1/8/19 Show feat. Kelsey Ockert on Hedy Lamarr and The Only Woman in the Room

Featured image: A modern-day submarine communication system relying on satellites and buoys; such an arrangement was impossible during the torpedo crises of WWII. (Courtesy Engadget)

Welcome back to our friend and librarian Kelsey Ockert! She brings us the new historical fiction novel, “The Only Woman in the Room” by Marie Benedict, which covers famous Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr. Known for her dramatic escape from the Nazis and subsequent celebrity life, Hedy was also a crafty inventor, though she is only now being recognized for her seminal contributions. During World War II, Hedy worked with a partner, George Antheil, to improve torpedo communication systems and thus sink more German submarines. Though the technique was never deployed in the war, the tricks Hedy developed were later crucial for enabling WiFi and Bluetooth technologies, both of which rely on “frequency shifting” for transmitting encrypted signals.

Take a look at The Only Woman in the Room to get a more thorough feel for the life, times, and triumphs of Hedy Lamarr; or check out the documentary Bombshell. Thanks to Princeton Public Library and Kelsey Ockert for sharing the book review, and for enabling our book giveaway this week!

In other news:

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

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1/22/19 Show feat. Justin Ripley on Calendars and Exotic Compact Objects

Featured image: An artist’s conception of a higher-dimensional wormhole, connecting two distant places through a contortion of spacetime. (Courtesy Quanta Magazine)

In a New Year’s special, Justin Ripley (Princeton University PhD Candidate in Physics) introduces us to 2019 in a show on calendars and alternatives to black holes. First, how do we make calendars to cope with the fact that it takes Earth a fractional number of days to orbit the sun? Justin describes how the Pope had so much to do with remaking our calendar—his concern stemmed from accuracy and the fact that Easter was slipping in the old system. Afterwards, we get into exotic compact objects, Justin’s ongoing academic research, which poses a simple question: What if there aren’t black holes? Scientists are toying with Einstein’s equations of general relativity, attempting to see what other objects might exist at dense points in space besides black holes—without succumbing to the time-bending weirdness of singularities and event horizons!

Stay tuned til the end for a teaser on how this all relates to gravitational wave astronomy!

In other news:

  • A total lunar eclipse captured the frigid midnight hours of North and South America on January 21, 2019. But why is the eclipsed moon red? It’s all due to a lensing effect by the Earth’s atmosphere!
  • With tiny backpack units and a flock of swallows, we’re learning more about how seasonal bird migration works, and how heroic flight schedules are being shifted by climate change.
  • Scientists can now map out where stars are being born the most in our nearby universe. Turns out, dynamic galactic clouds shaken by our Milky Way are violent furnaces for star formation, with rates shooting up once the clouds near our galaxy.

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

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12/11/18 Show Feat. Kelsey Ockert on the Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth

Featured image: A rotting log supports an entire ecosystem, from base recyclers to apex predators. (Courtesy Rachel Ignotofsky)

Another featured book giveaway this week: Kelsey Ockert brings us The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth, written and drawn by Rachel Ignotofsky. In captivating page-by-page diagrams of complex natural ecosystems, Ignotofsky illustrates the diversity of life while showing the interdependence of all organisms. See how Andean mountainscapes and underwater reefs support themselves, and what modern threats endanger each ecosystem the most.

The book was gifted to a lucky listener courtesy of the Princeton Public Library.

In other news:

  • The mysterious weather event, El Niño, disturbs the planet’s equilibrium once every few years. But a new class, El Niño Modoki, is enhanced by climate change and is overtaking the old as a typical global pattern.
  • By combining volcanic activity maps with artificial intelligence, we are teaching computers to predict new eruptions and save lives — but how smart are computers at reading our tectonic plates?

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

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1/15/19 Show feat. Lili Cai and Anne Mennen on Fear Memories in Rodents and Humans

Featured image: Memories lodge themselves all across your brain, and are altered each time we remember them. (Courtesy MIT News)

On this week’s show, colleagues in the Princeton Neuroscience Institute Lili Cai and Anne Mennen dive into their research on fearful memories. We investigate where memories are physically stored in our heads, and what we can do to strengthen or weaken a memory—since for some, memories prolong the trauma of an unforgettable event. In their graduate research, Lili and Anne gather brain data from their subjects through different means: Lili in rats via direct neurosurgery, and Anne in humans with sophisticated brain imagers. Together, they test our models of memory and learn how we can manipulate what we remember for our own good.

In other news: Immediately after the clock ticked into 2019, the NASA spacecraft New Horizons flew by a foreign object, Ultima Thule, which is the furthest solid body from the sun we have studied up close. Seeing this primordial snowman tells us how small rocks built planets in the early solar system — it’s a time capsule from 4 billion years ago!

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

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01/29/19 Show – the Facetime bug, AI and Criminal Justice, Galloping Geckos, NASA and more

In this show, Stevie was back on the mic after a long hiatus, loading up with science news and fresh music.

