7/31/18 Show feat. Mariona Esquerda on Star Lifecycles and Ricard Alert on the Biophysics of Films

Featured image: The far edges of a cell, where center and membrane meet and adhere. Sometimes this adhesion worsens: see the red “blebs” surrounding a cell. (courtesy

Today’s episode features a Spanish physics duo! First, we speak with Mariona Esquerda Ciutat, physicist and science educator, about her whiteboard physics videos in Catalan. Hear how important it is to spread scientific knowledge in every language, and then hear Mariona explain the colorful life cycle of stars in English (and a bit of Spanish). Afterward, Ricard Alert Zenon, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, delivers us to the wonderful world of biophysics. It’s a field that describes everything from the mechanics of cell membranes to the elaborate transportation strategies of microscopic organisms.  For example, a thin film of bacteria covers everything around us, with a myriad of species coexisting in their 2D world. How do these separate cells communicate, and how can the whole film act as a single superorganism?

In other news: A new park in Bangkok was designed with flooding in mind, reducing risk in nearby areas by siphoning water into expandable retention ponds. Disaster mitigation meets phenomenal civic architecture!

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

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6/19/18 Show feat. Bora Yoon on Making Spaces with Sound

Featured image: Voices and sounds resonate through the Princeton University Chapel, as explored by Bora Yoon haunting its stairwells and alcoves.

This week on These Vibes, we open up to music and space with Bora Yoon, experimental multi-instrumentalist and Princeton Department of Music doctoral fellow. Hear Bora’s “sonic surrealism” where architecture meets sound, from the celestial Princeton chapel to the guttural “Little Box of Horrors.” We listen to (and occasionally narrate) the dimensions of these sound installations, wherein Bora mixes recordings of animals, heartbeats, voicemails, and illustrious instruments like wind chimes and music boxes. TalksThe compositions meld tensions, storytelling and environment—thanks Bora for sharing your musical methods in-depth!

In other news:

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

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6/5/18 Show feat. Dr. Arvind Narayanan on Web Privacy and Society Without It

Featured image: When you browse a single website, an array of hundreds of entities may be probing the page, collecting bits of information about you. (Courtesy Ars Technica and Gary Waters)

This week on These Vibes, we have a double header: the show starts off with Dr. Jim Bell, President of the Planetary Society, on his new book The Ultimate Interplanetary Travel Guide. A future of space tourism—hiking the mountains of Mars, skiing the ice of Europa, dining aboard cloud hotels on Venus–may be closer than you think!

Afterward, we are joined by Dr. Arvind Narayanan, professor in Princeton University’s Department of Computer Science and expert on web privacy. There are many reasons a web surfer may want to be discreet about their identity: tracking your online actions may enable personal enemies, corporations, or the government to act against you, or persuade you to take some action. In fact, advances in web tracking enable the array of entities behind each website to gather information about internet-goers and use it against them, by means of targeted advertising, addicting apps, or worse. Hear how canvas fingerprinting can connect your online and offline lives, how all this lack of privacy may shape the society of the future, and why there’s hope that we may be able to fend off the worst if we recognize this as a problem.

If you would like to take charge of your web privacy, take a look at the following extensions that help block trackers within pages:

The playlist is available on WPRB.com or below.

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5/29/18 Show feat. Dr. Luca Mastropasqua on Fuel Cell Carbon Capture and Hydrogen Storage

Featured image: A fuel cell built at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This one burns methanol, but others produce energy with hydrogen or natural gas, sorting various byproducts (even such as carbon!) in the meantime. (Courtesy Creative Commons)

This week, it’s our privilege to host Dr. Luca Mastropasqua, a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment and the GECOS group at Politecnico Di Milano. His research focuses on carbon capture, which can sift carbon out of the emissions of industrial plants before it pollutes the atmosphere. Luca’s research does this not via the mainstream filtering process (which uses energy) but via fuel cells (which provide energy). Hear how this technique may reduce the emissions of fossil fuels by about 90%, and how it dovetails nicely into using molecular hydrogen for energy storage!

In other news:

The playlist is available on WPRB.com or below.

