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March 9, 2014: Racing the Iditarod With Twins, Time Traveling to a Black Hole and More

A black hole, formed when a star collapses, pulls matter from a large neighboring blue star. (image by NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)
A black hole, formed when a star collapses, pulls matter from a large neighboring blue star. (image by NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)

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!

Hour 1
- Having a partner can help competitors survive the Iditarod dog sled race. That’s partly why Kristy and Anna Berington back each other up while running a team of 14 dogs through 975 miles of grueling Alaskan wilderness. The twins explain that racers always train their dogs to run fast, but have less success in convincing their canine team to stop. The Beringtons say that runaway dog teams are a fairly common occurrence and even non-related racers will assist when needed.

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Jennifer Pharr Davis hiked the entire length of the 2,181 mile Appalachian Trail in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes. The 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year didn’t run, she simply hiked very long days and slept short nights. But she tells Boyd that her next challenge won’t be to break her own Appalachian Trail record, but to hike with her husband and daughter in every state while promoting her book that reflects on her love of hiking and her husband, called Called Again.

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- Tepuis are high table-top mountain plateaus that exist in the jungles of South America. The ecological islands have high populations of plants and animals found nowhere else. To study frogs, photographer Joe Riis, biologist Bruce Means and mountain climber Mark Synnot made an expedition to one tepuis. The trip involved lowering the 71-year old Means into a deep sinkhole, and tethering the non-climber frog expert to a series of shrubs to anchor his escape. Riis captured the expedition in his film “Return to the Tepuis“.

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- Boyd feels ripped off by the future. When he was a child, he was flying cars and promised robots to do household chores. ButNational Geographic Emerging Explorer and roboticist Chad Jenkins explains that machines are more helpful than we may realize. From self-regulating air conditioning and heating to robots that move around the house and vacuum, robots are smarter than they ever have been. But Jenkins is working toward a future in which humans will be able to teach robots tasks to repeat. He says that since robots don’t have free will, we only need to fear the humans programming the machines that can help us avoid a future predicted by another National Geographic explorer: the Judgment Day depicted in James Cameron’s The Terminator.

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- Throughout American history, the dates between March 7 and March 9 have provided much fodder for entertainment. National Geographic Library Manager of Research Maggie Turqman tells Boyd that in 1943, the board game Monopoly was invented, King Kong was premiered in 1933 and the first ever Ford Mustangs rolled off the assembly line in 1964.

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Hour 2
- If Earth were hurtling on a collision course with a black hole, we would never know. Their gravitational force is so strong that neither light nor planets can travel fast enough to escape. But Michael Finkel author of “Star Eater”, in the March 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine, says that black holes are so small and the universe is so large that there are better things to worry about. He also explains to Boyd that black holes have such a strong gravitational pull that time is just another variable thrown off by the force.

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- Genetically modified organisms aren’t always dangerous when consumed by humans. But, when genetically modified crops are used to enforce a strict set of farming practices, after which the farmer cannot grow other crops or revert to older practices that might be less taxing on his land, problems could arise. National Geographic Young Explorer Andrew Flachs studied farming practices in India’s Telangana region where cotton is grown.

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- Evolution is a tricky but very important scientific process that can be fraught with misunderstandings. So evolutionary biologist Tiffany Taylor is setting out to resolve the problem by tackling it early. Her children’s book Little Changes breaks down the concepts into a story so that children will start to absorb the concepts without even knowing that they’re learning. Her next book, Great Adaptations is currently in production.

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- In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd tells the tale of his own experience dogsledding. He was abducted by a team of dogs on Baffin Island, when they bucked their driver. The dogs took Boyd safely home, while the Inuit driver was forced to walk 45 minutes back to their camp.

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Comments

  1. Ann Bryan
    Greensboro, N.C.
    March 17, 1:35 pm

    On the March 9 broadcast of the National Geographic Weekend Radio show, Professor Tyrone Hayes made outrageous and utterly false accusations against one of our scientists. It is disheartening and extremely misleading that National Geographic would allow its program to serve as a platform for allegations and outright fabrications.

    The real story about atrazine is one of solid, reproducible science. It is unfortunate that some continue to try to make this a personal story when the simple fact remains that more than a decade of research, reviews and panel investigations support the safety of atrazine.

    Our employees have every right to be fiercely proud of the work they do. We’re helping provide the technologies that will make it possible to feed a hungry world in the 21st century. Syngenta operates according to the highest ethical and scientific standards and will continue to do so.

    Ann Bryan
    Senior manager, External Communications
    Syngenta