Exploradio

Exploradio is a bi-weekly exploration of science and innovation in Northeast Ohio.  As a trained scientist, host Jeff St. Clair considers it a privilege to meet incredibly interesting researchers and business leaders who are at the top of their field, translating their work into meaningful stories.

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a photo of a leaf with beech leaf disease
JEFF ST.CLAIR / WKSU

A mysterious disease is killing one of the most majestic trees in American forests, the beech. 

Known for its smooth gray bark, the beech is an important anchor species. 

No one knows exactly what causes Beech Leaf Disease, but a team of tree scientists is narrowing down the list of culprits in this botanical whodunit.

JEFF ST.CLAIR / WKSU

WKSU asked listeners for ideas for what to explore in the next episode of our Exploradio science series.

We had some great suggestions. When the ideas were put to a vote, the top choice was –

“Is enough being done to find a cure for type-1 diabetes…?”

In this week’s Exploradio, we try to find the answer.

Around 1.25 million Americans have type-1, or insulin dependent diabetes.

Rich Janus is one of them.

Photo of an Amur tiger
CLEVELAND METROPARKS ZOO

Our local zoos are changing.  The Akron Zoo is in the midst of a $17 million expansion, making new homes for lions and tigers.  The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo recently opened exhibits featuring Asian wildlife and rare Siberian tigers.

In this week’s Exploradio, we examine the research that goes into making captive animals a little more comfortable.

photo of Dr. Matthew Kraay and Clare Rimnac
JEFF ST.CLAIR / WKSU

Nearly one million Americans will have hip or knee replacement surgery this year. They’re among the fastest growing procedures in medicine.

For most people, the implants function just fine, but sometimes, that artificial knee or hip needs taken out …

And in this week’s Exploradio, we investigate what those discarded devices can tell us.

A photo of brain researchers Lique Coolen and Michael Lehman.
JEFF ST.CLAIR / WKSU

The brain remains one of the final frontiers of science.

Researchers are only beginning to unlock how addiction works, how the brain controls other organs, the causes of brain diseases, among other mysteries.

In this week’s Exploradio, WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair meets a pair of researchers who are launching a new collaborative at Kent State University to tap into Northeast Ohio’s ‘brain trust.’

photo of a bald eagle
RICK McMEECHAN

Bald eagles were nearly wiped out in Ohio a generation ago. But now they’re back, and a pair is nesting close to the industrial heart of Cleveland.

On this week’s Exploradio, we explore one of the most encouraging signs of a rebounding waterway.

A photograph of liquid helium.
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

When we cool things down, classically, we can think of the atoms moving around inside the material getting slower and slower until they stop moving. That should make really cold things really boring, right? 

“Supercool liquid helium crawls out of containers," Nandini Trivedi said. "And certain supercool metals lose all their resistance. So as substances get cold they start behaving in really unusual ways.” 

A photo of a replica of Lucy's skeleton.
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

“People always want to know where they came from, right? They get excited by new discoveries of dinosaurs, but they become curious by the discovery of early human fossils.” 

CLEVELAND METROPARKS ZOO

They’re the largest of the great apes.

Imposing and impressive, gorillas inspire fear and admiration.

But local researchers say they also serve as models of gentleness and family harmony.

In this week’s Exploradio, we look at Ohio’s role in gorilla conservation and visit the gorillas in our midst.

In order to function, the cells in our bodies need to coordinate and pass information, say, if we need a burst of energy to flee a threat. But, without eyes, ears, or even radios, how do they signal this information reliably?

GILLETTE

The American Psychological Association has issued new guidelines for understanding and treating the unique problems faced by men.

The project took more than a decade to complete and was launched by a researcher at the University of Akron.

In this week’s Exploradio, WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair examines the evolving definition of what it means to be a man in America.

A photo of rings from a neutron star's flare.
NASA / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Scientists have spent centuries studying how matter works. They’ve boiled it, they’ve frozen it, and they’ve even thrown it into particle colliders and smashed it up. They’ve learned a lot about what matter does in these conditions, but--that’s just what we can do on Earth.

“A neutron star is basically the densest object aside from a black hole. When they collide, the matter itself is deformed in such a way that we can probe densities inaccessible to laboratories on Earth,” Leslie Wade said.

A photo of the disease in the liver.
CDC / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

When Dr. Robert Brown started teaching physics at Case Western Reserve University, he had no idea he’d be using his expertise in magnetic fields to hunt malaria. The earlier malaria is diagnosed, the more likely you are to survive, but most lab techniques can’t be used in rural villages.

