Heather Goldstone

Science Editor and Host of Living Lab

Heather Goldstone is science editor at WCAI and host of Living Lab on The Point, a weekly show exploring how science gets done and makes its way into our daily lives. Goldstone holds a Ph.D. in ocean science from M.I.T. and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and spent a decade as researcher before leaving the lab to pursue journalism. She has reported extensively on Woods Hole’s unique scientific community and key environmental issues on Cape Cod. Her stories have appeared in outlets ranging from Cape Cod Times and Commercial Fishery News to NPR and PBS News Hour. Most recently, Goldstone hosted Climatide.org, an NPR-sponsored blog exploring present-day impacts of climate change on coastal life.

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With Christmas coming up on Sunday, a bit of planetary news related to Christmas caught our attention. The Star of Bethlehem that was seen by the Magi might not have been a star at all, but a rare planetary alignment.

RISD Builds a Mars Suit

Dec 19, 2016
RISD/Jo Sittenfeld

One challenge astronauts face as they prepare for a mission to Mars is that they haven’t got a thing to wear.

For example, astronaut Andrzej Stewart had to wear a hazmat suit during his training at the Mars simulation center on Hawaii known as HI-SEAS. That suit just wasn’t realistic.

The problem is, it’s too expensive to build actual Mars space suits just to train on Earth. A fully functional Mars suit would cost millions of dollars to build. Plus, it would be extremely heavy. (Mars has 62 percent lower gravity than the Earth.)

Usually, efforts to find a new treatment or cure for a disease go something like this: scientists spend years figuring out something about the basic biology of the disease, and then spend more years finding ways to target a part of that process. When they hit on something that works in the laboratory, they (or, often, a pharmaceutical company) spend even more years - and a lot more money - doing the tests necessary to prove a drug is safe and effective for use in human patients.

Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library / Yale University

It’s been called the world’s most mysterious book. It was written between 1404 and 1438 in an unknown script by an unknown author. It’s illustrated with plants and star charts that look tantalizingly like real ones, only not quite. And then there are the women -  dozens of naked women entering and emerging from tubes that one writer compared to midieval waterslides. But most perplexing of all is the lettering, which is beautifully formed but completely unintelligible.

U.S. Geological Survey

Sea level rise is typically mentioned in the context of erosion, coastal flooding, storm damage at the coasts. All of those are issues, to be sure. But rising ocean levels can have other effects – on septic systems and drinking water supplies farther inland. Potential impacts on groundwater are the subject of a new report from US Geological Survey’s New England Water Science Center.

We come into contact with countless chemicals everyday. In fact, we're made of chemicals. But the number of human-made, synthetic chemicals in our lives has skyrocketed, and many common household and personal care products actually contain chemicals that may be bad for our health.

Scientists can measure the amounts of these chemicals in retail products and the home environment, and they can study what they do to animals in laboratory. But that leaves one big, unanswered question:

Agence de presse Meurisse / bit.ly/2gCH6zx

When Marie Curie discovered radioactivity, she kick-started the field of atomic physics and inspired two other female physicists whose work gave rise to the atomic age. Her daughter, Irene (and son-in-law, Frederic) Joliot-Curie, discovered a method of inducing artificial radioactivity. And Austrian-born Lise Meitner figured out nuclear fission.

Yuki A. Honjo

Cranberries are a billion-dollar industry in Massachusetts and employ more than 6,900 people. But the market is getting crowded, and that’s pushing down the price. Wisconsin has been the top grower in North America for years, where cranberry farms go back to the 1800’s. Quebec has only been growing cranberries for the last 20 years, but it surpassed Massachusetts in its cranberry harvest in 2014.

Why hasn’t Massachusetts kept up with the Wisconsin and Quebec?

Satya Murthy/flickr / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Biochemist Keri Colabroy thinks we could all be better cooks and healthier eaters, if we just learned a little bit of chemistry. That's why she teaches a kitchen chemistry course and a writing class about coffee (yeah, that's a thing) at Muhlenberg College.

Palliative care physician Justin Sanders uses the Serious Illness Conversation Guide in talking with a patient.
Courtesy of Ariadne Labs

There has been a growing recognition in recent years that patients near the end of life need a different kind of care – treatment that focuses on controlling symptoms, like pain and anxiety, rather than attempting to cure a disease. Most doctors and nurses aren’t trained to handle this transition and, until recently, haven’t had the information and tools necessary to do it well. That is changing.

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