science

A few weeks ago, the White House held a STEM education workshop for 27 cities across the United States, and five representatives from Kansas City were invited to attend. On this edition of Up to Date, Steve Kraske finds out what they learned and how it could change local approaches to STEM.

Guests:

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR 89.3

Finding a fossil in Kansas City can be as easy as going to the park or checking around your basement.

"Both Kansas and Missouri have great fossil deposits," Bruce Lieberman told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard.

"They represent, in some respects, different time periods, especially if you get further east into Missouri, east of the Kansas City metro," he said.

Meet a Fulbright graduate student at KU who will begin a fellowship at Fermilab — America's foremost institute for particle physics. He discusses his research on dark energy and dark matter, his journey from South Africa to Lawrence — and how the movie Honey, I Blew Up the Kid inspired his scientific career.

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In the entire history of the natural world -- that's hundreds of millions of years -- only four groups of animals have developed the ability to lift up off the ground and fly. A KU professor has been piecing together that story.

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Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has captured the world's attention promoting scientific literacy and a secular world view. Steve Kraske speaks with him about his latest memoir, Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science, a sequel to his An Appetite for Wonder.  

The story of Summer Farrar, an artist whose current project is exonerating the wrongly convicted using microscopic hair comparison analysis. How an artist ended up in the mix, and what she brings to the table.

Guest:

Age Is Relative

Sep 29, 2015
U.S. Army MWR / Flickr

The quest for immortality, or at least longer than we've got, is the stuff of science fiction. But the scientific community has plenty to say about the reality of extending the human lifespan. A glimpse at the future of aging, plus ethical and practical implications of living longer.

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Why do reusable shopping bags make you want to buy more junk food? How do people get stuck in boring jobs? NPR's science correspondent Shankar Vedantam regularly scours social science research to bring us these questions and their answers. 

Courtesy of Gary Staab

You know those gigantic dinosaur models you see in natural history museums, frozen in mid-roar? There's a good chance they were made in Kearney, Missouri by a guy named Gary Staab. From his encounter with Lucy (the famous skeleton of our human ancestor) to a mummified human known as the Ice Man, Gary Staab takes us face to face with prehistoric life. 

Courtesy of Gary Staab

Gary Staab might appear to be an ordinary guy.

He lives in small-town, rural Kearney, Missouri, with his wife, Lissi, and their two teenage sons, Max and Owen. He plays guitar for the Mechanical Prairie Dogs, and is learning to play cello in his spare time.

But for a living, Staab sculpts prehistoric monsters and ancient human ancestors. He constructs wooden skeleton bases, shapes and welds bodies with wire, crafts muscles and eyeballs and molds resin flesh with epoxy.

Forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs has helped solve many mysteries in real life, on the bookshelf and on the small screen. On this edition of Up to Date, Steve Kraske spoke with the prolific author of the Temperance Brennan mystery novels and the inspiration for the TV series Bones.

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Once the sole property of science fiction and our imaginations, the technologies coming out of current space programs at NASA are a case of life imitating art. Learn the latest projects underway as we prepare to travel to Mars and which space designs are finding practical uses here on the third planet from the sun.

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Poison in your mouthwash? Roach killer in your coffee? On this edition of Up To Date, we discuss some of the ingredients in everyday products that may surprise you. 

Guest:

  • Patrick Di Justo is a former editor at WIRED and author of This Is What You Just Put In Your Mouth? From Eggnog to Beef Jerky, the Surprising Secrets of What’s Inside Everyday Products.
Cristopher Crance / Burns &McDonnell

When you were a kid, did you ever dream of becoming an astronaut? Some area students are taking the first steps. Grade-schoolers at Resurrection Catholic School in Kansas City, Kan. and Prairie Fire Upper Elementary in Independence are creating experiments to send into near space in a big weather balloon.

Guests:

Harum Kelmy / KBIA

It's not every day a researcher stumbles on 1.9 million year-old fossils of human ancestors. But the University of Missouri's Carol Ward did just that on a trip to Kenya. Discoveries made by Ward and her team have huge implications for our evolutionary past.

Guest:

  • Carol Ward, professor, pathology and anatomical sciences, The University of Missouri
Creative Commons, Wikimedia

Bill Schonberg is a self-professed "space nut" and his job is not just an 8-year-old's dream job. "It's also a 54-year-old's dream job," he says. His mission, which he has accepted, is to figure out how to make spacecraft more impervious to debris flying at high speed through prime orbital real estate. 

