100 episodes

In the tradition of the Enlightenment salons that helped drive the Age of Reason, Science Salon is a series of conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, scholars, and thinkers, about the most important issues of our time.

Science Salon Michael Shermer

    • Natural Sciences
    • 5.0, 1 Rating

In the tradition of the Enlightenment salons that helped drive the Age of Reason, Science Salon is a series of conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, scholars, and thinkers, about the most important issues of our time.

    124. David J. Halperin — Intimate Alien: The Hidden Story of the UFO

    124. David J. Halperin — Intimate Alien: The Hidden Story of the UFO

    UFOs are a myth, says David J. Halperin — but myths are real. The power and fascination of the UFO has nothing to do with space travel or life on other planets. It’s about us, our longings and terrors, and especially the greatest terror of all: the end of our existence. This is a book about UFOs that goes beyond believing in them or debunking them and to a fresh understanding of what they tell us about ourselves as individuals, as a culture, and as a species.
    In the 1960s, Halperin was a teenage UFOlogist, convinced that flying saucers were real and that it was his life’s mission to solve their mystery. He would become a professor of religious studies, with traditions of heavenly journeys his specialty. With Intimate Alien, he looks back to explore what UFOs once meant to him as a boy growing up in a home haunted by death and what they still mean for millions, believers and deniers alike.
    From the prehistoric Balkans to the deserts of New Mexico, from the biblical visions of Ezekiel to modern abduction encounters, Intimate Alien traces the hidden story of the UFO. It’s a human story from beginning to end, no less mysterious and fantastic for its earthliness. A collective cultural dream, UFOs transport us to the outer limits of that most alien yet intimate frontier, our own inner space. Shermer and Halperin discuss:
    What is religion and what role does it play in peoples’ lives? What is myth and what role does it play in peoples’ lives? what Carl Jung believed about UFOs and why, The Day the Earth Stood Still film as a Christ Allegory, why he’s an atheist but fascinated by the power of religion, why he’s a UFO skeptic but compelled by the power of alien beliefs, the origin of alien eyes, the origin of alien abductions, the true meaning of the Roswell incident, John Lennon’s UFO experience, Will religion fall into disuse with the rise of the nones?, and the future of religion in a post-COVID-19 world. David J. Halperin taught Jewish studies in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, until his retirement in 2000. He has published five nonfiction books on Jewish mysticism and messianism, as well as the coming-of-age novel Journal of a UFO Investigator: A Novel (2011). He blogs about UFOs, religion, and related subjects at www.davidhalperin.net.
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    • 1 hr 43 min
    123. Gerald Posner — Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America

    123. Gerald Posner — Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America

    Pharmaceutical breakthroughs such as antibiotics and vaccines rank among some of the greatest advancements in human history. Yet exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs, safety recalls affecting tens of millions of Americans, and soaring rates of addiction and overdose on prescription opioids have caused many to lose faith in drug companies. Now, Americans are demanding a national reckoning with a monolithic industry. Pharma introduces brilliant scientists, incorruptible government regulators, and brave whistleblowers facing off against company executives often blinded by greed. A business that profits from treating ills can create far deadlier problems than it cures. Addictive products are part of the industry’s DNA, from the days when corner drugstores sold morphine, heroin, and cocaine, to the past two decades of dangerously overprescribed opioids. Pharma also uncovers the real story of the Sacklers, the family that became one of America’s wealthiest from the success of OxyContin, their blockbuster narcotic painkiller at the center of the opioid crisis. Pharma reveals how and why American drug companies have put earnings ahead of patients. Shermer and Posner also discuss:
    how Big Pharma companies conspire to hack the FDA regulations, parsing responsibility for the Opioid crisis between manufacturers, distributors, doctors, and patients, the physiology of addiction and dependency, how Arthur Sackler went from liberal do-gooder to greedy capitalist, the polio vaccine and patenting the sun, how valium and anti-depressants were marketed to men and women differently, how the AIDS cocktail was developed, how Viagra® was discovered, why patents and intellectual property rights do not lead to more innovation, the prospects for a COVID-19 vaccine, the current state of the opioid crisis and how to stem it. Gerald Posner is an award-winning journalist who has written twelve books, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK and multiple national bestsellers. His 2015 book, God’s Bankers, a two-hundred-year history of the finances of the Vatican, was an acclaimed New York Timesbestseller. Posner has written for many national magazines and papers, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Newsweek, and Time, and he has been a regular contributor to NBC, the History Channel, CNN, CBS, MSNBC, and FOX News. He lives in Miami Beach with his wife, author Trisha Posner.
    Listen to the Science Salon Podcast via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.

