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.
 

Ways to Connect

A new theory of gravity has been shown to form spiral-shaped galaxies in a computer simulation. This image is the night sky above Paranal taken by astronomer Yuri Beletsky in 2007. The laser points to the galactic center of the Milky Way galaxy.
Yuri Beletsky, https://tinyurl.com/y6nnetk6

Einstein's theory of general relativity was revolutionary when it was introduced. Over the past century, aspects of the theory have been proven in experiment after experiment and much of it has become an assumed underpinning of daily life, even for non-scientists.

Take Einstein’s description of gravity.

Gravity is gravity, right? How strong it is depends on the mass of the objects involved. Or maybe not.

Melted permafrost slumping into a river in Alaska's Yukon Kuskokwim Delta.
Courtesy of Sue Natali, Woods Hole Research Center

"Once you have an abrupt event like this - the ground cracks and opens up - it's not something that can just be undone by a cold year, because you've already exposed all this ground. Some of the material is just falling into lakes. You're losing ground material and you just can't go back in a human relevant timeframe." - Sue Natali

This week on Living Lab Radio:

  • Climate scientist Sue Natali has just returned from the Alaskan Arctic, where she witnessed extreme heat, wildfires, lightning storms, and the ground literally collapsing due to permafrost melting. She says she’s never seen anything like it in her years of Arctic research, and warns it is a sign of abrupt and accelerating climate change.

Ernesto del Aguila III, NHGRI / Public Domain

CRISPR gene editing. It's gone from an obscure biotech term to a household name in the past few years, in no small part due to a scientist who last year announced that he'd not only modified the DNA of human embryos but that two baby girls had been born carrying the edits he'd made.

The CRISPR system is not the only way to edit DNA, but it is faster, easier, and less expensive than alternatives. It also has the potential to be far more precise.

Interpreting a poem and interpreting scientific data are both like putting together a puzzle.
Jared Tarbell/Flickr: sky puzzle / CC BY 2.0 http://bit.ly/2LzfEmn

Science and poetry aren’t necessarily seen as complementary - and certainly not overlapping - pursuits. But Elisa New, Harvard University professor and host of Poetry in America, has been seeking out scientists to read and talk about poetry. And she says scientists and poets have more in common than is widely recognized.

Meat of the future might be quite different from meat of the past.
Stanley Kubrick, photographer / LOOK Magazine Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ6-2352., CC BY-ND
A health worker vaccinates a man who has been in contact with an Ebola affected person in the Democratic Republic of Congo in January, 2019.
World Bank / Vincent Tremeau / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, http://bit.ly/2SoMmYa

The World Health Organization has declared the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo a global health emergency. Over the past year, more than 2,500 people have been infected and close to 1,700 have died. It is the second deadliest Ebola outbreak ever.

A health worker vaccinates a man who has been in contact with an Ebola affected person in the Democratic Republic of Congo in January, 2019.
World Bank / Vincent Tremeau / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, http://bit.ly/2SoMmYa

"One of the things that we've learned from the West Africa outbreak of Ebola and now the [Democratic Republic of Congo] outbreak is that you can do ethically sound and scientifically sound clinical research within the setting of an ongoing outbreak. We have really learned a lot, and hopefully with the therapeutic trial we'll learn even more." - Anthony Fauci

This week on Living Lab Radio:

Anaxagoras crater in the north polar region of the Moon. Cropped version of computer generated image by PDS MAP-A-PLANET.
NASA space probe Clementine (USGS PDS MAP-A-PLANET)

July 20th marks fifty years since the Apollo 11 moon landing and those fateful words: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The Apollo missions advanced our understanding of the moon by leaps and bounds, but they were far from the first forays into lunar science.

Sy Montgomery with a cheetah in Namibia.
Nic Bishop / Courtesy of Sy Montgomery

We typically hear what scientists have learned about animals. And Sy Montgomery’s career as an author and naturalist has taught her plenty about animals, from octopuses to moon bears.

By Afshin Darian / Flickr: NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, CC BY 2.0

Each month, we check in with our colleagues at the journal Nature to review recent science headlines that they have been following. Nick Howe of the Nature multimedia team brought us highlights of some major developments and trends in science.

Brewster, Mass., is experiencing sea level rise, and with it, erosion.
muffinman71xx, https://tinyurl.com/y4obju7q

Much of what we hear about rising sea levels consists of long-range projections hundreds of years in the future -- projections that mostly consider the impact of melting ice.

But this global perspective won't tell you what will happen at any particular location. And it turns out, all sea level rise is local.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstad/Sean Doran

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. It’s one of the most recognizable features of any planet in our solar system, right up there with Saturn’s rings.

And, remarkably, it’s a storm. A really huge storm that’s been raging for hundreds of years.

Vanderbilt University researcher Shane King tries out the treadmill he helped design. It trips people for science.
Courtesy Vanderbilt University

Imagine being tripped over and over again, knowing that it would keep happening, but never knowing when. Nightmarish, right?

That’s exactly what some people volunteered to do in order to help make prosthetic legs better.  

Krzysztof Niewolny / unsplash

Last November, the New York Times magazine made an ominous declaration: The Insect Apocalypse is Here. The story warned that insects, globally, could face extinction this century. And that would have far-reaching ramifications for other life on Earth, including us. But that’s not the end of the story.

divotomezove / pixabay.com

“We don't know the magnitude, we don't know the rate. We don't exactly know where insects are declining, and what lineages. So, there's a lot of questions left. But we do know they are in decline. And we probably know enough now that we can act and start making some important conservation decisions.” – David Wagner

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