Category Archives: Audio

The Odd Natural History of San Francisco

In a talk for the California Historical Society, I discuss San Francisco’s hidden nature. Despite my best efforts to remain informative, funny, and surprising, things go off the rails and get slightly uncomfortable (you’ll know what I mean when you get there). From the gold rush to the bay itself to our delicious food, I uncover the hidden geological history responsible for it all.

The Largest Mass Poisoning In History

In the mid-1980s, a small problem began to surface in a relatively obscure corner of the world. In 1994, just about a decade later, the World Health Organization published a statement that this little problem had developed into “the largest mass poisoning of a population in history.” On today’s show, we speak to the doctors, epidemiologists, and geologists who helped hunt down the origin of this tragic event. Join us as we venture through the human body and through geologic time to uncover the twists and turns and remarkable coincidences responsible for this ongoing epidemic.

This story was originally published in 2013 on the Generation Anthropocene podcast.

Generation Anthropocene is back!

The Generation Anthropocene podcast has returned for its 5th year!!! We’ve been collecting a lot of great interviews and our student producers have been working on some incredible stories that we will be releasing every Tuesday and Thursday for the next few weeks (at least). You can find all of the latest and greatest Generation Anthropocene news at our newly redesigned website.

Our latest season begins with an interview with Jonathan Foley, the Museum Director for the California Academy of Sciences. He talks to host Mike Osborne about science education and outreach, with added emphasis on the relationship between science and politics in a “post-truth” world.

Are we alone in the universe?

How did life begin on Earth? Curiously, scientists often search for the answer on other planets or moons in our solar system. After all, if we want to see whether our theories are right, we need to find another example of life somewhere. The search has taken us to some strange places seemingly frozen in time that give us hints to what Earth looked like billions of years ago when life first appeared in the geologic record: places like Mars that show evidence of fossil oceans, and places like Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, that show evidence of liquid water oceans containing organic molecules hidden under an icy crust. NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay has been a member of missions that sent spacecraft to these and other places in search of that elusive other example of life in the universe. He recently sat down with producer Miles Traer to discuss the best current theories for the origin of life on Earth, why Antarctica is a lot like one of Saturn’s moons, the challenges of collecting data from other planets, and the reasons we’re captivated by the question, “Are we alone in the universe?”

The evolution of venom

“In Asia or Africa around 60 million years ago, snakes became more venomous, though scientists aren’t quite sure why then and there.” Sometimes understanding global environmental change requires that we simply know how nature works. And not just the pleasant side of nature, but all of it. When we look back through the wonders of Darwinian evolution, we gain a deeper appreciation for certain aspects of the natural world that seem… uncomfortable: things like snakes, spiders, jellyfish, Komodo Dragons, and tiny caterpillars that can easily kill humans. This week, scientist Christie Wilcox takes us on a journey through the evolution of the chemical cocktails we call “venom,” which she wrote about in her new book called, “Venomous: How Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry.” Travel along from venom’s earliest formation, its evolution into a potent weapon, and its further transformation by doctors today as a potentially revolutionary tool in developing new medicines.

Image by Brent Myers
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic