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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.


  • Dinosaurs ruled the earth for many millions of years, but only after a mass extinction took out most of their rivals. Just how that happened remains a mystery — sounds like a case for paleoclimatologist Celina Suarez! This encore episode, Suarez walks us through her scientific detective work, with a little help from her trusty sidekick, Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber. Have a science fact you can't stop thinking about? Email us at shortwave@npr.org! We'd love to hear from you.
  • This week's science news roundup reunites All Things Considered host Ailsa Chang with Short Wave hosts Emily Kwong and Regina G. Barber to dig into the latest headlines in biomedical research, also known as cool things for the human body. We talk new RSV vaccines, vaccination by sticker and a new device helping a man with paralysis walk again. Have questions about science in the news? Email us at shortwave@npr.org.
  • Ice in Antarctica is melting really quickly because of climate change. That's driving sea level rise around the world, and the water is rising especially fast in the seaside city of Galveston, Texas — thousands of miles from Antarctica. Why do Antarctica and Texas have this counterintuitive relationship? And what does it mean for a $34 billion effort to protect the city from hurricanes?Read more and see pictures and video from Antarctica here.
  • Mora Leeb was 9 months old when surgeons removed half her brain. Now 15, she plays soccer and tells jokes. Scientists say Mora is an extreme example of a process known as brain plasticity, which allows a brain to modify its connections to adapt to new circumstances.Read more of Jon's reporting.Science in your everyday got you puzzled? Overjoyed? We've love to hear it! Reach us by emailing shortwave@npr.org.
  • If you ask a physicist or cosmologist about the beginnings of the universe, they'll probably point you to some math and tell you about the Big Bang theory. It's a scientific theory about how the entire universe began, and it's been honed over the decades. But recent images from the James Webb Space Telescope have called the precise timeline of the theory a little bit into question. That's because these images reveal galaxies forming way earlier than was previously understood to be possible. To understand whether it's physics itself or just our imaginations that need help, we called up theoretical physicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein.Got questions about the big and small of our universe? Email us at shortwave@npr.org.
  • In February 2021, pandemic restrictions were just starting to ease in Hawaii, and Leila Mirhaydari was finally able to see her kidney doctor. Transplanted organs need diligent care, and Leila had been looking after her donated kidney all on her own for a year. So a lot was riding on that first batch of lab results. "Immediately, all my levels were just out of whack and I knew that I was in rejection," she says. "I've had to work through a lot of emotional pain, of feeling like I failed my donor. Like, why couldn't I hold on to this kidney?"On today's episode, editor Gabriel Spitzer walks us through Leila's journey — from spending her late 20s on dialysis, to being saved by a gift and ultimately, to the search for another donated kidney. Learn more about living donation from the United Network for Organ Sharing.
  • Kwasi Wrensford studies two related species: the Alpine chipmunk and the Lodgepole chipmunk. The two have very different ways of coping with climate change. In this episode, Kwasi explains to host Emily Kwong how these squirrelly critters typify two important evolutionary strategies, and why they could shed light on what's in store for other creatures all over the globe.
  • This week for our science news roundup, superstar host of All Things Considered Ari Shapiro joins Short Wave hosts Emily Kwong and Regina G. Barber to discuss the joy and wonder found in all types of structures. The big. The small. The delicious. We ask if diapers can be repurposed to construct buildings, how single-celled organisms turned into multi-cellular ones and how to make the best gummy candy?Have questions about science in the news? Email us at shortwave@npr.org.
  • Race is a social construct — so why are DNA test kits like the ones from 23andMe coded like they reveal biological fact about the user's racial makeup? This episode, Short Wave Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber talks to anthropologist Agustín Fuentes about the limits of at-home genetic tests and how misinformation about race and biology can come into play. Using science at home to decode your life? Email us at shortwave@npr.org.
  • The COVID-19 public health emergency has ended, but millions across the globe continue to deal with Long COVID. Researchers are still pursuing basic questions about Long COVID — its causes, how to test for it and how it progresses. Today, we look at a group of researchers studying the blood of some Long COVID patients in the hopes of finding a biomarker that could let physicians test for the disease.Questions? Thread of scientific research you're loving? Email us at shortwave@npr.org — we'd love to hear about it!