Episodes Archive

Culture and Tradition #139

November 18, 2011

This week, we’re featuring a panel discussion on the origins and influence of tradition, with biological anthropologist Greg Laden, science education researcher Marie-Claire Shanahan, and primatologist Eric Michael Johnson. We’ll discuss where traditions come from, why some endure and some fade, and whether they appear in non-human populations. (Ethnomusicologist Kyra Gaunt-Palmer was unable to join us.) Read More


Evolution and Politics #138

November 11, 2011

This week, we’re looking at what happens when a bedrock scientific theory goes up for debate in the contentious realm of politics. We’ll speak to Dr. Eugenie Scott, Executive Director, and Steven Newton, Programs and Policy Director, at the National Center for Science Education, about evolution as a political issue. And anthropologist and blogger Greg Laden analyzes the fallout from the so-called “climategate” emails. Read More


Memory Science #137

November 04, 2011

This week, we’re featuring a pre-recorded interview on the work of Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, author, university professor, and pioneering researcher into the way our brains make and modify memories. And we’re joined by Iowa State University researcher Gary Wells, to discuss his new study on the ways that the administration of photo lineups can effect the memories of witnesses. Read More


Quantum Mechanics #136

October 28, 2011

This week, we’re looking at the mindbending physics that happens on the smallest imaginable scales. We’re joined by physics professor James Kakalios, to talk about his book The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics: A Math-Free Exploration of the Science that Made Our World. And we’ll speak to physicist and philosopher Victor Stenger, about the ways that quantum physics buzzwords are misused to support some not so scientific claims. Read More


Microorganisms #135

October 21, 2011

This week we’re looking at some of the microscopic organisms that share our planet and, occasionally, our bodies. We’re joined by science writer and blogger Carl Zimmer, to talk about his new book A Planet of Viruses. And we’ll speak to ScientificAmerican.com managing editor Phillip Yam, about the mysterious and (nearly) indestructible prion. Read More


Mad Like Tesla #134

October 14, 2011

This week, we’re talking about the unorthodox thinkers who might help us innovate our way to new energy solutions. We’re joined by journalist Tyler Hamilton, to discuss his book Mad Like Tesla: Underdog Inventors and Their Bold Pursuit of Clean Energy. And law professor and blogger Jason Rantanen joins us to explain the role of patents in developing technology. Read More


Science As Fiction #133

October 07, 2011

This week, we’re speaking to authors whose fiction appeals to the science lover. We’ll speak to astronomer Stuart Clark, about his novel The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth, the first of a trilogy examining pivotal moments in astronomy history. And we’re joined by biologist Jennifer Rohn, author of the novel The Honest Look, a thriller about integrity, passion and betrayal in pharmaceutical research. Read More


Changing Planet #132

September 30, 2011

This week, we’re looking at the medical effects of global climate change. We’re joined by Dan Ferber, to talk about his book Changing Planet, Changing Health: How The Climate Crisis Threatens our Health, and What We Can Do About It. And Josh Rosenau, of the National Center for Science Education, joins us to compare the denial tactics of advocates against climate change and evolution. Read More


Neurology Past and Present #131

September 23, 2011

We’re taking a break from live recording this week. We’ll listen in on an interview recorded live at Dragon*Con 2011. We’ll discuss the history and practice of neurology, with academic clinical neurologist Dr. Steven Novella, and Dr. Jason Schneiderman, post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Psychiatry Neuroimaging Laboratory at Harvard Medical. And we’re joined by researcher Dr. Thomas Naselaris, of Berkeley’s Gallant Lab, to discuss their new study using computer modeling to reconstruct visual images from the brain. Read More


The Earth That Was #130

September 16, 2011

This week we’ll look back into prehistory, for a glimpse of what life was like before humanity spread across the globe. We’re joined by anthropologist and author Brian Fagan, to discuss his book Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans. We’ll learn how a combination of intellect and technological achievement turned our ancestors into the sole hominid species on the planet. And Junior Skeptic editor Daniel Loxton returns to discuss his new children’s book, Ankylosaur Attack, about a day in the life of this armored dinosaur. Read More


The Prince of Evolution #129

September 09, 2011

This week, we’re discussing evolution, and a less well known, but just as fabulously bearded, scientist who helped to expand the theory. We’ll talk to Dr. Lee Alan Dugatkin, about his book The Prince of Evolution: Peter Kropotkin’s Adventures in Science and Politics. And science history blogger Michael D. Barton joins us to examine the ways that evolution deniers misuse the words of Charles Darwin to make their case. Looking for information about Randi’s cross-Canada tour? Visit the Centre for Inquiry Canada. Read More


