Lisa Randall, Harvard physicist

WGBH broadcast this ThoughtCast interview, and also featured 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.

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 to Lisa Randall’s interview on the WGBH Forum Network.

Posted on June 30, 2019 in a new podcast, Front Page, Harvard Luminaries, Ideas, 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)

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 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 March 19, 2019 in a new podcast, Ideas, Philosophy, Religion, Science
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KCRW’s Michael Silverblatt at the LA Times Book Festival

KCRW’s Michael Silverblatt, the host of the literary talk show Bookworm, speaks with Jenny Attiyeh at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.  Silverblatt is the real thing — an authentic, genuinely interested interviewer who reads not only the latest book his guest has come to discuss, but the writer’s entire body of work.
Less concerned with wooing an audience than in communing with the author, Silverblatt aims for connection, not ratings. His passion for literature can at times turn his program into an esoteric personal adventure, one which his listeners might at times have difficulty following. But this happens far too rarely on public radio, or in public media of any form, these days. Perhaps you disagree?

This interview is the second of three that took place at the Fourth Annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in 1999. The third interview, coming soon, is with Arianna Huffington. The first interview, featured in the previous post, is with the comedian and writer  Sandra Tsing Loh.
For an audio version of this interview with Michael Silverblatt, click here: to listen.

Posted on January 26, 2019 in a new podcast, Front Page, Literature, Public Media
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ThoughtCast Reflects on the Legacy of John McCain

John McCain’s final battle – this time with an aggressive form of brain cancer – is now over, and the debates over his legacy have yet to begin in earnest. Instead, we are awash in adulatory news coverage, which highlights McCain the icon, but obscures the man. Perhaps his performance in a pivotal New Hampshire Presidential Primary Debate, held in January 2000, just weeks before he defeated George W. Bush in that state’s primary – the first in the nation – is worth reviewing.

In this excerpt from the hour-long debate, moderated by NBC’s Tim Russert, McCain, the campaign finance reform candidate and rider of the Straight Talk Express, responds to breaking news regarding his lobbying the FCC on behalf of Paxson Communications, a campaign contributor. Let’s not forget that McCain’s reformist tendencies developed after he was criticized for exercising “poor judgment” by the Senate Ethics Committee for his role as one of the Keating Five Senators accused of corruption in 1989.
Although my follow-up question was admittedly intended to bridle him, McCain (in my view) comes across as brittle. Where is his famous sense of humor? Where the politician’s gift of deflection? McCain’s “brittle temper” was hardly a secret, but compared to other candidates on that stage, his smile is steely, his manner tense.
A self-described maverick and patriot, might McCain have been a touch too proud? Did his confidence in his own integrity, as the New York Times phrased it, “blind him to potentially embarrassing conflicts of interest”?  McCain of course went on to lose the primary to George W. Bush, and perhaps self-love, rather than love of country, got in the way.
The intention here is not to dump on McCain – what would be the point? But — if he had been just a bit less attentive to his own honor, might we have avoided 8 years of George W. Bush? Think about that for a minute. That would indeed have been a legacy.

Click here: to listen (6:14 mins).

Posted on September 3, 2018 in a new podcast, Biography, Front Page, History, Politics, Psychology
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John McCain’s Last Stand – on ThoughtCast!

John McCain, the maverick Republican Senator from Arizona, was diagnosed with brain cancer a year ago now, so there’s not much time left for this remarkably resilient politician to take a final stand. Will McCain live long enough to vote for — or against — Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee? He did vote to confirm Neil Gorsuch, but will he return to the Capitol to help overthrow Roe V. Wade?

Who is McCain really — is he the independent spirit who rode the Straight Talk Express campaign bus during the 1999/2000 Presidential Primary?

Or is he the far more conventional conservative who surrendered to the right wing and selected Sarah Palin the second time he ran for the presidency? Clearly, he’s all of the above, which makes it difficult to anticipate his actions.

Jenny Attiyeh interviewed McCain during the New Hampshire Presidential Primary in 1999, when he was still the front runner. Back then he was the darling of the media, and was portrayed as a forthright, reformist candidate. He went on to defeat George W. Bush in the New Hampshire primary, only to fall victim to a smear campaign in South Carolina  — he’d fathered a black child, was a traitor to his country — from which he never recovered.

Recently, of course, McCain’s been subjected to the taunts of President Trump. He’s endured far worse — try five years as a prisoner of war, tortured by the North Vietnamese. But now that the end is very nearly here, will he figure out what it is he really stands for?

In his latest book, The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations, McCain expresses regret over his VP pick in 2008. Perhaps as the clock ticks out his final hours, he’ll reach beyond words, to something more like action. Or, as this book review states, will he continue to try to have it both ways?

Posted on July 15, 2018 in a new podcast, Ideas, Politics
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Philip Glass creates an opera – on ThoughtCast!

Note: this mini-documentary, which was broadcast in 1996 on WNYC TV, a public television station in New York City, charts the creation of Les Enfants Terribles, a dance opera by the composer Philip Glass and the choreographer Susan Marshall.

Over the course of three months, Jenny Attiyeh saw this work of art, based on the novel by French Surrealist Jean Cocteau, take shape. The story of Les Enfants Terribles, which is also the final part of a Philip Glass trilogy inspired by the work of Cocteau, tells the tale of Paul and Lise, two adolescent siblings who are bound to each other in an unholy mix of love and jealousy. When they come into volatile contact with two other adolescents, the result is indeed terrible.

Click here: to listen (14 mins).

Posted on May 2, 2018 in a new podcast, Art, Front Page, Music
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