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QUEST: Science and Nature

QUEST: Science and Nature

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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The best episodes ranked using user listens.

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Career Spotlight | The Planet-Searching Physicist

Growing up in a small town in New Mexico, Elisa Quintana didn't even think about science. She grew up in a household that did not stress the importance of math and science. It was not until community college that she realized she liked math, and ended up transferring to the University of California, San Diego to pursue a degree in physics.

2mins

8 Jan 2016

Rank #1

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How to Build a Model of a Future Space-Exploring Robot | Science Spotlight

Researchers at NASA Ames and the University of California, Berkeley are designing what may be the next generation of space exploring robots. These robots are a type of structure known as a tensegrity structure. In tensegrity structures, rigid elements are not directly connected to one another by bolts or screws, and instead are connected by wires, cables, chains or a similiar string-like object. In this video, CaT Bobino explains how you can make a model of a tensegrity structure out of just straws and rubber bands. Share what you make with @KQEDedspace on twitter or instagram using #tensegrity.

3mins

8 Jan 2016

Rank #2

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Exploring Space with Shape-Shifting Robots | Engineering Is

Alice Agogino's lab at the University of California, Berkeley and Vytas SunSpiral's team at the Dynamic Tensegrity Robotics Lab at NASA Ames Research Center are developing what could be the next generation of space exploring robots. And these robots are inspired by a baby toy of all things.

5mins

8 Jan 2016

Rank #3

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3-D Mapping Your World with a Backpack | Engineering Is

Hyper-realistic video games. They're made using a technique called 3-D mapping. In the real world, 3-D mapping indoors is much more difficult than 3-D mapping outdoors. The solution? A 3D mapping backpack.

4mins

8 Jan 2016

Rank #4

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Career Spotlight | Spatial Interaction Engineer

Alex Okita teaches computers to see like we see. He designs and develops tools and games for the Structure Sensor, an attachment for the iPad that can 3-D scan rooms, objects, and even people.

2mins

8 Jan 2016

Rank #5

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Poop | Science Spotlight

Poop contains a lot of interesting stuff, including all kinds of microbes. Learn what these microbes do and how they can spread disease.

1min

4 Dec 2015

Rank #6

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Cleaning Poop from Drinking Water | Engineering Is

Here in the US, we take clean drinking water for granted. In many parts of the world, however, modern water treatment simply doesn't exist. This creates a major problem -- poop in the drinking water! Amy Pickering, a Stanford engineer, went to Dhaka, Bangladesh to observe how the residents collected water. The challenge? Build a simple, cheap device so that residents can easily collect clean drinking water.

4mins

4 Dec 2015

Rank #7

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Bending Light with a New Kind of Microscope | Science Spotlight

Manu Prakash, a bioengineer at Stanford University, has created a fully functional microscope out of waterproof paper that uses teeny tiny lenses to magnify objects. He calls it a Foldscope. The different parts of the microscope are printed on paper, which the user punches out and folds together. The Foldscope requires no power outlets and works with standard microscope slides. The Foldscope operates a lot like a traditional microscope in that it uses lenses to bend light in order to make tiny images appear larger. Watch the video to learn more.

3mins

3 Dec 2015

Rank #8

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Diagnosing Diseases with Origami Microscopes | Engineering Is

Manu Prakash and his lab at Stanford University have designed an origami based paper microscope, called a Foldscope. The microscope is printed on waterproof paper. The user punches out the pieces and folds them together to create a fully functional microscope. It works with standard microscope slides and requires no external power to operate. You simply hold the Foldscope up to a light source (like the sun) and look through the salt grain-sized lens to view the sample on the slide. The high curvature of the tiny lenses used in the Foldscope allows small objects to be highly magnified. This little invention costs less than a dollar to produce and could have major implications for global health and for science education.

5mins

3 Dec 2015

Rank #9

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How Your Smartphone Knows Where You Are

Quantum physics, Einstein’s theory of relativity and atomic clocks that are accurate to one billionth of a second -- all of these are crucial in allowing your smartphone to pinpoint your precise location almost anywhere on Earth. It's called the Global Positioning System, or GPS. The GPS receiver in your smartphone uses trilateration — a more complex version of triangulation — to determine its position on Earth. In drawings, trilateration is often illustrated in 2-D using circles. But since GPS deals with satellites and Earth in the real 3-D world, spheres are a better representation of what’s actually happening.

