What You Missed: Weekend Public Radio Fix — April 20-22

Welcome to my weekend rundown of public radio this week. This is my last What You Missed post for a number of reasons, two of which I’ll share: First, I’ve had enough time to incubate, and I’ve decided on some new projects and directions I want to pursue. Fortunately or un-, I’m unable to compose this post while working on those. Secondly,  there are plenty of other places for you to link to and organize your favorite public radio shows, so I’m not necessarily filling a niche. I will miss sharing my weekend listening fun with you all, but now that I’m no longer isolated at my desk as a remote worker, I can now discuss the news and these shows with other human beings — out in the world…fact-to-face…working on what I love best — telling stories and creating my own content. Stay tuned for what comes next.

Science Friday

Science Friday starts off with the usual news rundown, this week by Sophie Bushwick, a Senior Editor at Popular Science. Bushwick presents the Ideonella sakaiensis bacteria, which has evolved to produce an enzyme that breaks down plastic (specifically Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), used for soda bottles) in a few days as opposed to the 450 years it takes to occur in nature.

Bushwick also points out that researchers have discovered antibiotic-resistant bacteria in New York City mice, whose waste features new viruses and antibiotic-resistant E. coli. That the mice might spread the bacteria and/or viruses to humans is one issue, while the larger concern is that the antibiotic-resistant phenomenon clearly extends beyond humans and further into to ecosystem.

From the ecosystem to the solar system, Bushwick highlights the findings that diamonds embedded in a meteorite have preserved material within them — likely remains of a rocky planet from the early formation of the solar system (between the size of Mercury and Mars). Researchers think this is what remains of one or several missing planets that did not survive.

Finally from the news roundup, Bushwick describes one of fifteen new ant species that defends its colony by having its abdomen explode with a toxic substance, sacrificing itself to save its nest.

The segment “A ‘Fingerprint Scan’ For Earthquakes Caused By Fracking” examines the distinction between earthquakes caused by actual fracking as opposed to the wastewater. Host Ira Flatow, and Miami University geologists Michael Brudzinski and Brian Currie address why it’s important to know who and what is causing which specific types of human-induced earthquakes, especially whether they are created by  hydraulic fracturing or waste disposal. Their findings are reported in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The discussion explores how old fault lines are being reactivated,  and where small and large earthquakes are occurring (specifically in Ohio and Oklahoma), as well as how the two geologists are trying to help both regulators and companies determine how to deal with this issue.

In the featured segment of the day, Planning For—And Surviving—‘The Big OnesFlatow and seismologist Lucy Jones, author of The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them), explore historic catastrophes such as the Central Valley Flood of 1860. People rarely remember the worst rain event ever for Oregon and Nevada; it moved the mouth of the Santa Ana river by six miles, killed 1/3 of California’s population and destroyed 1/3 of the taxable land. Jones highlights the psychology of the “normalization bias”: humans are hardwired to fixate on the most immediate threat we can think of, as opposed to those that are potentially most harmful. This is further impacted by our propensity to fear what seems scariest  — which might be an earthquake because it’s random — as opposed to what might be more deadly. Jones expounds on the concern about an earthquake fault in the center of an urban area, not only because the population is greater, but also because as an effect of urbanization, we rely on systems (which may fail) more than ever.  If electrical grids or sewage systems fail, we’re more likely to lose human lives because we can’t survive without the systems. Finally, Jones addresses the threat to humanity and who or what might keep a community together in the wake of a natural disaster (Iceland vs. Katrina). She highlights that systems fail where they’re already weak: if a system is already corrupted by racism, the response to a disaster will make the situation much worse. Her most significant point may well be her initiative to improve translation issues so that scientists will be able to convey information not only as research, but to precipitate action. It’s worth hearing if you don’t have time to listen to the full show.

Live From The New Yorker Radio Hour

David Remnick opens the first live taping of The New Yorker Radio Hour with a notation on this debut, and an overview of the career of James Comey, former director of the FBI. The author of A Higher Loyalty brings a sense of humor to the stage, and Remnick matches both his depth and style.

