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Short Wave

Author: NPR

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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 Maddie Sofia for science on a different wavelength.
44 Episodes
We couldn't stop at the spotted lanternfly! (We covered that invasive species in an earlier episode.) We wanted to hear about the invasives where you live. You wrote us about cane toads in Australia, zebra mussels in Nevada; borers, beetles, adelgids, stinkbugs, and so many more. From your emails, we picked three invaders to talk about with NPR science correspondent Dan Charles. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at
Jean-Jacques Muyembe is a Congolese doctor heading up the response to the current Ebola outbreak in Congo. Back in 1976, he was the first doctor to collect a sample of the virus. But his crucial role in discovering Ebola is often overlooked. NPR's East Africa correspondent Eyder Peralta helps us correct the record. Follow Eyder on Twitter — he's @eyderp and Maddie's @maddie_sofia. You can always reach the show by emailing
We've been celebrating 150 years of the Periodic Table. This episode, the rise of aluminum! The element is incredibly common, but was once hard to extract. That made it more valuable than gold in the 19th century. NPR's Scott Neuman gives us a short history of aluminum. Or is it aluminium? (We'll also give you the backstory behind the confusion.) Follow Emily Kwong on Twitter @emilykwong1234. Email the show at
An ambitious mission to get a spacecraft close to the sun has revealed a strange region of space filled with rapidly flipping magnetic fields and rogue plasma waves. Science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce explains how the Parker Solar Probe may help answer one of the biggest mysteries surrounding the sun. Follow Emily Kwong on Twitter @emilykwong1234. Email the show at
If you give an orangutan a kazoo, will it produce a sound? Researchers discovered that this simple instrument could offer insights into the vocal abilities of orangutans — and the evolution of human speech. Short Wave reporter Emily Kwong talks with primatologist Adriano Lameira about a growing body of evidence that humans may not be the only great apes with voice control. Follow Maddie Sofia @maddie_sofia and Emily Kwong @emilykwong1234. Email the show at
Use of CBD — cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component in cannabis — has exploded in the last few years. But while it's marketed as a solution for stress, anxiety, insomnia, and pain, the Food and Drug Administration can't say it's safe. NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey helps parse the science behind a new set of government warnings about CBD. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at
A lot has changed since the first cases of AIDS were reported in 1981. Globally, AIDS-related deaths have dropped by more than 55% since 2004, the deadliest year on record. But, the road to effective treatment for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was long. Maggie Hoffman-Terry, a physician and researcher who's been on the front lines of the epidemic for decades, explains how treatment has evolved, its early drawbacks, and the issue of access to medications. Follow Maddie on Twitter — she's @maddie_sofia. And email the show at
Comet 2I/Borisov will reach its closest approach to the sun on December 8, 2019. We talk to planetary astronomer Michele Bannister about where the heck this comet came from, and what it tells us about our galaxy. Follow Maddie on Twitter — she's @maddie_sofia. And email the show at
Clive Wynne, founding director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, draws on studies from his lab and others around the world to explain what biology, neuroscience, and genetics reveal about dogs and love. His new book is called Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at
Why can a smell trigger such a powerful memory? Biological anthropologist Kara Hoover explains what's going on in the brain when we smell, how smell interacts with taste, and why our sense of smell is heightened in the winter. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at
Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Maddie and Emily wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and explain how you can support the show. Find and donate to your local public radio station at Follow Maddie and Emily on Twitter @maddie_sofia and @emilykwong1234. Email the show at
Imagine having your Thanksgiving meal in microgravity? That's the reality for the six astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Today, we look at the evolution of astronaut food and a planned attempt to bake chocolate chip cookies in space. Follow Maddie Sofia @maddie_sofia and Emily Kwong @emilykwong1234. Email the show at
As a teenager, Josh Smith was plagued by sleep paralysis. Now he's afraid his kid might be experiencing it too. In this listener questions episode, Josh asks what the science says about this sleep disorder and what he can do to help his son. Submit your questions to Plus, you can keep the conversation going by using #NPRShortWave and following Maddie (@maddie_sofia) and Emily (@emilykwong1234) on Twitter.
Uganda has come up with a low-tech solution to treat patients in a lot of pain: drinkable liquid morphine. Nurith Aizenman tell us how this model works and how other African countries are taking inspiration. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at
Congress prohibits the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using any of its funding to promote or advocate for gun control. NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce looked into how that makes it difficult for the CDC to talk frankly about the role guns play in suicide. If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at
We know that people with Alzheimer's often have sleep problems. But does it work the other way? Do problems with sleep set the stage for this degenerative brain disease? Jon Hamilton introduces us to some scientists looking into that connection. In a recent study, researchers observed a key role deep sleep potentially plays in maintaining brain health and protecting the brain against Alzheimer's. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at
Earlier this month NPR health correspondent Rob Stein introduced us to Victoria Gray, the woman at the center of a groundbreaking medical treatment using CRISPR, the gene-editing technique. This week, Rob reports exclusively for NPR on the first results of that closely-watched experiment. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at
Happy World Toilet Day! Flushing toilets can consume a lot of water, so Tak-Sing Wong, a biomedical engineer at Penn State University, is trying to minimize how much is needed. Wong developed a slippery coating for the inside of a toilet bowl. It can potentially move human waste more efficiently, leaving a cleaner bowl and using less water. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at
The Smithsonian's National Zoo is bidding farewell to Bei Bei. The 4-year-old giant panda will be sent to China on Tuesday, Nov. 19. While born in captivity at the zoo, Bei Bei is the property of China. Reporter Emily Kwong tells us about Bei Bei's elaborate departure plans, why he's leaving now, and what it would take to ensure the survival of giant pandas in the wild. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia and reporter Emily Kwong @emilykwong1234. Email the show at
An Eyewitness to Extinction

An Eyewitness to Extinction


While doing field work in Central America in the 1990's, biologist Karen Lips noticed the frogs she was studying were disappearing. Scientists in other parts of the world had documented the same thing - frogs and amphibians dying at an alarming rate. For years no one knew what was killing the animals until, finally, a bit of good luck helped solve the mystery. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at
Comments (19)


Perfect. I love it. thank youuuuuuuuuuuu 😘😘😘😘😘❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️😘

Dec 6th

Sylvia Rose Combs

What about women when they are pregnant and their sense of smell gets stronger?

Dec 3rd

Sarah Yeagle

"Thank you gravity, for cookies." 😄

Nov 27th
Reply (1)

Mischa Konovalov

Americans being surprised by cheap health Care: the podcast

Nov 27th


💩 💩 🚽

Nov 22nd

Brook Lauer

i can't help but think about National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and the spray Chevy uses on the sled! 😂😂 super fast poo!!!

Nov 19th
Reply (1)

G'Lyne Taylor

Are there any weekend podcast episodes?

Nov 17th

Jeremiah C.

sad sad world☹️

Nov 14th
Reply (1)


Love it! But what about the U.S. auctioning off its entire strategic helium reserve?

Nov 12th
Reply (1)

Angela Joan

Great new show! I'm enjoying the daily mind snack!

Nov 7th

Alex Hall

Good stuff! Short, informative, and a good brain snack!

Nov 5th

Jerica C Holt

I love this show! You will, too ❤

Nov 1st

muffen jr

The amount of ASMR in this was adequate.

Oct 18th

Abhinav Saxena


Oct 16th
Reply (1)
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