WILL - Focus - March 15, 2013

Coming up on Next Week on Focus: Fracking, Quantifying Happiness and Prescription Side Effects

What makes you happy? Can you quantify it?  If you could have a voice in writing regulations for something you strongly oppose, would you? Or would you walk away on principle? Find out more about what’s coming up on Focus. 


Next week on Focus, we'll talk with one of the pioneers in the reserach of happiness about how he got the pscyhological science community to take him seriously, how computers could soon change the way we talk about prescription side effects and how environmental groups came together to work with energy companies to write state regualtions for hyrdraulic fracturing. 

WILL - Focus - March 14, 2013

White Nose Syndrome Found in Illinois: Why it Matters

Do you drink tequila? Eat chocolate? Thank a bat. This hour on Focus, we talked about these notorious flying mammals, the role they play in our eco-system and why white nose syndrome is so scary.


(Duration: 55:01)

Bats are notorious in popular culture, but they play a vital role in our eco-system. Of the more than 1,000 species that exist worldwide, 13 can be found in Illinois, and six of those species are now being threatened by white nose syndrome, a poorly understood disease that's responsible for mass die offs of hundreds of thousands of bats nationwide. During this episode of Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Ed Heske, a mammalian ecologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, a part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, about bats, why they’re important and why white nose syndrome is so scary, especially for farmers.

WILL - Focus - March 08, 2013

Gardening with Native Plants

Have you been scouring catalogs looking for the perfect plants to get started in your garden this spring? This hour on Focus, we talked with Sherrie Snyder, a master naturalist and the President of Illinois Prairie Wild Ones, about the benefits of incorporating native plants in your yard and garden. Sandy Mason, UI extension horticulture expert, also joins the show. 


(Duration: 50:25)

black eyed susan

During this episode of Focus, we talk about the benefits of planting native plants and wildflowers in your yard and garden. Sherrie Snyder, a master naturalist and the President of Illinois Prairie Wild Ones, a non-profit that promotes the use of native plants in landscaping, joins us to talk about how wildflowers don’t have to look wild and how native plants don’t have to look unkempt. We’ll talk about what native plants draw what kinds of native wildlife and find out the best flowers to plant if you want butterflies and birds in your yard.

WILL - Focus - February 25, 2013

Weird Life

We are fascinated with exotic life forms; legends of monsters like the Kraken and Nessie liter our folklore. But why? Today on Focus, host Jim Meadows talked with David Toomey, the author of the new book Weird Life.


(Duration: 50:24)

the book cover

During this episode of Focus, host Jim Meadows talked with author David Toomey about his new book, “Weird Life: The Search for Life that is Very, Very Different From Our Own.” He tells us about organisms that live off acid rather than water, those that reproduce without DNA and thrive in temperatures and pressures so extreme that they really shouldn’t be alive in the first place. Meadows also talked with Toomey about our fascination with exotic life forms here on Earth and why we’re so fascinated with the possibility of the discovery of life in the rest of the universe.

What’s your favorite exotic animal? We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter or post in the comments section below.

WILL - Focus - February 21, 2013

The 30th Annual Insect Fear Film Festival

Have you ever pet a cockroach? If you’ve been longing to, you’ll get that chance this weekend at the Insect Fear Film Festival. This hour on Focus, host Craig Cohen talked with UIUC entomologist May Berenbaum about this year’s festival, cockroaches in all their glory, and flying insect swarms as UFO’s. Find the podcast here. 


(Duration: 50:11)

May Berenbaum with an insect

The Truth… about insects, is out there. At least that’s May Berenbaum’s position on the matter. This hour on Focus, host Craig Cohen talks with Berenbaum, University of Illinois Professor of Entomology, about this year’s Insect Fear Film Festival. We’ll ask her about this year's X-Files theme, and the character from Season 3 of the X-Files who is named for her. Bambi Berenbaum, an entomologist who appears the episode “War of the Coprophages,” is named for May. We interviewed Chris Carter Tuesday, February 19 on Focus and asked him about it. Find the podcast here.

Cohen also talks with Berenbaum about conspiracy theories surrounding UFO’s and her upcoming article in American Entomologist about how UFO’s are most likely insect swarms. Then, we'll discuss what’s in the future for cyborg insects, robotic bugs equipped with transmitters, cameras and recording devices.