3mins

16 Nov 2015

Rank #10

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Career Spotlight: Research Scientist and Mechanical Engineer

Meet Dr. Vi Rapp. She is a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and focuses her research on improving combustion and combustion systems. As part of her job she is working on designing a cleaner, more efficient cookstove.This Career Spotlight video is part of our Engineering Is: Saving the World with Cookstoves e-book, which tells the story of how Professor Ashok Gadgil and his team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory designed a cookstove to help internally displaced persons in Darfur. The e-book includes videos, interactives and text that explore the science and engineering principles behind this project. Find all of our e-books @ kqed.org/ebooks.

3mins

21 Oct 2015

Rank #11

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Science Spotlight: The Combustion of Wood

What is combustion? What happens when wood burns? Learn about the chemistry of combustion in this animated explainer.This Science Spotlight video is part of our Engineering Is: Saving the World with Cookstoves e-book, and is a companion to our Darfur Stoves Project video. The e-book tells the story of how Professor Ashok Gadgil and his team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory designed a cookstove to help internally displaced persons in Darfur. They are now working on designing a new wood-burning stove to reduce indoor air pollution. The e-book includes videos, interactives and media making opportunities that explore the science and engineering principles behind this project.

1min

21 Oct 2015

Rank #12

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Science Spotlight-Fish, Swim Bladders and Boyle's Law

Boyle’s Law describes the relationship between pressure and volume of a gas. Matt Wandell, a biologist at the California Academy of Sciences, demonstrates Boyle’s Law by placing a balloon in a small decompression chamber to simulate what happens to a fish’s swim bladder at different pressures. A swim bladder is a gas-filled organ in fish that helps them maintain their buoyancy. An animation in the video reveals how the gases inside the balloon behave in response to pressure change.This Science Spotlight is a companion video to Bringing Fish Up from the Deep and is part of our Engineering Is: Bringing Fish Up from the Deep e-book. The e-book explores the science and engineering principles behind the California Academy of Sciences’ portable decompression chamber, and includes videos, interactives and media making opportunities. You can find our other e-books at kqed.org/ebooks.

2mins

21 Oct 2015

Rank #13

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Explaining Earthquakes

An earthquake generates a series of seismic waves that travel through the interior or near the surface of the Earth. There are 4 types of seismic waves.

4mins

21 Oct 2015

Rank #14

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Big Solar Comes of Age

California and Arizona share the Mojave Desert, one of the world’s best locations for solar installations. As California rushes to fulfill a mandate to produce on-third of its electricity from renewable energy, the largest solar thermal plant in the world opens, but only after a contentious process that pitted environmentalists against each other.

7mins

3 Jul 2014

Rank #15

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Follow That Nutrient

Meet the underwater characters that make a living cycling nutrients through the watershed. Learn how the physical, chemical, and biological systems within watersheds work together to create a continuum of resilient, interconnected ecosystems. Watch the food chains spiral nutrients in and out of the river basin in vast web of interactions.

5mins

16 Jun 2014

Rank #16

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Underwater Observatory Unlocks Ocean Secrets

The oceans cover 70 percent of Earth’s surface, they drive global climate and are critical to life on the continents. And yet they are some of the most mysterious and little known places on our planet. But one of the most ambitious ocean research projects ever undertaken is meant to change that.

1min

28 May 2014

Rank #17

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Otters v. Climate Change

A recent scientific study shows sea otter activity off the coast of Washington State has removed CO2 from the atmosphere equivalent to taking up to 6 million cars off the road.

7mins

28 May 2014

Rank #18

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The Ecology of Fear

We journey to Washington State’s Cascade Mountains, where the return of wolves could have a profound impact on this vast wilderness area. We meet up with biologist Aaron Wirsing to explore why wolves and other top predators are needed for diverse ecosystems to flourish. Using a simple video camera (a “deer-cam”) Wirsing is gaining a unique perspective on predator/prey relationships.

7mins

28 May 2014

Rank #19

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Groundwater, Beneath the Surface

This lighthearted animation takes us beneath the surface to see groundwater in action. Watch anthropomorphized drops of groundwater travel through this system. A smiling character with a shovel digs us down to the water table, allowing us to flow through the water cycle and thus making the process much easier to understand.

5mins

20 May 2014

Rank #20