Mining Digest 405 – Aug 23, 2019: Airport Security, Automation Impact on Jobs, Bacteria and Blood Pressure, Bad Decisionmaking, Blind Reading Systems, Bollywood, Brain Mapping, Bundyville, Cancer Protection in Elephants, College Costs, Cryptography’s Black Box, Deep Learning Help, Disabled Rights Activists, Drinking Straw Bans, Drug Smuggling Tunnel, Eggs Choose Sperm, Eugene Debs, Feynman Diagram Value, Gerrymandering Control, Hackerproof Code, Hair Styles, Health Care’s Response to a Retreat on Climate, Infant Brain Mapping, Interrobang, Medellin Transformation, Mexico City Sinking, Money in Movies, MOOC Impact, Natures Warning System, Nuclear Warfare, Oil Platform Reefs, Oklahoma City Founding, Orphan Drugs, Police Reality TV, Political Battles in the U.S., Puerto Rico Hurricane Recovery, Racism, Recycling Problem, Red Scare in U.S., Religion in America, Sand Supply Limits, School Censorship, Seed Vaults, Weather Control, Wildfire Resistant Homes

Exercise your ears: the 65 podcasts shown below present the best ideas, information and stories from a larger group of 431 for the week, to hear while your hands and eyes are busy. Get all the files as a group for the next four months here, or double (ctrl-click) individual  titles to get single podcasts and explore the source. A collection of (26,028) podcasts, listed alphabetically and grouped by topic, can be downloaded piecemeal, with files A-E at this link, and the remainder here. You’ll be limited to a 4GB maximum per download at the last place, so multiple group downloads will be needed to get all files, totaling over 160GB and may take a few hours. The first entry in the collection is a text file with just titles for quicker reference. A collection of abstracts for all the podcasts is available at this link and updated quarterly. Get the discarded material, too, using a podcast aggregator loaded with this opml file of the 503 sources. And try PodcastRE from the University of Wisconsin with over 150,000 titles. Exercise your ears and relax the rest.

Airport Security 66 mins – “A security guard at the airport notices something going wrong on the tarmac, and takes it upon herself to fix it. It’s way harder than she expects.”At the link you can listen and purchase a download; however, a copy of the podcast is included in this blog archive.

Airships 22 mins – “In the 1980s, a professor pitched blimps with dangling wires to zap ozone-eating chemicals over the South Pole. Back in the 70s, airships were supposed to help usher developing nations into the modern age, skipping over roads and railroad infrastructure. Before that, in the 50s and 60s, the idea of nuclear-powered airships was floated as a solution to energy and shipping needs. And in the 20s and 30s, they were set to fulfill the imperial ambitions of nations like Germany, Great Britain and the United States, facilitating global transportation. Of all those failed attempts to realize the full potential of airships, the rigid airships of that earliest era came the closest to changing the world. Unlike blimps, these rigid designs featured stable metal frameworks into which gas bags were inserted, like peas in a pod. A cloth cover was stretched over the frame to protect the interior. And because it wasn’t a pressure vessel, they could build spaces into the framework as well, like crew quarters, dining rooms and lounges. This rigid-structure approach allowed airships to travel faster than blimps, in part because blimps would deform due to wind. To clarify: it’s easy to get confused, but the term “dirigible” is just the French name for an airship, and Zeppelin was a German company that made airships (like: the Kleenex or Band-Aid of the airship world). But the proper term, as generic and boring as it sounds, is “airship.”The most promising (and most opulent) rigid airship of the 1920s era was Britain’s R101 (the R stands for rigid) and its rise and dramatic fall is the primary subject of engineering expert Bill Hammack’s new book about Britain’s last great airship, called: Fatal Flight….” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Algorithm Found for Huge Data Sets 15 mins – “It’s hard to measure water from a fire hose while it’s hitting you in the face. In a sense, that’s the challenge of analyzing streaming data, which comes at us in a torrent and never lets up. If you’re on Twitter watching tweets go by, you might like to declare a brief pause, so you can figure out what’s trending. That’s not feasible, though, so instead you need to find a way to tally hashtags on the fly. Computer programs that perform these kinds of on-the-go calculations are called streaming algorithms. Because data comes at them continuously, and in such volume, they try to record the essence of what they’ve seen while strategically forgetting the rest. For more than 30 years computer scientists have worked to build a better streaming algorithm. Last fall a team of researchers invented one that is just about perfect. “We developed a new algorithm that is simultaneously the best” on every performance dimension, said Jelani Nelson, a computer scientist at Harvard University and a co-author of the work with Kasper Green Larsen of Aarhus University in Denmark, Huy Nguyen of Northeastern University and Mikkel Thorup of the University of Copenhagen. This best-in-class streaming algorithm works by remembering just enough of what it’s seen to tell you what it’s seen most frequently. It suggests that compromises that seemed intrinsic to the analysis of streaming data are not actually necessary. It also points the way forward to a new era of strategic forgetting.” At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from a the pop-up menu.

Aluminum Emeco Chairs 27 mins – “As the U.S. war effort ramped up in the early 1940s, the Navy put out a request for chair design submissions. They needed a chair that was fireproof, waterproof, lightweight and strong enough to survive a torpedo blast. In response, an engineer named Wilton C. Dinges designed a chair made out of aluminum, bent and welded to be super strong. The chair was made to be relatively utilitarian, with an arched top and three slats coming down the back to meet a crossbar. A curved “butt divot” is one of its most distinctive elements. To show off the durability of his creation, Dinges took it up to the eighth floor of a hotel in Chicago, where the Navy was examining submissions, and threw it out of the window. It bounced, but didn’t bend or break. And so the Navy gave its inventor the contract, and he, in turn, opened a factory and called his new business the Electrical Machine and Equipment Company, or: Emeco….” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Amplify Education 37 mins – “In the education technology business, Larry Berger is considered—if not the smartest guy in the room, then certainly one of the wiser ones. With more than 20 years in the industry, Larry has seen the ups and downs, twists and turns. In 2000 he co-founded Wireless Generation, which pioneered the use of data, digital diagnostics and assessments to support students. It was bought in 2010 by News Corporation, which invested more than $1 billion into the company and rebranded it as Amplify. News Corp’s commitment proved to be a short-lived, however. The media giant sold Amplify to private investors five years later. Today, Larry Berger leads Amplify as its chief executive. The company is no longer as high-profile—or as big—as it once was. So what is Amplify today? What have the past years taught him, and where is the company going? EdSurge recently sat down with Berger for an update on what Amplify’s up to, along with his thoughts on how the curriculum business is evolving. He also talked about the challenges facing edtech companies today, including his skepticism towards what he calls an “engineering” model of personalized learning.” At the link left-click the “More” rectangle, select “Download,” and left-click it to get the podcast.

