3/26/19 Show feat. Michael Lemonick on Science Journalism + Climate Politics (w/ Policy Punchline)

Featured image: A helicopter tours the rapidly changing landscape of the Eqi Glacier in Greenland. How do journalists bring this gravitas to their publications? (courtesy Michael Kappeler)

policyPunchlineIn this jointly-hosted episode, we team up with the Policy Punchline podcast, a production run by Tiger Gao, to interview the notorious Michael Lemonick, Princeton lecturer and Scientific American Opinion Editor. Tune in to our discussion on science journalism, climate change, technology, and confidence in the future, guided by Mike’s trove of anecdotes from a career in writing about scientific progress. Is the average person ever going to care deeply about science and research? What is the role of the journalist in boosting public enthusiasm? Do we have any public-relations recourse against climate change — and if not, what do we need to do instead? Chew on these questions throughout this thought-provoking conversation, courtesy of Tiger, Mike, and the spirit of collaborative radio!

In other news:

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

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3/12/19 Show feat. Prototype G on How to Run an All-Female Robotics Team

Featured image: A member of the Prototype G team wields a competition robot, “Beyoncé,” before the round begins. (Courtesy Prototype G)

This episode, we have an enriching visit with two robot enthusiasts and FIRST Tech Challenge competitors, Sanjana and Prital, of the local all-girls robotics team Prototype G. This group of middle- and high-schoolers learns to engineer, construct, and program a completely independent robot, designed to win a detailed competition. From the ground up, they master skills like computer-aided drawing, industrial machining, Java coding, and the slang and skills of robotics (lead screws, tracks and treads…). Prototype G has a history of learning from others, and has helped many young engineers develop awesome skills over the years. Look into FIRST Robotics yourself if you are an interested student!

In other news:

  • Though 3D printing may reinvent many manufacturing processes, it’s got its limitations… But recently, scientists have cleverly learned to print multiple materials at once, opening the door to many new uses for the technology.

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

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4/09/19 Show feat. Annette Zimmermann on Algorithmic Injustice

In this show, Dr. Annette Zimmermann joins Stevie in the WPRB studio. Annette is a political philosopher with Princeton University’s Center for Human Values and Center for Information and Technology Policy. We discuss artificial intelligence — what it is and what it isn’t — ethics, fairness, and how these topics come together in our world today. In particular, the current focus of her research is in the area of algorithmic injustice. This is the way through which algorithmic decision making systems (e.g. an AI computer program) could result in imbalanced outcomes for different societal groups.

Interview begins at 50 minutes.

Annette Zimmermann and her colleague (and previous guest of the show) Bendert Zevenbergen recently wrote a post for the CITP blog Freedom to Tinker on AI Ethics: Seven Traps. The piece is meant to be a “resource for readers who want to understand and navigate the public debate on the ethics of AI better, who want to contribute to ongoing discussions in an informed and nuanced way, and who want to think critically and constructively about ethical considerations in science and technology more broadly.” Indeed, it’s a great follow-up read for those interested in exploring these topics further.

Also mentioned in the show was prior work by ProPublica on algorithmic injustice. You can find articles on the topic here and a bit more here.

Science News:


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3/5/19 Show feat. Kelsey Ockert on “The Autobiography of a Transgender Scientist”

Featured image: Glial cells are the structural glue that holds together our brain neurons—and we wouldn’t know much about them without the hard work of Ben Barres. (courtesy RStudio)

3fcollid3dbooks_covers_026isbn3d978026203911626type3dIn this All Vinyl Week episode, we welcome our friend Kelsey Ockert from the Princeton Public Library for a book giveaway! This time, it’s the posthumously released Autobiography of a Transgender Scientist by Stanford neuroscientist Ben Barres. Ben researched glial cells, a central but poorly understood building block of the nervous system, which he found to be tied to protective myelin growth, as well as nerve structure and repair. This understanding led to profound success, but Ben experienced severe sexism before his female-to-male transition, and extreme worry that coming out as a transgender scientist would endanger his career. Nonetheless, Ben’s success continued, and he partnered his research career with a direct confrontational approach toward a lack of diversity in science. Read this moving and revealing autobiography for a new look on how the scientific community operates, and how it could benefit from becoming more inclusive.

Thanks to MIT Press for contributing the book for our giveaway this week!

In other news:

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

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2/26/19 Show feat. Dr. Chris Smiet on Science Poetry

Featured image: Les Horribles Cernettes, a group of CERN scientists and engineers, films a music video for their song “Collider” amid Cray supercomputers at the Large Hadron Collider. (courtesy Les Horribles Cernettes)

chris20smiet20color1Welcome back to PPPL plasma physicist and topologist Dr. Chris Smiet, who told us about food before and returns with another niche favorite: poetry about science! Lyricism forces writers to be clear and exact with their words, all while incorporating rhythm, humor, and emotion. Writing this way, scientists condense their ideas and pick out the most important themes, entertaining readers while leaving them with the essence of the work. Chris leads us through his own forays into scientific poetry, summarizing each of his academic publications with a poem and sharing the results on air. We also explore the dynamic community of science lyricists out there, many of whom publish online, including:

  • Tim Blais (show @ 1:30): A capella covers of pop songs with lyrics about string theory, organic chemistry, and nanobots
  • Alpinekat (show @ 0:09): Writer of several particle physics raps and former researcher at CERN
  • Les Horribles Cernettes (show @ 1:08): A band of CERN scientists and, incidentally, the subjects of the first image on the internet!

In other news, listen towards the end of the show for a reading from Mark Miodownik’s Stuff Matters, a fantastic book about materials (the precursor to a book we recently gave away, Liquid Rules).

In recognition of Black History Month, we featured the biographies of several African American physicists, including Robert Ellis, Shirley Jackson and Sylvester Gates.

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

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