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The promise of tissue engineering and wound closure technology

Note: this interview was broadcast by the WGBH affiliate WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station.
In this Faculty Insight interview, Sujata Bhatia, a lecturer on biomedical engineering at Harvard, and the assistant director for undergraduate studies in biomedical engineering at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, talks with Jenny Attiyeh of ThoughtCast about the science behind tissue engineering.

(This video features only part of the interview — to hear it in its entirety, click on the mike symbol below.)

Dr. Bhatia is also the thesis adviser to Suneil Seetharam, an Extension School biotechnology graduate student, who is working on an artificial tissue glue, which, down the line, could be used by doctors to close wounds.
He does much of his research at the Wyss Institute at Harvard. And this is where he and Dr. Bhatia meet, to take a look at a sample, and assess its strength.

Click here: (7:30 minutes).

Posted on December 19, 2013 in Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, Ideas, Science
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Cosmic Evolution’s Predilection for Constant Change

Note: an audio version of this interview was broadcast by the WGBH affiliate WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station.

The theory of cosmic evolution is a relatively new addition to the field of cosmology, and attempts to answer the questions of who we are, where we are, and how we came to exist, among others, by taking the long view — from the big bang, to the present day.
Here’s another definition for you: “Cosmic evolution is the study of the many varied changes in the assembly and composition of energy, matter and life in the thinning and cooling Universe.”

This explanation comes from Eric Chaisson, a vigorous champion of the cosmic evolutionary theory. He’s an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and a lecturer at Harvard Extension School, who is also the subject of this Faculty Insight interview, conducted by ThoughtCast’s Jenny Attiyeh.
And while it might leave more questions asked than answered, we hope it will give you the chance to stick your toe into deep astrophysic waters, and feel the tug of the cosmic tide…

Note:  Images of galaxies and other cosmic phenomena courtesy of Eric Chaisson. Thank you very much for their use!

Posted on November 7, 2013 in Faculty Insight, Front Page, Harvard Luminaries, Ideas, Science
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Black Bear Orphans and the Man who Reads Their Minds

Note: This story was broadcast by the WGBH affiliate WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station. It is also featured on NHPR.org.

You’re about to hear a story about the bear whisperer of Lyme New Hampshire, Ben Kilham, and the abandoned black bear cubs he has rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Some of these cubs have formed such strong bonds with Ben, that even when they’re fully grown, they still treat him as a member of the family, so to speak, and allow him special access to their bear secrets and behavior. And on occasion, if I promise to be quiet, and obey the rules, I get to tag along –

This video of Squirty and Ben in the clearing is a rather noisy appetizer.
Click here: (17 minutes) for the story.

Ben Kilham is one of the foremost black bear researchers and rehabilitators in the country, and here he is, with one of his star bears, Squirty, now 17 years old. He took care of her and her siblings after they were separated from their mother during a logging operation that had disturbed her den. She, along with many other orphaned or abandoned cubs, has taught Ben the characteristics of black bear behavior, which share some surprising similarities to our own species. For one thing, once thought to be solitary, Ben has discovered that they are often quite social!

Photo by Ben Kilham
Ben’s featured in several nature documentaries, and he is also the author of two books — Among the Bears: Raising Orphaned Cubs in the Wild, and Out on a Limb: What Black Bears Have Taught Me About Intelligence and Intuition, with a foreward by Temple Grandin, which was just released this fall. ThoughtCast has also interviewed Ben’s sister and colleague, Phoebe, and the interview, accompanied by a slide show of their bear cubs, was posted on New Hampshire Public Radio’s website this spring, and can be seen here.

Posted on September 17, 2013 in Environment, Front Page, Science
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The history and future of the New England Forest

Note: an audio version of this interview was broadcast by the WGBH affiliate WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station.

The forests of New England are, remarkably, a success story. They’ve recovered from attack after attack. The early settlers hacked them down, by hand, for houses, fences and firewood. Later on, the insatiable sawmills of a more industrial age ate up the lumber needed for our expansion.
Today, the forests contend with acid rain, invasive plants and exotic beetle infestations — evidence of our ever more global economy. And the future of these forests? Going forward, that’s a story that’s largely ours to shape, and narrate.

If only these trees could talk … Well, we have the next best thing – Donald Pfister, the Dean of Harvard Summer School, curator of the Farlow Library and Herbarium, a fungologist (the more erudite word is mycologist), and the Asa Gray Professor of Systematic Botany at Harvard University.
In this Faculty Insight interview, produced in partnership with ThoughtCast and Harvard Extension School, he tells the tale of the New England forest from as far back as the glacial Pleistocene era.
To help illustrate this tale, we’ve made grateful use of high resolution images of some dramatic landscape dioramas, which are on display at Harvard’s Fisher Museum, in Petersham, Massachusetts.

