7/30/19 Show feat. Dr. Jo Dunkley on Our Curious Universe

Featured image: The warps in spacetime caused by gravity even affect light, so that heavy objects create distorted views of galaxies behind them. (Courtesy NASA)

Our guest this week is the luminous Prof. Jo Dunkley of Princeton’s Departments of Physics and Astrophysical Sciences, who just published her first book, Our Universe: An Astronomer’s Guide. Jo boils down our universe’s 13 billion year history into a digestible story, traveling from planets to stars to clumps of dark matter on the way. She reminds us of the painstaking research that enables our modern understanding: for example, female “computers” like Henrietta Swan Leavitt in the early 20th century made crucial discoveries about stars and distance even as male scientists monopolized the telescopes. Finally, Jo explains the radical idea of measuring gravity by looking at distortions in the cosmic microwave background, a primary thrust of her current research.

In other news:

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

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7/23/19 Show feat. Dr. Haider Warraich on the State of the Heart and Dr. Ingrid Ockert on Mooniversary

Featured image: Stents are marvels of modern medicine that prop open coronary arteries and resume blood flow, ending the blockage that leads to heart attacks. (Courtesy Getty Images)

Today we speak with Dr. Haider Warraich, cardiologist starting at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, on his new book, State of the Heart. As a medical professional and writer, Haider knows firsthand the power of stories to stick in human memory; but he also knows how little the average person understands their hardest-working organ. His book brings the heart, its ailments, and its medical history to life. Though it continually pumps blood through your body, it took humans millennia to understand how the heart works, and medical mysteries still abound. Hear about blood pressure, heart attacks, stress and anxiety, and the future of cardiovascular technology.

Plus, a great intro on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with Dr. Ingrid Ockert of the Science History Institute, including a massive rocket display on the Washington Monument and a review of the glorious archival film, Apollo 11.

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

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7/16/19 Show feat. Dr. Robert Vanderbei on Astrophotography and DIY Science

Featured image: A sunset over Lake Michigan on July 5th, 2008. When photographed by Dr. Vanderbei, he didn’t realize the curved Earth would change the mirrored solar radius. (Courtesy Optics & Photonics)

This week, we host Prof. Robert Vanderbei of Princeton’s Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering (also this summer’s Scientist in Residence at the Princeton Public Library!), expert on telescope design and hobbyist in (among many things) astrophotography. Robert has a passion for digging into the unusual, finding ways to prove to himself how the world works. With astrophotography, he uses telescopes and high-quality cameras to measure distances in space and sometimes discover surprises like variable stars—but he is careful to mention that you can measure an amazing amount even with the right sunset photo. Even down here on Earth, Robert explains how he verified that “local warming” is occurring right alongside global climate change, as demonstrated via years of weather station data you can download yourself.

In other news:

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

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7/9/19 Show feat. Kelsey Ockert on “Secrets from the Eating Lab” by Dr. Traci Mann

Featured image: Subtle suggestions, like pictures in the bottom of cafeteria food trays, can influence people to make different choices for their lunch. (Courtesy MPR News)

Today, Kelsey Ockert from the Princeton Public Library brings us Secrets from the Eating Lab by Traci Mann, PhD. It’s a book full of science about nutrition, hunger, and dieting that often flies in the face of “conventional wisdom” (on a topic where opinions abound!). Traci advocates for an easing up on the stress around dieting: it doesn’t usually work for humans to clamp down into strict routines, since our willpower is limited. Listen for a message of body-positivity, appetite and social pressures as backed up by laboratory data!

In other news:

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

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6/25/19 Show feat. Scott Andrews on Building Insanely Fast Streak Cameras

Featured image: Scott Andrews and his first creation the SC1, custom-built for measuring visible light signals at extreme speeds. (Courtesy Titan Labs)

This week, Scott Andrews of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Titan Labs joins us to share his work on developing superfast cameras for scientific measurements. If your camera is too slow, the event you’re trying to see is too blurry to understand—and tracking the motions of atoms occurring in quadrillionths of a second is hard with any present-day technology. Scott is developing improvements to streak cameras, which convert light into electrons in order to measure events on the picosecond or femtosecond time scale. Hear how he does it, plus the benefits of thinking through design from different perspectives.

In other news, tree lobsters are on the up-and-up in the insect world, and their aggressively long tails seem to be for pinning down down rivals, not mates.

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

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6/18/19 Show feat. Dr. Nathan Matias on Improving Online Behavior

Featured image: The open-ended Reddit, the one-time “front page of the internet,” attracts a wealth of content. But its huge community often brings it in contact with the web’s dark side. (Courtesy Veronica Belmont)

Joining us this time is Dr. J. Nathan Matias, Assistant Professor at Cornell University and former Associate Research Scholar at Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy. Nathan focuses on the intersection of sociology, psychology and the internet, examining issues like online behavior, harassment, and the shaping of modern discourse by websites and their design choices. We talk through his research on Reddit’s /r/science subreddit, where Nathan and the site moderators encouraged welcoming behavior by including a small rule reminder for commenters. Plus: under the obligation to experiment, websites that manage what we see online ought to do tests to see how their choices affect our experience, and make their results public — taking the tools they use to make effective advertising and deploying them in our interest!

In other news: the hunt for ancient creatures in Burmese amber is enriching our understanding of ancient life, but it also funds unsafe, exploitative mining and the civil war in the area.

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

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6/4/19 Show feat. Margaret Koval on Evolving Media, Podcasting and Climate Change

Featured image: How people view climate change depends intimately on its portrayal in the media. How can it be covered well? (Courtesy Reuters and Oxford)

This week we host Margaret Koval, former broadcast news producer and current Princeton Communications Director of Special Projects. Initially a staffer on Capitol Hill with an academic interest in Soviet affairs, Margaret transitioned to broadcast news, cutting tape herself and traveling widely. Eventually she sought longer-form stories, producing documentary films on the World Wars, ancient Rome and more. Here at Princeton, she leads the She Roars podcast, interviewing women alumni from Nobel laureates to community activists, and is planning to start a solution-oriented podcast on climate change.

Before the interview, listen for a Wayfinding book giveaway: Thanks to those that called in and offered their methods of navigation! We heard about getting around with landmarks, compasses, white canes, light pollution, and by memory association.

In other news:

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

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5/28/19 Show feat. Maura O’Connor on How Humans Wayfind

Featured image: Songline dot art of Aboriginal Australians, which acts as a cultural narrative tool and a map through Australian grasslands and deserts all at once. (courtesy National Geographic)

This week, author Maura O’Connor guides us through her new book Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World. Our modern selves may rely on GPS to get from A to B, but our brains are capable of extreme navigational feats: Inuits in snow, Aboriginal Australians in the bush, and seafarers in Oceania all travel far without the concept of “being lost.” Maura shares how these travelers use natural clues and cultural context to find their way, and how neuroscience shows that wayfinding, memory and storytelling are all intertwined.

In other news:

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

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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, “BeyoncĂ©,” 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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