Cover image of Transistor
(42)
Science
Natural Sciences

Transistor

Updated about 1 month ago

Science
Natural Sciences
Read more

Transistor is podcast of scientific curiosities and current events, featuring guest hosts, scientists, and story-driven reporters. Presented by radio and podcast powerhouse PRX, with support from the Sloan Foundation.

Read more

Transistor is podcast of scientific curiosities and current events, featuring guest hosts, scientists, and story-driven reporters. Presented by radio and podcast powerhouse PRX, with support from the Sloan Foundation.

iTunes Ratings

42 Ratings
Average Ratings
25
12
4
0
1

This rocks

By morphy232 - Mar 17 2016
Read more
Love love love the trace elements series. Cristina Quinn and Alison Bruzek rock it.

Inspiring, intelligent, interesting

By mdvmcr - Jun 12 2015
Read more
Smart, interesting and I always come away with something I want to research more. Excellent!!

iTunes Ratings

42 Ratings
Average Ratings
25
12
4
0
1

This rocks

By morphy232 - Mar 17 2016
Read more
Love love love the trace elements series. Cristina Quinn and Alison Bruzek rock it.

Inspiring, intelligent, interesting

By mdvmcr - Jun 12 2015
Read more
Smart, interesting and I always come away with something I want to research more. Excellent!!
Cover image of Transistor

Transistor

Latest release on Nov 13, 2017

Read more

Transistor is podcast of scientific curiosities and current events, featuring guest hosts, scientists, and story-driven reporters. Presented by radio and podcast powerhouse PRX, with support from the Sloan Foundation.

Rank #1: Sidedoor from the Smithsonian: Masters of Disguise

Podcast cover
Read more

For the next few episodes, we’re featuring select episodes from the Smithsonian’s new series, Sidedoor, about where science, art, history, humanity and where they unexpectedly overlap — just like their museums. Up first: tales of scientific deception and trickery.

For even more from Sidedoor, subscribe in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

Dec 01 2016

19mins

Play

Rank #2: Totally Cerebral: Untangling the Mystery of Memory

Podcast cover
Read more

How has our understanding of the mysterious tissue between our ears changed in the past 50 years? In her Totally Cerebral episodes on Transistor, neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki introduces us to scientists who have uncovered some of the deepest secrets about how our brains make us who we are.



Brenda Milner in 2011 | Photo by Eva Blue

Wendy begins by talking with groundbreaking experimental psychologist Brenda Milner , who in the 1950s, completely changed our understanding of the parts of the brain important for forming new long-term memories. Through her observation and careful study of patients with profound amnesia, Brenda wrote a paper in 1957 that broke with the accepted theories about memory, and blew open the entire field of neuroscience.

Inside the Episode

The brain! The front view shows the location of the right and left hippocampus (in orange/yellow) within the brain’s temporal lobe. The side view shows the location of the left hippocampus (in orange/yellow) within the temporal lobe. (Click to enlarge.)

Brenda Milner was born in 1918, and she is still working and using the same wooden chair in her office at McGill University in Montreal, where she wrote her pioneering paper on HM and memory. In fact, if you listen carefully in the episode you may hear the faint squeak of her wooden desk chair, which she has used for more than 50 years. Brenda has received numerous prizes for her work, including the Kavli Prize in 2014.



HM as a young man

Patient HM is perhaps the most famous amnesic patient in history. He had experimental surgery in 1953 to address his severe epilepsy, and when he woke up it was immediately clear that something was horribly wrong.



Suzanne Corkin

For 47 years, Suzanne Corkin, a former student of Brenda Milner, studied HM in her own lab at MIT. She’s the author of Permanent Present Tense: The Unforgettable Life of the Amnesic Patient HM. We’ll hear more from Suzanne in the next episode of Transistor.

This episode was produced by Julie Burstein, with editing and sound design by Derek John. Host Wendy Suzuki’s book Healthy Brain, Happy Life, goes on sale May 19, 2015.

Brain image from Shutterstock.

Feb 09 2015

30mins

Play

Rank #3: Engineering NYC from Below

Podcast cover
Read more

Head underground to hear how some of the first subways were built, and how they are built today.

This story was originally produced by Bishop Sand in 2013. It was hosted for Transistor by Genevieve Sponsler and mixed for Transistor by Josh Swartz.

Image: CC BY-SA 3.0 Adam E. Moreira | Music: Whurlywind from Podington Bear

Mar 09 2017

10mins

Play

Rank #4: The Straight Poop

Podcast cover
Read more



A freezer full of donated poop at OpenBiome

For one disease, poop — yes, human poop — is nothing short a miracle cure. Microbiologist Christina Agapakis takes a look at Fecal Microbiota Transplants or FMT and what happens when you take the really complex gut microbiome from a healthy person and transplant it into the gut of a really sick person. For patients suffering from a one of the most common and deadly hospital acquired infections, Clostridium Difficile, or C Diff, one poop transplant can cure them, sometimes within hours. But, why?

Inside the Episode:



Mark Smith shows host Christina Agapakis and

producer Kerry Donahue the container

donors, uh…”donate” in.



Sign on the door at OpenBiome,

reminding us of the importance of poop!

Christina visits Mark Smith at OpenBiome in Medford, Massachusetts. OpenBiome is a poop bank where donors are paid $40 bucks a po(o)p and where scientists like Mark produce highly screened, liquefied poop samples to be sent to doctors and hospitals all over the country.

Christina talks with Ed Yong, blogger at Not Exactly Rocket Science and author of a forthcoming book about microbes called I Contain Multitudes, about what we might be failing to ask in all of the excitement surrounding FMT.

Christina also talks with Tami Lieberman, a systems biologist at Harvard who decided to put some new home sampling kits for sequencing your gut microbiome to the test.

It’s a wild and wooly world out there when it comes to the medical power of poop. Who knew? Stay tuned.

This episode was produced by Kerry Donahue and Sruthi Pinnamaneni, and mixed by David Herman. Photos by Genevieve Sponsler.

Music credits:

Mort Garson: “Good Morning Starshine” from Electronic Hair Pieces

Anna Meredith: “Bubble Gun” from Jet Black Raider

Piero Piccioni: “Mexican Borders” from Piero Piccioni Soundtracks

Four Tet: “As Serious As Your Life” from Rounds

Hauschka: “Cube” from Salon des amateurs

Laurie Spiegel: “Patchwork” from The Expanding Universe

Mar 05 2015

19mins

Play

Rank #5: Totally Cerebral: Exercise and Your Brain

Podcast cover
Read more

A story of movement, memory, and mentors. Dr. Wendy Suzuki introduces us to Dr. Marian Diamond, whose lively classes ushered Wendy into a career in neuroscience. And Wendy shares how she came to study how exercise profoundly affects the brain, not just the body.

Dr. Marian Diamond and Wendy Suzuki on Wendy’s undergrad graduation day

Here’s more from Wendy:

A science mentor can make your career. Dr. Marian Diamond not only ushered me into the field of neuroscience with her lively and engaging classes but she has continued to influence me and help me throughout my work as a scientist and teacher.

What made Marian such a profound mentor? Her multi-dimensionality. First, she was the best teacher I have ever experienced in my entire thirty-year career, unendingly fascinated with her specialty, human anatomy, including both brain anatomy and gross human anatomy. Now, if you have never taken an anatomy course before, you should know it can be as dry as learning last year’s tax laws. Marian made anatomy come alive, relating every brain or body part to a question or observation about ourselves, such as “The word uterus means Hysterical- do you agree with this?” Or “Do you know what the largest organ in the body is? It’s your skin- take care of it!” She made anatomy relevant and personal.

