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Science Lessons PREMIUM


Fish sounds
Science

Fish Sounds Indicate Behavior

Marine biologists are studying the sounds that fish make. They believe that sounds are vital to understanding fish behavior. By studying the sounds that fish make when trying to attract mates and when breeding, biologists may be able to stay clear of them during those times to help them reproduce more productively. This protects the fish from human behavior. Listen to learn how this will help fishermen ensure the species don't die out.

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Science

Flipping Cats

Cats are mysterious creatures to us humans for many reasons. One of these reasons is that cats seem to always land on their feet whenever they fall. In fact, cats can be dropped upside down and still land on their feet, every time. But, how do they do this? It seems to defy the laws of physics. The answer has to do with momentum, and is explained by an expert. Listen to hear about how cats achieve this amazing feat.

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Science

Frogs and Metamorphosis

Frogs are well adapted to their environment. They absorb water and oxygen through their skin which allows them to eat and breathe underwater. They are powerful jumpers and good hunters. But perhaps their most unusual adaptation is metamorphosis, the process of changing from tadpole to frog. Metamorphosis helps frogs live successfully in both wet and semi-dry environments, vary their diets, and avoid predators. Listen to hear an animal scientist explain how metamorphosis helps frogs survive, and why they eat their own tails in the process.

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Chanterelle
Science

Fungi Sustain Ecosystems

Fungi play a crucial role in decomposition. As they follow this process, fungi release nutrients that the trees around it absorb. Eventually, the fungi attach itself to the roots of the nature around them and begin the cycle of giving and getting to keep the environment in balance. Listen to learn how fungi first colonized land and what would happen if fungi were not able to spread.

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Science

Garbage in the Sea

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a huge area of ocean where hundreds of millions of tons of plastic garbage floats, brought there by a swirling ocean current. Much of the waste comes from single use items like plastic bags, straws, and water bottles. As time passes the trash breaks into smaller fragments but never disappears entirely, posing a threat to ocean life. Listen to hear a reporter describe what this “island of plastic” looks like, and learn what businesses and individuals, including young people, can do to help clean up ocean pollution.

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Engineering a cooler climate
Science

Geoengineering Combats Global Warming

Scientists say it’s nearly certain that human activity and fossil fuels are warming the planet. The mainstream discussion focuses on alternative energy and reducing fossil fuel emissions. But the field of geoengineering is looking for more large scale and proactive things we can do to offset warming. Some see this as an exciting way to help the planet, others as a threat. Listen to learn about the strategies geoengineers are exploring to prevent further global warming.

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Geology through sound
Science

Geological Data about Climate Change Turns into Music Through Sound

A geologist has turned decades worth of data into music. He created a multitrack sequencer for data instead of music. The data and music show a tight correlation between the amount of carbon dioxide and the amount of ice on the earth. Listen to hear what climate change sounds like and how it is helping scientists understand how humans affect our climate.

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Giant squid eyes
Science

Giant Squid Eyes

Scientists have wondered why giant squid and colossal squid have such enormous eyes. Their eyes are the size of basketballs. Their thinking about this question has been hampered by the rarity of these animals and the difficulty of preserving eye specimens. Using some clever techniques and luck, researchers have been able to measure the size of giant squid eyes. This has led to an interesting hypothesis about why their eyes are so enormous.

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Gravity and the curveball
Science

Gravity and the Curveball

Throwing a curveball is one of the most difficult pitches in baseball. Bill Lee, a former pitcher for the Red Sox, explains how important it is to consider physics when trying to throw a curveball. Listen to learn how objects travel through space and how gravity affects a curveball.

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Beyond our solar system
Science

Gravity Helps Detect a New Planet in Neighboring Solar System

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.

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Fighting gravity
Science

Gravity's Strong Pull is Actually a Weak Force

Even though it is the weakest of all forces, gravity is why we exist. Gravity keeps the earth, moon, and sun in orbit. It keeps us on the ground instead of floating in space. Listen to hear how gravity affects the velocity in rockets, the shapes of planets, the trajectories of baseballs, and even the strength of the human leg bones.

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Seed diversity
Science

Heirloom Seeds Bring Back Diversity

Heirloom seeds are more than 50 years old and are not genetically modified. Jere Gettle, author of "The Heirloom Life Gardener," is particularly fascinated by heirloom seeds and he noticed they were being dropped by seed catalogs in the 1980s. The plants they produce are typically different from what we see in the grocery store. Listen to learn more about Gettle’s fight to bring heirloom plants back to our dinner tables.

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Science

Henrietta Lacks and Patient Privacy

Cells are used in research to make scientific discoveries. A certain set of cells are among the most widely used in biomedical research worldwide. These HeLa cells have been used to research almost every disease and have played an important role in many scientific breakthroughs including the development of the polio vaccine. The cells come from a woman named Henrietta Lacks who has been mentioned in more than 70,000 published scientific papers. Listen to hear more about how these cells are used and the issues of privacy with her family.

