Read Science!

Conversations about Science Communication and Communicating Science

Jun
24

S11:E04, “Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs” edition, with Steve Brusatte (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 24 June 2018

Streamed live on 18 June 2018.

We love dinosaurs, and their story is a big one. In this episode we talked with paleontologist Steve Brusatte about his new book, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World.

Dinosaurs were, by a huge margin, the most successful group of animals the Earth has ever seen, their time on the planet covering some 140 million years. In that time, what we think of as “dinosaur” exhibited a lot of diversity, with a lot of fascinating stories.

Our conversation was geologic in scope, covering the emergence of the dinosaurs from the late Permian, through the Triassic and Jurassic, all the way to the end of the Cretacious and their untimely demise by meteor strike. We also got up-to-date information on the latest methods for studying dinosaur fossils (CAT scans and digital modeling), and the most recent additions to our knowledge (feathers! colors! birds!).

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
24

S11:E04, “Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs” edition, with Steve Brusatte (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 24 June 2018

Streamed live on 18 June 2018.

We love dinosaurs, and their story is a big one. In this episode we talked with paleontologist Steve Brusatte about his new book, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World.

Dinosaurs were, by a huge margin, the most successful group of animals the Earth has ever seen, their time on the planet covering some 140 million years. In that time, what we think of as “dinosaur” exhibited a lot of diversity, with a lot of fascinating stories.

Our conversation was geologic in scope, covering the emergence of the dinosaurs from the late Permian, through the Triassic and Jurassic, all the way to the end of the Cretacious and their untimely demise by meteor strike. We also got up-to-date information on the latest methods for studying dinosaur fossils (CAT scans and digital modeling), and the most recent additions to our knowledge (feathers! colors! birds!).

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
11

S11:E03, “Heredity” edition, with Carl Zimmer (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 11 June 2018

Streamed live on 29 May 2018.

‘Heredity’, to this episode’s guest, is a big idea. Today, we think of heredity almost exclusively in terms of the genes we get from our biological parents–but what about before genetics became an idea? With its root meaning in ‘inheritance’, what the word encompasses has shifted, expanded, and contracted, in varied and fascinating ways.

In this episode we talked with Carl Zimmer about his magnificent new book, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, And Potential Of Heredity. With an encyclopedic approach and a fine ear for clarity of expression, Zimmer takes a comprehensive look at the state of the science in understanding the intricate operating of genetic inheritance, and adds historical depth to the exploration with compelling and illuminating stories from the past few centuries. The book is jam-packed with history, stories, personal reflections, and lots of science. Perhaps needless to say, we talked about as many of its ideas as we could pack into our hour-long conversation, and still only scratched the surface.

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
11

S11:E03, “Heredity” edition, with Carl Zimmer (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 11 June 2018

Streamed live on 29 May 2018.

‘Heredity’, to this episode’s guest, is a big idea. Today, we think of heredity almost exclusively in terms of the genes we get from our biological parents–but what about before genetics became an idea? With its root meaning in ‘inheritance’, what the word encompasses has shifted, expanded, and contracted, in varied and fascinating ways.

In this episode we talked with Carl Zimmer about his magnificent new book, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, And Potential Of Heredity. With an encyclopedic approach and a fine ear for clarity of expression, Zimmer takes a comprehensive look at the state of the science in understanding the intricate operating of genetic inheritance, and adds historical depth to the exploration with compelling and illuminating stories from the past few centuries. The book is jam-packed with history, stories, personal reflections, and lots of science. Perhaps needless to say, we talked about as many of its ideas as we could pack into our hour-long conversation, and still only scratched the surface.

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
17

S11:E02, “Human Performance” edition, with Alex Hutchinson (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 17 March 2018

Streamed live on 13 March 2018.

Is it possible to run a marathon in under 2 hours? Probably. Running a mile in under 4 minutes was impossible until Roger Bannister did it. Reaching the peak of Mt. Everest without the help of supplemental oxygen was impossible until Messner and Habeler did it in 1978.

The world of endurance sports is filled with stories about humans testing the boundaries of what is possible to do, and scientists have been busy studying that performance and trying to understand whether there are real limits to performance, and what those limits might be.

Our guest on this episode of “Read Science!”, Alex Hutchinson, has written about all this, the science and the sport, in his engaging book Endure : Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance. We talked about as much of it as we could fit into our hour, but we, too, had limits on how much we could discuss.

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
14

S11:E02, “Human Performance” edition, with Alex Hutchinson (audio)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 14 March 2018

Streamed live on 13 March 2018.

Is it possible to run a marathon in under 2 hours? Probably. Running a mile in under 4 minutes was impossible until Roger Bannister did it. Reaching the peak of Mt. Everest without the help of supplemental oxygen was impossible until Messner and Habeler did it in 1978.

The world of endurance sports is filled with stories about humans testing the boundaries of what is possible to do, and scientists have been busy studying that performance and trying to understand whether there are real limits to performance, and what those limits might be.

Our guest on this episode of “Read Science!”, Alex Hutchinson, has written about all this, the science and the sport, in his engaging book Endure : Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance. We talked about as much of it as we could fit into our hour, but we, too, had limits on how much we could discuss.

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 (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/.