Second, she made groundbreaking scientific contributions on the capacity of the brain to change in response to the environment. When she did this work in the late 1950s/early 1960s, nobody believed that the adult brain could change – at least in any ways that scientists could measure. Marian and her colleagues showed that changing a rat’s living space (what she called “enriching” the environment) could have profound effects of the brain’s anatomy and that she could measure them. In this episode, I’ll describe Marian’s pioneering studies and how they related to recent studies showing the profound ways that exercise transforms the brain.

Third, she offered me a role model of a thriving, engaged and enthusiastic female scientist, even if it took me years to appreciate how lucky I was. You see, she was such a powerful presence on the Berkeley campus that I thought that smart strong, successful female neuroscientists who were extraordinary teachers were everywhere! I never questioned whether I would be able to do the same thing, because she showed me that it could be done. Only much later into my post-doctoral studies did I notice that other female scientists didn’t seem to have the same confidence that I did; they saw the sea of men in science with only a few successful women and many found it discouraging.

Only later was I able to fully appreciate what a wonderful gift she gave me as my role model in science. Because Marian did the work she loved, she allowed me to sail right over worries over whether a woman could make it.

In this episode, we’ll hear from Marian herself, as she teaches a class and describes her groundbreaking findings. Her work on brain plasticity is at the heart of the work that I and many neuroscientists pursue today.

— Dr. Wendy Suzuki

This episode was hosted by Wendy Suzuki and produced by Julie Burstein, with editing and sound design by Derek John. Wendy Suzuki’s book Healthy Brain, Happy Life, is on sale now.

May 22 2015

17mins

Play

Rank #6: Outside Podcast: Frozen Alive

Podcast cover
Read more

We are interrupting your regularly scheduled podcast feed with a special new episode on the science of survival from Outside Magazine and PRX. Here’s the first episode on the cold, hard facts about what happens when you get lost in the snow.

To get future episodes, which come every two weeks, subscribe to the Outside Podcast on iTunes or wherever you lsiten. You can also get the full scoop from PRX’s press release.

Mar 30 2016

31mins

Play

Rank #7: Totally Cerebral: What’s That Smell?

Podcast cover
Read more

Scents and tastes are powerfully evocative — one whiff of perfume or cooking aromas can transport you back to a particular moment, a particular place, a particular person. Because the things we smell reach two brain structures called the hippocampus and amygdala in just one synapse, scents can almost immediately stimulate the key brain areas for memory, emotion, and location.

In this episode of Totally Cerebral, Dr. Wendy Suzuki speaks with neuroscientist Howard Eichenbaum, an expert on olfactory memory, and together with chemist Kent Kirshenbaum, sits down to a meal with Chef Anita Lo to hear how she plays with our senses and our memories in her delicious creations.

This episode was hosted by Wendy Suzuki and produced by Julie Burstein, with editing and sound design by Derek John. Wendy Suzuki’s book Healthy Brain, Happy Life, goes on sale May 19, 2015.

Image from Shutterstock.

Apr 16 2015

32mins

Play

Rank #8: Venus and Us: Two Stories of Climate Change

Podcast cover
Read more



Venus | © NASA

Space scientists are acutely aware of what can happen when climates change in other parts of our solar system. Take Venus, where it rains sulfuric acid and is 900°F on the surface, but it wasn’t always that way. Astrophysicist Michelle Thaller talks with a NASA expert on Venus about how it became a hellscape. And she talks with the Library of Congress’ inaugural chair of astrobiology about how to grasp this new geologic era where humans cause rapid change.

Inside the Episode:
Lori Glaze, the deputy director of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA, studies Venus. Here are some fun facts about the planet often called the Morning Star:

  • It takes longer for Venus to rotate once on its axis than it does to make one trip around the sun. Meaning that Venus’ days are longer than its years.
  • After the moon, Venus is the brightest natural object in the sky.
  • It rains sulphuric acid on Venus.
  • Venus’ atmospheric pressure is 92 times what it is on Earth, which is enough to crush a human flat.
  • Surface temperatures on Venus can get up to 880 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Venus boasts tens of thousands of volcanoes on its surface.

