Read Science!

Conversations about Science Communication and Communicating Science

Jan
14

S11:E01, “How to Tame a Fox” edition, with Lee Alan Dugatkin (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 14 January 2018

Streamed live on 11 January 2018.

Perhaps the longest running scientific experiment of the 20th, and now 21st centuries, has been taking place in a remote “City of Science” (“Akademgodok”) in Siberia, involving raising generations of foxes selected from a larger population (bred for their fur) based on an individual’s demeanor toward humans. The goal of the project, begun in the late 1950s first by Dmitri Belyaev, soon joined by Lyudmila Trut, was to try to discover some clues to how dogs first became domesticated over 20,000 years ago. Trut was recruited by Belyaev to head the daily operation of the experiment when she was 23, and she’s still involved over 60 years later.

The results from the ongoing experiment are startling and telling. We had a lively discussion with Lee Alan Dugatkin, co-author with Lyudmila Trut, of How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution, discussing this fascinating and engaging book, details and outcomes of the experiment, the experiment’s emergence into the Western scientific awareness, Lysenkoism, and Belyaev and Trut and other personal stories of the people involved in this long-running story.

Like “Read Science!” on Facebook to hear about upcoming programs, easy links to the archive, and news about RS! guests: https://www.facebook.com/ReadScience/.

Jan
14

S11:E01, “How to Tame a Fox” edition, with Lee Alan Dugatkin (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 14 January 2018

Streamed live on 11 January 2018.

Perhaps the longest running scientific experiment of the 20th, and now 21st centuries, has been taking place in a remote “City of Science” (“Akademgodok”) in Siberia, involving raising generations of foxes selected from a larger population (bred for their fur) based on an individual’s demeanor toward humans. The goal of the project, begun in the late 1950s first by Dmitri Belyaev, soon joined by Lyudmila Trut, was to try to discover some clues to how dogs first became domesticated over 20,000 years ago. Trut was recruited by Belyaev to head the daily operation of the experiment when she was 23, and she’s still involved over 60 years later.

The results from the ongoing experiment are startling and telling. We had a lively discussion with Lee Alan Dugatkin, co-author with Lyudmila Trut, of How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution, discussing this fascinating and engaging book, details and outcomes of the experiment, the experiment’s emergence into the Western scientific awareness, Lysenkoism, and Belyaev and Trut and other personal stories of the people involved in this long-running story.

Like “Read Science!” on Facebook to hear about upcoming programs, easy links to the archive, and news about RS! guests: https://www.facebook.com/ReadScience/.

Dec
12

S10:E06, “An Edition of Magnitude”, with Kimberly Arcand and Megan Watzke (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 12 December 2017

Streamed live on 7 December 2017.

Think about this: the Hubble Space Telescope has 300 times the mass of a golden retriever. Or this: Hally’s Comet has 109 times the mass of a blue whale. Surprised? NOT surprised?

Welcome to the fun world of magnitude: the sizes, masses, speed, and most anything else you can measure about all the stuff in the universe, both big and small, all presented with more interesting comparison, startling facts, and fascinating graphics in Magnitude: The Scale of the Universe, by Kimberly Arcand and Megan Watzke. We talked to Kimberly and Megan about their passion for making science interesting and accessible, how their outlook is influenced by their careers, and how they came to write this book, as well as their previous book, Light: The Visible Spectrum and Beyond.

Like “Read Science!” on Facebook to hear about upcoming programs, easy links to the archive, and news about RS! guests: https://www.facebook.com/ReadScience/.

Dec
12

S10:E06, “An Edition of Magnitude”, with Kimberly Arcand and Megan Watzke (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 12 December 2017

Streamed live on 7 December 2017.

Think about this: the Hubble Space Telescope has 300 times the mass of a golden retriever. Or this: Hally’s Comet has 109 times the mass of a blue whale. Surprised? NOT surprised?

Welcome to the fun world of magnitude: the sizes, masses, speed, and most anything else you can measure about all the stuff in the universe, both big and small, all presented with more interesting comparisons, startling facts, and fascinating and informative graphics in Magnitude: The Scale of the Universe, by Kimberly Arcand and Megan Watzke. We talked to Kimberly and Megan about their passion for making science interesting and accessible, how their outlook is influenced by their careers, and how they came to write this book, as well as their previous book, Light: The Visible Spectrum and Beyond.

Like “Read Science!” on Facebook to hear about upcoming programs, easy links to the archive, and news about RS! guests: https://www.facebook.com/ReadScience/.

Dec
12

S10:E05, “Smashing Codes” edition, with Jason Fagone (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 12 December 2017

Streamed live on 30 November 2017.

Meet Elizebeth and William Friedman, quite possibly the most important people in recent US history that most people have never heard of: the power couple who conjured the US’s code-breaking capabilities virtually out of thin air in World War I, thanks largely to happenstance. Sometimes as a pair, sometimes as isolated individuals, they saw us through the lawless time of Prohibition rum-running, then several nail-biting events during World War II and the increasing importance of being able to decipher secret messages. So much of their work was classified, and Elizebeth’s remarkable abilities filtered through the lens of prejudice against women, that they are little known today, despite their vital work in the twentieth century.

It’s not often we get to say “their story can now be told”, but it’s true, thanks to the declassification of many of their papers, and a new generation’s receptiveness to hearing the story of a remarkable woman’s achievements. Elizebeth’s and William’s story is comprehensively researched and engagingly told by Jason Fagone in his book The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America’s Enemies.

Like “Read Science!” on Facebook to hear about upcoming programs, easy links to the archive, and news about RS! guests: https://www.facebook.com/ReadScience/.

Dec
12

S10:E05, “Smashing Codes” edition, with Jason Fagone (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 12 December 2017

Streamed live on 30 November 2017.

Meet Elizebeth and William Friedman, quite possibly the most important people in recent US history that most people have never heard of: the power couple who conjured the US’s code-breaking capabilities virtually out of thin air in World War I, thanks largely to happenstance. Sometimes as a pair, sometimes as isolated individuals, they saw us through the lawless time of Prohibition rum-running, then several nail-biting events during World War II and the increasing importance of being able to decipher secret messages. So much of their work was classified, and Elizebeth’s remarkable abilities filtered through the lens of prejudice against women, that they are little known today, despite their vital work in the twentieth century.

It’s not often we get to say “their story can now be told”, but it’s true, thanks to the declassification of many of their papers, and a new generation’s receptiveness to hearing the story of a remarkable woman’s achievements. Elizebeth’s and William’s story is comprehensively researched and engagingly told by Jason Fagone in his book The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America’s Enemies.

Like “Read Science!” on Facebook to hear about upcoming programs, easy links to the archive, and news about RS! guests: https://www.facebook.com/ReadScience/.

Nov
21

S10:E04, “Soonish” edition, with Kelly and Zach Weinersmith (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 21 November 2017

Streamed live on 9 November 2017.

“This is one of those books where we predict the future.” So say authors Kelly & Zach Weinersmith as the first sentence of the introduction to their book, Soonish : Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything. As they note, predicting the future is easy, but getting the predictions right is harder. So, instead of worrying over much about the accuracy of the predictions, the authors look at 10 things that might happen in the not-so-distant future, and then consider in some detail interesting potential and ideas and questions and emerging technologies that might get us there soonish.

Interesting and exciting stuff like space elevators, asteroid mining, fusion, buckets of stuff, bioprinting, and brain-computer interfaces all make an appearance, along with lots of cartoons featuring characters that will look familiar to fans of “Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal”.

Like “Read Science!” on Facebook to hear about upcoming programs, easy links to the archive, and news about RS! guests: https://www.facebook.com/ReadScience/.

Nov
21

S10:E04, “Soonish” edition, with Kelly and Zach Weinersmith (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 21 November 2017

Streamed live on 9 November 2017.

“This is one of those books where we predict the future.” So say authors Kelly & Zach Weinersmith as the first sentence of the introduction to their book, Soonish : Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything. As they note, predicting the future is easy, but getting the predictions right is harder. So, instead of worrying over much about the accuracy of the predictions, the authors look at 10 things that might happen in the not-so-distant future, and then consider in some detail interesting potential and ideas and questions and emerging technologies that might get us there soonish.

Interesting and exciting stuff like space elevators, asteroid mining, fusion, buckets of stuff, bioprinting, and brain-computer interfaces all make an appearance, along with lots of cartoons featuring characters that will look familiar to fans of “Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal”.

Like “Read Science!” on Facebook to hear about upcoming programs, easy links to the archive, and news about RS! guests: https://www.facebook.com/ReadScience/.

Nov
10

S10:E03, “Good Death” edition, with Caitlin Doughty (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 10 November 2017

Streamed live on 9 November 2017.

Americans have an uneasy relationship with death and dying, but could benefit greatly from a more forthright approach. Different cultures have very different funerary customs, and the differences highlight the benefits that could come from changes in habits. Surprisingly many of our customs, which we think must be steeped in tradition, only arose in the early 20th century.

We discussed all those ideas as they are presented in author Caitlin Doughty’s new book, From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death. As happens, ours was a wide-ranging discussion that ranged from funeral pyres and the origins of embalming in America, to LED Buddhas and watermelons.

