Molly Webster

Molly Webster appears in the following:

Putting swine flu in perspective

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The last few days we've been inundated with numbers and swine flu facts. Eighty deaths in Mexico jumped to 100. Twenty sickened school children in Queens became 40. We know that pork's fine to eat, and that we might not want to travel south of border. But what about some of the contextual facts — are people getting sicker more quickly in this outbreak than they have in others? Will border security stations really help? Here to answer the Big Picture questions is Dr. Richard Wenzel, The Takeaway's go-to swine flu epidemiologist.
"As the numbers expand and we continue to see mild cases, then we have to turn the focus back to what's different about the patients in Mexico."
—Dr. Richard Wenzel on the cause of swine flu
Miss President Obama's speech regarding swine flu? Watch it here:


Swine flu: We know it's spreading, but not much else

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

We continue our coverage of the outbreak of swine flu that appears to be spreading rapidly across the globe. While the epicenter of the outbreak is in Mexico, there are 50 confirmed cases of people sickened from swine flu in the U.S., including 28 at one New York City school. Around the world, 6 are confirmed in Canada; 2 are confirmed in Scotland (with 7 suspected); at least 10 are suspected in New Zealand. In Spain, there is one confirmed case and 17 suspected ones; one suspected in France and one suspected in Israel. This may appear to be a fast moving story to us non-scientists, but in the medical community, they are taking things slow. The Takeaway talks to Dr. Michael Edmonds, an epidemiologist at Virginia Commonwealth University to find out why.

Also joining the conversation is Tom Skinner, the spokesperson for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to give us the latest on the outbreak in the United States. We also will get a report from Ioan Grillo, Mexico correspondent for Time Magazine. He joins us from the heart of the outbreak in Mexico City.
"The best antidote to fear really is information, so we really do want people to be informed about what's going on and know that there really are steps that they can take to protect themselves and others."
—Tom Skinner of the Centers for Disease Control on swine flu protection
Map: State-by-state swine flu infections (The Takeaway)
Read and listen to more about swine flu (The Takeaway)
Times Topics: Swine Flu (The New York Times)
Q&A: Swine Influenza and You (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Understanding Swine Flu (The New York Times)
Key Facts (CDC)
Swine Flu (CDC)
Swine Flu Alert Map (
Consults Blog (The New York Times)
Follow CDCemergency on Twitter


Investigation begins into death of 21 horses

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Polo fans and equestrian-lovers watched in horror as seven horses sickened and died in front of their eyes. The horses were meant to take the field for a polo match in Wellington, Florida on Sunday afternoon. Soon seven other horses fell sick. Veterinarians rushed the fields, but were unable to save a single horse. By Monday, 21 horses, all from the same Venezuelan team, had died. Now, investigators are searching for the cause. The Takeaway turns to Brian Haas, a newspaper reporter on the ground in Florida and Dr Celeste Kunz, a horse veterinarian, to try and piece together this equine mystery.

For more, read Brian Haas' article, PBSO and state investigations launched in deaths of 21 horses in Wellington in the Sun Sentinel.

CBS News has this report:

Click through for a transcript


The Clean Coal Tell-All

Monday, April 13, 2009

What have you heard about clean coal? That it involves vats of liquid carbon dioxide annexed away underground? That it's dangerous? That it's never been done before? In an exclusive interview, Scientific American's energy and environmental editor David Biello sits down with The Takeaway to chat about the technology formally known as "carbon capture and sequestration" ("CCS"), carbon balloons, and carbon geysers— the newest Old Faithfuls.

Check out more of what Biello has to say on Scientific American, where he did a week's worth of carbon capture and sequestration coverage.

And for more coverage of what a "new energy economy" will look like, check out The Takeaway's Power Trip clean energy series.

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Why does scratching stop us from itching?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

When we drag our nails across a chalkboard, it's not pleasant. But dragging our nails across our skin often provides us nothing but relief from a prickly, tickly sensation know as The Itch. Just what is it about scratching an itch that causes the itchy sensation to go away? New research out this week in the journal Nature Neuroscience provides an answer. And we're itchin' to tell you about it: Glenn Geisler, one of the scientists involved with the work, joins The Takeaway with more.

Read Geisler's Nature Neuroscience paper here .

And have you ever wondered how deep into the skin a person can scratch? Read Atul Gawande's New Yorker article The Itch to find out. We won't spoil the ending for you, but it's pretty darn deep.


Saving history: The biologist who protected six million bird-watching notecards

Thursday, April 02, 2009

For nearly 100 years, birds couldn't shake their human paparazzi.

As part of the U.S. government's Bird Migration Program, bird enthusiasts from Kansas to the West Indies tracked down our feathered friends — the Jennifer Anistons of yesteryear — scribbling down notes about their habits: When they came to the area in springtime, where they roosted (and with whom they roosted), and when they flew away for winter.

