Episodes Archive

Ancient Migrations #627

June 05, 2023

Humans are a roaming species. We've been traveling from continent to continent since our very earliest evolution. In fact, we've been doing it even before we were humans. This week, we're talking with archaeologist Radu Iovita about the ancient silk road, a travel network that was in use tens of thousands of years ago, and we speak with archaeologist Elroy White and anthropologist Alisha Gauvreau about what the oral histories of Indigenous people have to say about North American settlement and how archaeologists are working with First Nations to confirm those histories. REFERENCES Rodriguez A, Yanamandra K, Witek L, Wang... Read More


Our Friend, the Wasp #626

May 25, 2023

Is there an insect more universally despised than the wasp? What have they done to incur so much of our ire? No one likes them. Well... almost no one. Seirian Sumner, Professor of Behavioural Ecology at University College London and cofounder of the Big Wasp Survey, is on a mission to improve the wasp's PR with her book "Endless Forms: Why We Should Love Wasps". She joins us to talk about the fascinating biology and behaviour of wasps and their societies, and how we can learn to better coexist with the wasp, thinking of it less as pest and more... Read More


This one really is about aliens #625

May 09, 2023

Do you believe there's something Out There? What do our ideas of aliens say about what life is, how life could look and act? And what does it say about us, about what we think life needs, wants, and should be? We're talking with Jaime Green about her new book: The Possibility of Life: Science, Imagination, and Our Quest for Kinship in the Cosmos. Read More


The Devil’s Element #624

April 24, 2023

With fertilizers that supply phosphorus–what Asimov called “life’s bottleneck”– people broke the circle of life. Dan Egan’s new book The Devil’s Element traces the history of this essential element from curiosity to crop miracle. Egan documents the mayhem unleashed by a flood of phosphorus, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and discusses how people can act to stop phosphorus-fueled blooms of algae that are closing beaches, killing animals and sickening people. Read More


Peopling the Americas #623

April 11, 2023

Thousands of years ago, people crossed a land bridge from Siberia to Western Alaska and dispersed southward into what we now call the Americas. The story of exactly when that was, how they did it, and who they were has fascinated us for a long time as excavations have uncovered pieces of those stories. University of Kansas Associate Professor of Anthropology Jennifer Raff joins us to talk about her book "Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas", digging into the ways modern genetics is being used to help us understand the history of people dispersing across the Americas. Along the... Read More


What's wrong Colonel Sanders? Feeling chicken? #622

March 27, 2023

Give a cluck about chickens. The most popular meat actually has a 3,500 year history of cockfighting, backyard keeping, incubation invention, and a lot of scrambled eggs. And now, people are keeping them in their backyards as pets. How did we get here, and what changes have we made to the bird formerly known as the Asian Jungle Fowl? We're talking with Tove Danovich, author of the new book Under the Henfluence: Inside the World of Backyard Chickens and the People Who Love Them. For more on the rise of the domestic chicken, make sure to check out our previous... Read More


Of memoir and sea creatures #621

March 13, 2023

Sea creatures do so many things that astound us. They regrow and regenerate, they incubate eggs for years without ever eating a morsel. They can be one big individual one moment, and a multicelled colony the next. And writers like Sabrina Imbler don't see these differences from us as alien, but as jumping off points to explore selfhood, development, life and death in their new book; How Far The Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures. Read More


The Matter of Everything #620

February 27, 2023

In the past 120 years, physicists have revamped our understanding of matter — of everything that makes up the world. This week on the show, particle physicist Suzie Sheehy takes us on a tour through a cosmos of physics experiments that have revealed the nature of the atom and unveiled particles that exist outside of it. We’ll hear the tales of adventurous experiments and intrepid experimenters, including ones who didn’t receive their due. And along the way, we’ll learn about the ways that particle physics touches our everyday lives. Read More


Breathless #619

February 16, 2023

In January 2020 a race began to identify, control, and understand a novel coronavirus that quickly spread around the world creating a global pandemic. In his most recent book "Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus", writer David Quammen takes us back to those first days, weeks, months and years, putting us behind the shoulders of some of those first scientists as they try to reckon with the new Covid-19 virus. This week, we learn more about his experiencing of writing about the pandemic during the pandemic, how information about the virus spread through the scientific community, how... Read More


This is your brain on music #618

January 30, 2023

Humans are musical. Really, really musical. But why? What is it for, how did it come about, and what do we get from it? Let's get between the science and the hype (Mozart is not going to make you smarter) with Adriana Barton and her book: Wired for Music: A search for Health and Joy through the Science of Sound. Read More


