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Science Friday

Fridays 1 - 3 p.m.
  • Hosted by Ira Flatow

Science Friday is a weekly science talk show, broadcast live over public radio stations nationwide from 2-4 p.m. Eastern time. Each week, we focus on science topics that are in the news and try to bring an educated, balanced discussion to bear on the scientific issues at hand. Panels of expert guests join Science Friday's host, Ira Flatow, a veteran science journalist, to discuss science -- and to take questions from listeners during the call-in portion of the program.

To participate, call 1 (844) 724-8255 or Twitter users can tweet questions @scifri.

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Can You Hold An Algorithm Accountable?

Jun 10, 2017

With stories of unhappy air travelers blanketing social media in recent months, one major airline is trying something new.

Delta Air Lines plans to install special bag-check kiosks at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, giving customers the chance to skip waiting in line for an agent. One of the new kiosks will include facial-recognition technology, using a camera to confirm passengers’ faces against their passport photos.

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<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/morigami/4540657675/">Kenta Morigami</a>/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC-BY-SA 2.0</a>&nbsp;(image cropped)

This year marks 50 years since the first microwave oven entered home kitchens. Called the Radarange, the machine sold for a whopping $495 in 1967, and we’ve been nuking our food ever since — but not without lingering questions about how the appliance even works.

Consider, for a moment, the musk ox.

The ancient animal looks a bit like a shaggy, long-haired bison and can be found roaming the cold, Arctic landscapes of places like Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland

Musk oxen “actually went extinct in Alaska in the 1890s, and the state brought them back,” says wildlife biologist Joel Berger, a professor at Colorado State University and senior scientist for the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

Science has some good news for worriers

Jun 3, 2017
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US Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony

Whatever it is that you’re fretting about, here's a bit of good news: Worrying can be beneficial, under certain circumstances.

Dr. Kate Sweeney, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and co-author of new research on the upside of worrying, says it serves a few useful functions.

“The most important function that worry serves is that it acts as a motivator,” Sweeney says. “It essentially tells us there is something we should be doing. And it gives us the motivation to do it.”

Bringing Sensation To Bionic Limbs

Jun 3, 2017

Need A Boost? Try An Exosuit

Jun 3, 2017

On August 21, the continental United States will experience its first total solar eclipse in nearly four decades. With the eclipse’s path stretching from Oregon all the way to South Carolina, cities like Kansas City, Missouri, and Nashville, Tennessee, will be swathed in daytime darkness for a few minutes — and at least a partial eclipse will be visible around the country.  

Marijuana could give a cognitive boost to older brains

May 30, 2017
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<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/medihuana/9906897843/">MarihuanayMedicina</a>/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC-BY-SA 2.0</a>&nbsp;(image cropped)

Researchers have found a drug that reverses the effects of brain aging in mice — marijuana.

In the study, published in Nature Medicine, German and Israeli researchers tested the memory and cognition of 2-month-old “young” mice, 12-month-old “mature” mice and 18-month-old “old” mice after exposing them to low doses of THC (the main psychoactive component in marijuana) over a monthlong period. 

Once populous on the country’s mainland, the New Zealand sea lion was hunted to extinction there centuries ago. Recently, however, the mammal has been making a comeback: Fifteen New Zealand sea lion pups were born on the mainland last year.

Video producer Chelsea Fiske chronicled government efforts to protect the baby animals in a new film for Science Friday’s Macroscope series, “How to Save the World’s Rarest Sea Lion Pups.” She also discovered a pup in the process. 

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<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/_davidphan/16715426351/">David Phan</a>/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>&nbsp;(image cropped)

Stargazers living in upper latitudes occasionally glimpse shimmering splashes of pink, blue and green in the night sky. The phenomenon, known as the aurora, is “a glitter bomb” of charged particles from the sun, says Liz MacDonald, a space plasma physicist at NASA.

The aurora is also notoriously ephemeral and can be difficult to track — which is where citizen science comes in. Recently, a group of aurora chasers in Canada saw something strange in the night sky: a purplish streak occurring further south than most auroras. “And they said, ‘What is this thing?’” MacDonald recalls.

When avians and airplanes collide, we tend to hear the big stories — like when a flock of birds crippled the engines of US Airways Flight 1549 in 2009, forcing a crash-landing in the Hudson River. (All 155 passengers and crew survived.)

But thousands of birds hit planes in the United States each year, to less fanfare. “There are somewhere around 13,000 bird strikes reported to civil aviation and another 4,000 to 5,000 from the military, so it’s quite a few birds every year,” says forensic ornithologist Carla Dove.

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