Science Friday

Friday 2 p.m.
  • Hosted by Ira Flatow

Ira Flatow hosts a weekly talk show about science.

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<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/ginapina/3528146487/">gina pina</a>/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

These days, chicken is a staple of the American diet, but it wasn’t always that way. Before the 1940s, chicken was rarely on the meal table; instead, chicken meat was a byproduct of egg farming — the hens that were done laying eggs.

So, what happened? The secret ingredient, according to journalist Maryn McKenna, was antibiotics. Her new book “Big Chicken” traces the rise of antibiotics in the poultry industry all the way to our current antibiotic crisis.

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<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/pamontgo/8817421670">Andy Montgomery</a>/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>

How do you judge the health of an economy?

The number of new homes is often one good way to tell. But when it comes to ancient Rome, researchers recently discovered another indicator: The city’s early plumbing system. In their findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers describe how ancient Rome’s water pipes tell the story of an empire’s rise — and its struggles.

Why Do Dinosaurs Matter?

Sep 23, 2017

Sleepy Times Under The Sea

Sep 23, 2017

Communities along the upper Mississippi River have seen a major uptick in heavy rains and flooding in the last decade.

Residents, environmentalists, engineers and government agencies agree that they need a coordinated strategy to manage flooding. That could be particularly important in the coming years, as scientists predict that climate change will likely bring more heavy rain to the region.

The idea that people have different styles of learning — that the visually inclined do best by seeing new information, for example, or others by hearing it — has been around since the 1950s, and recent research suggests it’s still widely believed by teachers and laypeople alike. But is there scientific evidence that learning styles exist?

“The short answer is no,” says Daniel Willingham, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Bringing science and engineering stories to life for students

Sep 16, 2017

What does it take to bring science and engineering to life for students?

How about a little news?

That’s the idea behind the Science Friday Educator Collaborative, now in its second year. Seven teachers around the country are designing curiosity-provoking science, technology, engineering and mathematics resources for anyone to use, based on stories from Science Friday.

In July, a new law took effect in Florida, and it concerns what’s in the state’s schoolbooks.

HB 989 allows any Florida resident to “challenge the use or adoption of instructional materials,” and its supporters say the law gives Floridians a greater say in what students are taught. But some in the scientific community worry the new law will be used to target evolution and climate change in classrooms.

How Do We Study Ancient Americans?

Sep 16, 2017

Finding Fossils Under The Sea (Of Kansas)

Sep 16, 2017

When Dung Is What’s For Dinner

Sep 16, 2017

According to current research, teenagers make bad decisions and take too many risks because the prefrontal cortex, the decision-making center, is still developing until around age 25. Now, new research suggests this may not be the case.

Dr. Dan Romer and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania took a look at the research and didn’t see sufficient evidence for the "structural deficit" theory in the literature. Yes, the brain’s not fully developed in teens, they say, but that’s not the problem behind bad decision making.

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Jack Plunkett,&nbsp;Feature Photo Service for IBM/Flickr&nbsp;CC BY-ND 2.0

Artificial intelligence of all kinds is becoming ubiquitous, but its explosive growth comes with big challenges.

Recently, for example, Elon Musk and 116 founders of robotics and AI companies signed a letter to the UN asking the organization to find a way to limit weapons control by autonomous robots.

So, can humans design a safe future living alongside artificial intelligence?

'Knocking on eternity's door' — NASA's Voyager mission turns 40

Sep 10, 2017
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NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Voyager mission celebrates 40 years in space this year, and humanity has much to thank it for.

Voyager brought to Earth the first close-up views of Uranus and Neptune. It revealed "spokes" in the rings of Saturn and details of Jupiter’s storm that had never been seen or even imagined. It imaged Io’s volcanic plumes and found the potential for life on the moons Enceladus and Titan.

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<a href="https://cascade.uoregon.edu/spring2014/natural-sciences/better-living-through-microbes/">cascade.uoregon.edu</a>

In the past decade, the microbiome of the human gut — the trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi living inside of us that may influence our health and happiness — has become a widely discussed area of research. Less well-known is the world of microbes outside our bodies — the microbiomes of where we live and work.

These microbes live with us, sleep with us, shower with us and eat with us in our offices and homes, and scientists know relatively little about them.

An entirely renewable energy future is possible, a new study says

Sep 9, 2017
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Courtesy of the US Department of the Interior

A new study finds that countries around the world could shift their economies entirely to renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and hydroelectric, by the year 2050.

The researchers map out the blend of energy sources that each of 139 countries would need to completely switch their energy to electric power. The report was first published in the journal Joule.

Peeking Under The Skin Of Aging Aircraft

Sep 9, 2017

Bad Plumbing? There Goes The Empire

Sep 9, 2017

'13 Reasons Why' suicide controversy continues

Sep 6, 2017

When the Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" debuted last spring, it sparked widespread discussion about how TV and movies should handle the issue of teen suicide. Now that the show is scheduled to begin its second season in 2018, the controversy will likely continue.

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<a href="https://pixabay.com/en/medical-tablets-pills-drug-1572986/">WerbeFabrik</a>/<a href="https://pixabay.com/en/service/terms/#usage">CC0</a>. Image cropped.

When it comes to getting new drugs on the market, testing and clinical trials can take years — but patients with rare or life-threatening illnesses don’t always have that long to wait.

To treat these patients, the Food and Drug Administration accelerates approval of some promising drugs, letting them onto the market based on physical indicators and lab measurements. But afterward, manufacturers must conduct post-approval clinical trials to confirm the drugs’ safety and efficacy.

From day one of the Oroville spillway crisis in February, the California Department of Water Resources has never wavered in its declarations that, despite the disintegration of the massive concrete flood control outlet — and a near-disaster caused by uncontrolled emergency reservoir flows down a rapidly eroding hillside — the stability of the massive dam itself was not and has never been threatened.

What the aye-aye and the woodpecker can tell us about how evolution works

Sep 3, 2017

Is the evolution of particular traits predictable or random? Or put it this way: If we rewound the tape on Earth’s history and started life over again from the very beginning, would the same animals — even humans — still emerge?

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