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 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.

A honeybee with full pollen baskets on the hind legs.
Joan Muller / WBNERR

It’s estimated that somewhere between a quarter and a third of the food we eat requires the help of pollinators, like honeybees. Unfortunately, beekeepers have been reporting dire declines in bee populations in recent years, and several species of bees have been added to the Endangered Species List in recent months.

There is a whole host of likely culprits, including habitat loss and pesticides. But bee researcher and advocate Noah Wilson-Rich points the finger squarely at one event in the year 1987.

Salt Marshes Help Keep Us Above Water

Jan 23, 2017
A salt marsh on Plum Island, Mass.
S. Bond

We’ve learned recently from scientists at Umass Amherst that New England will probably experience more warming than the rest of the planet in the near future.

Sailing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Jan 23, 2017
Erica Cirino sailed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and even ate fish she caught there.
Henrik Beha Pedersen

It's been clear for decades that pieces of plastic garbage are swirling around on the surface of the ocean. But new experiments are showing that plastic may be getting down deeper than we thought.

Erica Cirino is a science writer based in New York who sailed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch late last year with the Danish group Plastic Change. The 23-day trip was the last leg of a much longer journey that took the group to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and around the Galapagos.

Corals Could Help Predict the Asian Monsoon

Jan 23, 2017
Luis Lamar, WHOI

The South Asian monsoon provides the drinking water for 1.5 billion people each year. It brings more than two-thirds of India's rainfall and accounts for more than half of the water that Indian farmers use to grow crops.

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,

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 /

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.)