Science Friday

Fridays from 2pm to 4pm
  • Hosted by Ira Flatow

Science Friday is a weekly science talk show, broadcast live over public radio stations nationwide. Each week is focused on science topics that are in the news. The show is dedicated to bringing an educated, balanced discussion to bear on the scientific issues at hand. Call 1-800-989-8255 to join the conversation.

The Problems Plaguing Election Polls

Aug 2, 2019

Agatha Christie: From Pharmacist's Apprentice to Poison Expert

Apr 19, 2019

The following is an excerpt from A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup. Listen to SciFri on September 24, 2015 to hear Harkup talk more about the influence of Agatha Christie and her novels.

Order from any number of Chinese takeout restaurants these days, and you may notice that many menus boast “NO ADDED MSG.” The label can also be found in supermarket aisles on snack foods or on packaged seasonings.

The labels are meant to ease consumers’ worries, because MSG, which is used as a flavor enhancer, has for decades been popularly linked to various health problems, such as headaches and allergic reactions. It's even been considered a factor in infant obesity.

Picture of the Week: DNA Bunny

Mar 12, 2019

The candy-colored bunny above looks good enough to eat, but it’s no Easter leftover. This is a 3-D-printed model of a microscopic, rabbit-shaped structure made entirely out of DNA. An enlarged picture of that tiny structure (which is 50 nanometers long) appears at left. Can you make out its cottontail shape? 

The following is an excerpt from Brain Storms, by Jon Palfreman. Listen to SciFri on September 18, 2015, to hear Palfreman talk more about Parkinson's disease.

The Octopus Whisperer

Jan 24, 2019

This article is part of a Science Friday spotlight about cephalopods. Get involved using the hashtag  #CephalopodWeek.

Target grades: 4th +

Content Areas: General Science, Mathematics

Topics: Experimental design, variation, variables

Time required: 60 minutes, including lollipop-licking time

Standards:

NGSS: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Picture of the Week: Cock-Eyed Squid

Jan 24, 2019

This activity is part of a Science Friday spotlight about cephalopods. Get involved using the hashtag #CephalopodWeek.

In the midst of “the twilight zone”—the ocean realm ranging from 200-1,000 meters below the surface—roams this small cephalopod.

Does Sound Affect the Way We Taste?

Jan 24, 2019

The next time you eat out in a restaurant, consider the sounds around you. Is there music playing? Just the gentle hum of other people’s conversations? Maybe it’s loud and booming, maybe it’s relatively quiet.

Whatever the acoustic atmosphere, it could be affecting how you experience the flavor of the food and drink you’re consuming, according to a growing body of research.

Jet-setting Cephalopods

Jan 24, 2019

This activity is part of a Science Friday spotlight about cephalopods. Get involved using the hashtag #CephalopodWeek.

 

 

 

Target Grades: 4th-8thEstimated time: 30 minutes to 1 hour with options to extendSubjects: Marine Biology, Engineering and TechnologyTopics: Animal Locomotion, Biomimicry, Jet-Propulsion, Activity Type:  Engineering design challenge.

The Ritual of Straws

Jan 24, 2019

The following is an excerpt from Neurotribes, by Steve Silberman. Listen to SciFri on September 4, 2015, to hear Silberman talk more about the book.

A Peek Inside the Mind of Elon Musk

Jan 24, 2019

The following is an excerpt from Elon Musk, a biography by Ashlee Vance. Listen to SciFri on June 26, 2015, to hear Vance talk more about Musk's life.

“Do you think I’m insane?”

Dissect a Silkworm Cocoon

Jan 24, 2019

Most of us are familiar with silk as a fine fabric that is made into neckties and dresses. As a textile, silk is highly valued because it is shiny and smooth, strong yet lightweight, and it can be easily dyed or treated to take on the color or chemical properties of other substances. These well-known properties led scientists to develop new products from silk, including important medical materials such as replacement cartilage, surgical sutures, and small spheres that can be used to deliver drugs to certain parts of the body (not all of these are available yet on the market).

Write Your Name in Binary Code

Jan 24, 2019

01001000 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111 00100001

Those ones and zeros might not look like anything to you, but in binary code the numbers are actually saying “Hello!”

When artist Matthew Reinhart gets an idea for a children’s book, he scribbles a note to himself about what he wants the illustrations to do. Things like, “T-Rex head bites reader.”

