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Science Lessons


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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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

How is energy produced? This public radio story explores the relationships between energy and power. It looks at how energy is stored in batteries. Scientists are still working on how to best contain energy to store for later.

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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 proved successful. This public radio story also gives an insider's view of industrial scale composting from multiple perspectives. It follows food from the school cafeteria to the compost site where it is transformed by microorganisms and eventually to home gardens and nurseries where compost is applied as fertilizer and mulch.

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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

Meet a legend of the cell biology world! This public radio story is a profile of the scientist who invented a way of looking at live cells that revolutionized our understanding of how molecular life works. In learning about him and his work, you learn about how cells work.

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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

Have you ever heard a killer whale? Biologists studying killer whales face the challenge of studying organisms that spend a majority of their time underwater. This public radio story goes underwater to hear what whales sound like and looks at the reasons scientists are willing to work so hard to study them. In addition, the story explores the adaptations that different populations of killer whales have evolved to capture prey.

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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

You are losing weight, just by breathing! This public radio story describes how people lose weight when sleeping, and that much of that lost weight comes simply from breathing. You will learn how matter is recycled and how everyone contains atoms from historical figures. The story also helps you visualize just how small and numerous atoms and molecules are.

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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. In this audio story, you'll hear from a scientist who is studying living mice today and comparing 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 more about their fascinating story.

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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 the little known field of microorganisms. Microbes run every process on earth. And a human is made up of 90% bacteria, or microorganisms. And yet we know very little about microbes. This public radio story looks closely at the microscopic microbes.

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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. This audio story discusses the problem of protozoan-caused illnesses for swimmers in rivers, lakes and ponds. The story distinguishes between different types of microbes, and is an excellent introduction to classification of microorganisms and/or classification in general.

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Dinoflagellates
Science

Microscopic Marine Organisms Can be Beautiful and Deadly

Dinoflagellates (tiny marine microbes) are extremely common and important for aquatic ecosystems. This public radio story introduces the world of dinoflagellates in a very creative way – through song and a show production! You will learn that dioflagellates can be beautiful if they are involved in bio luminescence but they can also be deadly, when they are involved in red tide.

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Mosquitoes and raindrops
Science

Mosquitoes and Raindrops

Have you every wondered how mosquitoes survive a rainstorm? The mosquitoes receive a pelting as if, on a human scale we were being hit with huge boulders! This public radio story describes the different experiments the researchers tried and how they discovered the secret to mosquitoes’ survival. Turns out… it’s all physics! This is a great example of the physics concepts of momentum and impulse.

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Nature vs nurture
Science

Nature vs. Nurture

Scientists are trying to settle the age of question of nature versus nurture. This audio story is about a science experiment on ducks to determine whether animals are born with no knowledge of the world and only learn things form experience, or whether they emerge with some knowledge already intact. Listen to hear more about this experiment.

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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

Oceans have become very loud because of humans. In this public radio story you'll hear some of the things that make the ocean so noisy. Scientists are worried all that noise is hurting marine life. They want to find ways to quiet down the ocean and study what the noise means for marine mammals.

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Coral bleaching
Science

Ocean Warming is Forcing Coral Reefs to Adapt

Oceans around the world are seeing declines in healthy reefs. The changes are caused by many factors, including the increase in ocean temperatures due to global warming. This public radio story is about coral reefs that are endangered. But some corals are thriving despite the increase in ocean temperature.

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Overfishing and bluefin tuna
Science

Overfishing and Blue Fin Tuna

This public radio story takes you on a boat for some blue fin tuna tagging and fishing. It’s action packed but also filled with scientific data about the status of blue fin in our oceans.

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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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Plague threatens ecosystem
Science

Plague in Wildlife Threatens Ecosystem

Infectious diseases like plague don’t just impact humans, they can spread and decimate animal populations as well. One scientist saw the impact of plague in prairie dog colonies and among black footed ferrets. He questioned whether the scientific understanding of plague cycles and transmission was accurate. Listen to learn what scientists discovered about plague and its larger impact on ecosystems.

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Science

Pollution from Industrial Revolution Thought to Melt Glaciers

The glaciers in the European Alps started melting rapidly in the 1860s. But that didn’t correspond with the warming of the European climate at the end of what is known as the Little Ice Age. That warming didn’t occur until the 1910s. To understand the causes of the glacial melt, scientists considered the possible impact of the Industrial Revolution, which began in the 1840s. The recent melting in the Rocky Mountains of America could be caused by the same reasons. Listen to this story to learn about the theory that dust and soot are contributing to how quickly glaciers are melting.

