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Undiscovered

Undiscovered

Author: Science Friday and WNYC Studios

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A podcast about the left turns, missteps, and lucky breaks that make science happen.
22 Episodes
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Not Your Subject
In U.S. cancer research, the most promising clinical trials are done mostly on white patients, which means people of color—and especially African Americans—are underrepresented in research that might save their lives. In this episode, a young, black medical student joins a team of Boston scientists to try to bring more African American patients into their study, but has to contend with the long history of medical mistreatment that could keep them away. GuestsShawn Johnson, student at Harvard Medical SchoolHarriet Washington, author of Medical ApartheidCorrie Painter, associate director of Count Me In Bridgette Hempstead, president and founder of Cierra Sisters FootnotesLearn more about the Metastatic Breast Cancer Project, led by Nikhil Wagle and directed by Corrie Painter. Check out Count Me In to learn about their projects with other types of cancer.ProPublica recently investigated the underrepresentation of black people and Native Americans in trials for cancer drugs.The group of Howard University students recruiting for the project is called H.U.M.B.L.E.Clinical trials come in phases, and not all of them have the same diversity problems. In Phase I, researchers study the safety of treatments, and typically test them on healthy subjects (so not patients who would therapeutically benefit from the treatment). Some research has found that people of color are over-represented in Phase I trials.Check out this review of barriers to minority representation. Note that mistrust of medical professionals might not be the main barrier to participation, but it's an important issue in itself.Learn more about the history of gynecology and racism in Medical Bondage by Deirdre Cooper Owens.New York City took down the statue of J. Marion Sims in April, but left the granite pedestal(Elah Feder) CreditsUndiscovered is produced by Elah Feder and Annie Minoff. This week, we had production help from Alexa Lim, story consulting from Linda Villarosa, and fact checking help from Robin Palmer.Our senior editor is Christopher Intagliata, our composer is Daniel Peterschmidt, and our production intern is Kaitlyn Schwalje. Our theme music is by I Am Robot And Proud.

Not Your Subject

2018-11-1300:30:402

This Headline Might Kill You
In this Undiscovered Cares Report, Annie and Elah dig into a scary science headline and help Elah’s friend, David, figure out how scared he should be that his B12 vitamins will give him lung cancer. And we find out how—even with top-notch scientists, journalists, and readers—science communication can go very wrong. GuestsTheodore Brasky, assistant professor at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center FootnotesRead some of the headlines that scared us, and one that did a better job.Then read Ted’s original study for yourself and the press release. OUR MAIN TAKEAWAYS:1) If you’re a man who smokes, these findings could matter for you. This study found that if you smoke, taking high doses of vitamins B12 or B6 was associated with an even greater risk of lung cancer than smoking by itself. But this finding still needs to be replicated, so proceed with caution before making massive lifestyle changes.Ted has notes on this summary:Might be best to switch the 2nd and 3rd sentences. If you start with “This finding still needs to be replicated…” and then say “Nevertheless, the study found that if you smoke…” it’s better than making the “this needs replication” comment seem offhand; which is an issue with much of the media attention thus far. Not a big deal either way, but I guess I still want people to understand that this is a single and unique study, and that means that trusting the results as truth can be problematic.All of that said, I don’t think people need to proceed with caution before making lifestyle changes: smoking is singularly responsible for 1 in 5 deaths in the US each year. Anyone who smokes should consider quitting. A good place to start is the National Cancer Institute’s quit line: 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Smoking is awful for a person’s health. It is responsible for heart disease, COPD, and several different types of cancer in addition to lung cancer (which is the #2 most common cancer in men and women and the #1 cause of cancer death). 2) If you’re a man who's never smoked, don’t freak out! Men who have never smoked have extremely low rates of lung cancer, and that includes men who took these vitamins. This study didn’t turn up any evidence that these vitamins had any effect on that risk. (In fact, in this study, there were no cases of lung cancer in men who never smoked and were also taking the highest doses of these vitamins.) The study also didn’t find any effect of these vitamins on lung cancer risk in men who’d quit smoking before the study began.Ted says:Yes, not freaking out is ideal. CreditsThis episode of Undiscovered was produced by Elah Feder and Annie Minoff. Our senior editor is Christopher Intagliata, our composer is Daniel Peterschmidt, and our intern is Kaitlyn Schwalje. Our theme music is by I Am Robot And Proud. We had fact checking help from Michelle Harris. Thanks, as always, to the entire Science Friday staff, and the folks at WNYC Studios. 

