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September 7, 2014: Walking Through Conflict Zones, Driving 200 Miles Per Hour and More

A bullet found on the road to Bethlehem underscores the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis . Paul Salopek recently walked through the region on his "Out of Eden" walk to get a better sense of the world's modern human geographies. (photo by Paul Salopek)
A bullet found on the road to Bethlehem underscores the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis . Paul Salopek recently walked through the region on his “Out of Eden” walk to get a better sense of the world’s modern human geographies. (photo by Paul Salopek)

Every week, embark with host Boyd Matson on an exploration of the latest discoveries and interviews with some of the most fascinating people on the planet, on National Geographic Weekend.

Please check listings near you to find the best way to listen to National Geographic Weekend on radio, or listen below!

HOUR 1
– Few people understand the where we, as a species, fit into the animal world better than National Geographic Explorer in Residence Lee Berger. The paleoanthropologist has been excavating a historic site that features a trove of thousands of bones that have been elusive to scientists in the past. Berger explains, “the creatures we’re finding are non-human animals, but the features they carry features that are more closely related to us than any other animal.” Berger explains that human evolution didn’t happen all of a sudden across Africa. He “guarantees” Boyd that similar features were appearing slowly across the continent – some evolutionary experiments yielded better offspring, ultimately culminating in homo sapiens, while others faded away. Listen here.
– While Berger looks for our ancestral roots, National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek is fleeing the birthplace of the human species, on his Out of Eden Walk. He is tracing our route from Africa, across the Middle East, Asia and ultimately to the tip of South America. He walked out of Israel and Palestine shortly before the current conflict, allowing him to get a very personal and intimate understanding of the motivations and fears of both groups of people involved. Salopek explains that he learned that just a few decades ago, Palestinians and Israelis regularly encountered each other in their daily lives, thus allowing more understanding and empathy to grow in that space; but today, children are so segregated that the flower of mutual respect and sympathy is struggling to grow in the West Bank and Israel, which doesn’t foster much optimism for the future. Listen here.
– In the world’s newest country, South Sudan’s national pride and excitement over the ability to determine their own nation’s direction devolved into a bloody power struggle. While this is bad news for the people, it is a potential disaster for the country’s elephants, antelope and other game animals. WCS South Sudan director Paul Elkan says that the combating armies are poor and ill-equipped, so they see the animals as a walking food-pantry. But Elkan says that there is reason for hope: wildlife rangers have successfully arrested soldiers for poaching animals in the past, and the elephants managed to survive a 25-year civil war in the late 20th Century – maybe they still remember where to hide. Listen here.
– America’s attention shifted earlier this summer to a border crisis years in the making. Thousands of children from Central America streamed across the border, overwhelming border patrol agents and straining the resources of a child welfare system already working overtime. But National Geographic Emerging Explorer Jason De Leon, Director of the Undocumented Migration Project, explains that this has been happening in large numbers for the past 4 years. De Leon provides cameras to migrants preparing to cross into the United States from Mexico so he can better understand the challenges that they face, but points out that the most dangerous part of the journey for the vulnerable Nicaraguan and Honduran children come well before they reach their point of entry into the United States. Listen here.
– When movies imagine life in deep space, their creatures generally look hominid – George Lucas’ Chewbacca the Wookie and James Cameron’s Na’vi people aren’t dissimilar enough from humans that we can’t recognize them as other beings. But David Toomey says that Douglas Adams may have been closer to reality in his book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when he described hyper intelligent shades of the color blue: they’re strange beings that, unless scientists look carefully, might not be carbon-based, like most of the other life on our planet. Toomey’s bookWeird Life explain that unless we look very carefully and broadly for life out in space, we might not recognize it when we see it. Listen here.
Hour 2
– On a recent trip to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Boyd was driven around the course by NASCAR racer Sam Hornish Jr. at 175 miles per hour. Hornish later explained that he was taking it easy on Boyd. Hornish, who started racing when he was 10 years old, shares some tricks from the track, of how to balance speed and control, while staying focused on driving the same track for four straight hours. Listen here.
– Not many ocean lovers are as versatile as Angela Madsen when it comes to devotion to their sports: she is a surfier; she is a member of the U.S. Paralympic rowing team; and, along with her partner, they became the first women to row from California to Hawai’i. Madsen explains the indignities of getting hit with flying fish and falling asleep while rowing, and how she modifies sports to fit her needs. Listen here.
– Game-changing technological advances often represent a major leap beyond any existing product on the market. And that’s precisely what the MIT Technology Review is anticipating when they nominate their 35 Innovators Under 35Shyam Gollakota, a 28 year old computer engineer at the University of Washington has one such advance in mind, when he anticipates that he’ll be able to help develop wireless devices like cellular phones that don’t rely on battery power. MIT Technology Review editor Brian Bergstein also explains what they look for when they compile the list, and what some of the other innovations involve. Listen here.
– In National Geographic magazine’s ongoing look at the realities of growing an ever-increasing global population, Tracie McMillan explores the demographics of hunger in the United States. Inside such a wealthy country, there are many people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. McMillan explains that 59% of people who are food-insecure work at full-time jobs, while another 15% work part-time. Her story “The New Face of Hunger,” appears in the August 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine. Listen here.
– “Puppy biscuit.” In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd reflects on his years of getting to try other people’s jobs, in the spirit of Walter Mitty. He’s been able to drive race cars over ice, dirt and finally, on a NASCAR track. Listen here.