5/23/17 Show feat. David Baron on his book American Eclipse

Featured image: The corona around the sun, only possible to see from the ground during the several minutes of a solar eclipse. (Courtesy National Optical Astronomy Observatories)

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The 1878 eclipse watchers in Rawlins, WY included James Craig Watson and Thomas Edison (second from the right).

For this show, we brought in former NPR correspondent David Baron to talk about his new book, American Eclipse. You may be looking forward to this year’s total solar eclipse on August 21, but David focuses on a similar event that propelled American science to its furthest frontiers back in 1878. Listen to the show to hear how hoards of Gilded Age astronomers headed to the Wild West of Colorado and Wyoming, spending months preparing for three minutes of scientific opportunity. The epic tale touches on the beginnings of meteorology, the mythic Thomas Edison, gender equality, and several heinous examples of scientific pomposity. Listen to hear how it all fits together!

If you’re in Princeton, NJ, David Baron will be visiting the Princeton Public Library on June 12th at 7pm. Mark your calendars!

In other news:

  • Evolution is a game of trade-offs, as shown in a new study on E. Coli bacteria. Researchers tried to make two new traits stick, but they found that the bacteria only improved in one area at a time.
  • Tabby’s star (mentioned on this show before!), a sporadically dimming star about 1,300 light years away, just started getting darker for the first time since 2013. Only this time the world of astronomy is prepared to watch.
  • Fluorescent proteins can now create artwork, as scientists learn how to re-create the whole color spectrum by tagging bacteria. This is just fun and games for now, but biology can attack many problems by using these well-developed techniques.

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

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5/16/17 Show feat. Krupa Jani on the AHCA + Epigenetics and Cancer

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Krupa Jani

In this installment of TheseVibes, Krupa Jani, MD/PhD researcher in biochemistry, joined us in the studio to share her research in the lab and in the health policy arena. In the first part of the interview, Krupa summed up the American Health Care Act that was recently passed through the House and is currently being considered in the Senate. In parts 2 and 3 we discuss her research in epigenetics and how this is related to cancer.

Epigenetics is the study of gene expression. Every cell in your body contains the same DNA sequence, however which genes are turned on (and thus transcribed in to proteins — or “expressed”) and which are turned off will be different between different types of cells. e.g. your blood cells expresses different genes than your skin cells. In this interview Krupa dives in to what’s happening at the molecular level in this process of gene expression, and how this can go haywire to produce runaway cell replication, which would lead to cancer.

In a past show, Stevie interviewed Professor Bridgett vonHoldt on epigenetics and canine evolution. See the show link for the streaming link and more information.

Science news:


Playlist:

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5/9/17 Show feat. Sabine Kastner on the Developing Brain

Featured image: Neuroscience is enabling better education and more access for everyone to the world around us, as depicted here in a brain-machine interfaces article in Frontiers for Young Minds.

Today, we are incredibly fortunate to re-feature Sabine Kastner of the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. Sabine helped us understand memory and learning in our live performance back in February, but she visits now to focus on her newest project: how can we better understand the development of young brains? Sabine brings children into the research lab for MRI scans and psychological tests, searching for the differences between normally functioning brains and those with developmental disorders. How can neuroscientists apply these results to our educational system, which often struggles to build effective special education programs? Further, Sabine speaks about her ground-breaking work including children in the scientific process with Frontiers for Young Minds.

Before that, regular guest Ingrid Ockert comes on on to talk about the celebrity of science popularizers like Bill Nye. How can champions for science be most compelling?

Extras:

  • Sabine has personal experience fighting the bureaucratic nightmare that an inflexible school can be, even concerning relatively common disorders. See this eloquently frustrating article by her husband Michael Graziano.
  • Ingrid brought up Declan Fahy’s 2015 book, The New Celebrity Scientists, as an example of a search for the perfect figurehead for science advocacy.
  • For an accessible insight into Princeton’s research community, check out Princeton Research Day, which happens once a year including this Thursday at Frist Campus Center!

The playlist for the show is on WPRB.com or below.

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4/25/17 Show feat. Julianne Whittaker and Ben Reimold on the Princeton Refugee Project

Featured image: A mural on a wall of a refugee camp in Jordan. Once they enter the camp, migrants usually can’t leave without special paperwork, magnifying the stress of acclimating to a new country. (Courtesy Amal Foundation)

Today’s show brings you two leaders of the Princeton Refugee Project, Julianne

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Ben Reimold and a welcoming party, from Turkey, 2015.

