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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: 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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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. 

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.  

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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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