science

Alan Alda At Proctors

Nov 7, 2017

Alan Alda is an actor, director, screenwriter, author and seven-time Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award winner. He is widely known for playing Captain Hawkeye Pierce in the TV series "M*A*S*H," hosting "Scientific American Frontiers," and playing Arnold Vinick on "The West Wing."

A lifelong lover of science, Alda would like everyday people and science to shake hands. Just as he knew to get to a doctor, because of what his body was telling him, Alda believes that people should have an easier time understanding and relating to science. So aside from hosting PBS specials for over two decades, Alda has helped found the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, where scientists learn the communicative skills to help the world understand science better without all the jargon.

Alan Alda will be at Proctors in Schenectady, NY on Thursday, November 9 presenting a program entitled "Getting Beyond A Blind Date with Science."

Everybody knows -- or thinks they know -- Charles Darwin, the father of evolution and the man who altered the way we view our place in the world. But what most people do not know is that Darwin was on board the HMS Beagle as a geologist -- on a mission to examine the land, not flora and fauna.

Retracing Darwin’s footsteps in South America and beyond, geologist Rob Wesson treks across the Andes, cruises waters charted by the Beagle, hunts for fossils in Uruguay and Argentina, and explores sites of long vanished glaciers in Scotland and Wales. As he follows Darwin’s path, Wesson experiences the land as Darwin did, engages with his observations, and tackles the same questions Darwin had about our ever-changing Earth.

Wesson's book is Darwin's First Theory: Exploring Darwin's Quest for a Theory of Earth.

Prescription drug use in America has increased tenfold in the past 50 years, and over-the-counter drug use has risen just as dramatically. 

 In addition to the dozens of medications we take to treat serious illnesses, we take drugs to help us sleep, to keep us awake, to keep our noses from running, our backs from aching, and our minds from racing. Name a symptom, there's a pill to suppress it. In Mind over Meds, bestselling author Dr. Andrew Weil alerts readers to the problem of overmedication.

You Never Think Alone

Jul 25, 2017

The human mind is both brilliant and pathetic. We have mastered fire, created democratic institutions, stood on the moon, and sequenced our genome. And yet each of us is error prone, sometimes irrational, and often ignorant.

The fundamentally communal nature of intelligence and knowledge explains why we often assume we know more than we really do, why political opinions and false beliefs are so hard to change, and why individually oriented approaches to education and management frequently fail. But our collaborative minds also enable us to do amazing things. This book contends that true genius can be found in the ways we create intelligence using the world around us.

Steven Sloman is a professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences at Brown University. He is the editor in chief of the journal Cognition. Philip Fernbach is a cognitive scientist and professor of marketing at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business. 

Lucas Willard / WAMC

A company based in the Capital Region has been awarded a $9.1 million federal contract to develop a new generation of living building materials.

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

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We welcome back our esteemed panel of experts to respond to your scientific inquiries. Barbara Brabetz, Jim Pickett and Ed Stander make up our panel. WAMC's Ray Graf hosts.

NPR's Richard Harris
Doby Photography/NPR

We often hear NPR science reporter Richard Harris covering a new discovery or scientific advancement on WAMC — but as Harris writes in his new book, bona fide groundbreaking biomedical research has increasingly become the exception, not the rule. Harris has been reporting for NPR since 1986. In Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions, he describes a scientific culture in which “publish or perish” imperatives come at the expense of truth.

March for Science button designed by student Mason Martin
Pat Bradley/WAMC

Students at Clinton Community College are organizing a March for Science this weekend, one of thousands occurring Saturday across the nation.

Neil deGrasse Tyson
MILLER MOBLEY / REDUX

  Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is director of the Hayden Planetarium, hosts Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and is the former host of NOVA ScienceNOW on PBS. On April 24 he returns to Proctors with an all-new show: "The Cosmic Perspective."

There is no view of the world as emotionally potent as the one granted by a cosmic perspective. It's one that sees Earth as a planet in a vast empty universe. It profoundly influences what we think and feel about science, culture, politics, and life itself.

The Mystery Of Sleep

Apr 10, 2017

We spend a third of our lives in bed, but how much do we really understand about how sleep affects us? In the past forty years, scientists have discovered that our sleep (or lack of it) can affect nearly every aspect of our waking lives. Poor sleep could be a sign of a disease, the result of a vitamin or iron deficiency, or the cause of numerous other problems, both sleeping and waking. Yet many people, even medical personnel, are unaware of the dangers of poor sleep.

Enter Dr. Meir Kryger, a world authority on the science of sleep, with a comprehensive guide to the mysteries of slumber that combines detailed case studies, helpful tables, illustrations, and pragmatic advice.

The book is The Mystery of Sleep: Why a Good Night's Rest Is Vital to a Better, Healthier Life.

WAM Theatre is currently presenting a limited run remount of the company’s very successful 2013 production of Emilie: La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight, written by Lauren Gunderson and directed by WAM Artistic Director Kristen van Ginhoven.

The production will run through April 9 at Shakespeare & Company’s Tina Packer Playhouse in Lenox, MA.

Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Noble Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences, and was part of the Curie family legacy of five Noble Prizes. She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris, and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Pantheon in Paris.

The play Radiance; The Passion of Marie Curie by Alan Alda is a moving chronicle of the years between 1898 and 1911, between Marie’s first and second Noble Awards and a stirring look at the challenges and passions of a scientific pioneer.

The Theatre Institute at Sage is presenting a production of Radiance in the Meader Little Theater on the Russel Sage Campus in Troy, NY April 5th through the 15th.

Here to tell us more are the show’s Director, David Bunce; actor Taylor Hoffman; and the productions Science Advisor, Dr. Donna Heald.

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.

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