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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: 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.

 

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Please Explain: How to Save the World—Food Security

Friday, February 17, 2012

This week's Please Explain continues our series How to Save the World. Glenn Denning, Director, Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and J. Matthew Roney, Research Associate, Earth Policy Institute, examine the global food supply.

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Please Explain: How to Save the World—the Future of Garbage

Friday, February 10, 2012

Wherever humans go, they leave trash behind. The average American throws away over 1,130 pounds of waste per year. On this week’s Please Explain, we continue our series How to Save the World, looking at how we dispose of garbage, how recycling and composting and smaller packaging can cut down on the amount of garbage people throw away around the world, and how garbage can be used as a renewable, green energy source. Joining us are Nickolas J. Themelis, Director, Earth Engineering Center, and professor in the School of Engineering at Columbia University, and Elizabeth Royte, author of Garbage Land and Bottlemania.

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Please Explain: How to Save the World—Climate Change and How to Stop It

Friday, February 03, 2012

This week’s Please Explain, the third in our series How to Save the World, is about climate change and how to stop it. David Archer, professor of geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago, and author of The Long Thaw: How Humans are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of the Earth’s Climate, and Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast; and Klaus Lackner, Director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at Columbia University’s Earth Institute join us to talk about carbon in the atmosphere, how and why it is causing climate change, and how to slow or stop climate change by using sustainable energy and carbon sequestration.

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Please Explain: How to Save the World—Population Growth and Control

Friday, January 27, 2012

This week's Please Explains is the second in our series on how to save the world—ways to approach complex global problems such as climate change, food supply, garbage disposal, the global water supply, and violence. Today we're looking at the population explosion—there are now 7 billion people on the planet. We're joined by Hania Zlotnik, director of the population Division at the Department of Economics and Social Affairs at the United Nations, and Dr.Joel E. Cohen, mathematical biologist and the head of the Laboratory of Populations at Rockefeller University and Columbia University, and author of How Many People Can the Earth Support?

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Please Explain: How to Save the World—The Global Water Supply

Friday, January 20, 2012

We're kicking off a series of Please Explains on how to save the world—ways to approach complex global problems such as climate change, food supply, garbage disposal, population control, and violence. Today's topic is how to protect the world's water supply. Upmanu Lall, Director of the Columbia Water Center, and Sandra Postel, founder of the Global Water Policy Project and National Geographic Freshwater Fellow join us to discuss the state of fresh water around the globe.

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Please Explain: Tuberculosis

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tuberculosis remains one of the world’s deadliest diseases—accounting for 9.4 million cases and 1.7 million deaths in 2009, according to the WHO. Maryn McKenna, science journalist and author of Superbug, and Dr. Neil Schluger, Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology, and Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University Medical Center and Chief Scientific Officer for the World Lung Foundation, give us a history of the disease, how it spreads, why it’s so hard to treat, and how drug-resistant TB has emerged and what it means for the future of treating the deadly disease.

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Please Explain: Hoarding

Friday, January 06, 2012

Almost everyone has closets full of stuff, favorite mementos, and expanding collections of books or shoes or spices or hotel shampoos. But sometimes our emotional attachments to stuff can spiral out of control, and people become not just pack rats but compulsive hoarders. Dr. Robin Zasio, therapist who specializes in treating hoarding and other anxiety-related disorders, explains what compulsive hoarding is and how to treat it. She’ll also give advice about how to live a less-cluttered, better-organized life. She’s the author of The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life.

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Please Explain: Willpower

Friday, December 23, 2011

New York Times science writer John Tierney , co-author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, talks about self-control. He's joined by Dr. Walter Mischel, Niven Professor of Humane Letters in Psychology, Columbia University. They'll explain how to build willpower and how conserve it for crucial moments.

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Please Explain: Teenagers' Brains

Friday, December 02, 2011

In October, neuroscientists Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang were on Please Explain to discuss how a young children’s brains develop. And this week they return to discuss the brains of adolescents and teenagers—from sleep problems, gender differences, behavior issues, learning disabilities, and hormones. They investigate myths about brain development and sort through the factors that matter—and those that don’t—in brain development from childhood to college. They’re the co-authors of Welcome to Your Child's Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College.

How well do you know your child's brain? Take this quiz!

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Please Explain: The Railroads

Friday, November 18, 2011

Railroad historian John Hankey, and Bob Lettenberger, Director of Education for the National Railroad Museum talk about the history and significance of the freight and passenger railroads in the United States. They’ll also discuss the deterioration of our passenger railways in the 1950s and 1960s and the current state of rail travel here, compared to other countries.