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Cells role in cancer
Science

Preventing Cancer at a Cellular Level

More money is spent on treating cancer than preventing it within the United States. However, scientists are getting closer to finding out if cell growth within our bodies promotes already existing cancer. Scientists are examining microscopic cells to test if certain spices and foods affect the reduction of cell growth. Listen to learn about the budget behind cancer research and how human behavior can increase the chance of cancer.

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Shredding cars
Science

Recyling Old Cars

The "cash for clunkers" program was a limited federal government program in the U.S. that gave people credits to trade in their old, gas guzzling, polluting cars for newer ones. The goal was to get older cars off the road to improve pollution. In this audio story we hear how these old cars are shredded and transformed into scrap metal. Because the “cash for clunkers” program did not allow the re-sale of old car engines, junkyards were forced to turn the cars into scrap metal.

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Fracking and earthquakes
Science

Research Shows Fracking Causes Earthquakes

Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is the process of putting liquid into shale to remove natural gas. There's concern that waste water from fracking that is put back into the ground is causing earthquakes. This public radio story explores the relationship between fracking and earthquakes.

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Island nations in peril
Science

Rising Oceans put Island Nations in Peril

As the ocean rises, some island nations might actually disappear. This audio story considers the plight of island nations at risk of slipping under water as sea levels rise. The political, economic and personal consequences are considered as you hear what could be done to prevent catastrophic changes in our geography.

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Sea slug animal or plant
Science

Sea Slug: Animal or Plant?

The little green sea slug is a puzzle to scientist because it can live in fresh water. Scientists discover the sea slug uses photosynthesis like a plant and has the DNA of a slug and algae.This audio story raises the question of whether the sea slug is an animal or a plant.

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Shark survival
Science

Shark Embryos Fight for Survival

As plants and animals reproduce over time, they are able to change and adapt to ensure or improve their chances of survival. The evolutionary goal of reproduction is paired with the concept of natural selection and survival of the fittest to determine who will reproduce. From colorful plumage to size, different species use different strategies to ensure reproduction and mate selection. The sand tiger shark has a unique strategy to ensure successful reproduction - and it depends on the timing of mating. Listen to learn more about the ultimate sibling rivalry while in the womb.

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Ocean acidification
Science

Shellfish on your Dinner Plate Threatened by Ocean Acidification

The increasing acidity of the oceans could eventually affect your dinner plate. This public radio story begins in a factory where workers are shucking shellfish. It looks at a shellfish producer and how the company has had a hard time producing juvenile oysters or “seed” because of the increase of CO2 in the ocean. The story examines the impact of ocean acidification on the seafood we eat.

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Spotted dolphins and spinner dolphins
Science

Spotted Dolphins and Spinner Dolphins

Spotted dolphins and spinner dolphins are often found living with tuna. When people started using large nets to capture tuna in the 1960s, many dolphins were killed as well. Scientists responded by sending “observers” on tuna boats to keep track of the number of dolphins killed. Scientists store samples of different parts of dolphins collected from dolphins killed by the tuna nets. In this public radio story you hear from a scientist who is studying these tissues to try to learn more about these dolphins in order to help preserve dolphin populations.

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Biodiversity in apples
Science

Stores Lack Biodiversity in Apples

The apples we are used to seeing in the supermarket are the same basic size and shape and they have familiar flavor profiles. But there are more apple varieties than you might imagine. There's a whole world of biodiversity in apples, but these apples don’t make it to the supermarket. Listen to learn more about America’s history with apples and the apple Renaissance taking place today!

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Solar energy
Science

Supply and Demand of Solar Energy

To lower dependency on fossil fuels, some Americans have installed solar panels on their homes to produce their own clean energy. This decision involves a cost-benefit analysis of cost value and environmental impact. In some regions this cost-benefit ratio has been upset by fracking, and the cheap natural gas that it produces. How does supply and demand impact the cost of energy? How does the cost of energy impact people seeking alternatives such as solar energy? Listen to learn how one family has dealt is dealing with this shifting energy landscape.

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Science

The Center of the Earth

There is no natural hole to the center of the planet Earth, so seeing what is in the center is difficult. University of Miami professor Ta-Shana Taylor talks about what is deep into the center of the Earth. Scientists haven’t ever drilled deeper than 2,000 feet into the Earth’s crust. Seismographs are used to measure earthquakes, which send waves of motion through the earth’s crust. Listen to hear about how scientists have tried to discover what is in the center of our planet.

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