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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: 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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Please Explain: The Inner Lives of Dogs

Friday, September 09, 2011

For many of us, dogs are loyal friends and companions, but we know very little about how they see the world. On this week's Please Explain, we look at what we know about how dogs perceive the world and how dogs can be trained to help in search and rescue efforts.We’re joined by John Bradshaw, the Director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol and the author of Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet and Alexandra Horowitz, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Barnard College and Director of the Dog Cognition Lab and the author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know.

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Please Explain: Cephalopods and Sea Creatures

Friday, August 26, 2011

You may have spent time at the beach this summer, watching the waves and swimming in the surf, but on this week’s Please Explain, we're going below the surface to look at some of the creatures that live on the ocean floor—cuttlefish, squid, and octopus. Roger Hanlon senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and Ellen Prager, formerly the chief scientist at Aquarius Reef Base in Florida and author of Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime join us to talk about these creatures and their amazing abilities to camouflage themselves.

Watch this amazing video of an octopus shot by Roger Hanlon:

Please Explain: Cephalopods

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Please Explain: Gluten

Friday, August 19, 2011

More and more gluten-free products have been appearing on grocery store shelves in recent years, and for this week's Please Explain segment, we'll find out what gluten is and find out the causes, symptoms, and treatment for celiac disease and other gluten sensitivities. Dean Lavornia is Chair of the Baking & Pastry Department at the Johnson & Wales University College of Culinary Arts in Providence, Rhode Island. He's created a number of gluten-free recipes for those in his family with celiac disease. We'll also speak with Nutritionist Bernadette Latson, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center.

Department Chair of the Baking & Pastry Department at the Johnson & Wales University College of Culinary Arts in Providence, Rhode Island.

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Please Explain: Thunder and Lightning

Friday, August 12, 2011

Thunderstorms are one of the most dramatic features of summer, so this week’s Please Explain is all about thunder and lightning storms. Walt Zaleski, Warning Coordination Meteorologist Program Manager, National Weather Service, Southern Region Headquarters, tells us what causes these storms, how they’re tracked and studied, and how the weather works.

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Please Explain: Roller Coasters

Friday, August 05, 2011

This week’s Please Explain is all about roller coasters—from the old classics like the Cyclone to the new wild rides like the Green Lantern! We're joined by two roller coaster experts: Jeffrey Rhoads, Associate Professor at Purdue University's School of Mechanical Engineering,  where he co-teaches a course in the physics of roller coasters, and Jacob Miller, PhD candidate at Purdue University's School of Mechanical Engineering (studying vibration), whose personal passion is the Millennium Force at Cedar Point in Ohio for its combination of "speed" and  "airtime."

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Please Explain: Urban Evolution

Friday, July 29, 2011

Jason Munshi-South, assistant professor at Baruch College, and Rob Dunn, associate professor of biology at North Carolina State University and author of The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today, discuss how cities and urban environments change the animals, insects—and even bacteria—that live within them. They’ll also cover how natural selection and evolution work and how they study it.

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Please Explain: Weeds

Friday, July 22, 2011

Weeds pop up in lawns and gardens and even in cracks in sidewalks. Lars Anderson,  plant physiologist with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service on the campus of UC Davis; and Kristin Schleiter, Curator of Outdoor Gardens and Herbaceous Collections at the New York Botanical Garden, look at the wide variety of weeds, why they seem to thrive everywhere, and ways to eliminate—or accept—them. 

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Please Explain: Wildfires

Friday, July 15, 2011

This summer wildfires have raged in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as throughout the country, and so far over 5,800,000 acres have burned this year alone. Ken Frederick and Tom Romanello, Bureau of Land Management fire specialists at the National Interagency Fire Center, explain how wild fires start and spread, how they behave, and how they’re contained and extinguished. We’ll also find out why there seem to be so many this year, and what happens to an area after a fire.

Call us at 646-829-3985 to ask a question about fires, or leave a comment!

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