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Rank #1 in Life Sciences category

Science
Astronomy
Life Sciences

Short Wave

Updated about 1 month ago

Rank #1 in Life Sciences category

Science
Astronomy
Life Sciences
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New discoveries, everyday mysteries, and the science behind the headlines — all in about 10 minutes, every weekday. It's science for everyone, using a lot of creativity and a little humor. Join host Maddie Sofia for science on a different wavelength.

Read more

New discoveries, everyday mysteries, and the science behind the headlines — all in about 10 minutes, every weekday. It's science for everyone, using a lot of creativity and a little humor. Join host Maddie Sofia for science on a different wavelength.

iTunes Ratings

3208 Ratings
Average Ratings
2924
132
57
39
56

Like a successful qPCR

By GRAZIAAE - May 18 2020
Read more
Awesome love it .... keep the science coming

Educational and awesome.

By KingLee273 - May 15 2020
Read more
Short Wave is awesome. Props to NPR and everyone who works on it!

iTunes Ratings

3208 Ratings
Average Ratings
2924
132
57
39
56

Like a successful qPCR

By GRAZIAAE - May 18 2020
Read more
Awesome love it .... keep the science coming

Educational and awesome.

By KingLee273 - May 15 2020
Read more
Short Wave is awesome. Props to NPR and everyone who works on it!
Cover image of Short Wave

Short Wave

Latest release on Jul 07, 2020

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New discoveries, everyday mysteries, and the science behind the headlines — all in about 10 minutes, every weekday. It's science for everyone, using a lot of creativity and a little humor. Join host Maddie Sofia for science on a different wavelength.

Rank #1: Here's The Deal With 'Murder Hornets'

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Reports of so-called 'murder hornets' have been all over the news this week. (Even though they were first spotted in the United States late last year.) We talk with entomologist Samuel Ramsey who explains how much of a threat the Asian giant hornet could be to honeybees throughout the country. And, he shares his own encounter fighting these insects while researching bees in Thailand.

May 08 2020

11mins

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Rank #2: What We're Missing, By Missing Strangers Now

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With a lot of us stuck at home, trying to physically distance from each other, one part of daily life has largely disappeared: bumping into strangers. On today's show, Maddie talks with Yowei Shaw, a reporter from NPR's Invisibilia, about the surprising benefits of stranger interactions. And Short Wave tries out QuarantineChat, a workaround to our current strangerless existence.

May 07 2020

11mins

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Rank #3: Making Music Out Of The Coronavirus

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When Markus Buehler heard about the coronavirus, he wanted to know what it sounded like. Today on the show, Maddie speaks with Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong about how Markus Buehler, a composer and engineering professor at MIT, developed a method for making music out of proteins, and how music can potentially help us hear what we have trouble seeing at the nanoscale level.

May 12 2020

13mins

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Rank #4: Scientists Think The Coronavirus Transmitted Naturally, Not In A Lab. Here's Why.

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The Trump administration has advanced the theory the coronavirus began as a lab accident, but scientists who research bat-borne coronaviruses disagree. Speaking with NPR, ten virologists and epidemiologists say the far more likely culprit is zoonotic spillover⁠—transmission of the virus between animals and humans in nature. We explain how zoonotic spillover works and why it's more plausible than a lab accident.

May 06 2020

13mins

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Rank #5: China's Coronavirus Is Spreading. But How?

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A deadly virus believed to have originated in China was found in the US this week. NPR global health correspondent Jason Beaubien explains what we know and don't know about the disease — and the likelihood it will continue to spread.

Follow Jason on Twitter @jasonbnpr. More of NPR's reporting on the virus can be found here.

Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Jan 24 2020

10mins

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Rank #6: No, The Coronavirus Isn't Another Flu

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President Trump has compared the coronavirus to the seasonal flu. NPR reporter Pien Huang speaks to host Maddie Sofia about why the coronavirus appears deadlier and more transmissible — and why it poses such a risk to our healthcare system.

Here's Pien's story.
Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Mar 27 2020

13mins

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Rank #7: How Infectious Disease Shaped American Bathroom Design

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We're all spending more time these days at home — including our bathrooms. But why do they look the way they do? From toilets to toothbrush holders, bioethicist and journalist Elizabeth Yuko explains how infectious diseases like tuberculosis and influenza shaped American bathroom design. And, we explore how the current pandemic could inspire a new wave of innovation in the bathroom.

