Science

courtesy Iowans for Sam Clovis

As President Donald Trump continues to fill political appointments, his nomination for the top science job at the U.S. Department of Agriculture is raising unique concerns.

Trump has chosen Iowan Sam Clovis to be undersecretary of agriculture for research, education and economics. Clovis served as a fighter pilot in the Air Force, has a doctorate in public administration, and taught economics at Morningside College in Sioux City.

Sioux City is also where he gained a following as a conservative talk show host.

flickr / RelaxingMusic

We all know that you're not you when you're tired. According to new sleep research, that's not just a saying, but it's scientifically true. New studies shows that sleep disturbances in young adults can worsen suicidal ideation, and it can even be harmful to your health to fight with your spouse when you haven't been sleeping well. 

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dr. Eric Dyken of the University of Iowa about these new studies. He also answers listener questions about sleep. 

NASA Public Domain

Iowa has a connection to the Apollo moon landing, which happened 48 years ago.  The communications equipment in the command module was designed by Collins Radio in Cedar Rapids.  In this portion of River to River, Mike Wilson joins the conversation. He is former VP of operations at Collins Radio and also worked for Rockwell-Collins once that company was formed.  Wilson says they had two sets of equipment in the case.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration / Wikimedia Commons

A NASA space probe carrying an instrument developed at the University of Iowa will pass close to Jupiter Monday. The Juno spacecraft will come within 56-hundred miles of the iconic Great Red Spot on the planet. Scientists believe the spot is a 10-thousand-mile-wide storm that has been brewing for 350 years. A research scientist at the University of Iowa, Bill Kurth, says there are basic facts about the red spot, however, scientists don’t understand.

alamosbasement/flickr

University of Iowa researchers have found cancer-causing chemicals in some older Iowa schools.

Children may be exposed to airborne polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in schools built between 1950 and the mid-1970s. PCBs were banned in 1979.

Keri Hornbuckle, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa, says the researchers expected to find higher levels of airborne PCBs outside of schools.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Startups are eyeing the market for space tourism, and NASA is discovering habitable planets. On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with the co-authors of Vacation Guide to the Solar System, a book that imagines an interplanetary vacation.

In the book, co-authors Olivia Koski and Jana Grcevich take real data from NASA and other sources to create a whimsical and accurate picture of what it would really be like to travel our solar system.

NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute

The space probe Cassini has been exploring Saturn since 2004.  One of the instruments on the two story tall spacecraft is from the University of Iowa called the Radio Plasma and Wave Science (RPWS) instrument.  It picks up Saturn’s radio waves.

 

University of Iowa scientist Bill Kurth takes telemetry from the RPWS and converts it to audio files in the human hearing range.  It’s a mix of ascending tones.  Some have a squealing quality.

VictoryVR

Students at Davenport Assumption High School are discovering a new tool for exploring careers in the STEM fields. They can now take a virtual reality tour of sites where people in STEM-related professions work.

The phone-based virtual reality mobile app allows students to view interviews of people from around the country who are working at science, technology, engineering or math jobs. Assumption science teacher Wendy Martin says it’s not like watching television. She says when the students put on the special goggles, they join the action.

What is time? Why does it always seem to move forward? Why is the earth made of matter and not of anti-matter? Are there really just three dimensions? Are we alone in the Universe? How big is the Universe? 

The short answer is, "we have no idea," and that's the point of a new book by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson. During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Cham and Whiteson about their new book We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe. 

NASA photo

Astronaut and Iowa native Peggy Whitson sets a U.S. record in orbit today.  She is spending her 535th cumulative day in space, and that breaks the record of 534 days that had been held by Jeff Williams.  Whitson lifted off from Kazakhstan November 17th, 2016, on what is her third trip aboard the station. 

In an interview with Texas schoolchildren in February, Whitson was asked what it’s like to be flying through space at 17-thousand miles an hour.

WIKICOMMONS / US National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center

An Iowa State neuroscience lab has discovered a way to study the early stages of protein-misfolding diseases like Parkinson’s or Chronic Wasting Disease, and this may aid the development of new treatments.

These diseases are tricky to detect in incubation period. For example if someone has Alzheimer’s, it won’t be apparent that person is sick until they start exhibiting symptoms. 

U.S. Army RDECOM / Flickr

Exhaustion, shock, panic, disease, extreme heat, and horrific noise -  these are some of the less talked about challenges of military combat.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with celebrated science writer Mary Roach about her new book, Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. In it, she explores the aspects of war no one makes movies about - the quirky but essential science behind staying alive in combat.

