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Town Hall Seattle Science Series

Science Podcasts

The Science series presents cutting-edge research about biology, physics, chemistry, ecology, geology, astronomy, and more. These events appeal to many different levels of expertise, from grade school students to career scientists. With a range of relevant applications, including medicine, the environment, and technology, this series expands our thinking and our possibilities.

The Science series presents cutting-edge research about biology, physics, chemistry, ecology, geology, astronomy, and more. These events appeal to many different levels of expertise, from grade school students to career scientists. With a range of relevant applications, including medicine, the environment, and technology, this series expands our thinking and our possibilities.


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The Science series presents cutting-edge research about biology, physics, chemistry, ecology, geology, astronomy, and more. These events appeal to many different levels of expertise, from grade school students to career scientists. With a range of relevant applications, including medicine, the environment, and technology, this series expands our thinking and our possibilities.








102: Sophie Egan with Tim Egan: Conscious Food Choices For Ourselves and the Planet

Is organic food really worth it? Are eggs okay to eat? What does it mean if something’s labeled “Fair Trade,” or “Biodynamic,” or “Cage Free”? Health, nutrition, and sustainability expert Sophie Egan explored the world of ethical food choices we face every day. With insight that aims to revolutionize our understanding of food, Sophie drew from her book How to Be a Conscious Eater: Making Food Choices That Are Good for You, Others, and the Planet and was joined in conversation with...


101: Ross Bayton: The Gardener’s Botanical

Horticultural author Ross Bayton presented a crash course in plant history, ruminating on the origin and significance of the Latin plant names we encounter every day. Scientific plant names are an invaluable tool for those who understand them. Formed from Greek and, more commonly, from Latin root words, not only do they make it possible for gardeners and botanists to communicate, they also contain a wealth of hidden information. Bayton joined us with a deep dive into this intricate world,...


100: Dan Esty: Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future

Sustainability has recently skyrocketed as a global priority. The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change and the adoption of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals through the United Nations have highlighted the need to address critical threats to our environment. But according to Daniel Esty, in the United States issues like partisan divides, regional disputes, and deep disagreements over core principles have stalled progress toward policies and initiatives that aim to build a...


99: Bees, Guts, Soil, and Cancer: The Microbiome

How are the health of soil, plants, bees, and humans connected? An all-star panel of experts joined us to answer this question with a discussion of the microscopic universe at the beginning and end of our food chain—the microbiome. Delve into the intricate world of microbes present in every human, the bacteria that help us digest food, regulate our immune system, and produce vitamins essential to our health. Explore unique connections that expand our everyday understanding—the decline of...


98: We Are Puget Sound: Discovering and Recovering the Salish Sea

Puget Sound is a magnificent and intricate estuary, supporting an abundance of resident and migrating life—notably two iconic, interdependent endangered species: Southern Resident orcas and chinook salmon. Town Hall Seattle and Braided River presented an evening celebrating a new multimedia book and campaign We Are Puget Sound: Discovering and Recovering the Salish Sea to protect and restore Puget Sound. Hear from book contributors such as Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman and Mindy...


97: Susannah Cahalan: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness

For centuries, doctors have struggled to define mental illness—how do you diagnose it, how do you treat it, how do you even know what it is? Author Susanah Calahan made her way to Town Hall to explore the history of psychological understanding in our country with her book The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness. Cahalan chronicled the 1970’s story of David Rosenhan, a Stanford psychologist who took himself and seven other people—sane, normal,...


96: Azra Raza with Leroy Hood: The Human Costs of Treating Cancer

According to oncologist Azra Raza, we have lost the war on cancer. We spend $150 billion each year treating it, yet—a few innovations notwithstanding—a patient with cancer is as likely to die of it as one was fifty years ago. Most new drugs add mere months to one’s life at agonizing physical and financial cost. In her book The First Cell, Raza offered a searing account of how both medicine and our society (mis)treats cancer, and how we can do better. In conversation with Leroy Hood of the...


95: Michael Kearns and Aaron Roth with Eric Horvitz: Designing Ethical Algorithms

Over the course of a generation, algorithms have gone from mathematical abstractions to powerful mediators of daily life. Algorithms have made our lives more efficient, but some experts contend that they are increasingly violating the basic rights of individual citizens. Professors Michael Kearns and Aaron Roth delved into the complexities of this topic with insight from their book The Ethical Algorithm. Joined by moderator Eric Horvitz of Microsoft Research Labs, Kearns and Roth contended...


94: Dan Hooper: Our Universe’s First Seconds

Scientists in the past few decades have made crucial discoveries about how our cosmos evolved over the past 13.8 billion years. But there remains a critical gap in our knowledge: we still know very little about what happened in the first seconds after the Big Bang. Astrophysicist Dan Hooper revealed new understanding about this mysterious period of time at the beginning of cosmic history with his book At the Edge of Time. Hooper grappled with the extraordinary and perplexing questions that...


