We know a lot. In scientific studies, we can count data, observe trends, infer links and calculate risks. But we also spend a lot of time ignoring noise – the unexplained variations in our results that we can’t account for. Take smoking for example. We all know that smoking kills, but it doesn’t kill everyone, and we can’t predict which lifelong smokers will be struck down by lung cancer, and which won’t.
In his new book The Hidden Half (£14.99, Atlantic Books), Michael Blastland discusses how, even in the most tightly controllable situations, we often still see variations in outcomes. He argues that our unwillingness to admit uncertainty can affect science, economics, politics and business, sometimes with disastrous consequences.
But it’s not all bad news. New research that shows that admitting the extent to which we’re not sure could make us seem more trustworthy. And he explains that even though we don’t know everything, experts and the scientific method are still the most important places for us to turn to for guidance.
He talks to Helen Glenny, editorial assistant at BBC Science Focus Magazine, in this week’s episode of the Science Focus Podcast.
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This week on UnDisciplined, we’re talking about how things start. First, we’ll be joined by a physical scientist who’s uncovered a secret about how water begins to freeze. Then, we’ll chat with a health scientist who will tell us about how to start a revolution in healthy behaviors.
The podcast and artwork embedded on this page are from Utah Public Radio, which is the property of its owner and not affiliated with or endorsed by Listen Notes, Inc.
At the beginning of their adult lives, millennials are trying to find out what it means to be happy in their 20s, not knowing that they have no where to go but down. Meanwhile, three highly successful people find themselves at the bottom of life’s happiness curve, and try to find their way back up. The show today is about a demographic inevitability, the midlife crisis, and how we seek happiness in the face of our approaching death. Two mid-lifers leave their careers to gamble on fulfillment, and one philosopher seeks answers to life’s most common existential crisis. Guest voices include recent graduates of Vassar College, Philosopher Kieran Setiya, Neil Hayward, and Diane Hope.
The podcast and artwork embedded on this page are from Slate Podcasts, which is the property of its owner and not affiliated with or endorsed by Listen Notes, Inc.
This week we get to the bottom of anti-intellectualism. We’ll be speaking with David Robson, senior journalist at BBC Future, about misology — the hatred of reason and argument — and how it may be connected to distrust of intellectuals. Then we’ll speak with Bruno Takahashi, associate professor of environmental journalism and communication at Michigan State University, about how the way we consume media affects our scientific knowledge and how we feel about scientists and the press.
The podcast and artwork embedded on this page are from Rachelle Saunders, Bethany Brookshire, Anika Hazra, & Marion Kilgour, which is the property of its owner and not affiliated with or endorsed by Listen Notes, Inc.
This week we present two stories of the children we used to be and how they grew up.
Part 1: As a sixth grader, Anna Neu decides she’s going to fall in love at science camp.
Part 2: At age nine, Anicca Harriot plans to study both the heart and space, but as she gets older, that plan becomes more challenging than she expected.
Anna Neu has several interests including improv, sketch comedy and voiceover work. She is a trained dancer and Michael Howard Studio Conservatory taught actor. She performs at the Magnet Theater on weekends in shows such as The Armando Diaz Experience and has been on several house teams there. Her voice can be heard on a handful of episodes of The Truth Podcast. Also a Moth Story Slam winner.
Anicca Harriot is currently working on her PhD in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Her research focuses on mechanotransduction – the science of how mechanical stresses and physical forces, like gravity, affect cell signaling and function. Anicca plans to use her degree to explore the effects of long duration space missions on the human body and hopes to someday venture out into the final frontier for herself. Anicca is also the Social Media Coordinator & LGBTQ+ Engagement Specialist for #VanguardSTEM: Conversations for Women of Color in STEM, a non-profit dedicated to lifting the voices of women and non-binary people of color in STEM. In her free time Anicca volunteers with #Popscope, “popping up” with a telescope around Baltimore to promote public astronomy and encourage curiosity.
“Things are not progressing as they should. You’re having a hard time focusing on the research, and we know that you don’t want to be in academia anyway. Do you want to quit?”
The question landed like a punch, and Mónica’s committee meeting took a turn she hadn’t expected. She was in the fourth year of her PhD training at Harvard, and her committee had just asked her if she wanted to leave the program.
“That was incredibly devastating to have these four people that you respect, and that their main role is supposed to be supporting you and helping you, and to have them ask you, “Do you want to leave?” It was devastating. But I somehow found the strength to say, ‘I don’t want to quit!’”
Mónica Feliú-Mójer finished her PhD and went on to a dream job doing science outreach and communication, but that committee meeting was a turning point.
Her story holds a valuable lesson for any graduate student considering a career outside of the academic tenure track.
Many students begin graduate school expecting to land in a tenure-track faculty position. But often, they see their own advisor slaving over grant applications and departmental politics, and decide that an ‘alternative career’ is a better option.
Dr. Feliú-Mójer realized a passion for science communication BEFORE she even applied to graduate school, and once enrolled, she poured herself into the extra-curricular experiences that fed that passion. She worked with organizations like Ciencia Puerto Rico, and worked long into the night honing her writing skills.
“While I was enjoying that experimental part, what really brought me immense joy was all of this communication and outreach that I was doing,” she remembers. But graduation requires a dissertation, and she realized her research was taking second place.
“There was a point in graduate school where things were not looking great. I wasn’t happy, I didn’t feel like I was making progress, I didn’t feel like I had the support I needed to succeed in the lab. And so, I wasn’t motivated, and I decided to pour all of my energy into my outreach and my science communication. And that really affected my productivity, to the level that I was a fourth-year grad student and my dissertation advisory committee asked me if I wanted to quit the PhD program.”
Feliú-Mójer examined her motivations and had tough conversations with her mentors. She went back to her committee with the confidence to finish what she started.
“I knew that I needed to make an adjustment and that I needed to focus, so I said ‘No, I’m not quitting. And yes, I do need a PhD to do what I want to do. So I am committing right here and now to finish, and I hope you will work with me to accomplish that.’”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Dr. Feliú-Mójer spends her time mentoring students and sharing science with a wide audience through her work with Ciencia Puerto Rico and iBiology. This week on the show, she shares her inspiring story about following your passion, pushing through the trials of graduate school, and leveraging your network to land your dream job.
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