765 episodes

Interviews with Scientists about their New Books
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    • Science
    • 4.4 • 13 Ratings

Interviews with Scientists about their New Books
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    David Badre, "On Task: How Our Brain Gets Things Done" (Princeton UP, 2020)

    David Badre, "On Task: How Our Brain Gets Things Done" (Princeton UP, 2020)

    On Task: How Our Brain Gets Things Done (Princeton UP, 2020) is a look at the extraordinary ways the brain turns thoughts into actions—and how this shapes our everyday lives. 
    Why is it hard to text and drive at the same time? How do you resist eating that extra piece of cake? Why does staring at a tax form feel mentally exhausting? Why can your child expertly fix the computer and yet still forget to put on a coat? From making a cup of coffee to buying a house to changing the world around them, humans are uniquely able to execute necessary actions. How do we do it? Or in other words, how do our brains get things done? 
    In On Task, cognitive neuroscientist David Badre presents the first authoritative introduction to the neuroscience of cognitive control—the remarkable ways that our brains devise sophisticated actions to achieve our goals. We barely notice this routine part of our lives. Yet, cognitive control, also known as executive function, is an astonishing phenomenon that has a profound impact on our well-being. Drawing on cutting-edge research, vivid clinical case studies, and examples from daily life, Badre sheds light on the evolution and inner workings of cognitive control. He examines issues from multitasking and willpower to habitual errors and bad decision making, as well as what happens as our brains develop in childhood and change as we age—and what happens when cognitive control breaks down. Ultimately, Badre shows that cognitive control affects just about everything we do. A revelatory look at how billions of neurons collectively translate abstract ideas into concrete plans, On Task offers an eye-opening investigation into the brain’s critical role in human behavior.
    Joseph Fridman is a researcher, science communicator, media producer, and educational organizer. He lives in Boston with two ragdoll kittens and a climate scientist.You can follow him on Twitter @joseph_fridman, or reach him at his website, https://www.josephfridman.com/.
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    • 42 min
    David J. Hand, "Dark Data: Why What You Don't Know Matters" (Princeton UP, 2020)

    David J. Hand, "Dark Data: Why What You Don't Know Matters" (Princeton UP, 2020)

    There is no shortage of books on the growing impact of data collection and analysis on our societies, our cultures, and our everyday lives. David Hand's new book Dark Data: Why What You Don't Know Matters (Princeton University Press, 2020) is unique in this genre for its focus on those data that aren't collected or don't get analyzed. More than an introduction to missingness and how to account for it, this book proposes that the whole of data analysis can benefit from a "dark data" perspective—that is, careful consideration of not only what is seen but what is unseen. David assembles wide-ranging examples, from the histories of science and finance to his own research and consultancy, to show how this perspective can shed new light on concepts as classical as random sampling and survey design and as cutting-edge as machine learning and the measurement of honesty. I expect the book to inspire the same enjoyment and reflection in general readers as it is sure to in statisticians and other data analysts.
    Suggested companion work: Caroline Criado Perez, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men.
    Cory Brunson (he/him) is a Research Assistant Professor at the Laboratory for Systems Medicine at the University of Florida.
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    • 1 hr 18 min
    Alan Lightman, "Einstein's Dreams" (Vintage, 1992)

    Alan Lightman, "Einstein's Dreams" (Vintage, 1992)

    Einstein’s Dreams (Vintage, 1992) by Alan Lightman, set in Albert Einstein’s “miracle year” of 1905, is a novel about the cultural interconnection of time, relativity and life. As the young genius creates his theory of relativity, in a series of dreams, he imagines other worlds, each with a different conceptualization of time. In one, time is circular, and people are destined to repeat triumphs and failures over and over. In another, time stands still. In yet another, time is a nightingale, trapped by a bell jar.
    Translated into over thirty languages, Einstein’s Dreams has inspired playwrights, dancers, musicians and artists around the world. In poetic vignettes, Alan Lightman explores the connections between science and art, creativity and the rhythms of life, and ultimately the fragility of human existence.
    This conversation includes Alan Lightman (MIT), Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera and Annette Martínez-Iñesta, of the Departamento de Humanidades at the Universidad de Puerto Rico-Mayagüez (UPRM), and Joshua Chaparro Mata, a UPRM graduate and doctoral student in Applied Physics at Yale. They discuss dreaming as a scientific and creative resource; the importance of Berne, Switzerland, in the thought of Einstein and Lightman; Lightman’s precise and harmonious poetics; the role of technology in contemporary life; and the course Lightman’s life, experiences and creative process.
    This is the second of two episodes about Einstein’s Dreams. The first, in Spanish, appeared on the New Books Network en español. The series is sponsored by the Lenguaje focal group at Instituto Nuevos Horizontes at UPRM, a group of scholars who consider how translanguaging ​​can provide unique dimensions to knowledge. 
    This episode and the Instituto Nuevos Horizontes at the UPRM have been supported by the Mellon Foundation. The conversation is part of the “STEM to STEAM” project of the “Cornerstone” initiative, sponsored by the Teagle Foundation, which stresses the importance of integrating humanistic perspectives in the sciences.
    Books, scholars, articles and podcasts mentioned in this conversation include:


    In Praise of Wasting Time, Alan Lightman.


