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Playlist: Science Saturday

Compiled By: Tom Maloney

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Big Picture Science (Series)

Produced by Big Picture Science

Most recent piece in this series:

For the Birds

From Big Picture Science | Part of the Big Picture Science series | 54:00


Birds have it going on. Many of these winged dinosaurs delight us with their song and brilliant plumage. Migratory birds travel thousands of miles in a display of endurance that would make an Olympic athlete gasp.

We inquire about these daunting migrations and how birds can fly for days without rest. And what can we do to save disappearing species? Will digital tracking technology help? Plus, how 19th century bird-lovers, appalled by feathered hats, started the modern conservation movement.


Scott Weidensaul – Ornithologist and naturalist and author of “A World on the Wing: the Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds.”

Kassandra Ford – Doctoral candidate in evolutionary biology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Michelle Nijhuis – Science journalist and author of “Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction.”

Originally aired May 10, 2021

Featuring music by Dewey Dellay and Jun Miyake


Climate One- Weekly Feed (Series)

Produced by Climate One

Most recent piece in this series:

240419: Artificial Intelligence, Real Climate Impacts , 4/19/2024

From Climate One | Part of the Climate One- Weekly Feed series | 58:59


Artificial intelligence can do some pretty amazing things, including for the climate. But, as with most technology, there are significant trade offs. The energy used by AI is massive and growing. 

Tech giants like Microsoft, Google and Amazon are building enormous data centers to make AI possible. Karen Hao, a contributing writer for the Atlantic who also has an engineering degree from MIT, visited one of these data centers in Arizona. It was a 97 degree day, and the data center stretched on into the desert. Hao decided she would walk around it to get a visceral idea of how big it is. She says, “Within two legs of the rectangle. I just started feeling very, very heat exhausted and I'd run out of water. It had already taken me around 20, 25 minutes and I was like, I gotta get out of here.” Companies are making huge investments in giant data centers. Hao says Microsoft alone is spending around 10 billion a quarter now on data centers. 

Most of the hype right now is around generative AI. Think: ChatGPT. As a matter of fact, the G in ChatGPT stands for generative. The basic idea is that AI is being fed our data to train models that generate more data like that. Karen Hao says, “It's taking our writing to generate more writing. It's taking our images to generate more images.” 

But not all flavors of AI use the same amount of energy. Much of theAI that might benefit the  reasons is referred to as predictive AI. Predictive AI tends to use existing data to help it make predictions, rather than generating new sentences or images the way generative AI does. For example: it might use our images to make a prediction about what's in another image. Hao says, “Like cancer detection systems or facial recognition systems.” And predictive AI uses far less energy. This is because predictive AI is trained on a specific task, and once it achieves the desired accuracy, its energy use falls dramatically. 

Predictive AI is also being used to track emissions. Climate TRACE, an independent greenhouse gas emissions tracker backed by former Vice President Al Gore, is one such organization. Gavin McCormick, Co-Founder of Climate TRACE, says, “we can see that some steel facilities pollute about 10 times more emissions than others to produce the same product.” That data helped companies like GM and Tesla switch to steel factories that produced less emissions. McCormick says, “Our hope is that this is a way that data can make it kind of painless to reduce emissions.” 

“AI is being used in all sorts of ways to facilitate climate action from things like helping us better forecast solar power on electric power grids in order to help us balance grids with large amounts of renewables,” says Priya Donti, Assistant Professor at MIT and Co-founder and Chair of Climate Change AI. Efficiency is one of the best ways to reduce carbon pollution. If we didn't need so much power, we wouldn't need to burn so much fossil fuel. With more efficiency we could switch to renewable energy more quickly. AI can help do that, even with simple tasks like optimizing heating and cooling systems in homes and buildings to save energy.  

Nowcasting is a weather forecasting model that combines a description of the current state of the atmosphere and a short-term forecast. Amy McGovern, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Oklahoma, says, “our current average [nowcasting] warning is about 15 minutes. Can you imagine if you could bring that up to 30 minutes or 60 minutes?”  McGovern also says, “As our climate is changing, a lot of these extreme weather events are changing. And I think AI can be used to help us improve our prediction and understanding of these events and, and be able to weather them better.”

World Ocean Radio (Series)

Produced by World Ocean Observatory

Most recent piece in this series:


From World Ocean Observatory | Part of the World Ocean Radio series | 04:48


What are the five areas of our collective existence on earth where the ocean matters most? If we are looking for a context to drive motivation and action, we have in our view the necessary clear focus through these absolutes--water, energy, food, health, and exchange--that can guide us toward a sustainable future, with the ocean at our center.

About World Ocean Radio
World Ocean Radio is a weekly series of five-minute audio essays available for syndicated use at no cost by college and community radio stations worldwide. Peter Neill, Director of the World Ocean Observatory and host of World Ocean Radio, provides coverage of a broad spectrum of ocean issues from science and education to advocacy and exemplary projects.