The note-taking program was first started in 1882 under the leadership of bird expert Wells W. Cook, and it ended in 1970. I spoke with the program's last director, Chandler Robbins, who, at 90, is just three years into his retirement from the United States Geological Survey. Robbins has been protecting the notecards from the incinerator for more than 30 years. He gave us a history of the bird program and told us why it's so important for the two-by-fives to be dusted off and used — before the paper that holds them crumbles away. Click on the LISTEN button below to hear the conversation!
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Birding gets a digital upgrade

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Starting in 1882 and continuing for almost a century, the United State's Bird Migration Program collected two-by-five notecards from bird watchers around North America. Today, these long preserved cards — did we mention that there were over six million of them? — are being dusted off, in the hopes that they can tell us something about a bird of a different feather: climate change. Jessica Zelt, coordinator of the newly established North American Bird Phenology Program where she is in charge of digitizing the cards, joins the show to tell us more.

Are you itchin' to get your hands on a little American history? You can transcribe the migration notecards into the digital directory from your very own home. Click here to help! Go on, be a part of bird history.

For more, read Molly Webster's Producer's Note

And before we let you go, we'd like to leave you with a little bird quote from our friends here at the Internet, because really, what's the World Wide Web good for if not to root-out some profound, bird-related witticisms? Ahem: "My favorite weather is bird-chirping weather." ~Loire Hartwould




Can the concrete industry go green?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Like the Big Mac or Budweiser beer, concrete is everywhere. But concrete comes with a cost: in creating the ubiquitous building material, tons upon tons of carbon dioxide are emitted annually. In fact, the concrete industry is the third largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world. Is there a way to green the gray giant? For answers, The Takeaway is joined by the New York Times editor and writer Henry Fountain. Fountain is the author of the today's Science Times article, Concrete is remixed with the environment in mind.

This isn't the first time The Takeaway listeners have heard about the CO2 spewing powers of cement. Check out our interview with Vinod Kholsa, as part of our Power Trip green energy series.


Survivor: Planet Earth

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

There's a polar bear meeting in Norway this week, where politicians are considering how to handle the dire predictions surrounding the fate of our arctic friend. And this meeting got us thinking: in the face of a warming globe, is extinction the only option? Are organisms, along with a little thing called natural selection, finding a way to beat this formidable foe? We hope Warren Allmon, a paleontology professor at Cornell who specializes in macroevolution, can shed some light on our queries. Mr. Allmon is also the director of the Museum of the Earth.

Polar Bear S.O.S. has enlisted children to spread the word about the animal's plight. Hear their message below.


Continent's smallest meat-eating dinosaur discovered!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When you think of dinosaurs, what comes to mind? Hulking creature? Gargantuan teeth? What about something the size of a small house cat? In a story that everyone's inner child will love, researchers in Canada have found North America's smallest carnivorous dinosaur. Paleontologist Nick Longrich joins The Takeaway to talk dinos and break down what the continent's ecosystem looked like millions of years ago.


Somalis in Minneosota report many cases of autism

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Somali immigrants living in Minneapolis, Minnesota are finding that an increasing number of their children have autism. Is it random coincidence, or evidence of a larger epidemic? New York Times global health reporter Donald McNeil joins The Takeaway to report.

Check out McNeil's story on the cases, An Outbreak of Autism, or a Statistical Fluke? in today's Science Times.

For more, watch this report and follow the story in The Huffington Post and in The MinnPost.

"There are hundreds of theories going around and everyone's terrified, because even the best medical authorities in the country can't answer the question: What gave your child this."
— New York Times reporter Donald McNeil on the rate of autism among Somalis in Minneapolis

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America's #1 Prescription: PLAY!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ants do it. (says E.O. Wilson)
Octopuses do it.
Humans...mmmm, not so much.

There's talk going around about the science of P-L-A-Y, and specifically, about what play means, how it lights up our brains, and why we feel like automatrons when we don't play. Today's prescription is written by Dr Stuart Brown, co-author of the new book, "Play," and founder of the National Institute for Play. He joins The Takeaway for a break from the real world.


Copenhagen conference's 'last call' for the case of global warming

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

At a science conference in Copenhagen this week, there's a "last call" for scientists who want to present evidence in the case for global warming. American, British and other European scientists will present latest scientific findings on climate change since the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report in 2007. This is in part an attempt to encourage an international climate treaty in December in Copenhagen. Joining The Takeaway from Copenhagen is BBC Environmental Correspondent Matt McGrath.

One topic being addressed at the conference is rising sea levels. Watch the video below for more information.


For wild creatures, science becomes less intrusive with new technologies

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Anyone who has watched wildlife documentaries may know that animal behavioral patterns are tracked by inserting microchips into the animals' bodies. This is tricky, because it requires tranquilizing the animal in order to place the chip. But new technology now allows for non-invasive research. Science journalist Jim Robbins joins The Takeaway to explain how scientists are using technology and animal products, like poop, to learn everything they can about wildlife without even touching the animals.

For more, read Jim's piece on DNA-powered wildlife research in the New York Times article, Tools That Leave Wildlife Unbothered Widen Research Horizons.

