One of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded struck recently, with minimal damage, no tsunami and it barely made the news. That’s because there are two kinds of earthquakes. This earthquake happened when two tectonic plates moved past each other horizontally, while more damaging earthquakes are caused when one plate slips beneath another. This radio story explains the two types of earthquakes and how they are gradually redefining the boundaries of the tectonic plates.
Current Event October 8, 2015
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows dark streaks flowing down Martian slopes. When the streaks are widest, there is evidence of water molecules. When the streaks shrink in the cold, water disappears. The water is not the same as a stream on Earth, but more like a hint of wetness. Although scientists are not entirely sure where the water source is, they say it could be from a salty underground reservoir or soaking up moisture from the atmosphere. Listen to hear how water can be important for future explorations on Mars.
Current Event September 4, 2015
It’s been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans. At the time, President George W. Bush and his administration were widely criticized for their slow response to the flooding. But on the 10 year anniversary, Bush was invited back to visit the city again. His tour sparked mixed reactions from residents who still feel they were let down by the federal government's response to the massive disaster.
Current Event August 12, 2015
Levels of nitrogen in the soil and water in Rocky Mountain National Park have been on the rise over the last few decades. Dairy farming in the state has contributed to this rise in nitrogen but dairy farmers are working be part of the solution. Technology is helping to warn farmers about wind shifts that would bring nitrogen into the park. Listen to learn more about this source of nitrogen and how self regulation might help the problem.
Current Event June 4, 2015
The practice of fracking, extracting gas from deep inside the earth, has divided neighbors and split towns. And now it’s pitting cities and towns in Texas against the state of Texas. The Texas state legislature has passed a law that takes the power to regulate the gas industry away from the cities and towns directly impacted by fracking. As you'll hear in this public radio story, blocking these local efforts to control fracking has sparked a fierce debate.
Current Event June 2, 2015
On Tuesday, May 19, 2015, an oil pipe in Santa Barbara California burst, spilling more than 100,000 gallons of oil into a storm drain that emptied into the ocean. The oil has devastated the coastline. From plants and animals on shore to the bottom of the ocean, this spill is expected to have a lasting impact on this ecologically diverse coast. Listen to learn more about the spill, its environmental impact and the political response it has inspired.
Current Event May 22, 2015
Greenhouse gas emissions in March were some of the highest ever recorded on the planet in millions of years. Carbon dioxide emissions have built up over time and increased the saturation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere up to 400 parts per million. Listen to learn about how scientists are able to determine past levels of carbon dioxide and measure this current trend.
Current Event May 3, 2015
Nepal, the mountainous South Asian country nestled between China and India, is small but densely populated. On April 25th a large earthquake devastated the country. From the capital city of Kathmandu to the highest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest, every corner of the country has been affected. With the death toll rising above 6,000 the international community and aid groups have sprung into action, sending supplies and people to support recovery. Unfortunately, the limited infrastructure in this developing nation is making the relief effort difficult.
Current Event April 22, 2015
When did humans begin to shape the earth? This is the debate happening among geologists who are determining whether the official timeline of the Earth should have a name for the current period of human domination. The concept of the “anthropocene” or the human era first emerged 15 years ago and a working group of scientists is determining whether to adopt it officially and when it should begin. Listen to learn more about the lively debate that surrounds this decision.
Current Event April 10, 2015
Individuals who make extraordinary contributions to science often begin as regular people with a passion. This was certainly the case for Alan Guth, the physicist responsible for our understanding of how the universe formed after the Big Bang. Guth’s love for physics was sparked in high school and continues to drive his work today as a professor at MIT. Listen to learn more about his journey from a small town in New Jersey to physics textbooks around the world.
Current Event April 5, 2015
The United States has become one of the world’s largest producers of oil, surpassing Saudi Arabia. But the US might be running out of space to store all the oil. If companies sell off large amounts of oil to open up storage space, what will happen to the price? Listen to learn more about this debate of supply, demand and cost when it comes to oil production, speculation and storage.
Gravity keeps our feet on the ground, it creates a curve ball, and it can also be used to find new planets. The star at the center of our solar system maintains life on Earth and its gravitational pull creates the orbit of planets. But our sun is just one of many stars in an ever expanding universe. Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to our solar system and new technology is allowing us to better understand our neighbor. Observations of Alpha Centauri date back to 1592, but it wasn’t until 2012 that astronomers in Chile were able to identify a planet orbiting one of the stars in Alpha Centauri because of its gravitational wobble. Listen to learn more about the properties and potential of this new planet.
Discussion of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions often occur at the national level. Nations promise to lower emissions and scientists look for alternative energy sources. But new software is providing data for this emission reduction discussion at a local level. The software allows people to have a view into their carbon emissions on the level of a city, neighborhood, block and even household. Listen to learn how scientists and local officials are working together to track and understand emissions at the local level.
Earthquakes can have far-reaching consequences not just on homes but on the power infrastructure. A 2008 earthquake in Southwest China left officials and engineers monitoring the structural integrity of enormous hydroelectric dams built to generate power. A fear of flooding caused by a cracked dam led some to wonder if they had taken the strengths of the region, its rivers and irrigation systems, and turned them into a potential threat. Listen to learn how hydroelectric power systems impact places and people.
Current Event March 6, 2015
In 2024 crews of four will be sent to Mars with the goal of creating a permanent human settlement there. The mission is being planned by a non-profit organization in the Netherlands called Mars One. 200,000 people applied to be one of the first four people to make this all expense paid trip. Mars One has narrowed the applicants down to 100. Shirelle Webb, a 22 year old college student from Texas has made the cut. Listen to learn why she wants to be considered for the one-way trip.
Current Event March 1, 2015
When Americans think of earthquakes, they often think of California. However, in the last few years, Oklahoma has become the leader in earthquakes in the continental United States. Some areas in Oklahoma experience two to three earthquakes a day! These quakes are being linked to a modern oil production technique known as hydraulic fracturing. It’s the process used to dispose of wastewater created during the extraction of oil from shale. Listen to learn how communities are responding to the quakes and the oil companies that might be creating them.
Current Event February 24, 2015
The sun is a star that sits at the center of our Solar System. It provides heat and a gravitational pull for all of the planets that orbit it. Scientists have long believed they knew what the sun was made up of and how it worked. When new evidence upset the balance between theory and observation, a solar physicist set out to reproduce the way the sun functions in a laboratory. Listen to hear more about how the sun works.
It is difficult to conceptualize the magnitude of our solar system but the journey of the Voyager spacecrafts can help. In September 1977 NASA launched the Voyager spacecrafts to gain information about the far off giant planets in our solar system. The spacecrafts and the project endured after studying Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune and continued to travel away from earth and through our solar system. Thirty-five years after Voyager 1 left Earth, and over 11 billion miles away, it became the first man-made object to leave our solar system and enter interstellar space. Listen to learn what researchers have been researching from the edge of our solar system.
Tsunamis are created by tectonic plates thrusting against each other and then lifting the sea floor and dropping it down, which creates a giant wave. A 2010 earthquake in Chile was caused by a shift in the seafloor. This same shift set off tsunami detection buoys and left scientists waiting for the tsunami to hit. But it ended up being small. Listen to learn more about this quake and how tsunamis are created.
Current Event February 17, 2015
As the game Monopoly taught us as children, having a monopoly on something can be very profitable. In the 1990’s one man found himself selling Scandium, a rare chemical element used in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and realized he was the only person with that particular job. Listen to learn how he found this job and how different types of monopolies have different financial outcomes and economic impact.