    • 1 hr 37 min
    122. Walter Scheidel — Escape from Rome: The Failure of the Empire and the Road to Prosperity

    122. Walter Scheidel — Escape from Rome: The Failure of the Empire and the Road to Prosperity

    What has the Roman Empire ever done for us? Fall and go away. That is the striking conclusion of historian Walter Scheidel as he recounts the gripping story of how the end of the Roman Empire was the beginning of the modern world. The fall of the Roman Empire has long been considered one of the greatest disasters in history but Scheidel argues that Rome’s dramatic collapse was actually the best thing that ever happened, clearing the path for Europe’s economic rise and the creation of the modern age. Shermer and Scheidel range across the entire premodern world and up to the present, discussing:
    Why did the Roman Empire appear? Why did nothing like it ever return to Europe? Why did Europeans come to dominate the world? the rich diversity of Europe that encouraged political, economic, scientific, and technological breakthroughs why other parts of the world lagged behind how empires are built and why they fail America as an empire. income inequality and the only forces that change it significantly the future of human civilization. Dr. Walter Scheidel is an Austrian historian who teaches ancient history at Stanford University. His main research interests are ancient social and economic history, pre-modern historical demography, and comparative and transdisciplinary approaches to world history. He is the author of The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, On Human Bondage: After Slavery and Social Death, The Science of Roman History: Biology, Climate and the Future of the Past, The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Economy, The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies, and Rome, China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires, and more.
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    • 1 hr 13 min
    121. Maria Konnikova — The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win

    121. Maria Konnikova — The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win

    It’s true that Maria Konnikova had never actually played poker before and didn’t even know the rules when she approached Erik Seidel, Poker Hall of Fame inductee and winner of tens of millions of dollars in earnings, and convinced him to be her mentor. But she knew her man: a famously thoughtful and broad-minded player, he was intrigued by her pitch that she wasn’t interested in making money so much as learning about life. She had faced a stretch of personal bad luck, and her reflections on the role of chance had led her to a giant of game theory, who pointed her to poker as the ultimate master class in learning to distinguish between what can be controlled and what can’t. And she certainly brought something to the table, including a PhD in psychology and an acclaimed and growing body of work on human behavior and how to hack it. So Seidel was in, and soon she was down the rabbit hole with him, into the wild, fiercely competitive, overwhelmingly masculine world of high-stakes Texas Hold’em, their initial end point the following year’s World Series of Poker.
    But then something extraordinary happened. Under Seidel’s guidance, Konnikova did have many epiphanies about life that derived from her new pursuit, including how to better read, not just her opponents but far more importantly herself; how to identify what tilted her into an emotional state that got in the way of good decisions; and how to get to a place where she could accept luck for what it was, and what it wasn’t. But she also began to win. And win. In a little over a year, she began making earnest money from tournaments, ultimately totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. She won a major title, got a sponsor, and got used to being on television, and to headlines like “How one writer’s book deal turned her into a professional poker player.” In this wide-ranging conversation Konnikova and Shermer discuss:
    the balance of luck, skill, intelligence and emotions in how lives turn out the real meaning of the marshmallow test time discounting and how to improve yours rapid cognition and intuition how to improve your use of emotions in gambling and in life what it was like being a woman in an almost exclusively male game, and the nature of human nature in the context of the BLM movement and protests. Maria Konnikova is the author of Mastermind and The Confidence Game. She is a regular contributing writer for The New Yorker, and has written for The Atlantic, The New York Times, Slate, The New Republic, The Paris Review, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, The Boston Globe, Scientific American, Wired, and Smithsonian, among many other publications. Her writing has won numerous awards, including the 2019 Excellence in Science Journalism Award from the Society of Personality and Social Psychology. While researching The Biggest Bluff, Maria became an international poker champion and the winner of over $300,000 in tournament earnings. Maria also hosts the podcast The Grift from Panoply Media and is currently a visiting fellow at NYU’s School of Journalism. Her podcasting work earned her a National Magazine Award nomination in 2019. Maria graduated from Harvard University and received her PhD in Psychology from Columbia University.
    Listen to Science Salon via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.