Apr 23 2020

12mins

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Rank #8: We Need More Coronavirus Testing. Are Antigen Tests The Answer?

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There's a difference between diagnostic, antibody, and antigen tests. All provide different levels of reliability and speed.

NPR health correspondent Rob Stein breaks down the differences and explains why public health officials are especially hopeful about antigen testing.

Find out how your state is doing on overall testing.

Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

May 11 2020

10mins

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Rank #9: Crows Don't Forget

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Crows have gotten a bad rap throughout history. Think about it. A group of them is called a "murder." To get some insight into crows and perhaps set the record straight, we talked to Kaeli Swift. She's a lecturer at the University of Washington and wrote her doctoral thesis on crow "funerals."

In an earlier version of this episode, we used the word "spooky" to describe crows. Because that word has a history of being used as a racial slur, we chose to replace it with the words "scary" and "creepy." Thanks to our listeners who helpfully pointed this out to us, and we apologize. You can learn more about this from our friends at Code Switch.

Oct 30 2019

9mins

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Rank #10: Where Did The Coronavirus Start? Virus Hunters Find Clues In Bats

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Bats are critically important for ecosystems around the world. But they also harbor some of the toughest known zoonotic diseases, and are the likely origin point for this coronavirus. Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong talks about leading theories on where this coronavirus came from, the work of virus hunters, and the rise of emerging zoonotic diseases.

Apr 15 2020

12mins

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Rank #11: Coronavirus Latest: Testing Challenges And Protecting At-Risk Elderly

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There's a lot going on with the coronavirus. To keep you up to speed, we'll be doing more regular updates on the latest about the pandemic. Today, NPR science correspondents Jon Hamilton and Nell Greenfieldboyce discuss challenges in testing for the virus and how COVID-19 affects the elderly.

Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Mar 13 2020

16mins

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Rank #12: Wildfire Season Is Here To Stay

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Californians face a terrible new normal as wildfire season grows longer and more intense. Jennifer Montgomery, head of the California's Forest Management Task Force, explains three key factors at the heart of why the state is now at such high risk. It turns out, one of them goes all the way back to Spanish colonization. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter: @maddie_sofia. Or email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Oct 29 2019

9mins

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Rank #13: The Science Of Smell And Memory

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Why can a smell trigger such a powerful memory? Biological anthropologist Kara Hoover explains what's going on in the brain when we smell, how smell interacts with taste, and why our sense of smell is heightened in the winter. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Nov 29 2019

11mins

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Rank #14: One Of The Germiest Places In The Airport

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Hint: it's not the bathroom. Niina Ikonen and Carita Savolainen-Kopra from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare studied high-traffic areas in the Helsinki airport to identify where germs were most prevalent. Also, tips on how to stay healthy during your holiday travel. Here's their original paper in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Dec 26 2019

7mins

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Rank #15: Your Brain On Storytelling

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Storytelling can be a powerful tool to convey information, even in the world of science. It can also shift stereotypes about who scientists are. We talked to someone who knows all about this - Liz Neeley, the Executive Director of Story Collider, a nonprofit focused on telling "true, personal stories about science." You can tell us your personal science stories by emailing, shortwave@npr.org. Plus, do some #scicomm with Maddie on Twitter — she's @maddie_sofia.

Jan 14 2020

12mins

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Rank #16: The Link Between Kitchen Countertops And A Deadly Disease

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It's called silicosis, and it's been known about for decades. So why is it now emerging in new numbers among workers who cut kitchen countertops? NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce explains. More of her original reporting on silicosis is here. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Jan 09 2020

12mins

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Rank #17: Coronavirus Is Here. Will Quarantines Help?

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Despite quarantines and other measures, the coronavirus keeps popping up. What makes it so hard to control?

Mar 04 2020

11mins

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Rank #18: Does Your Cat Really Hate You?

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It's the latest installment of our series, "Animal Slander," where we take a common phrase about animals and see what truth there is to it. The issue before the Short Wave court today: "Do cats deserve their aloof reputation?" We look at the evidence with cat researcher, Kristyn Vitale of Oregon State University. Follow Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia and Emily Kwong @emilykwong1234. Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Feb 12 2020

12mins

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Rank #19: The Zombies That Walk Among Us

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The idea of human zombies probably seems pretty far-fetched. But there are real zombies out there in the animal kingdom. Ed Yong of The Atlantic creeps us out with a couple of examples. Hint: they involve fungus. Follow Maddie on Twitter - she's @maddie_sofia. Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Oct 31 2019

9mins

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Rank #20: Does Your Dog REALLY Love You?

