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.

Do you have a story or photo to share? Send it to livinglabradio@capeandislands.org. Or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Wiki Commons

Over the past several years, climate change has gained a reputation as a liberal agenda item. It wasn't always that way; it was President George H. W. Bush who brought the U.S. into international climate negotiations in 1992. Today, many GOP legislators reject the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. But that science is clear – human activities are disrupting the global climate system, and that poses risks to people and institutions of all political persuasions.

By United States National Institute of Health: Heart, Llung and Blood Institute [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A new study this week finds that a regional carbon cap and trade system has saved hundreds of lives and billions of dollars for New Englanders. Officials from the nine participating states are currently working out the future of the program.

By Professor Ken Miller - Professor Ken Miller, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25498901

On certain issues – not all, but some – the science is clear: evolution gave rise to the diversity of life on Earth; climate change is happening, and humans are largely responsible; and vaccines do not cause autism. And yet, significant portions of the American public reject these scientific realities. 

“No one looks at scientific findings, scientific results from a completely objective point of view,” said Kenneth Miller, professor of biology at Brown University and author of Finding Darwin’s God, and Only a Theory – Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul.

Top Science Stories of 2016

Jan 2, 2017
Wiki Commons

Gravitational waves, the Zika virus, and finding water in unexpected places in the solar system were some of the biggest science stories of 2016. In the U.S., it was also a year that highlighted the strained relationship between science and politics.

Climate change and other science policy questions were almost absent from the presidential campaign. The election of Donald Trump came as a surprise to most political pundits and sent scientists scrambling to find out more about the incoming Trump administration’s take on key science issues.

Hana Kučová / http://hanakucova.cz/

As the new year begins, you may be planning to make some changes. And, as a nation, we seem to be in a state of flux – socially and politically. Following through on resolutions and staying sane in a rapidly changing world takes more than will-power and positive thinking.

Here are three tips based on the latest science of psychology and neurobiology:

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:

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