Science Solved It: theories and solutions to strange occurances
September 2, 2018 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Last year, Vice's Motherboard debuted a podcast with science reporter Kaleigh Rogers devoted to talking to the scientists about mysteries they've solved, from the "Sailing Stones" of Death Valley to Antarctica’s Blood Falls. Links to the episodes, their source articles and bonus links below the break.

Season one:
  1. The Bloop: An Underwater Mystery That Took Nearly 10 Years to Solve It was one of the loudest sounds ever recorded under the sea. -- Solved by Robert Dziak and others at NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL). [discussed previously]
  2. Mysterious Moving Rocks in the Desert Stumped Scientists for 70 Years -- Death Valley’s ‘sailing stones’ are able to move thanks to unique environmental conditions. -- Solved by Richard Norris, an oceanographer at University of California San Diego, who observed and documented the rocks in motion.
  3. Scientists Can’t Fully Explain These Strange Floating Lights in Texas -- Researchers have been able to decipher half the mystery of the Marfa lights, but some things are still unexplained. Karl Stephan and others reported on the Quantitative intensity and location measurements of an intense long-duration luminous object near Marfa, Texas (abstract only; paywalled article).
  4. Satellite Images Revealed the Secret Meaning of These Ancient Desert Spirals -- The Nazca lines are world famous geoglyphs, and their nearby spiral structure help explain why they were built. Rosa Lasaponara, a senior research at the National Research Council in Rome, talks about their investigation into human-made puquios that appear related to the well-known geoglyphs (BBC discussion of material presented in Ancient Nasca World: New Insights from Science and Archaeology - abstracts and chapter previews only, rest is paywalled). [Discussed previously]
  5. Doctors Didn’t Know How Cholera Spread Until One Genius Drew a Map -- In the midst of a deadly cholera outbreak in London, a local anesthetist figured out how the disease was spreading using data visualization. Sonia Shah, a science journalist and the author of Pandemic, talks about Dr. John Snow's mapping of the local cholera outbreak, and his theory that the disease was reproduced in the human body and was spread through contaminated water, counter to the prevailing theory that diseases were spread by "miasma" in the air. His theories weren't accepted until after his death.
  6. Did 'Pokemon' Actually Give Kids Seizures In the 90s? -- An investigation. Benjamin Radford talks about his paper, Pokemon Contagion: Photosensitive Epilepsy or Mass Psychogenic Illness? (PDF)
  7. These Mysterious Pure White Redwood Trees Defy the Laws of Nature -- Zane Moore has a theory for how these trees defy the laws of nature. He talks about his work with Tom Stapleton, an arborist, here and later in this piece for the Washington Post, which links to the website maintained by Stapleton that documents their work, Chimera Redwoods.
Season Two preview
  1. Send This Article to All Your Friends Who Believe in Chemtrails -- On the season two premiere >of Science Solved It, we dive into one of the most pervasive conspiracy theories: chemtrails. Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, talks about his paper, Quantifying expert consensus against the existence of a secret, large-scale atmospheric spraying program
  2. The Mystery of the Kentucky 'Meat Shower' -- A “meat shower” is exactly what it sounds like, but it turns out there’s a pretty simple, likely explanation for what caused it. Kurt Gohde, a professor of art of Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, and an expert on the meat showers, talks about a fairly straightforward theory.
  3. It Took 600 Years to Figure Out This Mysterious, Exploding Ancient Star -- Korean royal astrologers saw a new star appear in the sky in 1437 AD, and it took 600 years for astronomers to find what they had seen, and explain why it appeared that night. Michael Shara, curator of astrophysics for the American Museum of Natural History and one of the researchers who solved the mystery, talks about the work of retracing historic observations, as reported in Nature (abstract; full article as PDF available via Space.com)
  4. After Hundreds of Years, We’ve Finally Figured Out How These Flies Can Swim Underwater -- Alkali flies have been a fixture of Mono Lake, California for hundreds of years, but scientists only recently unravelled the secret of their aquatic abilities. Floris Van Breugel, a biology research associate at the University of Washington and lead author of the 2017 study, talks about the research.
  5. Where the Devil's Kettle 'Waterfall to Nowhere' Really Goes -- It turns out the water doesn’t disappear at all. Jeff Green, a groundwater hydrologist with the Minnesota department of natural resources, talks about the world of stream gauging.
  6. To Solve a Medical Mystery, This Doctor Drank Live Bacteria -- Dr. Barry Marshall swallowed helicobacter pylori to prove it was the cause of a common ailment. Dr. Marshall, a medical microbiologist at the University of Western Australia, talks about his work with Dr. Robin Warren, the chief pathologist at the Royal Perth Hospital, which was rewarded with Nobel Prize in Medicine for 2005.
  7. Scientists Finally Solved the Mystery of Antarctica’s Blood Falls -- The blood red falls tumble out of a glacier 100 feet to a lake below. Erin Pettit, one of the scientists who solved the mystery of Blood Falls, talks about tracking the source of the blood-red water, as reported in the article An englacial hydrologic system of brine within a cold glacier: Blood Falls, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica.
posted by filthy light thief (14 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
 
