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Science for the People

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Science for the People

Rachelle Saunders, Bethany Brookshire, and Carolyn Wilke

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Science for the People is a long-format interview podcast that explores the connections between science, popular culture, history, and public policy, to help listeners understand the evidence and arguments behind what's in the news and on the shelves. Our hosts sit down with science researchers, writers, authors, journalists, and experts to discuss science from the past, the science that affects our lives today, and how science might change our future.
 
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It's that time of year when Rachelle spends far too much time finding strange and wonderful new clocks, Bethany adds more mugs to her collection, and together we spend some time embracing our inner holiday-consumer and getting excited about lots of wonderful, delightful, charming and (sometimes) weird things you might get the geeks in your life. As…
 
We all know what a "pest" is. We can all point to creatures that are pests in our neighborhoods, those invasive hard-to-get-rid-of, disruptive animals that civilization seems to be in constant battle with. The rats, the racoons, the pigeons... But what makes them pests, really? Who decides? And what about other animals that are pests to some - cats…
 
Number 2. Poop. Crap. Doodoo. It's something that a lot of people just want to flush and forget, but others want to talk about it. Do they poop too much? Not enough? Easily enough? Not only can poop tell us about ourselves and our health, though, it could also doo much more. Feces can fertilize our crops, and with the right processing, toilet water…
 
Usually when we talk about electricity we're talking about the technology that runs the modern world, but electricity is a lot more integral to our existance than making our tech work. Without electricty our bodies don't know how to move, see or hear, and the history of how we came to understand what electricity is and what it can do is wrapped up …
 
The word "poaching" conjures images of elephants, tigers and pangolins. But there's a multi-billion dollar industry in poaching...trees. It might seem ok at first, trees grow back right? But it's so much more complicated than that. Today we're talking with Lyndsie Bourgon about her new book Tree Thieves: Crime and Survival in North America's Woods.…
 
It seems like no one vaccine is ever enough. COVID mutates and the vaccines fall short. A new flu vaccine every year, and each one different from the last. Wouldn't it be nice if we just could get one? One flu shot and call it done? One COVID vaccine and make everything better? Well, scientists are trying their best to develop universal vaccines--o…
 
Television dramas make it seem like easy work for forensic investigators to determine when a person has died. But figuring out the time since death can be tricky for bodies that have weathered away to mere skeletons. This week we’re talking with forensic scientist and molecular biotechnologist Noemi Procopio about how proteins in bones could help. …
 
Sharks are fascinating, often misunderstood creatures, and many of them are threatened or endangered, and they definitely deserve our conservation effort. But conservation effort takes time, money, and focused attention: all things that are limited resources, as much as we might wish they weren't. So how do we focus our conservation efforst to make…
 
Even the luckiest and healthiest of us will interact with the medical systems we live in eventually, and navigating these systems can be frustrating, scary, and intimidating. In this labyrinth filled with jargon, bureaucracy, and opaque layers of expertise we often don't understand, we expect to have some control over what happens to our bodies and…
 
There's no doubt that we humans have done some pretty awful things to our landscapes. Draining swamps, cutting down forests, shooting almost all the bison. Now, there are movements to preserve, conserve and bring those landscapes back. But for whom? Who benefits? This week we are talking to Laura Martin, author of the book Wild by Design: The Rise …
 
This week we’re zooming in on surfaces, where lots of action happens as things slip, grip, slide, and more. Our guest Laurie Winkless, author of the book "Sticky: The Secret Science of Surfaces", takes us on a tour of these in-between spaces, delving into what’s going on with atoms and molecules and how that plays out in nature and the engineered w…
 
In 2022 it seems surgery can perform miracles. Plastic surgery in particular can reshape noses, jaws, and even transplant entire faces. But not so long ago, plastic surgery as a field didn't even exist. This week, we're going back to the trenches of World War I to learn about the birth of plastic surgery in Lindsey Fitzharris' new book: The Facemak…
 
The thing about humans is that, as a social species, we work with other people. And this means we often, consciously or unconsciously, end up being awful to each other. If you are someone who is marginalized in the workplace--something that often happens to people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, people with disabilities and white women--how do you deal?…
 
Most people know how the age of dinosaurs ended. An asteroid hit and all the dinosaurs died out. But it's never quite that simple. In her newest book, The Last Days of the Dinosaurs: An Asteroid, Extinction, and the Beginning of Our World, Riley Black describes what the immediate post-impact world looked like, and what it would become.…
 
Vagina. Clitoris. Uterus. Ovary. These are body parts that about half the population is born with. And yet, there are so many questions about them that scientists have never answered. But there's also more new science about the vagina than you've ever, ever dreamed. We're talking with Rachel Gross about her new book Vagina Obscura: An Anatomical Jo…
 
Mental illness is being discussed openly and publicly more than it ever has been, but our understanding of what it is and its impacts are still a work-in-progress. What is mental illness and how do we distinguish it from the expected suffering that comes from being human? How has the public discussion around mental illness impacted our language, so…
 
I'm sure we've all heard the phrase 'supply chain disruption' by now. It might bring to mind ships floating outside LA or trucks jackknifed across a highway in the snow. But it's far, far more than that. Get ready for miles of conveyor belts and the largest robot in the world. Christopher Mims is here to talk about his book Arriving Today: From Fac…
 
Choosing a career path is a big decision. In the modern western world a career is practically synonymous with identity: whether we like it our not, what we do is a big part of who we are. And we are told to choose a career carefully, to find and follow our passion. But what is passion in this context? And why should we follow it? Does following pas…
 
Intent on improving your creativity or focus? Want to raise your IQ? What does that even mean? This week, we've got Emily Willingham back on the show to talk about tailoring the brain with science: The good, the bad, and the totally not proven. We're talking about her new book The Tailored Brain: From Ketamine, to Keto, to Companionship: A user's g…
 
In Handmade: A Scientist’s Search for Meaning Through Making, author Anna Ploszajski takes her experience of materials science out of the lab and into the world of craftspeople. Ploszajski's quest to fashion a broader perspective on stuff surpasses the dry and academic. In her book, Anna brings readers along through an exploration of materials anci…
 
2021 has vanished, sucked into the black hole created by 2020. But while the pandemic continues, we are steadily climbing our way out. And what better way to gain momentum than to look forward at where science might be going? We’ve looking from the tiniest parts of the human body to the vast expanse of space to find out where we are going. Related …
 
We often think the practices of science and academics as a western-European invention, and while both science and the academy have created a lot of positive knowledge, it's important to take a step back and recognize the blind spots of science that come from European ways of thinking about the world, and to see how academics can disadvantage people…
 
Last week we filled your reading list with 2021's best science books, and this week we're back with Bethany and Rachelle's giddy, geeky, and (hopefully) delightful list of non-book gift ideas to surprise the nerd in your life. And as always, we've created a companion blog post to this episode with links to everything we talked about (while supplies…
 
Another year, another haul of excellent science books! We bring back John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster to share some of their favourite science reads from 2021 to help you curate your reading list for 2022. Grab a cosy beverage and click on over to our companion blog post with the full book list (plus a few extra) and enjoy our annual book episode th…
 
Most true crime details the terrible deeds that humans do. But nature can be nefarious too. Animals and plants can kill, maim, or just make people deeply uncomfortable. Wild creatures can steal, trespass, jaywalk and much more. It’s the world of human-animal conflict, and we’re sitting down with Mary Roach, to talk about her latest book FUZZ: When …
 
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