If you hear the word “superbug,” you’re likely to think about drug-resistant bacteria or even viruses. But in a case that’s been unfolding since 2009, a drug-resistant yeast is increasingly worrying epidemiologists. The yeast, Candida auris, has popped up in 27 countries so far, with 340 cases in the United States. It has a mortality rate of 60 percent. Unlike other kinds of fungal infection, C. auris seems able to hop from person to person and persists on sterile surfaces. Inconveniently, the yeast’s spores are unusually resilient against standard hospital cleaning solutions. On top of that, it’s already resistant to most of the anti-fungal drugs in existence—there weren’t many of those to being with. Science writer Maryn McKenna and CDC Chief of Mycotic Diseases Tom Chiller joins Ira to discuss the underestimated risks of fungi and how health systems can combat them. One-hundred fifty million years ago, long-necked sauropods roamed the planet munching on plants and trees. Some of the largest herbivorous dinosaurs could grow up to 115 feet and weigh 80 tons. A team of scientists wanted to see how much nutrition this vegetarian diet provided for the dinosaurs. The group grew horsetails, ginkgos, and other plants similar to Mesozoic vegetation under high levels of […]
Science Friday, as heard on NPR, is a weekly discussion of the latest news in science, technology, health, and the environment hosted by Ira Flatow. Ira interviews scientists, authors, and policymakers, and listeners can call in and ask questions as well. Watch the latest science videos from the Science Friday website.
In 1988, physicist Stephen Hawking’s wildly popular A Brief History of Time introduced general audiences around the world to scientists’ questions about the Big Bang, black holes, and relativity. Many of those questions remain unanswered, though the science has advanced in the 30 years since the book was first published. Hawking, who passed away this spring, was known not just for this book, but for his enthusiastic and persistent communication with the public about science. And this summer, the Science Friday Book Club celebrates his legacy on the page, and off. Join Ira and the team at Science Friday as we read A Brief History of Time and ponder the deep questions about matter, space, and time. We’ll read the book and discuss until late August. And we want to hear from you! Neutrinos are particles that are constantly raining down in the universe. They are created from nuclear reactions in places like our sun, distant stars, and even on Earth. But the source of higher-energy cosmic neutrinos formed deeper in the universe is still a mystery. Researchers have built telescopes to detect these low and high energy neutrinos as they pass through the Earth. One of these telescopes is IceCube, which is buried deep beneath the […]
It’s the 25th anniversary of the debut of Jurassic Park. And with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom currently at the top of the summer movie food chain, its progeny continue to dominate the box offices. But even as the original Jurassic Park gave viewers the latest in paleontological science in dino looks, the research has progressed to include feathers and wildly different body shapes for old favorites like Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor. Even newer research into dinosaur vocalization suggest they would have sounded more like modern birds than roaring lions. Paleontologists Julia Clarke and Ken Lacovara join John Dankosky to discuss. After the death of the last surviving male northern white rhino, the future looked dim for the endangered subspecies, which now numbers two infertile females. But scientists have been working on a number of methods to rescue the rhino after all. Collections of sperm and DNA could allow southern white rhinos, which are a closely related but a separate subspecies, to carry lab-created embryos to term. The icy planet Uranus is an odd place. It spins on an axis almost perpendicular to its orbit, with one pole pointed straight at the sun for much of the year. It’s also colder than expected […]
Whales are majestic, awe-inspiring animals. Some species can reach up to 150 tons and take in a living room-sized volume of water in one gulp. They can even dive thousands of feet into the ocean while holding their breath all the way down. It’s hard to imagine that the earliest ancestors of these graceful creatures of the deep were four-legged dog-like animals that lived on land. In his book Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures, paleontologist Nick Pyenson examines their evolutionary story. Plus: Think back to your sex ed class in school. Chances are you were introduced to lots of new jargon too: Terms like spermatozoa, oviducts, chromosomes, germ cells and gonads. It was that last word, gonads—and a researcher who referred to them as “magical organs”—that sent Radiolab producer and host Molly Webster on a quest to respark our fascination with embryonic development, X and Y chromosomes, and reproduction. The first few episodes of the limited-run series called Radiolab: Gonads are out now, and Molly joins Ira here to talk about it. And Sophie Bushwick, senior editor at Popular Science, joins Ira to talk about the James Webb Space Telescope and other news from […]
Last week, the National Institutes of Health cancelled a $100 million study of alcohol and health after an internal investigation found “early and frequent” engagement with none other than the alcohol industry, to an extent that would “cast doubt” on the scientific results. But prior to the cancellation, the research was setting out to answer an ongoing question about alcohol and our health: Are moderate drinkers actually better off than nondrinkers? Study after study has found that light or moderate drinkers have a slight health advantage, especially in avoiding nonfatal heart attacks, but is that because they drink, or is it due to some other factor like wealth? Cephalopod Week 2018 has been a worldwide cephalo-bration of octopus, squid, cuttlefish, nautilus, and other undersea friends—but like a fast-jetting octopus, it goes by too quickly. As we wrap up Cephalopod Week this year, squid biologist Sarah McAnulty joins Ira to talk about her research into a symbiotic bacterial relationship in the Hawaiian bobtail squid, a lime-sized beastie that likes to bask on the Hawaiian sand. And Science Friday web producer Lauren Young joins the party to tell the story of a 19th-century self-taught French naturalist, Jeanne Villepreux-Power, who investigated the shell of the paper nautilus—and […]