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New discoveries, everyday mysteries, and the science behind the headlines — all in about 10 minutes. It's science for everyone, using a lot of creativity and a little humor. Join hosts Emily Kwong, Aaron Scott and Regina Barber for science on a different wavelength. If you're hooked, try Short Wave Plus. Your subscription supports the show and unlocks a sponsor-free feed. Learn more at


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New discoveries, everyday mysteries, and the science behind the headlines — all in about 10 minutes. It's science for everyone, using a lot of creativity and a little humor. Join hosts Emily Kwong, Aaron Scott and Regina Barber for science on a different wavelength. If you're hooked, try Short Wave Plus. Your subscription supports the show and unlocks a sponsor-free feed. Learn more at




A Star Is Born ... And Then What? Journey Through The Life Cycle of a star

Soon after the sun sets on winter nights, if you live in the northern hemisphere you can look into the sky and find the Orion constellation near the eastern horizon. Astrophysicist Sarafina El-Badry Nance has always been drawn to a particular star in Orion: Betelgeuse, a red supergiant nearing the end of it's life on the hunter's left shoulder. But what stages of life did Betelgeuse — or any star — go through before it reached this moment? Regina G. Barber talks to Sarafina about three winter constellations, and journey through the life cycle of a star. Curious about the night sky? Email us at — we'd love to hear from you!


Don't Call It Dirt: The Surprising Science Of Soil

It's easy to overlook the soil beneath our feet, or to think of it as just dirt to be cleaned up. But soil wraps the world in an envelope of life: It grows our food, regulates the climate and makes the planet habitable. "What stands between life and lifelessness on our planet Earth is this thin layer of soil that exists on the Earth's surface," says Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, a soil scientist at the University of California-Merced. In honor of World Soil Day tomorrow, we're revisiting our conversation with Prof. Berhe, who is also serving as Director of the U. S. Dept. of Energy's Office of Science. She talks to Aaron about the hidden majesty of soil and why it's crucial to tackling the climate crisis.


These Penguins Take 10,000 Little Naps A Day — Seconds At A Time

Sleep. It's an essential biological function that has long intrigued scientists. Researchers have studied everything from mice to fruit flies in the lab to get a better understanding of what happens when animals sleep — and why so many do it. This week, scientists finally added one piece to the elusive sleep puzzle: How wild chinstrap penguins sleep amid their noisy colony. Turns out, they do it over 10,000 times in seconds-long bursts throughout the day — totaling 11 hours when all is said and done.


The International Race To Create Human Eggs And Sperm In The Lab

In which we meet the pioneers of one of the most exciting — and controversial — fields of biomedical research: in vitro gametogenesis, or IVG. The goal of IVG is to make unlimited supplies of what Hayashi calls "artificial" eggs and sperm from any cell in the human body. That could let anyone — older, infertile, single, gay, trans — have their own genetically related babies. As such, the field opens up a slew of ethical concerns. But that isn't stopping researchers from pressing forward. So, this episode NPR science correspondent Rob Stein gives us a glimpse into the global race to create the first artificial human embryos to see how the competition is unfolding. Want to hear more cutting-edge technology? Email the show at


Monday Night Football And Pursuing Two Careers With John Urschel

As kids, some of us dream of multiple careers: being an astronaut AND the next president. Or digging up dinosaurs AND selling out concert stadiums. As we get older, there's pressure to pick one path. But what if we didn't have to? After all, John Urschel didn't. He's a mathematician and professor at MIT. But before that, he played football for the Baltimore Ravens. Today on the show, Monday night football! Host Regina G. Barber talks to Urschel about linear algebra and following his dream of becoming a mathematician while living the dream as a NFL player.


