1/28/16 Show feat. Anthony Berger on Cellular Decision Making and Biomedical Engineering


Our bodies are made up of hundreds of different types of cells, each with their own specific task. They react to all sorts of internal and internal stimuli as they go about their business. Sometimes they’re instructed to move left/right, reproduce, kill themselves, etc. If this all goes haywire (think, cancer), and oh man are there so many ways it could, it can profoundly affect our lives, or end them.

Anthony Berger. He looks maniacal, but these eyes are all for important scientific research.

In this interview I discuss cellular decision making and biomedical engineering with Anthony Berger, PhD student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Tony’s work focuses on how cells respond to the structural properties of their environment – i.e. whether the tissue around them is stiff, stretchy, soft, etc. Specifically, Tony studies how tissue stiffness and fiber architecture affects the development of vasculature (blood veins) within the tissue.  To accomplish this, he designs materials that can flex to allow for changes in the rigidity of a material without changing the density of that material (a very important point in the design).

All of my designs have been based around natural materials — I generally take some sort of form of collagen (gelatin in most cases) and chemically alter it to be less flexible.  We then embedd nodules of vascular cells within the tissue and observe how the cells invade into the material and develop a system of vessels.


I liken it to an office building with people working in it.  The building is the tissue and the people are the cells doing all the work.  Drugs and chemical growth factors/hormones are like emails to the people telling them to do specific things.  Changes in different physical aspects of the tissue would be like changing certain aspects of the building — if the floors were made out of trampolines, work efficiency would probably be much different than if they were concrete.  The point is the cells are generally what do everything in your body and a lot of focus is put on them, but the physical environment, often overlooked as something that is just there, has the potential to influence a cell’s behavior.

As an example, Tony guides us through how this relates to breast cancer. Note: the stiff lump a woman may feel in her breast isn’t actually the cancer, rather an area of stiff tissue that creates a preferred environment for breast cancer to take root. Scientists aren’t sure exactly why, hence research. Take a listen!



Artist Song Album Label
Iggy Pop The Passenger Lust for Life Virgin
Introduction to the show
First Aid Kit Winter is all over you The Big Black and the Blue Jagadamba
Anthony Berger interview, Pt. 1 Biomed Engineering and Cellular Decision Making
Tacocat I hate the weekend Lost Time s/r
Anthony Berger interview, Pt. 2 Biomed Engineering and Cellular Decision Making  
Protomartyr What the wall said Under the color of official right Hardly art
Mourn Your brain is made of candy Mourn Captured tracks
Chastity Belt IDC Time to go home Hardly Art
Hop Along Waitress Painted Shut Saddle Creek
Paul Simon (General MD Shirinda, The Gaza Sisters) I know what I know Graceland Sony
Anthony Berger interview, Pt. 3 Discussing the music
Bad Brains I against I I against I s/r
Shilpa Ray Johnny Thunders Fantasy Space Camp Last Year’s Savage Northern Spy
Girl Band In Plastic Holding Hands With Jamie Rough Trade
Sylvan Esso Come down Syvan Esso Partisan Records
Daddy Issues Shitty World Can We Still Hang Infinity Cat
Bob Dylan Pledging My Time – Take 1 (3/8/1966) Bob Dylan, the cutting edge sampler 1965-1966 (Bootleg Series Vol 12) Columbia
Karen O Rapt Crush Songs Cult
Palehound Dry Food Dry Food Exploding in Sound

1/21/16 Show. All About the Atmosphere with sub DJ Brian Kraus

This week, Brian Kraus subs again for These Vibes are Too Cosmic in a live-radio, middle-of-the-night special. The science topic is the Earth’s atmosphere, with all its layers and

BW weather balloon
A weather balloon being released for transit. Credit: US Navy. Found at kids.britannica.com


First he talks about the regions you might encounter climbing up into space, from the troposphere–our watery, weathery home–to the exosphere, where space weather from the Sun interacts with our satellites.
Then, the focus moves to the stratosphere, which protects us from dangerous UV radiation: it’s a battle between ozone and chlorofluorocarbons/volcanoes, where our climate hangs in the balance! Big science again comes into play, with hordes of satellites and weather balloons taking regular measurements so we stay informed.
Finally, Brian goes into depth about weather balloons (which you can buy yourself!). How do we make weather balloons? How do we recover them when they all inevitably pop? And what scientific instruments are used to keep track of temperature and pressure as they float up into the stratosphere? I close with a public service announcement: if you find a downed weather balloon, you should follow its instructions and mail it back to the National Weather Service for analysis.

