science

Until the late 1960s, tens of thousands of American children suffered crippling birth defects if their mothers had been exposed to rubella, popularly known as German measles, while pregnant; there was no vaccine and little understanding of how the disease devastated fetuses. In June 1962, a young biologist in Philadelphia, using tissue extracted from an aborted fetus from Sweden, produced safe, clean cells that allowed the creation of vaccines against rubella and other common childhood diseases. Two years later, in the midst of a devastating German measles epidemic, his colleague developed the vaccine that would one day wipe out homegrown rubella. The rubella vaccine and others made with those fetal cells have protected more than 150 million people in the United States, the vast majority of them preschoolers. 

Meredith Wadman covered biomedical research politics from Washington for twenty years. She is a reporter at  Science and has written for NatureFortune, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. A graduate of Stanford and Columbia, she began medical school at the University of British Columbia and completed her medical degree as a Rhodes scholar at the University of Oxford.

Her new book is The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease

In 2005, beekeepers in the United States began observing a mysterious and disturbing phenomenon: once-healthy colonies of bees were suddenly collapsing, leaving behind empty hives full of honey and pollen. 

Vanishing Bees takes us inside the debates over widespread honeybee deaths, introducing the various groups with a stake in solving the mystery of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), including beekeepers, entomologists, growers, agrichemical companies, and government regulators. Drawing from extensive interviews and first-hand observations, Sainath Suryanarayanan and Daniel Lee Kleinman examine how members of each group have acquired, disseminated, and evaluated knowledge about CCD.

Lonni Sue Johnson was a renowned artist who regularly produced covers for The New Yorker, a gifted musician, a skilled amateur pilot, and a joyful presence to all who knew her. But in late 2007, she contracted encephalitis. The disease burned through her hippocampus like wildfire, leaving her severely amnesic, living in a present that rarely progresses beyond ten to fifteen minutes.

     Remarkably, she still retains much of the intellect and artistic skills from her previous life, but it's not at all clear how closely her consciousness resembles yours or mine. In The Perpetual Now: A Story of Amnesia, Memory, and Love, award-winning science journalist Michael D. Lemonick uses the unique drama of Lonni Sue Johnson's day-to-day life to give us a nuanced and intimate understanding of the science that lies at the very heart of human nature.

When archaeologists ventured into a thick Honduran rainforest in 2015, they were searching in an unexplored valley for the remnants of a long-lost city. Legend had it that an ancient metropolis was buried under centuries worth of jungle growth.

Best-selling author Douglas Preston went along on the expedition. The archaeologists Preston followed had the advantage of detailed survey maps to guide them to precise locations. Three years earlier, scientists had deployed advanced LIDAR (Light Imaging, Detection, And Ranging) technology to peer through the rainforest canopy to reveal a sprawling ancient metropolis.

Preston has detailed the experience in a new book The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story.

Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter is one of only a handful of physicians in the United States double board certified to practice both pulmonary/critical care medicine AND palliative care medicine. In other words, she’s the doctor who will save you when you are admitted to the ICU with a gunshot wound, but she is also the doctor who can help you navigate a peaceful and easy way to the end when the end really arrives.

In her new book - Extreme Measures – we learn about a framework for a better way to exit life that will change our medical culture at the deepest level, and will perhaps leave you pondering, when ‘the end is near’, in our zeal to save life, are we often just worsening death?

Throughout its history America has been torn in two by debates over ideals and beliefs. In The Book That Changed America​, Randall Fuller takes us back to one of those turning points, in 1860, with the story of the influence of Charles Darwin’s just-published On the Origin of Species on five American intellectuals, including Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, the child welfare reformer Charles Loring Brace, and the abolitionist Franklin Sanborn.  

Each of these figures seized on the book’s assertion of a common ancestry for all creatures as a powerful argument against slavery, one that helped provide scientific credibility to the cause of abolition.

It's happened to all of us: our cheeks flush red when we say the wrong thing, or our hearts skip a beat when a certain someone walks by. But few of us realize how much more dramatic and extreme our bodies' reactions to emotions can be. Many people who see their doctor have medically unexplained symptoms, and in the vast majority of these cases, a psychosomatic cause is suspected. And yet, the diagnosis of a psychosomatic disorder can make a patient feel dismissed as a hypochondriac, a faker, or just plain crazy.
 