Automat History 35 mins – “…The inside of a Horn & Hardart automat looked like a glamorous, ornate cafeteria — but instead of a human handing you hot food over a counter, you would push your tray up to a wall of little glass cubbies. Each cubby housed a fresh, hot portion of food on a small plate. It could be anything from a savory side of peas or a turkey sandwich to a sweet slice of pie. You would simply put in some nickels, and then the door to that cubby would unlock and you could take the plate that was inside. The food was good but it was also really cheap….” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Automation Impact on Jobs 16 mins – “There is a lot of talk these days about robots replacing humans in the workforce, but those conversations remain largely abstract. For students in school today, however, the issue is urgent, research shows. What if the job they aspire to today is no longer an option when it comes time to graduate? How can they train for jobs that don’t even exist yet? On the other side of that equation are educators, who often draw from their own learning experiences in K-12 and higher education to inform their instruction. What responsibility do they have in preparing today’s students for a future none of them can really envision? EdSurge recently sat down with Karen Cator, the CEO of Digital Promise, to get her take. Cator is a former director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology who has been championing digital learning since long before the term “digital learning” was being thrown around—back when she was still a classroom teacher in Alaska. Of all the issues and trends in edtech these days, she says automation is one of the most pressing—and one that all educators should be thinking about.” At the link left-click the “More” rectangle, select “Download,” and left-click it to get the podcast.

Bacteria and Blood Pressure 9 mins – “Some years ago, when Jennifer Pluznick was nearing the end of her training in physiology and sensory systems, she was startled to discover something in the kidneys that seemed weirdly out of place. It was a smell receptor, a protein that would have looked more at home in the nose. Given that the kidneys filter waste into urine and maintain the right salt content in the blood, it was hard to see how a smell receptor could be useful there. Yet as she delved deeper into what the smell receptor was doing, Pluznick came to a surprising conclusion: The kidney receives messages from the gut microbiome, the symbiotic bacteria that live in the intestines.” At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Bad Decisionmaking 14 mins – “…One of Glimcher’s most important contributions, Daw said, has been figuring out how to quantify abstract notions such as value and study them in the lab. In a new working paper, Glimcher and his co-authors — Kenway Louie, also of NYU, and Ryan Webb of the University of Toronto — argue that their neuroscience-based model outperforms standard economic theory at explaining how people behave when faced with lots of choices. “The neural model, described in biology and tested in neurons, works well to describe something economists couldn’t explain,” Glimcher said. At the core of the model lies the brain’s insatiable appetite. The brain is the most metabolically expensive tissue in the body. It consumes 20 percent of our energy despite taking up only 2 to 3 percent of our mass. Because neurons are so energy-hungry, the brain is a battleground where precision and efficiency are opponents. Glimcher argues that the costs of boosting our decision-making precision outweigh the benefits. Thus we’re left to be confounded by the choices of the modern American cereal aisle. Glimcher’s proposal has attracted interest from both economists and neuroscientists, but not everyone is sold. “I think it’s exciting but at this point remains a hypothesis,” said Camillo Padoa-Schioppa, a neuroscientist at Washington University in St. Louis. Neuroeconomics is still a young field; scientists don’t even agree on what part of the brain makes decisions, let alone how. So far, Glimcher has shown that his theory works under specific conditions, like those of the candy bar experiment. He aims to expand that range, searching for other Freakonomics-esque mistakes and using them to test his model. “We are aiming for a grand unified theory of choice,” he said.” At the link click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu. ” At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Black Hole Formation 13 mins – “At a talk last month in Santa Barbara, California, addressing some of the world’s leading astrophysicists, Selma de Mink cut to the chase. “How did they form?” she began. They,” as everybody knew, were the two massive black holes that, more than 1 billion years ago and in a remote corner of the cosmos, spiraled together and merged, making waves in the fabric of space and time. These “gravitational waves” rippled outward and, on Sept. 14, 2015, swept past Earth, strumming the ultrasensitive detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). LIGO’s discovery, announced in February, triumphantly vindicated Albert Einstein’s 1916 prediction that gravitational waves exist. By tuning in to these tiny tremors in space-time and revealing for the first time the invisible activity of black holes — objects so dense that not even light can escape their gravitational pull — LIGO promised to open a new window on the universe, akin, some said, to when Galileo first pointed a telescope at the sky. Already, the new gravitational-wave data has shaken up the field of astrophysics. In response, three dozen experts spent two weeks in August sorting through the implications at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) in Santa Barbara.” At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Blind Reading Systems 44 mins – “…As sound recording became easier and more affordable, those people who’d become blind later in life had new options that would transform our ideas about what a “book” can be. Translating ink-print books into sound might seem more straightforward than building a tactile reading system. After all, books were born out of a few thousand years of people telling each other stories, and we all learn to read by having books read to us. But early efforts to make recordings of books for blind readers brought with them a new set of design challenges….” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Bollywood 37 mins – “…Bollywood is the Hindi-language film industry that comes out of Mumbai, India. It’s a portmanteau of “Bombay,” the former name of Mumbai where these films are produced, and “Hollywood.” Bollywood is often conflated with the Indian film industry as a whole, but really it’s just one very flamboyant slice of it. It’s usually packed with elaborate song and dance sequences, a fight between good and evil, a beautiful hero and heroine who end up happily ever after in the end….”..At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Brain Mapping 25 mins – “Mapping the Brain to Build Better Machines – A race to decipher the brain’s algorithms could revolutionize machine learning.” At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Bundyville 46 mins – ““Bundyville” is a deep dive into the politics and fringe religious beliefs that drive Cliven Bundy, his family and their followers. From prophecies and nuclear testing to white supremacists and radical plans to shrink public lands, “Bundyville” explains how one family has beaten the federal government twice — and why this battle has just begun.” [series of 9 episodes is here: https://www.npr.org/podcasts/606441988/bundyville] At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Cancer Protection in Elephants 10 mins – “Elephants did not evolve to become huge animals until after they turned a bit of genetic junk into a unique defense against inevitable tumors.” At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Cave Art, etc. 67 mins – “The Anthropocene is the current geological age, in which human activity has profoundly shaped the planet and its biodiversity. On The Anthropocene Reviewed, John Green rates different facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale. This week 99% Invisible is featuring two episodes of The Anthropocene Reviewed in which John Green dissects: pennies, the Piggly Wiggly grocery store chain, a 17,000-year-old cave painting, and the Taco Bell breakfast menu. Plus, Roman talks with John about the show, sports, and all the things we love now, but hated as teenagers.” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

