UnDisciplined

Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.

Each week, UnDisciplined takes a fun, fascinating and accessible dive into the lives of researchers and explorers working across a wide variety of scientific fields.

Photo by Julia M Cameron

A recently published study has confirmed what a lot of people have long suspected: increasing social media use is correlated to suicidal thoughts among some adolescents. But before you go pull the plug, the nuances here are important. Researchers have identified specific patterns of use that may be dangerous. This week we’ll talk about who is at risk, and what can be done.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic there was a lot of misinformation about vaccines floating around on social media. Public health agencies have been trying to figure out what to do. It turns out that one of the most powerful remedies is also one of the simplest.

Photo by Mattwl, https://flic.kr/p/2SytAZ

There is nothing more damaging to a nation’s economy than a war on its own soil. But the way we think about the long-term economic consequences of war is often tied up in political instability and reconstruction and the cost of care for veterans. That’s all correct, but my guest this week says we’ve overlooked something: The long-term damage to agriculture.

As a counselor and a researcher, Stacey Litam had focused her career on helping victims of sex trafficking to work through their trauma. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and while Litam’s previous work didn’t become less important, she began seeing a growing need for trauma counseling — just about everywhere.

Even if you’re a judge, a prosecutor or a police officer, you might not have given a lot of thought to the question of why we punish people. You might simply conclude that we punish people when they need to be punished. Developmental psychologist Julia Marshall isn’t satisfied with that sort of simplicity. We’ll talk to her about when and why we punish.

Photo provided by Amos Guiora

What is your responsibility when you see injustice being done? For Amos Guiora, this is a deeply personal question stemming from his family’s experiences in one of the greatest atrocities in human history. And now he’s sharing that story.  

Daniel Mennerich, creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

The last time the United States Capitol was breached was in 1814, when British troops burned the building using furniture and books from the Library of Congress as fuel. Last week, the capitol was breached again – and that’s raising a lot of questions about the state of our nation. We’re going to work through some of those questions with former CIA analyst Jeannie Johnson.

There are a lot of ways 2020 is going to be remembered and, to be honest, a lot of us will probably remember it as a pretty terrible year, for very obvious reasons. But here at Utah Public Radio, we’re also going to remember 2020 as a year in which we learned some amazing things about our world.

Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA

No human has ventured farther than 250,000 miles from earth. So what we know about what lies beyond us is limited to what we can see through data collection. But why limit the potential of understanding data to what we can see in images? Why not turn it into something we can touch or something we can hear?

Julie Schumacher

In philosophy, the absurd refers to the conflict between the human desire to find meaning in life and the fact that the more you search, the harder it is to find. This is what makes universities such absurd places. And through the use of a fictional college called Payne University, author Julie Schumacher puts that absurdity on full display.

Have you ever found it strange that one of the ways that we let people know we care about them is by gently making fun of them? Teasing is a weird sort of thing – a combination between aggression and play. And researchers from UCLA wanted to know where it came from. This week, we’re going to talk about what they learned.

This week on Undisciplined, we’re talking about monarch caterpillars, ancient big-game hunters, and of course we’ll be talking about the biggest news in science this month — two apparently effective vaccines for COVID-19.

Health in Harmony

Stopping the decimation of rainforests is unquestionably important to slowing climate change. But simply protecting forests often excludes and disenfranchises local communities. This week we’re talking about a different way of addressing this problem — a pairing of ecology with healthcare.

gordonramsaysubmissions, creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Without having a really good reason for doing so, nobody in their right mind would put a dead fish into a ziploc bag, attach it to wires to an electric stimulator, and release it into a tank with an electric eel.

But thankfully, Kenneth Catania had a perfectly good reason for doing all of that. Or maybe he’s not in his right mind. 

Either way, the result was a revelation about the eel — evidence that eels don’t just use their capacity to stun prey with zaps of electricity to kill, but also to sense the world around them.

 

Mike Boswell, creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

2020 has been rough. I don’t know about you, but there were a lot of times this year that I just wanted to go to sleep and wake up a few months later. Well, it turns out that someday we might be able to do that. Some scientists think humans might, in the future, be able to hibernate. And while that’s a long ways off, there’s a lot we can learn from hibernating species in the meantime.

