753 episódios

Interviews with Scientists about their New Books
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    • Ciência

Interviews with Scientists about their New Books
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    Mona Simion, "Resistance to Evidence" (Cambridge UP, 2024)

    Mona Simion, "Resistance to Evidence" (Cambridge UP, 2024)

    We have increasingly sophisticated ways of acquiring and communicating knowledge, but efforts to spread this knowledge often encounter resistance to evidence. The phenomenon of resistance to evidence, while subject to thorough investigation in social psychology, is acutely under-theorised in the philosophical literature. 
    Mona Simion's Resistance to Evidence (Cambridge UP, 2024) is concerned with positive epistemology: it argues that we have epistemic obligations to update and form beliefs on available and undefeated evidence. In turn, our resistance to easily available evidence is unpacked as an instance of epistemic malfunctioning. Simion develops a full positive, integrated epistemological picture in conjunction with novel accounts of evidence, defeat, norms of inquiry, permissible suspension, and disinformation. Her book is relevant for anyone with an interest in the nature of evidence and justified belief and in the best ways to avoid the high-stakes practical consequences of evidence resistance in policy and practice.
    Mona Simion is a philosopher. She is professor of philosophy at the University of Glasgow where she is also deputy director of the COGITO Epistemology Research Centre. Simion's work focuses on issues in epistemology, ethics, the philosophy of language, and feminist philosophy.

    Morteza Hajizadeh is a Ph.D. graduate in English from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. His research interests are Cultural Studies; Critical Theory; Environmental History; Medieval (Intellectual) History; Gothic Studies; 18th and 19th Century British Literature. YouTube channel. Twitter.
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    • 57 min
    At Every Depth: Our Growing Knowledge of the Changing Oceans

    At Every Depth: Our Growing Knowledge of the Changing Oceans

    Today’s book is: At Every Depth: Our Growing Knowledge of the Changing Oceans (Columbia UP, 2024), by Tessa Hill and Eric Simons, which takes readers beneath the waves and along the coasts, to explore how climate change and environmental degradation have spurred the most radical transformations in human history. The world’s oceans are changing at a drastic pace. In response, the people who know the ocean most intimately are taking action for the sake of our shared future. Community scientists track species in California tidepools. Researchers dive into the waters around Sydney to replant kelp forests. Scientists and First Nations communities collaborate to restore clam gardens in the Pacific Northwest. In At Every Depth, the oceanographer Dr. Tessa Hill and the science journalist Eric Simons profile these and other efforts to understand and protect marine environments, taking readers to habitats from shallow tidepools to the deep sea. By sharing the stories of scientists, coastal community members, Indigenous people, shellfish farmers, and fisheries workers, At Every Depth brings together varied viewpoints, showing how scientists’ research and local and Indigenous knowledge can all complement each other to inform a more sustainable future.
    Our guest is: Dr. Tessa Hill, who is a professor in the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department at the University of California, Davis. She teaches and researches oceanography and climate change. She is a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and she was awarded the Rachel Carson Lecture by the American Geophysical Union.
    Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, the producer of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in history, which she uses to explore what stories we tell and what happens to those we never tell.
    Listeners may also enjoy these episodes with women in science:

    Climate Change Explained

    Women in Shark Sciences

    This conversation with Dr. Ware about dragonflies

    The surprising world of wasps

    When Dr. Martin was considering whether to stay or drop out


    Welcome to Academic Life, the podcast for your academic journey—and beyond! Join us again to learn from more experts inside and outside the academy, and around the world.
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    • 49 min
    Carl Zimmer, "Life's Edge: The Search For What it Means to be Alive" (Dutton, 2022)

    Carl Zimmer, "Life's Edge: The Search For What it Means to be Alive" (Dutton, 2022)

    Carl Zimmer investigates one of the biggest questions of all: What is life? The answer seems obvious until you try to seriously answer it. Is the apple sitting on your kitchen counter alive, or is only the apple tree it came from deserving of the word? If we can’t answer that question here on Earth, how will we know when and if we discover alien life on other worlds? The question hangs over some of society’s most charged conflicts - whether a fertilized egg is a living person, for example, and when we ought to declare a person legally dead.
    Life's Edge: The Search For What it Means to be Alive (Dutton, 2022) is an utterly fascinating investigation that no one but one of the most celebrated science writers of our generation could craft. Zimmer journeys through the strange experiments that have attempted to recreate life. Literally hundreds of definitions of what that should look like now exist, but none has yet emerged as an obvious winner. Lists of what living things have in common do not add up to a theory of life. It's never clear why some items on the list are essential and others not. Coronaviruses have altered the course of history, and yet many scientists maintain they are not alive. Chemists are creating droplets that can swarm, sense their environment, and multiply. Have they made life in the lab?
    Whether he is handling pythons in Alabama or searching for hibernating bats in the Adirondacks, Zimmer revels in astounding examples of life at its most bizarre. He tries his own hand at evolving life in a test tube with unnerving results. Charting the obsession with Dr. Frankenstein's monster and how Coleridge came to believe the whole universe was alive, Zimmer leads us all the way into the labs and minds of researchers working on engineering life from the ground up.
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    • 36 min
    Thomas A. Garrity, "All the Math You Missed (But Need to Know for Graduate School)" (Cambridge UP, 2021)