College Costs 16 mins – “Loophole—or Fraud? How Far Parents Go to Save on College: Parents are Giving Up Custody of Their Kids to Get Need-Based College Financial Aid. That was a headline last week in ProPublica Illinois, and it got people talking once again about the madness around college admissions. In comments on the ProPublica article and in other online forums, though, plenty of people chimed in expressing sympathy for these Chicago-area parents, calling their move a clever solution to an overwhelming challenge facing their children. To these commenters, the real problem is the high cost of college and what they see as unfair rules around how much parents are expected to contribute.” At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Colors 48 mins – “Here at 99% Invisible, we think about color a lot, so it was really exciting when we came across a beautiful book called The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Claire. It’s this amazing collection of stories about different colors, the way they’ve been made through history, and the lengths to which people will go to get the brightest splash of color.”..At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Cartography’s Black Box 25 mins -”A two-year-old cryptographic breakthrough has proven difficult to put into practice. But new advances show how near-perfect computer security might be surprisingly close at hand….” At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Deep Learning Help 16 mins – “A new idea called the “information bottleneck” is helping to explain the puzzling success of today’s artificial-intelligence algorithms — and might also explain how human brains learn.” At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Devo Impact 36 mins – “It’s hard to overstate just how important record album art was to music in the days before people downloaded everything. Visuals were a key part of one’s experience with a record or tape or CD. The design of the album cover created a first impression of what was to come. Album art was certainly important to reporter Sean Cole, especially one particular album by one specific band: Devo. A lot of people dismiss Devo as a silly band, but they actually took themselves very seriously. In their early days they had this considered philosophy that the human race was in a state of de-evolution (hence: “devo”). A lot of their early songs were about corporate control and blind conformity. But the band members were actually visual artists first. And Jerry Casale, one of Devo’s founders, says that originally they were trying to figure out what devolutionary art would look like….”..At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Disabled Rights Activists 48 mins – “If you live in an American city and you don’t personally use a wheelchair, it’s easy to overlook the small ramp at most intersections, between the sidewalk and the street. Today, these curb cuts are everywhere, but fifty years ago — when an activist named Ed Roberts was young — most urban corners featured a sharp drop-off, making it difficult for him and other wheelchair users to get between blocks without assistance….” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Drinking Straw Bans 29 mins – “…The straw is officially part of the culture wars, and you might be thinking, “Gah, these contentious times we live in!” But the straw has always been dragged along by the currents of history, soaking up the era, shaping not its direction, but its texture….”..At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Drug Smuggling Tunnel 49 mins – “…In May of 1990, law enforcement raided Camarena’s warehouse in Douglas and his home in Agua Prieta. First, they entered the warehouse, where they discovered one entrance to the tunnel underneath what looked like a drainage grate. Then some of the agents headed over to Agua Prieta, where they were joined by the Mexican federal judicial police. They discovered that Camarena and his family had already fled. His house was empty. The agents went into a recreation room with a pool table in it. When they pulled up the carpet, they could see there was something unusual about the floor. It looked as if there was a separate concrete slab underneath the pool table, like an enormous trap door. The agents searched for a secret button or lever that might open it. Then someone turned a water spigot outside the recreation room — and the pool table rose up to the ceiling on huge hydraulic lifts, revealing the entrance to the tunnel below…. The tunnel was located about 30 feet underground. Once agents hit the bottom, there was a passageway about 270 feet long, four feet wide, and five feet high — just tall enough for a person to walk through, slightly stooped, pushing a wheeled cart full of bundles of cocaine. The tunnel had concrete walls and a curved concrete roof. There was a ventilation system and rudimentary lighting. This was clearly a sophisticated engineering project. “Just the complexity to this whole tunnel was something that had been unseen before,” says U.S. Customs agent Terry Kirkpatrick, who was there the night of the raid and helped with the subsequent investigation. ‘And no one, I think, in the United States government — especially in law enforcement –realized anything like this ever existed.’…”..At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Education Future 30 mins – “Humans living in abject poverty are warring over the few of resources they have left. There’s an energy crisis, and fossil fuels are in low supply. The weather has gone to extremes. This is the setting of Ernest Cline’s science-fiction novel, Ready Player One, where human civilization is in decline, and life in virtual reality beats any day in the real world. This page-turning novel (which is being turned into a film by Steven Spielberg) follows a geeky protagonist named Wade Watts as he undertakes a mission to win billions by finding an egg hidden inside a virtual video-game universe called the OASIS. Among the many rich themes explored in the story is education, painting a picture that could provide lessons for how teachers and school leaders design for education today. EdSurge sat down with two interesting educators who are working to merge ideas from science fiction novels with our reality: Amanda Licastro, an assistant professor of digital rhetoric at Stevenson University, in Maryland. She encourages students to draw from science fiction in the writing courses she teaches and has entire assignments built around Cline’s novel. Sophia Brueckner, a former Google engineer, and artist who currently works as an assistant professor at Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Her work teaching engineering students to prototype from science fiction has been featured on NPR, WIRED, the Atlantic and a few other publications.” At the link left-click the “More” rectangle, select “Download,” and left-click it to get the podcast.

