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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: 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.

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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.

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Please Explain: Generic Drugs

Friday, May 13, 2011

On today's Please Explain, we'll look into the science behind and history of generic drugs. Just how identical are they to their name-brand counterparts? Could they be part of the solution to America's rising health care costs? Are there certain instances when you shouldn't go for the generic option? Joe Graedon, author of The People's Pharmacy, will answer these questions and more.

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Please Explain: Bad Bugs

Friday, May 06, 2011

You may have noticed the first gnats, flies, and ticks of the season. Today’s Please Explain is about bad bugs—the dangerous, destructive, and poisonous creatures that are feared and sometimes misunderstood. Amy Stewart, author of Wicked Bugs joins us.

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Please Explain: Recipes

Friday, April 29, 2011

On today's Please Explain, we'll look into the art of crafting the perfect recipe. Deb Perelman, author of the popular blog SmittenKitchen.com, and John Willoughby, the executive editor of America's Test Kitchen, join us. They'll explain how to best translate home cook's imprecise cooking strategies into publishable recipes, how preparation times are calculated, and examine their favorite examples of recipes both perfect and terrible.

WEIGH IN: What are some of your most poignant recipe disasters? Did you use a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon? Let us know in the comments below!

Comments [18]

Good Friday Gospel Hour

Friday, April 22, 2011

Leonard hosts his annual Good Friday gospel hour. This year he'll combine it with a bit of Please Explain, and he'll talk about the history and particulars of gospel music.

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Please Explain: Hormone Replacement Therapy

Friday, April 15, 2011

The hormones estrogen and progestin have been prescribed to women to relieve symptoms of menopause. Studies have shown that hormone replacement therapy can increase the risk of cancer, but earlier this month, a new study showed that among some women, it can reduce the risk of breast cancer and heart attack. The conflicting information has left many women confused. Dr. Andrea LaCroix, Professor of Epidemiology, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and Dr. Rowan T. Chlebowski, Professor and Chief, Harbor/UCLA Medical Center, Department of Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology/Hematology, talk about the safety and effectiveness of hormone replacement therapy and try to clarify some of the confusion.  

Comments [42]

Please Explain: Apartments

Friday, April 08, 2011

Apartments are a hallmark of city living, and on today’s Please Explain, we’ll take a look at how they’ve evolved. New York Magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson and architect and writer James Sanders talk about the variety of New York apartments—from co-ops and condos to tenements and railroad flats to lofts and the classic six—and about how rent control and co-op boards function.

We want to hear your apartment stories! Tell us about the kinds of apartments you’ve lived in, and what you think the pros and cons of apartment living are!  

Comments [21]

Please Explain: Anger

Friday, April 01, 2011

Anger is one of the forces that has sparked protests across the Middle East, from Egypt to Libya to Syria. It can be a motivating force, but it can also be destructive and damaging when it goes unchecked. On this week’s Please Explain, we’re taking a look at the roots and consequences of anger. Dr. Philip Muskin, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, and Dr. Howard Kassinove, Professor of Psychology and Director, Institute for the Study and Treatment of Anger and Aggression, and author of Anger Management: The Complete Treatment Guidebook for Practitioners and Anger Management for Everyone, explain when anger becomes a problem and how anger management works.  

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Please Explain: Radiation

Friday, March 25, 2011

The crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan has raised many questions about what kind of radiation is leaking and what the health risks of it are. Kenneth Mossman, Professor of Biomedicine and Biotechnology at the University of Arizona, and radiation physicist Jacqueline Yanch, senior lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explain radiation—from nuclear fallout, to airport body scanners, to x-rays and medical treatment. 

Comments [10]

Please Explain: Tsunamis

Friday, March 11, 2011

This morning, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake occured 230 miles northeast of Tokyo, Japan, causing a large tsunami. The full extent of the impact of the tsunami is not yet known, and there are tsunami alerts for Russia, Hawaii, and the West Coast of the United States. On today's Please Explain, we'll try to answer all of your questions about tsunamis with Humboldt University Professor of Geology Lori Dengler who is currently at the National Weather Service monitoring the situation, and Geoff Abers, a seismologist at the Lamont Doherty Center at Columbia University. 

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Please Explain: Accents and Dialects

Friday, March 04, 2011

Today's Please Explain is all about accents in the English speaking world--how did Australians come to sound different than New Zealanders? Why do some people lose their accents quickly...while others can hold on to them for decades? NYU Professor of Linguistics Gregory Guy and North Carolina State University Distinguished Professor of English Walt Wolfram will discuss the various accents in the English-speaking world and even analyze some samples from volunteers!

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Please Explain: Silk

Friday, February 25, 2011

The first silk textiles were created some 5000 years ago. This week's Please Explain is all about silk, and how fibers made by worms create versatile fabrics and have helped shape the culture of much of the world. Mark Norell, Chair of the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, who is currently finishing a book on the Silk Road, talks about the history of silk; Ingrid Johnson, professor of Textile Development and Marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology; and Rebecca Robertson, Decorating and Home Editor for Martha Stewart Living join us to discuss how silk is produced, processed, used, and how it should be cared for.

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Please Explain: Sneezing

Friday, February 18, 2011

This week’s Please Explain investigates a common phenomenon that’s mysterious to many of us: sneezing! Dr. Marjorie Slankard, Clinical Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, and Director of the Allergy Clinic at New York Presbyterian Hospital, and Dr.Neil Kao, allergy and asthma specialist with the Allergic Disease and Asthma Center in Greenville, South Carolina, join us.

Comments [53]

Please Explain: Computer Viruses and Worms

Friday, January 21, 2011

This week’s Please Explain is about computer worms and viruses. Richard Ford, from the Center for Security Science at the Florida Institute of Technology, and Lance Ulanoff, Editor in Chief of PC Magazine, tell us how viruses and worms are created, how they infiltrate individual computers, explain the damage they can wreak and how we can best protect our machines.

Comments [21]

Please Explain: Salt

Friday, January 14, 2011

Salt is found on most dining tables and in most kitchens—but this ubiquitous household item has a long and curious history. It’s a flavor enhancer, an ice melter, has been used as a currency, and has shaped civilization. Mark Kurlansky, author of  Salt: A World History, and Dr. Sonia Angell, Director, Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Control, New York City Health Department, explain what salt is, where it comes from, and discusses its influence on history and on our health.

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Please Explain: Tests

Friday, January 07, 2011

SAT, PSAT, LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, GRE, NAEP, PISA...when did the nation become obsessed with standardized testing and what do these exams tell us? On this week's Please Explain, testing experts Howard Everson and David Rindskopf explain how these tests are put together and what they are supposed to evaluate. Dr. Everson is co-chair of the Technical Advisory Committee for the National Center for Education and the Economy, as well as the chair of the Technical Advisory Committee for Testing and Assessment for the New York State Education Department. Dr. Rindskopf is Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology and Psychology at the City University of New York Graduate School.

Comments [10]