Sesame Street “Here For Each Other” kits go to APD’s Blue Santa

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, KLRU asked for and received 300 Sesame Street “Here For Each Other” kits, which use video, a picture book, and a discussion guide to help families guide young children through their thoughts and feelings after a natural disaster. KLRU in turned passed along the kits to the Austin Police Department’s Blue Santa to be distributed among families in Austin and in neighboring regions.

 

KLRU hosts National PBS KIDS Ready to Learn Advisors Meeting

On February 2 and 3, 2017, KLRU hosted the Ready to Learn National Advisors Meeting.  The annual meeting is typically held in Washington D.C.; this was their first-ever relocation to a community implementing Ready to Learn-funded activities.  Over 50 advisors from higher education, media production, and public-serving agencies gathered to provide direction to the project, in order to discuss the content and curriculum being produced, its dissemination to communities in need, and to give input on how to best evaluate the project’s efficacy.

Ready to Learn Advisors in a panel discussion on the original Austin City Limits stage. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS Kids are leading the Ready to Learn: Community Collaboratives for Early Learning and Media project, funded by the Department of Education.  The five year grant ( 2015 – 2020) calls upon up to 40 PBS stations from all over the nation and their local community organizations to disseminate scientific inquiry and literacy content to low-income children ages 2 – 8 years old.

KLRU was one of the 11 pilot stations invited to test new resources in the field.  We partner with Thinkery, Communities In Schools of Central Texas, and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin area.

From Left to Right: Ben Kramer, VP of Education at KLRU; Erica Gallardo-Taft, Vice President of Program Services at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area; Eric Metcalf, Chief of Program Strategy at Communities In Schools of Central Texas; Robin Gose, Director of Education at Thinkery

Among other initiatives, we have held Odd Squad Summer Math Camps and Family Creative Learning (FCL) workshops at partner sites. At the FCL workshops, we guided parents to actively engage in their child’s learning using the free PBS KIDS Scratch Jr. app, which allows them to animate their favorite PBS characters.

In summer 2017, KLRU will pilot Odd Squad Summer Science Camp in which kids will solve problems to become Odd Squad agents.  Another project coming down the pipeline is a new collection of Ruff Ruffman science materials.

Thank you to Thinkery for hosting one day of the workshop and to the city of Austin for wowing the Ready to Learn Advisory group. We hope that they will return in 2018.

Ready to Learn: Community Collaboratives for Early Learning and Media is funded by the US Department of Education and administered by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

It’s Okay To Be Smart – PBS Digital Studios

Do you find yourself asking a lot of questions that tend to incite responses like, “I don’t know, it just is,”? Well, PBS Digital Studios may have the answers you’re looking for. Host Joe Hanson, Ph.D., creates weekly videos with different topics about things we didn’t even know we were curious about.

When you grow up, more often times than not you learn about the Inuit and the traditional Igloo. Hanson tells us why they actually work, and the science behind heat that you didn’t even know existed.  

Owls, the source to that spooky hooting in the middle of the night, actually have a lot more to their existence than meets the eye – literally. Hanson tells us that even though some owls have superb eyesight, feathers all over the face can actually help them to hunt without using their eyes.

I’ve always wondered why salt and pepper could be found on any dining table around the western world. Hanson enlightens us about the natural chemical dependency humans have with salt, and how pepper made it’s way to become the great rock’s sidekick.

PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs: Cedar Ridge High School

With the election right around the corner, students from Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock, TX have created videos for PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs with support from KLRU, talking about the issues that matter to them.

This election season, the Student Reporting Labs network of more than 100 schools across the country asked middle and high school students to talk to the next president about the issues they feel need to be addressed.

KLRU is also working with Austin, Eastside, Lanier, Pflugerville, and Manor High School.

In this video, students want the next president to make the American dream more accessible to people of color.

Michael Lobsenz wants the next president to enforce gun-free zones in schools.

Science Wednesday: 3.7 billion-year-old fossils believed to be oldest found

Fossils discovered by scientists in Greenland, and believed to be 3.7 billion years old, suggest that life on Earth has existed longer than previously thought.