This Headline Might Kill You

2018-11-0600:27:461

Party Lines
In 2016, a North Carolina legislator announced that his party would be redrawing the state’s congressional district map with a particular goal in mind: To elect “10 Republicans and three Democrats.” His reasoning for this? As he explained, he did “not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”It was a blatant admission of gerrymandering in a state already known for creatively-drawn districts. But that might be about to change. A North Carolina mathematician has come up with a way to quantify just how rigged a map is. And now he’s taking his math to court, in a case that could end up redrawing district lines across the country. Braxton Brewington (center) preparing to make a statement outside the District Court on the first day of Common Cause's trial.(Courtesy of Braxton Brewington) A&T Aggies at "Roll to the Polls" last April.(Courtesy of Braxton Brewington) Jonathan Mattingly at Duke last June.(Annie Minoff) GuestsJonathan Mattingly, professor of mathematics and statistical science, Duke UniversityBraxton Brewington, undergraduate senior, North Carolina A&T State University, senior democracy fellow, Common Cause North CarolinaBob Phillips, executive director, Common Cause North Carolina FootnotesRead about Jonathan and his students’ analyses of North Carolina’s 2012 and 2016 congressional maps (and check out the rest of their work on gerrymandering)See North Carolina’s congressional map, which a federal court declared unconstitutional in 2018Read the District Court’s opinions from January 2018, declaring North Carolina’s 2016 congressional map unconstitutionalWatch Representative David Lewis make his comments before the state legislature's joint select committee on congressional redistrictingRead about the history of Common Cause’s lawsuit: Common Cause v. RuchoRead about other partisan gerrymandering court challengesRead about Common Cause v. Rucho’s prospects at the Supreme Court CreditsThis episode of Undiscovered was produced by Elah Feder and Annie Minoff  Our senior editor is Christopher Intagliata, our composer is Daniel Peterschmidt, and our intern is Kaitlyn Schwalje. Our theme music is by I Am Robot And Proud. We had fact checking help from Robin Palmer. Eddie Garcia was our reporter on-the-ground at A&T. Special thanks this week to Thomas Wolf and the Brennan Center for Justice, Justin Levitt, Gregory Herschlag, and Jonathan Mattingly’s Data+ team.   

Party Lines

2018-10-3000:29:382

The Long Loneliness
Americans haven’t always loved whales and dolphins. In the 1950s, the average American thought of whales as the floating raw materials for margarine, animal feed, and fertilizer—if they thought about whales at all. But twenty-five years later, things had changed for cetaceans in a big way. Whales had become the poster-animal for a new environmental movement, and cries of “save the whales!” echoed from the halls of government to the whaling grounds of the Pacific. What happened? Annie and Elah meet the unconventional scientists who forever changed our view of whales by making the case that a series of surreal bleats and moans were “song.”GUESTSD. Graham Burnett, professor of history, Princeton University, author, The Sounding of the Whale: Science and Cetaceans in the 20th CenturyScott McVay, former executive director, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, author, Surprise EncountersRoger Payne, biologist, author, Among WhalesSheri Wells-Jensen, associate professor of linguistics, Bowling Green State UniversityFOOTNOTESRead Roger and Scott’s landmark Science paper on whale song. (The paper includes great pics of the spectrograms Scott and Roger analyzed.)Listen to Roger’s record, Songs of the Humpback Whale.Listen to more humpback whale recordings (and dolphin tapes too!) courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.Read D. Graham Burnett’s essay on John C. Lilly in Orion. (It’s a great teaser for the rest of his book.)Read a paper Dr. Lilly published in Science, based in part on Scott McVay’s work with Elvar the dolphin.Read the essay that inspired Scott: Loren Eiseley’s “The Long Loneliness: Man and Porpoise: Two Solitary Destinies”CREDITSThis episode of Undiscovered was produced by Elah Feder and Annie Minoff  Our senior editor is Christopher Intagliata, our composer is Daniel Peterschmidt, and our intern is Kaitlyn Schwalje. Our theme music is by I Am Robot And Proud. We had fact checking help from Michelle Harris. Thanks, as always, to the entire Science Friday staff, and the folks at WNYC Studios.Special thanks this week to Jack Horowitz, Katie Lupica, and to the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. 

