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Brain fun for curious people.


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Brain fun for curious people.






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Largest Animal Crossing, First Complete Human Genome, Exoplanet Discoveries. November 25, 2022, Part 2

Building The World’s Largest Animal Crossing Outside of LA There’s a spot on Highway 101 in Agoura Hills, it’s pretty inconspicuous. There’s brown and green rolling hills on either side of the highway. Homes are sprinkled here and there. And then a small metal gate that leads off on a hiking trail. You probably wouldn’t know it, but soon this spot will be the location of the world’s largest animal crossing. This crossing will reconnect habitats that have been cut off from each other for...


Best Science Books For Kids, Indigenous Science, Ignobel Prizes. November 25, 2022, Part 1

From Tiny Krill To Concrete Jungles: 2022’s Best Science Books For Kids The holidays are right around the corner, which means for those who give gifts in December, now is the time to start putting together that shopping list. If you have a young person in your life who loves science, why not expand their library and get a book or two? Joining Ira to give their recommendation for the best children’s science books of the year—both fiction and nonfiction—are Melissa Stewart, science book...


NASA Artemis Mission Launches To The Moon, Science Behind Thanksgiving Meals. November 18, 2022, Part 2

The Science Behind Your Favorite Thanksgiving Dishes Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and for many people, that means it’s time to start thinking about what will be on the menu for dinner that night. Many people will opt for a classic turkey: others, a vegetarian-focused meal. Regardless of the plan, preparing food for the holiday can take some planning, and there’s a lot of science that goes into it. Cookbook author Kenji López-Alt thinks about the science behind cooking a lot....


What Is The Metaverse, Missouri Groundwater Contamination, Eight Billion People On Earth. November 18, 2022, Part 1

There Are Now Eight Billion People On Earth. What’s Next? Humankind just hit a big milestone this week: a world population of eight billion people. A hundred years ago, there were less than two billion, and now we’ve more than quadrupled that. But after decades of quick population growth, what will the next few decades hold? Sophie Bushwick, technology editor at Scientific American, explains this to Ira live from the studio. They also talk about other science news this week, like a new...


Dr. Fauci’s Exit Interview, Goodnight Oppy Mars Film, Science On The Ballot. Nov 11, 2022, Part 1

Science Was Big On The Ballot This Week. Here’s What Went Down Another chaotic election week has come and gone. Across the U.S., science was on the ballot, and people cast their votes on issues like healthcare, climate change infrastructure, conservation, and abortion policy. Nsikan Akpan, health and science editor at WNYC in New York City, joins Ira to talk about how the science ballot initiatives panned out this week. They discuss the outcomes of the abortion initiatives, California’s...


The US Battles RSV, Neural Connections, La Brea Tar Pits. Nov 11, 2022, Part 2

How Past Extinctions At The La Brea Tar Pit Can Teach Us About Our Climate Future If you drive through Los Angeles, you’ll pass by some of California’s most iconic sites—the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Universal Studios, the Santa Monica Pier. But if you don’t look for it, you may miss the La Brea tar pits—a place where Ice Age life from around 50 thousand years ago got trapped and preserved in sticky black ooze. Visitors can see megafauna, including skeletons of saber tooth cats and dire...


Contraceptive Failures, Future Of Combating Covid, Rapid Evolution In The Anthropocene. Nov 4, 2022, Part 1

Why Contraceptive Failure Rates Matter In A Post-Roe America Birth control options have improved over the decades. Oral contraceptives are now safer, with fewer side effects. Intrauterine devices can prevent pregnancy 99.6% of the time. But no prescription drug or medical device works flawlessly, and people’s use of contraception is inexact. “No one walks into my office and says, ‘I plan on missing a pill,’” said obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Mitchell Creinin. “There is no such thing as...


Fall Foliage Research, Voyager Scientist Retires, Flaws in Human Judgement, Milky Way Tell-All. Nov 4, 2022, Part 2

Using Family Photos Of Fall Foliage To Track Climate Change Leaf-peeping, or tourism based on observing the colors of fall foliage, is a big industry in parts of the Northeast. So as leaves continue to change across the northern United States with the turning of the seasons, researchers are working to better understand how climate change may be affecting fall colors—changes that may affect the bottom line for those tourism-rich areas. But to tease out the factors involved with the timing of...


Cat Purrs, AI Darth Vader Voice, Deathcaps, Eating Jellyfish. Oct 28, 2022, Part 2

Why Do Cats Purr? An Investigation Into A Purr-fect Mystery Science Friday recently received a voicemail from a listener named Violet from Maui, Hawai’i, who wanted to know: Why do cats purr? We wanted to see what other cat lovers knew about cat purring. So we sent our talented SciFri colleagues Diana Montano and Kyle Marian Viterbo to the Meow Parlor, a cat cafe in New York City to find out. Guest host Katherine Wu, who recently wrote about why cats purr for The Atlantic, also talks with...


SciFri Book Club Returns, Upcoming Winter Illnesses. Oct 28, 2022, Part 1

Don’t Trust What You See On TikTok This Election Season Midterm elections in the United States are just under two weeks away. And new research suggests a significant risk of misinformation for American social media users—particularly from the video-sharing platform TikTok. Cybersecurity researchers at NYU published their findings after submitting misleading advertisements to YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok. The ads contained either the wrong dates or voter requirements for upcoming...


