Science Friday

News & Information: Sat • 11am-1pm
  • Hosted by Ira Flatow

Yes, we know it's on Saturday but they wouldn't change the name of the show for us ... we asked.  But we think it's a great program for Saturdays. Covering the outer reaches of space to the tiniest microbes in our bodies, Science Friday is the trusted source for news about science, technology, and other cool stuff. Each week host Ira Flatow mixes it up with people in the know and those who want to be.  It's brain fun, for curious people.

The little-known world of endangered plant poaching

3 hours ago
Becky Fogel

There are plenty of news stories about lions, leopards and elephants being poached, but animals aren’t the only endangered species out there. Rare and protected plants are also harvested by poachers, smuggled across borders and illegally sold online. 

What brainless slime mold can teach us about making better decisions

3 hours ago

There is a mindless, senseless yellow-tinted blob of an organism that lives on the forest floor. It’s called slime mold and even though it lacks a brain, it can be relied upon to make a healthy decision more often than most humans. 

“It lives on the forest floor, and it loves moisture and darkness. And it just meanders around looking for food,” Science Friday video producer Luke Groskin. “It has no eyes, and it can only feel for food. So how does it make a decision? How does that creature decide, ‘Oh, it's time to go over here. It's time to go over there.'”

Randall Munroe’s Thousand-Word Challenge

Nov 28, 2015

Scientists say they have a new cure for hearing loss

Nov 28, 2015
Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

Jay Alan Zimmerman is a successful composer who writes music for movies and musicals. There's something that sets him apart from other composers, however. He's deaf. 

Zimmerman wasn’t always deaf. He came to New York and began his career in music. Over time he realized he had lost quite a bit of hearing at the top of his range. He didn’t realize just how bad his hearing loss was until one day when he was trying to work on a new track. 

This is a microscopic image of MDMA, the psychoactive drug popularly known as ecstasy, or Molly, that “produces feelings of increased energy, euphoria, emotional warmth and empathy toward others, and distortions in sensory and time perception,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The smell inside the warehouse of Nine Pin Ciderworks in Albany, New York, on a recent afternoon was unmistakable: alcohol, with a hint of sweetness.

The aroma wafted from three large plastic vats nearly filled to the brim with the juice of 21,000 pounds of apples recently picked from a nearby orchard. Gurgling loudly, the liquid belched carbon dioxide in a process crucial to turning pure apple juice boozy — fermentation. A gaseous haze hung over the vats at eye level.

The recent attacks in Paris have reopened the debate over whether the government should have expanded abilities to crack open encrypted messages and devices. Two experts, however, say the real problem isn’t lack of government access, but a lack of analysis. 

After the Paris attacks CIA Director John Brennan warned that encryption could hinder security services from tracking potentially dangerous threats. 

Some believers in big data have claimed that, in big data sets, “the numbers speak for themselves.” Or in other words, the more data available to them, the closer machines can get to achieving objectivity in their decision-making. But data researcher Kate Crawford says that’s not always the case. In fact, big data sets can perpetuate the same biases present in our culture, teaching machines to discriminate when scanning resumes or approving loans, for example.

Hard Cider Science

Nov 21, 2015

Can Science Untangle Our Transit Maps?

Nov 21, 2015

Max Roberts, a transit map researcher and lecturer at the University of Essex, has a mild obsession with maps. 

“When I was in my teens I used a huge London bus map to just learn every square inch of London. It's quite a sort of achievement when you're a teenager to go out and explore like that,” Roberts says, “It's turned out to be useful knowledge.” 

Roberts has now moved from memorizing maps to re-designing them. He started, of course, with the London map. 

Eight things spiders can do that you’ve never heard of

Nov 18, 2015
A pair of black widows (Latrodectus hesperus). 

They have eight legs, multiple sets of eyes, and build webs in the corners of your house. But arachnologists Lauren Esposito and Catherine Scott say the bizarre world of spiders goes far beyond anything you’ve ever heard of. Here are eight things spiders can do that you've probably never heard of:

1. Some spiders eat their mates during copulation

Catherine Scott, an arachnologist and doctoral student at the University of Toronto says the redback spider, a species in the genus of black widow spiders, is actively eaten during copulation:

Six things you believe about spiders that are totally false

Nov 18, 2015
photo by Sean McCann

Lauren Esposito regularly milks scorpions. Catherine Scott lets black widows crawl on her. Both of these spider experts love arachnids, and they want you to love them, too.

Here are six myths about spiders they say are totally wrong, and are giving arachnids a bad rap: 

Myth Number 1: Spiders are aggressive

Microscopic Hairs Keep Some Critters Clean

Nov 14, 2015

He documented his own death by snakebite instead of going to the hospital

Nov 10, 2015

In September 1957, someone from the Lincoln Park Zoo brought a young 30-inch snake to the Chicago Natural History Museum. They asked for help identifying the snake. 

Famed herpetologist Karl P. Schmidt was working at the Natural History Museum at the time, and agreed to take a look at the snake. Schmidt was a well-known snake expert, prestigious in his field, adept at identifying snakes and so successful that he even had many species named after him.