A description of Grunt from the publisher, W. W. Morton & Company, Inc.:

Lukas Keller/University of Zurich

Each year, scientists and enthusiasts across the globe celebrate Darwin Day as a way teach the principles embodied in Charles Darwin's research on evolution, and to learn about the latest evolutionary research being conducted today.

Charity Nebbe

Pew Research finds that 68 percent of Americans say there is no conflict between their personal religious beliefs and science. For the 30 percent who do see a conflict, "the most common source of disagreement involves beliefs about evolution and the creation of the universe."

Courtesy of Joe Palca

During the 25 years he has been with NPR, Joe Palca has covered everything from biomedical research to astronomy.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Palca about the process of science and how its findings get communicated to the public. They also discuss his latest series Joe’s Big Idea, which explores the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors.

See-ming Lee / Wikimedia Commons

According to research by the Gallup organization, North Dakotans are happier than Iowans. Or rather, they have a higher state of well-being.

Kentucky Country Day

A national survey from 2011 shows that 60 percent of teachers avoid the topic of evolution in their classrooms.

MIKI Yoshihito / flickr

What do snakes, turtles, zebra fish, and a program called CRISPR have in common? They are all involved in genomic research happening right here in Iowa.

The new Jurassic World movie is now in theaters, and there’s also recent controversial news that for the first time, Chinese scientists have edited DNA in human embryos.

Jad Abumrad on Unanswered Questions and Making Concepts Dance

Apr 2, 2015
PopTech / flickr

What does a shrimp sees when it looks at a rainbow? How well can we really know the minds of animals? Why do we blink?

These are some of the questions that Radiolab creator and co-host, Jad Abumrad, tackles with each episode of his show.

Brent Moore / Flickr

This Valentine's Day weekend, along with chocolate and flowers, you can add one more tool to your arsenal: science.

Darwin Day

Jan 29, 2015
CGP Grey / flickr / http://www.cgpgrey.com/

Charles Darwin has a birthday next month, and science lovers all over the world will take time to celebrate the man who unraveled so many of the mysteries surrounding our origins, and those of our fellow animals.

fusky / Flickr

When Troy Van Voorhis became a chemistry professor at MIT, he started getting questions from his students: Did science eliminate the need for religion? Did you have to be an atheist to be a good scientist?

courtesy of Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites

With cellulosic ethanol now being produced in Iowa, researchers at Iowa State University hope to convert some of the by-products into useful renewable materials. 

Miroslav Petrasko

An inky black sky full of stars is one of the most breathtaking views on Earth, but for most Americans the stars have dimmed because of artificial light.

chandrika221 / flickr

The drama of mood swings, impulsiveness and bizarre behaviors during adolescence
can take a toll on both teens and their parents.

en.wikipedia.org

Acclaimed evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins returns to Iowa this Saturday.  Dawkins will speak at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines at a ticketed event put on by SecularityUSA, which advocates for secularism in American government.

Smithsonian Institution

David Skorton used to open his Iowa Public Radio jazz show like this, "As night falls over the river city and all of eastern Iowa, it's time for jazz."

Skorton is the former president of the University of Iowa, and has served as president of Cornell University, and he will become the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute next year.  You might remember his radio jazz show “As Night Falls” which he co-hosted with the late Frank Conroy.  Hear about Skorton's  expectations of his upcoming job:

Ben Kieffer / Iowa Public Radio

Is winter almost over?  And how has the long, harsh season affect Iowa's waterways and aquatic life?  Also, the latest Quinnipiac poll, 2014's Cancer in Iowa report, Iowa's new tourism ad campaign and Pi Day at the Science Center of Iowa.

Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

Many Iowans find the common pigeon, or rock dove, a pest and call them "winged rats." However, this bird's brain is deceptively clever.

Ed Wasserman runs the Comparative Cognition Laboratory at the University of Iowa. Wasserman is world renowned for his work in animal intelligence, including proving that pigeons recognize individual human faces.

chandrika221 / flickr

The drama of mood swings, impulsiveness and bizarre behaviors during adolescence
can take a toll on both teens and their parents. Neuropsychiatrist and bestselling author Dr. Daniel Siegel says that there is a lot of misinformation about this developmental period.

“There are common myths that we all hear about…that are actually not only wrong, they’re misleading and in some ways they’re disempowering.  So by learning the truths you can actually understand things as they actually are and then do something about them.”

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