Science Friday

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Synopsis

Brain fun for curious people.

Episodes

  • Piano AI, Giraffes, Alzheimer’s, Mime Psychology. April 9, 2021, Part 2

    Piano AI, Giraffes, Alzheimer’s, Mime Psychology. April 9, 2021, Part 2

    09/04/2021 Duration: 47min

    New AI Composes Songs From Silent Performance Videos There have been many awkward attempts in the quest to train algorithms to do what humans can. Music is a prime example. It turns out that the process of turning the individual notes of a composed piece into a fully expressive performance—complete with changes in loudness and mood—is not easy to automate.  But a team at the University of Washington has been closing in on a way to get close, in research they presented at a machine learning conference late last year. Their AI tool called “Audeo,” combining the words “audio” and “video,” watches a silent video of a piano performance. Then, using only the visual information, Audeo produces music with the expressiveness and interpretative idiosyncrasies of the musician it just watched.  Producer Christie Taylor talks to lead author Eli Shlizerman about how one trains an algorithm to make art, and how such tools could help make music both more accessible, and easier to engage with. A Daring Rescue Highlights Gira

  • Future For Long COVID Patients, Getting COVID Info To Sihk Truckers. April 9, 2021, Part 1

    Future For Long COVID Patients, Getting COVID Info To Sihk Truckers. April 9, 2021, Part 1

    09/04/2021 Duration: 47min

    What Does The Future Look Like For COVID-19 Long-Haulers? There’s something strange happening with some people who’ve gotten sick with COVID-19: Somewhere between 10 and 30% of people who are infected are stuck with long-lasting effects and complications.   People dealing with long-term symptoms after a coronavirus infection are known as COVID long-haulers, and as the pandemic gets longer, their numbers grow. Long-haul COVID is still a mystery in a lot of ways, but work is being done to understand it better. Joining Ira to talk about the various effects of Long COVID and its possible treatments are Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and David Putrino, director of Rehabilitation Innovation for the Mount Sinai Health System in New York, New York.     Punjabi Sikh Truckers Lack Access To COVID-19 Information The cab of Sunny Grewal’s 18-wheeler is neat and tidy. He’s got bunk beds with red checkere

  • Pollination, Beekeeping How-To, Sunflower Project. April 2, 2021, Part 2

    Pollination, Beekeeping How-To, Sunflower Project. April 2, 2021, Part 2

    02/04/2021 Duration: 46min

    The Buzz Over Non-Bee Pollinators When you think of pollinators, bees are probably the first insect that comes to mind. But there are actually all sorts of insects and animals that contribute to pollination, like moths, beetles and many kinds of flies—from hoverflies to gnats. Pollination biologist Robert Raguso joins SciFri to explain how different pollinators have different ‘personalities,’ with different strategies and roles—and how they are being affected by climate change. So You Wanna Be A Beekeeper? Pollinators are one of our favorite things at Science Friday, and caring for our local bees means caring for the environment. While we can plant native wildflowers for our native wild bees, some pollinator enthusiasts may want to go the next step and care for their own honey bee hive. So how do you get started? Joining Ira to talk about tips for amateur beekeepers are Timothy Paule Jackson and Nicole Lindsey, beekeepers and co-founders of Detroit Hives, an organization that turns vacant lots into honey bee

  • Unexpected Physics, Controlling Cow Methane, Spring Break. April 2, 2021, Part 1

    Unexpected Physics, Controlling Cow Methane, Spring Break. April 2, 2021, Part 1

    02/04/2021 Duration: 46min

    Signs The Standard Model Of Physics May Be Incomplete The pandemic has slowed many projects around the world, but scientists and engineers are nearing completion of a long-planned upgrade and maintenance period at CERN’s massive Large Hadron Collider project in Switzerland. The collider is currently cooling down and testing components, and aiming to start up for its third major run late this year. In the meantime, researchers have had time to sift through the data from previous experiments—and last week, they announced a finding that might indicate new physics at work. The Standard Model of physics describes three of the universe’s fundamental forces, and how subatomic particles interact. One of the things it predicts is how particles decay into other components. Researchers at CERN analyzing particles called b-mesons found signs that their decay may not produce equal quantities of electrons and muons—as would be predicted by the Standard Model. While that discrepancy might not seem like a big deal, it could