What Fossilized Poop Can Teach Us About Dinosaurs

Walking into Karen Chin's office at the University of Colorado, Boulder, one of the first things you might notice is that petrified poops are everywhere. They're in shallow boxes covering every surface and filling up shelves, cabinets and drawers. She's a leading expert in the fossils, known as coprolites. They delight her because of what they reveal about the ancient eating habits and food webs of dinosaurs — rare insights for the paleontology world. This episode, she talks with Short Wave co-host Aaron Scott about the lessons scientists can learn from ancient poopetrators. Interested in learning more ancient or scatological mysteries of science? Email us at — we might cover it on a future episode!


The Thanksgiving Quest For The (Scientifically) Best Turkey

Turkey is the usual centerpiece of the Thanksgiving dinner, but it's all too easy to end up with a dry, tough, flavorless bird. For NPR science correspondent Maria Godoy, it got so bad that several years ago, her family decided to abandon the turkey tradition altogether. Can science help her make a better bird this year? That's what she hopes as she seeks expert advice from food science writers and cookbook authors Nik Sharma and Kenji López-Alt. Want to know what other delectable food secrets science has to offer? Email and we just might find out for you!


3 Major Ways Climate Change Affects Life In The U.S.

Every five years, the United States government releases the National Climate Assessment, a comprehensive analysis of how climate change is affecting the country. The fifth assessment was recently released. It's the first to include includes standalone chapters about climate change's toll on the U.S. economy, as well as the complex social factors driving climate change and the nation's responses. Climate reporters Rebecca Hersher and Alejandra Borunda walk us through three major takeaways from the report: the economics, the negative human health effects and the unequal burden people face. Plus, a silver lining: All the ways the U.S. is making progress to slow the effects of climate change. Read Rebecca and Alejandra's full piece here. Want to hear a climate story? Email us at


Cutting A Teaspoon Of Salt Is Comparable To Taking Blood Pressure Medication

How much salt is too much salt? Most likely, the amount you're consuming. A new study published this week in the journal JAMA found that cutting one teaspoon of salt a day results in a decline in blood pressure comparable to taking medication. Plus, other science news from this week, like the oldest confirmed black hole and how climate change and pollution are causing a big imbalance in the sexes of turtles. Got other science news for us to consider? Email us at


Thousands of earthquakes in Iceland may spell a volcanic eruption

Saturday, the entire coastal town of Grindavik, Iceland was evacuated. That's because over the weekend, the country experienced nearly 2,000 earthquakes within 48 hours. And they've kept coming since then – in swarms. Scientists think the quakes are indicative of magma moving closer to the surface in the country's southwestern peninsula and that a local volcano could erupt at any moment. Today on the show, host Regina G. Barber talks to volcanologist Diana Roman about the science behind these earthquakes. Got science to share? Email us at


How Venus got caught up in an 18th century space race

In the 18th century the world was focused on Venus. Expeditions were launched in pursuit of exact measurements of Venus as it passed between Earth and the Sun. By viewing its journey and location on the Sun's surface, scientists hoped to make a massive leap in scientific knowledge. With a little help from math, Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber recounts how humanity came closer to understanding our cosmic address — and relative distances to other planets — in the solar system. If you haven't heard the other two episodes in our series on cosmic distances yet, check them out here: - The Stars that Settled The Great Debate - What The Universe Is Doing Right Now Want to get in touch with story ideas or to share some science that delighted you? Email us at!


Trailblazing Computer Scientist Fei-Fei Li on Human-Centered AI

AI is popping up everywhere nowadays. From medicine to science to the Hollywood strikes. Today, with computer scientist and AI pioneer Fei-Fei Li, we dig deeper into the history of the field, how machines really learn and how computer scientists take inspiration from the human brain in their work. Li's new memoir The Worlds I See traces the history of her move to the U.S. from China as a high school student and her coming-of-age with AI. Host Regina G. Barber talks to Li about her memoir, where the field may be going and the importance of centering humans in the development of new technology. Got science to share? Email us at


To Figure Out The Future Climate, Scientists Are Researching How Trees Form Clouds

