Science | Connecticut Public Radio


elizabeth tersigni/flickr creative commons

Why do the smartest students often do poorly on standardized tests? Why did you tank that interview or miss that golf swing when you should have had it in the bag? Why do you mess up when it matters the most—and how can you perform your best instead?

Scientists have known for years that dolphins recognize each other by the sound of each animal's signature whistle. But it wasn't known for just how long dolphins could remember these whistle calls.

The individually specific whistle that each dolphin generates before its first birthday "for them functions like a name," says Jason Bruck, who studies animal behavior at the Institute for Mind and Biology at the University of Chicago.

An Argument Against Standing Desks

Jul 26, 2013

One office worker says he enjoys sitting and he’s tired of the “superior moral attitude” from the standers around him.

Writer Ben Crair told Here & Now he accepts the medical studies showing that sitting at your desk is bad for your health. His objection to standing is based on “the pure satisfaction I get from sitting,” he said.

He argues there are other solutions to the health problem of sitting too long.

Todd Binger/Flickr / Creative Commons

The Wave. Water waves. Not lazy surf lapping at your toes along the beach. Colossal, ship-swallowing rogue waves; scientists scrambling to understand the phenomenon; and extreme surfers seeking the ultimate challenge. Susan Casey’s account follows the exploits of boarders conquering suicidally large, 70- and 80-foot waves and the physicists trying to grapple with the destructive powers of 1,740-foot waves off the coast of Alaska and tsunamis in the Pacific. Casey is our guest.

lanbullock68 Flickr Creative Commons

According to Wyoming's Game and Fish Department, there has been a 70 percent decline in migratory elk calf production in Yellowstone since 1992. For years, researchers suspected predatory wolves were to blame. Now, a new study details a more complex set of circumstances that account for the low calf numbers. 

Wikimedia Commons

If you want to think about the way our diminished interest in the humanities amounts to playing with fire, consider the present moment, which includes wind-driven deadly wildfires in Arizona and a tornado in Windsor and the recurrent suggestion that this is "the new normal."

The new normal is incredibly dangerous and getting worse. We have enormous amounts of scientific information that explains why some of this is happening, and what we should do to keep it from getting worse. But as a planet and a nation, we're not doing much. Why? 

Sunrise Of The Summer Solstice

Jun 20, 2013
Flickr Creative Commons

The first day of summer promises longer, hotter days. The summer solstice, or the day when the Northern Hemisphere is closest to the sun, is Friday, giving us more light than any day of the year.

But that’s only one of several big astronomical events happening this week, including a super supermoon.  We talk with UConn Astronomer Cynthia Paterson.

D. Sharon Pruitt/flickr creative commons

D. Sharon Pruitt/flickr creative commons

Tucker Ives

We’re broadcasting live today from The Study at Yale - it’s an annual trip that we make to the International Festival of Arts and Ideas.

As usual, this year’s lineup features a wide array of performances and discussions from a “comic-rap-scrap metal musical” to a talk about our hunter-gatherer past.

Today, we’ll talk with some other artists and big-thinkers about the role of New Haven in this festival and the intersection of arts and ideas.

A new report out from Brookings confirms what many in Connecticut might have suspected: science, technology, engineering and math skills are vital to more than just universities and pharma companies. In fact, the study estimates 20 percent of all jobs -- about 26 million around the nation -- are dependent on a high level of skill in one of the STEM disciplines. That's a huge increase over previous estimates.

Wikimedia Commons

Gut Check: Befriending Bacteria

Jun 4, 2013
creative commons

There are more bacteria in our bodies than there are human cells: about 10 microbes for every cell!

UConn microbiologist Joerg Graf says “If you took a person and removed all the human cells, you would still see the outline of a human body.”

So what are all these bacteria doing? And are they helping or hurting us?

Connecticut Senate Democrats / Creative Commons

Connecticut lawmakers have passed a “first-in-the-nation” law, mandating the labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs in food products. It’s headed to the Governor for his signature, but that doesn’t mean it goes into effect anytime soon.

Passage by the state house was the final step in a convoluted series of maneuvers that included a bipartisan agreement reached over the weekend. It requires any food meant for human consumption to have a label that says “Produced with Genetic Engineering.”

Nicholas Longrich

You can add another species to the horned dinosaur family.