If you want to do your own wildlife surveys, you'll need to be able to match scat with the critter that created it. To bone up, watch this video.


Lofty rhetoric frames President Obama's health care summit

Friday, March 06, 2009

None of The Takeaway staff was chosen as one of the seven "average Americans" in President Obama's health care summit in Washington, but we're making sure we — and you — stay part of the conversation. Dr. Marcia Angell, a senior lecturer in Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, provides a national health check.

Watch President Obama's opening statements from the health care summit.


Kepler is on the hunt for planets like Earth

Thursday, March 05, 2009

For NASA, one earth isn't enough. On Friday, the agency is set to launch a giant telescope called Kepler into outer space. Kepler will orbit the sun and sweep it's camcorder-like lens across the Milky Way, looking for planets like Earth, that can sustain life. Here to tell us more is William Borucki, the principal science investigator for the Kepler Mission.

And it wouldn't be a normal week at The Takeaway if we didn't mention Battlestar Galactica at least once. For geeks like us, the Kepler Mission instantly calls Battlestar Galactica and the hunt for a new Earth to mind. In honor of the last three episodes ever of everyone's favorite SciFi series, we'd like to take you all the way back to the beginning. So here's the trailer for Battlestar Galactica, Season One:


Environmentally friendly solar flashlight brings light to Africa's poorest villages

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

In undeveloped nations such as Eritrea, Haiti, or Cameroon, light is a luxury. Mark Bent thinks that's unacceptable.

Bent, a former American diplomat and Houston oilman, is CEO and founder of SunNight Solar, a company that has created solar powered flashlights that they are now spreading throughout the world by way of private donors, the United Nations and organizations such as Direct Relief International.

The Takeaway ran into Bent at the Greener Gadgets Conference in New York City on February 27th, where he happily pulled apart his product for us. The flashlights, the shape of which reminded me of a Pantene-Pro V shampoo bottle, are made of LED lights and a plastic case. They nab their power from three recyclable batteries that are re-charged by a solar panel that graces the side of the flashlight. In total, the panel provides power for up to 2,000 nights, and the batteries last about two years.

Bent was at the conference to participate in an expert panel titled, "Green Design For Good." When asked about using plastic in his product (a material that doesn't scream sustainability) Bent replied, "I'm willing to live with ABS plastic because I can get people to read." The former Navy man's flashlight do more than help people read. They cut down on the need for kerosene lanterns, which improves lung health, as well as allow villages and refugee camps to function safely after dark. Women are protected from sexual assault, refugees can use the lamps to deter thieves, and farmers can keep away wild animals.

Bent sat down with us post-conference to dish on how his flashlights promote gender equality and safety around the world, and why pink is his favorite color.
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Commercial breaks may be good for the brain

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Talk about turning a notion on its head. What if your coveted winter vacation—the time when you leave the bitter, snowy cold behind and head for a few days of palm trees—could actually add to your winter blues? New research in psychology shows that interruptions from things we dislike may make us detest them all the more, whereas interruptions from doing something we really adore say, watching an episode of Friday Night Lights may highlight our appreciation. Benedict Carey, a science reporter from the New York Times, joins The Takeaway to explain.

Read his story on the dreaded commercial break Liked the Show? Maybe It Was the Commercials in today's New York Times.

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One flu vaccine to rule them all

Monday, February 23, 2009

Winter, spring, summer, fall. It seems like no matter the season, it’s always time to get the newest version of the flu shot. Well, times may be achangin'. Scientists who were looking for a way to annihilate the Avian flu have stumbled upon a protein that halts both the Avian and seasonal flu. Are the consequent rumors of a universal flu vaccine justified? The Takeaway is joined by Wayne Marasco, M.D., one of the lead authors on the research article that appeared online just yesterday.

If you're in the mood for some dense reading (or if you want to get in touch with your inner molecular biologist), read the article abstract, Structural and functional bases for broad-spectrum neutralization of avian and human influenza A viruses


Keep your hands to yourself: Child abuse affects our genes

Monday, February 23, 2009

It doesn't sound nonsensical to say that what happens when we are younger stays with us the rest of our lives. But today, for the first time ever, scientists reveal that childhood abuse can affect our genes by altering the biology of our brains. Luckily these markers can be wiped clean in the next generation and the cycle can end. In this segment, John Hockenberry goes knee-deep into the brain with guest Michael Meaney, one of the lead researchers on the work, which appears online in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

For more, read the very scientifically written and deeply wonky article abstract, Epigenetic regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor in human brain associates with childhood abuse.

Have more questions? Michael Meaney is happy to answer your questions. Post here and he'll respond.

"The types of epigenetic marks that we're looking at are not necessarily going to be transmitted from parent to offspring, so you needn't be sitting around saying 'look, I've been damaged ergo my children will be damaged no matter how good a parent I am.'"
— Michael Meaney, co-director of the Sackler Program for Epigenetics and Psychobiology at McGill University, on how child abuse affects genes

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