Eggs Choose Sperm 16 mins – “In the winner-takes-all game of fertilization, millions of sperm race toward the egg that’s waiting at the finish line. Plenty of sperm don’t even make it off the starting line, thanks to missing or deformed tails and other defects. Still others lack the energy to finish the long journey through the female reproductive tract, or they get snared in sticky fluid meant to impede all but the strongest swimmers. For the subset of a subset of spermatozoa that reach their trophy, the final winner would be determined by one last sprint to the end. The exact identity of the sperm was random, and the egg waited passively until the Michael Phelps of gametes finally arrived. Or so scientists have thought. Joe Nadeau, principal scientist at the Pacific Northwest Research Institute, is challenging this dogma. Random fertilization should lead to specific ratios of gene combinations in offspring, but Nadeau has found two examples just from his own lab that indicate fertilization can be far from random: Certain pairings of gamete genes are much more likely than others. After ruling out obvious alternative explanations, he could only conclude that fertilization wasn’t random at all.” At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Eugene Debs 60 mins – “More candidates for political office in America today identify themselves as socialists than ever before. But isn’t the idea of socialism anathema to American values of free enterprise and entrepreneurism? BackStory reveals the rich history of socialism in the USA.” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Feynman Diagram Value 13 mins – “How Feynman Diagrams Almost Saved Space – Richard Feynman’s famous diagrams embody a deep shift in thinking about how the universe is put together.” At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Gerrymandering Control 17 mins – “Powerful new quantitative tools are now available to combat partisan bias in the drawing of voting districts.” At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.”

Growing Up 62 mins – “Host Ira talks with comedian Gary Gulman about his transformation from high school nobody to football star. (8 minutes) [then] Gary puts on a tough guy costume, but will it turn him into a tough guy? Ira continues Gary Gulman’s story. (17 minutes) [then] Eleanor Gordon-Smith tells the story of a woman who wants to know why she was taken away from her mom as a kid. A version of this story is in Eleanor’s book Stop Being Reasonable: How We Really Change Our Minds.” At the link you can listen, but not download; however, a copy of the podcast is included in this blog archive.

Hacker Proof Code 16 mins – “Computer scientists can prove certain programs to be error-free with the same certainty that mathematicians prove theorems. The advances are being used to secure everything from unmanned drones to the internet.” At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Hair Styles 26 mins – “…Andre Walker says he just wanted to create a variety of products for different kinds of hair. It was not his intention to create any kind of hierarchy. He explains that lower numbers being straighter isn’t mean to imply they are better, it’s just a measure of texture from low to high. Nonetheless, this shows just how sensitive the topic is — that something as simple as a numbering system could cause so much controversy. There is so much racism and colorism and years of painful history tangled up in the question of hair that it inevitably becomes deeply personal….” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Health Care’s Response to a Retreat on Climate 12 mins- “…while scientists tell us we have little time to wait if we hope to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change, leaders in Washington, D.C., are attacking science and rolling back Obama-era rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as detailed by the Harvard Law School Environmental and Energy Law Program (https://eelp.law.harvard.edu/epa-mission-tracker. opens in new tab). The EPA is now working to weaken fuel-efficiency standards for cars, relax rules on methane emissions, stop regulating mercury emissions, and implement other changes related to power plants that all lead to increased air pollution. Such efforts deprecate climate science and advance the interests of the fossil-fuel industries while exacerbating harm to human health….” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Infant Brain Growth 11 mins – “Is the brain a blank slate, or is it wired from birth to understand the world? An ambitious new study put infants into an MRI machine to reveal a neural organization similar to that of adults.” At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Interrobang 34 mins -”In the beginning was the word, and the word was … well, actually, there was just one word … one long, endless word. For thousands of years, in some written languages, there was no space between words. People were expected figure out sentences and clauses while reading aloud. Scriptio continua was the dominant form of writing for the Greeks and the Romans. Sometimes, this never-ending string of letters would execute what was called an ox-turn, first reading left to right, then switching to read back from right to left. In the 3rd century BCE, a librarian in Alexandria named Aristophanes introduced the idea of putting in dots to indicate pauses, like stage directions for people performing texts out loud. Dots of ink at the bottom, middle, or top of a given line served as subordinate, intermediate and full points, corresponding to pauses of increasing length. Aristophanes’ system became the basis for Western punctuation. A partial thought — followed by the shortest pause — was called a comma. A fuller thought was called a kolon.  And a complete thought — followed by the longest pause — was called a periodos.  These rhetorical units eventually lent their names to the comma, colon and period we know today….There have, however, been attempts to expand this typographical toolkit, and include other end marks. One such example has made it into dictionaries: the interrobang (‽).” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Korean Plastic Surgery 28 mins – “…a procedure called blepharoplasty. For people who are not of East or Southeast Asian descent, blepharoplasty is usually done to lift loose or sagging skin around the upper eyelids caused by aging. But for a lot of people of Asian descent, this surgery is not strictly about aging and more commonly referred to as “double eyelid” surgery…”..At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Las Vegas Architecture 36 mins – “To this day, architects tend to turn their noses up at Las Vegas, or simply dismiss it as irrelevant to serious design theory.  “From an architecture perspective, its a city that’s known for neon, a city known for kitsch,” explains Stefan Al, a practicing architect and author of the book The Strip: Las Vegas and the architecture of the American Dream.  “It’s exactly the opposite of what conventionally trained architects would like.” At the same time, it’s hard to argue with the fact that people love Las Vegas. The stretch of highway attracts tens of millions of visitors a year, often more than famous urban destinations like Paris. Flanked by casinos, the strip technically sits outside of the city limits, and is thus unaffected by Las Vegas zoning laws. This legal flexibility allows the strip to change and build new structures almost every decade. Old casinos are imploded to make way for newer, more profitable ones, perpetually redesigned to attract new tourists with each new iteration. The Strip is designed and redesigned, over and over again, for its visitors….” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Medellin Transformation 38 mins – “In the 1980s, Pablo Escobar, the notorious  drug lord, had effectively declared war on the Colombian state. At one point, his cartel was supplying 80% of the world’s cocaine and the violence surrounding the drug trade had become extreme. The bloodshed was focused in the city of Medellin. As the years went on, Medellin became the most dangerous city in the world. In 1991 alone, around 6,000 people were killed. The murder rate was almost 400 people per 100,000 residents, which is three or four times more than the world’s most violent cities in recent history. But today, Medellin is very different. In just thirty years, it’s transformed from being the bloody cocaine capital of the world into a place that’s often described as a “model city.” It’s now safer than many cities in the U.S, and, to the surprise of many, one of the things that helped to pull the city out of the violence was a whole new approach to urban planning, including a major overhaul of the city’s public transportation system….” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Mexico City Sinking 40 mins – “…Mexico City still has major flooding issues to this day, but it also faces a seemingly paradoxical problem: it’s running out of water. All of the infrastructure aimed at draining the rainwater from the basin works against efforts to retain water for human consumption. Today, many neighborhoods in Mexico City don’t have reliable running water — and when the rainy season comes, those same neighborhoods get far too much water all at once….” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Mobile Homes 31 mins – “…Mobile homes don’t get a lot of love in our culture, despite being a key source of affordable housing stock in the United States. Throughout the 1990s, 66% of new affordable housing built was mobile homes. Shirline, a divorcee with grown children, bought her place in 1994, and was excited to buy a home of her own rather than paying rent. But when you buy a manufactured home, the structure itself is only half of the equation. Then you need to find a place to put it. And Shirlene found what seemed like the perfect spot. A small, quiet mobile home park with an empty lot…” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Money in Movies 21 mins – “There’s a scene in the buddy cop movie Rush Hour 2, starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, that takes place in a crowded Las Vegas casino. After some tense action, a small bomb goes off near one of the roulette tables and money flies everywhere. A company named ISS Props had provided the money for that scene (and several others) to the filmmakers. The fake money amounted to nearly a billion dollars in fake bills — and the company was surprised when one day, during the filming, two men from the Secret Service showed up to their office. The Secret Service was there because some of the fake cash had gone missing from the set and had started turning up on the Las Vegas strip. CEO of ISS Props, Gregg Bilson Jr., was now facing a serious charge: counterfeiting. The U.S. has strict penalties for counterfeiting that can be traced back to the 1860s. Around the time of the Civil War, there was a lot of counterfeit money circulating through the country. The federal government needed to assure faith in its currency, so it got serious about cracking down on counterfeit bills. All reproductions of U.S currency became illegal, including photographs of money. In 1865, a new enforcement agency was formed to help deal with the counterfeiting problem: the Secret Service. That agency is now part of the Department of Homeland Security and is generally associated with protecting leaders and their families. But in the beginning, they were part of the Treasury Department, and their only job was to fight counterfeiting. The ban on any photographic representation of money was in place for about a century, and this created a problem for people who worked in visual media, which came to include film. In the early days of cinema, when money was needed in a film, producers often used Mexican pesos. After the Mexican revolution ended (around 1920), a bunch of regional Mexican money that had been created during the revolution lost value and was sold for cheap….” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

MOOC Impact 21 mins – “MOOCs started in around 2011 when a few Stanford professors put their courses online and made them available to anyone who wanted to take them. The crowds who showed up were, well, massive. We’re talking 160,000 people signing up to study advanced tech topics like data science.The New York Times later declared 2012 as the ‘year of the MOOC,’ and columnists said the virtual courses would bring a revolution. But in the rush of public interest that followed, skeptics wondered whether online courses could help fix the cost crisis of higher education. Was this the answer to one of the nation’s toughest problems? The answer, it turns out, is, no. Actually these days you don’t hear much about MOOCs at all. In the national press there’s almost a MOOC amnesia. It’s like it never happened. But these courses are still around, and they’ve quietly evolved. Dhawal Shah, founder and CEO of Class Central, has been tracking MOOCs closely and steadily ever since he was a student in one of those first Stanford open courses. Shah is our podcast guest this week, and he argues that MOOCs are having an impact, but mainly for people who are enrolling in MOOC-based degrees, where they can get a credential that can help them in their careers without having to go back to a campus. Of course, that’s a very different outcome than the free education for the underserved that was originally promised.” At the link left-click the “More” rectangle, select “Download,” and left-click it to get the podcast.

Nature’s Warning System 34 mins – “Nestled in the northern Wisconsin woods, Peter Lake once brimmed with golden shiners, fatheads and other minnows, which plucked algae-eating fleas from the murky water. Then, seven years ago, a crew of ecologists began stepping up the lake’s population of predatory largemouth bass. To the 39 bass already present, they added 12, then 15 more a year later, and another 15 a month after that. The bass hunted down the minnows and drove survivors to the rocky shoreline, which gave fleas free rein to multiply and pick the water clean. Meanwhile, bass hatchlings — formerly gobbled up by the minnows — flourished, and in 2010, the bass population exploded to more than 1,000. The original algae-laced, minnow-dominated ecosystem was gone, and the reign of bass in clear water began. Today, largemouth bass still swim rampant. “Once that top predator is dominant, it’s very hard to dislodge,” said Stephen Carpenter, an ecologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who led the experiment. “You could do it, but it’s gonna cost you.” The Peter Lake experiment demonstrated a well-known problem with complex systems: They are sensitive beasts. Just as when the Earth periodically plunges into an ice age, or when grasslands turn to desert, fisheries suddenly collapse, or a person slumps into a deep depression, systems can drift toward an invisible edge, where only a small change is needed to touch off a dramatic and often disastrous transformation. But systems that exhibit such “critical transitions” tend to be so complicated and riddled with feedback loops that experts cannot hope to calculate in advance where their tipping points lie — or how much additional tampering they can withstand before snapping irrevocably into a new state….” At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Nuclear Warfare 37 mins – “…Before the ABCC [AtomBombCasualtyCommission] researchers arrived, the physicists who had developed the bomb had assumed that they wouldn’t be finding survivors anywhere close to ground zero (or: hypocenter). Yet within just a few blocks of the hypocenter people who had been in the basement of a large concrete building had survived. And further out, researchers discovered that people who had taken cover (even momentarily) survived and actually seemed healthy. According to one account, a group of children who were diving off a cliff into a lake all got sick, except for the one who happened to be underwater. People who stood behind trees were also more likely to live longer. There were various sources of radiation to be avoided, but what mattered most was being shielded at the moment of the blast. And during the blastwave that followed, it was the people who were standing up who were most likely to be killed by shattering windows and falling debris. People who had been lying down when the blast wave hit, much more often … survived. The lesson seemed clear: in the event of an atomic bomb, if you could stay low and stay shielded (ducked and covered) you could be OK….”..At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Oil Platform Reefs 37 mins – “…Research biologist Milton Love works at the Marine Science Institute University of California, Santa Barbara. He grew up fishing on the beaches and piers of Santa Monica and studied biology at UCSB, eventually ending up back at his alma mater where he started up his own research lab — the Love Lab. Back in his twenties, Love used to collect fish for a local aquarium. One day he and his partner took their little Boston Whaler out to the oil platforms and started fishing around them. They caught a lot of fish, which made Love wonder about the role the platforms might be playing as habitat for marine life….In the 90s Love received funding from the federal government to try and answer that question.  So he got a team together, rented a small submarine, and began to study the platforms. He took a submersible all the way to the bottom, where the pylons reached the seabed. And he was blown away by the amount of fish he found. There were schools of adult rockfish swirling around the base of the platform. As he started making his way up the structure he saw a lot of juvenile fish as well. Plus, the metal of the rigs themselves was covered with all kinds of invertebrates — sea stars, muscles, sponges — and little crabs walking all over the struts…Oil platforms are particularly popular structures with fish in part because of these surfaces and niches, but also because they extend hundreds of feet through the water column like a marine skyscraper. So they provide homes for fish living at different depths — younger fish tend to live higher up the platform, for instance….Milton Love, for one, doesn’t think we should be doing any new offshore drilling — he would much rather see us push on to entirely renewable energy sources. And his research doesn’t mean that the oil industry is benevolent or that oil infrastructure is good for wildlife in general. It just means that in a few instances off the Southern California coast there are oil platforms that have become a useful habitat for a few species of fish….” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Oklahoma City Founding 33 mins – “The area that is now Oklahoma was once a place called Indian Territory. Beginning in the 1800s, the U.S. government designated the land in the Great Plains as a place where it could force indigenous peoples in order to make room for American settlers as they pushed west. All of the routes on the Trail of Tears led to what became Oklahoma. During the Civil War, some of the tribes based in Indian Territory made alliances with the South rather than the North. These tribes had roots in Southern states like Georgia and Florida, and they owned slaves and grew cotton. After the war, the U.S. government penalized the tribes that had aligned with the Confederacy, forcing them off their land in Indian Territory. This left an area of roughly 2 million acres — about half the size of Connecticut — suddenly empty. This patch of Indian Territory became known as the Unassigned Lands. The Unassigned Lands would become a source of fascination for settlers in the surrounding areas, which Sam Anderson chronicles in his book Boom Town. The book explores the history of Oklahoma City — now located in the middle of what used to be the Unassigned Lands — from its bizarre founding to the present day.”..At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Onate’s Foot 46 mins – “On January 7th, 1998, an envelope landed on the desk of Larry Calloway, a columnist with the Albuquerque Journal. Inside the envelope were some typewritten pages and a polaroid photo of a bronze Spanish riding boot. The note hinted that the bronze foot came from an equestrian statue of Juan de Oñate — part of a monument on the side of a rural highway near where Oñate founded the first Spanish colony in New Mexico way back in 1598. Calloway figured this was probably a hoax, so he handed the tip off to the newsroom to check it out. But when a reporter called up the visitor center at the Oñate monument, they discovered that, sure enough: the foot was missing….”..At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Orphan Drugs 30 mins – “Abbey Meyers’ first son, David, was born in 1968. By the time David was two, Abbey noticed something was different about him. David’s face would twitch. He sometimes made involuntary noises. His arms flailed around out of control, so he could barely feed himself. Other kids would make fun of him and David’s teachers often got upset with him in class. “You can imagine the torture he went through,” says Abbey, recalling David’s childhood. Doctors were puzzled by David’s symptoms and his condition seemed completely mysterious, until one Sunday morning,  when Abbey happened to catch an article in the paper about Tourette syndrome. At the time, many doctors were not familiar with the disease. Not much was known about it. Meyers found a specialist who said there was a possible treatment for Tourette’s. It was a drug that was going to be marketed for schizophrenia, but had been used in Europe for treating Tourette’s. David got in on a clinical trial to possibly bring this drug to the United States, and it worked really well for him. However, the drug didn’t test as well for treating schizophrenia, which was supposed to be its more common use. Since so little was known about Tourette’s, the drug company decided the market for Tourette syndrome  wasn’t big enough and they just dropped the drug entirely. They wouldn’t make the drug. They wouldn’t sell it. This is how Abbey Meyers learned a term would define the next few decades of her life: “orphan drugs.” Meyers learned the hard way: drug companies weren’t interested in developing treatments for rare conditions. The big money was in drugs with lots of customers, like blood-pressure medications. They didn’t know how common or uncommon Tourette’s was, and they didn’t think selling a drug for it would be lucrative. Therefore, promising treatments, like the one that had been working for David, became “orphan drugs,” with no pharmaceutical company to raise them. So Meyers joined the Tourette Syndrome Association and decided she could help by lobbying and spreading awareness about this solution that was just out of reach. By June of 1980, Meyers and her allies were able to get a California Congressman to hold a hearing about the problem of orphan drugs. This was their big chance to finally have a national audience and put pharmaceutical companies on the spot. Unfortunately, nobody from the pharmaceutical industry showed up. Hardly any elected representatives showed up either. “Nobody was there except in the very, very last row in the room,” says Meyers, “a young man was sitting there and I had no idea who he was.” This young man turned out to be a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and he published a very short story article buried in the middle of the paper where nobody was likely to read it. Except somebody did.”..At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Police Reality TV 62 mins – “What it’s like to be momentarily big on the small screen. Prologue By Ira Glass – Ira follows Yankee Stadium cameraman Eric Capstick as he puts fans on the Jumbotron. (5 minutes) Act OneAnything You Say Can And Will Be Used…on Television By Dan Taberski – Dan Taberski takes us into the world of the TV shows Cops and Live PD. And talks to people about what it’s like to be caught by the police and caught on camera at the same time. Dan is the host of the podcast “Running from COPS,” from Pineapple Street Media and Topic Studios. (31 minutes) Act Two Born to Play the Part By Bim Adewunmi – One of our producers Bim Adewunmi explains her obsession with a certain baby on television. (6 minutes) Act Three Lna with an N By Lina Misitzis – Producer Lina Misitzis revisits a moment in a TV special that’s stuck with her for over twenty years. (11 minutes)” At the link you can listen and purchase a download; however, a copy of the podcast is included in this blog archive.

Political Battles in U.S. 49 mins – “After accusations that he mischaracterized the Mueller investigation’s findings, Attorney General William Barr blames the media for muddling the story. This week, On the Media dissects Barr’s deflections. And, how a Jewish satirist uses grotesque caricatures to cut to the heart of the discourse on antisemitism and why effectively combating hate requires building coalitions. Plus, how ABC’s The View became one of the biggest political stages on television.” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Puerto Rico Hurricane Recovery 36 mins – “Early on the morning of September 20th, 2017, a category four hurricane named Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico. It was a beast of a hurricane — the strongest one to hit the island since 1932. Wind speeds hit 155 miles per hour, making it almost a category five. Daniel Alarcón went down to Puerto Rico to report on the aftermath of the storm. He wrote a piece for Wired about the almost year-long struggle to get power working on the island, and the utility worker who became a Puerto Rican folk hero….”..At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Puerto Rico School Closings 4 mins – “Parents and teachers have argued that Puerto Rico’s plan to close 265 public schools did not consider the impact those closures would have on individual communities. A judge has agreed, throwing a wrench in the government’s plans.” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Racism 59 mins – “Stories about people who accidentally bump into unsettling facts of history in settings meant to teach them history. What they end up learning is very different from what they’re supposed to. Host Ira Glass talks to senior producer Brian Reed about encountering an intriguing plaque in Alabama. (7 minutes) [then] Professor Kathryn Braund at Auburn University unearthed the original source for the speech mentioned in this story and helped us trace the origins of the historical marker in Tuscaloosa. [then] The Miseducation of Castlemont High By B.A. Parker – A bunch of high school students gets taken to see a movie that’s supposed to teach them about history. But they end up learning about a lot of other stuff instead. Producer B.A. Parker tells the story. (38 minutes) [then] Exit Through The Gift Shop By Steve Kandell – Steve Kandell goes through the bizarre experience of being a guest in a giant, multi-million dollar museum dedicated exclusively to the worst day of his life. He wrote about it for BuzzFeed back in 2014.”At the link you can listen and purchase a download; however, a copy of the podcast is included in this blog archive.

Radio Contests 31 mins- “The year was 1982, and in the small city of Allentown on the eastern edge of Pennsylvania sat an AM radio station called WSAN. For years, it had broadcast country music to the surrounding Lehigh Valley — an area known for malls, manufacturing and Mack Trucks. WSAN was about to undergo a complete identity change, from a country station and to a “nostalgia” station — meaning Big Band, and soft hits from the 1950s. They wanted a gimmick to hook new listeners, so WSAN decided to launch a good old-fashioned endurance contest, reminiscent of the pole sitting stunts or dance marathons popular in the 1920s. They secured a local sponsor, Love Homes, to donate a prize: a single-wide modular home worth $18,000. For the contest, three people would ascend 30 feet up a ladder to a platform running under a WSAN billboard. Whoever stayed up the longest would walk away with the new home. They called it the “You’ll Love To Live With Us” contest. It seemed like a simple marketing strategy, but WSAN had grossly underestimated just how much people would endure for a little economic security.”..At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Recycling Problem 44 mins – “Where does your recycling go? In most places in the U.S., you throw it in a bin, and then it gets carted off to be sorted and cleaned at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). From there, much of it is shipped off to mills, where bales of paper, glass, aluminum, and plastic are pulped or melted into raw materials. Some of these mills are here in the U.S. And once upon a time, many of them were in China. Since 2001, China was one of the biggest buyers of American recycling.  That is, until last year, when China pulled a move that no one saw coming: they stopped buying….”..At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Red Scare in U.S. 33 mins – “On March 12, 1952, Elliott Maraniss appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee in Detroit after being named by an FBI informant. He lost his job and for the next five years the family bounced from one city to the next as Elliott looked for work. Just a small child when that happened, David Maraniss grew up knowing little about his father’s communist past. His new book “A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father” explores this history– and why the story has important lessons for the country today….” At the link you can listen, but not download; however, a copy of the podcast is included in the this blog archive.

Religion in America 24 mins – “The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment forms the basis for the separation of church and state: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Yet, throughout American history, this principle hasn’t stopped Americans from using religious differences to draw boundaries around who is and isn’t American. Joanne digs into the BackStory archives to bring you a selection of segments that look at religious identity in America and how faiths, cultures and rituals adapted to American life.” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Sand Supply Limits 43 mins – “Sand is so tiny and ubiquitous that it’s easy to take for granted. But in his book The World in a Grain, author Vince Beiser traces the history of sand, exploring how it fundamentally shaped the world as we know it. “Sand is actually the most important solid substance on Earth,” he argues. “It’s the literal foundation of modern civilization.” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

School Censorship 23 mins – “It’s not unheard of for an instructor to tee up a YouTube video for a lesson, only to have the content blocked by the school or district’s censorware. And while administrators might have good intentions when they decide to use censorware, censorship is often only effective for those who play by the rules. It’s one reason why writer and activist Cory Doctorow thinks schools and educators should rethink their approach to surveillance and censorship. In science fiction novels like “Little Brother,” he has explored the implications of mass surveillance, and on the popular blog Boing Boing, he has written on topics such as net neutrality, open access and user privacy. EdSurge recently sat down with Doctorow in San Jose, Calif. at Worldcon, a science fiction convention, to get his take on everything from surveillance in K-12 schools to open access publishing in higher education.” At the link you can listen, but not download; however, a copy of the podcast is included in this blog archive.

Sears Homes 34 mins – “The Sears & Roebuck Mail Order Catalog was nearly omnipresent in early 20th century American life. By 1908, one fifth of Americans were subscribers. Anyone anywhere in the country could order a copy for free, look through it, and then have anything their heart desired delivered directly to their doorstep. At its peak, the Sears catalog offered over 100,000 items on 1,400 pages. It weighed four pounds. Today, those 1,400 pages provide us with a snapshot of American life in the first decade of the 20th century, from sheep-shearing machines and cream separators to telephones and china cabinets. The Sears catalog tells the tale of a world — itemized. And starting in 1908, the company that offered America everything began offering what just might be its most audacious product line ever: houses….”..At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Seed Vaults 30 mins – “Svalbard is a remote Norwegian archipelago with reindeer, Arctic foxes and only around 2,500 humans — but it is also home to a vault containing seeds for virtually every edible plant one can imagine. The mountainside Crop Trust facility has thousands of varieties of corn, rice and more, serving as a seed backup for humanity. For each crop, there’s an envelope with 500 seeds….” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Singapore Construction Problems 36 mins – “…When planning for a growing population, most urban planners expand their cities outward, but in land-limited Singapore, that’s not an option. Today, Singapore’s tallest public housing buildings are 50 stories high –the tallest in the world. Today, Singapore is the third richest nation in the world, and 80% of Singaporeans still live in these tall, cement HDB flats and there are about 10,000 public housing buildings on the island. It’s not the glitzy, futuristic Singapore skyline you see in movies like Crazy Rich Asians. Much of the island is full of tall cement buildings with housing block numbers, painted boldly down the sides, which help Singaporeans locate themselves in the monotonous sea of nearly identical buildings. And new flats are going up all the time….” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Walking in Great Britain 30 mins – “…In the United Kingdom, the freedom to walk through private land is known as “the right to roam.” The movement to win this right was started in the 1930s by a rebellious group of young people who called themselves “ramblers” and spent their days working in the factories of Manchester, England. Manchester was a dirty, grimy industrial town in the 1930s, but close to a beautiful area known as the Peak District. However, this open countryside was closed to the workers of Manchester at the time. It hadn’t always been this way. For hundreds of years, an idea of “the commons” had existed in England. From about the 5th to the 15th century, kings and lords controlled all the land but peasants had rights to live on it and use it in exchange for various type of service….” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Weather Control 30 mins – “…The “Storm That Saved Washington” was just one of countless times that weather played a crucial factor in war. Napoleon’s army wasn’t defeated by Russian forces so much as by a Russian winter. And during WWII, General Patton famously distributed 250,000 prayer cards to the army to enlist as many men as possible to pray for an end to the rain. The battlefield has always been at the mercy of the climate, but there was a time in U.S. military history when we did more than just pray for advantageous weather. We tried to create it….” At the link right-click “Download” and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Wildfire Resistant Homes 32 mins – “Jack Cohen was a few years out of graduate school, and a recent transplant to California at the time of the fire. He was working as a research scientist for the Forest Service, studying fire behavior, and he was interested in how the Panorama fire had destroyed so many homes — especially when there was such a robust firefighting response…. But of course, Cohen knew that radiant heat and flames weren’t the only threats to a house. There were also the embers. He frequently found himself standing next to houses reduced to ash with green trees sitting right next to them. It was a telltale sign that the fire front never even reached the home, but the embers had. So, he did experiments to see exactly how the embers were setting houses on fire, and he discovered embers like to collect in lots of places — like in the corners of wood deck, and in gutters full of pine needles, and in attics with open vents. The more Cohen thought about it, the more he came to believe that most ember fires could be stopped with some simple design solutions. He started by drawing a buffer, based on a conservative interpretation of those Canadian fire experiments. He called it the “home ignition zone.” The home ignition zone is limited to the house and its immediate surroundings out to about a hundred feet. Home Ignition Zone guide….Cohen also came up with a long list of suggestions for preventing ember fires on the house itself, from the big and obvious ones, like replacing your flammable wood roof, to the smaller and less obvious, like making sure your garage door has a tight seal with the concrete and removing decorative juniper trees, which are extremely flammable….Cohen’s experiments also showed that when those changes were made, a house was much less likely to burn. In fact, he showed that was the main factor in whether a house was going to burn. It wasn’t about the intensity of the wildfire or its size — it was really about what was happening within 100 feet of your home…Cohen thought he had come up with a way to save houses and to let fires burn naturally — he thought it was a win-win. And so in 1999, he presented a paper about his findings at a fire conference in front of people from the Forest Service and state fire agencies. These were people who were in a position to change policies. But Cohen says they were totally uninterested. Cohen’s research implied that basically everything about how the Forest Service dealt with wildfires was wrong….But she says there’s only so much the Forest Service can do to encourage people to make changes — a lot of that work falls to local governments and individual homeowners. And even today, not everyone is convinced that it’s important to invest in the kinds of preparations that Cohen recommends….But when communities put the principles Cohen articulated into practice, they work. There are several communities in Southern California built with wildfires in mind that have survived when nearby homes didn’t. But those homes are mostly custom designs in gated communities, with homeowners associations that enforce strict rules about vegetation clearing and home design. Making changes elsewhere is more complicated — for starters, many homeowners may not even have 100 feet of space to clear and fireproof. It’s expensive to replace your roof. For renters, they may not have the authority to make changes to their homes. And in many cases, there aren’t incentives for people to invest….Cohen retired from the Forest Service a few years ago, feeling like all his research hasn’t made much of a difference in the end. When he’s watching the news — especially coverage of the past few destructive fire seasons in California — he’s noticed there isn’t a lot of talk about making homes more fire resistant or clearing more defensible space. Instead, there’s a lot of talk about firefighting.”..At the link right-click the down-pointing arrow and select “Save Link As” from the pop-up menu.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

About virginiajim

Retired knowledge nut.
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