How Viruses Shaped Our World, A Seagrass Oasis For Manatees. Aug 19, 2022, Part 1


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Will A Colorado River Drought Dry Up Energy Supplies?

This week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, a federal agency that manages water in the Western U.S., started the process of cutting water use allotments along the Colorado River after seven states missed a deadline for coming up with their own reduction plan.

The area has been under a long-running drought—and with water in demand for everything from drinking to agriculture to industry, and with the population of the area on the rise, agreements over water use are difficult to come by. The drought has another less obvious effect on the area as well—drops in water allocation could lead to declines in power production in a region that relies on several major hydroelectric facilities.

Umair Irfan, staff writer at Vox, joins Ira to talk about the plan for distributing western water and other stories from the week in science—including a possible reprieve for nuclear power plants in Germany and California, a geomagnetic storm sparking an astronomical light show, orders for future supersonic aircraft, and investigations into why thinking hard makes you physically tired.

How Viruses Have Shaped Our World


The alphabet soup of viruses that infect us may seem long and daunting. But as scientist and author Joseph Osmundson writes in Virology: Essays for the Living, the Dead, and the Small Things In Between, these viruses are vastly dwarfed by the total number of harmless or even beneficial viruses on our planet. “It’s a rounding error larger than zero,” he writes. A single ounce of seawater will contain more than seven billion individual viruses incapable of doing us harm.

Osmundson’s book is both COVID-19 quarantine memoir, and reflections of a self-described queer man coming of age after the identification of the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS. In it, he questions the war-like language we ascribe to “fighting” pathogens, explores the non-binary nature of health and illness, and advocates for a world where we are more ready to care for each other.

“The problem wasn’t illness,” he writes of HIV’s death toll before the development of effective treatments. “The problem never is. Illness is a fact of life. The problem is our inability to provide care to all.”

Osmundson talks to producer Christie Taylor about making new meanings for viruses through biomedicine and public health interventions. Plus, lessons for the monkeypox global public health emergency, and all the viruses to come.

Seagrass Oasis In Gulf Of Mexico Signals Good News For Manatees

Florida’s offshore marine habitat is in peril. Populations of fish are dwindling in many places, and manatees have been dying in record numbers. The basis for much of this life lies in seagrass just under our boats. We join scientist on a trip into one of the healthiest seagrass meadows in the Gulf of Mexico. Read the rest at

Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on