“We wanted to diagnose malaria with something fast, portable, and cheap and accurate, which sounds challenging, but in fact we were able to really do it,” Brown said.

photo of Jay Corrigan
JEFF ST.CLAIR / WKSU

How do you measure the value of something that’s free?

It’s a challenge for economists who study the economic impact of the Internet revolution.

In this week’s Exploradio, we look  at research that puts a price on your network of virtual friends.

How much would someone need to pay you for you to stop using Facebook?

PROF. CHRISTOPHER CULLIS / CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY

What if I described a plant that has nutrient-rich beans, protein-rich roots, produces high quality oil, and, grows in desert regions where rural communities desperately need a drought-resistant crop? Sound too good to be true? Maybe not. I’ve just described the wild Marama bean, native to Africa.

“It has never been grown as an organized crop, it’s just collected out of the bush. The idea is can we find ways of developing a set of lines that give you decent yield which we can give to farmers,” Christopher Cullis, professor of biology at Case Western Reserve University, said.

A photo of a bottle of Depo-testosterone.
Wikimedia Commons

How do embryos know how to become male or female? Prof. Mike Weiss, chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Indiana University, is studying how one protein, known as the sex-determining protein Y, or “SRY,” can program gender.

“SRY is like the light switch. The bulb is this downstream developmental pathway that leads to the formation of the organs,” Weiss said.

JEFF ST.CLAIR / WKSU

It's something our health depends on, but it's often hard to get.

That something is a good night's sleep. 

Researchers are only beginning to understand the consequences of interrupted sleep, and the long-term health effects of poor sleep habits.

In this week’s Exploradio, we visit a sleep clinic where doctors are developing new treatments for an age-old problem.

We’re visiting one of the Cleveland Clinic’s sleep labs.   

A visualization of Einstien's theory of gravitational waves.
NASA / Wikimedia Commons

In 1916, Einstein made a bold prediction- that gravity actually travels in waves. These “gravitational waves” would be ripples in the fabric of space a bit like ripples on a pond, and would slightly stretch and squash the distances between things as they passed.  

“Einstein himself who came up with the theory didn’t think that this would ever really be detected,” Kenyon College professor Leslie Wade said.

JEFF ST.CLAIR / WKSU

Our climate is rapidly changing. 

Recent studies show earth could be entering a period of warming not seen since the end of the age of dinosaurs.

That is, if current trends continue.

In this week’s Exploradio, we look at local climate research and local plans to help prevent the effects of a warming planet.

photo of brain painting
ABHIJIT BHADURI / FLICKR/CREATIVE COMMONS

Mark Turner is an Institute Professor and Professor of Cognitive Science at Case Western Reserve University. He studies how our brains can innovate or form new ideas, and one of his methods actually involves digging into our use of language.

JEFF ST.CLAIR / WKSU

Ohio is the birthplace of air and space pioneers like the Wright brothers, Neil Armstrong and John Glenn.

But has the aerospace industry really taken off in the birthplace of aviation?

In this week’s Exploradio, WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair meets the new head of the Ohio Aerospace Institute who’s helping map out the state’s aviation future.

ERIC SILVA / FLICKR CC

Mention spiders, and many people shiver.

But a local researcher says they are nature’s most adept architects, spinning intricate webs from amazingly elastic material.

In this week’s Exploradio WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair reports on why the eight-legged arachnids deserve our respect.

We’re in the lab of University of Akron researcher Todd Blackledge.

JON NUNGESSER / WKSU

Patricia Princehouse, director of the evolutionary biology program at Case Western Reserve University, wants to know how we got man’s best friend, dogs, from wolves.

“There is an extraordinary amount of variation present in, you know, Canis domesticus. You don’t find that in any other domesticated breed, so it’s not just something that we’ve brought to dogs,” Princehouse says. “There’s something about the genome of dogs.”

JEFF ST.CLAIR / WKSU

Gold’s gleam has fascinated humans for millennia. Giuseppe Strangi, professor of physics at Case Western Reserve University, wants to use gold’s special relationship with light in the fight against cancer. It started centuries ago, when people melted gold into stained glass. Strangi describes the unexpected discovery.  

"If you go in France and look at the cathedrals, you see that this color is not coming from any pigment, but is coming from gold, coming from the fact that gold is absorbing light in a way which is extraordinary and very selective." 

JEFF ST.CLAIR / WKSU

A major effort is underway to brand Cleveland as a national tech hub.

Blockland is the brainchild of a Cleveland luxury car dealer who’s put together an A-team of backers of blockchain technology.

But what is blockchain and what can it do?

In this week’s Exploradio, WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair looks at the challenges of making Cleveland a tech Mecca.

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