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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: 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]

Please Explain: Deep Sea Exploration

Friday, April 13, 2012

David Gallo, Director of Special Projects at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, talks about the mission to map the Titanic wreck, and other underwater expeditions, such as the search for Air France flight 447. He explains how scientists explore the ocean and what they’ve found.

Comments [8]

Please Explain: Satellites

Friday, April 06, 2012

For this week's Please Explain, Jonathan McDowell, astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Boston, and Laura Grego, senior scientist in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, tell us how satellites are designed, launched, and how they to make things like GPS and cable television possible. 

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Please Explain: Bullying

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bullying is commonplace in schools, but in recent years cyber-bullying, suicides, and school shootings have shown bullying to be a very serious issue. On this week’s Please Explain we’ll find out what constitutes bullying and aggression among children (and adults), its repercussions, and how parents, children, and schools should address it. We’re joined by Elizabeth Englander, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University, and Jessie Klein, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Adelphi University, and author of The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America’s Schools.

Comments [49]

Please Explain: Anxiety and Benzodiazepenes

Friday, March 23, 2012

Please Explain is all about the anti-anxiety medications benzodiazepenes. Psychologist Dr. Douglas Mennin and Lisa Miller, contributing editor at New York magazine, whose article “Listening to Xanax” appears in the March 26 issue of the magazine, explain how they work and why they’re addictive.

Comments [49]

Please Explain: The Science of Taste

Friday, March 16, 2012

Barb Stuckey, professional food developer and author of Taste What You're Missing: The Passionate Eater's Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good, explains the science of taste, and shows how our individual biology, genetics, and brain create a personal experience of everything we taste.

Comments [21]

Please Explain: Norovirus

Friday, March 09, 2012

Please Explain is all about the Norovirus, which is the leading cause of outbreaks of food-borne illness. We'll speak with Dr. Aaron Margolin and Dr. Christine Moe.

 

 

Comments [53]

Please Explain: The Subway

Friday, March 02, 2012

This week’s Please Explain takes a look at something familiar (yet still mysterious) to every New Yorker: the subway. John Tauranac, architecural historian and designer of city and transit maps, and Andrew Sparberg, former Long Island Railroad manager and director of the railroad technology program at Technical Career Insitutes, talk about how the subway was built and how it transformed the metropolitan area.

Comments [16]

Please Explain: How to Save the World—World Peace

Friday, February 24, 2012

This week's Please Explain is the final installment of our series How to Save the World. Jeffrey Sachs discusses whether it's possible to achieve world peace. He's Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. His most recent book is The Price of Civilization.

 

Comments [26]