Read Science!

Conversations about Science Communication and Communicating Science

Aug
02

S13:E01, “Mammalian” edition, with Liam Drew (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 2 August 2019

Streamed live on 30 July 2019.

Since forever, it seems, people have been trying to decide what unique characteristic separates mammals from all other animals–and what unique characteristic separates humans from all other mammals. And yet, no one seems to have a definitive answer.

Liam Drew, in his book I, Mammal: The Story of What Makes Us Mammals, takes a different tack, and looks instead at the characteristics that humans have in common with other mammals, and at how evolution has created a number of shared characteristics. Which came first: the milk or the mammary glands? How did animals that give live birth to their young evolve from animals who lay eggs, and where do marsupials fit into that evolutionary picture? What makes the mammalian placenta the extraordinary organ that it is, and how did that come about? And, in discussing why we owe the entire book to an unfortunate encounter that the author had with a soccer ball, why in the world do so many mammalian males wear their testicles outside their body?

Author Drew weaves a remarkable number of fascinating facts into fun, informative stories about mammals and how we evolved, and we had a great deal of fun trying to mention all our favorites as our very short hour allowed. Put it all together and we find out that mammals are less a collection of traits, and more a parallel collection of histories of how we came to be.

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/.

Aug
02

S13:E01, “Mammalian” edition, with Liam Drew (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 2 August 2019

Streamed live on 30 July 2019.

Since forever, it seems, people have been trying to decide what unique characteristic separates mammals from all other animals–and what unique characteristic separates humans from all other mammals. And yet, no one seems to have a definitive answer.

Liam Drew, in his book I, Mammal: The Story of What Makes Us Mammals, takes a different tack, and looks instead at the characteristics that humans have in common with other mammals, and at how evolution has created a number of shared characteristics. Which came first: the milk or the mammary glands? How did animals that give live birth to their young evolve from animals who lay eggs, and where do marsupials fit into that evolutionary picture? What makes the mammalian placenta the extraordinary organ that it is, and how did that come about? And, in discussing why we owe the entire book to an unfortunate encounter that the author had with a soccer ball, why in the world do so many mammalian males wear their testicles outside their body?

Author Drew weaves a remarkable number of fascinating facts into fun, informative stories about mammals and how we evolved, and we had a great deal of fun trying to mention all our favorites as our very short hour allowed. Put it all together and we find out that mammals are less a collection of traits, and more a parallel collection of histories of how we came to be.

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/.

Jul
15

S12:E06, “Archaeology From Space” edition, with Sarah Parcak (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 15 July 2019

Streamed live on 11 July 2019.

From Egyptology to satellites in space, from archaeological sites in Peru to remote sensing, we found an abundance of fascinating and exciting topics of discussion with our guest, archaeologist Sarah Parcak, author of Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past. While she writes about projects that she has worked on, we not only learn more about Sarah, but about what archaeology is, what its main concerns are, how archaeologists actually go about their business, what taking pictures of the Earth from space has to do with archaeology–and, as often happens, so much more crowded into our all-too-brief hour’s discussion.

But, we also found a few minutes to discuss the citizen-science/crowdsourcing archaeological project Sarah’s involved with known as GlobalXplorer: https://www.globalxplorer.org/ .

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/

Jul
15

S12:E06, “Archaeology From Space” edition, with Sarah Parcak (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 15 July 2019

Streamed live on 11 July 2019.

From Egyptology to satellites in space, from archaeological sites in Peru to remote sensing, we found an abundance of fascinating and exciting topics of discussion with our guest, archaeologist Sarah Parcak, author of Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past. While she writes about projects that she has worked on, we not only learn more about Sarah, but about what archaeology is, what its main concerns are, how archaeologists actually go about their business, what taking pictures of the Earth from space has to do with archaeology–and, as often happens, so much more crowded into our all-too-brief hour’s discussion.

But, we also found a few minutes to discuss the citizen-science/crowdsourcing archaeological project Sarah’s involved with known as GlobalXplorer: https://www.globalxplorer.org/ .

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/

Jun
26

S12:E05, “Modern Physics” edition, with Graham Farmelo (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 26 June 2019

Streamed live on 18 June 2019.

Our guest today takes on some big ideas in his book, but the biggest may be the conundrum that has confounded physicists ever since Newton wrote down his Law of Universal Gravitation: why does mathematics seem to work so well at describing the universe that physicists try to explain? It keeps happening over and over again that when new ideas are needed for new theories, mathematics is there to provide the means of description that physicists were looking for. Just as often, then, the mathematics extends the ideas and shows physicists where to look for new experimental discoveries.

