This episode of Inquiring Minds, a podcast hosted by neuroscientist and musician Indre Viskontas and best-selling author Chris Mooney, also features writer Maria Konnikova on the science behind why we need to sleep more and stop multitasking, as well a special guest appearance by science communicator Kiki Sanford, who helps us break down what happened in the widely watched Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham creationism debate earlier this week.
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The Winter Olympics kicked off yesterday in Sochi, Russia (first up: men's snowboarding). When Russian President Vladimir Putin pitched Sochi to the games' organizers back in 2007, he promised there would be "real snow" ... a bold claim for a town better known as a seaside summer resort. Sure enough, this week Sochi had highs in the 50s (warmer than the Super Bowl last weekend in New Jersey) and -- uh oh -- no new snowfall in the town. Conditions are a bit better in the mountains where the ski events take place, and organizers insist the games are ready to speed ahead on a fresh layer of fake snow.
Low snowfall has become a chronic problem for skiers and snowboarders worldwide, which has turned many of them into vocal activists against climate change. President Obama even mentioned snow sports in his major global warming speech last summer, when he said that "mountain communities worry about what smaller snowpacks will mean for tourism."
In some cases, global warming can lead to increased heavy precipitation of all kinds, and that includes snow, as anyone who lived through the recent polar vortex in the eastern U.S. can attest. But the best conditions for snow sports depend on a snow cover that lasts through the winter, not simply a couple serious blizzards. Over the course of the season, high temperatures can burn through even the heaviest snowfall, and according to Porter Fox, that's already happening from the Rockies to Sochi.