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Science And Technology

The Takeaway

Report: Brain Implant Could Restore Memory Loss

Friday, June 17, 2011

According to a new report, scientists have come one step closer in the development of neuroprosthetics that may help restore memory loss. A brain implant, tested in rats, successfully restored lost memories and strengthened old ones. Its use in humans will require far more research. Benedict Carey, science reporter for The New York Times, explains the findings.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

The Search for the Anthrax Killer

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist David Willman tells the gripping story of the hunt for the anthrax killer who terrorized the country in the days that followed the 9/11 attacks. The Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, the Anthrax Attacks, and America's Rush to War reveals how a seemingly harmless, if eccentric, scientist hid a secret life from his closest associates and family, and how the trail of evidence led to him. Willman also exposes the faulty investigation that led to the public smearing of the wrong man, Steven Hatfill, a scientist whose life was upended by the false allegations against him.

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The Takeaway

Should Congress Loosen Patent Laws for the Sake of the Banking Industry?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The banking industry, like basically all commercial industry, is always looking for ways to innovate their products and services. Take ATMs or the kind of innovation that allows customers to view the image of their check right on their banking receipt - those cost money to develop. And the banking industry has been lobbying to change the patent laws tied to these sorts of business innovations.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

Friday, June 10, 2011

Susan Freinkel describes why the plethora of plastics has created a major problem—we’ve produced as much plastic in the last 10 years as we did in the entire 20th century, and plastics draw on dwindling fossil fuels, leach harmful chemicals, litter landscapes, and destroy marine life. In Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, Freinkel tells the story of plastic through eight familiar objects: comb, chair, Frisbee, IV bag, disposable lighter, grocery bag, soda bottle, and credit card. She combs through scientific studies and economic data, reporting from China and across the United States to assess the real impact of plastic on our lives, and how we can learn to live without it.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

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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The Leonard Lopate Show

Stem Cell Hope

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Alice Park, senior science writer at Time magazine, talks about the history and future of stem cell research, and the medical advances it makes possible. The Stem Cell Hope: How Stem Cell Medicine Can Change Our Lives introduces the cutting-edge science and how it is revolutionizing medicine and changing the way we think about and treat disease.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

The Secret Lives of the Brain

Monday, June 06, 2011

Renowned neuroscientist David Eagleman navigates the depths of the subconscious brain and looks at how it affects our conscious brain and behavior. In Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, he explores damage, plane spotting, dating, drugs, beauty, infidelity, synesthesia, criminal law, artificial intelligence, and visual illusions to reveal the mind and all its complexity.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

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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The Leonard Lopate Show

James Gleick on The Information

Friday, May 06, 2011

James Gleick discusses how information has become the modern era’s defining quality and the vital principle of our world. The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood looks at how we got to the current information age and where we are heading. It tells the story of information, explains how information technologies have changed the nature of human consciousness, and he writes of the key figures in the development of our modern understanding of information.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

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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The Takeaway

White House to Withhold Osama bin Laden Photos

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The White House has announced that it will not release photos of Osama bin Laden’s death. Quoting the transcript of President Obama’s upcoming interview with 60 Minutes, set to air this Sunday, White House Spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters that, “It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to further violence or as a propaganda tool.” Some very graphic photos from the raid have already been published by The Guardian. Is the release of graphic photos a good idea? 

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Martian Summer

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Andrew Kessler discusses spending three months in mission control with 130 top scientists and engineers as they explored Mars in 2008. Kessler was the first outsider ever granted unfettered access, and his Mission-to-Mars exclusive Martian Summer: Robot Arms, Cowboy Spacemen, and My 90 Days with the Phoenix Mars Mission is his dramatic account of space exploration, battling NASA politics, temperamental robots, and the bizarre world of daily life in mission control.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Humans and Ants

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Entomologist and National Geographic photographer Mark Moffett looks at the similarities between ants and humans, specifically our use of warfare.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Here on Earth

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tim Flannery, scientist, explorer, conservationist, and co-founder and Chair of the Copenhagen Climate Council, discusses the Earth’s evolution—from a galactic cloud of dust and gas to a planet teeming with life. Here on Earth: A Natural History of the Planet describes how the Earth’s crust and atmosphere formed, how its oceans transformed from toxic brews of metals to life-sustaining bodies of water covering 70 percent of the planet’s surface, and how our own species evolved.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Women of Discovery

Friday, April 15, 2011

Anna Cummins, a marine conservationist who has studied the impact of plastic refuse on marine life and coastal communities, and Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, a specialist in gorilla conservation and public health, talk about their work in their fields and about women in science. They’re all being honored with Wings WorldQuest Women of Discovery Awards.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

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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The Leonard Lopate Show

Phineas Gage and Please Explain: Anger

Monday, April 04, 2011

During Friday’s Please Explain about anger, Dr. Philip Muskin brought up a man named Phineas Gage, who, he said, “was a very responsible manager on the railroad. One day a tamping rod went through his eye, through his brain, and basically gave him a frontal lobotomy. And Phineas Gage then became basically a ne’er do well. He was not responsible, he drank, he caroused, he lost his temper all the time. That is, the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the rest of the brain is really important.”

Phineas Gage was 25 in 1848, and the foreman of a crew building a new railroad track in Vermont. He was packing explosives with a tamping iron that was “43 inches long, 1.25 inches in diameter and weighing 13.25 pounds,” according Steve Twomey, writing in Smithsonian magazine, when an explosion shot the tamping iron through his head—it entered through his cheek and exited through the top of his skull. He survived, but his doctor and friends noticed a remarkable change in his personality in the months following the accident. He became the most famous patient in neuroscience because his injury demonstrated a connection between brain trauma and personality change and showed that specific parts of the brain were responsible for our moods. Read more about Phineas Gage—and see a photograph of him with the tamping iron that injured him—in Smithsonian Magazine.

In February, Dr. V. S. Ramachandran spoke with Leonard about his work in neuroscience, and he described how strokes cause brain trauma that can alter senses and change personalities. One patient started drawing with incredible detail after he suffered a stroke, although he was never particularly interested in or skilled at making art before. In Dr. Ramachandran's book The Tell-Tale Brain,  he gives a number of examples of how brain injuries reveal the ways the brain works. You can listen to that interview here.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

The Most Human Human

Monday, April 04, 2011

Brian Christian looks at how computers are reshaping our ideas of what it means to be human and tells about his experience participating in the annual Turing Test, which pits artificial intelligence programs against humans. The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive gives an account of his participation in the Turing Test, and he examines the philosophical, bio­logical, and moral issues it raises.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

The Birth of Modern Forensics

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Douglas Starr, codirector of the Center for Science and Medical Journalism, recounts the birth of the field of modern forensics in his book: The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Modern Forensics. It gives an account of serial murderer Joseph Vacher, known as the killer of "little shepherds," and the desperate search by police in France to stop his terrifying killing spree.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Cancer: A Biography

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Although cancer was first documented thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, it is a disease that has long lingered at the margins of medicine--noticed only when other diseases, like tuberculosis and smallpox, had been largely eradicated. Oncologist Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee attempts to shine a light on this often misunderstoond and terrifying disease in his book: The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. He recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, and traces the history of the disease in patients from Persian Queen Atossa to his own leukemia patients in Boston.

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