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Science Friday

Ohio Train Spill, Mushroom And Memory, Water Infrastructure. Feb 17, 2023, Part 1

Science Friday
Science Friday

UFOs? Balloons? Spy Cams? Here’s What’s Going On

This week, the saga over UFOs, balloons, and spyware continues. The drama all started with a Chinese surveillance balloon, and then—one by one—governments kept finding others in the U.S. and Canada. Earlier this week, President Biden announced, “We don’t know yet exactly what these three objects were. But nothing right now suggests they are related to China’s spy balloon program or that they were surveillance vehicles from any other country.” So what do we know about these balloons? And why is this such a big deal all of a sudden?

Casey Crownhart, climate reporter at the MIT Technology Review, joins Ira to discuss the hullabaloo surrounding these flying objects and other science news of the week. They also talk about the outbreak of Marburg virus in Equatorial Guinea, Tesla agreeing to open some charging stations to other EV drivers, the startups trying to remove methane from the air, what a pencil-shaped robot taught scientists about the “Doomsday Glacier,” and why researchers modeled a new camera after cuttlefish eyes.

How The Western U.S. Could Rebuild Its Water Infrastructure

In early January, California was inundated with record-breaking rainfall. The state was battered by back-to-back storms, which caused severe flooding and power outages. But could there be a silver lining in those storm clouds? Given the historic drought conditions plaguing the western U.S., a way to collect or divert rainwater to use when the dry season hits is especially appealing. However, potential solutions are not within easy reach.

Ira talks about the limitations and opportunities of storing and diverting rainwater with Dr. Andrew Fisher, hydrogeologist and professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Later, Ira is joined by Dr. Sharon Megdal, director of the University of Arizona’s Resources Research Center, to talk about the drivers of the water crisis and some of the policy solutions being floated to solve the problem.

Ohio Residents Want Answers About Risks Of Train Derailment

Hundreds of people packed the high school gymnasium in East Palestine, Ohio, Wednesday evening, trying to get some answers about whether they were safe in their homes after an explosion and the release of numerous toxic chemicals following the train derailment two weeks ago. What started as an open house with tables set up around the floor for the US EPA, the Ohio EPA, the state Division of Wildlife, and the county health department to answer individual questions morphed into a town hall meeting.

Residents sat in bleachers and yelled their questions to the officials. Many were angry, largely because Norfolk Southern, the rail operator, did not show up to the meeting. East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway, surrounded by the media, said the company feared for the safety of its employees because there was so much anger against them. Conaway said people keep blaming him for this horrible incident, and it’s not his fault.

Read the rest at sciencefriday.com.

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms Improve Memory, Study Finds

For centuries, the lion’s mane mushroom has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for a variety of ailments, including strengthening memory. A recent study from the Queensland Brain Institute confirms what herbalists have long said: There are properties of this mushroom that build brain cells. In mice, these properties promoted neuron growth when diluted in water, resulting in better hippocampal memory.

This result is a very good sign that the properties in lion’s mane mushrooms can protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s, the researchers behind the study say. Using the isolated components of the mushroom could be a step forward in the treatment of these devastating brain conditions. Joining Ira to talk about this study is the study’s co-author, Dr. Ramon Martinez-Marmol, research fellow at the Queensland Brain Institute, based in Brisbane, Australia.

Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.

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