Dung Microbes, Gun Research, Airplane Germs, Kepler Mission. March 23, 2018, Part 2

Science Friday

Guns kill more people in the United States than alcohol—from homicides and suicides, to mass shootings like the one that left dead 17 high school students in Parkland, Florida last month. But public health researchers will tell you that studying alcohol-related deaths is much easier. Gun research is so fraught politically that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t fund it (though the National Institutes of Health did for three years during the Obama presidency), and a pair of Congressional amendments continue to throw red tape on funding and access to certain kinds of data. Could private foundations, universities, and state governments fill the gap?

Most zoo visitors go to see the animals. U.C. Santa Barbara chemical engineer Michelle O'Malley visits for their poop. That's because the dung of grazers like sheep, giraffes, and elephants is rich in cellulose-chomping fungi and bacteria. She joins Ira to talk about the bacterial and fungal communities within poop.

When you fly on an airplane, you’re trapped inside a metal tube for a few hours with hundreds of other passengers, sharing the overhead compartments, lavatories, and air. It feels like there’s a good chance for disease to spread in flight—but just how likely is it? New research maps out the risks.

Plus, NASA launched the Kepler space telescope in 2009, with plans for it to operate for about three and a half years. Now, nine years later, the telescope is close to running out of fuel.