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Grand canyons age
Science

How Old is the Grand Canyon?

The Grand Canyon has amazed visitors and scientist alike since it was discovered. The debate over what created this geologic wonder has been reignited in recent years. Is the Grand Canyon 6 million years old or 70 million? Listen to learn more about this debate between two geologists who have very opposing viewpoints.

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Science

How Snow Is Made

The phrase “no two snowflakes are alike” is actually scientifically accurate. Snow forms high in the atmosphere, and despite its uniform appearance, each snowflake is different based upon where and how it was formed. Although snowflakes are non-living, they grow and change from the time they are formed to the time they reach the ground. Listen to learn how snow is formed and why it exists in some places but not others.

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Dictionary
Science

How We Learn Language

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.

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Humans impact on climate change
Science

Human Impact on Climate Change

A United Nations report in 2014 shows that human activities are changing the planet. The scientists are more confident in their conclusions that humans are causing global warming. There are rising sea levels, higher temperatures and impacts on wildlife. This conversation with a public radio reporter looks at the long term trend in global temperatures and what humans can do to reverse the trend.

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Science

Ice Age Evolution of Rhinos

The Tibetan Plateau is one of the highest and coldest places on Earth. Many of the world’s tallest mountains, including Mt. Everest, is on the Tibetan Plateau. For millions of years, animals living in this region have needed to adapt to extremely cold temperatures. When an ice age took over Europe and Asia about 2.5 million years ago, this adaptation may have given animals living on the plateau an evolutionary advantage. Listen to hear about the discovery of the woolly rhino on this plateau and the new theories resulting from the discovery.

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Energy in the future
Science

Improving Battery Storage

Energy and how it converts to power is a never-ending exploration for scientists. The most significant issue concerning energy right now is how to store it, especially for long periods of time. It's possible to get solar energy from the sun, but what happens to the energy when it's not a sunny day? There's also the problem of having enough space to hold all of this energy. Listen to learn how scientists are trying to figure out how energy can be stored long-term to power the things we use every day.

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Energy of ecosystems
Science

Industrial Scale Composting

Students in Bellingham, Washington, pushed to introduce composting programs at their high schools and these programs have proved successful. This story follows food from the school cafeteria to the compost site where microorganisms transform it to home gardens and nurseries where compost is applied as fertilizer and mulch. Listen to hear from an insider's view of an industrial scale composting site and how we can learn how to compost.

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Interstellar travel
Science

Interstellar Travel on Voyager I

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.

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The cells mystery
Science

Inventor of Polarizing Microscope Sheds Light on Cell's Mystery

A new way of looking at live cells is revolutionizing our understanding of how molecular life works. However, it is how how one scientist managed to complete his study despite facing World War II in Japan that makes his discovery so intriguing. By using an old machine gun, Shinya Inoue made a microscope that enabled him to start to see how a cell divides. Listen to learn how Inoue finished his microscope and why it is so important to the science community.

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Japanese knotweeds strange superpowers
Science

Japanese Knotweed's Invasive Superpowers

Even beautiful plants can sometimes be detrimental to the environment. This public radio story takes place in Michigan where the sale of Japanese knotweed has been outlawed following unchecked growth of the large ornamental plant. Japanese knotweed is fast-growing, aggressive and hard to control. It can destroy pavement and even houses and it is unlikely to be eradicated any time soon.

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Jeffersons gardens
Science

Jefferson's Gardens Display a Diverse Ecosystem

Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden at Monticello contains over 300 varieties of more than 90 different plants, demonstrating the diversity of Earth’s ecosystem. The former President and founding father prided himself on his diversified and rare collection of plants. And he never failed to record his gardening achievements in his famed “garden book”. Listen to learn more about the history of Jefferson’s garden and it’s current state following restoration.

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Killer whales
Science

Killer Whales Echolocate Loudly

Biologists studying killer whales face the challenge of studying organisms that spend a majority of their time underwater. From extensive research, scientists have learned that killer whales have adapted their sounds to help them catch prey. Scientists are looking to do more research, but it's difficult to find the whales in the first place. Listen to learn more about the methods scientists use to understand killer whale noises.

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Science

Learning to Garden and Cook in School

Many schools now have gardens where students grow and harvest food that they cook themselves in class. The “Let's Move Initiative,” a program created by former First Lady Michelle Obama in 2010, has generated awareness about school gardens and teaching cooking skills that enable students to learn about healthy lifestyle habits in an effort to fight the national obesity epidemic. Listen to learn more about how a gardening and cooking project at a school in Maine is a rewarding way to learn about nutrition and healthy lifestyle skills through hands-on class activities.

