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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: 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.

Comments [27]

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!

Comments [4]

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.

Comments [7]

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.

Comments [5]

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.

Comments [30]

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

Comments [11]

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.

Comments [46]

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.

Comments [30]

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."

Comments [12]

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.

Comments [7]

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!

Comments [4]

Please Explain: Jellyfish

Friday, July 08, 2011

A series of new studies has revealed that jellyfish are far more than mindless blobs that can spoil your day at the beach. On today’s Please Explain, Steve Bailey, Curator of Fishes at the New England Aquarium, and Marine Biologist and Chief Aquarist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Michael Howard discuss why jellyfish are much more complex and interesting than scientists once thought. 

Comments [16]

Please Explain: Sunscreen and the New FDA Rules

Friday, June 24, 2011

The FDA passed new federal regulations on sunscreen labels, to take effect next year. On today's Please Explain Dr. Michelle Hanjani, Assistant Professor of Clinical Dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center tells us what those changes are, what they mean, how sunscreen works, and how much it really protects us from the sun's harmful rays.

Comments [38]

Please Explain: Coupons

Friday, June 17, 2011

The old cost-saving measure of clipping pages from the backs of newspapers has been transformed into a multibillion dollar industry by the advent of Groupon, the online group coupon service. Felix Salmon, finance blogging editor at Reuters, and Andrea Woroch of Coupon Sherpa, talk to us about the history of coupons, reveal why they're such a boon to businesses, and dissect Groupon's business model.

Do you clip coupons? Have you used daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social? If so, tell us about your experience!

Comments [21]

Please Explain: Why Honeybees Are Disappearing

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bees are disappearing from their hives in mass numbers, and there’s no clear explanation of why. Many believe that bees are a barometer of the health of the planet, and colony collapse disorder is raising questions about pesticides, genetically modified crops, monocultures, and mechanization of beekeeping. Taggart Siegel, director, and Jon Betz, producer, of the documentary “Queen of the Sun” tell us why honeybees are important to human life and agriculture, and the factors that are most likely leading to colony collapse and honeybee death on a grand scale in the United States and in Europe. In addition, they explain how some devoted beekeepers are trying to save them. “Queen of the Sun” opens at Cinema Village June 10.

Comments [13]

Please Explain: Aspirin

Friday, June 03, 2011

Aspirin is used to treat everyday aches and pains and has even been shown to prevent heart attacks, strokes, and maybe even some cancers. Alan Arslan, MD, Assistant Professor in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecolgy and Environmental Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, and Diarmuid Jeffreys, author of Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug, discuss how aspirin works.

Comments [14]

Please Explain: Apocalypse Predictions

Friday, May 20, 2011

You may have noticed billboards and people handing out pamphlets in the subways claiming that the world will on May 21. Well, since that’s tomorrow, for today’s Please Explain we thought we’d investigate the long history of doomsday predictions. We’re joined by Jesus Rodriguez-Velasco, Professor in the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University, who teaches a class called “The End of the World.” John R. Hall, professor of sociology at the University of California Davis, and author of Apocalypse: From Antiquity to the Empire of Modernity. And Doug Weaver, Associate Professor of Religion at Baylor University.

Comments [45]