Time to Eat the Dogs

On Science, History, and Exploration

Episode 37: The Rise of the Megafire

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In the 1980s, fires burned an average of two million acres per year. Today the average is eight million acres and growing. Scientists believe that we could see years with twenty million acres burned, an area larger than country of Ireland. Today I rebroadcast my interview with Michael Kodas who talks about the phenomenon of megafires, forest fires that burn over 100,000 acres, and why the number of these fires is increasing every year.

Kodas is the deputy director of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He is also an award winning photojournalist and reporter. His book Megafire: The Race to Extinguish a Deadly Epidemic of Flame recently won the Colorado Book Award.

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Listen (below) or on iTunes

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Episode 36: The Ebola Outbreak of 2013

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Why did Ebola, a virus so deadly that it killed or immobilized its victims within days, have time to become a full-blown epidemic? That’s what happened in 2013 in when the virus, already well-known to virologists and epidemiologists, broke out in West Africa, infecting twenty-eight thousand people and killing eleven thousand. 

Stephan Bullard, associate professor of biology at the University of Hartford, discusses the 2013 outbreak which is the subject of his new book, A Day to Day Chronicle of the 2013-16 Ebola Outbreak, now out with Springer Press. (Rebroadcast).

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Stephan Bullard

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Episode 35: The Mars Rover Curiosity

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Emily Lakdawalla talks about the design and construction of Curiosity, formally known as the Mars Science Laboratory, one of the most sophisticated machines ever built. Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012 where it has been conducting research within the ancient Gale Crater.

Lakdawalla is a senior editor at the Planetary Society where she writes and blogs about planetary exploration. She is a frequent guest on Planetary Radio. She is also the author of The Design and Engineering of Curiosity: How the Mars Rover Performs Its Job.

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Emily Lakdawalla

Links:

Lakdawalla’s Curiosity Goodreads Page

Lakdawalla’s Planetary Society Blog

NASA’s Mars Scientific Laboratory Website

 

Episode 34: Psychology in Extreme Environments

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Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere haul sledges towards the South Pole in 2013

Nathan Smith talks about the psychology of exploration, specifically the psychology of performance in extreme environments. Smith worked closely with polar explorer Ben Saunders as he attempted to ski to the South Pole and back unassisted in 2013: a recreation of Robert Falcon Scott’s tragic 1911 Terra Nova Expedition in which Scott and his party died on their return journey across the Ross Ice Shelf. Smith helped establish the research module on Extreme Medicine at the University of Exeter and worked as a senior research scientist within the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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Nathan Smith

Links

The Expedition Psychology Project (includes Smith bibliography)

In Extremis

Ben Saunders’ Website

The Scott Expedition

Episode 33: What the Dead Can Teach Us

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Too often keeping patients alive gets in the way of helping them as they approach death. Dr. Pauline Chen shares her experiences as a medical student and transplant surgeon and how they’ve shaped the way she practices medicine. 

Chen is the author of Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality and the New York Times column “Doctor and Patient.” Her essays have appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times Magazine, and the New York Times Book Review. Her work has been nominated for a National Magazine Award.

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Pauline Chen

Episode 32: Rethinking Humboldt

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Alexander von Humboldt by Friedrich Georg Weitsch (1806)

It’s hard for 21st century audiences to understand the fame and admiration that followed Humboldt after his 1799 expedition to South and Central America. In the early 1800s, he was the most famous explorer in the world. While his fame would be eclipsed by other explorers, especially in the Anglo-American world, Humboldt is working his way back into the conversation. Patrick Anthony discusses Humboldt and his complicated legacy.

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“Geographie des Plantes Equinoxiales.” Tableau Physique des Andes et Pays Voisins (1805)

Anthony is a PhD candidate at Vanderbilt University. His essay “Mining as the Working World of Alexander von Humbolt’s Plant Geography and Vertical Cartography” recently won the Nathan Reingold Prize from the History of Science Society. It is published in the spring issue of the society’s journal, Isis

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Patrick Anthony

Links:

Susan Faye Cannon, Science in Culture: The Early Victorian Period

Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation

Michael Robinson, “Why We Need a New History of Exploration”

Aaron Sachs, The Humboldt Current: A European Explorer and His American Disciples

Laura Dassow Walls, Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America

 

Episode 31: The Revolution in Paleoanthropology

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Homo Naledi

John Hawks talks about new developments in paleoanthropology – the discovery of a new hominid species Homo Naledi in South Africa, the Neanderthal ancestry of many human populations, and the challenge of rethinking anthropological science’s relationship with indigenous peoples and the general public. Hawks is the Vilas-Borghesi Achievement Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He is the co-author of Almost Human: The Astonishing Tale of Homo naledi and the Discovery That Changed Our Human Story

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John Hawks, (photo credit Russ Creech)

Links:

John Hawks blog

Almost Human: The Astonishing Tale of Homo naledi and the Discovery that Changed the Human Story