The Long Loneliness

2018-10-2300:34:203

Turtle v. Snake
Travis Thomas is a rookie turtle researcher in Florida. He was on the verge of publishing his first big paper and naming two new species of turtle when he found out he’d been scooped by a stranger in Australia: Raymond Hoser, a.k.a. the Snake Man. Raymond is a reptile wrangler and amateur herpetologist who’s managed to name hundreds of animals—and has made a lot of enemies in the process. In this episode of Undiscovered, Travis sets out to get his turtles back, and Annie and Elah set out to find out how and why the Snake Man does what he does. GuestsTravis Thomas, PhD student, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural SciencesRobert Sprackland, herpetologist, visiting researcher at the Smithsonian InstitutionRaymond Hoser, founder of the Australasian Journal of Herpetology, owner of Snakebusters FootnotesRead Travis Thomas et al.’s 2014 paper splitting alligator snapping turtles into three species, Raymond Hoser's 2013 paper, Raymond's response to Thomas et al. (pg. 19), and a later paper arguing for a different classification.Check out Raymond’s website where he responds to his critics, lists the animal taxa (species, genera, etc.) he’s named, and posts the Australasian Journal of Herpetology.Crack open the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature’s big book of rules for naming animals.Read articles about “taxonomic vandalism” that criticize Raymond Hoser.Dive into this great Nautilus piece on prolific species namers in history and the ire they provoked. CreditsThis episode of Undiscovered was produced by Elah Feder, Alexa Lim, and Annie Minoff  We had production help from Sushmita Pathak who brought us this story. Our senior editor is Christopher Intagliata, our composer is Daniel Peterschmidt, and our intern is Kaitlyn Schwalje. Our theme music is by I Am Robot And Proud. We had fact checking help from Michelle Harris. Thanks, as always, to the entire Science Friday staff, and the folks at WNYC Studios, especially Tony Phillips and Jenny Lawton for feedback on this story. 

Turtle v. Snake

2018-10-1600:34:012

Guest Episode: The Infinite God
This week, Annie and Elah share an episode from one of their favorite podcasts, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Sum of All Parts.For years, Robert Schneider lived the indie rocker’s dream, producing landmark records and fronting his band, The Apples in Stereo. And then, he gave it all up...for number theory. Host Joel Werner tracks Robert’s transformation, from a transcendental encounter with an antique tape machine, to the family temple of a mysterious long-dead mathematician, Ramanujan.Find more episodes of Sum of All Parts.CREDITSThis episode of Sum of All Parts was produced and hosted by Joel Werner. Sophie Townsend served as story editor and Jonathan Webb served as science editor. Sound engineering by Mark Don and Martin Peralta.Undiscovered is reported and produced by Elah Feder and Annie Minoff. Our senior editor is Christopher Intagliata, our composer is Daniel Peterschmidt, and our intern is Kaitlyn Schwalje. GUESTSRobert Schneider, Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, Emory UniversityKen Ono, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Mathematics, Emory UniversityFOOTNOTESHear more Sum of All Parts, and see pictures of Robert and Ken at Ramanujan’s family temple.Robert Schneider and Ben Phelan’s article about Ramanujan, Encounter with The Infinite, was a huge inspiration for this story. Read it in The Believer.Listen to Ken Ono talk about Ramanujan and a biopic based on his life — The Man Who Knew Infinity — on Science Friday.Read about the new musical scale Robert Schneider devised, based on natural logarithms. 
Plants And Prejudice
Are non-native species all that bad, or are we just prejudiced against “the Other”? In the San Francisco Bay Area, one particular foreign species has been dividing environmentalists for years: the blue gum eucalyptus. Eucalyptus opponents say it’s a serious fire hazard. Defenders say there’s no good evidence it’s worse than native plants. Which is it? And is the fight against non-native species grounded in science or xenophobia? In this episode of Undiscovered, Annie and Elah investigate.  GUESTS Fred Pearce, environmental journalist and author of The New WildNorman La Force, Sierra Club, San Francisco Bay ChapterDan Grassetti, Hills Conservation NetworkSara Kuebbing, Assistant Professor of invasion ecology at the University of Pittsburgh FOOTNOTESRead about the Bay Area’s eucalyptus debate.Watch the debate between Norman and Dan in full, courtesy of Ray Madrigal.Browse this website by a pro-eucalyptus activist and this page from the San Francisco Sierra Club, which wants to remove eucalyptus trees in some areas.Invasion biologists defend their field and dispute allegations of xenophobia. Sara Kuebbing has also found that land managers aren’t arbitrarily eradicating non-native species, but selectively removing ones they deem harmful.Mark Davis, a biologist who’s critical of invasion biology, covers some of the field’s history in his book, Invasion Biology.Still want more? Check out these think pieces defending non-native species, including Michael Pollan’s article and Stephen Jay Gould’s essay. And for a completely different perspective, check out these sources on the impacts of non-native species, including an early study that attempted a rough calculation of their global economic cost. CREDITSUndiscovered is reported and produced by Elah Feder and Annie Minoff. Our senior editor is Christopher Intagliata, our composer is Daniel Peterschmidt, and our intern is Kaitlyn Schwalje. We had fact checking help for this episode from Michelle Harris. I Am Robot And Proud wrote our theme. Thank you to the whole Science Friday staff and to the many people on both sides of this issue who spent hours talking to us, taking Elah for nature walks, and providing us with documents.