Whittaker and Ben Reimold. As a student of policy at the Woodrow Wilson School, Julianne co-founded the Amal Foundation for investing in the education of Syrian students. Through this effort and others, Julianne and Ben have learned to funnel Princeton student efforts into aiding those stuck in refugee camps. What geopolitical movements have led to the current refugee crisis? How do the displaced function in their new communities? Hear how Ben and Julianne encountered the refugee crisis in the Middle East, and what they are doing now to connect uprooted students with new education opportunities. If you’re curious how students here are fighting for refugee rights both domestically and abroad, then listen in to this interview!

This show’s short playlist is available either on WPRB.com or below.

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4/18/17 Show: City Logic, Jupiter’s Aurora and Ancient Dentists

 

Featured Image: A busy street in Hong Kong, safely watched by hoards of pedestrians at all hours of the day. A richness of primary uses helps the crossroads thrive. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Today, we bring you a scattershot of new science stories. Did you know Jupiter has a second spot, swirling near its north pole under aurora lights? Curious how prehistoric peoples approached dentistry? Have you pondered the logic of cities, and debated strategies for transforming them from inefficient slums to manufacturers of diversity and economy? All this and plenty of new music, right here in this radio recording!

Some extras:

  • The last twenty minutes of the show is my own glorification of a field-defining book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. It’s a pleasure and an obligation to read if you’re curious about the structure of cities, architected from the ground up.
  • The moons of Jupiter are a solar system in miniature, rocked with energy from Jupiter’s own enormous mass. All 67 objects in orbit (that we know of!) have unique features: some are volcanic, some frozen over, and some could support life given some terraforming.

As usual, the playlist can be found on WPRB.com or below.

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3/28/17 Show feat. Stephen Pacala on measuring the impact of climate change

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Featured image: A recent drought in Syria is one of the factors that prompted mass migration to cities and eventual civil war–and researchers are implicating man-made climate change as causing it. (Courtesy NPR)

Very unfortunately, the show tonight was not recorded due to technical difficulties at WPRB. Sorry about that! 

Today we hone in on climate change by talking with Dr. Stephen Pacala of Princeton’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Dr. Pacala’s new class on the Environmental Nexus investigates the worldwide interplay between agriculture, biodiversity, and climate, so we’ll speak about how these systems feed into each other. What do our coupled studies of the market and worldwide climate tell us about enacting environmental policies today? As Dr. Pacala informs us, we have the technology today to avoid many of the worst consequences of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere–it’s only a matter of doing the hard work of applying this technology to our agriculture, electricity grid, and so on. As he claims, humanity is trending towards solving these problems, present politics in the US aside.

Further, we spoke at length about how scientists quantify the impact of climate change. How can we know whether fossil fuel emissions are really at fault for causing the death of  the Great Barrier Reef, or for the recent flooding of Louisiana? Scientists can now pinpoint the change in risk of extreme weather due to human-introduced pollution, and the results are startling. Even more, we can now say that humans have caused instances of climate change in Africa, which in turn have made conflicts more likely. Studies like this rely on statistical methods, which they use to show impressively disastrous links between pollution and human life.

Before Dr. Pacala joined us, I brought on former guest Dr. Paul Gauthier to talk about the interplay between plants and our atmosphere. Can more carbon dioxide help plants grow? Is faster food always better? And above all, how do we manage a growing population with a food supply in danger?

The full playlist is available on WPRB.com or below.

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3/21/17 Show: Sabine Kastner and Michael Lemonick in The Science of Memory

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Featured image: A New Yorker cover from 1987 by Lonni Sue Johnson, artist and pilot who later became the amnesiac inspiration of Mike Lemonick’s The Perpetual Now.

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!

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Neural event art for The Science of Memory, done expertly by Drew Wallace.

In addition to the recording, we start off the show with science events and:

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

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3/14/17 Show feat. Cameron Ellis on Determining Consciousness, Sensory Substitution, and Uploading the Mind

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.

Other mentions in the show:

 


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3/7/17 Show of science news from robotic bees to a new continent

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:

We’ll be back on next week with another science interview — Cameron Ellis, cognitive scientist, will be on the show.


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2/28/17 Show feat. Jill Knapp on the Prison Teaching Initiative

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Featured image: A 2015 graduating class of inmates from San Quentin, California, thanks to the Prison University Project (which inspired PTI Princeton).

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?

Where there’s time, we fill you in on local science events, exoplanet news, and why light bends around heavy objects. Thanks for listening!

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

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