Science Friday
Science Friday
Dec 4, 2020
Virtual Worlds And Wildfire Health Effects. Dec 4, 2020, Part 2
Play • 49 min
Science Friday’s Second Life: The Voyage Home

Do you remember Second Life? That online virtual world where you can create an avatar, build whatever you want, and meet people? It was a hit in the late 2000s, quickly becoming a pop culture phenomenon. Within the first few years, an average of 38,000 users were logged in at any given time. Second Life was so big that Science Friday created a community there in 2007. We livestreamed our show in-world every Friday, and a huge community of avatars—humans, fairies, wolves, dogs with wings—would gather with us every week to listen.

Sadly, after a couple years, our staff left Second Life, and the space was dismantled. But we recently learned that for the last ten years, some members of that original community have still been meeting up virtually to listen to the show every week. 

Producer Daniel Peterschmidt catches up with the group to find out what they had to do to survive in the virtual landscape, what the online community is like today, and what they’ve learned while spending over a decade in Second Life.

We’ll also hear from Celia Pearce, an associate professor of game design at Northeastern University, and Katherine Isbister, a human computer interaction and games researcher at the the University of California, Santa Cruz, about how virtual worlds like Second Life can help us cope with the quarantine-induced reality we live in now.

How Do Wildfires Affect Our Bodies?

This summer, the skies in California, Oregon, and other West Coast states turned sickly orange—a hue that lingered in many places for days, due to the smoke and ash from wildfires. 

It’s estimated that more than eight million acres of land have been scorched this year, and wildfires are still blazing: Nearly 40 fires are still active out west. Climate change is creating warmer, drier conditions in western states, resulting in a season that starts earlier and ends later than in the past. The foregoing of historically effective indigenous burning practices has also exacerbated the problem. 

Joining Ira to explain what we know about the health effects of wildfires are Colleen Reid, assistant professor of geography at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Chris Migliaccio, immunologist and research associate professor at the University of Montana in Missoula. 

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