World Ocean Radio
14 Years, 700+ Episodes
Ocean is climate
Climate is ocean
The sea connects all things

Bioneers - Revolution From the Heart of Nature (Series)

Produced by Bioneers

Most recent piece in this series:

10-15: A Love That Is Wild: Why Wilderness Matters in the 21st Century, 5/1/2024

From Bioneers | Part of the Bioneers - Revolution From the Heart of Nature series | 28:30

Terry-175_175_small Writer, naturalist and activist Terry Tempest Williams asks “Can we love ourselves, each other and the Earth enough to change?” She invokes our deepest humanity to honor and protect the wilderness that’s the cauldron of evolution – and of our own imagination. “Our power lies in the love of our homelands,” she tells us in this eloquent, heartfelt tour-de-force, and protecting the wild requires bringing democracy home.

A Moment of Science (Series)

Produced by WFIU

Most recent piece in this series:

AMOS 24-100: Extremophiles Go to The End of the Earth—and Thrive There, 5/20/2024

From WFIU | Part of the A Moment of Science series | 02:00

Mos-fullcolor-rgb-stacked_small Extremophiles Go to The End of the Earth—and Thrive There

This Week in Water (Series)

Produced by H2O Radio

Most recent piece in this series:

This Week in Water for April 14, 2024

From H2O Radio | Part of the This Week in Water series | 06:16

H2o_logo_240_small The EPA has taken its first step to regulate “forever chemicals” in drinking water.

“Archaic plumbing” inside the Glen Canyon Dam is aggravating Colorado River Basin woes.

An environmental crisis has been averted following the Baltimore bridge collapse...so far.

ten-minute walk could deliver clean water—and faster if you pick up the pace.

Spectrum: World of Science & Technology ~ from DW (Series)

Produced by DW - Deutsche Welle

Most recent piece in this series:

Science unscripted (DW) 04/16/24 - Are songs becoming stupider?

From DW - Deutsche Welle | Part of the Spectrum: World of Science & Technology ~ from DW series | 30:00

52861954_7_small We're assuming at one point or another that you have heard (probably from an older relative?) that music is in decline. Songs these days just aren't what they used to be. Song lyrics, in particular, have become dumber. So, is it true?

Living Planet: Environment Matters ~ from DW (Series)

Produced by DW - Deutsche Welle

Most recent piece in this series:

Living Planet 04/19/24

From DW - Deutsche Welle | Part of the Living Planet: Environment Matters ~ from DW series | 29:59

61296882_7_small Deep dive: Mercury’s tantalizing promise of endless gold in South America. Mercury’s a known pollutant in fish, but did you know one of the biggest mercury emitters is actually small-scale gold mining? From sunken ships to shihuahuaco trees, we take a deep dive into the astounding history and science of mercury and the solutions that could break its toxic cycle.

The Pulse (Series)

Produced by WHYY

Most recent piece in this series:

540: Living Greener — One Decision at a Time, 4/19/2024

From WHYY | Part of the The Pulse series | 58:51

3000x3000_itunes_thepulse_1_small Every day, we hear about countless environmental threats — from air pollution and microplastics, to deforestation and global warming. And a lot of us feel overwhelmed by the scale of these problems, and helpless to enact global big-picture solutions. But small, everyday decisions matter too — and they add up. How you do your laundry, how warm or cool you keep your home, what you eat for lunch, what kinds of products you buy and or how you sort your trash — all of them have the potential to make a big difference. On this special Earth Day episode, we look at everyday choices that can lead to greener living. We hear stories about laundry detergents, and how we can clean our clothes without hurting the planet, what it’ll take for plant-based meat to make it to the big leagues, and an innovation that could revolutionize recycling as we know it.

Constant Wonder (Series)

Produced by BYUradio/KUMT/KBYU-FM

Most recent piece in this series:

Constant Wonder - Glimmers of Awe: The Fascinating World of Fireflies

From BYUradio/KUMT/KBYU-FM | Part of the Constant Wonder series | 52:49


Facing the loss of her Elkmont cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains—a family treasure for five generations—Lynn Faust began to pay more attention to the fireflies there, the "light show," as the family called it, where thousands of fireflies would light up in unison. When she read that synchronous fireflies did not exist in North America, she knew that scientists were wrong. The creatures were right in her own yard! Realizing just how little was known about these enchanting insects, she set out to observe them, becoming a self-taught firefly expert and unveiling the mysteries of nature's tiny lanterns.
Guest: Lynn Faust, author of "Fireflies, Glow-worms, and Lightning Bugs: Identification and Natural History of the Fireflies of the Eastern and Central United States and Canada"

Planetary Radio (Series)

Produced by Mat Kaplan

Most recent piece in this series:

Subsurface granite on the Moon? The anatomy of a lunar hot spot

From Mat Kaplan | Part of the Planetary Radio series | 28:50


A decades-old lunar mystery gets an update in this week's Planetary Radio. Matt Siegler from the Planetary Science Institute shares his team's surprising findings about the granite formation that might lie beneath Compton-Belkovich, a thorium-rich hot spot on the far side of the Moon. Then Bruce Betts, chief scientist of The Planetary Society, shares What's Up in the night sky.

Discover more at: https://www.planetary.org/planetary-radio/2023-subsurface-granite-on-the-moon