Hear the untold stories of mind-blowing achievements in science and tech. Host David Pogue, six-time Emmy winner and “CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent, takes you behind the scenes into the worlds of the people who’ve built the best in transportation, entertainment, food, internet, and health. Creators reveal their inspirations and roadblocks they encountered in bringing their breakthroughs to the public.
How to Prepare for Climate Change: Intro
It's Thanksgiving weekend, and for many podcasts, a week off. But we didn't want to sock you with some re-run—or, worse, leave you with no episode at all. So David Pogue is here to offer a free chapter from his audio book, "How to Prepare for Climate Change." You'll hear the complete Introduction, which is designed to teach you the difference between mitigation and adaptation—and convince you to keep doing the former, but start doing the latter.
Who Makes the Fake Languages for Hollywood?
The first time you heard “Star Trek” characters speak Klingon, or the “Game of Thrones” characters speaking Dothraki and High Valyrian, you might have assumed that the actors were just speaking a few words of gibberish, created by some screenwriter to sound authentic. But these are complete languages, with vocabulary, syntax, grammar, and even made-up histories. There’s only one person on the planet whose full-time job is creating them—and these days, he’s swamped with requests. No doubt about it: Conlangs (constructed languages) are the new special effect. Me nem nesa!
Guests: David Peterson, author/linguist/full-time language maker. Mark Okrand, author/linguist/creator of Klingon. Angela Carpenter, linguistics professor at Wellesley College.
How NASA's $2 Billion Rover Landed Itself on Mars: "Seven Minutes of Terror"
Perseverance, NASA's latest Mars rover, is a one-ton, $2 billion marvel. The plan was for it to enter the Mars atmosphere going 12,000 miles an hour. The problem: How do you slow it down enough to set it down gently on the surface? You can't use retro rockets, because they'd stir up so much dust, the rover’s cameras and instruments would be ruined. You can’t deliver Perseverance inside a larger spaceship, because the rover wouldn’t be able to drive out of the landing crater. You can’t even control the descent from Earth, because it takes so long for our signals to reach Mars; by the time the rover received a course-correction instruction, there’d be nothing left of it but a smoking wreck. Yet NASA pulled it off—with a nutty, Rube Goldberg-y, multi-stage, seven-minute-long, completely automated system involving a parachute, an airborne launch platform, and a cable.
Guest: Alan Chen, NASA Entry, Descent, and Landing Lead for the Mars 2020 mission.
Tornado Alley is Shifting Eastward—and We're Not Ready
Tornadoes are nasty and dangerous. They appear and disappear so fast, there’s usually no time for evacuation—and the United States gets 75% of all the world’s tornadoes, about 1,300 of them a year. They occur all year ‘round, in all 50 states, but the biggest swarm forms in Tornado Alley, in the southern Plains states like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. In 2018, storm chaser and meteorologist Victor Gensini made a startling discovery: Tornado Alley has been shifting eastward. Their growing frequency in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee is a deadly development, because more people live in these areas, often in flimsy housing. And because there are more trees and buildings, it's much harder to see the devastation coming.
Guest: Victor Gensini, storm chaser and meteorology professor at Northern Illinois University.
Audio Deepfakes and the End of Trust
The media is plenty freaked out about “deepfakes”: Computer-generated videos of famous people saying things they never actually said. But only the video is faked; the audio parts, the voices of those fake celebrities, were supplied by human impersonators. But now, software exists to mimic anyone’s voice, opening a Pandora’s Box of fraud, deception, and what one expert calls “the end of trust.” Fortunately, a new coalition of 60 news organizations and software companies think they have a way to shut down the nightmare before it begins.
Guests: Ragavan Thurairatnam, Dessa. Nina Schick, author and deepfakes expert. Joan Donavan, Harvard Kennedy School. Charlie Choi, CEO of Lovo. Dana Rao, chief counsel, Adobe.
How We Almost Blew the Vaccine
It may seem as though we got the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines incredibly quickly. But Hungarian biochemist Katalin Karikó had been trying to make mRNA vaccines work for 30 years while fighting scientific gatekeepers who thought her idea was absurd. Her grants were denied, her papers rejected, her speaking invitations withdrawn; eventually, the University of Pennsylvania demoted her. But she still refused to quit, and in 2005, she and collaborator Drew Weissman cracked the code. They figured out how mRNA could direct our own cells to manufacture medicines to order. Their breakthrough saved the world from the worst of the pandemic—and opened a new world of medicines and vaccines for a huge range of diseases.
Guests: Katalin Karikó, senior VP at BioNTech. Drew Weissman, Perelman School of Medicine, U Penn. Derek Rossi, co-founder of Moderna.
Stories to share
I find myself recounting the stories I hear on this podcast. Around the dinner table, my children and spouse are fascinated by the tales of the Mars Rover landing, Tornados, and sexing mosquitoes. We can’t get enough.
I have being reading and following David Pogue since the late 80’s when he wrote for Mac World and also wrote the Mac for Dummies book. He was such a breath of fresh air then, and has continually honed his craft of story telling to perfection with this new podcast “Unsung Science”! The way in which he draws you in, then tickles your funny bone with some really clever plays on words, then lights up your imagination with great stories that these first couple episodes are is really gratifying. And, to learn a bunch of really cool stuff while listening makes me feel I’m being drawn in and entertained, all while taking away a truck load of really nourishing stuff. Yes, nourishing! And that is something that is really scarce in todays landscape of media. Thank you David Pogue for making the world a better place by telling some really important stories to an intellectual and entertainment starved world, one episode at a time!! You make me proud to be a human being and giv me hope for a better tomorrow! Edit:::And after 5 episodes, it just keeps getting better!