Tonight, we’re finally airing the entirety of The Science of Memory, the live show that we put on with the Council of Science and Technology in February. We brought Mike Lemonick (Scientific American editor) and Sabine Kastner (Princeton neuroscientist) on stage to discuss the science of memory, amnesia, and how our brains learn. You’ll hear how Lonni Sue Johnson, a Princeton artist and airplane pilot, lost her ability to form new memories, and how her personality is intact despite being lost in the present. Alongside the science, the Princeton Laptop Orchestra played three original pieces, from an extended version of our theme song to one that translates neuron signals into noise. We had so much fun putting this show together for a live studio audience, so we hope you’ll enjoy the full performance broadcast!
In addition to the recording, we start off the show with science events and:
In this show Stevie interviewed Cameron Ellis, cognitive neuroscience researcher at Princeton University. In the first part of the discussion Cameron explained the different theories of what is/isn’t conscious. Are animals conscious? Light switches? The Internet? How do we know that anything is conscious outside of our own selves?
In part 2, they discussed sensory substitution – this is new, fascinating research showing that we can use our current senses to detect new information, like magnetic fields, and our brain will integrate this in to its neural pathways. This research is extremely promising, and seems likely to be of great importance towards goals of, say, helping a blind person “see.”
In the last section, Cameron answers some great listener questions and delves in to the topic of uploading our consciousness in to computers. Is it still us?
This is the third time Cameron has visited These Vibes. The first and second interviews took place last year, and were all about the scientific and philosophical study, as well as history, of consciousness. These shows are not necessary as pre-requisites to the today’s show, but they are excellent additions. Highly recommend.
A chill show — just music and science news. Unfortunately we were switched to webstream-only about 40 minutes in (for a lacrosse game), and neglected to record the rest of the show. Still! Here’s the science news we discussed. Enjoy:
In today’s packed show, we start off fifteen minutes in with regular guest and History of Science expert Ingrid Ockert. Her review of Peter Kuznick’s Beyond the Laboratory covered scientists-turned-activists from the 1930s, who rose to protest the corporate causes of the Great Depression and the growth of Nazi Germany.
Next, 45 minutes in, we welcome Jill Knapp, Professor of Astrophysics and co-founder of the Princeton Teaching Initiative. Jill tells her story as an advocate for New Jersey inmates, and how she leads a cohort of volunteers that design curricula and teach college courses in local prisons. Eventually, we turn to the overarching issues: how can education help break the cycle of mass incarceration in America?
Featured image: Figure of the heavenly bodies. An illustration of the Ptolemaic geocentric system by Portuguese cosmographer and cartographer Bartolomeu Velho, 1568 (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris). [Wikipedia]
In the primary segment of the show, Stevie spoke with Princeton graduate researcher in classics and host of the podcast Ancient Greece Declassified, Lantern Jack (pseudonym), came on the show to discuss ancient cosmologies. Lantern Jack began with ancient Greece, where the geocentric model reigned and where we have the best, early models of the universe (that we know of).
We discussed geocentric and heliocentric models, how the first calculations of the size and distance to the Moon and the Sun were made, and mused about whether there were or weren’t lenses available.
Then, towards the end of the show Lantern Jack told us a bit about the Antikythera mechanism – believed to be an early analogue computer and actually physical cosmological model, recovered from a shipwreck in 1901.
Kaz also investigates the computerization of plant growth, building trees of all ages into simulations used for long-term climate studies. Are there overarching rules that regulate how plants grow larger and taller, and can we codify them into mathematics that make botanical sense? Writing these into a model would allow us to understand why trees are different shapes and have different behaviors.
The interview starts 45 minutes into the show, but the introduction has science events, English Beat tickets, and more.
Check out these extras below:
Carnivorous plants have a curious evolutionary history: they get nitrogen and phosphorus from the insects they eat, a trait which evolved separately many times.
In Nepal, farmers knew that snow leopards and Himalayan wolves were eating livestock, but no one knew it made up a quarter of their diets. Until now.
February 11th was the International Day for Women and Girls in Science; incidentally, Maryam Mirzakhani recently won the first Fields Medal to go to a woman for her work on Riemann surfaces.
Much of the scientific study of memory has focused on two vital human test subjects: Henry Molaison (“HM”) and Lonnie Sue Johnson. HM had his memory stolen from him in an experimental surgery in the 1950s and Princeton local, Lonni Sue, can no longer form new recollections due to an encephalitis infection that laid waste to her hippocampus. Lonnie Sue and HM have been permanently stuck in the present, but through their loss, the science of how we process, recall, and store memories has flourished.
In this on-stage version of These Vibes Are Too Cosmic, hosts Stevie Bergman and Brian Kraus interview Princeton University professors Sabine Kastner (neuroscience) and Michael Lemonick (opinion editor at Scientific American). Professor Lemonick’s recently released book, The Perpetual Now: A Story of Amnesia, Memory, and Love, delves in to the rich life of Lonnie Sue Johnson and Professor Kastner’s scientific expertise – memory.
Musical accompaniment, and half the fun, will be provided by the Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLOrk). For the event they’ve composed a special symphony of neurons that will punctuate the conversation. Expect harmonies rife with PLOrk’s unique sense of discord, drama, and entertainment.
Join us on Friday, February 24th, 2017 at 7:30pm at the beautiful Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall, right on Princeton University campus. Refreshments, science, and music will all be provided.
Short show due to the new 6-8pm time slot and a sports interruption. We give an update on science events in the area and share some science news, as well as some new music, as always.
First results from the NASA twin study with astronaut Scott Kelly and his brother (who stayed on Earth), Mark. Right now the analysis of the data is in the early stages, but there are potentially interesting results with telomeres – the ends of the DNA chromosome whose diminishment tends to correlate with aging.
Brian presented an interesting study about differences in gene behavior between genders and implications for disease susceptibility.
Featured image: A photo from the Atlanta Constitution, showing three National Guardsmen defending six black prisoners, whose tale forms the core of Blood at the Root (Patrick’s research began with this photo).
This week’s show starts with Drew University professor and author Patrick Phillips, taking a deep look at his new book Blood at the Root. The novel covers the expulsion of all black residents from Forsyth County, Georgia, which began in violence in 1912 and lasted up through the 1980s. In his expansive historical research, Patrick talks with the descendants of whites and blacks who participated in the evictions, and his book analyzes the deep societal divide that still hangs over modern America. How did this twisted series of events happen, and what can its still-lingering consequences tell us about race in the USA?
Otherwise, the show features exclusively Islamic music, and shares science news (from Saturn to pond goop in Washington) and local science events as always.
In today’s show we speak with doctoral researcher Mallika Randeria on her work in the Yazdani lab at Princeton University. As she explains in the interview, her research
explores the quantum behavior of electrons in a magnetic field. In fact, she uses a powerful scanning-tunneling microscope to actually image the electrons! Last year her group became the first to ever accomplished this and they got some astounding and (almost) unexpected results! Tune in to the show if you want to learn about the weird quantum behavior of electrons and what they actually look like up close when they’re exhibiting quantum effects, how a scanning-tunneling microscope works (and about the one here at Princeton), and some of Mallika’s other research imagining the phenomenon of superconductivity.