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Losing weight while you sleep
Science

Losing Weight While You Sleep

People lose weight when sleeping, and much of that weight loss comes from merely breathing. Through a process of matter being recycled along with sweating while sleeping, people lose weight. However, the atoms and molecules involved are so small that it is hard to believe they are so powerful in this process. Listen to learn how this cycle works.

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Mice morphing at warp speed
Science

Mice Evolving at Warp Speed

Changes to a neighborhood park in Illinois have affected the Northern White-Footed mice who live in the forest nearby. Scientists who study living mice today compare them to museum samples of dead mice to understand how they've changed and why. What they are finding is that the mice are growing much faster than their ancestors. Listen to learn why the mice are changing and why no one picked up on it sooner.

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Genetics
Science

Microbes are Still a Mystery to Scientists and the Diversity of Life

The study of genes is moving toward a new frontier. There is a new field studying microorganisms which exist in living organisms. Microbes control every process on earth, and a human is made up of 90% bacteria. However, we know very little about these microbes. There is now a newer, more efficient way, to study this bacteria. From this scientists can discover new species and genes. Listen to learn how the study of microorganisms became so important.

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Somethings in the water hole
Science

Microbes in the Water Hole

While popular swimming holes are commonly tested for bacteria, few are tested for protozoans. Protozoan-caused illnesses can cause problems for swimmers in rivers, lakes, and ponds. Listen to learn how we can distinguish between the different types of microbes and how this introduces the classification of microorganisms.

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Dinoflagellates
Science

Microscopic Marine Organisms Can be Beautiful and Deadly

Dinoflagellates are tiny marine microbes that make up the foundation of the aquatic ecosystems. They often go unnoticed because of how small they are, but any seafood you've eaten has eaten a dinoflagellate. A theater group has developed a musical centered around dinoflagellates and through song and dance reveal a lot that is unknown about the sea creature. Listen to learn from the musical numbers and find out how dinoflagellates have the potential to be more dangerous than sharks.

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Mosquitoes and raindrops
Science

Mosquitoes and Raindrops

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.

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Nature vs nurture
Science

Nature vs. Nurture

Scientists are trying to settle the age-old question of nature versus nurture. To test it out, scientists experiment on ducks to help determine whether animals are born with no knowledge of the world and only learn things from experience, or whether they emerge with some knowledge already intact. Listen to hear how the experiment is done and what it can tell us about nature versus nurture.

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Science

Neanderthal Genes Live in Our Hair and Skin

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.

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New planet
Science

New Planet on the Edge of Our Solar System

In 2014, astronomers discovered a new dwarf planet on the edge of our solar system. This discovery has changed scientists’ understanding of what exists in the solar system beyond the more well known dwarf planet, Pluto. The new planet is a pink ball of ice, and scientists believe there could be an unseen and undiscovered planet larger than Earth in the far reaches of our solar system.

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Quieting the ocean
Science

Noises in the Ocean Threaten Marine Animals

Human behavior continues to have an effect on marine life under the water. This story highlights how humans make the ocean so noisy. Scientists are worried that the noise is causing a disruption to animals and threatening their existence. Listen to learn what humans are doing and what can be changed.

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Coral bleaching
Science

Ocean Warming is Forcing Coral Reefs to Adapt

Oceans around the world see declines in healthy reefs. The increase in ocean temperatures due to global warming is one of the factors that cause this deterioration. Part of the coral reefs are endangered, but some corals are still thriving despite the increase in ocean temperature. Listen to learn who relies on coral reefs and what would happen if they completely deteriorated.

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Oetzi the iceman portrait
Science

Otzi the Ice Man

In 1991, hikers discovered a corpse frozen in the Alps. Investigators discovered that the body was 5,300 years old and had been so well-preserved in the ice that it served as a time capsule from the early Copper Age. They named the natural mummy Otzi after the region where he was found. Scientists have examined Otzi’s body and his belongings, which were surprisingly intact, and learned a great deal about his origins, diet, health, and lifestyle. Listen to learn what scientists have discovered about Otzi and his life in the mountains thousands of years ago.

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Overfishing and bluefin tuna
Science

Overfishing and Bluefin Tuna

There is debate whether fish like the bluefin tuna are going to go extinct. Some argue that the decline in bluefin results from excessive fishing. However, long time bluefin fishers like Eric Stewart, disagree with this stance as he sees an increasing population of bluefin. Listen to hear from both sides, and how one bluefin tuna can swim across the entire ocean.

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Before the black death
Science

Plague Before the Black Death Led to Fall of Roman Empire

Scientists have now figured out the genetic code to one of the oldest known plagues. Eight hundred years before the Black Death struck in 1347, there was another plague that occurred in Europe in the 6th century CE. Scientists have now figured out the genetic code to the oldest known epidemic and discovered that the “Justinian plague” was the first outbreak of bubonic plague. Listen to hear about how a farmland gave scientists answers to centuries worth of questions.

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