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Clive Wynne, founding director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, draws on studies from his lab and others around the world to explain what biology, neuroscience, and genetics reveal about dogs and love. His new book is called Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Dec 02 2019

11mins

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Honeybees Need Your Help

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Encore episode. A deadly triangle of factors is killing off U.S. honeybees. Last year, forty percent of honeybee colonies died in the U.S., continuing an alarming trend. Entomologist Sammy Ramsey tells host Maddie Sofia about the "three P's" and what listeners can do to help our fuzzy-flighted friends.

Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Jul 07 2020

12mins

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The Importance Of Black Doctors

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Though Black Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, they represent only 5% of physicians. How does that lack of diversity in the physician workforce impact Black patients' health and well-being? Dr. Garrick Owen, the CEO and President of Bridge Clinical Research, wanted to know.

Jul 06 2020

14mins

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Typhoid Mary: Lessons From An Infamous Quarantine

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A special episode from our colleagues at NPR's history podcast Throughline.

When a cook who carried typhoid fever showed no symptoms and refused to stop working, authorities forcibly quarantined her for nearly three decades. Was she a perfect villain? Or a woman scapegoated because of her background?

Throughline hosts Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei tell the story of Typhoid Mary — a story about journalism, the powers of the state, and the tension between personal freedom and public health.

Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Jul 03 2020

43mins

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Backyard Birding 101

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If you pay attention to what's going on in your own backyard, ornithologist Viviana Ruiz Gutierrez says the birds among us have been putting on a great show. Gutierrez explains migration, mating dances, nesting, and shares tips on how to be hospitable to the birds in your neighborhood.

Jul 02 2020

9mins

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One Way To Slow Coronavirus Outbreaks At Meatpacking Plants? A Lot Of Testing

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Meatpacking plants have been some of the biggest COVID-19 hot spots in the country. Thousands of workers have been infected, dozens have died. As plants reopen, one strategy has helped slow the virus's spread: large-scale employee testing. NPR food and agriculture correspondent Dan Charles explains how this approach could be a lesson for other industries as well.

Jul 01 2020

12mins

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Octocopter Set to Explore Titan, Saturn's Very Cool Moon

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NASA is on a mission to explore Titan — the largest moon of Saturn. To do that, scientists are building a nuclear-powered, self-driving drone (technically an octocopter) called Dragonfly. Scheduled to launch in 2026 and arrive on Titan in 2034, Dragonfly could provide clues about how the building blocks of life started here on Earth.

Jun 30 2020

12mins

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Meet The Climate Scientist Trying to Fly Less for Work

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A few years ago, climate scientist Kim Cobb had a brutal realization about how much she was flying for conferences and meetings. Those flights were adding lots of climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Host Maddie Sofia talks with her about her push to get scientists to fly less for work, and what happened when the pandemic suddenly made that idea a reality.

Jun 29 2020

11mins

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A COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Need To Know

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Approximately 200 COVID-19 vaccines are being actively developed, a process that health officials are expediting to help end the pandemic. Today on the show, NPR science correspondent Joe Palca walks us through the latest in vaccine development — from how a coronavirus vaccine would work to the challenges of distributing it to the world.

Jun 26 2020

11mins

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Minneapolis' Bold Plan To Tackle Racial Inequity And Climate Change

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Racial discrimination shaped the map of Minneapolis. Then city zoning locked many of those patterns into place. Maddie talks with NPR climate reporter Lauren Sommer about Minneapolis' bold plan to tackle housing disparities — and climate change. The new rules went into effect earlier this year. Community groups are calling on the city to follow through.

Jun 25 2020

12mins

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The Science Behind That Fresh Rain Smell

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Scientists have known for decades that one of the main causes of the smell of fresh rain is geosmin: a chemical compound produced by soil-dwelling bacteria. But why do the bacteria make it in the first place? It was a bacteria-based mystery... until now! Maddie gets some answers from reporter Emily Vaughn, former Short Wave intern.

Jun 24 2020

11mins

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Tech Companies Are Limiting Police Use of Facial Recognition. Here's Why

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Earlier this month, IBM said it was getting out of the facial recognition business. Then Amazon and Microsoft announced prohibitions on law enforcement using their facial recognition tech. There's growing evidence these algorithmic systems are riddled with gender and racial bias. Today on the show, Short Wave speaks with AI policy researcher Mutale Nkonde about algorithmic bias — how facial recognition software can discriminate and reflect the biases of society.

