2017/11/07 Show feat. Sam Wang on Gerrymandering: Past, Present, and What to do About the Future

Featured image from a cartoon mocking the shape of a Massachusetts gerrymandered district.

In this episode of These Vibes, Professor Sam Wang visited the studio. He’s founder of the Princeton Election Consortium blog, co-host of WooCast’s Politics & Polls, and professor of molecular biology and neuroscience. We discuss his expertise in gerrymandering — what it is, how it came to be such an issue, the current state in elections and the Supreme Court, and what is and can be done to remedy our system.

Science news:


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10/31/17 Show on Fringe Science: Paranormal TV and Parapsychology in Academia

Featured image: A random number generator at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab, purported to change behavior when you push it with your mind. (courtesy PEAR)

In this Halloween show, we examine a question fundamental to science: what is rigorous enough to be real science? Pseudoscience, or fringe science, is difficult to pin down and sometimes yields revelations in scientific understanding. However, in its worst forms it misleads and distracts from real discovery. Learn from Ingrid Ockert how “In Search Of” became a hit show in the 60s and 70s to Carl Sagan’s chagrin, and how the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory studied the influence of minds over matter on the Princeton campus for 28 years. All this closes with musings adapted from Princeton’s Michael Gordin, and a discussion on how fringe science only exists as a shadow of the scientific enterprise.

In other news:

The full playlist can be found on WPRB.com or below.

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10/24/17 Show feat. Yoni Kahn on particle physics, phenomena, and going beyond our Standard Model

Featured image: Chandra X-ray Observatory Center via Wikimedia Commons

In this episode of These Vibes, Stevie welcomed Dr. Yoni Kahn in to the studio to discuss his work as a phenomenologist and theoretical particle physicist. He’s the kind of theorist that works closely with data, coming up with experiments to test new physical laws. Specifically, his focus is on the Standard Model of particle physics — our current best theory for all the fundamental particles in the universe. But, we know that there’s more to discover! In this interview, Yoni talks us through the history and details of the Standard Model, as well as hints of things beyond, like the search for dark matter.


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10/17/17 Show feat. Dr. Jason McSheene on Embryonic Organ Development and Medical Writing

Featured image: Directed fluid flow, caused by waving cilia around proto-organs, acts as a signal that tells the cells what proteins to produce. Voilà: a heart is born! (Courtesy Biologists.org)

This time on These Vibes, we welcome Dr. Jason McSheene, PhD from Princeton University’s Department of Molecular Biology and professional medical writer. Jason walks us through the insanity that is embryonic development: how does a growing bundle of cells know to grow organs? How does it turn various proto-organs into a spleen, kidneys, a heart? It all has to do with fluid flow and protein growth, a subject Jason mastered during his PhD work at Princeton. After this, we talk about Jason’s communicative side, and how he has transitioned into the medical industry as a disseminator of diabetes information. How do you keep physicians, researchers, and pharmaceutical companies on the same page? It’s all in the episode!

Before Jason comes on: Stevie and Brian share a big primer on gravitational waves and LIGO-Virgo’s newest discovery: a neutron star collision (observed via GRAVITY) accompanied by gamma ray bursts and heavy-element production (observed via LIGHT). Hear why this is worth freaking out about!

Other interesting news that we mentioned but didn’t have time for:

The playlist is available on WPRB.com or below.

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10/3/17 Show feat. Dr. Julio Herrera on Droughts in North America and Science Historian Ingrid Ockert on Science TV in the Age of Sputnik

In this episode of These Vibes, Brian subbed in for Stevie (sick and sounded like a screecher monkey) spoke with our resident science historian Ingrid Ockert on her recent article, “Science Television in the Sputnik Age.” Additionally, we welcomed Dr. Julio Herrera-Estrada back on the show to discuss his in-depth research on droughts in North America. All that, and lots of music.


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9/26/17 Show on Ice Cores and Former Earths

Featured image: A photo of an ice chunk dug up from a glacier in Alaska; this chunk came from 682 feet below the surface. (courtesy Climate.gov and Mike Waszkiewicz).

In this show, we zoom in on the science of ice core drilling. Scientists have long examined the layers of ice sheets, which are about two miles thick over Greenland; different summer ices and winter snows make yearly trends visible to researchers, so that we can track the climate over the last 100,000 years. How do researchers manage to camp out in the harsh Greenland tundra for months at a time to dig up miles of ice core? What do we learn about the tumultuous climate from this venture? Much of the discussion is based on an excellent book, The Two-Mile Time Machine by Richard B. Alley.

In other news:

The playlist can be found on WPRB.com or below.

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9/19/17 Show feat. Dave Seal, Mission Planner for Cassini Saturn Space Probe

In this episode of These Vibes, Stevie spoke with Dave Seal, a mission planner on the Cassini space probe which spent many years orbiting Saturn. Cassini operated its final maneuver, called the “Grand Finale,” and ended its observing by plunging in to Saturn just last Friday morning at 8am EST. It took a final image and took it’s last bits of data on Saturn’s atmosphere before being destroyed. Listen in to learn about the mission, its development, goals, and discoveries, and learn more about what it’s like to be a mission planner on a NASA space probe.
All that plus great music, and science news from microplastics in our seasalt to the new research on cancer cells.

Science News:


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9/12/17 Show feat. Robert Nazarian on Physical Oceanography and Internal Waves

Featured image: The Luzon Strait serving as a breeding ground for internal waves. Alternating streaks of rough and smooth water are visible traversing the sea floor. (courtesy MIT)

This week, we host Robert Nazarian, graduate student in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, to talk through his research on ocean dynamics and internal waves. How complicated is the motion of the sea, and how can this massive system be modeled? Rob’s research focuses on energy flows through the sea, where waves carry heat from one place to another. How do ocean flows, large-scale motion and small-scale turbulence alike, affect the environment in and out of the water? Further, Rob will talk about his outreach, and how he has used innovative teaching techniques to engage students in learning about oceanography.

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Ocean gyres, driven by cyclic winds. (Creative Commons)

In other news:

The playlist can be found on WPRB.com or below.

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9/5/17 Show feat. Edward Felten on Electronic Voting – the Good, the Bad, and the Insecure

In this edition of These Vibes, Professor Edward Felten joined us back in the studio to discuss electronic voting — what that means, what are the alternatives, the pros and cons, and the current state of voting technology in the US. Edward Felten is professor of computer science and public affairs here at Princeton University, and founding director of the Princeton Center for Information Policy. Additionally, he was Chief Technologist for the Federal Trade Commission from 2011-2015 and joined the Obama administration as Deputy US Chief Technology Officer in 2015.

Our discussion gives particular attention to usability issues with the current voting computers used in US elections and their vulnerability to attacks. Professor Felten discusses the role of hacking in the 2016 election, and, to wrap-up, what the ideal voting system would be, using our current technology.

Ed Felten previously joined us at WPRB last May to discuss the intersection of policy and technology — think self-driving cars and trucks, and AI in the criminal justice system. You can listen to that full show here, and the interview has been podcasted – find wherever you get your podcasts!


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8/29/17 Show feat. Christa Baker on what fruit flies hear, and Matt Grobis on doing research

In this episode of These Vibes, Stevie speaks with neuroscientist Christa Baker about fruit fly mating songs and electric fish — and for each, how she is tracking their neural pathways to learn how their brains undergo the complicated process communication.

Additionally, animal behaviorist Matt Grobis comes on the air to talk about the nitty gritty “devil’s chess match” of doing research — the good and the bad.

Science News:


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