07/17/2015

iBubble Wrap, Fossilized Owl Vomit, and Deadly Temperature Swings

11:40 minutes

In 1957, two engineers working out of a garage in Hawthorne, New Jersey, sealed two shower curtains together in an attempt to create a plastic wallpaper. Instead, they invented Bubble Wrap. Now, Sealed Air Corp, the makers of Bubble Wrap, are releasing a new version of the packing material called iBubble. In this week’s episode of Good Thing/Bad Thing, Loretta Chao, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, tells us how the less poppable bubble wrap could be better for the environment.

Plus, by analyzing 13,000 years worth of fossilized owl vomit found in a Utah cave, researchers have determined that the ecosystem of the Great Basin region, in the western United States, has undergone rapid changes in the last 200 years. But the effects aren’t due to climate change. Instead, they’re the result of more direct human influence, such as the introduction of invasive cheatgrass, which alters food webs and changes the way energy flows through the ecosystem.

And a new study suggests temperature swings—not extreme hot or cold—are the more deadly meteorological phenomenon. Brandon Keim, a freelance science reporter, discusses those and other science stories in the news this week.

Segment Guests

Brandon Keim

Freelance journalist Brandon Keim is a blogger for Anthropocene Magazine based in New York, New York.

Loretta Chao

Loretta Chau is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal in New York, New York.

Meet the Producers and Host

About Alexa Lim

Alexa Lim is a producer for Science Friday. Her favorite stories involve space, sound, and strange animal discoveries.

About Christopher Intagliata

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