Phenomenal! Thank you.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 8:10 AM on September 2


#4 link goes to Marfa article instead of Nazca

Also, I am going to read every single one of these. Great post!
posted by slipthought at 8:34 AM on September 2


Spending a few hours in darkness at the Marfa Lights Viewing Platform watching the display with amiable strangers is one of the most pleasurable ways to the immerse yourself in the American Uncanny.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 9:27 AM on September 2 [6 favorites]


Holy cow this is great.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:40 AM on September 2


#4 link goes to Marfa article instead of Nazca

Ah, thanks! Here's the proper link.

Also, I am going to read every single one of these. Great post!

:) The podcasts are pretty good, and most clock in around 22-24 minutes long, though it's closer to 20 if you skip the ads at the beginning and end.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:57 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


Excellent post! Thanks, flt.
posted by homunculus at 10:43 AM on September 2


I approve of this post.
posted by john_snow at 10:58 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


I love this podcast. Thanks for posting this, filthy light thief.
posted by nangar at 2:17 PM on September 2


*looks at lengthy list of podcast subscriptions*

*curses filthy light thief*

Thank you, though!

Doctors Didn’t Know How Cholera Spread Until One Genius Drew a Map

Will give this a listen for sure. My introduction to this was The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. It's a great read.

I couldn't help but check this one out right off the bat:

A “meat shower” is exactly what it sounds like, but it turns out there’s a pretty simple, likely explanation for what caused it. Kurt Gohde, a professor of art of Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, and an expert on the meat showers, talks about a fairly straightforward theory.

Oh jeebus. This one is so good. Awful. But good.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:59 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]


*looks at lengthy list of podcast subscriptions*

*curses filthy light thief*


On the up-side, they're not too long, and there are only 14 of them. And with this handy-dandy write-up, you can pick and choose which ones you want to hear.

Doctors Didn’t Know How Cholera Spread Until One Genius Drew a Map

Will give this a listen for sure. My introduction to this was The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. It's a great read.


One of my links also references this book, so now it's on my reading list, after Pandemic ;)
posted by filthy light thief at 3:18 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]


Damn you. Now I've just put a library hold on Pandemic. Looks good! Thanks for this post.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:38 PM on September 2


Is there an easy & non-itunes way to just like... download the MP3s of these? I looked but I don't see any. Maybe I'm missing something. It's all susbcribe to this and stream-from-soundcloud that.

Just give me the damn audio file, please.
posted by glonous keming at 6:14 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]


This is such a neat thing...but why does it have to be in audio form? Auugh.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:50 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]


Almost caught up, and they are generally fun listening. Rogers has a pleasant voice, projects considerable enthusiasm for her subjects, and she does a good job summarizing sometimes complex topics for a general audience.

However, the show also suffers from some problems — the cringe-inducing “I can’t understand binary stars” bit was a particular low point in the writing — but most seem to be the result of this being a commercial podcast: especially intrusive ads, inappropriate and distracting sound effects and music, and heavy use of interview clips (which are sometimes really helpful, but often don’t give us anything that Rogers couldn’t deliver herself).

Some of that is undoubtedly just my personal taste, but I do think the more “produced” commercial podcasts almost universally seem to lack faith in the idea that well-chosen topics, good writing, and a solid presenter can hold an audience.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:27 AM on September 3 [1 favorite]


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