Short Wave New discoveries, everyday mysteries, and the science behind the headlines — all in about 10 minutes. It's science for everyone, using a lot of creativity and a little humor. Join hosts Emily Kwong, Aaron Scott and Regina Barber for science on a different wavelength.

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Short Wave

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New discoveries, everyday mysteries, and the science behind the headlines — all in about 10 minutes. It's science for everyone, using a lot of creativity and a little humor. Join hosts Emily Kwong, Aaron Scott and Regina Barber for science on a different wavelength.

If you're hooked, try Short Wave Plus. Your subscription supports the show and unlocks a sponsor-free feed. Learn more at plus.npr.org/shortwave

Most Recent Episodes

Diagram of the network of neurons in an insect brain. Johns Hopkins University & University of Cambridge hide caption

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Johns Hopkins University & University of Cambridge

Why scientists just mapped every synapse in a fly brain

To really understand the human brain, scientists say you'd have to map its wiring. The only problem: there are more than 100 trillion different connections to find, trace and characterize. But a team of scientists has made a big stride toward this goal, a complete wiring diagram of a teeny, tiny brain: the fruit fly larva.

Why scientists just mapped every synapse in a fly brain

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The perennial rice 'Yunda 107' is harvested in the Yunnan Province of China. Perennial rice can be harvested for successive regrowth seasons, maintaining a relatively stable yield and greatly reducing labor input. China News Service/China News Service via Getty Ima hide caption

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China News Service/China News Service via Getty Ima

Perennial rice: Plant once, harvest again and again

Rice is arguably the world's most important staple crop. About half of the global population depends on it for sustenance. But, like other staples such as wheat and corn, rice is cultivated annually. That means replanting the fields year after year, at huge cost to both the farmers and the land. For years, scientists have been tinkering with rice strains to create a perennial variety – one that would regrow after harvest without the need to be resewn. Today, Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber takes a look at one promising perennial rice effort. It's one of a series of interviews we conducted live at the 2023 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Perennial rice: Plant once, harvest again and again

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Leading our news round up is news of a giant floating mat of grassy brown algae called Sargassum. It has grown from small patches in the Sargasso Sea and can now be seen from space. THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images

News Round Up: algal threats, an asteroid with life's building blocks and bee maps

After reading the science headlines this week, we have A LOT of questions. Why did the Virgin Islands declare a state of emergency over a large blob of floating algae? What can a far-off asteroid tell us about the origins of life? Is the ever-popular bee waggle dance not just for directions to the hive but a map?

News Round Up: algal threats, an asteroid with life's building blocks and bee maps

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A raccoon dog looks out of its cage in Xin Yuan wild animal market in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, 06 January 2004. PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images

Why pandemic researchers are talking about raccoon dogs

A few weeks ago, raw data gathered in Janaury 2020 from Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China — the early epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic — was uploaded to an online virology database. It caught the attention of researchers. A new genetic analysis from an international team provides the strongest evidence yet for natural origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and the role of one animal in particular: raccoon dogs. Short Wave co-host Emily Kwong talks with Katherine Wu, a staff writer at The Atlantic, who broke the story and explains the genetic evidence.

Why pandemic researchers are talking about raccoon dogs

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When Geoff Brumfiel asked an AI software for rocket schematics, he got interesting results. Like these Saturn V-inspired renderings. NPR staff generated imagery using Midjourney hide caption

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NPR staff generated imagery using Midjourney

If ChatGPT designed a rocket — would it get to space?

From text churned out by ChatGPT to the artistic renderings of Midjourney, people have been taking notice of new, bot-produced creative works. But how does this artificial intelligence software fare when there are facts at stake — like designing a rocket capable of safe spaceflight?

If ChatGPT designed a rocket — would it get to space?

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Boat docks sit on dry cracked earth at the Great Salt Lake's Antelope Island Marina. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

What we lose if the Great Salt Lake dries up

Dotted across the Great Basin of the American West are salty, smelly lakes. The largest of these, by far, is the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

What we lose if the Great Salt Lake dries up

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This computer-generated 3D model of Venus' surface shows the summit of Maat Mons, the volcano that is exhibiting signs of activity. A new study found one of Maat Mons' vents became enlarged and changed shape over an eight-month period in 1991, indicating an eruptive event occurred. NASA/JPL-Caltech hide caption

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NASA/JPL-Caltech

Venus and Earth: A tale of two 'twins'

Planetary scientists announced some big news this week about our next-door neighbor, Venus. For the first time, they had found direct evidence that Venus has active, ongoing volcanic activity.

Venus and Earth: A tale of two 'twins'

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Bug Robbins

Tweeting directly from your brain (and what's next)

Our friends at NPR's TED Radio Hour podcast have been pondering some BIG things — specifically, the connection between our physical, mental, and spiritual health. In this special excerpt, what if you could control a device, not with your hand, but with your mind? Host Manoush Zomorodi talks to physician and entrepreneur Tom Oxley about the implantable brain-computer interface that can change the way we think.

Tweeting directly from your brain (and what's next)

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IMPACTS mission researchers inside the research plane, monitoring weather data being collected by onboard instruments. Erica McNamee/NASA hide caption

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Erica McNamee/NASA

What scientists are hoping to learn by flying directly into snowstorms

For the past few winters, researchers have been intentionally flying into snowstorms. And high in those icy clouds, the team collected all the information they could to understand—how exactly do winter storms work?

What scientists are hoping to learn by flying directly into snowstorms

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The Summers Place Dodo skeleton dates from around the 16th century. Leon Neal/Getty Images hide caption

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Leon Neal/Getty Images

Could de-extincting the dodo help struggling species?

As a leading expert on paleogenomics, Beth Shapiro has been hearing the same question ever since she started working on ancient DNA: "The only question that we consistently were asked was, how close are we to bringing a mammoth back to life?"

Could de-extincting the dodo help struggling species?

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