Science Talk

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About a year ago, SARS-CoV-2 (which wasn’t called that yet) was just beginning to emerge in a cluster of cases inside China . We know what has happened since then, but it bears repeating: there have been  69 million cases and more than 1.5 million deaths  globally as of December 10, 2020, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. And as the virus raced around the world, science has also raced to understand how it actually works, biologically. Today on the Science Talk podcast, a virologist who has been part of that massive effort joins us. Britt Glaunsinger  is a professor in the department of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She has been studying viruses for 25 years, with a particular focus, before December 2019, on the herpesvirus. Over the past 12 months, her lab has been focusing on strategies the virus uses to suppress the body's innate immune system.
Environmental journalist Ben Goldfarb talks about his book Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter .
Kidney disease affects millions of Americans, but corporate capture of dialysis, along with disparities in treatment and transplant access, mean that not everyone's journey is the same. On this Science Talk podcast, we speak with Carrie Arnold, lead reporter in an ambitious, year-long reporting project into the current state of chronic kidney disease treatment in the U.S., from diagnosis to dialysis, and from maintenance treatment to transplant (for those who are lucky). You can read the first part in the series here . It's a story of technological and procedural advance, but also one that has seen just two large, for-profit enterprises come to dominate the market for dialysis delivery. It's a story of expanding access, but also one still marked by racial and ethnic disparities. And it's a tale of medical innovation and adaptation, but also one beset by conflicts of interest and an inability to adapt to holistic modes of care that other disease specialities, from cardiology to oncology, have long ago embraced.  For the 37 million Americans navigating the corridors of kidney disease, these are likely familiar issues. But for the third of Americans at risk for renal disease — and for anyone who cares about how the nation's health care dollars are spent — this five-part collaboration between Undark Magazine and Scientific American pulls back the curtain and provides an unflinching look at what's working, and what's not. 
Scientific American  and the World Economic Forum sifted through more than 75 nominations for the most innovative and potentially game-changing technologies in 2020. The final top 10 span the fields of medicine, engineering, environmental sciences and chemistry. And to win the nod, the technologies must have the potential to spur progress in societies and economies by outperforming established ways of doing things. They also need to be novel (that is, not currently in wide use) yet likely to have a major impact within the next three to five years. Here’s your guide for the (hopefully) near future.  Read the full report here .
Materials scientist and science writer Ainissa Ramirez talks about her latest book The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another .
We look back at some highlights, midlights and lowlights of the history of Scientific American, featuring former editor in chief John Rennie. Astrophysicist Alan Guth also appears in a sponsored segment.
“Baking is applied microbiology,” according to the book Modernist Bread . During pandemic lockdowns, many people started baking their own bread. Scientific American contributing editor W. Wayt Gibbs talks about Modernist Bread, for which he was a writer and editor.
Former Scientific American editor Mark Alpert talks about his latest sci-fi thriller The Coming Storm, which warns about the consequences of unethical scientific research and of ignoring the scientific findings you don’t like.  
Contributing editor W. Wayt Gibbs spoke with Arthur Caplan , head of the NYU Grossman School of Medicine’s division of medical ethics, about some of the ethical issues that researchers have to consider in testing and distributing vaccines against COVID-19.
Journalist and author Emily Anthes talks about her book The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of How Buildings Shape Our Behavior, Health, and Happiness .
Journalist Bob Hirshon reports from the Taking Nature Black conference, reporter Shahla Farzan talks about tracking copperhead snakes, and nanoscientist Ondrej Krivanek discusses microscopes with subangstrom resolution.
Journalist and author Florence Williams talks about her book The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative .
Behavioral scientist Stephen Martin and psychologist Joseph Marks talk about their book Messengers: Who We Listen To, Who We Don’t, and Why .
Biological oceanography expert Miriam Goldstein talks about issues facing the oceans. Reporter Adam Levy discusses air pollution info available because of the pandemic. And astrophysicist Andrew Fabian chats about black holes.
For the fourth Science on the Hill event, Future Climate: What We Know, What We Don’t, experts talked with Scientific American senior editor Mark Fischetti about what goes into modeling our climate—and how such models are used in addition to long-term climate prediction.
Stanford University neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky talks about human behavior, the penal system and the question of free will.
Physicist Brian Keating talks about his book Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of Science’s Highest Honor .
Astrophysicist and author Mario Livio talks about his latest book, Galileo: And the Science Deniers, and how the legendary scientist’s battles are still relevant today.
Guest host W. Wayt Gibbs talks with Jason Wright, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University’s Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds, about what’s known as the Fermi paradox: In a universe of trillions of planets, where is everybody?
Health journalist Judy Foreman talks about her new book Exercise Is Medicine: How Physical Activity Boosts Health and Slows Aging .
Pathologists are starting to get a closer look at the damage that COVID-19 does to the body by carefully examining the internal organs of people who have died from the novel coronavirus.
Coronavirus research requires high-containment labs. Journalist Elisabeth Eaves talks with Scientific American contributing editor W. Wayt Gibbs about her article “The Risks of Building Too Many Bio Labs,” a joint project of the New Yorker and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists .  
Michael Marshall, project director of the Good Thinking Society in the U.K., talks about flat earth belief and its relationship to conspiracy theories and other antiscience activities.
Scientific American contributing editor W. Wayt Gibbs continues to report on the coronavirus outbreak from his home in Kirkland, Wash., site of the first U.S. cases. In this installment, he talks with researchers about what their models show for the future of the pandemic and on research to create tests to see who has developed immunity.
Scientific American contributing editor W. Wayt Gibbs reports from the original U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak: Kirkland, Wash. In this installment of our ongoing series, he talks with researchers about the properties of the virus and why it spreads so quickly.
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Podcast Details

Created by
Scientific American
Podcast Status
Feb 8th, 2006
Latest Episode
Dec 30th, 2020
Release Period
Avg. Episode Length
25 minutes

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