science

Dr. Mike Baxter/Wikimedia

Maybe you've taken one of those DNA tests that tells you where your ancestors lived.  They can contain a few surprises... for individuals, and for humans as a species. 

The science of genomics is ripping up some assumptions about the upright inhabitants of the Earth, and where they've lived and loved. 

Adam Rutherford explains in his book A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

Well, this was predictable... after all the experiments with people in real time or "functional" MRI scanners (fMRI), somebody got a dog in there.  And a few other animals as well. 

Snicker if you must, but we now know more about what goes on in the brains of animals. 

And it's pretty fascinating stuff, giving us clues to the mind functions of individual animals. 

Gregory Berns lays out the findings in the book  What It's Like to Be a Dog: And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience

sharmanaptrussell.com

"Leave the science to the scientists," you may have heard.  But did you stop and think how many people are scientists? 

Not enough to research all of the interesting things about the world and the universe around us.  So to fill in the gaps, we need some amateurs in the field. 

Amateurs like Sharman Apt Russell, who knows more about tiger beetles than many scientists. 

She wrote Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World and joined us on the Exchange last year. 

Thomas Quine, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51708455

Star Trek did it.  Superman did it.  Even Woody Allen traveled through time in one of his movies (bonus points for knowing which one).  In short, we've been talking about traveling through time for a very long time. 

James Gleick, who writes about science and its practitioners, travels back in time to the origins of people thinking and writing about time travel. 

It's all on the table, from Jules Verne to the present day, from art to science to philosophy, in Gleick's book Time Travel: A History

It includes an examination of what the author calls the porous boundary between science fiction and modern physics. 

The Kind Of Light You CAN'T See

Aug 25, 2017
Wikimedia

Let's talk about light.  You know, flip the switch and the room gets brighter? 

But light is a much broader category than what we can perceive with our eyes.  And science writer Bob Berman reminds us about all the kinds of light we can't see in his book Zapped: From Infrared to X-rays, the Curious History of Invisible Light

Alena Kravchenko/Wikimedia

Regardless of your feelings, it is safe to say that the Trump administration takes a very different approach to science and the environment from the Obama administration.  Science has noticed. 

And so has the legal profession.  Professor Dan Rohlf at the Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland is one of several authors of a paper on how to defend science, specifically conservation science, against political attack. 

Wikimedia

"All science is either physics or stamp collecting," said Lord Rutherford, the nuclear physicist. 

A little harsh, perhaps, but Raghu Parthasarathy can probably relate.  Parthasarathy is a physicist at the University of Oregon whose work crosses over into biology, chemistry and neuroscience. 

His work includes researching the microbiome of the gut, which influences a person's overall health. 

contrailscience.com

This is our attempt at doing a Show About Nothing. Sam Kean's new book is about -- air. 

In Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us, New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean takes us on a journey through the periodic table, around the globe, and across time to tell the story of the air we breathe, which, it turns out, is also the story of earth and our existence on it. 

The author joined us for memorable chats about his previous books The Disappearing Spoon and The Violinist's Thumb

Penguin Random House

Isn't nature wonderful in how it allows creatures to adapt to their surroundings? 

Well, yeah, unless you're the creature who ends up host to a parasite or something else that wrecks your life. 

Examples abound, and WIRED science writer Matt Simon serves them up in gruesome detail in his book The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar: Evolution’s Most Unbelievable Solutions to Life’s Biggest Problems.

Ujjwal Kumar, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7406916

There's a level of curiosity about dangerous things, especially for kids. 

Like "what would happen if you went outside a spaceship without a suit?" 

Those are the very kinds of questions Cody Cassidy and Paul Doherty answer in their book And Then You're Dead.

It's not as macabre as it may sound, and there's no danger in reading the book itself.  We think. 

Wikimedia

Quick, what do you think is the greatest invention ever?  Wait... before you answer, we offer an alternative question: what is the WORST invention ever?  That might be a little harder, but it turns out there's stiff competition for that list. 

