Show cover of Short Wave

Short Wave

New discoveries, everyday mysteries, and the science behind the headlines — in just under 15 minutes. It's science for everyone, using a lot of creativity and a little humor. Join hosts Emily Kwong and Regina Barber for science on a different wavelength.If you're hooked, try Short Wave Plus. Your subscription supports the show and unlocks a sponsor-free feed. Learn more at


How Millions Of Mosquitoes Could Save Hawaii's Endangered Birds
To a lot of people, mosquito bites are annoying. But to the rare Hawaiian honeycreepers, they're deadly. Scientists in Maui are racing against time to save them ... and discovering some pretty crazy innovations along the way. Like, releasing-mosquitos-incapable-of-breeding level innovations.Learn more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
14:59 6/17/24
Inheriting: Leah & Japanese American Incarceration
Hey, Short Wavers! Today, we're sharing a portion of Inheriting, an 8-part limited series hosted by Emily Kwong about Asian American and Pacific Islander family history. In this excerpt, we follow the story of Leah Bash. Leah is an avid runner, a dog mom, a wife – and there's a part of her family's history she can't stop thinking about. Both sides of her family were incarcerated during WWII, alongside 125,000 other Japanese Americans. After Leah learns about her father's struggles with panic attacks and is herself diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she starts to wonder: Could those experiences at camp have far-reaching consequences decades later? Listen to Inheriting and check out the show's resource guide for more information on getting personal with the past.Learn more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
12:01 6/15/24
Why You Shouldn't Worry About Invasive Joro Spiders
Joro spiders are spreading across the east coast. They are an invasive species that most likely arrived in shipping containers from eastern Asia. Today, we look into why some people find them scary, why to not panic about them and what their trajectory illustrates about the wider issue of invasive species.Questions? You can also email those to more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
08:19 6/14/24
How The Current Heat Dome Can Affect Human Health
Right now, there's a "heat dome" lingering over the southwestern U.S. – a high pressure system that pushes hot air down and traps it, raising the temperature. Heat is becoming increasingly lethal as climate change causes more extreme heat. So in today's encore episode, we're exploring heat. NPR climate correspondent Lauren Sommer talks with Short Wave host Regina G. Barber about how the human body copes with extended extreme heat and how today's heat warning systems could better protect the public. With scientists predicting a very hot summer, if you can, stay cool out there, dear Short Wavers.What science story do you want to hear next on Short Wave? Email us at more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
10:58 6/12/24
From The Physics Of G-Force To Weightlessness: How It Feels To Launch Into Space
It feels like this is the summer of space launches. So, it's only appropriate that we kick off our new series Space Camp with a look at space launches. Throughout the series, Regina and Emily will plumb our universe to uncover the strange, wonderful things happening all around us. This episode, that entails answering a series of questions about getting to space: What does hurtling into space feel like? What physics are involved? And what's the "junk" in Earth's orbit? Space Camp episodes drop every Tuesday in the Short Wave feed in addition to our regular episodes happening every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. For a full explainer of Newton's third law of motion, g-forces and visuals on his cannonball thought experiment, check out our digital story.Have a particular aspect of space you want us to cover in a future episode? Email us at — we'd love to hear from you!Learn more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
14:07 6/11/24
Illegal Wildlife Trade Is Booming. What Does That Mean For The Confiscated Animals?
