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Episodes

s03e14: Jeffrey Miller: Driver's Ed: Ethics for Driverless Car Software

9/20/2019
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As driverless vehicles are on the horizon, decisions about how they react in different situations need to be determined. If a driverless vehicle is in a situation where a collision is unavoidable, should it take the option that minimizes the overall impact at the possible expense of its occupants or should it always make the decision to protect itself? Should drivers get to make the decision themselves? Should the age of the occupants, criminal history, driving record, marital status, family...

Duration:00:44:58

s03e12: Alan E. Waltar: The Future of Nuclear Technology ... After Fukushima

6/27/2019
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Nuclear technology, the basis for well-known energy production via nuclear power, has also been harnessed to serve a plethora of humanitarian functions in the fields of in agriculture, medicine, electricity generation, modern industry, transportation, public safety, environmental protection, space exploration, and even archeology and the arts. This talk explores continuous improvement in many areas of science, industry, and medicine through tapping the incredible potential of nuclear...

Duration:00:58:33

s03e11: Alex Filippenko: Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe

6/27/2019
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Observations of very distant exploding stars show that the expansion of the Universe is now speeding up, rather than slowing down due to gravity as expected. Over the largest distances, our Universe seems to be dominated by a repulsive "dark energy" of unknown origin that stretches the very fabric of space itself faster and faster with time. Alex Filippenko (NAS), University of California, Berkeley, was a member of both teams that discovered in 1998 the accelerating expansion of the...

Duration:01:07:10

s03e10: John Villasenor: Bitcoin and Beyond: Cryptocurrencies Explained

6/20/2019
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Non-state-backed, decentralized “cryptocurrencies” such as bitcoin have introduced new paradigms for money movement in which transfers are public but the identities of the individuals behind the transfers are masked. This presents both opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, cryptocurrencies have important speed, efficiency and (in some respects) security advantages over traditional approaches. Yet, all mechanisms for moving and storing money—new and old—involve risks and the...

Duration:00:51:31

s03e09: Beth Shapiro: How (and why) to Clone a Mammoth

5/31/2019
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What if extinction is not forever? Recent advances in ancient DNA research and genome engineering technologies have opened the door to turning this idea from science fiction into science fact. But, how close are we to actually making de-extinction happen, and, are there compelling reasons to do so? In this talk, ancient DNA scientist Beth Shapiro discussed the science and ethics of de-extinction, including what is and what is not technically possible today and how scientists might overcome...

Duration:00:53:15

s03e08: Rebecca Saxe: How the Brain Invents the Mind

5/24/2019
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One of the most striking creations of the brain is the mind … of other people. What I mean is: each human brain faces the critical challenge of predicting and explaining the choices and behaviours of other human brains. Because the true full causal story of how brains work is preposterously complicated, our brains invent simplified causal models of other people, that are not exactly true, but nevertheless very useful. This simplified, useful model of other's brain is called our “theory of...

Duration:00:52:03

s03e07: Jevin West: The Rise of Misinformation in and about Science

5/17/2019
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In 2017, Jevin West and a colleague developed a course titled “Calling BS.” The goal is to teach students how to spot and refute BS, especially the kind wrapped in numbers, data, figures, and statistics. The class discusses the role that social media and misdirected algorithms play in spreading this and other forms of misinformation, and how the breakdown of communication systems in science and journalism have made it more difficult to combat it. Since the inception of the class, more than...

s03e06: Anthony Wagner: The Minds and Brains of Media Multitaskers

5/10/2019
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Media and technology are ubiquitous elements of modern life, and their use can offer benefits and rewards. At the same time, decisions about how we structure our use of media can be informed by consideration of whether and, if so, how the mind and brain are shaped by different media use patterns. Anthony Wagner will discuss seminal findings from psychological science that demonstrate that humans cannot multitask—rather, attempts at multitasking result in frequent task switching— and how task...

Duration:01:02:03

s03e05: Kimberly Prather - Ocean-Atmosphere Studies Aimed at Understanding Mother Nature's Control of Climate

4/26/2019
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Nearly 50 years ago, it was proposed that microbes in the ocean can regulate planetary health by maintaining a homeostatic balance through the exchange of chemical species with the atmosphere. Ocean microbes including phytoplankton, viruses, and bacteria have been coined the canaries in the coal mine as they show faster adaptive responses to our changing climate than other organisms. When waves break, these microbes are transferred into the atmosphere and profoundly influence human and...

Duration:00:48:13

s03e04: Michelle Mello - Why Ensuring Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Is the Hardest Problem in Health Policy

4/19/2019
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Prescription drug costs in the United States have risen to an unsustainable level, accounting for 1 in 6 dollars spent on health care and compromising many patients’ ability to afford the medications they need. Although there is broad, bipartisan agreement that policy action is required, several aspects of the problem make it unusually hard to solve. Drawing on a recent report by a committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Dr. Mello will discuss those...