The recently discovered Judiceratops tigris is the earliest known cousin of horned dinosaurs like the Triceratops and Torosaurus.

Fossils of this species were found in Montana's Judith River Formation, but they were identified by Yale researcher Nicholas Longrich.

The numerous horned dinosaurs show how rapidly they evolved.

Ben Grantham/flickr creative commons

benketaro on Flickr Creative Common

Labeling GMOs and Toxic Chemicals in Connecticut

May 14, 2013
Masahiro Ihara, creative commons

Vegetables that are genetically modified to resist pests have become a part of our daily diet, whether we like it or not. Several states have been considering legislation that would require the labeling of GMO products, but Connecticut could be the first to pass such a law. Opponents of the bill say there’s no health risk, and a law like this would pass on higher prices to consumers.

The legislature is considering a bill that would allow students to opt out of dissecting a dead animal at school.  WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports. State Representative Diana Urban supports the bill. "There are students who actually avoid going to biology class because they object to using an actual animal in their dissection...And I know there's a lot of teasing that goes on in the classes." Urban says students should have a way to choose to use a computer model or simulation instead. Some high schools already allow the choice, while others specifically don't.

The Evolution Of Teaching Science

May 8, 2013
Flickr Creative Commons

Pennsylvania is no stranger to controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution. When the school district in the town of Dover required creationism be taught alongside evolution, it sparked a national debate. Ultimately, a federal court ruled that intelligent design is religious theory and not a part of science.

Eight years later, a study by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has found faith-based theories are still taught in Pennsylvania public schools and evolution often isn’t taught robustly, if at all.

Getting Psyched about Science

Apr 23, 2013
Chion Wolf

How is science serving us? And how do we keep kids interested in the field? Those are the big questions we’re tackling today on the program with a panel of scientists and educators.

Microbiologist Arturo Casadevall says “all the major problems facing humanity are scientific problems” -- problems like climate change, pandemics, meteors. He says we need good scientists to deal with these problems. But how do we train the next generation of scientists?

Troy David Johnston/flickr creative commons

Facts change all the time. Smoking has gone from doctor recommended to deadly. We used to think the Earth was the center of the universe and that Pluto was a planet. For decades, we were convinced that the brontosaurus was a real dinosaur. In short, what we know about the world is constantly changing. But it turns out there’s an order to the state of knowledge, an explanation for how we know what we know. Samuel Arbesman is an expert in the field of scientometrics—literally the science of science, and he’ll join us to look at The Half-Life of Facts.

Idaho National Laboratory on Flickr Creative Commons

Stem cells are the Wild West of biomedicine.

  The commercially run SpaceX Dragon capsule just delivered mouse stem cells to the International Space Station, part of an experiment to see how long periods in space affect living organisms.

  In Scotland, researchers are attempting to make blobs of stem cells in a three-d printer.

  And in Italy, terminally ill patients are being given an untested, unproven and theoretically risky stem cell treatment over the protests of scientists.

Idaho National Laboratory on Flickr Creative Commons

Regaining Balance

Mar 28, 2013
Ethan Sherbondy/flickr creative commons

Everybody gets knocked off course. How do you rebalance in an unpredictable world? Bruce Clements joins Faith to talk about the art of restoring balance. Are there go-to tactics that work for most people? Or is the answer different depending on what happens to you? What can we learn from others? How do you get perspective when the clear mind you need is clouded and confused?

Harriet Jones

Drug giant Pfizer says it’s going to tear down 750,000 square feet of unused laboratory space on its Groton campus. As WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports, the move comes after frantic efforts in recent months to find a reuse for the facility.


Tambako the Jaguar, Creative Commons

We all know the story. Monkeys in a science lab, top secret research, something goes terribly wrong. It’s no surprise that most cinematic attempts to depict research like this ends up focusing on what happens to the humans.

But what about the ethics of this research, and what it means for the test subjects? In many cases, chimpanzees have been seen as viable in research because of their close relationship to humans.

From Your Freezer To Antarctica: All About Ice

Mar 8, 2013
Timothy Englert

Today, we’re talking about ice --- and no, not because of today’s weather.

But the icy regions of our planet are telling us important information about our climate. Ice locks in historical data that researchers are just starting to unlock. They’re finding greenhouse gases trapped during the industrial revolution and even the results of nuclear arms testing.