Wildlife trafficking is one of the largest and most profitable crime sectors in the world. The illegal trade estimated to be a multi-billion dollar industry. On a high level, that illegal trade causes problems for everything from global biodiversity to local economies and the balance of entire ecosystems. And on the immediate level, authorities are tasked with caring for confiscated animals and placing them in long-term care facilities. One network launched last year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Association for Zoos and Aquariums hopes to help. And with wildlife trafficking surging globally, the organizations are now in talks to expand the program to other parts of the country. Read more about illegal wildlife trafficking and check out more photos in climate correspondent Nate Rott's full story.Have other wildlife stories you want us to cover? Email us at more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
11:17 6/10/24
'Math In Drag' Explores The Creativity And Beauty In Numbers
Kyne Santos was a student at the University of Waterloo when she began her math and her drag careers. She compares her double life to Hannah Montana, doing math equations at school by day and drag at night. You may already know Kyne from TikTok, where she makes educational videos about math, science, history and drag. And now, in her new book Math in Drag, Kyne explores the connections between math and drag: How both can be creative, beautiful and most of all, fun. Want to hear us cover more math? Email us at Learn more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
12:18 6/7/24
Why The Science Of Tides Was Crucial For D-Day
June 6, 1944 the Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy and took the Nazis by surprise in the largest sea-to-land invasion in history. This would be remembered as D-Day and would ultimately lead to the end of World War II in Europe. However, this planned attack wouldn't have been possible without deep knowledge of ocean tides! We get into the whole story, including why tides sit at the intersection of astronomy and marine ecology — and why understanding tides are key to a greener future.Want to hear us cover more science history? Email us at Learn more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
13:29 6/5/24
Psychedelic Treatment For PTSD Faces Misconduct Hurdle
People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may soon have a new treatment option: MDMA, the chemical found in ecstasy. In August, the Food and Drug Administration plans to decide whether MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD will be approved for market based on years of research. But serious allegations of research misconduct may derail the approval timeline. NPR science reporter Will Stone talks to host Emily Kwong about the clinical trials on MDMA-assisted therapy research and a recent report questioning the validity of the results. Read Will's full story here. Learn more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
13:57 6/3/24
A Silky Shark Named Genie Swam 17,000 Miles, a Record-Breaking Migration
A silky shark named Genie traveled from the Galapagos Islands out to the open ocean and back – over 17,000 miles – over the course of a year and a half. That's an average of 31 miles per day, making Genie's journey the longest recorded migration for a silky shark. Marine scientist Pelayo Salinas de León and his team named Genie in honor of the late marine biologist Eugenie Clark – also known as "The Shark Lady." She devoted her life to the study of sharks and to improving their reputation. Have another story you want us to cover? Email us at more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
09:14 5/31/24
A Vaginal Microbiome Transplant Could Help People With BV
Humans rely on our symbiotic relationship with good microbes—in the gut, the skin and ... the vagina. Fatima Aysha Hussain studies what makes a healthy vaginal microbiome. She talks to host Emily Kwong about her long-term transplant study that asks the question: Can one vagina help another through a microbe donation?Have a human body question? Email us at Learn more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
13:12 5/29/24
With Summer Approaching, Here's A Smarter Way To Use Sunscreen
Each year 84,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with melanoma. About 90% of these skin cancers are linked to the ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Sunscreen does protect the skin, but dermatologists have found six very common mistakes people make when it comes to using it. NPR science correspondent Allison Aubrey talks to host Regina G. Barber about the science behind sunscreen and how to avoid making these mistakes this summer. They also get into which sunscreens may be better than others.Have other science stories you want us to cover? Email us at more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
12:08 5/27/24
How Israel Is Using Facial Recognition In Gaza
After the Hamas attack of Oct. 7 triggered Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians began fleeing from the North of Gaza to the South. As they fled, many Palestinians reported passing through checkpoints with cameras. Israel had previously used facial recognition software in the West Bank, and some Palestinians reached out to The New York Times reporter Sheera Frenkel to investigate whether the same was happening in Gaza. Science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel talks to Frenkel about how Israel launched this facial recognition system in Gaza late last year with the help of private companies and Google photos. Read Frenkel's full article.Want to hear us cover more stories about AI? Email us at Learn more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
14:35 5/24/24
Who's At Risk For Uterine Fibroids? Most Women
Fibroids are benign uterine tumors. So why does it matter that the majority of people with a uterus will have one before they are 50 years old? Physician Rachell Bervell, founder of the Black OBGYN Project, explains that when symptoms arise, they can be quite serious — from extreme menstrual bleeding to fertility problems. Plus, why they're very likely to affect you or a loved one. Curious about other health issues? Email us at more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
13:29 5/22/24
What Are Sperm Whales Saying? Researchers Find A Complex 'Alphabet'
