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.

DataCorp Technology LTD /

The internet is so ingrained in our daily lives, that it can be hard to remember life before it. And it changes so quickly it’s equally hard to know what the future might hold. One thing that’s clear is that more and more people will be connected and doing more and different things with this technology.

It’s a bit tricky to pinpoint when the internet began. Was it the first email? The first public network? What we do know is exactly when we started keeping a record of what’s on the web - October 26, 1996.

Carl Safina

Carl Safina is a marine conservationist and professor at Stony Brook University on Long Island who has been an advocate for the ocean for many years. Safina says he started out researching seabirds.

“I left science behind, not intentionally,” he told WCAI. “I started getting involved in these conservation debates. I thought I would do it for the non-field season, for a year or two. Then I realized my research was farther and farther back in the wake and I was not going to circle back to it.”

The American Burying Beetle is an endangered insect. The only populations east of the Mississippi River are found on Block Island and Nantucket.
U.S. Forest Service

For as long as there has been life on earth, there have been new species arising and others disappearing. A handful of times, the rate of disappearances has temporarily skyrocketed during what scientists call mass extinction events. Scientists say we’re in the midst of the planet’s sixth such event – this one of our own making.

Note: A longer version of this interview originally aired on August 17, 2015.

How to Clone a Mammoth (Or Should We?)

Oct 10, 2016

Many scientists think we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction, and it’s out fault.

The idea of bringing back extinct animals has gotten more attention in recent years as labs around the world get better at sequencing their genes. Could we once again have herds of woolly mammoths grazing the tundra of the north?

Most of the plastic in the ocean is smaller than your pinkie fingernail - microbeads, and pieces of broken plastic.
5 Gyres Institute

You may have heard that there’s a floating island of plastic trash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The truth is, there isn’t. In fact, the problem is far more insidious, more akin to smog. One estimate found that there are hundreds of thousands of tons of plastic - more than five trillion pieces, most about the size of a grain of rice - floating around in the world’s oceans.

Humans are taking a toll on ocean ecosystems – pollution, overfishing, climate change. Jeremy Jackson has watched human impacts sap the ability of Caribbean coral reefs to recover from natural disasters. But he says the greatest threat to ocean health is right inside our heads.

When Jackson first started studying coral reefs in the late 1960s, he was drawn by their beauty, by the fun and excitement of learning new things about corals. Over time, he and colleagues began to notice changes caused by human impacts.

Infrared image of the core of the Milky Way Galaxy. Our solar system orbits the galactic center once every 225-250 million years.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/S. Stolovy (SSC/Caltech) / Public Domain

Thanks to Galileo, it's common knowledge that the Earth orbits the sun. What's not as commonly known is that the sun - and our entire solar system - is orbiting around a massive black hole at the center of the galaxy. It takes 225 million Earth years to make one loop around the Milky Way.

A small group of science enthusiasts thinks we should all stop and ponder this and other amazing facts about our place in the universe once in a while, and they’ve declared a holiday this Thursday for exactly this purpose. It’s called Galactic Tick Day.

At least ninety percent of household dust contains chemicals that pose a health risk.
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

As if you need one more reason to hate household dust, science increasingly indicates it could be a hazard to your health. A recent review of research, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, finds that the vast majority of household dust contains potentially toxic chemicals.

Caine Delacy

Emily Callahan was working at the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 when she noticed something strange. The workers said they couldn’t wait to get back to fishing near oil rigs. She thought they were crazy until they told her, “That’s where the fish are.”

That experience started her down the path of promoting a program that lets companies turn old oil rigs into artificial reefs that support a surprising array of sea life.

Roger Hanlon

We all know camouflage when we see it, or when we don’t, as the case may be. But what does that actually mean?

“Qualitatively, it’s pretty easy for people to say ‘that’s camouflaged’ or ‘it’s not,’” says Roger Hanlon, a senior scientist at MBL, whose research focuses on camouflage in marine animals. “But to grade camouflage or to quantify it somehow, really has hardly ever been attempted until very recently.”