In Is It All in Your Head?: True Stories of Imaginary Illness, Suzanne O'Sullivan, MD, takes us on a journey through the world of psychosomatic illness.

In What Love Is, philosopher Carrie Jenkins offers a bold new theory on the nature of romantic love that reconciles its humanistic and scientific components. Love can be a social construct (the idea of a perfect fairy tale romance) and a physical manifestation (those anxiety- inducing heart palpitations); we must recognize its complexities and decide for ourselves how to love.

Motivated by her own polyamorous relationships, she examines the ways in which our parameters of love have recently changed-to be more accepting of homosexual, interracial, and non-monogamous relationships-and how they will continue to evolve in the future. 

To a dog, there is no such thing as “fresh air.” Every breath of air is loaded with information. In fact, what every dog—the tracking dog, of course, but also the dog lying next to you, snoring, on the couch—knows about the world comes mostly through his nose.

In Being a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz, a research scientist in the field of dog cognition and the author of the runaway bestseller Inside of a Dog, unpacks the mystery of a dog’s worldview as has never been done before. 

David France is an author and filmmaker. His documentary film How to Survive a Plague was an Oscar finalist, won a Directors Guild Award and a Peabody Award, and was nominated for two Emmys, among other accolades.

His new book - How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS – expands on the documentary and is a powerful telling of the story of the grassroots movement of activists, many of them in a life-or-death struggle, who seized upon scientific research to help develop the drugs that turned HIV from a mostly fatal infection to a manageable disease.

The book follows the activists who learn to become their own researchers, lobbyists, drug smugglers, and clinicians, establishing their own newspapers, research journals, and laboratories, and as they go on to force reform in the nation’s disease-fighting agencies. The book is How to Survive a Plague.

Helen Czerski, physicist and BBC television personality, is the author of the new book Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life, which explores the science of popcorn, coffee stains and other ordinary phenomena and links them to more complex issues including climate change, the energy crisis, and medical innovations.

She will be at UAlbany on February 9 in two events presented by The New York State Writer's Institute.

Best-selling author Ayelet Waldman’s new book, A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life is her firsthand experience taking microdoses of LSD, the effect it had on her, and the ethical problems it presented.  To be clear: Ayelet did not drop a tab of acid; rather, she took a “microdose” (ten milligrams under her tongue) a few times each week for one month. 

What drove her to using LSD? It was perimenopause (and years of accompanying treatments with psychiatrists and psychologists, meditation, to little or no avail). When her mood storms became intolerable, she did what many of us do: she fell down an internet rabbit hole, eventually receiving a vial in her mailbox. Within a month, Ayelet joined the ranks of scientists and civilians successfully using LSD in therapeutic microdoses. 

In The Well-Tempered City, Jonathan F. P. Rose distills a lifetime of interdisciplinary research and firsthand experience into a five-pronged model for how to design and reshape our cities with the goal of equalizing their landscape of opportunity.

Rose works with cities and not-for-profits to plan and build green affordable and mixed-income housing and cultural, health, and educational centers. Recognized for creating communities that literally heal both residents and neighborhoods, Rose is one of the nation's leading thinkers on the integration of environmental, social, and economic solutions to the urban issues facing us today.

Alton Brown is the author of the James Beard award winning, I’m Just Here for the Food, and the New York Times bestselling sequence, Good Eats, and host of TV’s Cutthroat Kitchen, Camp Cutthroat, Iron Chef America and Good Eats on Food Network.

His new live show Eat Your Science is a follow-up to the smash Edible Inevitable tour. Brown is adding a slew of fresh ingredients including new puppets, songs and bigger and potentially more dangerous experiments.

The show will be at UPAC in Kingston, NY on Thursday, November 17 at 8:00 pm before it plays Broadway's Barrymore Theatre November 22-27.

When Hungarian professor Ernő Rubik invented the Rubik’s Cube (or, rather, his Cube) in the 1970s out of wooden blocks, rubber bands, and paper clips, he didn’t even know if it could be solved, let alone that it would become the world’s most popular puzzle. Since its creation, the Cube has become many things to many people: one of the bestselling children’s toys of all time, a symbol of intellectual prowess, a frustrating puzzle with 43.2 quintillion possible permutations, and now a worldwide sporting phenomenon that is introducing the classic brainteaser to a new generation.