Science news:


 

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11/27/18 Show feat. Kelsey Ockert on Adventures in Memory

Featured image: An important section of the brain, the hippocampus, looks a bit like a seahorse. The Østby sisters use this metaphor throughout their journey in neuroscience. (Courtesy Greystone Books)

Public librarian Kelsey Ockert is back with another TVR2C book giveaway! Today it’s Adventures in Memory: The Science and Secrets of Remembering and Forgetting by Hilde & Ylva Østby. Meet a cast of characters with different perspectives on how we remember, both from the science they do and the brain differences they exhibit. Neuroscientists have burrowed their way down to locating individual memories in mice brains, and can now trigger those memories by hooking up brain neurons to external inputs. This, and many other neuroscience anecdotes, come through our book review and subsequent giveaway (thanks as usual to the Princeton Public Library!).

In other news:

  • The InSight Lander has successfully landed on the planet Mars, ready to dig deep into the Martian past by examining its soil layers.
  • Massive supernova explosions concoct the bulk of our universe’s heavy elements. It turns out turbulence in the explosive clouds may trap fusing particles for longer, sustaining the reaction and producing more heavy atoms.

The full playlist is available online at WPRB.com or below.

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12/4/18 Show feat. Astrophysicist Alwin Mao on Dark Matter Hurricanes

Featured image: The Magellanic Stream spans a vast stretch of our sky, and it is weighted down with clumps of dark matter (courtesy Nidever et al., NRAO)

This week’s episode delivers the descriptive Alwin Mao, astrophysicist and researcher on cosmic ray pressure. Alwin follows galactic meteorology, and one weather event that intrigues him is the ongoing dark matter hurricane our part of the Milky Way is experiencing. These torrents of dark matter were brought by miniature galaxies that collided with ours in the past. But since dark matter doesn’t interact with atoms, we don’t notice a thing — and scientists only recently learned about the hurricanes by studying the motion of nearby stars. Thanks to Alwin for bringing these outer space dynamics to life!

In other news: A set of new black hole collisions has been revealed by the awe-inspiring LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave telescopes, giving a more thorough glimpse into the nature of a “usual” cosmic collision.

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

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11/20/18 Show feat. Kelsey Ockert on the Re-Origin of Species: Reversing Extinction with Science

Featured image: A rare image of the po’ouli, a now-extinct species of Hawaiian songbird last seen in 2004. The last known male failed to breed in captivity, but its body and genes have been cryogenically preserved in California. (Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The quest to bring back extinct species isn’t all about reviving mammoths 11,000 years after the Ice Age. Humans are causing a massive global extinction, affecting thousands of species due to habitat loss and changing climate, so it’s all we can do to stem the tide by preserving species in any way we can. Right now, a multifaceted band of scientists are gathering DNA of endangered creatures and using science to revive previously dead branches of the tree of life.

All of this comes forward in the great new book, “The Re-Origin of Species” by Torill Kornfeldt. Just translated from Swedish, the chapters chronicle different scientists’ quests to preserve life as we know it, covering the unbelievable possibilities already in play, as well as the moral dilemmas imposed by destroying and reanimating life. Thanks to Kelsey Ockert of the Princeton Public Library for the book review and giveaway!

In other news:

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

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10/30/18 Show feat. Kelsey Ockert on Black Hole Photography and the Event Horizon Telescope

Featured image: A simulated image of the dynamic region surrounding a black hole, showing off a “bump” that builds up due to magnetohydrodynamic motion. (Courtesy Dexter et al., Astrophysics Journal 2010)

How do we know what a black hole looks like? We have many theories about these ominous objects that are backed up by evidence, but one thing we haven’t done is seen a black hole—due to their tiny size and total darkness, nobody has been able to take a picture of one. We haven’t had a telescope sharp enough to see the black hole, until now: and it’s only a small and determined band of scientists, currently developing a telescope the size of the Earth, to break through the barrier and image a black hole for the first time. This week, we focus on the story of the Event Horizon Telescope, a massive undertaking whose results are due in the near future.

Kelsey Ockert is back on These Vibes for a book giveaway about this phenomenal scientific project. Check out “Einstein’s Shadow: A Black Hole, a Band of Astronomers, and the Quest to See the Unseeable” by Seth Fletcher! Thanks to the Princeton Public Library for the free book.

In other news:

The playlist is online at WPRB.com or below.

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10/23/18 Show feat. Kelsey Ockert on Lidar: The Future of Laser Imaging

Featured image: Todd Neff’s new book shows how Lidar has, for example, revolutionized Aztec archeology by making it possible to map the rainforest floor underneath the trees. (courtesy Todd Neff)

This week is the first of a series of book giveaways we are bringing to our show (look out for more in coming weeks), thanks to Kelsey Ockert of the Princeton Public Library! Kelsey describes to us the history and future of Lidar, a laser imaging technology that’s enabling new research and technology in many unexpected ways. The book we discuss is “The Laser That’s Changing the World: The Amazing Stories behind Lidar, from 3D Mapping to Self-Driving Cars” by Todd Neff.

In other news:

Thanks for listening! The playlist can be found online at WPRB.com or below.

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