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?
Do you ever wonder what happens to the trash you throw away? Jenna Jambeck is an environmental engineer specializing in waste management, and she is on a crusade to raise public awareness of plastic waste and its impact on the environment. As she takes a reporter on a tour through a landfill, she explains what happens to different types of trash. Listen to this story to hear about how scientists and their research shape public policy and behavior, and what everyone can do about the problem of too much plastic.
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 14, 2019
Some people who are deaf use assistive technology such as hearing aids or cochlear implants to help them hear. Others feel that using assistive technology impacts a deaf person’s identity. One teenager who was born deaf has had cochlear implants since she was a year old, enabling her to hear and speak. As a result, she has felt excluded by members of both the hearing and the Deaf communities. Listen to her reflections on her experience navigating both worlds as someone who is “hearing but deaf.”
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 23, 2019
Photosynthesis is the process that is foundationational for all life, in which plants use sunlight to change water and carbon dioxide into food and oxygen. Scientists have now genetically modified plants to perform that process more efficiently, thereby increasing agricultural productivity. Listen to this story to learn how researchers “hacked photosynthesis” and why it matters.
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 October 19, 2018
Malaria is a devastating disease transmitted by mosquitoes, affecting millions each year. A team of scientists has been experimenting with genetic engineering that would cause the mosquito population carrying malaria to destroy itself. Listen to hear how the genetic engineering process works and how different groups are responding to the controversial experiment, and then debate: Should mosquitoes be genetically modified to self-destruct?
Current Event October 18, 2018
When plastic is thrown away, it crumbles into tiny pieces, known as microplastics. These small bits of plastic, less than 5 millimeters (or 0.2 inches) in size, are polluting rivers, lakes, oceans, and even soil. Scientists are studying how microplastics find their way into the ecosystem and what happens when they do. Listen to hear what research ecologists are doing to learn more about how microplastic waste may be affecting us and our world.
Current Event October 11, 2018
Researchers are studying barn owls to better understand how they are able to focus so intensely, with the goal of shedding light on why some humans struggle with focused attention. Specifically, they are studying how the owl brain ignores all the information that distracts from what is most important to the owl’s survival. Listen to learn how and why research on owl brains might be able to help people with attention issues.
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.
Current Event September 20, 2018
Monarch butterflies are in danger. In addition to their beauty, monarchs contribute to the ecosystem by pollinating wildflowers and by providing food for birds, small mammals, and insects. However, their life cycle depends on the milkweed plant, and its availability is shrinking. Listen to hear what conservation ecologists recommend as a solution to this environmental problem that many people can help to put into action.
Language is complex, but children are natural language learners. Language itself is unique to humans, and many scientists want to know more about how humans are capable of learning language. Some theories suggest humans are born to be able to process and use language; however, a researcher studying language learning in children, thinks differently. He has been studying the sounds, grammar, vocabulary as well as eye movements and brain activity in children, and he has made some discoveries. Listen to learn more about language research that helps to explain why we have language and how we learn it.
Current Event June 5, 2018
A teenager recently discovered what turned out to be the fossil of a large, dinosaur-eating crocodile in northern Texas. Many amateur fossil hunters enjoy looking for ancient animals’ bones in this rocky area. At the site, for example, a combination of harsh living conditions exposed dirt makes it easier to uncover all sorts of fossils. An expert explains how fossil hunters help him discover ancient species. He also describes why dinosaurs fascinate us and how they can help us learn more about science. Listen to learn more about this dinosaur-eating crocodile.
Scientists are beginning to answer questions about whether our physical appearances and behaviors are linked to the DNA of an extinct species of hominid. Unexpectedly large portions of Neanderthal DNA are being found in the genomes of many modern humans. New evidence suggests that inherited Neanderthal DNA can vary dramatically from individual to individual, with some receiving beneficial genes as well as rejecting others. Listen to hear how these new findings are affecting our understanding of human evolution.
Current Event May 23, 2018
The United States government recently passed a law that requires all major restaurant chains to post the calories of their dishes on their menus. Studies have demonstrated that having this information about their food causes diners to cut back on the number of calories they consume. This can help them lose weight and avoid the dangers of obesity, especially since some foods have more calories than you might think. Listen to learn more about this law and its benefits from two experts on nutritional policy.
Current Event May 4, 2018
A lot of classroom skeletons, in high schools, universities and medical schools, are real human bones. A former student investigated the skeleton that hung in the back of her high school classroom. She consulted with the Smithsonian, and with a lab at Penn State and analyzed the skeleton to find out where it was from, how old it was and even what the person ate. In the 1800s there was a legal trade in human bones, which leads to some tricky questions about whether skeletons should be used in classrooms at all. Listen to this story and then debate: Should schools keep using classroom skeletons?
Current Event April 20, 2018
New technology can help athletes gain a deeper understanding of how their bodies work. By submitting their DNA, athletes can see the results of their genetic fitness assessment. This can help athletes personalize their training routine, gain information about their ability to build muscle, or find out how prone they are to joint injuries. The results are organized in categories to let people know what they need to work on. Listen to learn more about this new technology and then debate: Should DNA determine the sport you play?
Current Event March 6, 2018
Research on former players of the National Football League shows that brain injury is linked to repeated blunt impact. But little is known about the connection between football, brain damage, and young players. A scientist in Texas studied football players between 8 and 18 year old and measured how their brains changed after one season. They used sensors in football helmets to tell how hard the players were getting hit. Listen to hear the results of this study and suggestions for preventing these injuries.
Current Event February 23, 2018
The first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell was a sheep named Dolly in 1997. The Dolly clone proved that cells could be used to create an exact copy of the animal they came from. Since then, scientists have been trying to use the same technique to clone other animals. Dogs, pigs and other animals have been successfully cloned, but the first primate clones were recently born in China. Since monkeys are people’s closest relatives, this may allow scientists to study human diseases and develop cures. Listen to hear about the benefits and concerns of cloning primates and then debate: Should we clone monkeys?