Do you have questions about insects… real or robotic? Join our conversation! Connect with the show on Facebook and Twitter or post in the comments section below.

Categories: Animals, Cinema, Environment

WILL - Focus - December 03, 2012

Winter Weather Preparedness

Winter is here. You ready?

Ed Kieser joins us to answer your questions on the first day of winter.


(Duration: 51:21)

Trees covered with snow and ice

Guest: Ed Kieser, Meteorologist, American Electric Power, Columbus, OH; Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Journalism at the University of Illinois

It's been one of the the warmest years on record, but that doesn't mean the Midwestern winter won't bring it's own challenges. On the first Monday of meteorological winter, we'll talk with former WILL meteorologist Ed Kieser about how to prepare for and what to expect from winter weather. We'll also offer you an opportunity to win a prize suitable for stocking stuffing in our Focus Winter Weather Preparedness quiz!

Categories: Community, Environment, Science

WILL - Focus - November 01, 2012

Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love


(Duration: 55:03)

There are many reasons to purchase goods or services from one company over another: price, quality, and convenience. But sometimes, the decision is a moral one; we seek out businesses we believe support or represent our world view – or avoid those that defy it. (The debate earlier this summer over Chick-Fil-A was a demonstration of both).

At the heart of such decisions is whether we deem a company to be socially responsible. But how do you really know? How can you be sure that a reputation is accurate and deserved? And what if the truth is mixed – what if a company leads on one ethical precept, but falls short on another?

Journalist Fran Hawthorne has contemplated these questions, and set out to uncover whether some of the most beloved, trusted companies who have built up a socially responsible reputation really live up to the hype. In the book Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love, Hawthorne takes us behind the scenes of companies with powerful brand loyalty, companies like Tom’s of Maine, Starbucks, and Apple. Along the way, Hawthorne finds out why these companies have earned seemingly unflagging devotion from socially conscious consumers. And she calls out the companies and consumers alike with a provocative question: Is it really about being socially conscious, or just looking like you are?

This is a repeat broadcast from Tuesday, September 04, 2012, 10 am

WILL - Focus - October 23, 2012

“9 Billion People + 1 Earth = ?”


(Duration: 51:22)

Andrew Revkin, Senior Fellow at Pace University and Dot Earth blogger for The New York Times

Host: Craig Cohen

After two centuries of explosive growth, the planet's population is widely seen as cresting within the next couple of generations. A best guess for the peak remains roughly 9 billion people. There are even signs that resource-sapping activities will hit a peak as well. Will we overheat or innovate, conserve or despoil, crash or round the curve with a few scrapes? Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth blogger for the New York Times, explores ways to shape and share ideas that can foster progress on a finite planet.

Categories: Environment

WILL - Focus - September 12, 2012

The Environment and Human Health and Well-Being


(Duration: 51:22)

William Sullivan, Professor / BLA Curriculum Committee Chair Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois

Frances Kuo, Associate Professor, Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, College of ACES, University of Illinois

Host: Craig Cohen

Research in recent years has indicated a possible connection between people's health and well-being, and the environment around them. From elderly people tending to live longer when they live close to a park, to children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder displaying fewer symptoms afer spending time in nature. And then there are people who live in urban settings, without trees and grass. Research has indicated they tend to be more violent and aggressive.

So is it as simple as the more trees around you, the healthier, more productive, and happier you are? Or do we just happen to seek out places to live and work that reflect the personalities we already have, so peaceful, socially engaged people seek out trees, while more aggressive, intense people naturally prefer a big city? Are there other factors at play? Just what is the connection between our environment and our ability to interact, learn, and live healthy?

WILL - Focus - September 07, 2012

Why Does the World Exist?


(Duration: 51:22)

Jim Holt, Essayist and contributor to the New York Times Book Review and the New York Review of Books.

Host: Craig Cohen

It’s hard to pass up any book that promotes itself as an “existential detective story.” That’s the subtitle of author Jim Holt’s new book “Why Does the World Exist?” In it, Holt traces efforts to grasp the origins of the universe, and suggests along the way that many discussions revolving around the classic question “why are we here?” are simply too narrow – that there are many more possible answers than the old God versus the Big Bang debate would suggest. Holt talks with philosophers, physicists, and a Buddhist monk, among others, as he seeks big answers to the biggest of questions.

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