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

Short Wave

From NPR

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

Most Recent Episodes

A young Native American woman sits in a museum display case alongside artifacts and human remains. Gabriella Trujillo for NPR hide caption

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Gabriella Trujillo for NPR

Code Switch: Archeological skeletons in the closet

Today, we present a special episode from our colleagues at Code Switch, NPR's podcast about race and identity.

Code Switch: Archeological skeletons in the closet

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Jeremy Monroe/Freshwater Illustrated

An ode to the Pacific lamprey

Pacific lamprey may have lived on Earth for about 450 million years. When humans came along, a deep relationship formed between Pacific lamprey and Native American tribes across the western United States. But in the last few decades, tribal elders noticed that pacific lamprey populations have plummeted, due in part to habitat loss and dams built along the Columbia River. So today, an introduction to Pacific lamprey: its unique biology, cultural legacy in the Pacific Northwest and the people who are fighting to save it.

An ode to the Pacific lamprey

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VW Pics/VW PICS/Universal Images Group

A biodiesel boom (and conundrum)

There's a biodiesel boom happening! It's fueled by incentives and policies intended to cut greenhouse emissions, and is motivating some oil companies like World Energy in Paramount, California to convert their refineries to process soybean oil instead of crude. NPR's food and agriculture correspondent Dan Charles explains why farmers are happy, bakers are frustrated and people who want to preserve the world's natural forests are worried. Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

A biodiesel boom (and conundrum)

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COVID-19 boosters are here

The United States is on the verge of dramatically expanding the availability of COVID-19 vaccine boosters to shore up people's immune systems. As NPR health correspondent Rob Stein reports, the Food and Drug Administration is poised to authorize the boosters of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Still, many experts argue boosters aren't needed because the vaccines are working well and it would be unethical to give people in the U.S. extra shots when most of the world is still waiting for their first.

COVID-19 boosters are here

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How do our brains create meaning from the sounds around us? That is the question at the heart of a new book from neuroscientist Nina Kraus, called Of Sound Mind. kimberrywood/Getty Images hide caption

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kimberrywood/Getty Images

How do we make sense of the sounds around us?

Our colleagues at All Things Considered chatted with neuroscientist Nina Kraus about her new book Of Sound Mind. She shares how our brains process and create meaning from the sounds around us.

How do we make sense of the sounds around us?

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The roots of mangrove trees grow above and below the water's edge. Dulyanut Swdp/Getty Images hide caption

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Dulyanut Swdp/Getty Images

The Mighty Mangrove

Along certain coastlines near the equator, you can find a tree with superpowers. Mangroves provide a safe haven for a whole ecosystem of animals. They also fight climate change by storing tons of carbon, thanks to a spectacular above-ground network of tangled roots. Ecologist Alex Moore talks to guest host Maria Godoy about how mighty this tree is, and why it is under threat.

The Mighty Mangrove

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One of the Twinkies Colin Purrington opened in 2020 - from a box stashed away in 2012 - had collapsed into a shriveled mass. Colin Purrington hide caption

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Colin Purrington

The mystery of the mummified Twinkie

A box of Twinkies, left alone for eight years, held some surprises for Colin Purrington. Upon having a sugar craving, combined with being "just so bored, with the pandemic," Purrington opened the box a few weeks ago. Like many people, Purrington believed Twinkies are basically immortal, although the official shelf life is 45 days. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce talked to Purrington and explains how two scientists got involved and started unraveling the mystery of the mummified Twinkie. (Encore episode)

The mystery of the mummified Twinkie

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Usha Lee McFarling from STAT reports that an increase in funding and attention to health disparity research means some researchers of color who've long been in the field are being pushed aside. PeopleImages/Getty Images hide caption

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PeopleImages/Getty Images

White scholars can complicate research into health disparities

The COVID-19 has exposed longstanding and massive health disparities in the U.S., resulting in people of color dying at disproportionately higher rates than other races in this country. Today on the show, guest host Maria Godoy talks with Usha Lee McFarling about her reporting — how new funding and interest has led to increased attention to the topic of disparities in health care and health outcomes, but also left out or pushed aside some researchers in the field — many of them researchers of color.

White scholars can complicate research into health disparities

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A blue stripe cockroach (Pseudophyllodromia sp.) on a leaf. Science Photo Library hide caption

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Science Photo Library

Cockroaches are cool!

Cockroaches - do they get a bad rap? Producer Thomas Lu teams up with self-proclaimed lesbian cockroach defender Perry Beasley-Hall to convince producer/guest host Rebecca Ramirez that indeed they are under-rated. These critters could number up to 10,000 species, but only about 30 are pesky to humans and some are beautiful! And complicated! And maybe even clean.

Cockroaches are cool!

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Sake, a three year old Bonobo at the Lola's Sanctuary. Ley Uwera for NPR hide caption

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Ley Uwera for NPR

Bonobos and the evolution of nice

How did humans evolve some key cooperative behaviors like sharing? NPR Science Correspondent Jon Hamilton reports back from a bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where scientists are trying to answer that very question. (Encore episode)

Bonobos and the evolution of nice

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