Plants And Prejudice

2018-10-0200:30:081

The Magic Machine
As a critical care doctor, Jessica Zitter has seen plenty of “Hail Mary” attempts to save dying patients go bad—attempts where doctors try interventions that don’t change the outcome, but do lead to more patient suffering. It’s left her distrustful of flashy medical technology and a culture that insists that more treatment is always better. But when a new patient goes into cardiac arrest, the case doesn’t play out the way Jessica expected. She finds herself fighting for hours to revive him—and reaching for a game-changing technology that uncomfortably blurs the lines between life and death.  ResourcesTalking about end-of-life stuff can be hard! Here are some resources to get you started. (Adapted from Jessica Zitter’s Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life. Thanks Jessica!) I want to… ...figure out what kind of care I might want at end of life:Prepare uses videos of people thinking about their end-of-life preferences to walk you through the steps for choosing a surrogate decision maker, determining your preferences, etc. ...talk with family/friends about my preferences (or theirs!):The Conversation Project offers a starter kit and tools to help start the conversation. ...put my preferences in writing (an advance directive): Advance Directive forms connects you to advance directive forms for your state. My Directives For those who like their documents in app form! Guides you through creating an end-of-life plan, then stores it in the cloud so it’s accessible anywhere. GuestsJessica Nutik Zitter, MD, MPH, Author and Attending Physician, Division of Pulmonary/Critical Care and Palliative Care Medicine, Highland HospitalThomas Frohlich, MD, Chief of Cardiology, Highland HospitalKenneth Prager, MD, Professor of Medicine and Director of Clinical Ethics, Columbia University Medical CenterDaniela Lamas, MD, author and Associate Faculty at Ariadne LabsDavid Casarett MD, author and Chief of Palliative Care, Duke University School of Medicine FootnotesRead the books: Jessica Zitter’s book is Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life. Daniela Lamas’s book is You Can Stop Humming Now: A Doctor’s Stories of Life, Death, and In Between. David Casarett’s book is Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently DeadRead the memoirs of Amsterdam’s “Society in Favor of Drowned Persons,” the Dutch group that tried to resuscitate drowning victims (including Anne Wortman)Learn more about ECMO, its success rates, and the ethical questions it raises (Daniela also wrote an article about it here)Read Daniela’s study about quality of life in long-term acute care hospitals (LTACHs). And for an introduction to LTACHs, here’s an overview from The New York TimesWatch Extremis, the Oscar-nominated documentary (featuring Jessica Zitter), about families facing end-of-life decisions in Highland Hospital’s ICU.Read some of Dr. Zitter’s articles about life support tech (here and here) and the tough decisions doctors and patients face in the ICU (here and here) CreditsThis episode of Undiscovered was reported and produced by Annie Minoff and Elah Feder. Editing by Christopher Intagliata. Original music by Daniel Peterschmidt. Fact-checking help from Michelle Harris. Our theme music is by I Am Robot And Proud. Our mid-break theme for this episode, “No Turning Back,” is by Daniel Peterschmidt and I am Robot and Proud. Thanks to the entire Science Friday staff, the folks at WNYC Studios, and CUNY’s Sarah Fishman. Special thanks to Michele Kassemos of UCSF Medical Center, Lorna Fernandes of Highland Hospital, and the entire staff at Highland.

