September 20, 2019
There may be almost 3 billion fewer birds in North America today than there were in 1970, according to a study published this week in the journal Science. The decline over time works out to a loss of about one in 4 birds. However, the decline does not appear to be evenly distributed.
Then, journalist Mike Pearl investigates what the world would look like after technology breakdowns, a real-life Jurassic Park, and other sci-fi doomsday scenarios in his book, The Day It Finally Happens.
Finally, new research on the brains of people who paint with their toes reveal how our limbs affect our internal maps from birth.
September 20, 2019
Climate change has been trending in the news recently—and if there’s one industry out there that knows something about trends, it’s the fashion industry. Long known for churning out cheap garments and burning through resources, some fashion labels like fast fashion giant H&M are now embracing sustainable fashion trends. But can this industry—which is responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions—really shed its wasteful business model in favor of one with a lower carbon footprint? Marc Bain, a fashion reporter at Quartz, Maxine Bédat from the New Standard Institute, and Linda Greer, global policy fellow with the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs talk with Ira about the industry’s effort to reduce its climate impact.
Plus, a check in on the Trump administration's rollback of the Clean Air Act waiver, and more of the week's biggest climate headlines.
September 13, 2019
The Greek mathematician Euclid imagined an ordered and methodical universe, but his vision struggled to catch on for centuries, until Renaissance painters and French monarchs found a way connect the ancient science of geometry to the real world. Science historian Amir Alexander joins Ira to share the story of geometry’s rising global influence in his new book Proof!: How The World Became Geometrical.
Plus, a million years ago, the black hole at the center of our galaxy burped. Now, scientists are exploring what the resulting bubbles might say about our kinship with other galaxies.
And here on Earth, neuroscientists say they can learn a lot by observing brains at play—particularly those of rats playing hide and seek.
September 13, 2019
Facial recognition technology is all around us—it’s at concerts, airports, and apartment buildings. But its use by law enforcement agencies and courtrooms raises particular concerns about privacy, fairness, and bias, according to some researchers. Some studies have shown that some of the major facial recognition systems are inaccurate. Amazon’s software misidentified 28 members of Congress and matched them with criminal mugshots. These inaccuracies tend to be far worse for people of color and women. We'll talk about how AI is guiding the decisions of police departments and courtrooms across the country—and whether we should be concerned.
Plus: Scientists were threatened with firings after the National Weather Service projections for Hurricane Dorian contradicted President Trump’s tweets, and more of the biggest science stories from the week.
Finally, wind turbines are great at producing green energy. But when they reach they end of their life-span, their parts are incredibly difficult to recycle.
September 11, 2019
The Science Friday Book Club is done birding—for now. But after wrapping up our summer discussion of Jennifer Ackerman’s The Genius of Birds, bird enthusiasts flocked together at Caveat, a venue in New York City, for one last celebration of bird brains and feathered phenomena.
We pitted audience members up against some local bird geniuses in tests of memory, pattern recognition, and problem-solving. Then, we brought on a gaggle of experts to talk about the special and smart birds of New York City, along with some of the threats they face—including bright lights and deceptive glass. And with fall migration underway, we’re talking about many more species than pigeons.
Science Friday SciArts producer and book club flock leader Christie Taylor hosted the conversation with NYC Audubon conservation biologist Kaitlyn Parkins, Wild Bird Fund director Rita McMahon, Fordham University evolutionary biologist Elizabeth Carlen, and National Audubon editor and Feminist Bird Club vice president Martha Harbison.