Streams

Please Explain

A weekly feature on The Leonard Lopate Show; airs every Friday at noon

In Please Explain, we set aside time every Friday afternoon to get to the bottom of one complex issue. Ever wonder how New York City's water system works? Or how the US became so polarized politically? We'll back up and review the basic facts and principles of complicated issues across a broad range of topics — history, politics, science, you name it.

Recently in Please Explain

Please Explain: What Do Organic Labels Mean?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Thomas Bjorkman, professor of horticulture at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY, and Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director, Consumer Safety and Sustainability Group at Consumer Reports, discuss what the organic label indicates about how food is grown, and what the various animal welfare labels indicate about how meat or eggs were bred and raised.

Comments [24]

Please Explain: Butterflies

Friday, September 07, 2012

Monarch butterflies have started to make their long journey south to Mexico. On this week’s Please Explain, we’ll find out about the many different species of butterflies—from their coloring to their attraction to flowers to their cocoons. We’re joined by Bob Robbins, Curator of Lepidoptera, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, and Dr. Cole Gilbert, Associate Professor of Entomology at Cornell University.

Comments [14]

Please Explain: Wonder Bread

Friday, August 31, 2012

Aaron Bobrow-Strain, author of White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf and professor of politics at Whitman College, explains the colorful history of white bread and tells us what makes it so soft, so white, and have such a long shelf life. He’ll also discuss how the kind of bread you eat has defined social status for centuries.

Comments [24]

Please Explain: Spiders

Friday, August 24, 2012

This week we'll take a look at the creepy crawly world of spiders. Dr. Norm Platnick, curator emeritus in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology, and Hazel Davies, Associate Director of Living Exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History, talk about spiders, which are among the most versatile animals on the planet—they're able to inhabit every continent but Antarctica and are able to survive in environments that range from deserts to rainforests to crowded cities. There's an exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History called "Spiders Alive!" It's on view through December 2.

Comments [23]

Please Explain: Pigeons

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pigeons seem to be everywhere in New York City, and they fill city squares in London and Venice. We’ll take a look at why these birds thrive in urban areas around the word and how they’re able to find their way home from hundreds of miles away. Andrew Blechman, managing editor of Orion magazine and author of Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird, and Courtney Humphries, author of Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan…and the World, join us.

Comments [39]

Please Explain: Teams and Teamwork

Friday, August 10, 2012

This week’s Please Explain takes a look at the art and science of teamwork. We’re joined by Scott Wiltermuth, Assistant Professor of Management and Organization, at USC’s Marshall School of Business, and Dr. John Krakauer, Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience, Director, Center for the Study of Motor Learning and Brain Repair, the Johns Hopkins Hospital Department of Neurology.

Comments [6]

Please Explain: Meditation

Friday, August 03, 2012

The practice of meditation has existed for some 2,500 years. David McKeel, Director of Practice & Education at Shambhala Meditation Center of New York, and Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School and author of Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation, tell us what meditation is, how it works, and the research into its health benefits.

Comments [15]

Please Explain: Doping

Friday, July 27, 2012

More than 100 athletes have been banned from competing in the London Olympics because of doping suspensions. Doping allegations have become common in many sports, most notably in cycling, baseball, and track and field. Dr. Dennis Cardone, associate professor of sports medicine at NYU Langone’s Center for Musculoskeletal Care, and Dr. Gary Wadler, clinical associate professor in the Department of medicine at Hofstra University, explain how performance-enhancing drugs work, how they're detected, and how doping has been addressed in sports. Dr. Wadler served as the Chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) Prohibited List and Methods Sub-Committee and serves as an ex-officio member of WADA’s Health, Medicine, and Research Committee. He is the lead author of the textbook Drugs and the Athlete.

Comments [9]

Please Explain: The Higgs Boson

Friday, July 20, 2012

Early this month, researchers at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, announced that they found convincing evidence of a new particle called the Higgs boson. Sometimes called the “god particle,” the Higgs boson gives mass to the elementary particles that make up the universe. Brian Greene, Professor of Mathematics and Physics and author of The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos, and The Hidden Reality, and Kyle Cranmer, Assistant Professor of Physics at New York University, help us decipher what the Higgs is and why it matters, and explain how the Large Hadron Collider works.

