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Joe Giron / www.pokerphotoarchive.com

Maria Konnikova, best-selling New York Times author and a regular contributor to The New Yorker, has long been interested in understanding the balance between skill and luck. How much of her life could she take credit for and how much was the luck of her draw? So, she took a year away from work to become a professional poker player. 

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public

Black Americans are more likely to be infected from COVID-19, be incarcerated, live in poverty, and/or be killed by the police than white Americans. It took a pandemic and the killing of George Floyd to crystallize those facts.

a hole
Mike Burns / flickr creative commons

In November, 2016, we did a show about all the problems presented by, well, a-holes. And so it seems only logical to expand our scope a bit and do a show about all the problems presented by, well, a hole.

For instance: How many holes are there in a straw? Did you say one? Okay, cool. Then how many holes are there in a sock? (A relatively new sock, I mean.) You said one again, right? But how can both of those things be true at the same time?

Or, put another way: What happens to the hole in the donut as you eat the donut around it? This gets into mereology, the theory of parthood relations -- for our purposes, the parts and wholes of holes and the wholes the holes are parts of.

Your head hurts a little, right?

Vlad Povorny / Creative Commons

Officials in the Trump Administration last week videotaped both a naturalization ceremony held at the White House and an HUD official's interview with four New York City tenants on housing conditions. They then  played selected parts from each video at the Republican National Convention without the knowledge of the participants. 

The CDC updated testing guidelines last week to say that people who have been exposed to the virus but who don’t have symptoms or underlying risk factors, don't necessarily need to be tested. After public health officials complained that asymptomatic carriers are more likely to spread the virus, we learned that the recommendations came from the White House Coronavirus Task Force.  

zenilorac / flickr creative commons

Numbers are so fundamental to our understanding of the world around us that we maybe tend to think of them as an intrinsic part of the world around us. But they aren't. Humans invented numbers just as much as we invented all of language.

This hour, we look at the anthropological, psychological, and linguistical ramifications of the concept of numbers.

And we look at one philosophical question too: Are numbers even real in the first place?

A diagram of the kidneys from Henry Gray's "Anatomy of the Human Body" (1918)
Henry Gray / Wikimedia Commons

State Representative Jeff Currey is a longtime public servant. Now he’s asking the public to help him. The East Hartford lawmaker is in kidney failure, and he needs a transplant.

This hour, he joins us to talk about kidney donation. We often think of organ donation as something considered after someone’s death, but living donors can give a kidney to a person in need.

Coming up we hear from patients, donors, and medical professionals about this lifesaving transplant.

And we learn about a revolutionary system that pairs matching donors and patients--that allows for multiple kidney transplants. 

Have you considered becoming a kidney donor?

The Food and Drug Administration on Sunday authorized the emergency use of convalescent blood to treat people hospitalized with Covid-19. Sunday's decision comes on the heels of a presidential tweet that may have put pressure on the FDA to authorize it prematurely. We talk about this and more news on Covid. 

Also this hour:  The Republican National Convention begins this week, a few days after former Vice-President Joe Biden accepted the nomination to represent Democrats in November's election. We talk about last week's convention, how this week's convention might play out, and other political news from the weekend.  

Airman 1st Class Daniel Hambor / U.S. Air Force

Businesses have reopened and most schools have come up with plans to see students again, but it’s increasingly clear life won’t truly get back to “normal” until we have a vaccine.

But when will that be? This hour, we get the latest from New York Times science writer Carl Zimmer on the race to develop a COVID vaccine. We hear the status of ongoing vaccine trials and learn more about the research process that ensures a vaccine will be safe and effective.

Cindy Shebley / Creative Commons

The FDA on Saturday authorized emergency use of a rapid and inexpensive saliva test that could increase testing capacity. It’s quick, less expensive, and doesn't need the chemical reagents that are in short supply.

yourgenome / Creative Commons

With the last decade of the twentieth century came the first clinical trials for a biotechnology known as gene therapy. Since then, how far has gene therapy come? And how far has it left to go?

This hour, we consider these and other questions, and we also hear from you. Were you or was someone close to you diagnosed with a genetic disease? What thoughts or questions do you have about gene therapy and its ongoing advancement?

Illustration by Chion Wolf

When you were growing up, you probably heard about famous inventors. Maybe you thought they were brilliant. Rigorously trained. Confident. Capable. And that their inventions advanced humankind through and through.

But Dr. Ainissa Ramirez spent the last 5 years writing a book that strips away those presumptions. In The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another, she paints portraits not of how inventors settled questions of the limits of technology - but of how much further we still have to go.

Carl Zimmer - New York Times columnist and author of 13 books about science, including She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity.
Chion Wolf / WNPR

Inside our genomes, we carry information about our recent ancestors as well as ancient human history. This hour, we talk with science writer Carl Zimmer about his book, She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity. We ask him what our DNA can—and can’t—tell us about where we’re from and who we are.

Colin Gillette, Bradford County, PA

The number of people testing positive for coronavirus continues to rise in many parts of the U.S., with sharp rises in places like Florida, Nevada, Alabama, Texas, and Puerto Rico. Yet, President Trump continues to attribute the rise to more testing -- despite the rise in hospitalizations and deaths -- and he wants to reduce federal aid for more testing, tracing, and for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Also this hour: The ABC News/Washington Post poll released Sunday shows former Vice President Joe Biden leading President Trump by 15 points among registered voters, 55% to 40%. A majority of respondents are not happy with the president's handling of the coronavirus, among other things.

National Human Genome Research Institute / Flickr Creative Commons

Right now the world population is 7.8 billion, and growing fast. We have doubled our population over just the past 50 years!