  • Spring Climate Effects, Octopus Sleep, Housing and Health. March 26, 2021, Part 2

    Spring Climate Effects, Octopus Sleep, Housing and Health. March 26, 2021, Part 2

    26/03/2021 Duration: 46min

    In New York, Essential Workers Face Eviction If you walk through many towns during this pandemic, you can tell that something is different just by looking at the storefronts. Some businesses have limited hours, others have capacity restrictions. Still other businesses are temporarily closed. Some are gone altogether. The pandemic has also had other financial effects that are harder to see—and often, that financial stress is hitting the same people who are already most likely to have gotten sick. According to a recent analysis of court data, New York City landlords seek evictions nearly four times more often in the neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19 deaths—neighborhoods that also tend to be largely Black and Latino. Areas with high numbers of evictions also tend to be where many of the city’s “essential workers” live—people with public-facing jobs, with limited options for avoiding the risk of infection.  A recent New York Times article dove into the dataset created by the Association for Neighborhood and H

  • Racism And Mental Health, How To Milk Ticks. March 26, 2021, Part 1

    Racism And Mental Health, How To Milk Ticks. March 26, 2021, Part 1

    26/03/2021 Duration: 47min

    The Mental Health Costs Of ‘Everyday’ Racism On March 16, a 21-year-old white man killed six Asian women and two other people in multiple shootings in Atlanta. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asians and Asian-Americans in the U.S. have experienced a rise in racist attacks, which psychologists say are tied to anti-Chinese rhetoric from the former White House administration, as well as others who have scapegoated Asian Americans. The Stop AAPI Hate reporting center was created in March of 2020 to track these events. The project is a collaboration between the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies Department. The center reports that more than 3,700 acts of hate were brought to their attention between their founding and February 28 of this year, including verbal harassment or shunning, physical assault, and civil rights violations. At the same time, people who identify as Asian-American and Pacific Islander (

  • SciFri Extra: The Origin Of The Word Introvert

    SciFri Extra: The Origin Of The Word 'Introvert'

    20/03/2021 Duration: 28min

    Science Diction from Science Friday is back! Their latest episode is all about a recent buzzword: "Introvert."  In 2013, introverts staged their comeback. For decades, they’d been told to get out of their shells and *smile*, while those  showy, gregarious extroverts were held up as the American ideal. But when one author published a kind of introvert’s manifesto, she sparked an introvert pride movement. Since then, the war of the ‘verts has only escalated, with self-identified introverts accusing extroverts of being shallow and incessantly chatty party monsters, and extroverts declaring introverts self-absorbed shut-ins who are just jealous because extroverts are actually happy. (A contention that studies support.) It all feels like a very 21st Century, internet-era drama. But the history of the dubious and divisive introvert-extrovert binary began 100 years ago, when Carl Jung fell out with Sigmund Freud, and tried to make sense of where they’d gone wrong. In the process, Jung coined a couple of new terms, a

  • Greenland Plants, Privacy and Big Data, Rainbows. March 19, 2021, Part 2

    Greenland Plants, Privacy and Big Data, Rainbows. March 19, 2021, Part 2

    19/03/2021 Duration: 48min

    Under A Mile Of Ice, A Climate Clue Scientists studying sediment taken from a core sample of the Greenland ice sheet just 800 miles from the North Pole have found remnants of ancient plants, freeze-dried under more than a mile of ice. Using several different dating techniques, they say the soil, twigs, and leaves date to sometime within the last million years—probably on the order of several hundred thousand years ago—a time when Greenland’s massive ice cap did not exist. The finding that the ice sheet may have been missing so recently in geologic time provides clues to the stability of the ice, and just how sensitive it might be to modern global warming. The samples themselves have an unusual history. In the 1960s, the US Army set out to build a base under the surface of the ice in Greenland. Ostensibly, the outpost, named Camp Century, was to be used for research into polar conditions, and how best to work in them. In reality, the US also hoped to secretly bury nuclear missiles under the ice cap within clos