“That's it,” Reinhart says. “I don't know how it's going to happen with all the engineering. I just know that’s what I want to happen.”

Researchers explore the fascinating biomechanics and neuroscience of bats

Apr 13, 2018

They are associated with dark caves, bloodthirsty vampires and one of the most famous superheroes of all time. But for all we know about bats, a lot is unknown to the general public — from how they fly and land to how they find objects in front of them.

Book creates buzz about native bees of North America

Apr 12, 2018

When it comes to bees, honeybees get all the attention. But as a new book will tell you, honeybees are just one fraction of the many types of bees buzzing outside the collective consciousness of most Americans.

Study examines how diseases really spread during air travel

Apr 11, 2018

We’ve all heard it before: With tight quarters and recirculated air, commercial airplane passengers are just asking to catch a cold or some other spreadable disease — especially if another passenger is coughing in close proximity.

Gabriel Ugueto largely cultivated his lifelong fascination with dinosaurs by going to the movies as a kid. He cannot name his favorite one.

"There's nothing that looks like them today and they are so impressive. They dominated life on Earth for so long. They were so well adapted to the environment,” he says.

"I think I'm a little bit partial to theropods, which is this group of dinosaurs that are carnivorous like Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor, but honestly it's very difficult. I love them all."

Researchers still struggle to get funding to study gun violence

Apr 9, 2018

The debate on gun control has been going for years, but those who support tougher restrictions seem to have never been so organized as they have been after 17 students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, were gunned down Feb. 14 by a former classmate.

The most obvious signs of this, of course, were the March for Our Lives rallies that took place in Washington, DC and other cities around the country March 24. Participants demanded that elected officials take steps such as banning assault weapons, eliminating background check loopholes and other actions.

Blockchain. At the most recent South by Southwest Conference earlier this month, it was one of the top buzzwords floating around the various pockets of conversation. A large majority of the people talking about it there, though, were men.

Even though the blockchain movement has the potential to have innumerable effects on our everyday lives, one estimate puts this new tech space at being currently 95 percent filled by men — but there are growing initiatives to bring more women into the fold.

Can the US protect its power grid from hackers?

Apr 7, 2018

One does not have to go far these days to hear or read a story about Russian cyber interference affecting life in the United States.

There is one mode of meddling that could hit closest to home: a possible attack on the American power grid.

New book sheds light on overlooked women pioneers who paved the way for today’s internet

Mar 31, 2018

Author Claire Evans says over the past few years her gender has made her feel slightly disconnected from the technology that has connected people since its creation: the internet. 

Study begins to reveal genetic ties behind a neurological phenomenon

Mar 31, 2018

When you hear a particular piece of music, can you see an accompanying color? Or do certain letters stir up certain colors?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, than you may have what is known as synesthesia. An estimated four percent of the world’s population have the neurological condition that may best be described as a blurring of the senses.

It maybe be hard to believe, but the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station’s initial launch will take place in November. In those soon-to-be two decades, the ISS has proven to be immensely helpful in helping facilitate research on microgravity — and it remains the only destinations for astronauts moving through Earth’s lower orbit.

It may be hard to believe, but the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station’s initial launch will take place in November. In those soon-to-be two decades, the ISS has proven to be immensely helpful in facilitating research on microgravity — and it remains the only destinations for astronauts moving through Earth’s lower orbit.

New book looks at medical cures now considered 'quackery'

Mar 23, 2018

Placing red-hot irons on someone's temple for headaches. Drinking mercury for syphilis. Rubbing pimples on dead bodies for acne. All of these remedies to various maladies seem ridiculous now, but at one point they were not.

They are just some of the some of the crazy “medical cures” that are highlighted in a new book written by Lydia Kang: “Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything.”

New book explains the secrets behind famous skyscrapers, other structures

Mar 23, 2018

Roma Agrawal spends a lot of time thinking of the sheer power of concrete. She’s a structural engineer who helped design The Shard in London, an iconic 95-story skyscraper that opened in 2012.

“What I really like about it is that it has so many different forms,” Agrawal says. “It's quite an indeterminate material … I just love the fact that it can be anything you want it to be."

Chinese space station likely to land in Europe in a few weeks

Mar 23, 2018

Sometime this spring, a falling Chinese space station will crash to Earth. That is known. What is not as clear is when it will hit — or where.

“Scientists have left it pleasantly vague,” says Maggie Koerth-Baker, a senior science reporter for FiveThirtyEight.com.

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