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Science Diction

Science Friday and WNYC Studios

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What does the word “meme” have to do with evolutionary biology? And why do we call it “Spanish flu” when it was never Spanish? Science Diction is a podcast about words—and the science stories within them. If you like your language with a side of science, Science Diction has you covered. Brought to you by Science Friday and WNYC Studios.
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After the Big Bang, the universe expanded rapidly. And, once upon a time, conventional wisdom held that that expansion would eventually slow, dragged back inwards by the gravitational pull of all the matter in the universe. But in 1998, two groups studying supernovae discovered that not only was the universe continuing to expand, but that the expan…
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The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has updated its recommendations for breast cancer screening once again. The recommendations now stipulate that women and people assigned female at birth should begin getting mammograms at age 40, and continue every other year until age 74. The previous guidelines recommended beginning screening at age 50. The…
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Upgrades to the power grid under a new rule could help accommodate an increasing renewable energy supply and meet data center demands. Also, extremely small particles might help scientists develop vaccines that are stable at room temperature and easier to administer. New Rule Sets Stage For Electric Grid Update The US electric grid is straining to …
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Sports are a critical part of human culture just about everywhere in the world. Maybe you played little league as a kid, or like to go to the park for a game of pickup basketball, or even just cheer for your favorite team on the weekends. Unfortunately, like so many other things, climate change is taking a toll on the world of sports. It’s getting …
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Tinnitus, a condition commonly described as a persistent ringing in the ears, affects millions of people around the world. In the US, the prevalence of tinnitus is estimated at around 11% of the population, with 2% affected by a severe form of the condition that can be debilitating. But despite it being so common, the exact causes of some tinnitus,…
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Wildlife ecologist Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant has tracked bears through the mountains, lived with lions, been chased by elephants, and trekked after lemurs in a rainforest. Now, she co-hosts the renowned nature television show “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild.” Dr. Wynn-Grant’s new memoir, Wild Life: Finding My Purpose in an Untamed Worl…
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One year ago, we launched Universe Of Art. And to our surprise, a lot of listeners have written in since the start of the podcast, telling us about the science-inspired art they’ve made in their spare time. And today, we're featuring three of those listeners and their art. Our first artist is Todd Gilens, a visual artist and designer who collaborat…
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The Field Museum has unveiled a new specimen of Archaeopteryx, a species that may hold the key to how ancient dinosaurs became modern birds. Also, a “green glacier” of trees and shrubs is sliding across the Great Plains, burying some of the most threatened habitat on the planet. Remarkably Well-Preserved Archeopteryx Specimen Unveiled The Field Mus…
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Astronomers have confirmed they found an atmosphere around an Earth-like rocky exoplanet for the first time. Also, Boeing’s Starliner craft was scheduled to carry humans to the International Space Station in 2017. Its launch is now set for May 17, 2024. In A First, JWST Detects An Atmosphere Around A Rocky Exoplanet Earlier this week, astronomers a…
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The first Women’s World Cup was in 1991, and the games were only 80 minutes, compared to the 90-minute games played by men. Part of the rationale was that women just weren’t tough enough to play a full 90 minutes of soccer. This idea of women as the “weaker sex” is everywhere in early scientific studies of athletic performance. Sports science was m…
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At first glance, Mars might seem rather different from our own planet. Mars is dry, with little atmosphere, and no liquid water on its surface. It is half the size of Earth, lacks a planetary magnetic field, and does not appear to have active plate tectonics or volcanic activity. In some ways it is a world frozen in time, affected only by the force…
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Emily Dalfrey lives across the street from Niblett’s Bluff Cemetery, where generations of her family are buried, in Vinton, Louisiana. In 2016, a period of prolonged rainfall caused flooding so severe that people could drive boats over the cemetery. The water put so much pressure on the graves that some of the vaults, which are located near the sur…
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The Ada Hayden Herbarium preserves hundreds of thousands of specimens, including some collected by George Washington Carver. And, as the “Universe of Art” podcast turns one, listeners discuss solar music boxes and what it’s like making art with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Inside Iowa State’s Herbarium With 700,000 Plant Specimens Herbariums are plant…
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Science Friday is in Ames, Iowa, home to prairies, greater prairie chickens, and an array of wildlife. Also, the co-emergence of two periodical cicada broods is underway. Scientists have tips for how to experience the event. Science From Iowa’s Prairies This week, SciFri is coming to you from Ames, Iowa. We’re kicking off the sciencey Iowa celebrat…
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A study found aggression between male bonobos to be more frequent than aggression between male chimpanzees. Also, visual artist Todd Gilens created a walkable poem along Reno’s Truckee River that draws parallels between urbanism and stream ecology. Bonobos Are Gentler Than Chimps? Maybe Not. Bonobos are a species of great ape, along with gorillas, …
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There are products on the market that monitor your brain waves through caps or headbands: Some aim to improve mental health, sleep, or focus, while others can plunge users into virtual reality for gaming. What happens to the neural data that neurotechnology companies collect from these devices? Consumers may be accustomed to their personal data fro…
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The words “black hole” might bring to mind an infinite darkness. But the area right around a black hole, called the accretion disk, is actually pretty bright, with matter compressing hotter and hotter into a glowing plasma as it is sucked in. And amid that maelstrom, there are even brighter areas—bursts of energy that astronomers call flares. Scien…
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You can read a transcript for this episode here. Think back to your favorite childhood TV show—was it “Blue’s Clues”? “Little Bear”? “Winnie the Pooh”? Animated TV shows are important for kids because they can teach them to read, draw, spell, and talk. Plus, the ways these shows tell stories and create colorful, fictitious worlds can broaden childr…
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