Scientists are testing the limits of artificial intelligence when it comes to language learning. One recent challenge? Learning ... whale! Researchers are using machine learning to analyze and decode whale sounds — and it's just as complicated as it seems. Curious about other mysteries of nature? Email us at more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
13:34 5/20/24
Scientists Reveal Mysterious Origin of Baobab Trees, Rafiki's Home in 'The Lion King'
Baobabs are sometimes called the "tree of life" with their thick trunks, crown of branches and flowers that only open at twilight. But theories about their geographic origin was divided among three places: the savannas of sub-Saharan Africa, the Kimberley region of western Australia and the dry forests of the island nation of Madagascar. To solve this mystery, a global research team led by scientists at the Wuhan Botanical Garden at the Chinese Academy of Sciences examined high-quality genomic data from all eight baobab species. Have another origin story you want us to cover? Email us at more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
09:29 5/17/24
Climate Change Is Coming For Your Chocolate
Chocolate may never be the same. The majority of chocolate is made in just two countries and erratic weather from climate change is decreasing cocoa production. A handful of extreme weather events—from drought to heavy rainfall—could have lasting effects on the chocolate industry. Yasmin Tayag, a food, health and science writer at The Atlantic, talks to host Emily Kwong about the cocoa shortage: What's causing it, how it's linked to poor farming conditions and potential solutions. Plus, they enjoy a chocolate alternative taste test. Read Yasmin's full article. Have a food science story you want us to cover? Email us at more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
13:08 5/15/24
How AI Is Cracking The Biology Code
As artificial intelligence seeps into some realms of society, it rushes into others. One area it's making a big difference is protein science — as in the "building blocks of life," proteins! Producer Berly McCoy talks to host Emily Kwong about the newest advance in protein science: AlphaFold3, an AI program from Google DeepMind. Plus, they talk about the wider field of AI protein science and why researchers hope it will solve a range of problems, from disease to the climate.Have other aspects of AI you want us to cover? Email us at more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
14:05 5/13/24
NEWS: NOAA Issues First Severe Geomagnetic Storm Watch Since 2005
Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration observed a cluster of sunspots on the surface of the sun this week. With them came solar flares that kicked off a severe geomagnetic storm. That storm is expected to last throughout the weekend as at least five coronal mass ejections — chunks of the sun — are flung out into space, towards Earth! NOAA uses a five point scale to rate these storms, and this weekend's storm is a G4. It's expected to produce auroras as far south as Alabama. To contextualize this storm, we are looking back at the largest solar storm on record: the Carrington Event. Want us to cover more about the sun? Email us at more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
13:29 5/10/24
How Autism Can Look Very Different, Even In Identical Twins
Sam and John Fetters, 19, are identical twins on different ends of the autism spectrum. Sam is a sophomore at Amherst College and runs marathons in his free time. John attends a school for people with special needs and loves to watch Sesame Street in his free time. Identical twins like Sam and John pose an important question for scientists: How can a disorder that is known to be highly genetic look so different in siblings who share the same genome? Check out more of NPR's series on the Science of Siblings.More science questions? Email us at more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
10:57 5/10/24
The Wonderous World Of Nudibranchs
Emily gets super nerdy with former host Maddie Sofia get as they dive into the incredible world of nudibranchs in this encore episode. Not only are these sea slugs eye-catching for their colors, some of them have evolved to "steal" abilities from other organisms — from the power of photosynthesis to the stinging cells of their venomous predators. These sea slugs are going to blow your mind!You can email Short Wave at more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
12:10 5/8/24
'Stealing The Past': A Spat Between Twins Leads To A Theory Of Disputed Memories
It's not unusual for siblings to quibble over ownership of something — a cherished toy, a coveted seat in the car — or whose fault something is. If you're Mercedes Sheen, you not only spent your childhood squabbling with your sister over your memories, you then turn it into your research career. Mercedes studies disputed memories, where it's unclear who an event happened to. It turns out these memories can tell us a lot about people — they tend to be self-aggrandizing — and how the human brain remembers things.Check out more of NPR's series on the Science of Siblings.Curious about more science about memories? Email us at more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
12:48 5/6/24
Deer Are Expanding North. That Could Hurt Some Species Like Boreal Caribou
Wildlife ecologists have seen white-tailed deer expanding their range in North America over many decades. And since the early-2000s these deer have moved north into the boreal forests of western Canada. These forests are full of spruce and pine trees, sandy soil and freezing winters with lots of snow. They can be a harsh winter wonderland. And ecologists haven't known whether a warmer climate in these forests or human land development might be driving the deer north. A recent study tries to disentangle these factors – and finds that a warming climate seems to play the most significant role in the movement of deer. Read more in the journal Global Change Biology. Curious about more wildlife news? Email us at more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
09:00 5/3/24
The Mysterious "Great Attractor" Pulling Our Galaxy Off Course