Posted on September 3, 2012 in Economics, Environment, Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, History, Science
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“Why Does the World Exist?” with Jim Holt

Note: this interview was broadcast on the WGBH public radio affiliate WCAI, on the Cape and Islands!

Jim Holt (photo: Michael Todd)
Jim Holt (photo: Michael Todd)

In this ThoughtCast interview, science writer Jim Holt takes us on a jaunty tour of being and nothingness, existence and emptiness, quantum tunneling and the uncertainty principle. The author of Stop Me If You’ve Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes, Holt lends his wit to a dissection of the puzzle of existence, which happens to be the topic of his just-published book Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story!  A frequent contributor to The New York Times and other publications, Holt approaches his subject with a personal, philosophical and scientific point of view. But does he solve the puzzle?… You tell me!

Click here to listen (28 minutes.)

Posted on January 9, 2012 in Front Page, Ideas, Philosophy, Religion, Science
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The North Atlantic Right Whale: Our Urban Leviathan

Note: This interview was broadcast on WGBH radio, Boston’s NPR station for news and culture, on April 17, 2011!

Breaching North Atlantic Right Whale

Photo: courtesy US Marine Mammal Commission

The endangered North Atlantic Right Whale is probably our closest cetacean neighbor. There are only about 350 of them in total, and they live precariously near to shore, along the Eastern seaboard, in a horrendously busy commercial shipping corridor that stretches from Nova Scotia to Florida.  Scott Kraus, the vice president for research at Boston’s New England Aquarium, and the head of its right whale research project, has studied these whales for decades, and the aquarium’s efforts on their behalf have led to dramatic improvements in right whale habitat.

Fargo Meets Right Whale Calf

Courtesy Rosalind Rolland/New England Aquarium

But they remain nonetheless threatened — primarily by us humans.  ThoughtCast’s Jenny Attiyeh met with Kraus at the New England Aquarium recently, to discuss his latest book, which he co-edited with his colleague Rosalind Rolland, called The Urban Whale.

Click here (20 minutes) to listen!

And click here (4 minutes) to hear Scott Kraus read a poignant passage he wrote (about a baby whale) from The Urban Whale.

Posted on April 1, 2011 in Environment, Science
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Coral reefs, hermit crabs and tube worms with Randi Rotjan

Note: This interview was broadcast on WGBH radio, Boston’s NPR station for news and culture, on April 17, 2011!

The Cambridge Science Festival returns this week with Inspiring Minds: Meet Women in Science, a program at the Museum of Science that includes a talk by Randi Rotjan, a coral ecologist at the New England Aquarium in Boston. Randi has been stung by jellyfish, coral, you name it. It’s all part of the job, studying coral reefs on location in exotic locales like the Red Sea or the Phoenix Islands, the world’s largest marine protected area. She goes face to face with hermit crabs as they line up, after the usual jostling, to form vacancy chains, waiting to trade in their old shells for newer, larger ones. It’s the classic upgrade, and it follows rules – perhaps ones we humans might care to copy.

Rules abound undersea – as does death. If the water temperature is too warm, corals bleach, starve and die. And if the tube worms that thrive near deep sea hydrothermal vents venture too far from the fissure, they’ll freeze. But most of the time, they’re doing just fine, thank you, feasting on the poisonous spewing gases they’re so fond of.
Watch this brief video on corallivory (the eating of live coral by fish!) to get you started.
And then click here (12 minutes) to listen to the audio interview, for the details.

Posted on April 26, 2010 in Environment, Science
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The “New Biology” with Steven Pinker, Noga Arikha & Melvin Konner

Brave New World?
Brave New World?
The Center for the Humanities at Tufts University recently held a panel discussion on “The New Biology and the Self”, an apt topic for the likes of Steven Pinker, the Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University,  Noga Arikha, a historian of ideas and the author of Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours, and  Melvin Konner, a professor of anthropology and assoc. professor of psychiatry and neurology at Emory University. The panel was moderated by Tufts professor Kevin Dunn.
Click here to listen (73 minutes.)

And to listen to a talk by Steven Pinker on the Forum Network, click here!

Posted on November 27, 2009 in Philosophy, Science
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Jonah Lehrer on Emotional Hijacking and “How We Decide”

This entry is part 6 of 10 in the series Talks@Harvard Book Store

Note: this interview was broadcast on WGBH in Boston as well as on the WGBH Cape and Islands affiliate WCAI/WNAN!

Jonah Lehrer
Jonah Lehrer (photo credit: Lori Duff)

Jonah Lehrer, the precocious author of Proust Was a Neuroscientist, has come out with a new book called How We Decide. He spoke at the Harvard Book Store, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Click here to listen (28 minutes.)

After his talk, ThoughtCast spoke with Lehrer briefly about the value of emotion in rational decision making, the power of wishful thinking to hijack our reason, and the potential to retrain the brain via the mind. According to Lehrer, we’d generally be better off sticking to our instincts, our initial reaction or impulse, rather than over-think things. Calm, cool deliberation, it turns out, doesn’t always lead to the best results. Jonah Lehrer is a Contributing Editor at Wired Magazine, and has written for The New Yorker, Nature, Seed, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe.
Click here to listen to this rather noisy interview (8:50 minutes.)

Posted on July 20, 2009 in Economics, Ideas, Philosophy, Psychology, Science
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Art & Science with Alan Lightman

Note: This program was broadcast on WCAI, the Cape and Islands affiliate of WGBH.

Alan Lightman
Alan Lightman, the MIT physicist and best-selling author of Einstein’s Dreams, is a man of unusual ability. Talented in both the sciences and the arts, he’s both left- and right-brained, a condition that confers challenges as well as benefits.
Lightman has recently come out with a new book which explores these two realms – and it’s called Ghost! It deals with the permeable boundary between hard science and the paranormal — and asks, where does science fail us, and what, if anything, can take its place? Does mystery take over? And can it step in where science falls short?
Click here: to listen (28:30 minutes) on ThoughtCast!

And to listen Alan Lightman on WGBH’s Forum Network, click here — and here!

Posted on August 1, 2007 in Literature, MIT, Science
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The End of Our Universe among other timely topics…

Note: this program was broadcast on WGBH‘s sister stations WCAI & WNAN, on Sept. 9, 2007, and picked up by KPVL, a Pacifica station, on July 2, 2013!

Alex Vilenkin
Want to know how the world is going to end? Just ask Russian cosmologist Alex Vilenkin. If it’s our own universe you’re talking about, well, it’s called the big crunch, and it’s going to be hot hot hot! But if it’s the multiverse, that infinitely expanding, infinitely varied and infinitely populated sea of universes, well, guess what — there is no end. Isn’t that reassuring??
Vilenkin is Professor of Physics and Director of the Institute of Cosmology at Tufts University, and also the author of a new book, called Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes. He’s also a former zookeeper. And – lest I forget – he was blacklisted by the KGB
Click here: to listen. (29:45 minutes)

Posted on July 1, 2007 in Front Page, Science
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Astrophysics in Cambridge — at the Planetarium!

Noreen Grice
As part of the Cambridge Science Festival, Noreen Grice, the operations coordinator of the Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science in Boston, hosted a series of presentations that feature new research in astrophysics taking place in Cambridge. Specifically, she highlighted the work of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, in Kendall Square, as well as scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and MIT.


Click here: for Noreen Grice’s presentation at the planetarium (30 minutes)
Click here: for an interview with Noreen Grice (15 minutes)

Posted on April 26, 2007 in Science
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Marc Hauser on “Moral Minds”

Marc Hauser
Note: This interview was broadcast on WCAI/WNAN, and is also featured on WGBH’s Science Luminaries series, as part of WGBH Science City.
The provocative Harvard psychologist Marc Hauser recently spoke about “The Evolution of Our Moral Intuitions” at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, as part of the Cambridge Science Festival. This ThoughtCast interview with Hauser serves as a good “first course” — but to get to the meat and potatoes, check out his book Moral Minds.
Click here: to listen. (17:40 minutes)
And to listen to Marc Hauser on the WGBH Forum Network, click here!

Posted on April 20, 2007 in Harvard Luminaries, Ideas, Psychology, Science
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Lisa Randall, Harvard physicist

WGBH broadcast this ThoughtCast interview, and also features it on their “Science Luminaries” series, as part of “WGBH Science City.” It was also broadcast on WCAI/WNAN, public radio stations for the Cape and Islands.

Lisa Randall
Professor Randall is a theoretical particle physicist who sees past the rest of us to a world of extra dimensions and parallel universes. Hers is a world of warped geometry, sink-holes and branes — a world that fills glaring gaps in current thinking, and can finally explain why gravity is so ‘weak’!

Now while this might sound like so much Greek — just wait. Randall’s latest book, written for the layman, is called “Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions” — so she’s had plenty of practice explaining these high-flying ideas to English majors.

Click here: to listen (28:30 mins).

Click here to listen to Lisa Randall’s lecture at IDEAS Boston on the WGBH Forum Network.

Posted on April 11, 2006 in Front Page, Harvard Luminaries, Science
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