Mentioned in the video was an organization founded by Caitlin, the “Order of the Good Death”; for more, visit the website: http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/. Also of interest: Caitlin’s video series “Ask a Mortician”, on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/user/OrderoftheGoodDeath.

Like “Read Science!” on Facebook to hear about upcoming programs, easy links to the archive, and news about RS! guests: https://www.facebook.com/ReadScience/.

Nov
10

S10:E03, “Good Death” edition, with Caitlin Doughty (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 10 November 2017

Streamed live on 9 November 2017.

Americans have an uneasy relationship with death and dying, but could benefit greatly from a more forthright approach. Different cultures have very different funerary customs, and the differences highlight the benefits that could come from changes in habits. Surprisingly many of our customs, which we think must be steeped in tradition, only arose in the early 20th century.

We discussed all those ideas as they are presented in author Caitlin Doughty’s new book, From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death. Ours was a wide-ranging discussion that ranged from funeral pyres and the origins of embalming in America, to LED Buddhas and watermelons.

Mentioned in the video was an organization founded by Caitlin, the “Order of the Good Death”; for more, visit the website: http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/. Also of interest: Caitlin’s video series “Ask a Mortician”, on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/user/OrderoftheGoodDeath.

Like “Read Science!” on Facebook to hear about upcoming programs, easy links to the archive, and news about RS! guests: https://www.facebook.com/ReadScience/.

Oct
19

S10:E02, “Last Breath” edition, with Sam Kean (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 19 October 2017

Streamed live on 12 October 2017.

When Julius Caesar, having been stabbed in the Roman Senate, exhaled his last breath, the molecules in his breath began spreading around the Earth. How likely is it that, when you inhale, you inhale a molecule that Caesar exhaled?

Well, that answer, plus many, many more observations and answers about so many things you never even knew you wanted to know about are to be found in Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us, the most recent book from author Sam Kean, who was with us in this episode of “Read Science!” to talk about the book, his earlier books (The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, The Disappearing Spoon, and The Violinists Thumb), and other fascinating things like how he does his research, how he finds the curious stories he relates, and how he turns them into his informative and readable books.

Like “Read Science!” on Facebook to hear about upcoming programs, easy links to the archive, and news about RS! guests: https://www.facebook.com/ReadScience/.

Oct
19

S10:E02, “Last Breath” edition, with Sam Kean (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 19 October 2017

Streamed live on 12 October 2017.

When Julius Caesar, having been stabbed in the Roman Senate, exhaled his last breath, the molecules in his breath began spreading around the Earth. How likely is it that, when you inhale, you inhale a molecule that Caesar exhaled?

Well, that answer, plus many, many more observations and answers about so many things you never even knew you wanted to know about are to be found in Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us, the most recent book from author Sam Kean, who was with us in this episode of “Read Science!” to talk about the book, his earlier books (The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, The Disappearing Spoon, and The Violinists Thumb), and other fascinating things like how he does his research, how he finds the curious stories he relates, and how he turns them into his informative and readable books.

Like “Read Science!” on Facebook to hear about upcoming programs, easy links to the archive, and news about RS! guests: https://www.facebook.com/ReadScience/.

Sep
22

S10:E01, “Big Chicken” edition, with Maryn McKenna (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 22 September 2017

Streamed live on 20 September 2017.

Industrial chicken farming, antiobiotic resistance, and the future of both were on our minds, and in our conversation, today when we talk with Maryn McKenna, author of Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats. The word “incredible” seems almost inadequate to describe the stories she tells.

Like “Read Science!” on Facebook to hear about upcoming programs, easy links to the archive, and news about RS! guests: https://www.facebook.com/ReadScience/.

Sep
22

S10:E01, “Big Chicken” edition, with Maryn McKenna (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 22 September 2017

Streamed live on 20 September 2017.

Industrial chicken farming, antiobiotic resistance, and the future of both were on our minds, and in our conversation, today when we talk with Maryn McKenna, author of Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats. The word “incredible” seems almost inadequate to describe the stories she tells.

Like “Read Science!” on Facebook to hear about upcoming programs, easy links to the archive, and news about RS! guests: https://www.facebook.com/ReadScience/.

Sep
22

S09:E06, “Not A Scientist” edition, with Dave Levitan (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 22 September 2017

Streamed live on 5 September 2017.

Oh, those crafty politicians! Are they all the same? In this episode, Joanne and Jeff speak with journalist Dave Levitan about his book, Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science. Lots of current topics (with quite a bit of climate change represented) flash by as we shed light on all the ways that politicians prevaricate about science and scientific results.

Like “Read Science!” on Facebook to hear about upcoming programs, easy links to the archive, and news about RS! guests: https://www.facebook.com/ReadScience/.