Monthly interviews on important moments in the history of science.
Episode 74. Novichok: Vil Mirzayanov
1:55:36Novichok is the most deadly chemical weapon ever developed. With us to discuss the history of Novichok is Vil Mirzayanov. Vil worked in the secret Soviet chemical weapons laboratory that developed Novichok. He revealed its existence to the world in 1991 and was then arrested by the Russian counterintelligence service and prosecuted in a secret trial. He won his freedom with the help of an international group of scientists, including three who have appeared as guests on this podcast. He then immigrated to the United States and published his story in the book State Secrets. An Insider's Chronicle of the Russian Chemical Weapons Program, published in 2009 by Outskirts Press.
Episode 73. Pascual Jordan's Duplicity: Ryan Dahn
1:08:56How could a brilliant scientist and mathematician, an innovator in quantum theory, who worked closely with Jewish colleagues, become an ardent Nazi? How did this man, who has a field of mathematics named after him, escape the scrutiny of his colleagues? And what happened to him upon the collapse of Nazi Germany? The scientist who straddled this strange world of physics and Nazism was Pascual Jordan. With us to explain the history of Pascual Jordan is Ryan Dahn. Ryan is a writer, editor, science historian, and translator. He is the books editor at Physics Today, the flagship physics magazine of the American Institute of Physics.
Episode 72. Scientific Espionage: Eli Lake
1:46:14Many of the most important secrets held in international contests are technological or scientific in nature, and wars are often settled due to technological superiority of one side over the other. This leads spy agencies to employ all manner of trickery and tools to obtain those secrets. With us to explore the history of scientific espionage is Eli Lake. Eli was a senior national security correspondent for The Daily Beast and Newsweek, and a syndicated columnist with Bloomberg. Eli is now a columnist for the Free Press and the host of the Re-Education Podcast on Nebulous media. Eli is also a contributing editor for Commentary Magazine.
Episode 71. Retrospective: The Franck-Hertz Experiment
38:20A retrospective on the Franck-Hertz experiment, which resulted in James Franck and Gustav Hertz receiving the 1925 Nobel Prize in Physics. Image credit: By Infoczo - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35281920
Episode 69. Ancient DNA: Maanasa Raghavan
1:13:21The ability to extract DNA from ancient fragments of biological material has revolutionized our understanding of recent evolutionary history, including human evolution and phylogeography. Analysis of ancient DNA in tandem with radiocarbon dating, along with traditional archeological techniques, has led to a flurry of discoveries. With us to discuss this research is Maanasa Raghavan. Maanasa is a Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Chicago.
Episode 68. Pandemics: Leslie Reperant
1:10:02The world just experienced a devastating pandemic, yet in the context of historical pandemics, COVID-19 was a relatively minor event in the history of disease. What do we know about the history of pandemics, including before written records, and what can we learn from this history? With us to answer these and other questions about the origins of epidemics and pandemics is Leslie Reperant. Leslie graduated with a doctorate of veterinary medicine at the National Veterinary School of Lyon, France in 2004 and obtained a PhD at Princeton University in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in 2010. Leslie's doctoral and post-doctoral studies focused on the interplay between the pathogenesis and evolution of influenza viruses, and on factors driving pathogen emergence and spread. Leslie is the author of Fatal Jump: Tracking the Origins of Pandemics, published in 2023 by Johns Hopkins University Press.
Episode 67. Lazaretto: David Barnes
1:43:09Before the advent of the germ theory of disease in the 1870s, quarantine provided one of the few effective means to prevent or alleviate epidemics. The Lazaretto quarantine station in Philadelphia illustrates the history of quarantine both before and after the discovery of pathogenic microbes. With us to explore the history of 18th and 19th century quarantine in Philadelphia, and what it meant for public health, is David Barnes. David teaches the history of medicine and public health at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is an Associate Professor of History and Sociology of Science. David received a BA in history from Yale in 1984 and a Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Berkeley in 1992. His books include The Making of a Social Disease: Tuberculosis in Nineteenth-Century France (University of California Press, 1995), The Great Stink of Paris and the Nineteenth-Century Struggle against Filth and Germs (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), and Lazaretto: How Philadelphia Used an Unpopular Quarantine Based on Disputed Science to Accommodate Immigrants and Prevent Epidemics (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2023).
Episode 66. Climbing, Chemistry & Policy: Arlene Blum
1:04:11What are the commonalities between scaling the world's highest peaks and tackling the most challenging pollution problems? What was it like to enter the worlds of climbing and chemistry as a woman in the 1960s and 70s? With us to answer these questions is Arlene Blum. Arlene completed a bachelor's degree at Reed College in 1966 and a PhD in biophysical chemistry at Berkeley in 1971. She was a pioneering alpinist early in her career and a founder of the Green Science Policy Institute later in her career. She is the author of Annapurna - A Woman's Place, published by Counterpoint in 1980, and Breaking Trail, A Climbing Life, published by Harcourt in 2005.
Episode 65. Ideology & Science: Lee Jussim
1:30:01Any intellectual endeavor runs the risk of bias. Today we explore ways in which political ideology interferes with scholarship, particularly in the social sciences, with a focus on social psychology. My guest is Lee Jussim, a distinguished professor of social psychology and the leader of the Social Perception Laboratory at Rutgers University. Lee is a prolific author and studies stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination; political radicalization; and other problems that impede science and society. Lee's books include Social Perception and Social Reality, which received the American Association of Publishers award for best book in psychology, as well as the edited volumes The Social Psychology of Morality, The Politics of Social Psychology, and Research Integrity. Lee is also a founding member of the Heterodox Academy, the Academic Freedom Alliance, and the Society for Open Inquiry in the Behavioral Sciences.