9 episodes

"The Joy of Why" is a Quanta Magazine podcast about curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge. The acclaimed mathematician and author Steven Strogatz interviews leading researchers about the great scientific and mathematical questions of our time.

The Joy of Why Quanta Magazine

    • Science
    • 5.0 • 1 Rating

"The Joy of Why" is a Quanta Magazine podcast about curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge. The acclaimed mathematician and author Steven Strogatz interviews leading researchers about the great scientific and mathematical questions of our time.

    Can Computers Be Mathematicians?

    Can Computers Be Mathematicians?

    Artificial intelligence has bested humans at problem-solving tasks including games like chess and Go. Is mathematics research next? Steven Strogatz speaks with Kevin Buzzard, professor of pure mathematics at Imperial College London, to learn about the ongoing multidisciplinary effort to translate math into language that computers understand.

    • 32 min
    What Is Life?

    What Is Life?

    Without a good definition of life, how do we look for it on alien planets? Steven Strogatz speaks with Robert Hazen, a mineralogist and astrobiologist, and Sheref Mansy, a chemist, to learn more.

    • 41 min
    How Could Life Evolve From Cyanide?

    How Could Life Evolve From Cyanide?

    How did life arise on Earth? It's one of the greatest and most ancient mysteries in all of science - and the clues to solving it are all around us. Steven Strogatz speaks with Jack Szostak, a Nobel Prize-winning biologist, and Betül Kaçar, a paleogeneticist and astrobiologist, to explore our best understanding of how we all got here.

    • 39 min
    Will the James Webb Space Telescope Reveal Another Earth?

    Will the James Webb Space Telescope Reveal Another Earth?

    With the December 2021 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, one of the most expensive and ambitious scientific initiatives ever attempted commenced operations. Now that the telescope has been successfully deployed in its unique position in space, its advanced instruments will be able to gather data on questions that scientists once could only dream of answering. Is there life on other planets? How do supermassive black holes mold the mass in their galaxies? JWST may soon be able to tell us. In this episode, host Steven Strogatz speaks to two researchers leading JWST's observations of our universe: Marcia Rieke, the principal investigator of the telescope's Near-Infrared Camera, and Nikole Lewis, an astrophysicist studying planets outside of our solar system. (For more on the JWST and the history of its construction and launch, read Natalie Wolchover's article, "The Webb Space Telescope Will Rewrite Cosmic History. If It Works," which was recently honored with a 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.)

    • 49 min
    Where Do Space, Time and Gravity Come From?

    Where Do Space, Time and Gravity Come From?

    Einstein's description of gravity as a curvature in space-time doesn't easily mesh with a universe made up of quantum wavefunctions. Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll (of the "Mindscape" podcast) tells Steven Strogatz about the mind-bending implications of the quest for quantum gravity.

    • 42 min
    Why Is Inflammation a Dangerous Necessity?

    Why Is Inflammation a Dangerous Necessity?

    We've heard a lot about the immune system during the COVID-19 pandemic, but of course our immune system fights off much more than the coronavirus. And while the immune system protects us brilliantly from countless pathogens every day, sometimes it can also attack our own bodies, causing harmful and even deadly inflammation. In this episode, host Steven Strogatz speaks with Shruti Naik, an immunologist and assistant professor of biological sciences at NYU's Langone Medical Center, to learn why the immune system works so well - and how that effectiveness can backfire.

    • 40 min

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