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.
Over the Easter weekend, a Catholic Church in Scotland found itself listening to a sermon that discussed some of the very same issues we raised in our So-Called Life show. Of course, the context was a bit different... but the questions raised were similar: Are we allowed to tinker with life?
For a disturbing, but thought-provoking video clip that investigates the brain-body connection, check out Jonah Lehrer's blog for an entry he calls "The Poetry of Decapitated Dogs." In our show "Where Am I?" we heard all sorts of stories about when the brain and body connection gets screwy... but we never thought to take it quite this far.
Arthur C. Clarke, the author of the book '2001: A Space Odyssey,' which became a Stanely Kubrick movie, died yesterday. Clarke was a visionary science fiction writer who foresaw the use of satellites for communications and planted a seed of wonder and awe in the universe for many young kids, including me.
Apparently the biggest factor in the amount of sleep we get is whether or not we have a job. Earlier this week, the Washington Post featured an article on a new report, 'Not So Deprived: Sleep in America, 1965-2005,' that found that employment status had a greater effect on sleep than age, race, or sex.
The genes of all living things are made of DNA. And DNA is made of four chemicals, called A, T, C, and G. These days, scientists can read those 'letters' of DNA for any creature (including you and me). And they can make strands of DNA from jars of A, T, C, and G. In fact, scientists now have databases of thousands of different genes, written in letters, for functions like 'glow in the dark,' or 'metabolize glucose,' or any number of traits or talents.
Why would a goat stand on a cow? And what on earth does this question have to do with hundreds of mysterious letters from homesick soldiers? We can't exactly promise definitive answers. But we can promise one heck of a good detective story. The story inspired listener Brett Miller to make this incredible drawing of the 'Cordial Cow.' We love it.
Brain scans give us a whole new way of explaining how and why we do the things we do. But while brain scans can help scientists understand how the person inside the scanner thinks, they also make those of us outside the scanner a little bit less savvy.
Are we living on borrowed time today? Should we celebrate having an extra day in 2008? One tradition apparently marked Leap Day as a time for women to propose to men (and no, February 29th is not Sadie Hawkins Day). I for one would love to start a tradition of writing yourself a letter every February 29th, not to be opened until the following Leap Year. And I thoroughly support the idea of wishing one another a 'Happy Bissextile Day.' Not to mention listening to Time and Beyond Time. And if you still have some extra time on your hands, check out this website on calendars.
The 'brain in a vat' thought experiment reminds us of issues we wrestled with in a past episode . What is the connection between brain and body? If your brain was placed in a jar and wired to a computer that simulates the outside world, how could you prove that your beliefs about the world aren't all false?