Our phone number has changed! It's now 212-433-9692!

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Please Explain: New York Road (and Bridge, Tunnel, and other Place) Names

Friday, November 11, 2011

Kenneth T. Jackson, Jacques Barzun Professor in History and the Social Sciences at Columbia University, and Lisa Keller, Associate Professor of History at SUNY Purchase, both editors of The Encyclopedia of New York City, second edition, explain who the people behind the names of familiar tunnels, bridges, and expressways are. From the Van Wyck, the Major Deegan, and the Bruckner to the Kosciusco Bridge, the Holland Tunnel to Tompkins Square Park, Washington Heights, and Astoria.

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Please Explain: The Flat Tax

Friday, November 04, 2011

Herman Cain has gotten a lot of attention for his 9-9-9 tax plan, Governor Rick Perry recently unveiled his own flat tax proposal, and there have been numerous presidential candidates who have made a flat tax plan the basis of their campaigns. Joseph J. Thorndike is the director of the Tax History Project at Tax Analysts and a contributing editor for Tax Notes magazine looks at the history of the flat tax, how it compares to our current tax system, and what the proposed flat tax plans would mean for the U.S. economy.

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Please Explain: Medical Myths and Wives' Tales

Friday, October 28, 2011

Anahad O’Connor, columnist for the New York Times Well blog and author of Always Follow the Elephants and Never Shower in a Thunderstorm, and Dr. Rachel Vreeman, co-author of Don’t Swallow Your Gum and Don’t Cross Your Eyes...They'll Get Stuck That Way, and assistant professor of pediatrics at Indiana University, and talk about medical myths and wives tales—adages like “starve a fever, feed a cold” and that caffeine will stunt your growth. They’ll explain where they came from and why they persist and they’ll, as well as which are right and which are wrong.

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Please Explain: E-mail and Online Etiquette

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lizzie Post and Anna Post (great-great granddaughters of Emily Post) explain the ins and outs, the rules and pointers of communicating by e-mail and online. They are co-authors of the 18th edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette.

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Please Explain: Children's Brains

Friday, October 14, 2011

Neuroscientists Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang discuss how a child’s brain develops, from conception to college, looking at language learning, sleep problems, gender differences, and behavior issues. They debunk myths and look at the factors that matter—and those that don’t—in children’s brain development. They’re the co-authors of Welcome to Your Child's Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College.

How well do you know your child's brain? Take this quiz to find out!

Comments [25]

Please Explain: The Lottery

Friday, October 07, 2011

We’ll find out how lotteries work and why we play. Victor Matheson, Associate Professor of Economics at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and  Brent Kramer, a data analyst at the Fiscal Policy Institute, and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Borough of Manhattan Community College, tell us where lottery money comes from, where it goes, and look at what the odds are of winning it big!

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Please Explain: Endangered Species

Friday, September 30, 2011

Joe Roman, author of Listed: Dispatches from America's Endangered Species Act; George Amato, director of the American Museum of Natural History's Sackler Institute of Comparative Genomics; and Ernie Cooper, from TRAFFIC, a joint wildlife trade monitoring network of the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, discuss the Endangered Species Act, which species are at risk and why, and the efforts are made to protect them.

If you have questions, call us at 646-829-3985, or leave a comment below!

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Please Explain: The UN General Assembly

Friday, September 23, 2011

The General Debate of the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly is happening in New York through September 30. The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations, comprising all 193 Members of the United Nations. On this week's Please Explain we start off with Warren Hoge, Senior Advisor for External Relations for the International Peace Institute in New York and former foreign correspondent for the New York Times, covering the UN. Then we're joined by Vera Jelinek, Divisional Dean and Director of the Center for Global Affairs at New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies, and Stanley Meisler, author of  The United Nations: The First Fifty Years, and  United Nations: A History, will tell us how the General Assembly works and what comes out of the sessions.

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Please Explain: Common Sense

Friday, September 16, 2011

Common sense seems simple enough, but it can be more complicated and less helpful that you would expect. Duncan J. Watts, sociologist and Yahoo! Principal Researcher, explains the benefits and limitations of common sense and looks closely at how common-sense reasoning can be misleading. His book Everything You Know Is Obvious once You Know the Answer draws on the latest scientific research and real-life examples to show how common sense attempts to predict, manage, and manipulate social and economic systems often fail, and looks at the implications in politics, business and everyday life.

If you have a question about common sense, or some examples of when it works and when it fails, call us at 646-829-3985, or leave a comment.

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