Think of some of science's stumbles, like frontal lobotomies, chemical warfare, and margarine.  Margarine?  Not good for the heart. 

Pediatrician/author Paul Offit narrows the list in his book Pandora's Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong

ESO, http://www.eso.org/public/images/ann13075a

We grew up thinking about people living on other planets, thanks to the likes of Superman and Star Wars. 

But planets outside of our solar system (and outside science fiction) were really just a theory until the 1990s.  That's when telescopes and other detectors improved enough to find the first true "exoplanets." 

Now we know of thousands of them, and an overview is provided in Exoplanets: Diamond Worlds, Super Earths, Pulsar Planets, and the New Search for Life beyond Our Solar System

Serving Up A Look At Cannibalism

Feb 24, 2017
Gerald Schmitt/Wikimedia

Certain words in the English language come with an "ick factor" attached.  One of those is: cannibalism. 

It's just not something we like to think about, at least for our species: eating others of our own kind (except in zombie movies). 

But cannibalism is not unusual in nature, and may actually serve a purpose. 

Zoologist Bill Schutt explains in his book Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History.  He gives us the whole picture, from smaller organisms up to the Donner party. 

The Ethics Of Making A New Universe In A Lab

Feb 17, 2017

We know a few things about the birth of the universe.  Do we know enough to recreate the process? 

The question alone provokes thought.  But scientists have been pondering it for a while now, convinced that they could create small universes in laboratories. 

A Big Bang in a Little Room by Zeeya Merali considers both physical and ethical obstacles to lab-created "baby universes." 

Best of 2016: Face Mites (urp)

Dec 27, 2016
USDA

It's not just that our region is full of interesting people. 

There are plenty of non-human living things to make the place unique and exciting. 

Some of them are too small to see, like face mites.  Yes, the name indicates where they live. 

Could A Worm Show Humans How To Regenerate?

Dec 13, 2016
University of Washington

Compared to some other animals, humans have it rough. 

When we lose a body part, it does not grow back.  We've dreamed of regeneration for as long as we could dream. 

There IS a glimmer of hope, and it comes from a worm.  See, the worm that has most in common with people CAN grow back severed parts. 

Our Creature Feature takes up the topic with Dr. Billie Swalla at the University of Washington. 

The answer to the question "where did that come from?" is easy for some situations.

It's infinitely harder to answer when it is directed to the universe.  The WHOLE universe. 

Lawrence Krauss does not shrink from the task.  He is a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University, pondering the major questions of our existence.  But he also compares real-universe physics with the kind we see in Star Trek movies. 

And he is a visitor to Southern Oregon University, part of the campus theme of "Shapes of Curiosity." 

Nature's Way, Warts And All

Nov 2, 2016
Penguin Random House

Living things will go to amazing lengths to find meals, mates, and places to sleep.  And that's not just humans in college. 

Matt Simon, a science writer at WIRED, collects some fascinating and often gruesome tales of how creatures in the natural world go about getting the things they need. 

Simon's book is The Wasp That Brainwashed The Caterpillar.  Yeah, that one's pretty gross. 

Welcome, Solar Eclipse!

Oct 27, 2016
Public Domain/Wikimedia

We don't think of solar eclipses as punishment from angry deities anymore. 

Good thing, too: the United States will see its first total eclipse in decades next year, in August.  Parts of Oregon will see the moon completely block the sun.

Tyler Nordgren is more than ready, with a new book called Sun Moon Earth.  Nordgren, an astronomer, artist, and "night sky ambassador," is enthusiastic about this and all solar eclipses.

cUriOus: Things That Go Bump

Oct 9, 2016
University of Oregon

Stephanie Majewski likes it when things bump into each other. 

Which is a huge OVER-simplification of her work in the field of physics at the University of Oregon. 

But it IS true that she learns a lot from atoms crashing into each other, especially at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland. 

Dr. Majewski's work is the topic of this month's installment of "cUriOus: Research Meets Radio." 

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