    • 1 hr 19 min
    120. Andrew Rader — Beyond the Known: How Exploration Created the Modern World and Will Take Us to the Stars

    120. Andrew Rader — Beyond the Known: How Exploration Created the Modern World and Will Take Us to the Stars

    For the first time in history, the human species has the technology to destroy itself. But having developed that power, humans are also able to leave Earth and voyage into the vastness of space. After millions of years of evolution, we’ve arrived at the point where we can settle other worlds and begin the process of becoming multi-planetary. How did we get here? What does the future hold for us? Divided into four accessible sections, Beyond the Known examines major periods of discovery and rediscovery, from Classical Times, when Phoenicians, Persians and Greeks ventured forth; to The Age of European Exploration, which saw colonies sprout on nearly continent; to The Era of Scientific Inquiry, when researchers developed brand new tools for mapping and traveling farther; to Our Spacefaring Future, which unveils plans currently underway for settling other planets and, eventually, traveling to the stars.
    A Mission Manager at SpaceX with a light, engaging voice, Andrew Rader is at the forefront of space exploration. As a gifted historian, Rader, who has won global acclaim for his stunning breadth of knowledge, is singularly positioned to reveal the story of human exploration that is also the story of scientific achievement. Told with an infectious zeal for traveling beyond the known, Beyond the Knownilluminates how very human it is to emerge from the cave and walk toward an infinitely expanding horizon. Rader and Shermer also discuss:
    the human nature to explore: adaptation or spandrel? what the Greeks and Romans knew about the world that was lost for centuries how dark were the Dark Ages for exploration? the economic and religious drivers of early exploration the political and practical drivers of 20th century exploration Mars direct or to the moon first? how to terraform Mars how to get people to the moons of the outer planets how to get people to the stars are we living in a simulation? should we be worried about A.I.? Andrew Rader is a Mission Manager at SpaceX. He holds a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from MIT specializing in long-duration spaceflight. In 2013, he won the Discovery Channel’s competitive television series Canada’s Greatest Know-It-All. He also co-hosts the weekly podcast Spellbound, which covers topics from science to economics to history and psychology. Beyond the Known is Rader’s first book for adults. You can find him at Andrew-Rader.com.
    Listen to Science Salon via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.

    • 1 hr 41 min
    119. Howard Bloom — Einstein, Michael Jackson, and Me: A Search for the Soul in the Power Pits of Rock and Roll

    119. Howard Bloom — Einstein, Michael Jackson, and Me: A Search for the Soul in the Power Pits of Rock and Roll

    Howard Bloom — called “the greatest press agent that rock and roll has ever known” by Derek Sutton, the former manager of Styx, Ten Years After, and Jethro Tull — is a science nerd who knew nothing about popular music. But he founded the biggest PR firm in the music industry and helped build or sustain the careers of our biggest rock-and-roll legends, including Michael Jackson, Prince, Bob Marley, Bette Midler, Billy Joel, Billy Idol, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, David Byrne, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Queen, Kiss, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run DMC, ZZ Top, Joan Jett, Chaka Khan, and one hundred more. What was he after? He was on a hunt for the gods inside of you and me. Einstein, Michael Jackson & Me is Bloom’s story — the strange tale of a scientific expedition into the dark underbelly of science and fame where new myths and movements are made. Shermer and Bloom also discuss:
    What and where is God? the search for God inside us all how an atheist can search for the soul conducting science in everyday life music as an evolutionary adaptation or cheese cake spandrel What makes some musicians successful and others not (hint: it’s more than 10,000 hours of practice) what it was like woking with Prince, Billy Joel, Joan Jett, and others Do female rock stars have as much sex with strange men as male rock stars have sex with strange women? why Michael Jackson was a transcendent talent, the Mozart of our time. Based in Park Slope, Brooklyn, Howard Bloom has been called “next in a lineage of seminal thinkers that includes Newton, Darwin, Einstein, [and] Freud” by Britain’s Channel 4 TV, and “the next Stephen Hawking” by Gear magazine. One of Bloom’s seven books, Global Brain, was the subject of an Office of the Secretary of Defense symposium with participants from the State Department, the Energy Department, DARPA, IBM, and MIT.
    Listen to Science Salon via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.

    • 1 hr 57 min

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