Science Friday

Science Friday

Science Friday and WNYC Studios

Brain fun for curious people.

Categories: Science & Medicine

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Orange Is The New Black—For Bats

For a newly-described bat from West Africa, dubbed Myotis nimbaensis (mouse-eared bat from the Nimba Mountains), scientists are reaching for a different part of the color wheel. While Myotis does have some black on its body, the overwhelming majority of the bat’s fur is bright orange.  

A team of scientists from the American Museum of Natural History and Bat Conservation International stumbled on the new species while surveying populations of another endangered bat in the Nimba Mountains. It lives in abandoned mine tunnels in the northern part of the mountain range. As those aging tunnels are beginning to collapse, the researchers are working to build new bat-tunnels to help preserve the threatened species.  

Winifred Frick, chief scientist of Bat Conservation International, joins SciFri director Charles Bergquist to discuss the new species, and what’s being done to help protect it.

Greenland’s Microbial Melt-Down

The Greenland ice sheet covers nearly 700,000 square miles—three times the size of Texas. The ice sheet is estimated to have lost nearly 4 trillion tons of ice in the past three decades. A team of researchers recently investigated how the bacteria in the sediments on the ice sheet could be contributing to the melting of the ice. Their results were published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters

Producer Alexa Lim talks to glaciology Asa Rennermalm about how the mix of bacteria and sediments can darken the ice, impacting how the ice sheet melts.

Life Of A Coronavirus Scientist During A Pandemic

Unfortunately, we’ve arrived at a grim pandemic milestone: One full year of a global health crisis. The first COVID-19 cases were reported in December 2019 by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission. 

Last spring, we talked with three coronavirus researchers—Matthew Frieman, Andrea Pruijssers, and Lisa Gralinski—who discussed what the pandemic was like for them, including working in a BSL3 biosafety lab, and how their lives, and research, had been impacted.

Ira checks back in with one of them, Matthew Frieman, to reflect on his experience in the last year, and what he expects for the coming year

Searching For Extraterrestrial Life Like ‘Sherlock Holmes’

Back in October 2017, our solar system received a strange visitor, unlike any seen before. Scientists couldn’t decide if it was an asteroid, a comet, or an ice chunk. To this day, it’s simply classified as an “interstellar object,” dubbed ‘Oumuamua.’

For his part, Harvard astrophysicist Ari Loeb is pretty sure what it is. It’s so hard to classify, he reasons, because it’s a byproduct of intelligent life outside our solar system. But how it found its way here is anyone’s guess.

In his new book Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth, Loeb wants you to take the possibility of aliens seriously. He joins Ira to talk about his theory, how an early love of philosophy shaped his views as an astrophysicist, and why searching for extraterrestrial life is a little like being Sherlock Holmes

Previous episodes

  • 642 - Orange Bat, Greenland Bacteria, COVID Anniversary, Alien Argument. Jan 22, 2021, Part 2 
    Fri, 22 Jan 2021 - 0h
  • 641 - Finding Lead Pipes Through Algorithm, How Soil Could Save The Planet. Jan 22, 2021, Part 1 
    Fri, 22 Jan 2021 - 0h
  • 640 - Valley Fever And COVID-19, Structure of Conspiracy Theories, New Climate Wars. Jan 15, 2021, Part 2 
    Fri, 15 Jan 2021 - 0h
  • 639 - How The COVID-19 Vaccine Was Developed And Is Being Distributed. Jan 15, 2021, Part 1 
    Fri, 15 Jan 2021 - 0h
  • 638 - COVID Fact Check, Aging Cells, News Roundup. Jan 8, 2021, Part 1 
    Fri, 08 Jan 2021 - 0h
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