just at the dawn of a new era of microbial treatments for many illnesses. After a recent How On Earthshow generated so much interest, we decided to bring our guest, Amy Sheflin, back for an hour-long call-in show on A Public Affair on KGNU. Amy is a doctoral student at Colorado State University in food science and human nutrition. She studies how the food we eat alters the microbial communities in our gut, and how those microbes in our bodies influence our overall health. For more info on the gut microbiome, check out Amy’s favorite books on the topic: The Good Gut, by Justin and Erica Sonnenburg; and The Inside Tract, by Gerard Mullins. Also check out the American Gut Project.
Mighty Microbes (start time: 5:45): Microbes – fungi and bacteria and probably viruses — are essential to life on Earth. They’re found in soil and water and inside the human gut. There’s a lot happening these days in microbiology, as scientists try to better understand what role these invisible powerhouses play in our health and that of the planet. Amy Sheflin, a PhD candidate at Colorado State University in the department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, speaks with host Susan Moran about her and others’ research into how microbial communities an enhance the health of our human gut, soils and crops.
Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Joel Parker Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
On today’s show we offer three feature interviews, including a short opening interview.
Alcohol and weight gain (starts at 3:34): Science journalist Jill Adams shares the latest science on the connection between alcohol and weight gain. The science is murky, as she states in her recent column in the Washington Post.
Climate Clues in Coral (starts at 9:02): Despite certain appearances and rumors to the contrary, global warming has not been on holiday for the past decade. But increases in temperature at the Earth’s surface have slowed down, prompting scientists to work hard to figure out why. It seems that a lot of heat that has been building up in our planet’s climate system due to greenhouse gas emissions has winded up deep in the Pacific Ocean. Why? Diane Thompson, a post-doctoral scientist at NCAR and lead author on a new study, discusses with HOE’s Tom Yulsman how a sample of coral from a remote atoll in the tropical Pacific revealed some important answers.
Tropic forests love CO2 (starts at 16:04) It’s been known for some time that tropical forests are not only rich in biodiversity, but they also absorb a lot of carbon dioxide that humans spew into the atmosphere. But just how much greenhouse gases—namely CO2–these forests take up, say, compared with temperate and boreal forests, has been eluding researchers. Britton Stephens, an atmospheric scientist at NCAR, discusses with HOE’s Susan Moran a new study he co-authored. It suggests that tropical forests may be absorbing far more CO2 than many scientists had previously thought.
Hosts: Susan Moran, Tom Yulsman Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Shelley Schlender Executive Producer: Kendra Krueger