This week on Living Lab, we explore how sometimes, answers and solutions come from surprising places — ocean scientists helping NASA search for extraterrestrial life, social media apps saving lives, wild bees providing clues to the collapse of managed honeybee populations, and computers providing insight into what's most essentially human about our brains and our social connections.
Exploring ocean worlds: Cassini ended its 20-year mission with a kamikaze dive into Saturn last week. Among the mission’s biggest breakthroughs was the discovery of a salty, liquid ocean, plus other building blocks of life, on Saturn’s ice-covered moon Enceladus. Extraterrestrial life now seems far more likely, and far closer to Earth, than it did before. Oceanographers have joined forces with NASA to start preparing to explore Enceladus and a handful of other ocean-containing worlds in our solar system. (Guest: Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
Social media disasters: Individuals with more and stronger community ties fare better in natural disasters. They are more likely to survive and are less affected by the psychological trauma. Researchers at Northeastern University find that social media apps can be effective in leveraging those ties into rescues and resources. They recommend including a cell phone and social media apps in your hurricane readiness kit, and say our society needs to invest more in social — as well as physical — infrastructure. (Guest: Daniel Aldrich, Northeastern University)
Hive mind: Bees are in a state of crisis, with many populations declining precipitously, and several species of bees now listed as endangered. But wild honey bees are not suffering the same declines as their human-managed cousins. Their success derives, in large part, from collective decision-making about how many bees is enough, and when it’s time to seek a new home. (Guest: Tom Seeley, Cornell University)
Jerry’s Brain: For 20 years, tech analyst Jerry Michalski has been cataloging every noteworthy person, idea and connection in an online database known as Jerry’s Brain. It’s an extreme version of the mental outsourcing most of us do with online calendars, notes, and reminders, and it raises questions about our relationship with technology. (Guest: Jerry Michalski)