DiscoverDistillations | Science History Institute
Distillations | Science History Institute

Distillations | Science History Institute

Author: Science History Institute

Subscribed: 1,025Played: 15,579
Share

Description

Each episode of Distillations podcast takes a deep-dive into a moment of science-related history in order to shed light on the present.
294 Episodes
Reverse
If Ted Talks were around in the early 1990s, Horace Fletcher would have given his fair share of them. Fletcher was a health reformer who thought people didn’t chew their food nearly enough. He believed that most swallowed food way too quickly. This had all sorts of detrimental health consequences, he said, including nasty bowel movements.​​ So he over-chewed his food. He once chewed a green onion 722 times before he let himself swallow it. His idea became such a sensation that it became a movement known as "Fletcherism." His ideas made it to the White House and could have even changed the tide of World War I. Credits Host: Sam Kean Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer Music: Photo: Science History Institute.
Shakespeare had a go at at the longest word in the English language with “honorific-abilitude-in-i-tat-i-bus.” If you play the game of stacking suffixes and prefixes together, you can get “antidisestablishmentarianism,” one letter longer for a total of 28 letters. But the longest word by far appeared in 1964 in Chemical Abstracts, a dictionary-like reference for chemists. The word describes a protein in what’s called the tobacco mosaic virus, and it runs 1,185 letters long. Besides being too long to write here, it tells us a lot about the unusual chemistry of carbon. Credits Host: Sam Kean Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer “Delamine” by Blue Dot Sessions. All other music composed by Jonathan Pfeffer.
The debut of the female birth control pill in 1960 was revolutionary. The combination of progesterone and estrogen allowed women to control their reproductive lives much more easily and effectively. But the pill had many unpleasant and even dangerous side effects. In fact, some doctors argue that it wouldn’t win government approval today. So why haven’t scientists tried to create a birth control pill for men? It turns out they have. In the 1950s scientists created a really good one. But it had one problem—you can’t drink alcohol when you take it. Credits Host: Sam Kean Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer Music: Jean-Claude Risset - Mutations Peter B - The Growling Dog Hit Perry & Kingsley - Cosmic Ballad Charlie Hoistman - Ptpar(({|i|[i*8,Pbind(\scale,[0,2,4,7,9],\degree,Pseq(32.fib.fold(0,10),4)+(2*i+i)-10,\dur,1+2**i%2/6)]}!4).flat).play // #supercollider Régis Renouard Larivière - Contrée Raymond Scott - Lightworks Deerhoof - Despareceré Juk Suk Reet Meate - B3 (excerpt from Solo 1978/79) Ben Vida - Ssseeeeiiiiii Marmots - Sheath and Knife Tim Walters - play{({|k|({|i|y=SinOsc;y.ar(i*k*k,y.ar(i*k**i/[4,5])*Decay.kr(Dust.kr(1/4**i),y.ar(0.1)+1*k+i,k*999))}!8).product}!16).sum}//#supercollider Eva-Maria Houben - quatuor iv Young Marble Giants - Zebra Trucks All other music composed by Jonathan Pfeffer.
From the Disappearing Spoon, our new podcast! Radium was once the trendiest element in the world. It glowed alluringly in the dark and was hailed it as a medical panacea. It was also the basis of Marie Curie’s research—for which she won her second Nobel Prize in 1911. But by 1920 radium was scarce and its cost was eye-popping: one hundred thousand dollars per gram. When Curie’s research ground to a halt because of the expense, thousands of American women stepped in to raise money for the precious chemical element.
From our new podcast, the Disappearing Spoon: The so-called “Peking Man” fossils are some of the first ancient human remains discovered in mainland Asia. So when they disappeared during World War II, it was called one of the worst disasters in the history of archaeology. Now some archeologists claim to have tracked them down. The only problem is they’re underneath a parking lot. Credits Host: Sam Kean Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer Original Music by Jonathan Pfeffer Wang Fan - Zero (from An Anthology of Chinese Experimental Music 1992-2008) Listening to the Pine-trees (from Chine / Musique Classique) Sarah Hennies – Fleas Wang Changcun - Through the Tide of Faces (from An Anthology of Chinese Experimental Music 1992-2008) Zhegu Fei (The Partridge) (from Chine / Musique Classique) All other music composed by Jonathan Pfeffer.
The Science History Institute has launched a second podcast! We've teamed up with New York Times best-selling author Sam Kean to bring you even more stories from our scientific past. Don’t worry, Distillations podcast isn’t going anywhere; we’re still producing the in-depth narrative-style episodes you know and love! We’ve just doubled your history of science listening pleasure. For the next 10 weeks we’ll bring you stories from the footnotes of the history of science, from the saga of the male birth control pill to this inaugural episode: how the smallpox vaccine made its way around the world before refrigeration. Amid all the logistical headaches of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, one huge challenge involves the cold chain. The cold chain is a network of freezers and refrigerators that keep vaccine doses at the consistently cold temperatures they need to stay viable. Though complicated, this is all doable in the 21st century. But how did the world’s very first vaccine, created for smallpox in 1796, make it around the world? Live carriers—specifically, orphan boys. Credits Host: Sam Kean Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer “Delamine” by Blue Dot Sessions "La Flecha Incaia" by El Conjunto Sol Del Peru. All other music composed by Jonathan Pfeffer.  
Did you know that Gandhi hated iodine? Or that Silicon Valley was almost called Germanium Valley? Our producer Rigoberto Hernandez talked about these stories and more with Sam Kean, author of The Disappearing Spoon, a book about the stories behind the periodic table. The New York Times best-selling author and regular Distillations magazine contributor described how Dmitri Mendeleev’s publisher accidentally shaped the periodic table, why gallium is a popular element for pranksters, and what inspired the title of his book. Kean, Sam. The Disappearing Spoon. New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2010. Credits Host: Elisabeth Berry Drago & Alexis Pedrick Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer Original music by Jonathan Pfeffer
Distillations is hard at work on our next season. It’s not quite ready, but we have a treat for you in the meantime. We interviewed Wendy Zukerman, the host and executive producer of one of our favorite podcasts, Science Vs. In normal times the show pits facts against fads—they talk about everything from detox diets to the supposed benefits of Cannabidiol, or CBD. Since early 2020, however, they’ve been reporting about the Coronavirus pandemic. But they actually started even earlier than that—in the fall of 2019 they coincidentally produced an episode all about global pandemics. We talked with Wendy about whether or not she's psychic, the challenges of pivoting to news reporting, and why it's so important for Science Vs. to tell history of science stories. The latest season of Science Vs. (which is not about COVID-19) just launched on March 4! Credits Host: Elisabeth Berry Drago Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer Original music by Jonathan Pfeffer
As the pandemic began raging again this fall we talked with nurse Linda Ruggiero about what it's like to be on the front lines for a second wave. She talks about how treatment has changed, what we still don't know about the disease, and how every nurse she knows is suffering from PTSD.  Host: Elisabeth Berry Drago Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Music by Blue Dot Sessions. Photograph of Linda Ruggiero by Kyle Cassidy.
We've collaborated with Philadelphia photographer Kyle Cassidy to tell the stories of our city's essential workers. This fall his large-scale portraits of nurses, sanitation workers, Instacart shoppers, mask-makers, and delivery drivers will be on display on the exterior of the Science History Institute, in Old City Philadelphia. Find out more at sciencehistory.org/pandemic. Hosts: Alexis Pedrick and Elisabeth Berry Drago Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Music by Blue Dot Sessions: "Arlan Vale," "Alum Drum," "Setting Pace," "Kalstead," "Drone Pine," and "Raskt Landsby."
Space Junk

Space Junk

2020-09-0846:44

Outer space is crowded. Satellites, pieces of rocket, and stuff that astronauts left behind, such as cameras and poop, are just floating around. This space junk can pose a threat to our communication systems. In this episode we talk with Lisa Ruth Rand, a fellow at the Science History Institute, about her upcoming book on space junk. She tells us how space weather—that’s right, there’s space weather—can have an effect on what falls on Earth. She also talks about how our views on space debris reveal our attitudes back on Earth and how space junk truly made the space age global. Credits Hosts: Alexis Pedrick and Elisabeth Berry Drago Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Audio Engineer: James Morrison Resource List Interview with Marie Ruman. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, January 24, 1978. Judd, Bridget. “NASA’s Skylab met its demise in Australia more than 40 years ago—but was it really an accident?” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, May 30, 2020.  The MacNeil/Lehrer Report, “Cosmos 954.” January 25, 1978, American Archive of Public Broadcasting.  Rand, Lisa Ruth. “Orbital Decay: Space Junk and the Environmental History of Earth’s Planetary Borderlands.” PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 2016.  Rand, Lisa Ruth. “Wasted Space: The History of Orbiting Junk.” Science History Institute, December 5, 2019. Trudeau, Pierre Elliott. Speech at the House of Commons of Canada, January 24, 1978. 
Who Owns Outer Space?

Who Owns Outer Space?

2020-09-0136:20

Outer space belongs to everyone and no one, at least that’s what the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 says. On its face, this seems like an uncontroversial statement. But in the 1970s a group of equatorial countries challenged this idea. Only the richest and most powerful countries can afford to reach outer space in the first place, they argued, so in principle these nations controlled it. The protesting countries were ignored at the time, but to some their warnings seem more urgent now that it isn’t just wealthy nations with space programs, but also individual billionaires. Hosts: Alexis Pedrick and Elisabeth Berry Drago Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Audio Engineer: James Morrison Music by Blue Dot Sessions
Worldwide nearly 3 million workers die on the job each year. U.S. workers experience roughly that same number of injuries and illnesses each year. Work is hard and dangerous, and we have the data to prove it. But who started collecting that data? The answer takes us back to Paracelsus, an early modern physician and alchemist who noticed that the miners he lived among often became very ill or died. His inquiries laid the foundation for occupational health and the workplace safety standards we have today. Hosts: Alexis Pedrick and Elisabeth Berry Drago Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Audio Engineer: James Morrison
Earning a PhD can be grueling for the healthiest student. But what is it like for a student with widespread pain and fatigue? Is it even possible? Marine geologist and geophysicist Gabriela Serrato Marks tells us that academia was not set up for people like her, and she wants to change that. Hosts: Alexis Pedrick and Elisabeth Berry Drago Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer Original Music by Zach Young
There’s a common assumption that to be a scientist you must also be a genius, someone who excelled at school and learns easily and quickly. But are these really the qualities necessary to produce new scientific knowledge? Collin Diedrich is a research scientist with a doctorate in molecular virology and microbiology. On paper he might seem to be the archetypal smart scientist, but the reality is more complicated. Collin has multiple learning disabilities, and he has struggled to overcome the stigma that comes with them for his entire life. In this episode we explore how our narrow definition of intelligence not only holds back people such as Collin, but also prevents the creation of new scientific knowledge that benefits us all. This is the second of two episodes about science and disability and was produced in collaboration with the Science and Disability oral history project at the Science History Institute. Credits Hosts: Alexis Pedrick and Elisabeth Berry Drago Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Audio Engineer: James Morrison Resource List Martucci, Jessica. “History Lab: Through the Lens of Disability.” Science History Institute, June 22, 2019.   Martucci, Jessica. “Through the Lens of Disability.” Distillations, November 8, 2018.  Martucci, Jessica. “Science and Disability.” Distillations, August 18, 2017.  Diedrich, Collin. Oral history conducted on 19 and 22 June 2017 by Jessica Martucci and Gregory S. Waters, Science and Disability project, Science History Institute.   
July 26th, 2020 marked the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. But the history of disability in the United States goes back much further. Historian Kim Nielsen tells us that disability has always been part of American life, from precolonial times to today. Our producer Rigoberto Hernandez talked with Nielsen about her book A Disability History of the United States.  
Science and Disability

Science and Disability

2020-08-1140:13

Everyone knows that observation is a key part of the scientific method, but what does that mean for scientists who can’t see? Judith Summers-Gates is a successful, visually impaired chemist who uses a telescope to read street signs. If the thought of a blind scientist gives you pause, you’re not alone. But stop and ask yourself why. What assumptions do we make about how knowledge is produced? And who gets to produce it? And who gets to participate in science? In this episode we go deep into the history of how vision came to dominate scientific observation and how blind scientists challenge our assumptions. This is the first of two episodes about science and disability and was produced in collaboration with the Science and Disability oral history project at the Science History Institute. Credits Hosts: Alexis Pedrick and Elisabeth Berry Drago Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Audio Engineer: James Morrison Resource List Lemonick, Sam. “Artificial intelligence tools could benefit chemists with disabilities. So why aren’t they?” C&EN, March 18, 2019.  Martucci, Jessica. “History Lab: Through the Lens of Disability.” Science History Institute, June 22, 2019.   Martucci, Jessica. “Through the Lens of Disability.” Distillations, November 8, 2018.  Martucci, Jessica. “Science and Disability.” Distillations, August 18, 2017.  Slaton, Amy. “Body? What Body? Considering Ability and Disability in STEM Disciplines.”120th ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, January 23, 2013. Summers-Gates, Judith. Oral history conducted on 20 January and 6 February 2017 by Jessica Martucci and Lee Sullivan Berry, Science and Disability project, Science History Institute. 
Collecting Monstrosity

Collecting Monstrosity

2020-08-0437:58

We’ve long been fascinated by the mysteries of reproduction. But that curiosity is piqued most intensely when something unexpected happens. The study of such “monstrous births,” as scientists once called them, propelled forward our understanding of how embryos and fetuses develop. And the key to unlocking this knowledge was found gathering dust in the basement of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in a macabre collection assembled by Czar Peter the Great. The story behind this collection reveals a little-known corner of the history of the life sciences and raises some big questions, like how do bodies we see as abnormal inform and define what we see as normal? And how does this influence how we think about disability today? Credits Hosts: Alexis Pedrick and Elisabeth Berry Drago Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Audio Engineer: James Morrison Music by Blue Dot Sessions: "When in the West," "Calisson," "Entwined Oddity," "Stately Shadows," "Louver," "Tuck and Point," "Our Only Lark." Additional songs by the Audio Network.
Our new season starts August 4th! 
Over the past few weeks Distillations has been talking to people who have special insight into the coronavirus crisis—biomedical researchers, physicians, public health experts, and historians. In this episode we talk with Magda Marquet, a biochemical engineer and an entrepreneur. Marquet has spent decades working on DNA vaccines, one of the many techniques being used to create a vaccine for Covid-19. She also sits on the board of Arcturus Therapeutics, which is developing a vaccine for the disease. She tells us about how a company she cofounded, AltheaDx, is taking on the mental health crisis, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. And she discusses her hopes that the lessons learned during the pandemic might change society for the better.  Credits  |  Transcript Credits Host: Lisa Berry Drago Senior Producer: Mariel Carr  Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Researcher: Jessica Wade Audio Engineer: Jonathan Pfeffer Original music by Zach Young.
loading
Comments (1)

Julia Eva

This 3 part series has been incredible. The music, the breakdown and the relevance to Philadelphia being the city Distillations originates from..I think it is a stand out of this podcast. More like this would be greatly appreciated! such an important and educational series.

Oct 30th
Reply
loading
Download from Google Play
Download from App Store