North American river otters have adapted both physically and behaviorally to survive the long, cold winters of North America. This episode of Earth Rangers features an interview with a conservation zoologist about how the river otter’s physical features, behaviors, and social structures help it find the shelter and food it needs to survive, with a particular focus on the important relationship between river otters and beavers. Listen to hear about the physical and behavioral adaptations that help North American river otters thrive.
Current Event February 5, 2020
Scientists have developed a new, more accurate way to count a dog’s age in human years. Until now, people have generally believed that one year in a dog’s life equals seven years of human life. But when scientists compared chemical marks on dog and human DNA to see where they matched, they found surprising results about the relationship between dog and human ages. Listen to hear a scientist explain how the new technique works and what the research on canine aging means for dogs and their human friends.
Current Event August 10, 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens in the U.S., experts are saying that traditional ways of fighting it are no longer working. U.S. public health professionals pioneered the methods that have successfully contained past pandemics, but coronavirus has spread so widely and quickly in the U.S. that experts say these steps will no longer be effective at containing it. Listen to learn why an infectious disease doctor describes the pandemic as “a national forest fire of COVID” and what public health professionals recommend for next steps.
Paleontologists learn about dinosaurs by searching for and studying fossils, which provide evidence about how a living dinosaur would have looked or acted. They use what they learn to teach others. Occasionally, paleontologists make a discovery that changes a previously accepted idea. Listen to hear more about what paleontologists do, and to learn about some of the dinosaurs that have been discovered and named.
Can talking to a plant make it grow faster? In the past, scientists studied the effect that human speech has on a plant’s growth. Those results were inconclusive. But here is another question to ponder: can plants talk to each other? If so, what’s the result? In this audio story, a scientist shares information about the world of plant communication. Listen to hear how plants communicate with each other -- and humans!
Time is something that every person on the planet thinks about every day. It is talked about like a commodity: “spend time” or “waste time” are phrases that are often used. But, what is time? Scientists have grappled with this subject for a long “time”! Listen to hear more about time and why the current system is used to keep track of time.
Current Event August 5, 2020
People infected with COVID-19 are often “silent spreaders,” able to infect others with the virus while showing no symptoms of illness themselves. The symptoms of COVID-19 often do not appear for several days in a newly infected person, but it is during this pre-symptomatic period that the person is most contagious. Because of this, public health experts are finding coronavirus especially hard to contain. Listen to an epidemiology professor describe the challenges of containing a virus that spreads silently, and which strategies have been proven to work best.
Current Event July 27, 2020
Early in the coronavirus pandemic, public health experts urged people to wear masks to protect others from getting sick. Now, scientists are finding that masks protect the wearer, too. Wearing a mask can block virus particles from entering a person’s body, and even if some particles enter, the mask wearer is less likely to become seriously ill. Listen to an infectious disease doctor explain the science behind mask wearing and how this new information could encourage more people to cover their faces in public.
The fastest animal on Earth is not a land animal. The peregrine falcon can fly at speeds of over 200 miles per hour when it hunts for its next meal. It is difficult to study something that moves so fast, so scientists have to use different methods to gather information. Listen to a scientist explain how physics and mathematical equations are used to answer questions about the flight of a peregrine falcon.
Until the 1500’s, it was understood that the earth was the center of the universe and that all celestial bodies revolved around it. In his book “On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres,” Nicolaus Copernicus challenged that accepted idea by providing evidence that, in fact, earth, along with the other planets, revolved around the sun. In this audio story, the story of Copernicus and his revolutionary idea is retold. The story delves into how and why Copernicus shared his belief with the world. The story compares the resistance to accepting Copernicus’ belief with modern debates over topics like climate change.
Researchers are trying to figure out how mosquitoes survive raindrops. The mosquitoes receive a pelting as if, on a human scale we were being hit with massive boulders! The study of physics is helping scientists figure out this mystery. Through momentum and impulse, mosquitoes can dodge the rain and the humans trying to kill them. Listen to learn what experiments researchers had to do to understand the feeling from a mosquito's point of view.
Current Event March 26, 2020
States around the country are ordering new restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. State governors have put various orders in place, including closing nonessential businesses, restricting big gatherings, and directing people to stay at home. Essential services such as food stores, pharmacies, and public transportation, remain open. These leaders hope limiting social contact will slow the spread of the disease enough to avoid overwhelming hospitals and health care workers with patients. Listen to learn how states plan to enforce the orders and why one governor struggled mightily with his decision to close businesses.
This audio story was recorded in mid-March. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
Current Event May 4, 2020
After months of closures due to COVID-19, school officials across the country are considering how schools can be reopened safely. Experts say that social distancing is the key to preventing the spread of disease, although that is especially challenging in crowded classrooms. Other countries have found ways to limit student contact through smaller class sizes, fewer students on the playground, and other strategies that could inform U.S. actions. Listen to hear how the school experience may change in the fall, and learn about some creative strategies for interacting safely.
This audio story was recorded in late April. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
Current Event July 1, 2020
As states reopen and coronavirus infection rates begin to rise, public health officials are monitoring the spread of disease. The “R,” or reproduction number, indicates how many people a sick person is likely to infect. An R of two, meaning every sick person infects two other people, translates into exponential spread in the community, and the goal of safety measures is to lower the R to less than one. Listen to learn which states currently have surging infection rates and how small changes in the reproduction number can mean big changes in the rate of illness.
This audio story was recorded in mid-June. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
Which animal holds the title of “man’s best friend”? Of course, the answer is the dog. Dogs have lived with humans for thousands of years. Scientists’ understanding of how this came to be has changed in recent years. Additionally, scientists now study dog DNA in the hope of learning more about human DNA. Listen to hear a scientist explain the current understanding of the bond between humans and dogs, and how man’s best friend is helping to uncover mysteries hidden in human DNA.
There is no minimum age for scientific discovery. Young scientists ask questions about topics that have puzzled humans for hundreds of years. This audio story introduces a high school senior who uses math to help astronomers search for undiscovered planets. Listen to hear more about this project and other amazing work done by Ana Humphrey.
Hurricanes are huge storms that can cause major damage and destruction. Scientists predict that hurricanes will gain in strength due to climate change. Since nothing can be done to stop hurricanes, scientists are working on methods to better predict hurricanes so that people can prepare well in advance. This audio story describes how climate change affects hurricanes. Listen to hear how hurricanes affect land and why predicting a hurricane is so challenging.
Most people don’t like to spend time thinking about snot, slime, and mucus. Believe it or not, these are important substances that keep humans and animals safe. In fact, there are scientists who study snot! Listen to hear one of these scientists talk about what snot is made of, which animals produce the most slime, and how humans and animals use snot and slime to stay safe and healthy.
Human beings have a long-standing fascination with dinosaurs that dates back to the discovery of the first fossils. To this day, people of all ages visit museums and fossil sites to study and learn more about these prehistoric creatures. This audio story features the answer to a seemingly simple question: how did the dinosaur age begin? Listen to hear what scientists know about the beginning of the age of dinosaurs. The story may contain a few surprises!