Humans are a force radically reshaping the Earth’s surface – but what forces are shaping homo sapiens? Today on the show, we feature two stories. First we look at ongoing human evolution and genetic mutations (btw, we are still evolving). Our second piece is about a human and animal instinct that we rarely think about – the impulse to play.
“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
This week we bring you an intergenerational conversation featuring David Suzuki, who is a Canadian scientist, activist, and media figure. Since the 1970s, Suzuki has hosted both radio and television shows about the natural world and environmental issues. A self-described “elder,” Suzuki 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 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
Over the course of our show, we’ve recorded quite a few interviews covering climate change, from abrupt climate shifts, to sea level rise, to the link between climate and human conflict, to how food systems are responding to warmer temperatures, to climate change on other planets… the list goes on. But one thing we haven’t done? We haven’t tackled the most querie READ MORE
Fire is evolving. The three necessary ingredients for fire – heat, fuel, and oxygen – each appeared at different times in geological history, meaning that fire wasn’t always around on Earth’s surface. Fire historian Steve Pyne describes the origin and evolution of fire over the past 420 millions years on Earth, including history’s true Promethean moment.
In a bonus segment, producer Mike Osborne chats with paleoclimate scientist Jud Partin about his new publication exploring the Younger Dryas, the most recent time in Earth’s history to experience abrupt climate change. Hear Jud describe what happened as Earth left the last ice age and why he’s still optimistic about abrupt climate change today.
This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)