  • COVID Questions, Introvert Origin. March 19, 2021, Part 1

    COVID Questions, Introvert Origin. March 19, 2021, Part 1

    19/03/2021 Duration: 48min

    Rise In Anti-Asian Violence Is At The Intersection Of Racism And Disease Earlier this week, eight people were killed at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. Six of the victims were Asian-American women. In 2020, reported attacks on Asian-Americans increased by 150% over those reported the previous year in some of the country’s most populous cities, according to data compiled by California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism that was provided to the Voice of America. The attacks came in the midst of a pandemic that has been falsely blamed on China by some politicians, including former President Trump.This isn’t the first time that the Asian-American community has been the victim of racist scapegoating connected to a disease, however. Maggie Koerth, senior science reporter for FiveThirtyEight, joins Ira to discuss some of the other instances, from SARS in 2003 back to the bubonic plague in 1899. They also discuss other coronavirus news, including an update on a debate over the safety of

  • Virtual Disease, Daydreaming, Geoengineering. March 12 2021, Part 2

    Virtual Disease, Daydreaming, Geoengineering. March 12 2021, Part 2

    12/03/2021 Duration: 47min

    Learning From World Of Warcraft’s Virtual Pandemic The widespread infection of roughly four million virtual characters all started with a giant snake demon. In 2005, the massively multiplayer online video game World Of Warcraft introduced a special event raid, where groups of players could team up to fight a giant snake demon named Hakkar the Soulflayer. Hakkar would cast a spell called “Corrupted Blood” on players, which would slowly whittle down their health. The effect of the spell was only supposed to last inside the raid arena—when players returned to the main world of the game, the spell would dissipate. But thanks to a software glitch, that wasn’t the case if the player had a pet companion. When the pets returned to the main world, they started infecting players and non-playable characters with the Corrupted Blood spell. If the player wasn’t powerful enough to heal themselves, they would die and erupt in a fountain of blood before turning into a skeleton. What followed was a virtual pandemic that start

  • Jackson Water Woes, Giant Telescope Mirror, Shark Sex. March 12 2021, Part 1

    Jackson Water Woes, Giant Telescope Mirror, Shark Sex. March 12 2021, Part 1

    12/03/2021 Duration: 46min

    What Went Wrong With Jackson, Mississippi’s Water? Residents of Jackson, Mississippi have been dealing with a water crisis since a storm rolled through town on February 15th. The city’s water system was damaged, leaving thousands of residents without running water at home. People have relied on water distribution sites to get by, and even those who can still use their taps are on boil water notice. Impacted residents are largely low-income, and the limited access to water has raised worries about staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before this fiasco, Jackson’s water system was in need of a change. Boil water advisories were common, and many of the city’s pipes date back to the 1950s. Water service is expected to be restored this week, but getting the taps running again will just be a Band-Aid: A true overhaul would require millions, if not billions of dollars. Mississippi Public Broadcasting reporter Kobee Vance joins guest host John Dankosky to discuss what’s happening in Jackson, and why its in

  • Conversations, Baby Teeth, Tasmanian Tiger. March 5, 2021, Part 2

    Conversations, Baby Teeth, Tasmanian Tiger. March 5, 2021, Part 2

    05/03/2021 Duration: 47min

    When Is It Time To Say Goodbye? Imagine you’re having a conversation with someone. You may get the sense that they have somewhere else to be. Or you might start feeling restless, and use an excuse to cut the conversation short. Sometimes, you feel like you could talk for HOURS. Chances are you’re wrong every time.  In a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Adam Mastroianni and colleagues tried to figure out how good humans are at judging the ideal length of a conversation. They found that both participants agreed a conversation ended at the right time in only 2% of their trials. And the difference between one partner’s desired conversation length and the actual length of a conversation could be as much as 50%—so in a 10 minute conversation, your partner might have wanted to talk to you for as little as 5 minutes, or as much as 15 minutes. SciFri’s Charles Bergquist talks with Mastroianni about these results, and why the “exit ramps” to a conversation are rarely whe

  • Implementing Oregon’s Drug Policy, Wisconsin Wolf Hunt, Johnson  Johnson Vaccine. March 5, 2021, Part 1

    Implementing Oregon’s Drug Policy, Wisconsin Wolf Hunt, Johnson & Johnson Vaccine. March 5, 2021, Part 1

