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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.

Nik Anderson / Creative Commons

The U.S. is on track to reach 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 this week. Yet, most states began reopening last week using data that may be undercounting how many people are currently infected. 

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

Who would have guessed a face mask would become the latest cultural symbol of our identity, one more way to express our politics, our sense of style, and our deepest beliefs in what it means to be American.

GIUSEPPE MILO / flickr creative commons

Nyctophiliacs rejoice! The color you know and love (black) is now blacker than ever before. And never mind that black is not technically a color. The point is that as you were traipsing through graveyards and reveling under the night sky, scientists were busy inventing two new shades which are so dark they'd make Wednesday Adams reach for a flashlight.

Heather Hazzam / Wikimedia Commons

Connecticut will reopen some businesses on May 20, as coronavirus-related hospitalizations continue to decrease.

This may be good news for business owners and unemployed workers, and for those looking for a glimmer of light at the end of a long tunnel.

It may be scary for people with greater risk for having severe illness from COVID-19 and front-line workers with greater exposure.

The bottom line is that we still don't fully understand this virus. And, not all of the 40 states set to reopen are prepared to scale up the testing, tracing, and isolating necessary to prevent a spike in the curve.

Merlin Tuttle / Merlin Tuttle's Bat Conservation

Bats get a bad rap. People are afraid of animals that tap into our deepest fears and revulsions. Bats aren't cuddly, they fly at night, have big eyes that can’t see, and conjure creepy images of vampires who steal the  blood of the unsuspecting as they sleep. 

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?

Magic Piano / Wikimedia Commons

We can observe how economic inequality in America plays out during this pandemic by watching who gets help and who gets ignored.

Two America's live side by side, often in the same community. Nowhere is it on display more than in Greenwich, Conn., where hedge fund managers in gilded mansions live across town from minimum wage workers in local service jobs.

The inequality on display today is the byproduct of decades of policy choices that benefit the wealthy.

Also this hour: We help you make sense of the sometimes conflicting news about COVID-19 with the host of the podcast This Week In Virology.

Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

What will Connecticut’s reopening look like?  The anticipated day is just a couple weeks away on May 20. In the lead up, the Governor’s administration has released a set of rules for businesses that will be allowed to reopen, including restaurants and hair salons.

This hour, Governor Ned Lamont calls in to talk about the rules businesses will have to follow. We ask: is May 20 a firm date? What other conditions will need to be met before Connecticut reopens?

And later, we talk with Dr. Charles Lee of Jackson Labs in Farmington, Connecticut. How have research institutions in our state pivoted to fight the pandemic?

t-mizo / Creative Commons

It's hard to fathom the idea that more people have to die from COVID-19 before we come out on the other end of this pandemic. Is it time for political leaders of both parties to have an honest conversation about the moral trade-offs of this pandemic and how to balance them toward the public interest?

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.

National Museum of Health and Medicine / Creative Commons

This show originally aired on July 25, 2018.

Two years ago, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, alongside government leaders, ran an intricate simulation of a rapidly spreading pandemic. Their goal was to talk about the difficult ethical questions that arise in the event of a public health crisis. These are the same questions we find ourselves confronting today.

 

Dr. Saud Anwar, demonstrating a successful simulation to ventilate 7 patients with one ventilator using the quad splitter
Courtesy of Saud Anwar

As Connecticut approaches its peak in hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases, health systems continue to prepare so they can keep patients alive.

Connecticut State Senator and intensive care doctor, Saud Anwar worries ventilator capacities may soon become overstretched. So he reached out to friends in the design and manufacturing communities to create a novel solution. This hour, we hear more from Dr. Anwar as we talk about innovation during this public health crisis.  

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public

One can't help but wonder if the President understands that getting through this pandemic will not be a quick sprint. 

On Thursday, the Trump Administration announced guidelines for states to begin reopening the economy, with a goal to begin by May 1. On Friday, the President personally encouraged protesters in Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia, to "liberate" their states from onerous social-distancing guidelines imposed by their Democratic governors.  On Saturday, protesters from other states joined the fray. 

Travis Wise / flickr creative commons

I haven't been grocery shopping in 21 days. The last time I went, March 26, was a harrowing experience.

It was before this particular grocery store, at least, had started limiting the number of customers in the building at a time, before it had made aisles one-way, before it started wiping down carts after each use and providing sanitizing wipes for customers to use.

Staff and customers alike didn't seem to understand just how far six feet is, and the aisles were too narrow to afford that sort of distancing anyway. Fresh meats were in short supply, cleaning products were nowhere to be found, and canned and frozen foods were few and far between.

And so I haven't been back.

NIH Clinical Center

Health experts have released multiple plans that all call for some version of the same thing. We need to conduct widespread testing, trace contacts of the infected, and quarantine those contacts BEFORE we can ease social distancing measures. 

CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM / Wikimedia Commons

COVID-19 has dominated our lives, but how much do you actually know about the virus that causes this disease?

This hour, we talk with NY Times columnist and writer, Carl Zimmer about the science behind the coronavirus. We learn about how viruses work and how they’re different from other disease-causing germs like bacteria.

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