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Summer Science: An Introduction


This is Memorial Day, and many of us think of that as the unofficial start of summer. There'll be a lot of good weather ahead, hopefully, and we'll all be trying to squeeze in some fun whenever we can - camping, a few ballgames, going to the beach, maybe just ice cream out on the porch. NPR's science correspondent Joe Palca is planning to be doing some of those things and he joined us to talk about his summer plans.

Hey, Joe.


GREENE: So what are you planning?

PALCA: Well, I'm going to be doing something a little different than my usual work. I'm going to be looking at how scientists come up with their ideas and how science is used to answer questions. Now, not every scientist's question is a big one, like how the universe works. Sometimes they're little questions like how do sunscreens work or why campfires burn. And sometimes, you know, these simple questions have remarkably complex answers, such as why you get a headache sometimes after you eat an ice cream.

GREENE: So research and sunscreen sounds like a little combining work and play. But ice cream headaches, I mean, why do we get ice cream headaches?

PALCA: I can't tell you. I mean, not yet. That's for later in the summer.

GREENE: OK. You're holding us there. That's good. You keep our attention.

PALCA: Yep. You'll want to stay tuned.

GREENE: Well, is there anything at all that you can share at this point?

PALCA: Yes, yes, yes. I'll give you something. For those people who're thinking about having a campfire this Memorial Day, we got some tips on how to get a really good one started from Dan Madrzykowski. He's a fire expert at the National Institute of Standards & Technology.

DAN MADRZYKOWSKI: If you have a few wax cups, they provide a good basis to get things started, put a little piece of crumpled newspaper inside the cup and light that.

PALCA: We also brought one or two used scripts from MORNING EDITION. We're going to try to see if those...


: Very good.

PALCA: They're very flammable.


PALCA: Excellent. God, that makes me feel good. OK.

GREENE: OK. Well, I've got a script right here. It kind of puts me in the mood to build a campfire, Joe.

PALCA: Wait until you get into a fire pit and safe environment, please.

GREENE: So what else do you have cooking this summer?

PALCA: So, as I said, I'm going to be looking at how scientists come up with their ideas, both big and small, and how they actually explore those ideas. It's part of something we're calling Joe's Big Idea. How about that?

GREENE: Researching sunscreen, researching ice cream, doesn't sound too bad.

PALCA: And other things.

GREENE: NPR's science correspondent Joe Palca. He'll be bringing us the science of summer all summer long here on MORNING EDITION. Thanks, Joe.

PALCA: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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