El Niño Vs. the Blob, Yeast Painkillers, and a Butter Bummer

11:58 minutes

This week’s news roundup takes us to San Francisco, where Ira is joined by KQED science and environment reporter Lauren Sommer. As California’s historic drought continues, many Californians have pinned their hopes on a larger-than-usual El Niño to dump much-needed water on the West. But as Sommer explains, there’s a new climate player in town that could muck up that plan: the Blob–scientists’ name for a mass of warm water in the North Pacific—which could divert those long-sought winter storms around the thirsty state.

Then, a study out last month found that butter doesn’t compare favorably to olive oil, and that it raises LDL and HDL cholesterol after even moderate consumption. But the strangest bit about the new study is who funded it: the Danish butter industry. Roberto Ferdman, who writes about food policy and economics for The Washington Post, gives us the lowdown on health study funding in this episode of Good Thing/Bad Thing.

In our News Roundup, Lauren Sommer explains why L.A. is turning to “shade balls” to reduce evaporation at its reservoirs. Here the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District releases shade balls into a reservoir:

Segment Guests

Lauren Sommer

Lauren Sommer is a science and environment reporter for KQED Public Radio in San Francisco, California.

Roberto Ferdman

Roberto Ferdman writes about food policy and economics for The Washington Post and is based in New York, New York.

Meet the Producers and Host

About Annie Minoff

Annie Minoff is a producer for The Journal from Gimlet Media and the Wall Street Journal, and a former co-host and producer of Undiscovered. She also plays the banjo.

About Christopher Intagliata

Christopher Intagliata was Science Friday’s senior producer. He once served as a prop in an optical illusion and speaks passable Ira Flatowese.