Big Brains podcast

Big Brains

University of Chicago Podcast Network

We tell the stories behind the pioneering research and pivotal breakthroughs reshaping our world. Change how you see the world. Produced out of The University of Chicago. Adweek's "Best Branded Podcast" of 2020.

93 Episoden

  • Big Brains podcast

    Combating Our Global Water Crisis Using AI, with Junhong Chen


    There are a lot of problems in our world today, but if our water systems aren’t working, everything else takes a backseat. From a lack of freshwater to droughts on the West Coast to contaminants like PFAS and lead in many of our homes, our water systems are in trouble. But one scientist sees a solution to our making our water system sustainable by using artificial intelligence and machine learning. Junhong Chen is a professor of molecular engineering at the University of Chicago and the lead water strategist at UChicago-affiliated Argonne National Laboratory. He’s using AI to address many of our global water crises in some surprising ways.
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    Revolutionizing Technology at the Nanoscale, with Paul Alivisatos


    Sometimes, the biggest discoveries have to do with the smallest things. In this case, we’re talking nano. Specifically, nanocrystals. World-renowned chemist Paul Alivisatos has changed the field of nanoscience with these tiny crystals, but he’s also found ways to use them to create incredible new technologies in healthcare, energy, and electronic devices. As if that weren’t enough, Paul Alivisatos is also an eminent leader in academia. He was the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at the University of California, Berkley and is now the President of the University of Chicago. In that role, he hopes to implement his vision of an “engaged university” to push forward the role of academia in society.
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    The Science Behind Forming Better Habits, With Katy Milkman


    Why is it so hard for us to form good habits—and so easy to form bad ones? Most people turn to the self-help section to find answers, but this is really a question for behavior science. Katy Milkman is a professor at The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and co-directs the Behavior Change For Good Initiative with Angela Duckworth. Her best-selling book, How To Change: The Science of Getting From Where You Are To Where You Want To Be, explores that best research—from “nudges” to “temptation bundles”—on how to change our behaviors and habits for good.
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    The Secret Nazi Past and Billionaire Future of U.S. Space Innovation with Jordan Bimm


    Most people think they know humanity’s history of space exploration, from Sputnik to NASA to our recent shift toward privatized space travel. But what if there was a lost history of our origins with space science that would make us rethink the whole narrative? Jordan Bimm is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago The Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge and a space historian. Bimm’s uncovered a forgotten chapter of space history that paints a much more militaristic picture of our relationship to space, and he sees a direct through line to our present moment. He says we can’t conceive a brighter future for space exploration until we reckon with its darker past.
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    How a Genetic Breakthrough Could Address Global Hunger


    By 2050 humanity is going to have to produce 50% more food in order to feed a growing population. That’s a lot, especially given that we currently have trouble feeding the current global population, and that food production is already responsible for about a third of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. But an incredible new genetic breakthrough may have just given us a way to address both those problems. Chuan He is a distinguished professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago, and he recently made a genetic discovery that has massive implications for feeding the world, addressing climate change and even fighting cancer.
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    Introducing: Entitled


    The University of Chicago Podcast Network is excited to announce the launch of a new show, it’s called "Entitled" and it’s about human rights. Co-hosted by lawyers and UChicago Law School Professors, Claudia Flores and Tom Ginsburg, Entitled explores the stories around why rights matter and what’s the matter with rights. We’re going to share the first episode of that show with you this week, and recommend you go subscribe! We’ll be back next week with a new Big Brains about an incredible scientific breakthrough that will have huge implications for climate change, cancer treatment, and food scarcity! It’s a must listen! Please enjoy Entitled, and we’ll see you next week!
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    The Deadly Flaw In Our Judgment, With Cass Sunstein


    Many of the most important moments in our lives rely on the judgment of others. We expect doctors to diagnose our illnesses correctly, and judges to hand out rulings fairly. But there’s a massive flaw in human judgment that we’re just beginning to understand, and it’s called “noise.”   In a new book, former University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein along with his co-authors, Daniel Kahneman and Olivier Sibony, take us through the literature on noise, explains how it shows up in our world and what we can do to fight it. From misdiagnoses to unequal treatment in courtrooms, noise is the “silent killer” we didn’t even know was there.
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    A Scientist’s Beef With The Meat Industry, With Impossible Foods’ Pat Brown


    Even if you’ve never eaten an Impossible Burger, you’ve probably heard of them. But you may not know the science and story behind those meatless products. Pat Brown is a University of Chicago alum, the founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, and a scientist at Stanford University. He says the meat industry is the “greatest threat humanity has ever faced,” and that “cracking the code” of plant-based food products could be our only hope for the future.
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    A Surprising Economic Solution To Climate Change With Michael Greenstone


    When was the last time you heard a positive story about climate change, a story about someone with a new idea or innovative solution to help reduce our carbon footprint? This is that story. Michael Greenstone is a Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, Director of the Energy Policy Institute of the University of Chicago (EPIC) and former chief economist in the Obama White House. Now, he’s developed a new nonprofit called Climate Vault, which could be a powerful new tool in the fight against climate change, and it’s built around a simple idea: outbidding polluters for the right to pollute.
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    Solving The Biggest Mysteries Of Our Universe, With Dan Hooper


    Why does our universe work the way it does? What are its laws? How did it start with the Big Bang‚ and how will it end? Scientists like Prof. Dan Hooper from the University of Chicago use something called the Standard Model of Physics to explain our universe, but there’s one big problem: The model has black hole-sized gaps in it. What is dark matter? What is dark energy and why does it make up 70 percent of our universe? Where is all the anti-matter? Hooper says it will probably take a paradigm-shifting discovery to answer these questions, and that those are a once-in-a-lifetime event. But, this year, something called the muon G-2 experiment at UChicago-affiliated Fermilab may have been just that discovery. It threatens to break the “standard model” and open a whole new kind of physics. Hooper explains it all, and responds to our previous episode with Harvard’s Avi Loeb about aliens.  

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