Sometimes it seems that science and art are completely different worlds but that has not always been the case. There is a long history of artistic scientists and scientific artists. In this edition of How on Earth, we talk about the alchemy of transmogrifying science into theatre.
Our guests include two scientists and two playwrights who collaborated to create plays inspired by scientific research as part of a theatre project produced by the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company. The production is called “Science Shorts“, which will be streaming the performances online Thursday through Sunday this week, January 21-24. The production will feature readings of four short plays by Colorado playwrights, and four short talks by the local scientists who inspired their work.
Our science guests are geophysicist Dr. Neesha Schnepf and biologist Ashley Whipple, and our playwrights are Nigel Knutzen and Ellen K. Graham. Neesha and Nigel collaborated on creating the play Trinal, which takes three different perspectives on tsunamis and their impact. Ashley’s and Ellen’s play, On The Rocks, follows American pikas and what they have to teach us about resilience in the face of environmental and other stress.
Host & Producer: Joel Parker Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Big Waves (start time 4:39): When does one plus one not equal two? When waves behave non-linearly, according to CU researchers Mark Ablowitz and Douglas Baldwin. The two have been researching how multiple water waves can add together to form a wave with a height much greater than twice the height of either wave. The mathematicians refer to these as X and Y waves, which sounds mathematical but actually just refers to the shape of the wave front as seen looking down on the wave from above. Rather than being rare, these waves are readily observable and may be the reason that some tsunamis are much larger than anticipated. We spoke yesterday with the pair to find out more about these interesting waves.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids (start time 14:49): It’s widely accepted that Omega 3 supplements are good for many things, especially your heart, and that fish oil is high in Omega 3. But earlier this month, Greek researchers made a splash with a meta-analysis that concluded that fish oil supplements do not help your heart. They came to this conclusion even though, in their analysis, people taking fish oil pills or eating fish had 9 percent fewer deaths from heart disease and 11 percent fewer heart attacks than people who don’t. Fans of Omega 3 shot many other harpoons into the study, and we look at one of their most compelling complaints – it’s that the amount of Omega 3 that people’s bodies absorb depends on many things, and the Greek scientists did not examine studies that checked Omega 3 fatty acids levels where they count the most. That’s in people’s blood. To find out more about why blood levels of Omega 3’s might matter, How On Earth’s Shelley Schlender talks with Doug Bibus. Bibus is part of the team that years ago basically discovered Omega 3s. He’s a two-time winner of the American Chemical Society’s Award in Analytical Chemistry. Bibus says that most Americans have very low levels of Omega 3s, and they’d be healthier if their levels were higher.
Hosts: Beth Bartel, Joel Parker
Producer: Beth Bartel Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Fukashima Cleanup (start at 7:23). A daunting and ongoing cleanup task is that of removing radioactively contaminated material from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The plant suffered a meltdown in the wake of a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011. The tsunami swallowed whole towns and killed more than 20,000 people. How On Earth Executive Producer Shelley Schlender interviews Steve Rima, vice president of Radiological Services and Engineering at AMEC, in Grand Junction, Colorado. AMEC is assisting with radiation cleanup in the 500-square-mile Fukushima evacuation area. (Scroll down to previous post to hear extended version of the interview.)
Space Debris (start at 14:10). You thought cleaning your room was a chore. Imagine the problem if your room was the size of, say, the space around Earth where real, full-sized rockets and satellites are in orbit. Who is going to clean all that up? Or is it even a problem? How On Earth cohost Joel Parker interviews Dr. Darren McKnight about this issue of “space junk” or “space debris.” Dr. McKnight is the technical director at Integrity Applications Incorporated. He has served on the National Research Council’s Committee on NASA’s Orbital Debris and Micrometeoroid Program, and is a member of the International Academy of Astronautics. He is coauthor of the book “Artificial Space Debris.”
Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Jim Pullen Headline contributor: Breanna Draxler Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender