Fireflies, a type of beetle that has been around for millions of years, first started to glow as larvae. Now, the adults of many types of fireflies use their lights to warn off predators and attract mates. (photo by Paul Zahl/National Geographic)
Every week, embark with host Boyd Matson on an exploration of the latest discoveries and interviews with some of the most fascinating people on the planet, on National Geographic Weekend.
Please check listings near you to find the best way to listen to National Geographic Weekend on radio, or listen below!
– When a close family friend of Jack Andraka
‘s passed away from pancreatic cancer, he turned from an intelligent teenager who created explosions in his family’s garage, to a focused biological innovator. Current pancreatic cancer tests leave little to be desired: 85% of pancreatic cancers are detected when there is less than a 2% chance of survival. But Andraka, with the help of labs and professorial oversight at Johns Hopkins, has developed a test that is much more accurate and costs only cents. And, not one to rest, while his cancer detection system is going through its clinical trials, he has also detected a cheap, accurate water purification system that can be used while camping or in the developing world.Listen here.
– Arctic exploration has always been difficult. But regular visitor to the planet’s poles, adventurer Borge Ousland
, explains that it’s only getting tougher. As the world continues to warm, changing out of wet clothes after spontaneous swims has become part of his expedition preparations. He also drags tires for miles on end, starting a year in advance, to ensure he’s in tip-top shape. Of course, Ousland says that the poles are plenty covered in ice in the winter, but it’s dark all the time and often too cold to sleep. But over time, Ousland says that the painful parts of polar exploration are the first to be forgotten, and later he focuses on the beauty and closeness with nature. Listen here.
– Cheetahs are often grouped casually grouped with Africa’s other big cats, but the fleet felines aren’t as similar to lions and leopards as one might assume. When confronted, the shy cats tend to fly, rather than fight, which partially contributes to their offspring having such high infant mortality rates. Photographer Suzi Eszterhas
followed a mother with a litter of five cubs for her new book, A Future for Cheetahs
, which was written by Dr. Laurie Marker. All five of the cubs that she spent months photographing and following died to regular predation. Despite the cat’s long odds, Eszterhas is optimistic they can stay a few steps ahead of extinction. Listen here.
– Fireflies are magnanimous insects. They initially developed the lights that helped earn them their popular nickname out of concern for nighttime predators’ diets – a warning that says “don’t eat me, I taste bad.” At least, that’s how Tufts biologist and firefly expert Sara Lewis
explains it. She also says that the firefly is actually one of 2,000 related beetles that use their lights for a wide variety of reasons, in a broad array of ways; some only have lights when they’re larvae, others use it as a warning symbol, and many use their lights to identify potential mates. Lewis is currently writing a book about fireflies, slated for publication in 2015 titled Silent Sparks. Listen here.
– In our This Weekend in History
segment, National Geographic Library research manager Maggie Turqman
brings us significant events from July 25-27 over the years, including: the first healthy test-tube baby born in 1978, a tragic plane crash in 2000, the birth of the American Postal Service and much more.Listen here.
– Snakes, spiders and scorpions are often reviled as dangerous, scary creatures. But National Geographic Emerging Explorer
and head of the World Toxin Bank Zoltan Takacs
sees the possibility in their poisons. Takacs explains to Boyd that the carpet viper is the leading cause of snake deaths in Africa, but it’s also used as a popular anticoagulant that helps those who suffer heart attacks recover in hospitals. Other venoms treat rheumatoid arthritis. Takacs’ experience with venom is hard earned: he caught his first snake when he was four; he tells the story of the first time he performed emergency “surgery” on a friend who was bitten by a venomous snake.Listen here.
– One of the most common fears for a more populous future world involves food: “How will we feed the planet?” Some are looking to a surprising place: Africa. Joel Bourne
, who wrote “The Next Breadbasket,” in the July 2014 issue of National Geographic, explains that the soil there is good, but the infrastructure around the continent currently isn’t developed enough to support farms and the markets to move the crops from rural regions, to urban centers and abroad to other hungry countries around the planet. But companies from around the world are currently buying land around Africa in hopes that they can help develop the continent for mass food production.Listen here.
– In honor of the American pastime of the summer family road trip, Digital Nomad Andrew Evans
shares some of his hard-earned road trip secrets. His tips include: eat local, don’t have a tight schedule, and tailor your music to your surroundings. To eat local, he asks locals where they like to eat and as a reward, he discovered St. Louis’ gooey buttercake. To take advantage of spontaneous stops and casual curiosity, he never makes hotel reservations ahead of time. And he plans ahead musically, so he’s not victim to the whims of local radio DJs.Listen here.
– Photography has come a long way over the last few decades. Better cameras allow photographers to review their images immediately after they take them, but longtime National Geographic photographer James Blair
says that back in the days of film cameras, they were never able to see their images until they get developed back in the office. This would leave lesser photographers nervous that their images might not pan out the way they had hoped, but Blair says that little was left to guesswork; National Geographic’s photographers are so talented, that they knew many of their images would work out. Blair also shares stories of covering the South African revolution, and Martin Luther King Junior’s “I Have a Dream” speech. His new book is titled Being There
– In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd shares some of his most mundane snake stories and one of his most harrowing: from spotting them while hiking along Virginia’s Potomac River, to driving through Miami traffic holding a snake out the window while it defecates. Listen here.