Thought to be stromatolites – layered structures produced by microbial communities living in shallow water – the fossils were found trapped in ice in a remote research site known as the Isua Greenstone belt that can be only reached by helicopter but is known to house well-preserved rocks. If confirmed, they will be the oldest-known evidence of life on Earth.

Previously, the earliest-known traces of life were in 3.43 billion-year-old stromatolite fossils found in western Australia in 2006. This means the newly discovered fossils could pushback the evolution of life on Earth over 220 million years!

The Earth back then would be very different from the one we’re living in.

From PBS NewsHour:

“Early Earth would have had small, black continents and an orange sky,” said Martin Van Kranendonk, an astrobiologist and study co-author from University of New South Wales, Australia.

The burnt tinge in the air would have been due to increased levels of carbon dioxide and volcanic gases. Without plants or fungi, the continents would have been covered by black crust made of basaltic lavas. The seas would have been green thanks to dissolved iron, Van Kranendonk added.

The study suggests microorganisms likely lived in shallow water, and the discovery predates the oldest prior evidence of life by approximately 220 million years. It shows that life may have formed quicker and easier than once thought.

The fossils could also “guide the search for life on moons or others planets in our solar system, such as Mars,” according to PBS NewsHour

This video from It’s Okay To Be Smart explains more about the new discovery:

Science Wednesday: Is it possible that Venus once supported life?

If you don’t know much about planet Venus, it is similar in size and shape to Earth but that is where all the similarities stop. It has a toxic atmosphere consisting of carbon dioxide and nitrogen that traps in heat creating the runaway greenhouse effect seen there today and temperatures hot enough to melt lead. The conditions of Venus could equate to what many people consider hellish—intense heat, nonstop volcanic activity, and a crushing atmosphere 90 times thicker than that of Earth’s—making it a completely uninhabitable place.

However, astronomers from NASA have just discovered that Venus might have been habitable for billions of years before becoming what it is today. With that said, if we had a spaceship that could travel back in time, we might come across a Venus that looked more like the Earth we live on.

The discovery was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters after NASA climate modeling found evidence suggesting that “Venus may have had a shallow liquid-water ocean and habitable surface temperatures for up to 2 billion years of its early history.”

From Scientific American:

The team first simulated how the Venusian climate might have looked 2.9 billion years ago. Such an ancient date required the researchers to make a few educated guesses about the early planet, such as assuming it had a shallow ocean just 10 percent the volume of that on Earth today. But the results were clear—2.9 billion years ago the second rock from the sun could have had a balmy Earth-like temperature that hovered around 11 degrees Celsius. The team then ran the model for a later Venus some 715 million years ago and found that even under the sun’s heightened heat, the planet would have warmed by only 4 degrees Celsius since that earlier time. Such a slight increase in temperature would have allowed the planet’s liquid ocean to persist for billions of years.

Venus, being so close to the sun, brings up the question of how water could be present for so long there. Astronomers theorize the presence of clouds would account for that.

Here is a video from It’s Okay to Be Smart that breaks down the findings for you:

If you want to learn more, you can find more information in this post from NASA.

PS: Scientists have just discovered a possibly habitable exoplanet just 4.24 light years away! This is a historic find and you should check out the article from PBS NewsHour.

Science Wednesday: Trans-Neptunian object rebels against the odds of our solar system

This latest space news is truly rebellious.

Scientists have discovered a trans-Neptunian object (TNO) that has a new retrograde and is traveling around the sun at an extreme 110° tilt. A TNO is “a faint, minor planet located outside the orbit of Neptune,” according to Nova Next.

This discovery is so unique because it defies the odds that exist in the plane of our solar system. The study’s authors have given it the fitting nickname of “Niku” after the Chinese word for rebellious.

The study points out that most scattered disk objects have typical inclinations less than 30° to 40°, suggesting that Niku could indicate the existence of a large population with similar orbits in this region.

All eight planets in our solar system travel in the same direction, however, this new trans-Neptunian object orbits in retrograde, meaning it travels in the opposite direction.

Theoretically, Niku could point astronomers to the famed, undiscovered Planet Nine but there is nothing concrete to validate that theory and scientists remain confused about the TNO’s angle and orbit.