Artist Song Album Label Comments
Lillian Leach and The Mellows Sweet Lorraine Golden Groups: Volume 4 Relic 1956
Intro: The Atmosphere Show!
Tatsuya Nakatani Track 1 Gong Nakatani-Kobo 2015
We Are the Arm Jazz Bulb We Are the Arm Cares! Achord 2006
Wimps Old Guy Suitcase Kill Rock Stars 2015
The Netherlands Chamber Choir Te Deum Laudamus Aspects of Chamber Music from the Netherlands Centre Netherlands Music 1987
A little bit about space weather
Johnie Lewis Hobo Blues Alabama Slide Guitar Arhoole 1971
Gaunt Sad Song Cowtown EP Datapanik 1993
Sex Tide Are You Even Alive? Vernacular Splatter Superdreamer 2016
Rosa Ensemble Sera Paul Temos Troubling for Sugar NM Classics 2001
Ozone in the Stratosphere
Teenage Cool Kids Landlocked State Denton After Sunset Dull Tools 2011
T-Bone Walker, Joe Turner, and Otis Spann Paris Blues Super Black Blues Bluestime 1971
Royal Rasses Unconventional People Humanity United Artists 1979
Grimes Venus Fly Art Angels 4AD 2015
Weather balloons–you can buy one!
Misha Feigin and Steve Good A Chinese Clicking Duck Music in 5 Parts State of the Union EMF 2001
Manatees On the Run Croc N My Pocket 12XU 2015
Four Gods Enchanted House 7″ Manufactured Recordings 1981 (re-issue 2015)
Wailing Souls No Big Thing Lay It on the Line Live & Learn 1986
Phill Niblock Early Winter Music by Phill Niblock Experimental Intermedia 1993


1/14/16 I’m sick. So here’s as much (new) music as possible, and as little of me as possible.


And some cool science things this week, to whet your appetite:


Show playlist:

Artist Song Album Label
Shopping Knocking Why Choose Fat Cat
Show intro
WIMPS Old Guy Suitcase Kill Rock Stars
DILLY DALLY Desire Sore Partisan Records
Dirty Dishes Red Roulette Guilty Exploding in sound records
Wolf Eyes Enemy Ladder I am a problem: mind in pieces Third Man Records
Car Seat Headrest Times to Die Teens of Style Matador
Courtney Barnett Pickles from the Jar A Milk! Records Compilation: A pair of pears (with shadows) Milk! Records
The Beach Boys Hang on to your ego Pet sounds Capitol Records, Inc.
Adult Mom When you are Happy Momentary lapse of happily Tiny Engines
Wavves My Head Hurts V Weed Demon — Warner Bros.
Fuzz What’s in my head? Fuzz In the Red Records
Los 3 Sudamericanos Yeh Yeh ¡Chicas! Spanish Female Singers 1962-74 VAMPISOUL
The Clash Should I stay or should I go Hits Back Sony
Doe Oh, nostalgia! First Four Old Flame
Yeasayer Wait for the Summer All Hour Cymbals We are free
The world is a beautiful place and I am no longer afraid to die The Word Lisa Harmlessness Epitaph/Broken World Media
Baby Doll Sweet Spirit Sweet Spirit Nine Mile Records
La llave La Bruja ¡Chicas! Spanish Female Singers 1962-74 Vol2 VAMPISOUL
Charlies Madness and other kind of influensis Jail Sessions Normal Records
The Spook School Friday Night Try to be hopeful Fortuna Pop!
Tenement Harvest time (Has Come) Predatory Headlights Don Giovanni
Froth Afternoon Bleak Burger Records
Beach Slang Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas Polyvinyl
Kaki King Doing the wrong thing Legs to make us longer Sony
Der Noir Antarctica A certain idea of love Subsound
Toumani Diabate’s Symmetric Orchestra Tapha Niang Boulevard de l’independance Nonesuch
Caught a Ghost You send me (Sam Cooke cover) You send me (Sam Cooke cover) plus1 Records
Carolina Chocolate Drops Hit em up style (Blu Cantrell cover) Genuine Negro Jig Nonesuch records
Neko Case Number of the beast (Iron Maiden cover) live recording youtube.com

1/7/16 Show feat. Gloria Tavera on Pharmaceutical R&D, Drug Pricing, and How to Fix the System

The featured image is from Hepatitis C Infographic by Chase Perfect on the price hike of the drug.
Scroll to the bottom of the page to listen to the interview-only version.

tavera_gloriaIn my second interview with Gloria Tavera, MD/PhD student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, we dig deep in to drugs. (Click here to listen to my first interview with Gloria on malaria immunology and access to medicines.)

First, Gloria takes us through the research and development process – the timeline and the costs. That brought us to drug pricing and the role of the pharmaceutical industry. You bet we discuss Martin Shkreli and his company’s price hike of the drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750. Gloria explains what Daraprim is and how this kind of price hike is not only possible, but totally legal. It all has to do with drug patenting, which we discuss a bit, especially in reference to something called “evergreening” (aka “me too” drugs) – a technique used my drug companies to extend their exclusive patent past the 20 year mark.

In the final part of the interview, Gloria walks us through how this structure could be changed to obtain a better, more efficient pharmaceutical system that works for the public rather than the drug company share-holders. She discusses how the incentive structure needs to change, using a “push, pull, pool” mechanism.

