Please Explain from WNYC New York Public Radio

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From WNYC, New York Public Radio: Please Explain, where Leonard Lopate and a guest get to the bottom of one complex issue. History, science, politics, pop culture or anything that needs some explanation!More from Please Explain from WNYC New York Public Radio »

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Understanding Cults

Cults have been around for thousands of years, and they exist throughout the world, but when news reports break about a cult, it often seems like they have sprung up out of nowhere. For this week's Please Explain, we will be examining the world of cults. Ian Haworth of the Cult Information Centre and Dr. Steve K.D. Eichel, president of the International Cultic Studies Association discuss what a cult is, why people join them and how to exit one.

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From Lobo to Fido: The Story of Domestication

Evolution is commonly seen as a process that happens in the wild, far away from human involvement. But humans and animals have evolved alongside each other for ages. The reason your dog understands you so well is largely due to evolution, and specifically the evolution of domestication. For this week's Please Explain, we turn our lens on the science of domestication with Richard Francis, the author of Domesticated: Evolution in a Man-Made World.

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The Human Threats to The Livelihood of Birds

Please Explain this week is all about birds: how human activity is driving several species to extinction, and what some people are doing to try and change that. Douglas Kass and Roger Kass, directors of the film Emptying the Skies, discuss the fate of many migrating birds today. Not only is development and construction stressing these populations, but illegal bird poaching in Cyprus and France accounts for millions of bird deaths. The film profiles a group of activists who go to these poaching areas, releasing caught birds and destroying traps. The directors are joined by Tom Auer, Conservation Data Specialist at National Audubon Society.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Gives Dark Matter a New Name: 'Fred'

Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson joins us for Please Explain: The Cosmos! Most recently, he's the host of National Geographic Channel's first-ever late-night series, StarTalk. Based on Tyson's incredibly popular podcast of the same name, the new series will bridge the intersection between pop culture and science as it brings together celebrities, comedians and scientists to discuss the latest developments in our vast universe. The show is filmed at the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium, where Tyson serves as director.

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The Sweet Adelines and The Lustre Quartet Explain The Barbershop Quartet!

Members of The Sweet Adelines and the Lustre Quartet join us for this week's Please Explain, which is all about barbershop quartets! Peggy Gram joined The Sweet Adelines, the women's barbershop organization, in her teens, and is a 50-year member of the group. Jennifer Harris, Kathryn Morrical, Lori Crouter, and Lori Dreyer formed the Lustre Quartet in 2005, and have been a top-10 international quartet since 2012. They will be joined by Gage Averill, an ethnomusicologist and Dean of Arts at the University of British Columbia. He's also the author of Four Parts, No Waiting: A Social History of American Barbershop Quartet. Soundchecking the Lustre Quartet for today's Please Explain on barbershop music! Posted by Leonard Lopate on Friday, April 10, 2015

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The Conservation Efforts Trying to Keep Frogs From Going Extinct

In 2009, a frog was discovered in a rain forest in Ecuador that changed its skin texture from smooth to spiky, and in 2014, a new species of frog was found in Staten Island. These amphibians continue to surprise scientists, yet many species have also been going extinct for decades. For today's Please Explain, we learn about the world of frogs, with Robin Moore, an award-winning photographer, a Senior Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, and an advocate with the Amphibian Survival Alliance.

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Pesticides, Produce, and Your Health

Urvashi Rangan, Director, Consumer Safety for Sustainability at Consumer Reports, discusses the pesticides used on produce and how they affect our health. She offers advice on how to choose produce, if buying organic is better, and looks at the effects of pesticides on the environment and on pollinators. Consumer Reports has compiled a report on pesticides in produce.

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A Baby Plant in a Box... With its Lunch

Today, seed plants make up about 90 percent of the world's flora. But that wasn't always the case. Today on Please Explain, Thor Hanson, author of The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, & Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History, describes the path that seeds have paved through evolution, natural history, and human culture, and examines the traits and habits that have allowed seeds – and the plants that bear them – to be successful, and to transform the planet. Plus, Gerard Lordahl, Greening Director of GrowNYC returns to the show to offer advice on planting seeds at home!

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From Sideshow to the Big Top: The History of the Circus

A century ago, daily life ground to a halt when the circus rolled into town. Across America, banks closed, schools canceled classes, farmers left their fields, and factories shut down so that everyone could go to the show. But when Ringling Brothers recently announced that they would retire their elephants in 2018, it underscored the dramatic change taking place in the American circus today. Janet Davis is a professor of American studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and the author of The Circus Age: Culture and Society under the American Big Top. Today, she joins us for Please Explain: The Circus!

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The Touch, The Feel, The Worldwide Domination, of Cotton

The story of cotton is inexorably tied to the story of modern capitalism, a constant?global struggle between slaves and planters, merchants and statesmen, workers and factory owners. On this week's Please Explain, we?dive into how cotton changed history, and how the industry, and the product, reaches our homes today.?Sven Beckert is the author of?Empire of Cotton: A Global History, and?Mike Watson is the?Vice President of Fiber Competition for Cotton Incorporated.

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