Elsa Partan

Producer for Living Lab

Elsa Partan is a producer for Living Lab Radio. She first came to the station in 2002 as an intern and fell in love with radio. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. From 2006 to 2009, she covered the state of Wyoming for the NPR member station Wyoming Public Media in Laramie. She was a newspaper reporter at The Mashpee Enterprise from 2010 to 2013. She lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters.

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The fifth generation of wireless technology—5G—promises faster service, more data, and more devices connected to each other.

U.S. cell phone companies have unveiled new 5G phones and small 5G networks this year, and more is coming. But it’s not just about better cell service.

A Planned Parenthood in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Ken Wolter / shutterstock.com

By Luu D. Ireland, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Massachusetts Medical School

The abortion debate is at the center of U.S. political dialogue. Voices from both sides flood social media feeds, newspapers, radio and television programs.

Biophysicist He Jiankui helped to create the world's first gene-edited babies. Now there is evidence that they may experience shortened lifespans.
Wikicommons https://tinyurl.com/yyprpab6

Each month we turn to our colleagues at the journal Nature for a tour of recent science headlines, complements of our friends at the journal Nature. This month, it's Flora Graham, Editor of  Nature Briefing. Here are the stories we covered:

DEAR: Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center, a service of the National Institute on Aging.

Alzheimer’s disease is a leading cause of death and affects an estimated five and a half million Americans. Decades of research have greatly improved our understanding of how the disease develops, from plaques of a protein called amyloid beta, to tangles of another protein called tau, and finally to inflammation in the brain and the familiar symptoms of dementia.

Scientist Jeff Kneebone tags a juvenile sand tiger shark in Quincy Bay off Wollaston Beach.
Courtesy Jeff Kneebone

Say the word “shark” to a New Englander these days and the mind jumps straight to great white sharks, which have seen a remarkable increase here in recent years.

But great whites aren't the only sharks around. And it turns out we know little about many of the sharks that frequent New England's waters.

Now there’s a new effort to understand how catch-and-release fishing of sandbar sharks impacts their survival.

NIH Image Gallery / Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

"The plaque is like the match, the tangles, like the brushfires that spread. You can live with it. But once there's neuroinflammation, that's the forest fire. And that's self-feeding. As neurons die, you get more neuroinflammation. Neuroinflammation causes more cells to die. So, you get this vicious cycle." - Rudi Tanzi

This week on Living Lab Radio:

North Atlantic right whales are critically endangered.
Courtesy of The Center for Coastal Studies

North Atlantic right whales are critically endangered, with just over 400 individuals left, and their numbers declining. The leading causes of death are well-known: right whales are susceptible to being struck by ships, and over 83 percent have shown evidence of being entangled in fishing gear at one point or another.

But the population has also seen low reproductive rates and declining health status in recent years that can't necessarily be explained by those impacts. Now, new research points to another possible culprit: climate change.

Rainwater collectors in Rocky Mountain National Park, where efforts to track air pollution turned up microplastics in rain.
Greg Wetherbee / Courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey

When Greg Wetherbee and his colleagues started collecting rainwater in early 2017, microplastics were the last thing on their minds. What they were looking for was evidence of air pollution washing out in the rain. They found that, but they also found plastic - not just a piece or two, but fibers and shards in nine out of ten samples.

"These results are actually accidental and opportune,” said Wetherbee, who is a research chemist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Lakewood, Colorado.

Pen Waggener / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

If you've ever had a urinary tract infection, somebody has probably told you to drink cranberry juice. The idea that cranberries have infection-fighting powers has been around a long time. Now, there's research to support it.

Scientists at McGill University have found that cranberry extracts make E. coli and bacteria responsible for urinary tract infections and pneumonia more susceptible to antibiotics.

May brought record tornado activity, with more than 300 tornadoes in the second half of the month.
TheAustinMan / TheAustinMan [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Record rainfall in California. Record flooding in the mid-West. Record tornado activity in the central and southeastern U.S. And, while federal forecasters are calling for a near-normal level of hurricane activity this summer, the first named storm formed almost two weeks before the official start of hurricane season. In fact, extreme and record-setting weather seems to be the norm this year.

Cranberry extracts can make bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics, and prevent them from developing resistance.
Liz West/Flickr http://bit.ly/2JPBmle / CC BY 2.0

"The molecules themselves - the ones from cranberry or the ones from maple - they're not actually killing the bacteria. And that's a really interesting part of the of the research. They're not actually killing the bacteria, so they don't necessarily make the bacteria develop resistance. They're actually just somehow making these bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics." - Nathalie Tufenkji

This week on Living Lab Radio:

The first March for Science on April 22, 2017 drew about a million people to marches worldwide. This year, there wasn't a march at all.
Molly Adams, https://tinyurl.com/yyg6ux5f

The first March for Science drew hundreds of thousands of scientists and science enthusiasts to events around the world. Some estimates put the total number of participants worldwide at one million.

Jakob Owens / unsplash

Coral reefs around the world face a host of threats from human activities – from destructive fishing practices, to pollution, and of course, climate change. Reefs in the Caribbean have been in decline. Close to half of the corals on the Great Barrier Reef died during a two-year heat wave starting in 2016. And scientists have said that the vast majority of reefs could be gone by 2050.

A study finds that perceptions changed over the course of a few months.
Robin Higgins, Pixabay, https://tinyurl.com/y2bhrrab

In the fall of 2017, actor Alyssa Milano responded to accusations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein by tweeting.

“If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” she wrote.

Atomic Clock FOCS-1 (Switzerland). The primary frequency standard device, FOCS-1, one of the most accurate devices for measuring time in the world. It stands in a laboratory of the Swiss Federal Office of Metrology METAS in Bern.
METAS, https://tinyurl.com/y627lkc5

So, it happened. And you probably didn’t notice. But the long-awaited, new definition of the kilogram went into effect this past week.

The metal cylinder that has defined the kilo for over a century has now been replaced with a mathematical equation based on a number known as the Planck constant.

It was the last physical artefact defining any unit of measurement in the international system, so its replacement marks an important point in efforts to define those units in ways that are permanent and immutable – based on constants of nature, rather than somebody’s foot or a hunk of metal. But it’s certainly not the end of the effort.

Now they’re taking on the second with renewed vigor. You know, the base unit of time in the International System of Units. That second.