Elemental Intrigue #128

September 02, 2011

Guest host Rachelle Saunders talks to science writer Sam Kean, about his book The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements. And we’ll learn about cutting edge research into light-bending metamaterials, with Dr. Peter Palffy-Muhoray, Professor, of Chemical Physics and Associate Director of the Liquid Crystal Institute & Chemical Physics Program at Kent State University Read More


Random Things That Can Kill You #127

August 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene interfered with our plans to interview science writer and blogger Carl Zimmer about his new book A Planet of Viruses. Instead, we talked hurricanes with Shaun Tanner, head of Meteorological Operations at the weather science resource site, Weather Underground. We also spoke to journalist Maryn McKenna about her book Superbug: The Fatal Menance of MRSA, to find out what makes antibiotic-resistant staph so scary, and what researchers are trying to do about it. Once we realized we had a “scary death” theme going, we thought it would it be a good idea to revisit our interview with Barry Glassner, author of The Culture of Fear,... Read More


Bug Girl's Favorite Insects #126

August 19, 2011

From ants to aphids, mosquitoes to mantises, entomology blogger Bug Girl has covered all kinds of things that creep, crawl and fly. This week, she joins us to talk about her favorite bugs, and why she finds them all so fascinating. And anthropologist and blogger Greg Laden joins us to discuss the cultural taboos surrounding eating insects. Here are links to Bug Girl’s posts about some of the topics from this episode: Shellac: It’s a bug AND a feature! Cochineal: It’s a bug AND a feature! Are there roaches in your coffee and chocolate? Pollinator Week 2009: Food! Hoppers, Hats,... Read More


Global Population #125

August 12, 2011

The human population of planet Earth is rapidly approaching 7 billion. This week, we’ll look at how fast our numbers are growing, what they mean for things like resources and the environment, and what we can do about it. Maybe. We’re joined by William Ryerson, President and Founder of Population Media Center and President of Population Institute. And on the podcast, we’ll get a lesson in how population projections are created, and how reliable they are, with Dr. Ronald Lee, Director of the Center on the Economics and Demography of Aging, and professor in the Department of Demography at the University... Read More


The Theory That Would Not Die #124

August 05, 2011

This week, show favorite Sharon Bertsch McGrayne returns to tell us about her new book, The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes’ Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy. We’ll learn how this once overlooked branch of probability theory has played a central role in some of the biggest turning points in human history. And on the podcast, we’re joined by computer network researcher Dr. Boleslaw K. Szymanski, to discuss his new paper, on the conditions under which minority opinions become social consensus. For more information on the College of Physicians and Surgeons of... Read More


Data Analysis #123

July 29, 2011

This week, data analyst Keith Schon returns to the show. We’ll ask him about his work as an information archaeologist, and how state-of-the-art software can piece together huge datasets of your online interactions, and build a picture of your personality. And on the podcast, science writer Jessica Wapner is back, to explain why pharmaceutical companies are mining prescribing data. Read More


HIV and AIDS #122

July 22, 2011

This week, we’re joined by graduate student and Scienceblogs writer Abbie Smith, to learn about the latest research on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. How does HIV cause AIDS? What are the latest treatments? How close are we to a cure? What strategies are most effective at stopping the spread of infection? And what are the arguments that denialists make for alternate causes of the disease? And on the podcast, we’ll discuss another viral pathogen, the Human papillomavirus, with Dr. Peter Leone, of the University of North Carolina’s Center for Infectious Diseases. Read More


The Nature of Human Nature #121

July 15, 2011

This week, we’re joined by Dr. Carin Bondar, biologist and author, to talk about her book The Nature of Human Nature: Reflections On Our Position As “Natural” Entities In The Animal Kingdom. The book takes a critical look at some of the things that we think make human beings unique in the animal kingdom. Does our ability to use contraception, or our tendency to eat junk food just for the pleasure, set us apart from our animal cousins? And we’ll be featuring the music of science rapper Baba Brinkman, including selections from his 2010 album The Rap Guide to Human... Read More


Tracking the Chupacabra #120

July 08, 2011

This week, Skeptical Inquirer Managing Editor Benjamin Radford returns to the show, to discuss his newest book, Tracking The Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast In Fact, Fiction and Folklore. He’ll explain his investigation of the legendary monster, and his startling conclusion about the real story behind its origins. And writer/producer Kennedy Goodkey joins us to celebrate the DVD release of his film, The Beast of Bottomless Lake, about the Canadian lake monster Ogopogo. Read More