In Cracking the Cube, Ian Scheffler reveals that cubing isn’t just fun and games. Along with participating in speedcubing competitions—from the World Championship to local tournaments—and interviewing key figures from the Cube’s history, he journeys to Budapest to seek a meeting with the legendary and notoriously reclusive Rubik, who is still tinkering away with puzzles in his seventies.

  Caleb Carr, bestselling author of The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness, has created a contemporary psychological thriller haunted by the shadowy hands of established power.

Surrender, New York features an outcast pair - secretly called in to consult on a case where adolescent boys and girls are found murdered, their corpses left hanging in gruesome, ritualistic fashion.

  Novelist Liz Moore’s latest is The Unseen World , which tells the moving story of a daughter’s quest to discover the truth about her beloved father’s hidden past.

The story begins in a computer science lab in 1980s-era Boston and follows the girl’s quest to figure out her father’s secrets in a virtual universe. 

  Spencertown Academy Arts Center is presenting the new exhibit: “Mysterious and Unexpected: The Merger of Art and Science.” There will be an opening reception on Saturday, July 23rd from 4-6PM and the show will remain on display through August 14th.

Curator Barbara Lax Kranz says the exhibit displays the work of six artists who incorporate science to create their art. We will meet two of the featured artists this morning.

Often inspired by current issues in science, Carrie Crane’s recent work uses the tools of Knowledge Visualization (graphs, maps, and diagrams) to address issues of ambiguity and subjectivity in visual communication.

Karen Schoolman is an abstract painter, a student of botanical illustration, and a physician. A packet of 50-year-old x-rays of her mother’s leg inspired her current artwork.

  It’s 1942 and the Nazis are racing to be the first to build a weapon unlike any known before. They have the physicists, they have the uranium, and now all their plans depend on amassing a single ingredient: heavy water, which is produced in Norway’s Vemork, the lone plant in all the world that makes this rare substance. Under threat of death, Vemork’s engineers push production into overdrive.
 
For the Allies, the plant must be destroyed. But how would they reach the castle fortress set on a precipitous gorge in one of the coldest, most inhospitable places on Earth?
 
Based on a trove of top secret documents and never-before-seen diaries and letters of the saboteurs, The Winter Fortress is an arresting chronicle of a brilliant scientist, a band of spies on skies, perilous survival in the wild, sacrifice for one’s country, Gestapo manhunts, soul-crushing setbacks, and a last-minute operation that would end any chance Hitler could obtain the atomic bomb—and alter the course of the war.

  In his new book, AlmightyWashington Post Reporter Dan Zak reexamines America’s love-hate relationship with the bomb, from the race to achieve atomic power before the Nazis did to the solemn 70th anniversary of Hiroshima.

This life-or-death issue is unraveled in Zak’s account, with a cast that includes the biophysicist who first educated the public on atomic energy, the prophet who predicted the creation of Oak Ridge, and the Washington bureaucrats and diplomats who are trying to keep the world safe. 

Zak shows that our greatest modern-day threat remains a power we discovered long ago. Dan Zak is a reporter for the Washington Post. He has written a wide range of news stories, narratives, and profiles while on local, national, and foreign assignments, from Oscar night in Los Angeles to the US military drawdown in Iraq.

  Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee is the Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Emperor of All Maladies. He has now written the history of the gene and a response to the defining question of the future: What becomes of being human when we learn to “read” and “write” our own genetic information?

His new book is The Gene: An Intimate History

  Michael Specter has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1998. He focuses on science, technology, and public health. Since joining the magazine, he has written about agricultural biotechnology, the global AIDS epidemic, avian influenza, malaria, the world’s diminishing freshwater resources, synthetic biology, the debate over the meaning of our carbon footprint and new ways to edit DNA.

Specter came to The New Yorker from The New York Times, where he had been a roving foreign correspondent based in Rome. From 1995 to 1998, Specter served as the Times Moscow bureau chief.

Since 2012, Specter has been a Visiting Professor at Bard College, in the department of Environmental and Urban Affairs.

Michael Specter will be at The Mahaiwe in Great Barrington tomorow at 7 p.m. His talk is titled: Editing the Human Genome: The Possibilities and Perils. 

