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.
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?