Jun 23 2020

14mins

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There Is No 'Second Wave'

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America is still stuck in the first one. Maddie and Emily examine how the idea of a 'second wave' of coronavirus might have taken hold.

NPR science correspondent Nurith Aizenman's report on why the first wave isn't over.

Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Jun 22 2020

8mins

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A Kazoo And The Evolution Of Speech

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Encore episode. Researchers discovered that this simple instrument could offer insights into the evolution of human speech. Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong talks with primatologist Adriano Lameira about a growing body of evidence that humans may not be the only great apes with voice control.

Read the paper he published last year.

P.S. Sign up for our trivia night this Tuesday, June 23, at 8 pm EDT!

Follow Maddie Sofia @maddie_sofia and Emily Kwong @emilykwong1234. Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Jun 19 2020

12mins

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The Inseparable Link Between Climate Change And Racial Justice

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Marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson wrote a Washington Post op-ed about the ways the fight around climate change and racial justice go hand in hand. Host Maddie Sofia talks with her about that and how Ayana says the fight against climate change could be stronger if people of color weren't being constantly exhausted by racism.

Jun 18 2020

12mins

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How Many People Transmit The Coronavirus Without Ever Feeling Sick?

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It's called asymptomatic spread. Recently a scientist with the World Health Organization created confusion when she seemed to suggest it was "very rare." It's not, as the WHO attempted to clarify.

NPR science reporter Pien Huang explains what scientists know about asymptomatic spread, and what might have caused the WHO's mixed messages.

Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Jun 17 2020

10mins

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We Don't Know Enough About Coronavirus Immunity

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Does getting the coronavirus once make you immune to it or could you get it again? Many are looking to antibody tests for answers. The logic is: if I have antibodies for the coronavirus, I must be immune.

Well, turns out ... it's complicated, as Katherine Wu writes for the Smithsonian Magazine. We invited her onto the show to explain.

Between episodes, you can catch up with Maddie on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Plus, we always want to hear what's on your mind — coronavirus or otherwise. Tell us by emailing shortwave@npr.org.

Jun 16 2020

12mins

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The Fight Over A Weedkiller, In The Fields And In The Courts

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A federal court recently ordered farmers to stop spraying one of the country's most widely used herbicides, dicamba. NPR's food and agriculture correspondent Dan Charles tells us the ruling has turned the world of Midwestern agriculture upside down. Then the Environmental Protection Agency came out with its own order.

Jun 15 2020

12mins

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Coronavirus 'Long-Haulers' Have Been Sick For Months. Why?

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That's what they call themselves: long-haulers. They've been sick for months. Many have never had a positive test. Doctors cannot explain their illness any other way, and can only guess at why the virus appears to be with them for so long.

Ed Yong of The Atlantic explains what might be going on, and why their experience mirrors that of other sufferers with chronic illnesses who battle to be believed. We also spoke with Hannah Davis, a long-hauler from New York City.

Read Ed's story on long-haulers here.

Read more about the long haulers' research group here, read their report here, and join their support group here.

Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Jun 12 2020

14mins

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Spinosaurus Makes Waves

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We chat with National Geographic Explorer and paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim about his team's discovery of the Spinosaurus, the first known swimming dinosaur. The years-long journey to uncover the fossilized remains is like something out of a movie, beginning with a mustached Moroccan man wearing white. Read more on National Geographic's website. Tweet Maddie your dinosaur facts @maddie_sofia. Plus, email the show your dinosaur-themed episode ideas at shortwave@npr.org.

Jun 11 2020

14mins

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How Tear Gas Affects The Body

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In protests around the country, law enforcement agencies have used tear gas to disperse crowds. But is it safe? ProPublica environment reporter Lisa Song speaks with Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong about the potential dangers of that practice, especially in the middle of a respiratory pandemic.

Jun 10 2020

12mins

Play

iTunes Ratings

3208 Ratings
Average Ratings
2924
132
57
39
56

Like a successful qPCR

By GRAZIAAE - May 18 2020
Read more
Awesome love it .... keep the science coming

Educational and awesome.

By KingLee273 - May 15 2020
Read more
Short Wave is awesome. Props to NPR and everyone who works on it!