As Shannon Hall from New Scientist reports:

To grasp how truly rebellious it is, remember that a flat plane is the signature of a planetary system, as a star-forming gas cloud creates a flat disk of dust and gas around it. “Angular momentum forces everything to have that one spin direction all the same way,” says Bannister. “It’s the same thing with a spinning top, every particle is spinning the same direction.”

That means anything that doesn’t orbit within the plane of the solar system or spins in the opposite direction must have been knocked off course by something else.

This video from New Scientist explains more:

You can read the entire study here.

 

BBQ with Franklin: Our picks from PBS Digital Studios

Every Austinite has experienced the enormous line for barbecue at Aaron Franklin’s downtown restaurant Franklin’s Barbecue. In this week’s picks from PBS Digital Studios’ BBQ with Franklin, Franklin himself will share how-to’s on some of his favorite recipes – no line included.

Beef Jerky – BBQ with Franklin

Looking for a quick and easy snack? In this segment, Franklin will teach you how to prepare and make your own delicious beef jerky.

Smokin’ Sausage – BBQ with Franklin

Sausage is a staple in Central Texas barbecue, and there’s not much to it! In this episode, Franklin will teach you his method of smoking sausage and see the difference between a perfectly cooked sausage and an overcook sausage.

Beef Ribs – BBQ with Franklin 

Join Franklin as he takes you step by step into preparing mouth-watering ribs!

Science Wednesday: Bacteria in our gut has been there since before we were born

Bacteria is all around us, on top of us, and even inside us, but did you know some of that bacteria has been passed down to us for millions of years?

The bacteria inside our guts has been there since before we were born and has been coevolving with hominids for millions of years, according to a new study published in Science.

We, along with apes, have a micro biome comprised of a collection of bacteria that’s living inside our guts, but it has long been unclear whether these microbes are coming from our environment or our ancestors.

The Research

To answer that question, a team of international scientists began to study poop. They isolated bacteria from fecal matter that came from chimpanzees in Tanzania, bonobos in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, gorillas in Cameroon, and humans from Connecticut.

Science reports that from the samples they collected they compared the DNA sequences of a single rapidly evolving gene common in the gut of apes, including humans. The DNA gene sequences were then sorted out into family trees.

Conclusions

The study found that two of the three major gut bacteria in apes and humans arose from an ancient bacteria that lived in the guts of our ancestors, suggesting that evolution plays a bigger role than was previously thought in the makeup of our intestinal micro biomes.

“Gut bacteria therefore are not simply acquired from the environment, but have coevolved for millions of years with hominids to help shape our immune systems and development,” the study says.

To break it down, Science says that “as the different species of apes diverged from this ancestor, their gut bacteria also split into new strains, and coevolved in parallel…to adapt to differences in the diets, habitats, and diseases in the gastrointestinal tracts of their hosts.”

It turns out that the bacteria in our guts has existed over a span of more than 15 million years of evolution and will continue to be passed on.

To learn more about this study, you can read the article from Science.

Winter is coming, the universe may be expanding and Earth’s shape: Our picks from PBS Digital Studios

Science doesn’t come easy to some individuals— those usually turn into English, philosophy or communication studies majors. Though, you may still need to register for that dreaded Astronomy course you’ve been putting off until your senior year. This week’s picks from PBS Digital Studios are here to help you stop seeing stars when it comes to your science homework.

Is an Ice Age Coming?PBS Space Time

In a world where you can’t get away from a viral picture of a polar bear and its cub floating on a melted piece of ice, studies suggest that the current ‘warm period’ may be coming to an end. Sure, we’re in a brief interglacial phase, a summery-stretch which causes the glaciers to retreat, but these interglacial periods are short lived— so you might want to stock up on some parkas. Is an Ice Age really coming? Watch the episode to find out!


Will the Universe Expand Forever? – PBS Space Time

Dump all information regarding how large the Universe is out of your mind because scientists are currently unaware of its size. Truthfully, the Universe may be finite or infinite—strange, right? Even stranger, the expansion of the Universe will be dominated by a mysterious influence: dark energy. Yeah, it’s crazy.

Why is the Earth Round and the Milky Way Flat? – PBS Space Time

Our Universe creates some pretty cool things, right? But why do the planets, the stars and galaxies take on different shapes? They’re all held together by gravity, so how do they decide what shape to be? This episode of Space Time uncovers the two key principles behind these questions!