Living Lab Radio on WCAI

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Living Lab Radio brings you conversations at the intersection of science and society. Connect with scientists for fresh perspectives on the week's news - science and otherwise - and a deeper understanding of the world around us.

Do you have a question, story, or photo to share? Email us at, or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Host and producer Dr. Heather Goldstone.
Credit Maura Longueil

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Living Lab Radio is produced by Heather Goldstone and Elsa Partan.

A right whale skim feeding at the surface.
Courtesy of Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies

Add this to the list of what makes Cape Cod special: Cape Cod Bay may well be the place where the fate of endangered North Atlantic right whales is decided.

There are only about 470 North Atlantic right whales in existence. They were hunted to the brink of extinction, and their future remains precarious. They face a barage of threats - ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, increasing noise levels in the ocean, and climate change.

Sophie-Marie Van Parijs of the Northeast Fishery Science Center listens in on underwater sounds.
Courtesy of NOAA

Here's your science factoid of the day: male Atlantic cod grunt during spawning season. It may sound like useless trivia, but that behavior could help fishery managers better protect cod stocks.

Underwater microphones - hydrophones - installed along the shipping channels leading into Boston already listen for right whales and automatically alert nearby vessels in real time. In fact, you can even get that information on your iPhone.

Caribou crossing Top of the World Highway in Alaska.
Arthur Chapman / Flickr

Being charged by a grizzly bear. Standing in the midst of a herd of caribou. Listening to your breath freeze as it leaves your mouth. Learning firsthand that kerosene freezes at -53 degrees Fahrenheit. You can't make this stuff up.

Ever wanted to hear what it sounds like on radio when somebody get stuck in the mud? Here's your chance. And never say we won't do what it takes to bring you great science stories.

A satellite image shows a large plume of aerosol moving eastward over the North Atlantic Ocean.
Courtesy of NASA EOS Project Science Office

Humans have been watching clouds since the dawn of time. Still, clouds remain one of the most poorly understood aspects of climate and, thus, climate change. Some of the most vehement scientific debates about climate change center around the role of clouds. As a result, they're one of the largest sources of discrepancies between climate models.

A year-long research project based at Cape Cod National Seashore aims to change that.

President Obama talked with Samantha Garvey, 18, of Bay Shore, N.Y., about her environmental sciences project at the second White House science fair.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Science fair winners may not enjoy the celebrity and wealth of Super Bowl champions, as President Obama has quipped they should, but science fairs can yield lucrative scholarships and prizes, not to mention invaluable learning experiences for those who participate.

Historical Print by Jonathan Couch

At least 7000 Americans suffer spinal cord injuries each year.  Often the result is permanent paralysis. On Living Lab, Heather Goldstone sits down with Jennifer Morgan, Marine Biological Laboratory Assistant Scientist, to discuss understanding nerve cell communication and repair in sea lampreys, and what that means for people suffering from spinal cord injury.

This program is a rebroadcast.  It originally aired on July 9, 2012,

  Late Friday night, President Obama signed an order calling for $85 billion in federal budget cuts collectively known as sequestration. There’s been a lot of speculation about the impact of cuts on the military and entitlement programs like MediCare and Social Security. But the cuts will affect every aspect of the federal budget, including funding for science.

Is your rice laced with arsenic? Recent studies have shown high levels of the toxin in some rice products.
Calgary Reviews / Flickr

Arsenic is a heavy metal that is considered a known carcinogen, or cancer causing agent. It is also associated with a range of other adverse health effects. But there is no federal standard for arsenic in food or beverages other than water.

Last year, two studies by Consumer Reports found what they called 'worrisome' levels of arsenic, first in apple and grape juice and then in rice products. A significant number of the products tested by Consumer Reports exceeded the federal drinking water standard for arsenic. The reports prompted calls for expansion of federal standards for arsenic, and also warnings that people should limit their intake of rice and fruit juice.

Credit Woods Hole Research Center

Freshwater ecosystems in the Amazon are highly vulnerable to environmental degradation. On Living Lab, Heather Goldstone talks with Dr. Leandro Castello with the Woods Hole Research Center about a new study showing that Amazon waters are being increasingly degraded by deforestation, pollution, construction of dams and waterways, and over-harvesting of plant and animal species.

Erosion underway at Cold Storage Beach in Dennis on Saturday, February 9th.
Greg Berman / Woods Hole Sea Grant

The Nor'easter that slammed New England this weekend packed hurricane-force winds and dumped as much as three feet of snow in some places. In addition to knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses around southeastern Massachusetts, the storm reworked coastlines around the region. Twenty to thirty foot waves and a four foot storm surge piled on top of astronomically high tides to produce widespread coastal flooding and erosion.

Nathalie Miebach's woven sculptures interpret oceanographic data.
Courtesy of Nathalie Miebach

Back in June, I spoke with Whitney Bernstein and Michael McMahon about their nascent artist-scientist collaborative, Synergy. The project has now reached fruition; eight artist-scientist teams have produced science-inspired works of art that will be shown at Boston's Museum of Science starting February 16th.

The exhibit spans media from music to abstract video, from sculpture to painting. Each work of art is as unique as the artist-scientist team that came together to create it.

Two common dolphins rescued and released in Wellfleet, MA, in 2012.

There's nothing pretty or happy about marine mammal strandings, but they can be useful. Katie Moore should know; she's manager of marine mammal rescue and response for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and she's responded to hundreds of strandings.

Cape Cod is one of three major hotspots for marine mammal strandings worldwide. (The others are in Australia and New Zealand.) Each winter, dozens - sometimes hundreds - of dolphins and small whales wash up on the shores of Cape Cod Bay, particularly in Wellfleet. 2012 was a record-breaking year, with 217 common dolphins stranding in four-month period.

Fred Benenson / Wikimedia Commons

The suicide of computer prodigy and internet activist Aaron Swartz on January 11th has prompted a groundswell of support for the open access movement - the push to make academic publications available online, free of charge and without copyright restrictions.

Swartz helped invent RSS feeds - the technology that allows website updates and internet search results to be automatically delivered to users - and co-founded the social news site Reddit. He was also a staunch advocate of open access, which he viewed as a social justice issue. His Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto began:

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations.

Swartz went on to exhort those with access to academic publications to share that content however they could:

Author Bill Sargent takes the long view in his new book "Beach Wars: 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach."

In March of 2012, crews began demolishing five homes on Chatham's North Beach Island. The action was ordered by the owner of the cottages, Cape Cod National Seashore, but came after months of strenuous protest by leaseholders and numerous observers who argued that the buildings were more than just summer homes - they were part of Chatham's cultural heritage.

That's a notion that Bill Sargent challenges in his latest book, Beach Wars: 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach.