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American Innovations

Author: Wondery

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DNA science. Artificial intelligence. Smartphones and 3D printers. Science and technology have transformed the world we live in. But how did we get here? It wasn’t by accident. Well, sometimes it was. It was also the result of hard work, teamwork, and competition. And incredibly surprising moments.

Hosted by bestselling author Steven Johnson (“How We Got To Now”), American Innovations uses immersive scenes to tell the stories of the scientists, engineers, and ordinary people behind the greatest discoveries of the past century. From Wondery, the network behind Business Wars, American History Tellers, and Dirty John.

77 Episodes
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The leaps of mankind, as they happened.Premieres May 10.
The Year in Innovation | 6

The Year in Innovation | 6

2020-01-0900:43:181

It's a new year and a new decade, and that means a lot of new innovation and tech to look forward to. But, as we wonder what the future has in store, it's important to look back at the past year and what it has taught us. Author Clive Thompson joins us to talk about the innovations that caught his attention in 2019 and what he's looking forward to in 2020 and beyond.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton held a press conference to share a milestone for humanity. He said, “we will all see the unbelievable capacity to be noble.” Science and technology embrace this idea, leading to the incredible innovations that change the world, and yes, even humanity. This is American Innovations, a series that will look at the most important innovations of the last century, and go into the lives of the people behind those innovations.That great milestone Clinton was referencing? That was the mapping of the human genome. For a long time, we didn’t know what was actually buried deep inside our cells that made humans humans. Now we know it’s much more than a simple molecule. DNA has revolutionized society, creating new fields of research, business - even changing how we catch criminals. This is The Dynamo of DNA from American Innovations.Support us by supporting our sponsors!American Innovations is pleased to have ZipRecruiter as its presenting sponsor.  ZipRecruiter strives to lead the way in innovating talent recruitment for businesses of all sizes. It’s the smartest way to hire. Get a free trial and learn how to hire smarter when you visit them at ZipRecruiter.com/AIOur other sponsors include:Wix - Launch a professional-looking website in no time for your innovative ideas with total design freedom, industry-leading SEO, and advanced code capabilities at Wix.comAudible - Start a 30-day trial and first audio book is free when you go to Audible.com/AI or text INNOVATIONS to 500-500
When Gregor Mendel discovered genes, he had no idea that his discoveries with pea plants would outlive him. He was just an isolated monk playing in his garden. And his ideas collected dust in university libraries for 40 years until a biologist named William Bateson discovered his work. And by the end of the first page, Bateson knew Mendel’s ideas would change the world. He said, “An exact determination of the laws of heredity will probably work more change in man’s outlook of the world, and in his power over nature, than in any other advance in natural knowledge that can be foreseen.”Support us by supporting our sponsors!American Innovations is pleased to have ZipRecruiter as its presenting sponsor.  ZipRecruiter strives to lead the way in innovating talent recruitment for businesses of all sizes. It’s the smartest way to hire. Get a free trial and learn how to hire smarter when you visit them at ZipRecruiter.com/AIOur other sponsors include:Casper - Get $50 toward select mattresses by going to Casper.com/AI
From your high school science classes you may know the names Watson and Crick. If you took any more biology classes you may have heard of Wilkins, but a third name is often overlooked: Rosalind Franklin. Together, they took blurry photographs of DNA goo and discovered “the secret to life.”Support us by supporting our sponsors!American Innovations is pleased to have ZipRecruiter as its presenting sponsor.  ZipRecruiter strives to lead the way in innovating talent recruitment for businesses of all sizes. It’s the smartest way to hire. Get a free trial and learn how to hire smarter when you visit them at ZipRecruiter.com/AI
The path to understand genetics was rife squabbles and competition among scientists vying to discover genes, chromosomes, and the structure of DNA. The tussles had been going on for a century.But the 1980s introduced an even bigger grudge match: who’d be the first to map the entire human genetic code?This race would get downright nasty before it was done. Along the way there would be a lot of good science. But the science often took a back seat, as politics, money, and egos all got in the way.Support us by supporting our sponsors!American Innovations is pleased to have ZipRecruiter as its presenting sponsor.  ZipRecruiter strives to lead the way in innovating talent recruitment for businesses of all sizes. It’s the smartest way to hire. Get a free trial and learn how to hire smarter when you visit them at ZipRecruiter.com/AIOur other sponsors include:Wix - Launch a professional-looking website in no time for your innovative ideas with total design freedom, industry-leading SEO, and advanced code capabilities at Wix.comHims - Get started today and get a full trial month for just $5 when you go to ForHims.com/innovations
Over the past 50 years, our understanding of DNA has grown exponentially. It took supercomputers working overtime to produce a single genomic map… and now all it takes is a spit sample that you drop in the mail. For about a hundred bucks, you can have your own personal genome mapped. One thing we still haven’t figured out is what to DO with all of that information. It’s been used to map family trees, trace diseases, exonerate innocents and catch serial killers - and that’s only the beginning. Support us by supporting our sponsors!American Innovations is pleased to have ZipRecruiter as its presenting sponsor.  ZipRecruiter strives to lead the way in innovating talent recruitment for businesses of all sizes. It’s the smartest way to hire. Get a free trial and learn how to hire smarter when you visit them at ZipRecruiter.com/AIOur other sponsors include:Wix - Launch a professional-looking website in no time for your innovative ideas with total design freedom, industry-leading SEO, and advanced code capabilities at Wix.comBombas - Save 20% on your new favorite socks when you visit them at Bombas.com/innovations and enter code INNOVATIONS at checkout
The human genome project finally allowed us to read the “Book of Life,” the genetic code of living things. But now there’s a tool - CRISPR - that will allow us to rewrite it. With CRISPR, we can change the color of flowers, eliminate diseases, and even… bring back Wooly Mammoths.We hope you enjoyed our first series, The Dynamo of DNA. Join us next week for a conversation with scientist, broadcaster and author Britt Wray.Support us by supporting our sponsors!American Innovations is pleased to have ZipRecruiter as its presenting sponsor.  ZipRecruiter strives to lead the way in innovating talent recruitment for businesses of all sizes. It’s the smartest way to hire. Get a free trial and learn how to hire smarter when you visit them at ZipRecruiter.com/AIOur other sponsors include:Wix - Launch a professional-looking website in no time for your innovative ideas with total design freedom, industry-leading SEO, and advanced code capabilities at Wix.comBombas - Save 20% on your new favorite socks when you visit them at Bombas.com/innovations and enter code INNOVATIONS at checkout
To wrap up The Dynamo of DNA, we're talking to Britt Wray. You can follow her on Twitter, and visit her website for more. You can also pick up her book, Necrofauna: The Science, Ethics, and Risks of De-Extinction to learn more about De-Extinction.We’ll be back next week with an all new arc on nuclear energy.Support this show by supporting our sponsors!American Innovations is pleased to have ZipRecruiter as its presenting sponsor.  ZipRecruiter strives to lead the way in innovating talent recruitment for businesses of all sizes. It’s the smartest way to hire. Get a free trial and learn how to hire smarter when you visit them at ZipRecruiter.com/AIOur other sponsors include:Wix - Launch a professional-looking website in no time for your innovative ideas with total design freedom, industry-leading SEO, and advanced code capabilities at Wix.com.Audible - Start your free trial and download a free audiobook by going to Audible.com/AI or text AI to 500-500.
In 1958, President Dwight Eisenhower went on national television introducing a new kind of power plant, one that will transform the world. Nuclear energy and the Atomic Age took America by storm, but this misunderstood technology’s potential has always been in question.Last series we looked at the building blocks of life, DNA. This time we’re turning to atoms, and specifically to the energy that comes from splitting atoms. We’ll take you to one of the most powerful and controversial energy sources on earth: nuclear energy.Support this show by supporting our sponsors!American Innovations is pleased to have ZipRecruiter as its presenting sponsor.  ZipRecruiter strives to lead the way in innovating talent recruitment for businesses of all sizes. It’s the smartest way to hire. Get a free trial and learn how to hire smarter when you visit them at ZipRecruiter.com/AIOur other sponsors include:Wix - Launch a professional-looking website in no time for your innovative ideas with total design freedom, industry-leading SEO, and advanced code capabilities at Wix.comHims - Get a trial month of hair loss prevention for just $5 when you visit them at ForHims.com/innovations
The Second World War energized research on atomic science and the United States was at the forefront. For one, it had the scientists. Second, the US government was willing to back the research. Third, we wanted the bombs.However darkly depressing this seems it’s true. Our history of nuclear power is intertwined with the history of nuclear weapons.American Innovations is presented by ZipRecruiter. You can try it for FREE at ZipRecruiter.com/AI.Other sponsors includeWix - Launch a professional-looking website in no time for your innovative ideas with total design freedom, industry-leading SEO, and advanced code capabilities at Wix.comSimplisafe - Protect your home and family today by visiting Simplisafe.com/innovations
After the war, scientists who’d come to work at Los Alamos went their separate ways. They’d figured out how to destroy cities, but now they wanted to control atoms. The Atomic Energy Commission was created to support nuclear energy experiments, and Eisenhower himself created a catchy slogan to go with the new direction: Atoms for Peace.American Innovations is presented by ZipRecruiter.Try ZipRecruiter for free by visiting ZipRecruiter.com/AI.Other sponsors include:Wix - Launch a professional-looking website in no time for your innovative ideas with total design freedom, industry-leading SEO, and advanced code capabilities at Wix.comBombas - Save 20% on your new favorite socks when you visit them at Bombas.com/innovations and enter code INNOVATIONS at checkoutAudible - Start your free trial and download a free audiobook by going to Audible.com/AI or text AI to 500-500
The first serious accident from a nuclear reactor happened in the United States in 1960. It wouldn't be the last. And in the coming decades, a new word will be used to talk about accidents of these kind, a word that will strike fear into the hearts of people living near nuclear power plants from Russia to Japan to the United States: meltdown. American Innovations is presented by ZipRecruiter.Try ZipRecruiter for free by visiting ZipRecruiter.com/AI.Other sponsors include:Wix - Launch a professional-looking website in no time for your innovative ideas with total design freedom, industry-leading SEO, and advanced code capabilities at Wix.comSimplisafe- Protect your home and family today by visiting Simplisafe.com/innovations
Nuclear Energy | Backlash | 5

Nuclear Energy | Backlash | 5

2018-07-1200:41:0812

Nuclear energy was once a promising endless, clean, safe energy source. By the late 1950s, that optimism was fading. That was partially over fear of nuclear weapons, but then there was the fallout. Radioactive fallout, dust snowing from the sky after massive desert nuclear tests. Once the public found out, there was no saving it. "Nuclear power is not only dirty and undependable, it’s about as safe as a closetful of cobras.”American Innovations is presented by ZipRecruiter.Try ZipRecruiter for free by visiting ZipRecruiter.com/AI.Other sponsors include:Hims - Get a trial month of hair loss prevention for just $5 when you visit them at ForHims.com/innovationsWix - Launch a professional-looking website in no time for your innovative ideas with total design freedom, industry-leading SEO, and advanced code capabilities at Wix.com
This series has taken us from Albert Einstein in the Swiss Patent office to the bombing of Japan, from the monster movies of the 1960s to nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island. Nuclear energy fell rapidly out of fashion, and to many it seemed like the atomic age is coming to a close. Except maybe it’s not. Because right now there are multi-billion dollar projects underway to turn atoms into energy again - this time through the power of nuclear fusion. Welcome to your future. American Innovations is presented by ZipRecruiter. Try it for free at ZipRecruiter.com/AIOther sponsors include:Wix - Launch a professional-looking website in no time for your innovative ideas with total design freedom, industry-leading SEO, and advanced code capabilities at Wix.comCasper - Get $50 toward select mattresses by going to Casper.com/AI
Nuclear Energy is a story that’s included a cursed plutonium core, runaway reactors, a magic neutron wand and Charlie Chaplin. We've also heard about the missteps. Fake nuclear fusion plants and some overoptimistic claims about cold fusion. In this episode, we're talking to someone who actually helped investigate that last claim. James Mahaffee, an author, nuclear science historian, and a senior research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute. American Innovations is presented by ZipRecruiter. Try it for free at ZipRecruiter.com/AIOther sponsors include:Wix - Launch a professional-looking website in no time for your innovative ideas with total design freedom, industry-leading SEO, and advanced code capabilities at Wix.com
Artificial Intelligence is no longer the stuff of science fiction. And it’s about to get much more powerful: machines that can reason, create, predict the future, even dream. AI is likely to be one of the most transformative technologies of the 21st-century.This is the first in our four-episode series about the rise of artificial intelligence and humanity's quest to breathe intellectual life into computers. In this episode, we're going to meet the mavericks who first dreamed of a world where machines capable of being smarter than the people who created them.And what better way for smart machines and their creators to face off in a battle of wits -- than by playing chess?Pre-order Steven Johnson’s new book Farsighted now before it is released on September 4th. American Innovations is presented by ZipRecruiter.Try it for free at ZipRecruiter.com/AIOther sponsors include:Wix - Launch a professional-looking website in no time for your innovative ideas with total design freedom, industry-leading SEO, and advanced code capabilities at Wix.comSimplisafe- Protect your home and family today by visiting Simplisafe.com/innovations
With six different kinds of pieces, 64 squares to move in, and billions of possible combinations of moves, chess is a good test for a computer. The number of distinct 40-move games is far greater than the number of electrons in the visible universe. For all intents and purposes: almost infinite.Gary Kasparov is the world’s best chess player. Deep Blue is a computer. It’s humanity v machine. There’s a lot at stake and things turn controversial fast with accusations of cheating, a very human meltdown and a computer that hallucinates.American Innovations is presented by ZipRecruiter.Try it for free at ZipRecruiter.com/AIOther sponsors include:Wix - Launch a professional-looking website in no time for your innovative ideas with total design freedom, industry-leading SEO, and advanced code capabilities at Wix.com
The development of smartphone Artificial Intelligence from early government research funding and the first experimental robot in Silicon Valley to the rise of the personal assistant known as Siri.American Innovations is presented by ZipRecruiter.Try it for free at ZipRecruiter.com/AIOther sponsors include:Wix - Launch a professional-looking website in no time for your innovative ideas with total design freedom, industry-leading SEO, and advanced code capabilities at Wix.com
A leap in the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence causes concern about the dangers ahead.  Written by Tom SimoniteAmerican Innovations is presented by ZipRecruiter.Try it for free at ZipRecruiter.com/AIOther sponsors include:Wix - Launch a professional-looking website in no time for your innovative ideas with total design freedom, industry-leading SEO, and advanced code capabilities at Wix.comSunbasket - Get $35 off your first order at sunbasket.com/AI
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Comments (67)

B. C.

... Being convinced that these symptoms were psychosomatic is kinda a yikes.

Dec 4th
Reply

B. C.

This is fascinating

Dec 4th
Reply

Seth Lyon

AHHHH HELP

Nov 29th
Reply

Canada Ward

Aw heck yeah

Nov 9th
Reply (3)

Chris Horton

1 really liked this series. Because I was in middle and high school when Skylab was up I remember Skylab distinctly and not for the reentry but for the operation. My memory of Apollo is more vague because I was younger.

Oct 11th
Reply

Sindhoora Venkatesh

Whoo yay

Sep 30th
Reply

Lloyd Carr

i wish you did one on frank lloyd wright or atleast prairie style housing!

Sep 28th
Reply

Peter Keech

You must keep this up extraordinary

Sep 24th
Reply

sam vaziri

7gytgv ucc vvvvvlvy h. tvv l cc cv5c vv c kklcklvkfk looking morll755 ok l lol 8k 9

Sep 20th
Reply (1)

Matt Jones

I've listened to the whole series and love it. Personally, I think the TV show based on this is one of the most interesting things I've ever seen . But I have to say that the responses in this interview are among the most asinine things I've heard on this topic. He knows so much less about what's going on with these products then many casual YouTube viewers like myself. Learn something about a high and automation first. The Development of this technology isn't progressing in a linear fashion. It's exponential. There's real data on all of this, especially as regards Tesla. fantastic show otherwise...

Sep 6th
Reply

Michael Anthony

This is a good podcast but it should be worldwide innovations since they aren't specifically American

Jul 15th
Reply (1)

Bjorn Stringham

hey you got it wrong about Lucky Palmer. he did not fund an ALT right site.

Jul 2nd
Reply

Deltalee Rheault

yes

Jun 25th
Reply

Arian Arsin

im learning english and im really enjoying your podcasts. Are there any transcripts or written version which I could follow the statements?? My listening is not quite good. thanks

Jun 22nd
Reply

Cam Elder

why did you use a man's voice as Albert Einstein wife? do you not know any woman?

May 4th
Reply

Raymond Crawford

Boring as hell. Didn't enjoy it at all.

Apr 27th
Reply

Kevin Bales

it is disappointing that they wasted an opportunity talk about important ideas and focused on stories about interpersonal drama and egotistical conflict. they reduced this series of life changing events to a petty soap opera

Apr 26th
Reply

A.D. Jordan

Can you make podcasts like these about Gillette and Kodak. i really loved the Coca Cola episodes

Mar 23rd
Reply

Idont Likeripoffs

good lord I can't take it!!! yall pandering mfs.

Mar 21st
Reply

I Drive Ships

Listen almost everyday, keep up the good work! 👍

Mar 18th
Reply
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