In this edition of “Read Science!” we talked to Graham Farmelo about the ideas in his book The Universe Speaks in Numbers: How Modern Math Reveals Nature’s Deepest Secrets. We recapped lots of the history of physics and mathematics working together, and talked about a whole lot of great ideas from Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Einstein, and Dirac along the way, all part of pondering the reasons that math and physics seem to get along so well together.

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/ .

Jun
26

S12:E05, “Modern Physics” edition, with Graham Farmelo (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 26 June 2019

Streamed live on 18 June 2019.

Our guest today takes on some big ideas in his book, but the biggest may be the conundrum that has confounded physicists ever since Newton wrote down his Law of Universal Gravitation: why does mathematics seem to work so well at describing the universe that physicists try to explain? It keeps happening over and over again that when new ideas are needed for new theories, mathematics is there to provide the means of description that physicists were looking for. Just as often, then, the mathematics extends the ideas and shows physicists where to look for new experimental discoveries.

In this edition of “Read Science!” we talked to Graham Farmelo about the ideas in his book The Universe Speaks in Numbers: How Modern Math Reveals Nature’s Deepest Secrets. We recapped lots of the history of physics and mathematics working together, and talked about a whole lot of great ideas from Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Einstein, and Dirac along the way, all part of pondering the reasons that math and physics seem to get along so well together.

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/ .

Mar
25

S12:E04, “Good To Go” edition, with Christie Aschwanden (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 25 March 2019

Streamed live on 20 March 2019.

Sports recovery–making the most of your workouts with less pain and/or more gain–was the topic in this episode of “Read Science!” when our guest was Christie Aschwanden, a science journalist and elite athlete herself, and author of Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery. We discussed what science has to say about rest, adaptation, hyponatremia, ice baths, cryotherapy, IR treatments, diet supplements, placebos, and even beer; and we saw how science goes about establishing their efficacy–or lack of it.

All of it added up to a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion with lots of insight and good stories, too.

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/ .

Mar
25

S12:E04, “Good To Go” edition, with Christie Aschwanden (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 25 March 2019

Streamed live on 20 March 2019.

Sports recovery–making the most of your workouts with less pain and/or more gain–was the topic in this episode of “Read Science!” when our guest was Christie Aschwanden, a science journalist and elite athlete herself, and author of Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery. We discussed what science has to say about rest, adaptation, hyponatremia, ice baths, cryotherapy, IR treatments, diet supplements, placebos, and even beer; and we saw how science goes about establishing their efficacy–or lack of it.

All of it added up to a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion with lots of insight and good stories, too.

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/ .

Mar
03

S12:E03, “Lost in Math” edition, with Sabine Hossenfelder (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 3 March 2019

Streamed live on 11 February 2019.

Theoretical physicists often will talk about their favorite theories as “beautiful”, and many will use criteria of what they call “beauty” to judge the likely veracity of competing theories, as well as the success of their own work. Most physicists are aware of this–but where does this idea come from, is there any sense to it, and what does “beauty” even mean when talking about the math that physical theories are written in?

These are some of the questions tackled by Sabine Hossenfelder in her compelling book, Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray+. As she explores these ideas, and talks with a number of physicists about the ideas, she deepens her own understanding of what it means, and ponders what’s at stake for foundational physics theories, sharing her journey with us.

Discussing her book, her journalistic journey, and recounting stories and conclusions as we talked about “Lost in Math” with her, is what this episode of “Read Science!” was all about.

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/ .

Mar
03

S12:E03, “Lost in Math” edition, with Sabine Hossenfelder (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 3 March 2019

Streamed live on 11 February 2019.

Theoretical physicists often will talk about their favorite theories as “beautiful”, and many will use criteria of what they call “beauty” to judge the likely veracity of competing theories, as well as the success of their own work. Most physicists are aware of this–but where does this idea come from, is there any sense to it, and what does “beauty” even mean when talking about the math that physical theories are written in?

These are some of the questions tackled by Sabine Hossenfelder in her compelling book, Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray+. As she explores these ideas, and talks with a number of physicists about the ideas, she deepens her own understanding of what it means, and ponders what’s at stake for foundational physics theories, sharing her journey with us.

Discussing her book, her journalistic journey, and recounting stories and conclusions as we talked about “Lost in Math” with her, is what this episode of “Read Science!” was all about.

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
17

S12:E02, “Catching Stardust” edition, with Natalie Starkey (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 17 November 2018

Streamed live on 15 November 2018.