Duration:00:52:14

s03e03: 9th Annual Seymour Benzer Lecture - Yaniv Erlich - Genetic privacy: friend or foe?

4/12/2019
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We generate genetic information for research, clinical care and personal curiosity at exponential rates. Sharing these genetic datasets is vital for accelerating the pace of biomedical discoveries and for fully realizing the promises of the genetic revolution. However, one of the key issues of broad dissemination of genetic data is finding an adequate balance that ensures data privacy. Yaniv Erlich will present several strategies to breach genetic privacy using open internet tools, including...

Duration:00:47:03

s03e02: Monica Dus This is the Way the Cookie Crumbles: Excess Dietary Sugar and its Effect on Taste Perception

3/22/2019
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Over the past decades our diets have become sweeter because of the use of sugar as a food additive: today over 75% of foods sold at grocery stores contain added sugar (1). During the same time, the number of calories consumed per day has increased by 20%. What is the connection between food environment and obesity? Does excess dietary sugar reshape our eating patterns to promote overconsumption? Monica Dus will present recent neuroscience research in humans and animal models on the effects...

s03e01: Thomas Heaton: Physics of the Collapse of High-Rises in Large Earthquakes

3/8/2019
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There is a building boom for tall buildings for West Coast Cities; daring architectural designs trumpet that they are designed to withstand the 2,500-yr earthquake shaking. In this talk, Dr. Heaton will explore whether or not these claims are scientifically based; or are scientists being used as “useful idiots” to facilitate the ambitions of developers? Cutting through the claims of current high-rise development is surprisingly difficult. Technical reports describing the attributes of real...

Duration:01:12:37

s02e20: Thomas Barclay: In Search of Alien Worlds

3/1/2019
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Are we alone in the Universe? This is a question that has puzzled countless generations. While we are still unable to say whether there is life out there we are beginning to think about whether there are planets that remind us of home. The Kepler spacecraft has been used to identify several planets in the habitable zone of other star - a region around a star where a planet could host liquid water at its surface given an appropriate atmosphere. Of particular note is Kepler-186f which is an...

Duration:00:42:54

s02e19: Gregory Asner: Exploring and Managing Earth from the Sky

2/22/2019
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Earth’s ecosystems are changing faster now than any time since the last ice age. Ironically we know little about most ecosystems, especially those in remote areas unexplored by scientists. To address this challenge, Greg Asner’s team combines laser and spectral instrumentation aboard a fixed-wing aircraft, the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, to produce detailed, 3-D imagery revealing the composition and health of ecosystems. Dr. Asner will discuss the Observatory’s revolutionary capabilities,...

Duration:00:50:07

s02e18: C. Munro Cullum: Concussion and Aging: What's the Risk?

2/8/2019
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Concussion is a hot topic in the media and on many people's minds, particularly in terms of sports-related brain injuries. This presentation will review what we know and do not know about concussion: Its acute effects, recovery, risks, and association with cognitive disorders later in life. This will include a review of recent studies of retired professional athletes with a history of concussion utilizing brain imaging, diagnostic, and neurobehavioral assessment techniques. Additional topics...

Duration:00:49:55

s02e17: Sharon Wood: Urban Infrastructure

2/1/2019
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Urban infrastructure systems, such as highways, potable water systems, and the electric power grid, form the foundation for life in the US. Yet many critical components were designed more than fifty years ago and are reaching the end of their intended service life. Issues related to managing and improving these complex systems will be discussed. - Sharon Wood, University of Texas, Austin

Duration:00:44:49

s02e16: James Randerson: Western Wildfires and Climate Change

1/25/2019
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From Alaska to the Amazon, wildfires are rapidly changing. Climate change is expected to influence drought and wildfires by the middle of the 21st century, and possible consequences for forests and human health. This lecture will focus on three research examples: Changing patterns of lightening that may enable forest expansion into the Artic; the unique differences of Santa Ana conditions and summer wildfires in Southern California; and how the 2015/2016 El Nino has influenced drought and...

Duration:00:44:30

s02e15: Sandra Disner: Linguistics in the Courtroom

1/11/2019
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Our written and spoken language provides a wealth of data that can be used to inform legal disputes. In matters ranging from criminal prosecutions (some of which can be elucidated by speaker or author identification) to trademark litigation (for which consumer confusion can be dispositive) to wrongful-termination suits (which may call for assessment of a co-worker’s accusations), linguists have been called upon to direct their analytical skills to issues that may be of importance to the...

Duration:00:49:35

s02e14: Dr. Kevin Peter Hand: Ocean Worlds of the Outer Solar System

12/19/2018
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Where is the best place to find living life beyond Earth? It may be that the small, ice-covered moons of Jupiter and Saturn harbor some of the most habitable real estate in our Solar System. Life loves liquid water and these moons have lots of it! These oceans worlds of the outer solar system have likely persisted for much of the history of the solar system and as a result they are highly compelling targets in our search for life beyond Earth. Dr. Hand will explain the science behind why we...

Duration:00:53:56