    05/03/2021 Duration: 47min

    Oregon Just Decriminalized Small Amounts of All Drugs. Now What? On February 1, a big experiment began in Oregon: The state has decriminalized small amounts of all drugs, including heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. In the November election, voters passed ballot Measure 110 by a 16-point margin. Now, if you’re caught with one or two grams of what some refer to as “hard drugs”, you won’t be charged. Instead, you’ll either pay a maximum $100 dollar fine, or complete a health assessment within 45 days at an addiction recovery center. This new system for services will be funded through the state’s marijuana tax. But the measure is still controversial, and members of Oregon’s addiction and recovery community are split on if it’s a good idea. So how did we get here? Read and listen to the full story here.     Wisconsin Oversteps in Wolf Hunt One of the final acts of the Trump Administration in late 2020 was to remove the gray wolf from the federal endangered species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offi

  • Texas Storm, NASA Climate Advisor, Mars Sounds. Feb 26, 2021, Part 1

    Texas Storm, NASA Climate Advisor, Mars Sounds. Feb 26, 2021, Part 1

    26/02/2021 Duration: 46min

    Does A Vaccine Help You If You’ve Already Had COVID-19? Vaccines doses have started to rollout and are getting into the arms of people. We know that if you already had COVID-19, you build up antibodies against the virus. So do the vaccines affect you if you’ve already had COVID-19?  Science writer Roxanne Khamsi talks about recent studies showing that a single dose of vaccine could boost immunity for former COVID-19 patients. She also discusses a study that found over 140,000 viral species in the human gut and Elizabeth Ann, the first cloned black-footed ferret. The Aftermath Of Texas’ Winter Storm While power has been mostly restored, journalists report Texans are now facing water shortages, housing damage, and crop losses.  Texas grocery store shelves have begun filling out again. But for the state’s agriculture industry, recovering from the winter storm will take time, and consumers are likely to feel it in their pockets. The historic freeze and power outages brought agriculture across the state to a ha

  • Lucid Dreaming, Sex As A Biological Variable, Parachute Science, Global Vaccine Access. Feb 26, 2021, Part 2

    Lucid Dreaming, Sex As A Biological Variable, Parachute Science, Global Vaccine Access. Feb 26, 2021, Part 2

    26/02/2021 Duration: 46min

    Memory And The Dreaming Mind If you’ve ever stayed up too late studying for a test, you know that sleep impacts memory—you need that precious shut-eye in order to encode and recall all that information. But what is it about sleep that aids memory?  Researchers have pinpointed a specific stage of sleep, REM sleep, as an area of interest for studying memory consolidation. REM, or rapid eye movement sleep, is the same stage in which dreams occur. So researchers at Northwestern University devised a way to communicate with lucid dreamers—people who are aware of their dreams and can control what they do in them—as a way to study how memories get made. Science Friday producer Katie Feather talks with Ken Paller, professor of psychology at Northwestern University to discuss what lucid dream research has taught us about memory. Progress In Considering Sex As A Biological Variable Back in 2013, Charles Hoeffer from the University of Colorado Boulder was studying memory and learning in mice. He was looking at a specifi

  • Tech Unions, Color Perception, Fish Vs Birds. Feb 19, 2021, Part 2

    Tech Unions, Color Perception, Fish Vs Birds. Feb 19, 2021, Part 2

    19/02/2021 Duration: 47min

    Reprogramming Labor In Tech More than 6,000 warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama are midway through voting on whether they should unionize. If the ‘yes’ votes win, it would be unprecedented for the company: The last time a unionization vote was held by Amazon’s United States employees, back in 2014, a group of 30 technicians ultimately voted not to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers. Meanwhile, at Google, a group of more than 800 have recently joined the Alphabet Workers Union, which was formed in early January. The AWU is a minority union, a kind of union that cannot negotiate contracts. But, the union has said, they will still be able to advocate for workers who would be excluded from a traditional union, like the temporary workers, contractors, and vendors who make up more than half of Google’s global workforce. And in the world of app-based gig workers, a debate has been raging for years about whether Uber and Instacart workers are full employees with rights to overti

  • Fauci On Vaccines and Variants, Mummy Mystery, Texas Power Grid Failure. Feb 19, 2021, Part 1