The details of just how our Solar System came to be, starting with a large, rotating solar nebula and ending with our Sun, our planetary companions, and moons and asteroids and comets, have been vague up until recent decades when scientists turned their deductive attention toward those unassuming asteroids and comets. Remote observations, observations up close with dramatic, technically challenging spacecraft missions, like Rosetta, and even missions with spacecraft that have returned sample to Earth, have all contributed deductive components that are coming together to make a clear, comprehensive, and at times very surprising story about the early days of our Solar System.

All these things were on our minds when we talked in this episode to Natalie Starkey, author of Catching Stardust : Comets, Asteroids and the Birth of the Solar System. Her authoritative book presents a wealth of recently learned facts and the knowledge that we deduce from all this recent scientific work. It also gave us more to talk about (as usual!) than we could fit into our surprisingly short hour-long conversation.

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
17

S12:E02, “Catching Stardust” edition, with Natalie Starkey (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 17 November 2018

Streamed live on 15 November 2018.

The details of just how our Solar System came to be, starting with a large, rotating solar nebula and ending with our Sun, our planetary companions, and moons and asteroids and comets, have been vague up until recent decades when scientists turned their deductive attention toward those unassuming asteroids and comets. Remote observations, observations up close with dramatic, technically challenging spacecraft missions, like Rosetta, and even missions with spacecraft that have returned sample to Earth, have all contributed deductive components that are coming together to make a clear, comprehensive, and at times very surprising story about the early days of our Solar System.

All these things were on our minds when we talked in this episode to Natalie Starkey, author of Catching Stardust : Comets, Asteroids and the Birth of the Solar System. Her authoritative book presents a wealth of recently learned facts and the knowledge that we deduce from all this recent scientific work. It also gave us more to talk about (as usual!) than we could fit into our surprisingly short hour-long conversation.

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
17

S12:E01, “Math with Bad Drawings” edition, with Ben Orlin (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 17 November 2018

Streamed live on 8 November 2018.

Probability, statistics, and math–oh my! For some, it’s the stuff of nightmares, but reading Ben’s book makes it all more of a dream. Who ever thought math could be such fun!

Our guest in this episode was Ben Orlin, mathematician, bad artist, and author of Math with Bad Drawings: Illuminating the Ideas that Shape Our Reality. While his book is indeed all about mathematical ideas, Ben elucidates those ideas with accuracy, clarity, and interesting examples. And to be honest, the drawings are fun and DO help get the ideas across. We talked about math, what it’s like to be a mathematician, what it’s like to be a student trying to learn math, and what seems to work best helping novices successfully approach the important ideas of mathematics.

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
17

S12:E01, “Math with Bad Drawings” edition, with Ben Orlin (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 17 November 2018

Streamed live on 8 November 2018.

Probability, statistics, and math–oh my! For some, it’s the stuff of nightmares, but reading Ben’s book makes it all more of a dream. Who ever thought math could be such fun!

Our guest in this episode was Ben Orlin, mathematician, bad artist, and author of Math with Bad Drawings: Illuminating the Ideas that Shape Our Reality. While his book is indeed all about mathematical ideas, Ben elucidates those ideas with accuracy, clarity, and interesting examples. And to be honest, the drawings are fun and DO help get the ideas across. We talked about math, what it’s like to be a mathematician, what it’s like to be a student trying to learn math, and what seems to work best helping novices successfully approach the important ideas of mathematics.

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
16

S11:E06, “The Poison Squad” edition, with Deborah Blum (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 16 October 2018

Streamed live on 4 October 2018.

By the end of nineteenth century, buying food in American was dangerous–sometimes deadly. “Milk” might contain formaldehyde, most often used to embalm corpses. Decaying meat was preserved with both salicylic acid, a pharmaceutical chemical, and borax, a compound first identified as a cleaning product. This didn’t happen by accident; food manufacturers knowingly used poisons and non-food adulterants, sometimes as preservatives, sometimes just to cheat the customer and increase profits.

Against the powerful forces of food and drink manufacturers trying to quash any form of governmental regulation, come the somewhat reluctant crusader Harvey Washington Wiley, a chemistry professor from Purdue University who, in 1883, was named chief chemist of the Agriculture Department.

Therein lies a tale that includes unprecedented experiments on food additives, shocking revelations, intransigent politicians, and implacable food and drink manufacturers, but finally led to the passing of the Food and Drug Act of 1906–then the troubles really began!

This fascinating–at times disgusting–and cautionary tale is engagingly told by Pulitzer Prize winner author, and director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT, Deborah Blum. She was our guest, and her book The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century our topic, for this episode of “Read Science!”

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/ .