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

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Living Lab on The Point is Produced by Dr. Heather Goldstone. The Executive Producer is Mindy Todd.

Major support for the Living Lab is provided by the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment and The Kendeda Fund. Additional support is provided by Lee McGraw and the Elizabeth B. McGraw Foundation.

The launch of the James Caird from Elephant Island on April 24, 1916.
Frank Hurley / State Library of New South Wales

One hundred years ago this week, Sir Ernest Shackleton and five members of his crew were in a jury-rigged 23-foot lifeboat named the James Caird, sailing across some of the most treacherous ocean in the world (the Drake Passage between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula is notorious for hurricane force winds and ninety foot waves) near peak storm season. Ironically, they weren't waiting to be rescued. They were the rescue mission.

National Archaeological Museum, Athens

The tools of archeology used to be simple: shovels, picks, brushes. Sure, those are still an essential part of the toolbox. But today’s archeologists are also using everything from underwater jet packs to infrared satellite imaging to probe more deeply into our collective past.

What do we get for all this technology?

Nothing less than the very thing that makes us human, argues Brendan Foley, an underwater archeologist with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

"Is it a return on investment? Is it our stock portfolio?" he asks.

Daniel Piraino / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Muskeget Island is a small, sandy island that sits about halfway between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. It’s currently home to the largest population of grey seals in New England. But that’s a relatively new thing. Over the past century, the island has been reshaped – quite literally – by the forces of erosion and sea level rise, but also by human activity.

Nauset Lighthouse Charter School students search for coyote scat.
Peter Trull

Conservation biologist Austin Gallagher wants to know how much stress coyotes on Cape Cod are feeling, and whether it's worse when they're in densely populated areas than when they’re out in more natural settings. Middle school students at the Nauset Lighthouse Charter School in Orleans are collecting samples for the research, and I've been invited to tag along. And that is how I've ended up spending a windy, early spring afternoon combing the back side of the dunes at Nauset Beach for coyote poop, or scat, as it's more formally known.

Wiki Commons

Tiny, thin-shelled oysters; crumbling coral reefs; fish unable to make sense of odors; decimated plankton populations. Those are some of the nightmare scenarios conjured by the prospect of a rapidly acidifying ocean caused by unchecked carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning.

Kip Thorne to Speak at Umass Dartmouth Today

Mar 29, 2016

Theoretical physicist Kip Thorne is the executive producer and science advisor for the 2014 film Interstellar. Black holes and gravity anomalies feature prominently in that film, and have been the subject of Kip Thorne’s research career.  He subsequently wrote a book about the science of Interstellar. 

Jamey Stillings and Esha Chiocchio

Climate change is heavy enough for adults to contemplate, but as a topic for children, it can be downright scary. Not to mention that the science is pretty complicated. How do we teach children what they need to know without terrifying them -- and in a way they can understand?

Michelle Schwengel Regala's Hook The Reef project incorporated crocheted contributions from hundreds of volunteers.
Andie712b/Flickr /

When scientists recently headed to the tropical Pacific Ocean to investigate microbes who live without light or oxygen, they had an unusual companion: Michelle Schwengel-Regala, a fiber artist who knits and crochets interpretations of science and nature.

Ann Mulligan

"Cystic fibrosis" and "half-Ironman" are not phrases you usually hear in a sentence together, unless you're talking with Ann Mulligan. Mulligan has had a persistent cough since she was 15, but her cystic fibrosis went undiagnosed until she had a genetic test at the age of 36. More than a decade later, she's training for a half-Ironman; that's a 13-mile run, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 1.2-mile swim. And her coach is a professional triathlete, who also has cystic fibrosis.

Ernesto del Aguila III / NHGRI

Imagine being diagnosed with a debilitating or deadly disease, only to be cured by doctors able to alter your very DNA. It sounds like science fiction, but it is the promise of gene therapy. And that promise seems closer than ever to being fulfilled.