Guest:

  • Dr. William Schonberg, professor of aerospace engineering, Missouri University of Science & Technology 
Anne Biklé

Dr. David Montgomery is a Professor of Geomorphology at the University of Washington.  He works to bring the impact of geological processes on human history to a wider audience.  Montgomery joins Steve Kraske to explain why dirt is the foundation of civilizations, how we're losing it to erosion, and the lessons geology teaches us.

Guest:

BBC

They've been called fish fireworks, and their glowing displays are like nighttime light shows on the water. Ostracods are a very old species of crustacean with a trait called bioluminescence. That's a fancy way of saying they light up, like fireflies. But unlike fireflies, ostracods have extracellular bioluminescence. They shoot light out of their bodies and into the water. The behavior is part mating ritual, part defense mechanism.

The idea of nuclear power is nothing new, but the traditional method of producing it by fission is being challenged by the safer and greener process of fusion.

On Monday's Up to Date, we talk with the founder of an energy company making a fusion prototype to supply commercially-viable and competitive power generation.

Guest:

  • Dr. Michel Laberge, founder and chief scientist at General Fusion

Balloon Launch Combines Space Exploration And A Treasure Hunt

Jun 26, 2014
Christina Lieffring

For Bill Brown, the “father” of high altitude ballooning, it all started when he saw a documentary of a man who parachuted from 100,000 feet above ground.

“The description he gave of being able to see for hundreds of miles in all directions and see the blackness of space and the curve of the earth … I wanted to see that for myself,” he said. “Some people strapped a bunch of balloons to a lawn chair, but that seemed a little risky, so I decided to come up with a camera and a small video camera to put up in a small weather balloon.”

This weekend, 'near space explorers' will be gathering  in Hutchinson, Kan. for the annual Great Plains Super Launch.  They are hobbyists who launch weather balloons and track their progress using GPS or HAM radio.

On Thursday's Central Standard, we talk with participant John Flaig who uses these balloons to take dramatic photographs from the upper reaches of the atmosphere.

Guest:

John Flaig, near space photographer

Penguin Group (Canada)

The publisher of Nature's Nether Regions begins the book summary this way: "What’s the easiest way to tell species apart? Check their genitals."

We’re supposed to spend a third of our day sleeping, but often we fall short. And at times when we are lucky enough to sleep, it can be filled with thrilling or tormenting dreams. On today's Central Standard we look at sleep and dreams. We explore how to get to sleep, stay asleep and what your dreams can be saying about your emotional state.

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cureviolence.org

An expert on the epidemic of gun violence that has gripped Kansas City and cities across the country for decades, says the issue has been "completely misunderstood."

In the second part of Wednesday's Up to Date, we talk with him about his method of viewing violence as an epidemic, a condition that can be reversed using "science-based methods."

Guest:

  • Dr. Gary Slutkin, epidemiologist and founder/executive director of Cure Violence
Véronique La Capra / St. Louis Public Radio

Charles Darwin revolutionized science. His theory of evolution was based on careful observations of birds and other wildlife in places like the Galapagos Islands.

One thing that has been really slow to evolve is the gender mix in science. Men still dominate many scientific fields, just like they did in Darwin’s day, more than 150 years ago.

But gradually, more women are breaking in. I met up with two young women scientists in ― where else? ― the Galapagos. Here are their stories.

Maricruz Jaramillo fulfills a dream

wikimedia commons

The Higgs-Boson is said to be the key to understanding why mass exists and how atoms are possible. Some call it "The God Particle."

Nanobots swimming in your bloodstream may not be the stuff of science fiction for too much longer.

Penguin Group (USA)

A fact is something that actually exists; reality; truth.  Until it isn't anymore.  How does that happen?

Fossil Facebook: Digitization of Fossils Going Public

Jun 26, 2012
Una Farrell

If some people are worried about pictures from freshman year surfacing on the internet, imagine this: a 290 million year old organism gets put on a publicly accessible database, from its specific location all the way to a picture from its deathbed.

Coming soon to your newsfeed:  Fossil Facebook.

Charlie Upchurch / KCUR

In the early 19th century, it was commonly believed that humans were a relatively new species, existing for only about 6,000 years. 

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