Even though the population is growing, fertility rates, overall, are dropping. So, more people are here, but we’re having fewer babies. There’s a lot of reasons for that, and one of them is infertility. The CDC estimates that nearly one out of eight couples struggles to conceive, but because of assisted reproductive technology, we’re upping the population numbers in the United States. The CDC reports that almost 2 percent of all U.S. births annually - or about 4 million babies - are here as a result of things like in-vitro-fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, and egg donation.

Pedro Portal / Miami Herald

The number of people being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus is rising in 48 states. We're testing more, but the rate of positive tests, hospitalizations, and in some states, deaths, is also rising.

Sandy Cole / Wikimedia Commons

The Argus Pheasant is a lifelong bachelor. He mates with multiple females but has no further contact with his mates or the baby pheasants he sires. By human terms, not much of a feminist.

Yet, he stages a chivalrous courtship on moonlit nights on a forest stage he clears with meticulous care. He sings and dances and pecks. He encompasses his 'date' in a cape of intricately-colored four-foot-long feathers. He ends with a bow.  

Evolutionarily, there's no purpose for the spectacular feathers on the Argus Pheasant - unless you consider they may have evolved to satisfy the sexual preferences of the female Argus.

images of Giant ground sloth (Megatherium americanum), Moa (Megalapteryx didinus), Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)
Ballista, George Edward Lodge, Michael L. Baird / Wikimedia Commons

What would it have been like to see a huge, elephant-like mastodon roaming our state? 

The earth has been home to some spectacularly large animals. A few of them still roam or swim our world today.

This hour, we take a look at the biology of these giants. 

Dr. Joseph Tagliarini is operating his dental office at nearly full staff and hopes that a new generation COVID test will be developed that will give results on the spot at work or at home.
Steve Hamm / Connecticut Health I-Team

After the COVID-19 crisis came to Connecticut, the New Haven office of Comprehensive Dental Health shut down completely for two weeks. Later, Dr. Joseph Tagliarini began opening the office a few days a week with a skeleton crew to handle emergencies. Now the office is operating at nearly full staffing—with six full-time and six part-time employees.

Joe Giron / www.pokerphotoarchive.com

Maria Konnikova, best-selling New York Times author and a regular contributor to The New Yorker, has long been interested in understanding the balance between skill and luck. How much of her life could she take credit for and how much was the luck of her draw? So, she took a year away from work to become a professional poker player. 

Image Catalog / Creative Commons

Your sex life doesn't have to suffer just because you're cooped up at home every day. Researchers say that sex is a healthy way to calm the anxiety of pandemic, even if you live alone. Virtual dating, masturbation, and coronavirus-related porn are more popular than ever.

David / Creative Commons

There are just over 10 million cases of coronavirus globally and almost 500,000 deaths. U.S. deaths recently rose to 125,000.

Yet, the Trump Administration continues to downplay the seriousness of this pandemic. The White House Coronavirus Task Force met Friday for the first time in two months, with Vice-President Pence acknowledging the surge in several states but insisting, "We're in a much better place," than we were two months ago. 

Chion Wolf / Connecticut Public

Did you know that before the clock was invented, we used to sleep in two installments? Or that the standardization of cameras and film led to racial bias in the production of photographs?

david siu / flickr creative commons

Nobody likes termites. They get into the wood in our homes and can lead to infuriating and expensive repairs. What's to like?

It turns out, there's a lot to like termites. Scientists study how they build their mounds for clues to solving some of the world's most pressing problems, like mitigating the effects of drought, building colonies on Mars, and creating biofuels.

Travis Isaacs / Creative Commons

Humans typically make enough collective noise to keep the earth vibrating at a steady hum. But the pandemic has quieted that hum enough to let seismologists study the vibrations that can be hard to detect in the din of our noise.

Suzanne Proulx / http://www.suzanneproulx.com

Dust is a fascinating substance. Our bodies are always shedding dust from our skin, hair, and nails, leaving little bits of DNA wherever we roam. Dust floats unseen through the air around us. It's light. It's hard to see unless it lands on a contrasting surface or crosses the path of a ray of sunshine. It can travel far and wide.  

Picasa / Google

Scientists say humans don't know how to breathe very well. We don't breathe deep enough, we breathe too much, and we breathe through our mouths instead of our noses. Our bad breathing can lead to conditions that we don't typically associate with the way we breathe, such as asthma.  

Jonathan McNicol / Connecticut Public Radio

No one likes a cloudy sky. A cloud on the horizon is seen as a harbinger of doom. We feel like clouds need to have silver linings.

But here's our thesis: Clouds are unfairly maligned.

Consider this: From almost any vantage point (literally -- any vantage point in the universe), clouds are planet Earth's defining characteristic.

They're what changes, what moves. They're what's going on on our pale blue dot.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

A group of health officials gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss infectious disease learn that forty-seven people at an internment camp in Indonesia have died from acute hemorrhagic fever.

This is how Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright, begins his new novel that in many ways, predicts the pandemic we're currently experiencing. He joins us to talk about it. 

Travis Wise / flickr creative commons

In 2007, journalist Alan Weisman published The World Without Us. It was an international bestseller. The book tries to answer what is ultimately a simple question: What happens to the Earth if human beings disappear? Here's how Weisman puts it in the book: "Say a Homo sapiens-specific virus -- natural or diabolically nano-engineered -- picks us off but leaves everything else intact." Then what?

And over these last few months, we've gotten maybe a fraction of a percentage point there. Temporarily. Maybe not directly because of coronavirus, but indirectly because of our absence and scarceness due to stay-at-home orders and the like. And so... then what?

Gerry Lauzon / Creative Commons

The pandemic has laid bare how racism in housing, education, employment, and access to health care, disproportionately hurts Black Americans more than White Americans and leads to police brutality against people the police are supposed to protect.

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