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5/22/18 Show feat. Prof. Sigrid Adriaenssens on Structural Forms and Resilient Architecture

Featured image: the Flamenco ice tower in Harbin, China, designed by architects from China and the Netherlands. Thin shells of ice can be immensely strong! (courtesy Maple Village)

This week’s show features Prof. Sigrid Adriaenssens of Princeton’s Civil Engineering Department. Modern architects must confront many coupled challenges: overpopulation, material shortages, energy conservation, natural disasters… Designing better structures on all these fronts requires transformative solutions, like those provided by Sigrid’s Form Finding Lab. Using simple principles that describe hanging meshes, the group designs thin membrane forms that are efficient, organic, and resilient to extreme loads. Hear how this paradigm shift is making headway on deployable storm surge shields, and how origami-influenced folding might enable flexible buildings that react to their environments.

Play with this fabric physics yourself! Here’s a simulation of a drape, using the same equations as Sigrid’s form finding algorithms (thanks Aatish!). And here’s a visualization with music by Jeff Snyder, with the same fabric model featured prominently.

In other news:

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

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5/15/18 Show feat. Paleontologist Evan Saitta

Featured image credit: Smithsonian

In this show Stevie spoke with paleontologist Evan Saitta, expert on dinosaurs and fossilization. We discuss dinosaurs broadly, as well as what what we know, how we know it, and what are the really difficult questions. Stevie also learns how Jurassic Park lied to her, and how we know some dinosaurs have feathers. Towards the end of the conversation, Evan discusses his fascinating work actually making fossils in the lab!

Science News:

 


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5/8/18 Show feat. Greta Shum on Making Climate Science Digestible

Featured image: WxShift.com, a website by Climate Central, shows your local weather alongside long-term trends indicative of climate change.

This week we interviewed Greta Shum, digital communications specialist at Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. What’s the importance of communicating science? For issues like climate change that are bound to affect most lives on the planet, communication is crucial—even if the subject is complicated and often depressing! Greta will talk about her work packaging climate research findings into web series and articles for the public in her jobs at Climate Central and the Andlinger Center, working with meteorologists, researchers, and science readers in the public to help all sides understand the others. Also featured: the essential practice of listening and what it means that prestigious science journals are in English.

As we mention in the show, check out the Andlinger Center’s distillates (helpful overviews of energy policy) and WxShift, which shows your local weather today and over time to bring the effects of climate change home.

In other news:

The playlist for the show can be found at WPRB.com or below.

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5/1/18 WPRB Pledge Show feat. Sam Wang on Gerrymandering in NJ and the Scientific Study of Elections

This was WPRB’s 2018 pledge drive!! Brian and Stevie started out the show with science news – ancient sloth hunts uncovered and a study shows that freedivers from Southeast Asia evolved to have bigger spleens. Then Professor Sam Wang, founder of the Princeton Election Consortium and co-host of the Politics and Polls podcast, joined Stevie on the mic to discuss gerrymandering in the US and specifically in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Then we get in to the more general topic of the scientific study of elections.

Additionally, you’ll hear Brian and Stevie talk past shows and why they love WPRB.


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4/24/18 Show feat. Jane Baldwin on Why There Are Deserts in Asia

Featured image: A rugged climb up the hills of the Taklamakan Desert, which consumes much of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China. (courtesy Zahariz Khuzaimah)

This week we host Jane Baldwin, PhD candidate in Princeton’s Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Dept., who studies the reasons that deserts exist in Asia. Jane first wondered about the changing climate of the steppes of Inner Mongolia, where famous grasslands have slowly morphed to low, dry shrubs. Surprisingly, she found a more fundamental question that needed study first: why do Asian deserts, like the Taklamakan and Gobi, exist in general? Global climate simulations give researchers a crucial tool to study WHY the climate works as it does, so Jane tested various hypotheses about the Taklamakan: does it still exist if you run a simulation without Tibet? Without Europe taking moisture from Asia’s westerly winds? Without the Tian Shan mountains, which lie between the Taklamakan and the Gobi? Tune in for surprising results that hint how important well-placed mountains can be for the climate.

In other news:

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

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4/17/18 Show feat. Philosophy Professor Adam Elga on Decisions, Risk, and Cascading Failures

Science news and events started out the show. 45 minutes in, Professor Adam Elga came on the mic to speak on some thought problems in philosophy that are pertinent to his research. For instance we start with the problem of contingency: how concerned should we be that much of what we believe is contingent on, for example, the circumstances of our birth?

We then build up the conversation to his current research on cascading failures – this is when systems that depend on each other fail in a kind of domino effect. Think the 2008 Financial Crisis. This gets us in to topics like the Tragedy of the Commons, the Prisoners’ Dilemma, and his (and his collaborator Daniel Oppenheimer’s) new concept of Risk Pollution.

More information on the topics we discussed in the show, provided by Adam Elga:

Science News:


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