    Fauci On Vaccines and Variants, Mummy Mystery, Texas Power Grid Failure. Feb 19, 2021, Part 1

    19/02/2021 Duration: 47min

    Fauci Says Majority Of U.S. Adults Likely To Be Vaccinated By Late Summer We’re about a month shy of a big anniversary: one year since the World Health Organization officially labeled COVID-19 a pandemic. Since then, a lot has changed—and a lot has not. We have more information than ever about COVID-19, but there are still a lot of unknowns about the illness. While about 40 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of a vaccine, it’s unclear when we can expect to return to a sense of normalcy. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, joins Ira to shed some light on the latest news about variants and vaccines—and the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. He predicts vaccines are likely to be open to all adults starting in May or June. “By the time you get everyone vaccinated who could be vaccinated, that’s going to take several months,” Fauci says. “So it won’t be until the end of the summer.” Fauci and Ira also discuss when it’s ok for families

  • Fish Eye Secrets, Human Genome Project, Science Diction Mesmerize. Feb 12, 2021, Part 2

    Fish Eye Secrets, Human Genome Project, Science Diction 'Mesmerize.' Feb 12, 2021, Part 2

    12/02/2021 Duration: 47min

    Seeing The World Through Salmon Eyes The saying goes, “The eyes are the window to the soul.” But for fish, the eyes are the window to the stomach.  As one California biologist recently learned, the eyes of Chinook salmon are like a tiny diet journal of everything it ate. But to read that journal, you have to peel back the layers of the eye, like it’s the world’s tiniest onion.  Miranda Tilcock, assistant research specialist at the Center for Watershed Science at the University of California, Davis talks to Ira about why she goes to such gooey lengths to understand what these salmon eat.  Two Decades Beyond The First Full Map Of Human DNA In February 2001, the international group of scientists striving to sequence the human genome in its entirety hit a milestone: a draft of the complete sequence was published in the journals Nature and Science. The project took 13 years to complete: In that time, genome sequencing became faster and cheaper, and computational biology ascended as a discipline. It laid the groun

  • The Effectiveness Of Double-Masking, Mars Landing Preview. Feb 12, 2021, Part 1

    The Effectiveness Of Double-Masking, Mars Landing Preview. Feb 12, 2021, Part 1

    12/02/2021 Duration: 46min

    Two Masks Are Better Than One Masks have been a big issue throughout the pandemic, from supply shortages to debates about when they should be required to be used. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out research and guidance on the effectiveness of double masking—wearing one mask over another. Engineer and aerosol scientist Linsey Marr talks about how a face mask traps a virus, the effectiveness of double masking, and other other questions about face masks.   Next Week, A Return To Martian Soil It’s a busy time on Mars. This week, spacecraft from both China and the United Arab Emirates successfully maneuvered into position in Martian orbit. And next week, if all goes according to plan, the Mars 2020 mission will deliver the Perseverance rover to its new home in Jezero Crater on the planet’s surface. Scientists hope to use it there for at least two Mars years, exploring the geology and chemistry of what once was a catch-basin for a river delta on the Red Planet. Lori Glaze, head of t

  • Four Lost Cities, Sourdough Microbiome, Queen Bees, Bison. Feb 5, 2021, Part 2

    Four Lost Cities, Sourdough Microbiome, Queen Bees, Bison. Feb 5, 2021, Part 2

    05/02/2021 Duration: 47min

    National Bison Range Returns To Indigenous Management Hundreds of years ago, tens of millions of bison roamed North America. They were an essential resource and cultural foundation for many Native American tribes. And by 1890, European colonists had hunted them nearly to extinction.  When President Theodore Roosevelt moved to conserve the remaining bison in 1908, he established the National Bison Range, an 18,800-acre reserve that the government took directly from the tribes of the Flathead Reservation—the Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille. The tribes were not invited to help manage the recovery of a bison herd that they had helped save. At times, they were even excluded from the land entirely. For the past several decades, the tribes have been lobbying for the land—and management of its several hundred bison—to be returned. Then, in December 2020, Congress included in its COVID-19 relief package an unrelated bill with bipartisan approval: returning that land to the tribes.  Ira talks to Montana journalist

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