323 episodes

Each episode of Distillations podcast takes a deep-dive into a moment of science-related history in order to shed light on the present.

Distillations | Science History Institute Science History Institute

    • History
    • 4.5 • 71 Ratings

Each episode of Distillations podcast takes a deep-dive into a moment of science-related history in order to shed light on the present.

    Mechanochemistry

    Mechanochemistry

    What comes to mind when you think of a chemistry lab? Maybe it’s smoke billowing out of glassware, or colorful test tubes, or vats of toxic substances. Chemistry and hazardous solvents just seem to go hand in hand. But chemists like James Mack think there’s a greener way: It’s called mechanochemistry, a kind of chemistry that uses physical force to grind materials instead of solvents. And it’s getting the attention of such huge corporations as Exxon Mobil. Still, some chemists are not ready to give up their traditional techniques. “I thought they were married to the molecules,” says Mack, who is pictured above placing vials into a machine that uses fast-spinning ball bearings to pulverize molecules. “Little did I know they were actually married to the flask.”
     
    Credits Host: Elisabeth Berry Drago
    Reporter, Producer, and Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer
    Senior Producer: Mariel Carr
    Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez
    Associate Producer: Padmini Raghunath

    • 16 min
    Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius as Written by Our Genetic Code

    Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius as Written by Our Genetic Code

    The Disappearing Spoon, a podcast collaboration between the Science History Institute and New York Times best-selling author Sam Kean, returns for its third season on March 8, 2022.
    To celebrate, our producer, Padmini Parthasarathy, sat down with Kean to talk about his book The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code. This interview is a great companion piece for the new season of The Disappearing Spoon, which tackles all sorts of strange and interesting stories about the geniuses we know well—from Einstein and his great scientific blunder that turned out to be correct, to Monet and the cataracts that almost made him put down his brush forever.
    Listen as Kean talks about violin protégé Niccolo Paganini, whose genes were both a blessing and a curse, the scientific arms race that led to the mapping of the human genome, and the sometimes-murky lines between human and non-human.
    Credits
    Hosts: Alexis Pedrick and Elisabeth Berry Drago
    Senior Producer: Mariel Carr
    Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez
    Associate Producer: Padmini Parthasarathy
    Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

    • 23 min
    The Sinister Angel Singers of Rome

    The Sinister Angel Singers of Rome

    In this episode of The Disappearing Spoon, Sam Kean talks about Alessandro Moreschi, the so-called Angel of Rome. His voice earned him fame and money. So what's the secret behind the voice? What was his trick? It turns out that his trick can also make you taller and prevent baldness. The only catch: it requires castration.
    Credits Host: Sam Kean
    Senior Producer: Mariel Carr
    Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez
    Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer

    • 18 min
    The Murderous Origins of the American Medical Association

    The Murderous Origins of the American Medical Association

    In this episode of The Disappearing Spoon, Sam Kean talks about the strange origin story of the American Medical Association. The creation of this powerful medical society can be traced back to a duel between two doctors at Transylvania University in Kentucky.
    Credits Host: Sam Kean
    Senior Producer: Mariel Carr
    Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez
    Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer

    • 20 min
    The Big ‘What If’ of Cancer

    The Big ‘What If’ of Cancer

    In this episode of The Disappearing Spoon, Sam Kean talks about Hermann Muller, a geneticist who in the 1920s discovered that radiation causes genetic mutations. This discovery happened around the same time that other geneticists were starting to link cancer with genetic mutations. Had both of these parties communicated they would have gotten a 50-year head start in cancer research. So why didn't scientists make this realization sooner? It turns out that Muller was a real jerk.
    Credits Host: Sam Kean
    Senior Producer: Mariel Carr
    Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez
    Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer

    • 20 min
    Disappearing Spoon: The Harvard Medical School Janitor Who Solved a Murder

    Disappearing Spoon: The Harvard Medical School Janitor Who Solved a Murder

    On this episode of The Disappearing Spoon, Sam Kean talks about a murder mystery that rocked Boston in 1849. Harvard University alum and physician George Parkman had gone missing. The last place he was seen alive was at the Harvard medical building, which had plenty of bodies, but police couldn't find Parkman’s there. That is until a janitor intervened and implicated a medical school professor. The ensuing murder trial was a media circus equivalent to the O. J. Simpson trial. And just like that trial, it also familiarized the layperson with forensic and anatomical sciences.
    Credits Host: Sam Kean
    Senior Producer: Mariel Carr
    Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez
    Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer
    Photo: Wellcome Collection

    • 21 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
71 Ratings

71 Ratings

public historian ,

Weird stories and cool facts

Love the range of topics they cover. Always strange things to learn about with compelling characters.

Librarian Lindsay ,

So informative

Great hosts! Love this show!

GreenPerk1 ,

William Haseltine

We have to ask why is it that Dr Haseltine is one of the very few people on this planet, scientist or other, that has the intelligence and insight to give a brutally honest analysis of the trajectory of this pandemic and the unnecessary disaster it has caused.
We have had months of delayed and useless communications from so called leaders at CDC, NIH, HHS etc on the preparedness for Covid19. As Dr Haseltine explains, the pandemic was inevitable, at least since SARS epidemic in 2002. Public health preparedness in western countries has been scandalous.
I see little evidence that there will be any structural change within the health -industrial complex. Scientists have generally kept a low profile and are not willing to expose the massive faults in the science - corporate system that has resulted in the inexcusable situation of the world having no drugs ready to treat this viral infection.
Margaret Perkins PhD

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