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Technology and Human Rights

Friday, May 09, 2008

Many of you probably remember last year's release of satellite images documenting human rights violations in Myanmar (Burma). Scientists have teamed together at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to use sophisticated technology to alert us of the atrocities against civilians in Darfur, North Korea, and Burma. How else can we apply the tools of science to enhance human rights work?

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the bloody truth about Narcissus

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Hello Jad here. First off, thanks to everyone who sent me Starbucks cards for my birthday (what a nice surprise!)

And while we're on the subject of ME, let me say a few words about about narcissism. Actually, no. What I'd really like to do is to play you a song I've had on repeat for the last month, a song about a boy who falls in love with another boy who lives in a river.

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Insect Porn

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Isabella Rosellini stars in these gorgeous and bizarre bug sex videos. (She also wrote and directed these short films.) I will warn you, they are disturbing at times...but only in a nature-is-so-strange-as-to-be-utterly-unreal way.

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Robert gets a Webby!

Monday, May 05, 2008

This just in: Robert Krulwich was selected as an Official Honoree of the 12th Annual Webby Awards, for the animated component to his NPR stories about carbon. Krulwich and his video team (animator Odd Todd, Aneal Mundra, and BPP Video Producer Win Rosenfeld) were honored in the Online Film and Video - Best Use of Animation/Motion Graphics category for their cartoon feature, "It's All About Carbon", which was a part of NPR's Climate Connections series. The videos have an unexpected level of quirk and insight. Check them out here.

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A formula for the perfect joke

Monday, May 05, 2008

In our research on the show Laughter, we came across Dr. Helen Pilcher's formula for writing hit British comedy.

x = (fl + no ) / p

where funniness (f) of the punchline times length of build-up (l) is added to the amount someone falls down (n) times the physical pain or social embarrassment (o for 'ouch'). All this is divided by the pun (p), which reduces laughter and produces more of a groan.

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Re-wilding Tigers

Friday, May 02, 2008

Earlier this week, an article in the New York Times reported some good news about the genetic diversity of captive tigers. Apparently, a new study found that up to 20% of captive tigers are purebred, with genetic variations that no longer exist in the wild.

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What is fMRI and what is it measuring?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

As Radiolab explores some of the tangents from our show on Deception, we've interviewed neuroscientists attempting to detect lies using changes in brain activity. But how do we see brain activity and get such colorful pictures of it? You might think it's based on neural electric activity. This is true for EEG but not for fMRI, which is used in the majority of these brain function studies. As Wired.com's Steve Silberman explains, it all starts with hemoglobin. Yes, the tiny protein responsible for carrying oxygen to the brain or any other organ for that matter, is the basis for studying brain activity.

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Where do lies come from?

Monday, April 28, 2008

We interviewed Dan Langleben while researching for our show on Deception. He says he can see differences in brain activity when a lie is told about a playing card in your pocket. He identified a few regions in the brain that changed in metabolism during a lie. That is, it seemed as though it took more energy for the brain to lie.

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The Fifth Annual Bent Festival hath begun!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Gearheads, take note! The Bent Festival is in NYC all weekend long!
It's a three day-long exploration of hardware hacking, DIY electronics, and circuit bending. Artists from around the globe perform music with their homemade or circuit bent instruments each night of the festival, teach workshops to adults and children alike, and create amazing, interactive art installations. The festival brings together artists of all ages and showcases the state of the art of DIY electronics and circuit bending culture.

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Free Joy!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Last month, a report came out detailing some of the ways in which expectations affect our responses to pain medications. And according to an article about this report in The Baltimore Sun, one factor that influences our expectations is price. The article goes on to explain that two groups of test volunteers were given placebos after receiving an electric shock. One group was told the placebo pills they were given cost 10 cents each. The other group was told each pill cost $2.50. 85% of the volunteers in the $2.50 group reported pain reduction with the placebo, while only 60% of the volunteers in the 10-cent group did.
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My kid the bioengineer

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In our show (So Called) Life, we interviewed undergrads at MIT giving bacteria genes to make them smell minty fresh. If you are at all disquieted that such young minds are given such profound tools, sorry, bioengineers are getting ever younger. As part of a program designed to help teachers in NYC schools run a DNA transformation lab, I've seen 5th graders engineer bacteria to glow like a certain species of jellyfish found off the coast of Washington State.

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Getting Older Every Year

Monday, April 21, 2008

In light of Jad's recent birthday, we thought we'd share this video. It's sort of like a video version of "Nancy Grows Up" from our Time episode.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JAD!!!

Friday, April 18, 2008

It's Jad's birthday today.

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Panta Rei

Friday, April 18, 2008

Greek philosopher Heraclitus said 'Panta Rei', which means 'all things flow'. Rheology ('flow'-ology) is the study of viscoelastic materials like Jello that are a little bit liquid and a little bit solid. But even the most liquid of liquids have some solid character. And even the most solid of solids have some liquid character. Take those beautiful stained glass windows in gothic cathedrals. For a long time it was thought that these windows are thin at the top and thick at the bottom as a result of centuries of slow viscous flow. As it turns out, it would take much more than centuries for glass to flow (see comments below).

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Climate change and critical thinking

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

NPR’s David Kestenbaum ran a piece yesterday on Morning Edition about a 16-year-old climate skeptic named Kristen Byrnes. This ambitious teenager has set up a website and dedicated huge chunks of her time to arguing that the rise of global temperature is part of a natural cycle and not, as most climate scientists agree, caused by human action.

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Sensing a lie from across the room

Monday, April 14, 2008

During the making of the show Deception, Radiolab explored the possibility of fMRI-based lie detectors. But what if we could detect lies remotely? What if we could know someone's lying without them knowing that we know they are... Well Britton Chance takes us one step closer to making science fiction a reality.

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Radiolab Takes The Capital

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Radiolab is coming to Washington, DC! Sorry all- this event is SOLD OUT

On April 24th we'll be coming to DC to share some of our stories of experimentation. We’re partnering with WAMU 88.5 to bring you a live event at the Koshland Science Museum.

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The mark of a dedicated scientist

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Not all scientists are the quiet, serious type. Science writer Carl Zimmer offers a unique peek under the lab coat on his site Science Tattoo Emporium.

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An Evolving Sense of Right and Wrong?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Remember that morality experiment about the oncoming train and the track workers dying? Dr. Joshua Greene explained how his neuroimaging research shows that making this kind of moral decision draws on a complex combination of emotional and “cognitive” processes in our brains. It seems that studying biology, as well as society, can help us understand how we decide what’s right and wrong.

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Swarming Robots

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Radiolab listener and electrical engineer, Mark Alexander, wrote in to let us know about a project that he's working on and we think it's just too cool not to show to yous guys.

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