Living Lab on The Point

Mondays at 9am and 7pm

Living Lab on The Point is a forum for the stories behind science headlines — the people who do the research, the unexpected ways that science gets done, and how the results make their way into our everyday lives.

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Host and producer Dr. Heather Goldstone.
Credit Maura Longueil

Living Lab on The Point is Produced by Heather Goldstone and Elsa Partan. The Executive Producer is Mindy Todd.

Major support for the Living Lab is provided by The Kendeda Fund: furthering the values that contrubute to a healthy planet. Additional support is provided by Lee McGraw and the Elizabeth B. McGraw Foundation.

Evolutionary biologist Nicole King
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation /

Stories about our origins exert a powerful draw. Who doesn’t want to know where he or she has come from? Who and what came before? For evolutionary biologist Nicole King, of UC Berkeley, those questions just go back a bit further than for most of us.

What do you call a group of older women advocating for land conservation? Great Old Broads for Wilderness, of course. No joke. Although humor - along with knowledge, experience, and passion - is a key ingredient in the organization's work.


A new poll finds that eighty percent of Massachusetts residents favor protecting special ocean areas from activities like mining and fishing. A coalition pushing President Obama to create a marine national monument in New England waters say this is one more measure of support. But opponents say the poll was misleading and biased.

It’s not unusual for whales to make headlines around here, but the past couple of months have brought a stream of bad news. In May, a dead minke whale washed up in Maine, followed by the humpback known as Snow Plow in late June. Then, a fin whale carcass showed up on Martha's Vineyard just in time for Fourth of July. A necropsy has confirmed that a baby right whale - one of fourteen calves this year - was killed by a ship strike. Several whales have also been released from entanglements in fishing gear, but the most recent individual may still lose its tail flukes as a result.

Research on deer mice is revealing the genetic underpinnings of complex behaviors.
US Dept. of Agriculture

Nature versus nurture: it’s one of the oldest debates out there. How much of our personality are we born with, and how much develops in response to our experiences? Modern genetics is making it possible to examine these kinds of questions in ever greater detail, and one Harvard researcher is finding genes at work in complex behaviors.

The clinging jellyfish, Gonionemus vertens.
Annette Govindarajan

The sting of a jellyfish can range from a mild annoyance to a life-threatening incident, depending on the species. Reports of severe stings in coastal ponds along the coast of Cape Cod in recent years have sparked concern that a new, more virulent jellyfish may have entered the area. It turns out the jellyfish responsible – known as a clinging jellyfish - may have been here for more than a century.

Traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe, Hokule'a, greeted by the first mishoon built and launched by Wampanoag of Aquinnah in centuries.
Angela Scionti / WCAI

The traditional Hawaiian voyaging canoe, Hokule'a, was built to prove a point: that Polynesian voyagers sailing traditional canoes and using traditional navigation techniques could deliberately journey thousands of miles, against prevailing winds. Forty years ago, it was an idea that many - Hawaiian and otherwise - openly doubted.

Winning a war takes more than guns. The need to keep soldiers safe and healthy have prompted researchers to explore everything from Kevlar underwear to laundry-free uniforms and shark repellents (no luck, yet, on that front). In her new book, Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, Mary Roach goes behind the scenes with the scientists trying to make life a bit better for soldiers.

Contagious leukemia was first documented in soft-shell steamer clams.
Michael J. Metzger / Columbia University

Researchers at Columbia University reported this week that they’ve found transmissible leukemia in mussels, cockles, and golden carpet shell clams, doubling the number of known contagious cancers. Soft-shelled clams also get the disease. The other two examples of contagious cancer are a facial tumor in Tasmanian devils, and a venereal cancer in dogs.

Antikythera team members Nikolas Giannoulakis, Theotokis Theodoulou, and Brendan Foley inspect small finds from the Shipwreck while decompressing after a dive to 50 m (265 feet).
Brett Seymour / EUA/WHOI/ARGO

Archeologists have discovered a second shipwreck at the site of the Greek wreck known as the Antikythera. That site became famous for the oldest-known computer, dating back to 65 B.C. But underwater archeologist Brendan Foley of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution suspected the wreck had more to offer.