Ghedo, creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Although the national election and COVID-19 pandemic continue to dominate the news cycle, there is other news out there — and the worlds of science, exploration and research are moving along with fascinating new discoveries.

We’re discussing ancient hibernation, tiny robot surgeons, a new kind of thermometer, and the world-changing power of CRISPR.

About 150 years ago, Jacob Davis went into business with Levi Strauss, and the era of blue jeans was underway. Today, at any given moment, about half of the world’s population is wearing jeans and other denim garments. But nothing that successful comes without an environmental consequence, and a new study puts those costs into context.

Baranidharan Raman

Since the dawn of agriculture, locusts have been a scourge for farmers around the world. But a new study suggests that while we’ve long been focused on the harms locusts can cause, we might be missing out on the benefits. For instance, and this is just one example, locusts are really good at detecting explosives.

For millions of years, evolution has shaped our behavior — we do what we’re designed to do. Or, at least, we did. Because today’s world stresses and confuses our bodies in ways that we are simply ill-adapted for. Now, the psychologist Erik Peper says it’s time for reckoning.

Andrew Brooks, creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

We’re talking about fires and fossils, sea butterflies and stonehenge, and parasitic plants and saving the planet — well, saving ourselves, anyway. Our guests are researchers from across the nation with a diversity of expertise.

Western Australian Museum

We can’t save every plant and animal that we’ve put into danger. But we know from experience that we can have a big effect on the ones we choose to protect. So, make a list. Which ones do you want to save? Pandas? Elephants? Bald eagles? How about parasites? Yeah… parasites. This week, we’ll be making a case for saving creatures that most people really don’t like.

Steven Depolo, creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The Los Angeles Unified School District funds the largest independent school police department in the nation. Last year, the department was funded to the tune of 70 million dollars. So, what does the district get for that investment? Well, according to a new report, a lot of distrust among students. Today we’ll dissect the research.  

Most of life’s intricacies can be explained by evolution — as organisms encounter new challenges, subsequent generations evolve a­nd become better equipped to survive.

Remington Rand Papers: Advertising and Sales Promotion Department—Typewriter Division; Hagley Museum, Wilmington, Del.

During the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans who had been used to working from an office found themselves working from home. But while this might have felt like a very sudden shift, it’s part of a historic movement toward home-based work. This week, we’ll dive into that history — and some of its really nefarious themes.

Photo by Nate Pyper.

The word “docent” comes from the same Latin root as the word “doctor.” “Doctor,” of course, has come to be most associated with people who are practitioners of medicine, while “docent” has come to mean someone who serves as a guide, often in a museum or a zoo. But that original root? It means “to teach.” This week we’re going to be talking about the kinds of people who are good teachers — and the answers might be surprising.

This week on Undisciplined, we’re talking about the long-lost woolly rhinoceros, Vikings, smallpox, and innovations in playground equipment. With a list of subjects that diverse, you might have guessed that the monthly science news round-up is back – and it is.

Kyle Garrity, creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

  

If you are a frequent participant in a social media community, you know what it’s like when someone new comes along and just doesn’t seem to understand or care about the established rules. But our guest this week wanted to know what happens when newcomers join spaces where the rules aren’t just very well established, but also really toxic.

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For decades, researchers assumed the monkeys depicted on a 3,500-year-old painting in Greece were from Africa, just across the Mediterranean. But recently a team of experts looked at these animals and said – wait a second, that’s not right at all – and that’s forced a lot of other scientists to reconsider what they know about the Bronze Age.

  A lot of the Black Lives Matter movement has been framed in terms of policing. But even if we could fix the racial disparities that exist in use-of-force situations, we’d still be a far cry from a world in which every facet of our society operates as though Black lives truly matter. Take healthcare, for instance.

Scott Simper

How long has coal burning been responsible for climate change? If right now you are trying to remember when the industrial revolution began, that’s a completely reasonable guess. But according to some recent research, it’s not even close. The correct answer, the researchers say, is 250 million years ago. How can that be?

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