Just over a couple of decades ago, there were fewer than 100 otters remaining in the state of Illinois. Today, there are at least 15,000. They're furry and cute and a nuisance to some, often called the raccoons of Illinois waterways. What's wrong with raccoons? Anyway. So for the first time in almost 90 years, Illinois has reinstated otter trapping season. We called Bob Bluett, a biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Host Scott Simon talks with University of Edinburgh professor Alex Weiss about his new study on ape well-being. He found that apes, like humans, experience a U-shaped pattern of life satisfaction that dips in middle-age, commonly known as a mid-life crisis.
Up next, some food for thought as you chomp your Thanksgiving leftovers. Recycling paper and plastic, as you know, is an effective way to save money and energy. So why not recycle all the uneaten food that goes to waste? And there is an awful lot of it. Forty percent of the food in the U.S. today goes uneaten, which means Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion worth of food each year. But that's not all. Food waste, as it decays in landfills, also produces methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas.
Get out a pencil and paper and your graphic calculator because it's time for a little math review. And we'll warm up with some algebra, move on to imaginary numbers, then the quadratic formula, and we're going to finish up with a bit of vector calculus, how about some probability theory thrown in. No, no, no, I'm just joking. Don't turn off the radio just yet.
Originally published on Fri November 23, 2012 2:49 pm
The Ig Nobel Prizes honor scientific research that, in the words of Master of Ceremonies Marc Abrahams, "first makes you laugh, and then makes you think." This year's prizes, awarded in late September, include citations for research into mysteriously green hair, potentially explosive colonoscopies, and the creation of equations that model the back-and-forth swing of a ponytail in motion.
Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 2:00 pm
Albert Einstein was a smart guy. Everybody knows that. But was there something about the structure of his brain that made it special?
Scientists have been trying to answer that question ever since his death. Previously unpublished photographs of Einstein's brain taken soon after he died were analyzed last week in the journal Brain. The images and the paper provide a more complete anatomical picture and may help shed light on his genius.
The shellfish industry on the West Coast has had a bumpy few years and increasingly, it is pointing to climate change as the cause. Scientists believe the oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb the increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the air, and they are not sure if oysters and other shellfish will be able to adapt to this change. Lauren Sommer, from member station KQED, has this report.
LAUREN SOMMER, BYLINE: Terry Sawyer does a brisk business in oysters.
Scientists who study forests say they've discovered something disturbing about the way prolonged drought affects trees.
It has to do with the way trees drink. They don't do it the way we do — they suck water up from the ground all the way to their leaves, through a bundle of channels in a part of the trunk called the xylem. The bundles are like blood vessels.
When drought dries out the soil, a tree has to suck harder. And that can actually be dangerous, because sucking harder increases the risk of drawing air bubbles into the tree's plumbing.