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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Soren here, one of Radio Lab's worker bees ... With our Pop Music show on the way (the podcast will be released next week), I thought I'd prime the pump with a little personal pop music story:
When I was a kid, my family drove across the country every summer - from Montana, where we lived, to New Hampshire, where my father grew up. There was only one kind of music that played in that ‘74 Pinto station wagon as the great plains rolled by: Willie Nelson. And the favorite song was, of course, “On the Road Again.”
Have you ever looked a red and blue barber's pole and wondered why the stripes seem to be traveling up, rather than around the pole? Or have you looked at a still-life painting where the vase looked so real you could almost pick it up, even though it was just a painting? These two examples raise some interesting questions about how we interpret the things we see.
Earlier this month, a NASA satellite detected a stellar explosion so big that it could be seen by the naked eye...even though it happened halfway across the visible universe. The gamma ray burst actually occurred before Earth was even formed--the light from the blast traveled over 7 billion years before it reached Earth.