A new threat to human health, a disease called COVID-19, is spreading rapidly around the globe. The cause of COVID-19 is a coronavirus, named for the crown-like spikes on the surface of the virus particles. In this audio story, an infectious disease doctor describes COVID-19 and its symptoms, compares the novel (or new) coronavirus to the better-known coronavirus that causes the common cold, and explains why being novel helps the virus to spread. Listen to learn what scientists want people to do in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and protect the health of individuals, families, and communities.
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.
Current Event March 17, 2020
The new coronavirus is a highly infectious disease that is spreading rapidly around the world. The virus causes mild symptoms for many people, like those of the common cold, but it affects others more seriously. The new coronavirus is very contagious, and public health experts are trying to better understand it and control the global outbreak. Listen to hear about the effects of the virus and what people can do to slow its spread.
This audio story was recorded in mid-February. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
Current Event March 4, 2020
For years, doctors struggled to diagnose an unusual set of symptoms: feeling angry or upset when hearing certain noises. Now scientists have identified the condition, misophonia, and doctors and patients are finally learning more about it. People with misophonia are highly sensitive to a range of everyday sounds like chewing and sniffling. They can experience extreme stress, making events like sharing a family meal challenging. Listen to hear a misophonic person describe what it feels like to hear chewing noises and why those suffering from misophonia and their families are relieved that the condition has been named.
Does tickling have a purpose? Why are certain parts of the human body especially sensitive to tickling? Scientists believe the tickling response evolved in early humans to help them protect themselves from predators and insects. Tickling also gives scientists clues about how the brain signals other parts of the body to respond. Listen to hear more about the protective response of tickling, and learn why it is impossible to tickle yourself.
Current Event November 14, 2019
The Surgeon General announced a campaign to educate young people about a drug he says is more dangerous than kids realize – marijuana. Today’s marijuana is typically three times stronger than in past decades and comes in different forms. Teens who use it regularly are more likely to do poorly in school, experience depression, and become addicted. But as marijuana has become legal in over 30 states, many teens seem unaware of the serious health risks it poses. Listen to hear a medical expert talk about the dangers of marijuana use and how the president has personally supported efforts to raise awareness.
All animals, including humans, need to sleep. Scientists have several theories that help explain why we sleep. In this episode of But Why, a child sleep psychologist describes the evolutionary theory of sleep and explains how sleep benefits the brain and body. Listen to learn more about the science of sleep and its importance for healthy growth and development.
Current Event May 30, 2019
Everyone feels stress, which can have a significant impact on health. A new book explains how and why stress affects the body and describes what people can do to lower the negative effects of stress on their health. Listen to this interview with the authors to learn about the evolutionary value of stress and how to keep it from causing burnout in today’s modern world.
Current Event March 22, 2019
A clinic in Kiev, Ukraine is offering a controversial experimental procedure that allows parents experiencing infertility to have babies with three genetic parents. While this type of genetic engineering is allowed in some countries, it has been banned in the U.S., as there are many concerns in the medical community about the procedure’s safety and its ethical implications. Listen to this interview with the mother of one of a handful of three-parent babies that have been born and debate: Should three-parent babies be allowed?
Current Event March 1, 2019
Most of those infected with measles during a recent outbreak in the Pacific Northwest were unvaccinated children. While doctors and public health officials strongly recommend vaccinations, some parents choose not to vaccinate their children. Parents’ wishes, however, may differ from those of their children. Listen to this interview with a high school student who decided to get vaccinated when he turned 18, against his mother’s wishes, and debate: Should teens control their own health care?
Current Event February 27, 2019
In order to better understand head injuries and their risks, researchers from Washington University in St.Louis have been investigating the kinds of impacts that soccer players experience when heading the ball. To understand how much of that force of impact reaches the brain, they use a specialized MRI machine. Listen to this story to hear what the researchers learned about how our anatomy protects our brains and which types of impact cause the most damage.
Current Event February 20, 2019
The governor of Washington state has declared a state of emergency because of a recent measles outbreak. The majority of those sick from measles are children who were not vaccinated. Washington state has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Measles is very contagious, and people who are not vaccinated are at high risk of catching the disease when exposed to it. Listen to hear more about the role vaccinations play in public health and what Washington is doing to contain this dangerous measles outbreak.
Current Event February 6, 2019
A recent study concluded that “a parachute is no more effective than an empty backpack.” While this might sound ridiculous, the researchers who designed the study did so to make a point about the importance of being critical consumers of research who do not accept findings without considering the research design. Listen to this story to hear more about why the study was done and discover the secret behind the surprising finding.
Current Event January 9, 2019
How do you remember a phone number? At a recent neuroscience conference, brain scientists found themselves debating this surprisingly difficult question. Storing a phone number turns out to be a complex working memory task with broader implications for how the brain works. Listen to this story to hear two different theories about how working memory operates and why understanding this basic function matters.
Current Event January 3, 2019
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have issued new instructions for how to treat children and teens with concussions. Until recently, the doctor-recommended treatment was complete isolation for at least a week. The rationale was that anything that required physical or mental effort could be dangerous for the child’s recovery, but doctors have found that the isolation could be more harmful. Now doctors believe that children should return to their activities after a few days of rest if the child feels ready. Listen to this story to hear about this new development in the treatment protocol for concussions.
Current Event October 30, 2018
What you eat after working out can make a difference in how your body recovers. Consuming the right types of snacks after exercising can help to replenish your energy, build muscle mass, and burn fat. Listen to this interview with a dietician to learn more about what to eat after exercise and why. Spoiler alert: chocolate milk is a good choice!
Current Event September 27, 2018
Some tiny, microscopic bacteria hunt and attack other bacteria, including those that make people sick. Scientists are now researching possible uses of these predatory bacteria in treating infections. They are also interested in whether these germ-eating germs might be useful in the event of germ warfare. Listen to hear how this exciting research could impact people’s lives.