    Thomas A. Garrity, "All the Math You Missed (But Need to Know for Graduate School)" (Cambridge UP, 2021)

    Beginning graduate students in mathematical sciences and related areas in physical and computer sciences and engineering are expected to be familiar with a daunting breadth of mathematics, but few have such a background. This bestselling book helps students fill in the gaps in their knowledge. Thomas A. Garrity explains the basic points and a few key results of all the most important undergraduate topics in mathematics, emphasizing the intuitions behind the subject. The explanations are accompanied by numerous examples, exercises and suggestions for further reading that allow the reader to test and develop their understanding of these core topics. 
    Featuring four new chapters and many other improvements, this second edition of All the Math You Missed (But Need to Know for Graduate School) (Cambridge UP, 2021) is an essential resource for advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students who need to learn some serious mathematics quickly.
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    • 50 min
    The Scientific Attitude

    The Scientific Attitude

    Listen to this interview of Lee McIntyre, Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science (Boston University) and Senior Advisor for Public Trust in Science (Aspen Institute). We talk about his book The Scientific Attitude: Defending Science from Denial, Fraud, and Pseudoscience (MIT Press, 2019).
    Lee McIntyre : "Scientists have an enormous role — and I'll even say, a responsibility, to make sure that their work does not end just with the discoveries, but extends, as well, to include the communication of those discoveries to their scientific colleagues and beyond them, to society more broadly. And I think that there's enormous room for more public education, not just about the results of science, but also about how science actually works."
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    • 47 min
    Christian Hansel, "Memory Makes the Brain: The Biological Machinery That Uses Experiences To Shape Individual Brains" (World Scientific, 2021)

    Christian Hansel, "Memory Makes the Brain: The Biological Machinery That Uses Experiences To Shape Individual Brains" (World Scientific, 2021)

    If you're interested in memory, you'll find a lot in Memory Makes the Brain: The Biological Machinery That Uses Experiences To Shape Individual Brains (World Scientific, 2021), from cellular processes to unique and interesting perspectives on autism.

    Detailed descriptions of cellular processes involved in forming a memory.

    Connecting those cellular processes to everyday experiences - like the memorable image of a butterfly seen during a hike decades ago.

    Comparisons of plasticity in different brain areas, like cortex, hippocampus, cerebellum.

    Comparisons of plasticity and learning in different phases of the human life.

    Important milestones in the history of neuroscience. Like Wiesel and Hubel's work identifying the critical period for plasticity, or Huttenlocher's discovery of synaptic pruning.

    Up-to-date science and open questions about autism, a wide range of phenomena that seems to be connected both to synaptic pruning and to the funtion of the cerebellum.

    An outlook on non-synaptic plasticity.


    Professor Christian Hansel starts both the book and the conversation with establishing a very broad definition of memory. Traditionally, a lot of research focused on the "observable outcome" of learning: acquiring new skills, changing behavior. Instead, he defines memory as any event that changes the brain.
    The first 2 chapters introduce major discoveries from the 1960s and 1970s. David Hubel and Thorsten Wiesel examined the visual system of kittens. They recognized that it's much more adaptive in a "critical period", ca. 4-8 weeks after birth. Peter Huttenlocher discovered another fascinating phenomena during childhood: synaptic pruning. In the years 2-12, a lot of synapses (connections between neurons) disappear.
    Chapter 3 describes the molecular machinery behind all these observations. We'll get to know the terms LTP (long-term potentiation) and LTD (long-term depression), which mean the long-term strengthening and weakening of synaptic connections respectively. We find a detailed description of these processes, incl. the enzymes, neurotransmitters and receptors contributing to them.
    Chapter 4 continues examining these processes across the human life span. The (perhaps surprising) conclusion: The machinery for synaptic plasticity is quite similar in a small child an in an adult. What's different is the magnitude of these processes.
    Autism is a central topic both in the book and in the Hansel Lab's work. Chapter 5 starts with describing the difficulties of a definition. ASD (autism spectrum disorder) is an umbrella term encompassing several symptoms and intensities. In the last years, it has turned out that low degree of synaptic pruning plays a significant role in multiple forms of autism. We'll see in the next years how the research about synaptic pruning and learning can be used for clinical purposes. Understanding the biological mechanism can also make it easier to relate to some peculiar-sounding symptoms. If we consider that an individual's brain contains an unusually high number of synapses, their reports about unusually intense perceptions suddenly become more understandable.
    A thought-provoking chapter is number 6. It describes various experiments with mouse models to study autism-like symptoms. The chapter might also make you reflect about the merits and shortcomings of animal models generally.
    The cerebellum was long considered to be the brain area for finetuning movements. Now, it's clear that its repertoire is much bigger. In the interview, Christian describes a hypothesis that the cerebellum has a capability of timing. This in turn makes it a crucial factor in several behaviors beyond sophisticated movements, including speech.
    We know a lot about synaptic plasticity and its significance in learning. Chapter 8 tackles the big, open question, what else? Which other processes contribute to memory formation? It presents some hypotheses about intrinsic plasticity.
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    • 1h 10 min

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