    Mr g, Alan Lightman.


    Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino.


    Cities I’ve Never Lived In, Sara Majka.

    “Academic Life without a Smartphone,” Inside Higher Ed, Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera.


    The Hemingway Society Podcast.


    Carlos Alberto Peón Casas.


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    • 55 min
    Pierre Sokolsky, "Clock in the Sun: How We Came to Understand Our Nearest Star" (Columbia UP, 2024)

    Pierre Sokolsky, "Clock in the Sun: How We Came to Understand Our Nearest Star" (Columbia UP, 2024)

    On the surface of the Sun, spots appear and fade in a predictable cycle, like a great clock in the sky. In medieval Russia, China, and Korea, monks and court astronomers recorded the appearance of these dark shapes, interpreting them as omens of things to come. In Western Europe, by contrast, where a cosmology originating with Aristotle prevailed, the Sun was regarded as part of the unchanging celestial realm, and it took observations through telescopes by Galileo and others to establish the reality of solar imperfections. In the nineteenth century, amateur astronomers discovered that sunspots ebb and flow about every eleven years—spurring speculation about their influence on the weather and even the stock market.
    Exploring these and many other crucial developments, Pierre Sokolsky provides a history of knowledge of the Sun through the lens of sunspots and the solar cycle. He ranges widely across cultures and throughout history, from the earliest recorded observations of sunspots in Chinese annals to satellites orbiting the Sun today, and from worship of the Sun as a deity in ancient times to present-day scientific understandings of stars and their magnetic fields. Considering how various thinkers sought to solve the puzzle of sunspots, Sokolsky sheds new light on key discoveries and the people who made them, as well as their historical and cultural contexts. Fast-paced, comprehensive, and learned, Clock in the Sun: How We Came to Understand Our Nearest Star (Columbia UP, 2024) shows readers our closest star from many new angles.
    Garima Garg is a New Delhi based journalist and author.
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    • 29 min
    Pandemics Perspectives 15: The Dynamic Nature of Science

    Pandemics Perspectives 15: The Dynamic Nature of Science

    In this Pandemic Perspectives Podcast, Ideas Roadshow founder and host Howard Burton talks to Michael Gordin, Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at Princeton University, about the differences between science and pseudoscience and how the COVID-19 Pandemic showed that most people don't realize that science is highly dynamic. Gordin is the author of (among other books) of On the Fringe: Where Science Meets Pseudoscience (Oxford UP, 2021).
    Ideas Roadshow's Pandemic Perspectives Project consists of three distinct, reinforcing elements: a documentary film (Pandemic Perspectives), book (Pandemic Perspectives: A filmmaker's journey in 10 essays) and a series of 24 detailed podcasts with many of the film's expert participants. Visit www.ideasroadshow.com for more details.
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    • 1 hr 16 min
    Ann Johnson and Johannes Lenhard, "Cultures of Prediction: How Engineering and Science Evolve with Mathematical Tools" (MIT Press, 2024)

    Ann Johnson and Johannes Lenhard, "Cultures of Prediction: How Engineering and Science Evolve with Mathematical Tools" (MIT Press, 2024)

    A probing examination of the dynamic history of predictive methods and values in science and engineering that helps us better understand today's cultures of prediction.
    The ability to make reliable predictions based on robust and replicable methods is a defining feature of the scientific endeavor, allowing engineers to determine whether a building will stand up or where a cannonball will strike. Cultures of Prediction: How Engineering and Science Evolve with Mathematical Tools (MIT Press, 2024), which bridges history and philosophy, uncovers the dynamic history of prediction in science and engineering over four centuries. Ann Johnson and Johannes Lenhard identify four different cultures, or modes, of prediction in the history of science and engineering: rational, empirical, iterative-numerical, and exploratory-iterative. They show how all four develop together and interact with one another while emphasizing that mathematization is not a single unitary process but one that has taken many forms.
    The story is not one of the triumph of abstract mathematics or technology but of how different modes of prediction, complementary concepts of mathematization, and technology coevolved, building what the authors call “cultures of prediction.” The first part of the book examines prediction from early modernity up to the computer age. The second part probes computer-related cultures of prediction, which focus on making things and testing their performance, often in computer simulations. This new orientation challenges basic tenets of the philosophy of science, in which scientific theories and models are predominantly seen as explanatory rather than predictive. It also influences the types of research projects that scientists and engineers undertake, as well as which ones receive support from funding agencies.
    Nikki Stevens, PhD is a critical technology researcher and software engineer. Find more of their work here.
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    • 1 hr 1 min

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5
13 Ratings

13 Ratings

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