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This week's show

The X-Flies
Mar 19, 2018

The X-Flies Are insects disappearing?

Insect populations are declining.  But before you say “good riddance,” consider that insects are the cornerstone of many ecosystems.  They are dinner for numerous animal species and are essential pollinators.   Mammals are loved, but they are not indispensable.  Insects are.

Meanwhile, marvel at the extraordinary capabilities of some insects.  The zany aerial maneuvers of the fly are studied by pilots.  And, contrary to the bad press, cockroaches are very clean creatures.  Also, take a listen as we host some Madagascar hissing cockroaches in our studio (yes, they audibly hiss).

Plus, how insects first evolved … and the challenges in controlling lethal ones.  Are genetically-engineering mosquitoes the best way to combat malaria?


  • Erica McAlister – Entomologist, Senior Curator of diptera in the Department of Entomology, Natural History Museum in London, author of “The Secret Life of Flies
  • Jessica Ware – Evolutionary biologist and entomologist at Rutgers University

  • Anthony James – Vector biologist, University of California, Irvine

  • Lauren Esposito – Arachnologist, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

Descripción en español

Shell on Earth
Mar 12, 2018
Shell on Earth
The evolution of protection

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ENCORE  We all may retreat to our protective shells, but evolution has perfected the calcite variety to give some critters permanent defense against predators.  So why did squids and octopuses lose their shells?  Find out what these cephalopods gained by giving up the shell game.

Space: Why Go There
Mar 05, 2018
Space: Why Go There?
From satellites to human exploration

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It takes a lot of energy and technology to leave terra firma. But why rocket into space when there’s so much to be done on Earth?  From the practical usefulness of satellites to the thrill of exploring other worlds, let us count the ways.

Meet Your Robot Barista
Feb 26, 2018
Meet Your Robot Barista
Robots and A.I. in the workforce.

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Move over Roomba.  Café robots are the latest in adorable automation. And they may be more than a fad. As robots and artificial intelligence enter the workforce, they could serve up more than machine-made macchiato.  Digital workers are in training to do a wide variety jobs. Will humans be handed the mother of all pink slips?

Quantum: Why We Want 'Em
Feb 19, 2018
Quantum: Why We Want 'Em
The promise of weird physics

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ENCORE  Einstein thought that quantum mechanics might be the end of physics, and most scientists felt sure it would never be useful.  Today, everything from cell phones to LED lighting is completely dependent on the weird behavior described by quantum mechanics.