How do you make a chemical-resistant beaker out of a material as fragile as glass? And how do you tell the temperature of a piece of steel without a thermometer?
These are questions Anna Ploszajski tackles in her book Handmade: A Scientist’s Search for Meaning through Making. A materials scientist, engineer, science communicator and occasional stand-up comedian, Ploszajski explores the domain of makers and craftspeople. With knowledge accumulated over generations of trial and error, these experimenters understand popular materials like glass, steel and wood far better than any scientist.
We talk to Ploszajski about finding fresh perspectives by stepping outside the scientific realm, and find out whether every materials scientist should take up blacksmithing.
D'autres épisodes de "Chemistry World Book Club"
Life as We Made It
16:04This episode is for anybody interested in how human beings have altered the world around us since we came on the scene tens of thousands of years ago. University of California Santa Cruz evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro weaves fascinating and fun personal anecdotes from her own life and research on ancient DNA to tell the story of the evolution of Earth and the life-forms it hosts. Shapiro also delves into the risks and opportunities presented by powerful new synthetic biology technologies. She is not afraid to voice her own opinions on topics that can be quite controversial – like gene editing, cloning and the consequences of climate change – and speaks candidly in this podcast.
Book club – The Icepick Surgeon by Sam Kean
18:24This month, we’re reading The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science. It’s the new book by Sam Kean, who many might know as the author of the periodic table book The Disappearing Spoon. In what is now his sixth book, Kean tells true stories of what happens when ambition pushes otherwise rational people to cross ethical lines in the name of science. With wit and humour (where appropriate), Kean brings to life characters throughout history who found themselves on a slippery slope that took them from small concessions all the way to horrific acts. We talk to Kean about not losing faith in science and discuss why stories of misconduct remain important even in an era plagued by mistrust in science.
Book club – Deep Sniff by Adam Zmith
14:06In this episode, we’ll tackle Deep Sniff: A History of Poppers and Queer Futures by Adam Zmith. In his first book, Zmith blends historical research with wry observation to tell the story of how amyl nitrites wafted out of the lab and into gay bars, corner shops and bedrooms. Zmith leads readers through the 19th century discovery of nitrites as an angina medication and its 20th century reimagination as a drug for the queer community. But his focus on people and cultural forces means this book goes far beyond a simple history lesson. We discuss how societal pressures and biases can influence research, and talk to Zmith about the secret pact between governments, manufacturers and users that kept poppers flying under the radar of drug restrictions.
Book club – Lessons from Plants by Beronda Montgomery
13:59This episode is for all those people who have turned to gardening or amassed houseplants during the Covid lockdowns as we’ll be talking about Lessons from Plants. In it, the biochemist Beronda Montgomery explores the vigorous and creative life of organisms often treated as static and predictable. Writing about plants’ fascinating ability to perceive, adapt, communicate, decision-make and collaborate, Montgomery asks us to consider the question: What would a plant do? We discuss what agriculture got wrong about plants’ symbiotic relationships, how caring for plants can help educators create an environment in which students thrive, and talk to Montgomery about converting knowledge of science into lessons for being better humans.
Book club – Science in Black and White by Alondra Oubré
15:22In this month’s episode we’ll talk about Science in Black and White: How Biology and Environment Shape Our Racial Divide by medical anthropologist Alondra Oubré. She delves into the science behind the nature versus nurture debate to expose racially biased research and debunk claims of inborn racial disparities and the gendered brain. The result is a deeply researched, comprehensive and nuanced title. ‘Just as many leading experts contest the notion of genes as destiny, gene–environmental interactions do not predict fated life outcomes,’ Oubré writes in her epilogue. ‘By the same token, environmental conditions do not guarantee either good or bad predetermined life outcomes, although they can have major consequences for an individual and, in some cases, his family.’
Book club – Vampirology by Kathryn Harkup
19:28Get your garlic and crucifix ready as we tackle Kathryn Harkup’s latest book Vampirology: The Science of Horror’s Most Famous Fiend. Harkup is a chemist and science communicator, and an expert at casting a scientific eye on cultural phenomena, literature and film. Her debut, A is for Arsenic – about the poisons in Agatha Christie’s works – featured in our very first book club podcast episode way back in 2015. In her latest title, Harkup delves into the world of Dracula and Nosferatu. She finds tales of folklore and fiction, searches for scientific explanations to historic accounts of vampirism and asks the question whether, technically, vampires could exist. We talk to Harkup about watching Buffy reruns and Hong Kong’s hopping vampires, and find out what it’s like to investigate a myth with science.
Book club – Handmade by Anna Ploszajski
19:08How do you make a chemical-resistant beaker out of a material as fragile as glass? And how do you tell the temperature of a piece of steel without a thermometer? These are questions Anna Ploszajski tackles in her book Handmade: A Scientist’s Search for Meaning through Making. A materials scientist, engineer, science communicator and occasional stand-up comedian, Ploszajski explores the domain of makers and craftspeople. With knowledge accumulated over generations of trial and error, these experimenters understand popular materials like glass, steel and wood far better than any scientist. We talk to Ploszajski about finding fresh perspectives by stepping outside the scientific realm, and find out whether every materials scientist should take up blacksmithing.
Book club – The Disordered Cosmos by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
22:12We might like to think that science is purely objective, driven only by scientific principles and free of social disturbances — but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In this episode, we read Chanda Prescod-Weinstein’s debut The Disordered Cosmos, a book exposing how racism and sexism persist across all scientific disciplines. Part introduction to particle physics, part biography, part cultural and social analysis, The Disordered Cosmos examines the colonialist thread running through science’s history and presents a vision of the cosmos as vibrant, inclusive and non-traditional. We talk to Prescod-Weinstein — theoretical physicist, feminist theorist and one of the few Black US American women to ever earn a physics PhD — about her message to the next generation of scientists, and find out who should read this timely, provocative and necessary title.
Book club – Never Mind the B#ll*cks, Here’s the Science by Luke O’Neill
17:22In this episode, we’re looking for answers to the important questions in life like ‘Why do you believe in diets?’ or ‘Why are you working in a bullshit job?’ Biochemist and immunologist Luke O’Neill certainly doesn’t mince words in his new book Never Mind the B#ll*cks, Here’s the Science: A Scientist’s Guide to the Biggest Challenges Facing our Species Today. Despite its provocative title, the book covers some serious topics that range from vaccination and mental health, to racism and climate change. It makes complex science accessible with wit and pop culture references, finding answers to some of the most controversial topics human beings grapple with. We talk to O’Neill about tackling life’s big questions and punk rock references, and discuss whether the book hits the sweet spot of balancing lightness with its sometimes heavy subject matter.
Book club – The Poison Trials by Alisha Rankin
16:52This month we find out drug testing has come a long way, as we read The Poison Trials: Wonder Drugs, Experiment and the Battle for Authority in Renaissance Science, the latest book from historian of science and medicine Alisha Rankin. The book tells little-known stories of medicine in 16th century Europe, such as Pope Clement VII’s personal physician testing a new antidote by feeding poison-laced cake to two condemned criminals. Only one received the cure. Such grisly episodes occurred at a time when fears of deadly poisons were running high among those in power and physicians were scrabbling for cures. As such, Rankin suggests they might be considered an early form of clinical trials. We talk to Rankin about researching and writing the book, and discuss what these stories mean for us today, as scientists search for cures to a public health emergency.