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July 20, 2014 Radio Show: Making Music With Elephants, Running Hundreds of Miles Through Mountains and More

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

- Many people aspire to run a marathon and spend months working to that goal. For Rebecca Byerly, her life is spent training, as the self-described “non-elite” runner has successfully completed 100+ mile races at altitudes that most people rarely visit. Her upcoming documentary, “Women of the Mountain” follow women runners and locals through the peaks and valleys of the Himalayas, the Swiss Alps and Utah’s Rocky Mountains.

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- When paleontologists dig for ancient dinosaur fossils, they aren’t disappointed if they trip over a much-less-ancient, but still very old human fossil. Such was the case when National Geographic Emerging Explorer Nizar Ibrahim found “Halloween Man,” in a 5,000 year old Saharan burial site. Ibrahim has also discovered a new species of Pterosaur, which was a 10-foot tall flying reptile with an 18-foot wingspan that lived 100-million years ago. Ibrahim is careful to explain that, despite him finding the human skeleton while looking for dinosaurs, they did not live at the same time.

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- In biology, appearances are often deceiving. National Geographic photographer David Doubilet tells the story of how goliath grouper, which are endangered, gather by the hundreds to spawn. The slow-moving fish had been targets for spear-fishermen for years because they weigh up to 400 pounds and don’t avoid humans in the way that other fish would. Their meat is now full of mercury, so they’re bad eating anyway, but Doubilet calls fishing for the goliath grouper a “fool’s quest,” because they put up as much resistance to being hunted as a cow in a field would. Doubilet’s photos are featured in theJuly, 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine.

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- Maryn McKenna has bad news for nose-pickers: MRSA is a bacteria that loves to make nostrils home. This won’t necessarily lead to an infection, but regular visits to the nose leaves fingers that then might poke at broken skin unclean, potentially spreading an infection that won’t respond to most antibiotics. But McKenna says that MRSA is much less troubling than the next-generation of resistant bacteria: CRE’s (Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae) are resistant to even the antibiotics of last resort, and have researchers scrambling to develop a new antibiotic in response to the bacterial threat. In the meantime, wash your hands.

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- Gear guru Steve Casimiro shares some of the best new gear that helps make life in the outdoors more comfortable: more resilient earbud headphonesthat will hold onto your ears better when you’re cycling, hiking and even just commuting to work; an expensive but worthwhile reusable avalanche airbag backpack that can save the lives of backcountry skiers; and a breathable and affordable rain jacket that will keep hikers dry even in humid weather.

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Hour 2
- Some people like hip hop; others like jazz. And, as it turns out, the same variety of musical taste applies to elephants. Bangkok-based musician Paul Barton says that not all elephants enjoy music, but Peter the Elephant, who lives in Ayutthaya’s Royal Elephant Kraal, enjoyed it so much that he welcomed himself to Barton’s piano. Barton brought his piano out to the elephant sanctuary to play for the elephants and Peter immediately took an interest in his music. Barton says that Peter enjoys playing “upbeat music” like jazz or a 12-bar blues, with a heavy rhythm. Barton and Peter’s partnership grew beyond piano playing and extended into experiments playing a recorder as well.

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- The entirety of what we know about our pre-human past comes from fossils. However, National Geographic Emerging Explorer Louise Leakey explains that although she’s been piecing together our human history using fossils, the odds of any single individual turning into a fossil and then working their way back to the surface are remarkably slim. Furthermore, thousands of years of wind blowing, water flowing and earth shifting can scatter remains, so that she never finds complete skeletons. Leakey’s job is to then surmise the best she can about entire species based on the smallest hints from our ancestors millions of years ago.

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- Some of the world’s largest caves are also dark, found far away from accessible entrances. Once inside, the caves are over 600 feet from floor to ceiling and big enough to host entire villages that have built roofless homes. National Geographic photographer Carsten Peter explains that the Chinese government is hoping to develop the caves, by building glass elevators deep into the caves to provide access for tourists. Peter’s images of the chambers are featured in the July 2014 article in National Geographic magazine.

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- When it comes to geography, things aren’t always as they might appear to be. That’s what Alastair Bonnett preaches in his new book, Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies. Bonnett describes several places that defy conventional geography, such as the city of pilots who call the parking lot of Los Angeles International Airport home, the island that can be found in Google Maps but doesn’t actually exist, and the labyrinth of tunnels that run below Minneapolis-St. Paul.

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- In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd shares the story of a harrowing ultramarathon that he ran through China’s Gobi Desert, that included stolen trail markers, blisters, broken down cars and repairs on plane engines that may or may not have included using plastic bags as a temporary bandage.

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Comments

  1. Amanda Feldon
    United Kingdom
    July 26, 4:25 am

    Paul and Peter the elephant’s story is absolutely wonderful and fascinating and as there is so much more to this extraordinary tale, it is the subject of a full-length documentary. To see a trailer for this beautiful story about the intelligence and sensitivity of elephants just go to http://www.musicforelephants.com