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Madeline K. Sofia

Madeline Sofia is the host of Short Wave — NPR's daily science podcast. Short Wave will bring a little science into your life, all in about 10 minutes. Sometimes it'll be a good story, a smart conversation, or a fun explainer, but it'll always be interesting and easy to understand. It's a break from the relentless news cycle, but you'll still come away with a better understanding of the world around you.

Before hosting Short Wave, Sofia hosted the NPR video show "Maddie About Science." The show takes viewers behind the scenes with scientists, revealing their motivations and sharing their research — from insect mimics to space probes headed for the sun. Sofia also co-developed the worldwide NPR Scicommers program, which supports scientists interested in building their communication skills.

Before working at NPR, Sofia received her Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from the University of Rochester Medical Center. She studied Vibrio cholerae, a fascinating bacterium that has haunted the human race.

Haunted houses. Skydiving. Scary movies.

Why do these horrifying things make some people delighted, and others, well, horrified?

Editor's note: This story was originally published on September 22.

When Nalini Nadkarni was a young scientist in the 1980s, she wanted to study the canopy – the part of the trees just above the forest floor to the very top branches.

Watch the video here.


The maned wolf is a weird-looking beast.

It's shaping up to be one of the worst flu seasons in years.

If you are one of the thousands of Americans who are sick with the flu, this one's for you.

Watch the video here.


Snot otter. Lasagna lizard.

Pick your favorite nickname for the Eastern hellbender salamander.

Whales are the largest animals on the planet, but they haven't always been giants. Fossil records show that ancient whales were much smaller than the currently living behemoths.

So when did whales get so big, and how?

A new study suggests it might be due to changes in climate that affected the food that some whales eat: krill and small fish. Instead of being spread throughout the ocean, lots of krill started being packed into a small area. Bigger whales were simply more efficient at eating the dense pockets of krill, and they beat out their smaller cousins.

Don't be tricked by their appearance — fangblenny fish aren't just a cute face. They use special opioid-based venom to avoid being eaten.

The fish are 2 inches long and live in places such as Australia's Great Barrier Reef. When one is caught and swallowed up by a predator, the blenny literally bites its way out. The venom disorients the bigger fish, and the blenny escapes to freedom.

Men may soon be able to take their own sperm count — at home. With a smartphone. Yes, there's an app for that.

You may be asking yourself, why?

Low sperm count is a marker for male infertility, a condition that is actually a neglected health issue worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.