Comments [20]

Please Explain: Artificial Sweeteners

Friday, July 13, 2012

Artificial sweeteners are thought to be a billion dollar industry. On today's Please Explain, Dr. Maudene Nelson director of Community Outreach at Columbia University Institute of Human Nutrition, talks about how these non-sugars work. We'll find out about artificial sweeteners and low- and no-calorie sugar substitutes like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose and why they still taste sweet on the tongue.

Comments [28]

Please Explain: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Friday, June 29, 2012

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by anxiety and unreasonable thoughts and fears that lead to repetitive behaviors. Trying to ignore or stop these thoughts often only increases distress and anxiety, and people who suffer from OCD  feel driven to perform compulsive acts to reduce or ease feelings of stress and anxiety. Dr. Helen Blair Simpson, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and the Director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and Dr. Tamar Chansky, Founder and Director of the Children’s Center for OCD and Anxiety in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, join us to explain symptoms, treatment, and how to cope with the disorder. Dr. Chansky is the author of Freeing Your Child from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Comments [23]

Please Explain: The Human Microbiome Project

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dr. Lita Proctor, program director for the Human Microbiome Project, and Dr. Martin Blaser, Professor of Internal Medicine and of Professor of Microbiology at NYU School of Medicine, talk about the 100 trillion good bacteria that live in the human body and the five-year federal project to sequence the genetic material of the bacteria taken from 250 healthy individuals. They’ll explain what they found, how healthy bacteria works in the body, and why it’s important for good health.

Comments [18]

Please Explain: Tattoos

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tattoo artist Scott Campbell, of Saved Tattoo in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Dr. Lars Krutak, of the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution, discuss the history of tattoos and body decorations, the mechanics of getting a tattoo, the art of tattoo design, and how they can be removed.

Comments [32]

Please Explain: 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and Saving for Retirement

Friday, June 08, 2012

Tax-advantaged accounts like the 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans are popular ways to invest money for retirement, but unlike traditional pension plans, these plans require people to manage their investment strategies yourselves. Eleanor Laise, Editor, Kiplinger's Retirement Report, and Anthony Webb, research economist at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, discuss how these plans work, how best to manage them, and how to plan—and save—for retirement.

Comments [15]

Please Explain: Vitamins

Friday, June 01, 2012

Patsy Brannon, Professor of Nutrition, Cornell University explains what vitamins do and which are most important.

Comments [47]

Please Explain: Drones

Friday, May 18, 2012

Nick Paumgarten, staff writer for The New Yorker, explains what drones are, how they work, and the technological advancements that are making drones more prevalent in military and civilian life. He’s the author of “Here’s Looking at You” in the May 14 issue of The New Yorker.

Comments [12]

Please Explain: Credit Ratings

Friday, May 11, 2012

This week we'll find out about credit reports and credit scores and how to manage them effectively. Jeffrey Blyskal, senior editor of  Consumer Reports, joins us to explain how they work and what they mean. 

If you have a question, call 212-433-9692 or leave a comment below. 

Comments [34]

Please Explain: Bioluminescence

Friday, May 04, 2012

John Sparks, associate curator and curator-in-charge, department of Ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History, and David Gruber, assistant professor at the City University of New York and a research associate at the museum, discuss the variety of bioluminescent organisms—from fungus to dinoflagellates to jellyfish—and explain the various ways they glow, the functions of bioluminescence, and how scientists study it. The exhibition Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence is on view at the American Museum of Natural History through January 6, 2013.

Comments [9]

Please Explain: Lobbying

Friday, April 27, 2012

It's estimated that over $3 billion was spent on lobbying efforts last year. On this week's Please Explain, Alex Blumberg from NPR's Planet Money describes how lobbying works, the role that all that money plays in politics, and what kind of influence that money buys. Call us at 212-433-9692 with your questions, or leave them in a comment below!

Comments [20]

Please Explain: Movie Special Effects

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dr. Doug Roble, the Creative Director of Software at Digital Domain, the multiple Academy Award-winning visual effects studio in Venice, California, talks about the history of special effects in filmmaking and explains the art and science of creating them.   

Comments [17]