Asking For Help, PFAS Chemicals, Plastics Recycling, Depression Book. October 21, 2022. Part 2

The Science Behind Why You Should Ask For Help Sometimes asking for help—even for the smallest of favors—can feel awkward, or like you’re inconveniencing someone else. But the odds are, you’re probably wrong. Studies show that people are much more willing to lend a helping hand than you would think, and both parties usually end up happier. Guest host Shahla Farzan talks with Dr. Xuan Zhao, a psychologist at Stanford University, about the psychology behind asking for help. A Possible...


Societal Climate Impacts, Alaskan Crab Shortage, Protected Fisheries Surprise. October 21, 2022, Part 1

A Boost For U.S. Electric Vehicle Battery Production This week, the Biden administration announced it would issue grants totaling some $2.8 billion to increase U.S.-based production of electric vehicle batteries and mining of the minerals used in their manufacture. The grants would go to companies in 12 states to help boost domestic production of key battery ingredients such as lithium, graphite and nickel, reducing the country’s reliance on China and other foreign battery producers. Casey...


Eco-Death Care, Brain Memory Prosthetic, Space Food. Oct 14, 2022, Part 2

Burying Green: Eco-Friendly Death Care On The Rise Dying, it turns out, isn’t carbon neutral. Like many of the choices we make in our lifetimes, the choice to cremate or preserve our bodies after death comes with tradeoffs as well. With preservation and burial, there’s the carbon cost of cemetery space, the materials to make a coffin, and the chemicals required to prevent decay. With cremation, the body’s carbon is released into the atmosphere through the burning of natural gas. This is...


How Gamification Has Taken Over, Brewing An Ancient Beer Again. Oct 14, 2022, Part 1

Scientists Are Trying To Study Human Neurons… In Rat Brains? Scientists have a tricky time studying neurons, partially because they are remarkably difficult to grow in a lab. They need other cells around them, and they don’t replicate or reproduce like other cells do. In a new study in Nature, researchers figured out that they can take a ball of human brain tissue and frankenstein it into a rat’s brain, and the rat can respond to it. This exciting discovery could offer scientists a new way...


Science Issues In the Election, Diabetes and Hibernating Bears, Medicine Nobel. Oct 7, 2022, Part 2

The Politics Of Science: Voters Have An Important Voice This November’s general election season covers every level of government, from Congress at the federal level, to state governors and local ballot initiatives. Also on the ballot are many issues where understanding science better might result in better policy—think zoning questions about building next to rising seas or fire-prone wildlands, or questions about drug legalization and abortion access. Even whether to invest in education...


Planning To Power The Electric Vehicle Boom, Hurricane Ian Aftermath. October 7, 2022, Part 1

Hurricane Ian Destroys Iconic Florida House Meant To Survive Hurricanes The Cape Romano Dome House, built in 1982, was an iconic—if more recently unsightly—piece of Florida architecture. The six interconnected domes located in Collier County, Florida, were built to be hurricane resistant and self-sustaining, with solar power, rainwater harvesting, and other innovations. However, erosion and rising sea levels had put the structure at risk, with the structure’s foundation pillars being...


New Alzheimer’s Drug, Bangladeshi Water Machine, Recording Earth’s Sounds. Sept 30, 2022, Part 1

New Alzheimer’s Drug Reduces Cognitive Decline, Say Biotech Firms This week, the biotech firms Biogen and Eisai released preliminary data from the clinical trials for their new Alzheimer’s drug, lecanemab. The companies said that the drug slowed cognitive decline by 27% in patients treated with the intravenous medication. It’s likely the drug will get the FDA’s approval by the end of the year. This all comes after the recent controversy surrounding Biogen’s last Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm....


DART Asteroid Mission, Rescue Robots, Raccoon Vaccination, Medical Marijuana and Workplace Rules, Lanternfly Signals. Sept 30, 2022, Part 2

After Hurricane Ian, Robots To The Rescue Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwest Florida Wednesday, with winds over 150 miles per hour, high storm surge and heavy rains. As the storm, now weaker, is projected to move northward, search and rescue operations are setting out to assess the damage – with help from robots, both flying and swimming. Producer Christie Taylor talks with David Merrick, who is leading the emergency management team responsible for flying drones over areas hit by...


Undersea Rovers, Swimming Sperm, Teen Inventor, Soil Judging. Sep 23, 2022, Part 2

Sperm Swim Together To Help Each Other Reach The Egg New research is complicating our understanding of how, exactly, sperm are able to reach eggs. The predominant theory is that sperm compete against each other, with the strongest swimmer fertilizing the egg. But a new study, using cow sperm, suggests that sperm might actually swim together, forming clusters to help each other swim upstream to reach the egg. Researchers created a device that has some of the features of a female...


Big Ideas In Physics, Saturn’s Rings, Soylent Green. Sep 23, 2022, Part 1

Biden Declares The COVID-19 Pandemic Over. Is It? During an interview with 60 minutes last weekend, President Joe Biden said “the pandemic is over.” “The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with covid, we’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one is wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape, “ Biden said at the Detroit auto show. This comment has prompted some dismay from the public health community. The World Health...