Year in Review: Science Stories of 2011

From the tsunami-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant to the end of NASA”s shuttle program, a great deal of science stories made headlines this year. Science writers Mariette DiChristina, Matt Crenson, Steven Levy, and Paul Raeburn join Ira Flatow to discuss the year’s top stories in science.

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IgNobel Prizes Salute The Silly In Science

This year’s 21st First Annual IgNobel Prize Ceremony featured the science of sighs, inquiries into the yawning habits of the red-footed tortoise, and songs about the chemistry of coffee. Ira Flatow and Ig master of ceremonies Marc Abrahams present some of the highlights from this year’s festivities.

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Building A Better Toilet

Toilets, as most of us know them, haven’t changed much since the 1800s–they use a lot of water, and require an infrastructure that many communities can’t afford. Ira Flatow and guests look at the problem of access to sanitation, and how engineers are making toilets better.

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Solar Sector At War Over Cheap Chinese Panels

Seven solar companies have filed a trade complaint with the federal government, accusing China of dumping artificially cheap solar panels on the US market. But solar installers welcome the low prices. Ira Flatow and guests discuss what’s best for the domestic solar industry–and US jobs–in the long run.

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Meet The MythBusters

Discovery Channel’s MythBusters have taken on more than 700 myths, from how hard it is to find a needle in a haystack (it’s hard) to whether toothbrushes have fecal matter on them (they do). Series hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage talk about the show with host Ira Flatow.

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Rethinking How Kids Learn Science

How important are museums, TV shows and after school clubs to teaching kids science? Ira Flatow and guests look at “informal science education” and what researchers are learning about learning science. Plus, what’s the best way to keep undergraduate science majors in science?

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In Scott’s Race To The Pole, Science Beat Speed

A hundred years ago, two teams were racing to the South Pole. The Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen made it first, beating British explorer Robert Scott. But only Scott did pioneering science–and photography–along the way. Ira Flatow and guests discuss the achievements of the first Antarctic expeditions.

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Exploring Multiple Personalities In ‘Sybil Exposed’

In a new book writer Debbie Nathan digs into archived material documenting the experiences of a patient known as “Sybil,” who reportedly suffered from multiple personality disorder. Ira Flatow and guests discuss MPD, and its modern equivalent–dissociative identity disorder.

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Solving The Riddle Of The Grand Canyon’s Formation

The Grand Canyon may seem to be a simple case of “river carves rock,” but to geologists, its formation is still puzzling. Ira Flatow and guests discuss the canyon’s mysteries, and the scientific sleuthing being done to solve them–millions of years after the Colorado River carried off the evidence.

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Flagstaff Throws A Science Party

The Flagstaff Festival of Science gets underway this week. Ira Flatow talks with two festival participants about some of the highlights: Astronaut John Grunsfeld previews a talk on the Hubble Telescope and archeoastronomer Bryan Bates tells what the Mayans knew about 2012.

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Managing Forests To Manage Wildfires

Record breaking fires in the Southwest have burned thousands of acres, disrupting people and animals, and leaving muddy, flood-prone landscapes in their wake. Ira Flatow and guests discuss fire ecology, and how new forest management strategies may help stifle the blazes.

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The Psychology of 9/11, Ten Years Later

Immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, many first responders and other victims received psychological care. Ira Flatow and guests look at the psychological effects of 9/11, and what researchers have learned since then about caring for victims of psychological trauma.

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Technology Aids Free Speech – And Its Suppression

Cellphones and the Internet have democratized free speech more than town hall meetings and the printing press. But they also provide governments with easier ways to monitor–and switch off–communication. Ira Flatow and guests discuss the BART cell service shutdown, and the role of social media and messaging in the London riots.

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Feeding A Hotter, More Crowded Planet

Nearly a billion people worldwide don’t have reliable access to food, according to United Nations estimates, and some experts worry climate change will drive that number even higher. Ira Flatow and guests discuss the future of food security, and how farmers may need to adapt in coming generations.

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If Science Takes A Wrong Turn, Who Rights It?

Science is often idealized as a self-correcting system. But how often–and how quickly–is bad science set straight? Ira Flatow and guests discuss recent cases of scientific fraud that have led to retractions of journal studies, and whether human study volunteers have been harmed by bogus science.

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Funding For James Webb Space Telescope In Jeopardy

A bill approved by the House Committee on Appropriations cuts funding for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope in 2012. (The bill has not yet been approved by the full House and Senate). Ira Flatow and guests discuss the status of the ‘scope and what happens if funding is cut.

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