10 episodes

Perpetual Notion Machine is a look at contemporary scientific issues and discoveries in a way that is accessible, understandable and entertaining to the non-scientists of the listening community.

Perpetual Notion Machine WORT 89.9 FM

    • Science
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Perpetual Notion Machine is a look at contemporary scientific issues and discoveries in a way that is accessible, understandable and entertaining to the non-scientists of the listening community.

    James Webb Space Telescope

    James Webb Space Telescope

    Tonight, the Perpetual Notion Machine explores the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The launch date is scheduled for December 22. This will be the most advanced technologically engineered telescope ever designed, at least 10 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope. Joining us is Michael Maseda, an Assistant Professor in astronomy at UW-Madison.

    Of course, the most pronounced piece of equipment is the telescope, which is composed of a mirror assembly. The JWST has the biggest one yet, 21 feet across, which makes it easier to see faint light from further away. But that is pretty big to be confined inside a capsule on a journey to its final destination. So this mirror will be folded into 18 hexagons, and then unfold during deployment. Also, the JWST will capture light mostly from the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Michael says this will give us a chance to see things on a different scale than Hubble. And one of the instruments on the JWST that Michael was involved with could capture images that falls right into his area of study, the formation and evolution of galaxies.

    For more information, check out the JWST website, this NASA website, and this website from the Space Telescope Science Institute. Here is a nice website that compares Webb vs. Hubble.

    Image Courtesy: NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez via Flickr (artist conception)

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    • 29 min
    Fifty Years of Science Literacy with Bassam Shakhashiri

    Fifty Years of Science Literacy with Bassam Shakhashiri

    Host Patrick Sajbel welcomes a force in science education for more than a half century, Professor Bassam Shakhashiri.

    Shakhashiri reflects on the need for science literacy in the general public and the importance of the conversation to achieve this. He has been recognized with the first award of the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea (a position held for 20 years), and assistant director at the National Science Foundation (NSF), with the National Science Board’s Public Service Award.

    In addition to a 51-year professional career in the University of Wisconsin Department of Chemistry, he also served as the President of the American Chemical Society, one of the world’s largest scientific organizations with over 150,000 members in 150 countries.

    Over the course of 50+ years, he has prepared a library of tools and presentations that can be used by educators, citizens and anybody with science curiosity.

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    • 29 min
    ProPublica’s Caroline Chen – Science Journalist in Residen...

    ProPublica’s Caroline Chen – Science Journalist in Residen...

    Every school term, UW-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications and University Communications invites a science writer to campus as the Science Journalist in Residence. This provides that person a chance to interact with students and to share their journalism experience and expertise. Tonight, the Perpetual Notion Machine has the privilege of also tapping into that experience with the current Science Journalist in Residence Caroline Chen. Caroline works for ProPublica as their investigative health reporter, currently focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic.

    PNM’s newest volunteer Serena Zhao talks with Caroline on what it’s like reporting on COVID-19, and also the challenges of doing her job under COVID-19 conditions. And she discusses how she manages the uncertainty inherent in science, especially pronounced with COVID-19.

    Image Courtesy: Bill Graf for UW-Madison

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    • 27 min
    Alzheimer’s: A Fresh Look and New Resources

    Alzheimer’s: A Fresh Look and New Resources

    Alzheimer’s Disease is the 6th leading cause of death in Wisconsin. One in six people over the age of 65 are affected with the disease. The good news is the monumental ongoing effort to identify, track, treat and prevent the disease.

    Perpetual Notion Machine host Patrick Sajbel welcomes back Dr. Nathaniel Chin, assistant professor in the division of geriatrics and gerontology with patients in the UW Health Memory Clinic, medical director of the WI Alzheimer’s Disease Research Study and the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention Study.

    Dr. Chin focuses on Alzheimer’s as the most common form of dementia, noting UW research and resources, including clinics, and the extensive data collection to track and understand the disease. He has created over 100 podcasts on Alzheimer’s research to help in the advancing field of care and prevention.

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    • 29 min
    Counting Animal Scat with Mary Roach

    Counting Animal Scat with Mary Roach

    On this episode of Perpetual Notion Machine, Emily Morris talks to popular science author Mary Roach. Her new book is Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law. We talk about how to be a good animal neighbor, counting animals with their poop, the agencies responsible for wildlife management, and why it wouldn’t be so bad to be your own scarecrow.

    Mary will be discussing her book with Josh Foer online at the Wisconsin Book Festival Sunday, October 24, 2021 at 11am CT.

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    • 29 min
    Autoimmunity

    Autoimmunity

    The immune system might be the most complex and yet invaluable process in the body. It protects our human body from foreign disease pathogens that can wreak havoc to our fragile and beneficial cellular makeup. And vaccines are invaluable to help teach the immune system what foreign disease pathogens to look out for. But what if the immune system cannot recognize foreign pathogens from good normal cells? Tonight, the Perpetual Notion Machine looks into autoimmunity, that is, when the body attacks itself. Our guest is Dr. Miriam Shelef, a rheumatologist in the School of Medicine and Public Health at UW-Madison. She studies rheumatoid arthritis, one of many, many autoimmune diseases.

    Ironically, where the immune system targets areas of infection, in rheumatoid arthritis it causes inflammation, swelling, pain, and deformity of the joints. The feature image associated with this post shows the disfigured hand and fingers of a patient. But rheumatoid arthritis can result in systemic autoimmunity, where the entire body can be effected. According to Miriam, studies and research to find out why autoimmunity occurs have been ongoing for decades. We’ve learned a little here and there, but every human being has a different chemical composition and immune system.

    For more information, check out this website about Autoimmune Disease from Johns Hopkins Medical Center.

    And here’s a link that talks about rheumatoid arthritis from the American College of Rheumatology.

    Image Courtesy: James Heilman, MD via Wikimedia Commons

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    • 29 min

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