93: Ian Urbina: The Outlaw Ocean

There are few remaining frontiers on our planet, but perhaps the wildest and least understood are the world’s oceans. Too big to police, and under no clear international authority, these immense regions of treacherous water play host to rampant criminality and exploitation. Drawing on five years of perilous and intrepid reporting—often hundreds of miles from shore—New York Times investigative reporter Ian Urbina introduced us to the inhabitants of this hidden world. With accounts from his...


92: Susan Schneider: AI and the Future of Our Minds

Humans may not be Earth’s most intelligent species for much longer: the world champions of chess, Go, and Jeopardy! are now all AIs. Given the rapid pace of progress in AI, many predict that it could advance to human-level intelligence within the next several decades, and could even outpace human intelligence. Susan Schneider took Town Hall’s stage to delve into these theories of the mind with perspectives from her book Artificial You. She contended that it is inevitable that AI will take...


91: Melanie Mitchell: A Thinking Human’s Guide to AI

No recent scientific enterprise has proved as alluring, terrifying, promising, and frustrating as artificial intelligence. Leading computer scientist Melanie Mitchell joined us to reveal the turbulent history of this field and the recent surge of apparent successes, grand hopes, and emerging fears that surround AI. She presented insights from her book Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans, addressing our many burning questions concerning AI today. How intelligent—really—are...


90: Lawrence Millman: Exploring the World of Mushroom Lore

Alice in Wonderland, chestnut blight, medicinal mushrooms, and more—fungi pop up in our lives in more ways than we think! To introduce us to the remarkable universe of fungi, author and mycologist Lawrence Millman took the stage with his new book Fungipedia: A Brief Compendium of Mushroom Lore, combining ecological, ethnographic, historical, and contemporary knowledge. Millman discussed how mushrooms are much more closely related to humans than to plants, how they engage in sex, how insects...


89: Judith Finlayson and Kent Thornburg: You Are What Your Grandparents Ate

Thanks to the relatively new science of epigenetics, we now know that the experiences of previous generations have a direct effect on our health. Author Judith Finlayson and Dr. Kent Thornburg delved into the inner workings of our hereditary health with insight from their book You Are What Your Grandparents Ate. Finlayson and Thornburg highlighted research rooted in the work of the late epidemiologist Dr. David Barker showing that heredity involves much more than the genes your parents...


88: Florence Williams with Diane Regas: The Nature Fix

For centuries, poets and philosophers have extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams set out to uncover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain. She made her way to Town Hall to uncover the powers of the natural world to improve health, promote reflection and innovation, and ultimately strengthen our relationships. Williams was joined in conversation with Diane Regas, CEO of The Trust for Public...


87: Gary Marcus: Building Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust

Despite the hype surrounding AI, creating an intelligence that rivals or exceeds human levels is far more complicated than we have been led to believe. Professor Gary Marcus has spent his career at the forefront of AI research and has witnessed some of the greatest milestones in the field. He joined us with insight from his co-written book Rebooting AI to argue that a computer beating a human in Jeopardy! does not signal that we are on the doorstep of fully autonomous cars or...


86: Alexandra Horowitz with Jane C. Hu: Our Dogs, Ourselves

The story of humans and dogs is thousands of years old—but is far from understood. We keep dogs and are kept by them. We love dogs and (we assume) we are loved by them. Author and dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz joined us to explore all aspects of this unique and complex interspecies pairing. In conversation with science journalist Jane C. Hu, Horowitz considered the current culture of dogdom, sharing highlights from her book Our Dogs, Ourselves to reveal the odd, surprising, and...


85: Isabella Tree: A Farm’s Return to the Wild

When author Isabella Tree and her husband, environmentalist Charlie Burrell, found themselves struggling to make a profit from the heavy clay soils of their West Sussex farm, they decided to try something new. They let it go wild. To enlighten us on the trials and outcomes of this bold plan, Tree joined us on Town Hall’s stage with excerpts from her new book Wilding – The Return of Nature to an English Farm. Tree recounted the questions she faced in the process of letting nature reclaim her...


84: Jonathan Safran Foer with Steve Scher: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast

Will future generations distinguish between those who didn’t believe in the science of climate change and those who said they accepted the science but didn’t act? And for those who do accept the reality of human-caused climate change, what does immediate action look like? Author Jonathan Safran Foer took Town Hall’s stage to explore this central dilemma of our time in a surprising, creative, and urgent new way. He was joined onstage in conversation with legendary local journalist and radio...


83: Clyde W. Ford: Think Black

In 1947, IBM CEO and Chairman Thomas J. Watson set out to find the best and brightest minds for his company. His search led him to find young accounting student John Stanley Ford, whom he hired to become IBM’s first black software engineer. But not all of the company’s white employees were willing to accept a black colleague, and many did everything in their power to humiliate, subvert, and undermine Ford. His son Clyde W. Ford—who followed in his footsteps to IBM two decades later—joined us...