  Sean Carroll, acclaimed theoretical physicist from Caltech, and author of the highly-praised books From Eternity to Here and The Particle at the End of the Universe, is a rockstar in and out of the science community—in fact, he was personally offered jobs by Stephen Hawking twice, and turned them both down!

In the vein of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, Sean Carroll’s new book: The Big Picture takes readers on a journey of unprecedented scientific scope, examining everything from the matter that makes up the far reaches of our universe to the molecules that make up our DNA—and all the biology, physics, astronomy, and humanity in between.

Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology who has worked on the foundations of quantum mechanics, the arrow of time, and the emergence of complexity. 

  Based on research involving crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, whales, and of course chimpanzees and bonobos, Frans de Waal explores both the scope and the depth of animal intelligence.

In his new book, he offers a firsthand account of how science has stood traditional behaviorism on its head by revealing how smart animals really are, and how we’ve underestimated their abilities for too long.

Frans de Waal is the C. H. Candler Professor in Emory University’s Psychology Department and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. His new book is: Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

In our Ideas Matter segment we take time just about every week to check in with the state humanities councils in our 7-state region.

Today we'll be speaking with New York Council for the Humanities Public Scholar Victoria Alexander about the relation between art and science - and the novelist and lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov.

In addition to being a Council Public Scholar, Victoria is the Director of the Dactyl Foundation, where she facilitates interaction between artists and scientists.

  Half a century after walking on the moon, iconic astronaut Buzz Aldrin reflects on a lifetime of achievements and what he’s learned through it all in his new book, No Dream Is Too High: Life Lessons from a Man Who Walked on the Moon. Aldrin, speaks intimately and from the heart, sharing his experiences in space, in war, and as a public figure.

Buzz Aldrin, best known for his Apollo 11 moonwalk, holds a doctoral degree in astronautics and, at age 86, continues to wield influence as an international advocate of space science and planetary exploration.

  The New York Times has called our next guest - a “rock star” in the computer world.”

David Gelernter is an expert in the fields of parallel computing, “mirror worlds,” artificial intelligence, and cognitive thinking. His new book is The Tides of Mind, a revolutionary explanation of the phenomenon of human consciousness. In the book, he reminds us that no computer can ever replicate the Human Mind,

Gelernter will be in our region tomorrow for a pair of NYS Writer’s Institute events – a 4:15 Seminar and an 8PM reading – both at the Performing Arts Center on the Uptown Campus at the University at Albany in the Recital Hall.

He is the author of eight books including The Muse in the Machine, about teaching computers to experience emotion and write poetry and Mirror Worlds, a work that predicted the rise of the Internet. In1993 Gelernter was a victim of a mail bomb sent by the “Unabomber,” an experience he recounts in his book; Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber.

  The Olana Partnership is presenting an illustrated lecture and book signing with acclaimed author Andrea Wulf at Hudson High School on Saturday, April 9 at 4pm. The event will be Wulf’s first East Coast stop on her United States and UK tour.

The Invention of Nature is Andrea Wulf’s newest her award winning biography that reveals the extraordinary life of the visionary German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt and how he created the way we understand nature today.

Perceiving nature as an interconnected global force, he turned scientific observation into poetic narrative, and inspired Frederic Church on numerous levels. Andrea Wulf joins us to talk about the book and her upcoming event.

In his new book The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling, mathematician Adam Kucharski reveals the long entangled history between betting and science. Weaving together ideas from mathematics, psychology, economics and physics Kucharski brings to life the game of chance. He introduces readers to a group of MIT students who made a fortune playing Massachusetts state lottery games, showing how PhD level pundits using methods originally developed for the U.S. nuclear program to accurately predict field goals and race times, and explains why poker is one of the ultimate challenges for artificial intelligence. Adam Kucharski is a lecturer in mathematical modeling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and an award winning science writer.

  Most people don't give a second thought to the stuff on their head, but hair has played a crucial role in in fashion, the arts, sports, commerce, forensics, and industry.

In Hair, Kurt Stenn - one of the world's foremost hair follicle experts - takes a global journey through history, from fur merchant associations and sheep farms to medical clinics and patient support groups, to show the remarkable impact hair has had on human life.

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