Exploradio Origins

Exploradio Origins ponders the biggest questions in the universe in 90 seconds.

Each episode highlights the work of one of the more than 200 fellows at the Institute for the Science of Origins at Case Western Reserve University. Their research examines the origins of life, the universe, and the strands that connect all of science. Host Kellen McGee delivers a distillation of discoveries that touch on the mysteries of dark matter, language, gender, and evolution. 

Exploradio Origins is a collaboration between WKSU and the Institute for the Science of Origins.  Tune-in Thursday afternoons during WKSU’s All Things Considered.

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.

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.

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.

NASA

We all enjoy the moon on a clear night, but what if it could do more for us?

Glenn Starkman, professor of physics at Case Western Reserve University wonders if the moon could be a detector for dark matter--the stuff that causes the extra gravity needed to hold galaxies together as they spin.

It turns out that finding it is….hard.

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