For a discussion one would expect to be primarily stoic and serious, there are plenty of laughs — the two touch the Clintons, the size of a potential FBI file on the president, and the language used to describe Mr. Trump’s skin tone and hands. Even though Comey has been making the media rounds on his book tour this week, tonight’s was probably my favorite interview. Remnick challenges Comey a bit more than most other journalists about the reason behind Comey’s July 5, 2016 press conference, and the exchange is well-worth listening to. You can hear it either on WNYC or on The New Yorker website.

On The Media — Moving Beyond the Norm

With his singular voice, Bob Garfield commences the segment by enumerating a number of current lawsuits against Alex Jones, peddler of conspiracies and Infowars creator, by interviewing Lyrissa Lidsky of the University of Missouri School of Law. Lidsky and Garfield remind listeners of the nuances of libel and defamation, as well as the implications for this era of polarization.

“How is the world to know where your protest ends and your own personal misery begins?” Garfield asks about the phenomenon of self-immolation in light the recent instance in Brooklyn, and the quieter case of Reverend Charles Moore in Texas.  Andrew Poe, a professor of political science at Amherst College, and Michael Hall, executive editor at Texas Monthly, help Garfield (and us) understand this tactic.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe, Brooke provides clarity into the the LSD-induced world of Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, “a humanizing portrait of mental illness and civil disobedience”. With the help of writer and filmmaker River Donaghey and some audio from Tom Wolfe, the segment illustrates Kesey’s vibrant journey, including his initiation into the CIA’s mind control study (Project MKUltra) which included LSD, plus the Merry Pranksters, Neal Cassidy, and Timothy Leary. With the help of audio by Tom Wolfe, Donaghey also abstractly defines an “acid test” — the opportunities for Kesey to spread his message, as well as “the noisy parties fueled by LSD” that helped to measure a “person’s willingness to discover what was out there if you moved beyond the norm”.

The Splendid Table: The Opposite of Locavore

The Splendid Table takes us on a fun and far-flung food journey this week, opening the episode with a discussion about the difference between food pilgrims and food tourists. Dr. Lucy Long, director and founder of the Center for Food and Culture, explains that food pilgrims are knowledgeable, seeking sacred and authentic taste experiences untarnished by marketing or others’ opinions. She emphasizes eating food within the context in which it was developed, which produces a fuller understanding of the food and the culture, as well as their meaning. Dr. Long also provides etiquette tips for food pilgrims, and highlights the economic and environmental effects of both food tourism and food pilgrimage. Host Francis Lam also delicately addresses the balance between honoring and respecting different food traditions, and the impacts of marketing a culture’s food.

Next we hear from Arva Ahmed, founder of Frying Pan Adventures, who leads food tours in Dubai, specifically in vibrant Bur Dubai, the Old Town where she grew up. Ahmed lives in the part of the city punctuated with spice markets and gold souqs near the creek and historic trading area. Because Bur Dubai is an intersection for settlers from multiple countries, Ahmed uses the local cross-cultural dishes to educate travelers about the culture of the region.

This delicious taste trip continues with Chefs Mourad Lahlou and Louis Maldonado who, identifying two significant events that occurred in 1492, highlight the intersection of Moroccan and Mexican cuisines. Although the entirety of their discussion isn’t about how some of the expelled Moors from Spain left as workers on the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María landing in Central and South America, it enlightens listeners to how the two cuisines were so easily be married.

Finally, Lam engages in a lively discussion about flour tortillas with writer and taco historian Gustavo Arellano. If you’re not gluten-free and you have a naive bias against flour tortillas, this is worth a listen. Based on their discussion, Lam speculates on the relationship between pita or a Levantine flatbread and the tortilla, which Arellano argues might have Jewish origins, corresponding with the fact that both Moors and Jews were being expelled from Spain at the time, and that Northern Mexico was still being conquered by the Spaniards in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The entire show is a historical, culinary, and cultural delight.

I am not an employee of NPR, PRI, or APM, or any of their partner stations. I’m just a public media junkie who likes to share. My content is original, and is not endorsed or promoted by NPR or its partner stations.


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