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.

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.

In our homes and offices, we are surrounded by chemical products - flame retardants, floor polishes, household cleaners - few of which have been tested for safety.
Home2home / Wikimedia Commons

A major overhaul of a federal chemical safety law recently passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming majorities. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act has been hailed as a bipartisan success and a major step forward. But environmental health advocates say there are still reasons for concern, or at least caution.

Lead author Laifang Li, with co-authors Ray Schmitt and Caroline Ummenhofer.
Jayne Doucette / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

We all love to malign the weather man. But it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the knowledge and technology that enables forecasts for not only next week, but next month and even years to come. For example, New England is expected to see a warmer – and possible wetter – than usual summer. A major factor in those kinds of predictions is typically ocean temperatures. Now, researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution say they have a better way to make seasonal rainfall predictions, and it’s based on salinity rather than temperature of the ocean.

Forest damage from the hurricane of 1938.
Forest History Society

On September 21, 1938, New England was slammed by a hurricane that remains the most damaging weather event to ever hit the region. The category 2 hurricane hit New England moving fifty miles per hour, and plowed a path straight up the Connecticut River valley to Vermont. Arriving at high tide, and on the heels of an unrelated rain storm, it caused extensive coastal and inland flooding. Hundreds were killed, and the damage - largely uninsured - cost the equivalent of $5 billion to repair.

Kevin Harrington
UMass Amherst

Kevin Harrington recently made headlines for finding the brightest galaxies known to astronomy – galaxies so luminous they were thought impossible. The discovery is important, but what makes the feat extraordinary is that Harrington was still an undergraduate at the time, working in the laboratory of astronomy professor Min Yun at U Mass Amherst. 

Spiral orb webs showing some colours in the sunlight in a gorge in Karijini National Park, Western Australia.
Bjørn Christian Tørrissen /, CC BY-SA 3.0

Cheryl Hayashi loves spiders, so much so that she says being asked to name a favorite is like asking a mother to pick which child she loves most. She challenges even arachnophobes to not crack a smile at jumping spiders' "teddy bear"-like cuteness. But it's not their good looks that attracts Hayashi, professor and vice chair of biology at University of California, Riverside, to spiders. It's their silk.

Scientist Leaves Teaching Biology for Tango

Jun 6, 2016
Courtesy Hsueh-tze Lee

Hsueh-tze Lee always thought she would have a career in science, but her passion for dance took her in a different direction. Lee, who studied at MIT and had received a doctorate in physiology from Harvard University, was teaching biology at Wellesley College in the 1990s when she discovered that her favorite pastime was becoming more and more important to her.

A network analysis shows that Democratic (blue) and Republican (red) Senators inhabit distinct Twitter-spheres, with only a few cross-overs (purple).
Helmuth et al. / Climate Change Responses

It’s not exactly breaking news that Democratic and Republican legislators are deeply divided on the issue of climate change. Now, a new study by researchers at Northeastern University suggests it may not be just climate change, but science as a whole, that has become a wedge issue in Congress. And they used an unusual tool to arrive at their result: Twitter.

We all have stories of pets or other animals doing things that seem like they could only be the result of thought or emotion. Yet, the idea of animal intelligence has long been dismissed or discounted. Now, a growing number of scientists are trying to rigorously study how animals' minds work, and finding that sometimes our own brains get in the way.