No matter what you're doing right now – sitting, standing, walking – you're moving. First, because Earth is spinning around on its axis. This rotation is the reason we have days. Second, because Earth and other planets in our solar system are orbiting the sun. That's why we have years. Third, you're moving because the sun and the rest of our solar system is orbiting the center of the Milky Way galaxy at over 500,000 miles per hour. If all of that isn't nauseating enough, everything in the entire universe is expanding outward. All the time. But in the 1970s, astrophysicists noticed something strange about our galactic neighborhood, or Local Group. The whole clump of neighboring galaxies was being pulled off course at over one million miles per hour, towards something we couldn't see — the "Great Attractor." This Great Attractor sits in the "Zone of Avoidance," an area of space that is blocked from view by the stars and gas of the Milky Way. Today on the show, host Regina G. Barber talks to astrophysicist Jorge Moreno about this mysterious phenomenon: What it might be and what will happen when we eventually reach it. Curious about other cosmic mysteries? Email us at more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
12:48 5/1/24
How The New Catan Board Game Can Spark Conversations On Climate Change
Today, we're going full nerd to talk about a new board game — Catan: New Energies. The game's goal is simple: Build and develop a modern-day island without catastrophically polluting it. Although the concept mirrors the effects of climate change, those words don't actually appear in the game. NPR correspondent Nate Rott talks to Emily about the thinking behind the new game and how the developers hope it can start conversations around energy use and pollution. Have questions or comments for us to consider for a future episode? Email us at — we'd love to hear from you!Learn more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
11:35 4/29/24
10 Years After Flint, The Fight To Replace Lead Pipes Continues
Ten years ago, Flint, Mich. switched water sources to the Flint River. The lack of corrosion control in the pipes caused lead to leach into the water supply of tens of thousands of residents. Pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha recognized a public health crisis in the making and gathered data proving the negative health impact on Flint's young children. In doing so, she and community organizers in Flint sparked a national conversation about lead in the U.S. water system that persists today. Today on the show, host Emily Kwong and science correspondent Pien Huang talk about the state of Flint and other cities with lead pipes. Efforts to replace these pipes hinge on proposed changes to the EPA's Lead and Copper Rule. Have questions or comments for us to consider for a future episode? Email us at — we'd love to hear from you!Learn more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
13:12 4/26/24
Beavers Can Help With Climate Change. So How Do We Get Along?
NPR's Tom Dreisbach is back in the host chair for a day. This time, he reports on a story very close to home: The years-long battle his parents have been locked in with the local wild beaver population. Each night, the beavers would dam the culverts along the Dreisbachs' property, threatening to make their home inaccessible. Each morning, Tom's parents deconstructed those dams — until the annual winter freeze hit and left them all in a temporary stalemate.As beaver populations have increased, so have these kinds of conflicts with Tom's parents. But the solution may not be to chase away the beavers. They're a keystone species that scientists believe could play an important role in cleaning water supplies, creating healthy ecosystems and alleviating some of the effects of climate change. So, today, Tom calls up Jakob Shockey, the executive director of the non-profit Project Beaver. Jakob offers a bit of perspective to Tom and his parents, and the Dreisbachs contemplate what a peaceful coexistence with these furry neighbors might look like.Have questions or comments for us to consider for a future episode? Email us at — we'd love to hear from you!Learn more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
14:06 4/24/24
Sustainable Seafood Is All Around You — If You Know Where To Look
Roughly 196 million tons of fish were harvested in 2020, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The organization also notes that the number of overfished stocks worldwide has tripled in the last century. All of this overfishing has led to the decline of entire species, like Atlantic cod. Enter the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch. It and other free guides give consumers an overview of the world of fish and seafood, helping people to figure out the most sustainable fish available to them. With the help of Life Kit's Clare Marie Schneider, we figure out how to make informed decisions about what we eating – whether that's at a restaurant or the local supermarket.Check out more from Life Kit on sustainable seafood.Have questions or comments for us to consider for a future episode? Email us at — we'd love to hear from you!A previous version of this episode incorrectly stated that there are native wild salmon in Chile. Salmon are not native to Chile.Learn more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
14:27 4/22/24
An 11-Year-old Unearthed Fossils Of The Largest Known Marine Reptile
When the dinosaurs walked the Earth, massive marine reptiles swam. Among them, a species of Ichthyosaur that measured over 80 feet long. Today, we look into how a chance discovery by a father-daughter duo of fossil hunters furthered paleontologist's understanding of the "giant fish lizard of the Severn." Currently, it is the largest marine reptile known to scientists.Read more about this specimen in the study published in the journal PLOS One. Have another ancient animal or scientific revelation you want us to cover? Email us at — we might talk about it on a future episode!Learn more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
08:57 4/19/24
The Nightmarish Worm That Lived 25 Million Years Longer Than Researchers Thought
500 million years ago, the world was a very different place. During this period of time, known as the Cambrian period, basically all life was in the water. The ocean was brimming with animals that looked pretty different from the ones we recognize today — including a group of predatory worms with a throat covered in teeth and spines. Researchers thought these tiny terrors died out at the end of the Cambrian period. But a paper published recently in the journal Biology Letters showed examples of a new species of this worm in the fossil record 25 million years after scientists thought they'd vanished from the Earth. One of the authors of the paper, Karma Nanglu, tells us how this finding may change how scientists understand the boundaries of time. Curious about other weird wonders of the ancient Earth? Email us at more about sponsor message choices: Privacy Policy
13:00 4/17/24

Similar podcasts