In the show I quoted two articles that do an excellent job explaining these topics:

(1) LA Times op-ed on Big Pharma’s pricing drugs.

Big Pharma, while of course contributing to innovation, has increasingly decommitted itself from the high-risk side of research and development, often letting small biotech companies and the NIH do most of the hard work. Indeed, roughly 75% of so-called new molecular entities with priority rating (the most innovative drugs) trace their existence to NIH funding, while companies spend more on “me too” drugs (slight variations of existing ones.)

But if Big Pharma is not committed to research, what is it doing? First, it is well known that Big Pharma spends more on marketing than on R&D. Less well known is how much it also spends on making its shareholders rich. Pharmaceutical companies, which have become increasingly “financialized,” distribute profits to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks designed to boost stock prices and executive pay.

(2) Vox article explaining the news around Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical head recently arrested for securities fraud – though that’s not why the public hate the guy. I guess he’s also an a-hole on Twitter and bought some singular copy of a Wu-Tang album, but we have other beef.

But really the hatred for Shkreli comes from how unapologetic he was about the price increase [of Daraprim by 5,500 percent]. Other companies have pursued similar pricing strategies without stoking so much backlash.

As Forbes’s Matthew Herper wrote, “Questcor Pharmaceuticals raised the price of its drug, Acthar Gel, from $40 to $28,000 a vial. The reward? It was one of the best-performing stocks in America until Mallinckrodt bought it for $5.6 billion last year. Valeant Pharmaceuticals has done big price increases on numerous drugs. The stock’s up 740% over five years and its founder, Michael Pearson, is a billionaire. Only Shkreli has drawn the American public’s rage.”


Additionally, we touched on the history of the drug industry. Below is just a snippet from an excellent infographic that takes you through the key events in the 80’s that created the system we have in place today.

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 7.28.05 AM


And of course there was music.


Artist Song Album Label
Shilpa Ray Shilpa Ray on Broadway Last Year’s Savage Northern Sky
Intro to the show
Fatoumata Diawara Alama Fatou World Circuit Limited
Neutral Milk Hotel Holland 1945 In An Aeroplane Over the Sea Domino Recording
Bob Dylan Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again The Cutting Edge Sampler, 1965-1966 (Bootleg Series Vol. 12) Columbia/Legacy
Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood Roked Junun ATC Management
Interview with Gloria Tavera, Pt 1 Drug Research and Development Process
Dan Auerbach Trouble Weighs a Ton Keep it Hid Nonesuch Records
Beat Happening Red Head Walking Look Around Domino Recording
The Beverleys Visions Brutal Buzz Records
Interview with Gloria Tavera, Pt 2 Drug costs, the pharmaceutical industry, and patents
Abner Jay I’m So Depressed One Man Band Subliminal Sounds
The Sadies Hold on, Hold on In Concert Volume 1 Yep Roc
Beach Slang Hard Luck Kid The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us Polyvinyl
Palehound Molly Dry Food Exploding in Sound
Interview with Gloria Tavera, Pt 3 How to fix it.
Adult Mom Survival Momentary Lapse of Happily Tiny Engines


Just want to listen to the interview? Don’t have time for the music? Here ya go.

12/31/15 Show – Brian Kraus (sub) covers the best music and science of 2015

For this week’s show, Brian Kraus subs in to do a New Years’ special of These Vibes Are Too Cosmic. He highlights some of the best science and music of this last year. He began in our solar system with an overview of successful space flights of 2015, from the New Horizons Pluto mission to Dawn. Then he covered developments in materials science, first explaining superconductors, then the new super-hard phases of carbon. Finally, he hits health science and medicine with the successes combating the Ebola virus, even as we learn more about the disease’s prolonged effects on humans.
Artist Song Album Label
Miss Kitten and the Hacker Loving the Alien Lost Tracks, Vol. 1 Dark Entries
Intro to 2015 science highlights show!
Encarnita Polo Hava Naguila Chicas! Spanish Female Singers 1962-1974 Vamp Soul
The Dils Class War Dils Dils Dils Dionysus
10th Letter Fishermen Portals and Compasses S/R
Eternal Summers Girls in the City Correct Behavior Kanine Records
Spacecraft in 2015
War on Drugs Under the Pressure Lost in the Dream Secretly Canadian
The Crownhate Ruin Transit from Mars 7″ Art Monk Construction
Niobe Sanoukiki Tse Tse Sonia
Gems Tangled Memories Kill the One You Love 4AD
Carbon and superconductors
Enum Claw Third Prime Opening of the Dawn Honeymoon Music
Let’s Wrestle In the Suburbs Nursing Home Merge
Boytronic Trigger Track Bryllyant Dark Entries
Popular articles this year
Swirlies Upstairs Park the Car 7″ Pop Narcotic
Jack White Would You Fight for My Love? Lazaretto Third Man Records
Lena Platonos Romanian Immigrants Gallop Dark Entries
Ebola and global warming
Stalins of Sound Monkeys Attack Tank Tracks Slovenly