“What if life isn’t something that happens *on* a planet, but is something that happens *to* a planet? What if the planet itself is alive?” Thus begins one of the many intriguing thought exercises in astrobiologist David Grinspoon’s new book, Earth in Human Hands (available Dec. 6, 2016). David has long been a friend of the show, in large part because he possesses a unique ability to bring the geologic imagination to life. His approach to the Anthropocene READ MORE
Sometime in the near geological future, the landscape of life on earth as we know it will be transformed. It’s a mass extinction, and it’s only happened five times before in Earth’s history. There have been severe ice ages, perplexing loses of oxygen from our oceans, massive volcanic eruptions, meteor impacts. And now, we’re on the precipice of a sixth mass extinction… and it’s nothing like our planet has ever seen before. In Season 8’s final episode, producer Miles Traer dives into the sixth mass extinction: Are we in it? What can the previous mass extinctions teach us about READ MORE
How did life begin on Earth? Curiously, scientists often search for the answer on other planets or moons in our solar system. After all, if we want to see whether our theories are right, we need to find another example of life somewhere. The search has taken us to some strange places seemingly frozen in time that give us hints to what Earth looked like billions of years ago when life first appeared in the geologic record: places like Mars that show evidence of fossil oceans, and places like Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, that show evidence of liquid water oceans containing organic READ MORE
“In Asia or Africa around 60 million years ago, snakes became more venomous, though scientists aren’t quite sure why then and there.” Sometimes understanding global environmental change requires that we simply know how nature works. And not just the pleasant side of nature, but all of it. When we look back through the wonders of READ MORE
There are billions of microbes both in and on our bodies. These invisible organisms form complex ecosystems, which are passed on to us as infants through breast milk, help digest food in our guts, and may even be correlated with a growing list of health conditions like obesity, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autism. It’s no exaggeration to say that human life would not be possible without the microbiome. Science writer Ed Yong READ MORE
The solenodon: a venomous, shrew-like mammal, found only in the Caribbean, that has survived for millions of years by hiding underground. Even the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago couldn’t kill this hardy little creature. But after surviving for so long, after outliving the freakin’ DINOSAURS, the solenodon is now threatened by human encroachment into their habitat. Guest producer Laura Cussen READ MORE
This week we revisit our interview with Paul Ehrlich. Ehrlich rose to notoriety in the 1960s following the publication of his bestselling book “The Population Bomb.” In the book, he foresaw a world characterized by widespread famine and societal collapse driven by overpopulation. In the READ MORE
The Anthropocene is characterized by exponential global change driven by human activity. But humans have been impacting the planet since the very earliest days when we first appeared on the evolutionary tree. In fact, one of the longest running debates in paleontology centers on homo READ MORE
The microbiome is the term doctors use to describe the countless organisms each one of us carries in and on our bodies. In the last few years there’s been an explosion of research around how the gut microbiome is linked with our health. As Microbiologist Justin Sonnenburg tells producer Anna Lee, our microbiomes are like the control center of our bodies, affecting cognition, digestion, mood, and overall wellbeing. READ MORE
Listen up, because you never know when a sound will change your life. Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton tells us the story of how he became “The Soundtracker,” an unorthodox career choice that has led him around the planet three times in pursuit of the last pristine soundscapes. Journey along with Hempton from tropical jungles to the frozen North as he records the music from the solar-powered jukebox that is Earth.
Image adapted from Randy Storey
This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)