The Magic Machine

2018-09-2500:39:302

The Holdout
Since the 1980s, Gerta Keller, professor of paleontology and geology at Princeton, has been speaking out against an idea most of us take as scientific gospel: That a giant rock from space killed the dinosaurs. Nice story, she says—but it’s just not true. Gerta's been shouted down and ostracized at conferences, but in three decades, she hasn’t backed down. And now, things might finally be coming around for Gerta’s theory. But is she right? Did something else kill the dinosaurs? Or is she just too proud to admit she’s been wrong for 30 years? GUESTSGerta Keller, professor of paleontology and geology at PrincetonJames Powell, geologist and author of Night Comes to the Cretaceous: Dinosaur Extinction and the Transformation of Modern Geology (St. Martin's Press) FOOTNOTESMichael Benton reviews the many, sometimes hilarious explanations for the (non-avian) dinosaurs’ extinction. Note: Ideas marked with asterisks were jokes! More in Benton’s book.Walter Alvarez tells his own story of the impact hypothesis in T. Rex and the Crater of Doom.The New York Times interviews Luis Alvarez before he dies, and he takes some parting shots at his scientific opponents.The impact and the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary were simultaneous according to this paper.Learn more about how volcanoes are major suspects in mass extinctions.Read more about Gerta Keller, the holdout. CREDITSThis episode of Undiscovered was reported and produced by Elah Feder and Annie Minoff. Our senior editor is Christopher Intagliata. Original music by Daniel Peterschmidt. Fact-checking help from Robin Palmer. Lucy Huang polled visitors to AMNH about what killed the dinosaurs. Our theme music is by I Am Robot And Proud. Excerpts from All Things Considered used with permission from NPR. 

The Holdout

2018-09-1800:35:002

I, Robovie
A decade ago, psychologists introduced a group of kids to Robovie, a wide-eyed robot who could talk, play, and hug like a pro. And then, the researchers did something heartbreaking to Robovie! They wanted to see just how far kids’ empathy for a robot would go. What the researchers didn’t gamble on was just how complicated their own feelings for Robovie would get. Annie and Elah explore the robot-human bond. VIDEOSI Spy, And The ClosetA fifteen-year-old study participant plays a game of I Spy with Robovie—and then watches as the robot is ordered into the closet. (Video courtesy of the HINTS lab at the University of Washington. Read the full study.)   IntroductionsA 15-year-old study participant meets Robovie for the first time. (Video courtesy of the HINTS lab at the University of Washington. Read the full study.)  Chit-ChatRobovie and a 9-year-old study participant talk about the ocean. (Video courtesy of the HINTS lab at the University of Washington. Read the full study.)  Xavier Buys A Cup Of CoffeeA robot named Xavier orders coffee at the kiosk in Carnegie Mellon’s computer science building. (Video courtesy of Yasushi Nakauchi. Read the study about how Xavier does it.)   GUESTSPeter Kahn, professor of psychology, and environmental and forest sciences at the University of Washington, and leader of the HINTS labRachel Severson, assistant professor of psychology, University of MontanaNathan Freier, principal program manager, MicrosoftRyan Germick, principal designer, Google Doodles & Assistant Personality FOOTNOTESRead the Robovie study: “Robovie, You’ll Have to Go into the Closet Now”: Children’s Social and Moral Relationships With a Humanoid Robot”Read about how Xavier stands in line.Check out the work of Robovie’s creators, roboticists Hiroshi Ishiguro and Takayuki Kanda.People did not want to hit Frank the robot bug with a hammer. Here’s why.The HINTS lab did more studies with Robovie. Read about them (and watch more Robovie videos.) SPECIAL THANKSThanks to sci-fi author Daniel H. Wilson, who first told us about Xavier the coffee robot and the Robovie experiment. (Need a good book about a robot apocalypse? He’s got your back.) CREDITSThis episode of Undiscovered was reported and produced by Annie Minoff and Elah Feder. Our senior editor is Christopher Intagliata. Original music by Daniel Peterschmidt. Fact-checking help from Michelle Harris. Our theme music is by I am Robot and Proud. 

I, Robovie

2018-09-1100:36:371

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Laurie Renee Yandrich

Love it

Nov 9th
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