If you've ever looked up at the clouds and wondered where they came from, you're not alone. Atmospheric researcher Lubna Dada is fascinated by the mystery of how clouds form and what role they play in our climate. Today, host Aaron Scott talks to Dada about a recent study on the role of trees in cloud formation, and how this data will improve our current climate models. Want more stories on the environment or climate change? Email us at


Mapping The Seafloor Is Daunting But Key To Improving Human Life

Scientists have mapped less than 25% of the world's seafloor. Experts say that getting that number up to 100% would improve everything from tsunami warnings to the Internet and renewable energy. That's why there's currently a global effort to create a full, detailed map of the seabed by 2030. Today, we talk to Dawn Wright, a marine geographer and chief scientist at the Environmental Systems Research Institute about this effort. Curious about ocean science? Email us at


Pulling An All-Nighter Is A Temporary Antidepressant

What your parents didn't tell you about pulling an all-nighter? It just might ease depression for several days. At least, that's what researchers found happens to mice in a study published in the journal Neuron Thursday. Most people who've stayed up all night know the "tired and wired" feeling they get the next day. Scientists know this feeling can have a strong antidepressant effect in people that lasts for several days, even after the other changes wear off. But this new study may help researchers figure out why sleeplessness causes this effect. Plus, we get into some other science headlines we can't stop talking about: Turning a centuries-old debate over starfish on its head and record lows for Antarctica's sea ice. Got science to share? Email us at


Sky Vaccines: Ridding Raccoons Of Rabies En Masse

Every year, the USDA drops millions of oral rabies vaccines across fourteen states, mostly along the eastern seaboard. In urban and suburban areas, they use vehicles, but in rural areas, they drop the vaccines from planes. Host Regina G. Barber talks to USDA wildlife biologist Jordona Kirby about the agency's goal to wipe out rabies in one population in particular: raccoons.


Thanks, Neanderthals: How our ancient relatives could help find new antibiotics

Antibiotics have changed the world. They've made it possible to treat diseases that used to mean anything from discomfort to death. But no new classes of antibiotics have made it to the market since the 1980s. What if humans' closest, ancient relatives held the answer to antibiotic resistance? Some scientists want to discover new antibiotics using machine learning ... and some very, very old relatives of humans. Host Aaron Scott talks to César de la Fuente about using computers to discover the first therapeutic molecules in extinct organisms. Have a question? Email us at


Scientist Just Made The Largest Brain Map Ever

The human brain has more than 170 billion cells. A newly published atlas offers the most detailed maps yet of the location, structure and, in some cases, function of more than 3,000 types of brain cells. The atlas could help scientists understand what makes humans unique in the animal kingdom and the roles different brain cells play in disease. Science correspondent Jon Hamilton talks to host Regina G. Barber about the findings from this new map, a product of the NIH's BRAIN initiative. Plus, what the heck splatter neurons have to do with all of this! Read Jon's full story here. Science question on your brain? Email us at


How Climate Change Is Testing The Endangered Species Act

Some people keep dogs in their backyards. In the Florida Keys, some residents have deer the size of a golden retriever in their yards. As sea levels rise and salt water climbs higher on the islands, it's shrinking habitat for this deer — which already has an estimated population of at most 1,000. Today, host Regina G. Barber hears from reporters Nate Rott and Ryan Kellman about the Key deer, and how rising sea levels are forcing wildlife managers to ask big questions about the future of the subspecies. In this episode, we incorrectly stated that Valerie Preziosi is the founder of Key Deer Alliance. In fact, she is the founder and director of the organization Save Our Key Deer.


Why Gray Hair Is Coming For You

As a kid, host Aaron Scott would dress up for Halloween as an older version of himself — complete with a cane, a set of polyester britches and painted gray hair. These days, that costume is becoming a bit more of a day-to-day reality. At least, the gray hair is. So today, in honor of all you out there flirting with gray hair, whether for a witch costume or just that exciting and terrifying thing called aging, we're digging into why hair turns gray.