Emotional Ignorance #617

January 16, 2023

On this week’s show, we’re getting emotional. Our guest, neuroscientist Dean Burnett, talks about his new book Emotional Ignorance. He shares how the experience of his father’s death during covid prompted him to take on his emotions by writing about them. We talk about the sad, such as why people cry, but also travel across a wide range of emotions including strange emotional experiences such as nightmares. And we dive into the complexity of emotions, from defining them to how they arise in the brain and connections with the body. Read More


The one about sex #616

December 20, 2022

Let's talk about sex, baby. Let's talk about birds and bees. Let's talk about all the slime molds and the algae that can be, let's talk about sex. This week we are talking about the history of sex, where it came from, what it is, who has it, and why people are always trying to tell others they are not allowed to do it. We're getting down and dirty with Rachel Feltman and their new book, Been There, Done That: A Rousing History of Sex. Read More


2022 Science Book Haul #615

December 06, 2022

John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster join host Rachelle Saunders in what might be our most favourite and longest-running December tradition: science book recommendations! We've brought our book mavens back to talk about their 2022 science book highlights and give us a sneak peak at what they're looking forward to reading next year. As always, we've got our companion blog post ready with the full book list (plus some extras) with links to Amazon where you can find more information. Happy reading! Read More


Clocks, Mugs and Other Nerdy Gift Ideas #614

November 22, 2022

It's that time of year when Rachelle spends far too much time finding strange and wonderful new clocks, Bethany adds more mugs to her collection, and together we spend some time embracing our inner holiday-consumer and getting excited about lots of wonderful, delightful, charming and (sometimes) weird things you might get the geeks in your life. As always, you can find a blog post companion to this episode with links to everything we discussed in this episode. And if that's still not enough to satisfy your nerdy gift-giving needs, you can always check out our full Bookshelf here, or take... Read More


Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains #613

November 10, 2022

We all know what a "pest" is. We can all point to creatures that are pests in our neighborhoods, those invasive hard-to-get-rid-of, disruptive animals that civilization seems to be in constant battle with. The rats, the racoons, the pigeons... But what makes them pests, really? Who decides? And what about other animals that are pests to some - cats, elephants, and deer for example - but not to others? Rachelle Saunders speaks with our very own Bethany Brookshire about her new book "Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains" and explore how our very human problem with pests is really more... Read More


The Poopisode #612

October 25, 2022

Number 2. Poop. Crap. Doodoo. It's something that a lot of people just want to flush and forget, but others want to talk about it. Do they poop too much? Not enough? Easily enough? Not only can poop tell us about ourselves and our health, though, it could also doo much more. Feces can fertilize our crops, and with the right processing, toilet water can be refreshing. All we need to do is rethink our relationship with poo. This week we sit down with Bryn Nelson to talk about his new book Flush: The Remarkable Science of an Unlikely Treasure.... Read More


Spark: The Life of Electricity and the Electricity of Life #611

October 17, 2022

Usually when we talk about electricity we're talking about the technology that runs the modern world, but electricity is a lot more integral to our existance than making our tech work. Without electricty our bodies don't know how to move, see or hear, and the history of how we came to understand what electricity is and what it can do is wrapped up in our exploration of biology. Rachelle Saunders speaks with Tim Jorgensen, author of the new book "Spark: The Life of Electricity and the Electricity of Life", about the intertwined nature of electricity and life and how we... Read More


Thieving Trees #610

September 26, 2022

The word "poaching" conjures images of elephants, tigers and pangolins. But there's a multi-billion dollar industry in poaching...trees. It might seem ok at first, trees grow back right? But it's so much more complicated than that. Today we're talking with Lyndsie Bourgon about her new book Tree Thieves: Crime and Survival in North America's Woods. Read More


A world of universal vaccines #609

September 12, 2022

It seems like no one vaccine is ever enough. COVID mutates and the vaccines fall short. A new flu vaccine every year, and each one different from the last. Wouldn't it be nice if we just could get one? One flu shot and call it done? One COVID vaccine and make everything better? Well, scientists are trying their best to develop universal vaccines--one vaccine for the flu, one for COVID, and some for...worms? Yes. Worms. This week, we chat with Kawsar Talaat, an infectious diseases researcher at Johns Hopkins University, and Maria Elena Bottozzi, co-director of the vaccine center at... Read More


Bone Proteins and Body Farms #608

August 31, 2022

Television dramas make it seem like easy work for forensic investigators to determine when a person has died. But figuring out the time since death can be tricky for bodies that have weathered away to mere skeletons. This week we’re talking with forensic scientist and molecular biotechnologist Noemi Procopio about how proteins in bones could help. Procopio’s lab is looking for markers in bones that reveal a person’s age at death, how long it’s been since they died and the environment a body has been in. She also shares about her experience working on body farms scraping clues from bones.... Read More