David Grinspoon is a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Library of Congress. He’s also plays music in the House Band of the Universe.

Check out one of his band’s performances at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

David’s music is also featured in this episode of Transistor.

This episode was produced by Lauren Ober. Mix and sound design by Whitney Jones.

Feb 24 2015

17mins

Play

Rank #9: The Indiana Jones of Math

Podcast cover
Read more



Ken Golden isn’t your typical mathematician. He’s the Indiana Jones of Mathematics. He gets up from behind his desk, armed with mathematical theory and gets out into the world, having adventures and finding unifying math behind seemingly unconnected subjects.

In this episode, we find him out on the Arctic sea ice drawing on math developed for stealth technology to understand not only the ice, but the bones of people with osteoporosis.

This episode was produced by Ben Harden in 2014 for PRX’s STEM Story Project. It was hosted for this episode of Transistor by Genevieve Sponsler and mixed for Transistor by Erika Lantz.

Image by: Amanda Kowalski

Oct 05 2015

8mins

Play

Rank #10: Outside Podcast: Struck by Lightning

Podcast cover
Read more

Transistor’s mothership PRX has partnered with Outside magazine to produce four special podcast episodes on the Science of Survival. You’ll receive them in Transistor’s podcast feed, and for even more, subscribe to the Outside Podcast.

Here’s episode 2.

Most of the time, when lightning makes the news, you’re hearing about it because something really unlikely has happened. Like the park ranger who was struck by lightning seven times. Or the strike survivor who also won the lottery. This is not one of those stories. This is about Phil Broscovak and what his life was really like after he was struck.

May 19 2016

43mins

Play

Rank #11: The Ultimate Wayback Machine

Podcast cover
Read more

Looking through a telescope is like being inside a time machine — you are seeing light from the past. And some space telescopes allow astronomers to see light that is billions of years old and existed before there was an Earth or sun. Astrophysicist Michelle Thaller introduces us to scientists who started two of the most powerful telescopes, the Hubble, which launched 25 years ago, and the James Webb Space Telescope, being built right now.

Inside the Episode:

Dr. Michelle Thaller speaks with Nancy Grace Roman, the first Head of Astrophysics at NASA, about how she got interested in the stars and her time working at NASA on the Hubble Space Telescope.

Then, Dr. Thaller meets with Jane Rigby, Deputy Operations Project Scientist for The James Webb Space Telescope, the next generation of space telescope, launching in 2018. Its mirror will be seven times the size of Hubble’s and will help astronomers see farther than they’ve ever seen before. Here are some photos of their visit:



Drs. Michelle Thaller (L) and Jane Rigby look into the clean room where NASA is building the James Webb Space Telescope. This six-story room is the largest clean room in the world.



Drs. Jane Rigby (L) and Michelle Thaller gaze up at a giant piece of machinery at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center that will be used to test the James Webb Space Telescope before its launch in 2018.

This episode was produced by Lauren Ober. Mix and sound design by Whitney Jones. Photos by Lauren Ober.

Apr 02 2015

20mins

Play

Rank #12: The Poison Squad: A Chemist’s Quest for Pure Food

Podcast cover
Read more

In the fall of 1902, twelve young men in suits regularly gathered for dinners in the basement of a government building in Washington, D.C. The men ate what they were served, even though they knew that their food was spiked with poison. The mastermind behind these experiments was Harvey Washington Wiley. Before you condemn him, though, you’d be surprised to know that you probably owe him a debt of gratitude. Incidentally, Wiley is the founding father of the Food and Drug Administration.

Inside the Episode:

The intention of these experiments was not to induce digestive discomfort for its own sake. Rather, they were part of an extensive study on how chemical preservatives in food — before regulations existed — could harm human beings over time. You might cringe at what was once used to keep food “fresh.”

Producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni gave us a closer look inside the story. About diving deep into archival materials, she says,

“I spent hours [at the Library of Congress], reading thousands of [Wiley’s] letters and squinting at his tiny journals.  It is when you know every curve and squiggle of a man’s handwriting that you feel as though you’re starting to get to know him!”

One surprising fact that she discovered while researching the piece was that while Wiley’s experiments contributed so much to food regulation, today’s practices still leave something to be desired:

“…The FDA doesn’t really test food additives anymore.  There are more than five thousand additives commonly found in processed food and most of them haven’t been tested on animals and almost none (except for dietary supplements) have been tested on humans.”

Sruthi sent us some photographs of the Poison Squad, Wiley, and some (how shall I put this?) unconventional tools that were used during the experiments.

William Carter with Wiley and the Poison Squad

Wiley in his lab

A letter showing interest in participating

A fecal drying machine

“None but the brave can eat the fare.” Are you brave enough? Full serving of intrigue and radio in this piece. Bon appetit.

The Poison Squad won Best Radio & Podcast Media at the Jackson Hole Science Media Awards in 2014.

The Poison Squad was produced by Sruthi Pinnamaneni with sound design by Brendan Baker. It was hosted for this episode of Transistor by Genevieve Sponsler and mixed for Transistor by Erika Lantz.

All photos: FDA

Mar 26 2015

9mins

Play

Rank #13: Totally Cerebral: Think Pop Culture Gets Amnesia Right? Forgetaboutit!

Podcast cover
Read more

Many depictions of amnesia in TV, movies, and cartoons are just plain wrong — some laughably so.



Futurama

Host Dr.Wendy Suzuki talks with Prof. Neal Cohen, a Neuroscientist from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. For 20 years, Neal has used bad examples of amnesia that abound in pop culture as well as the rare accurate depictions as a powerful tool in his wildly popular undergraduate course about amnesia in pop culture. Neal entertains and educates his students with examples from TV shows and films as diverse as Futurama, Memento, and 50 First Dates, and we’ll hear some of those clips.

Inside the Episode:



Neal Cohen

Wendy and Neal illuminate some of the core features that define true amnesia, and discuss a classic finding that Neal published early in his career with Prof. Larry Squire, another expert on memory. They made the key distinction between “knowing how” and “knowing that.”

Most amnesic patients can’t learn or remember that particular things happened in at a particular time or in a particular place. In fact, patients with severe amnesia are no longer able to learn or remember anything about what has happened to them. However, Neal Cohen and Larry Squire showed that the same amnesic patients could learn and remember how to do things, like work a lock, or solve a puzzle with blocks, or swing a racquet. Thus, they could learn and remember how to do things, but not that those things had happened.

At the end of every class, Neal asks his students to write their own short screenplay about a character with amnesia. If you feel inspired after listening to the episode, send us an amnesia screenplay synopsis in the comments section!

This episode was hosted by Wendy Suzuki and produced by Julie Burstein, with editing and sound design by Derek John. Wendy Suzuki’s book Healthy Brain, Happy Life, goes on sale May 19, 2015.

Mar 19 2015

36mins

Play

Rank #14: Science’s Blind Spots

Podcast cover
Read more

One of the things we assign to science is that there are true, absolute facts. But scientists are human and, it turns out, as prone to blind spots in their thinking as the rest of us, especially when cultural assumptions and biases get in the way.



Emily Martin

& Richard Cone

In this episode, biologist Christina Agapakis explores ways these blind spots, especially around gender and sexism, have affected research and women’s careers in science. She talks with one of her heroes, anthropologist Emily Martin, and her husband, biophysicist Richard Cone, about Emily’s 1991 article “The Egg & The Sperm.” Reading that article about the ways cultural romantic assumptions limited scientists’ understanding of human reproduction was a turning point for Christina as a young scientist who considered her feminism as something separate from science.



Kate Clancy

She also talks with anthropologist Kate Clancy who has spent a lot of time thinking and writing about the ways women’s careers in science are different from men’s. Kate offers some thoughts on what science needs to consider to truly bring in more underrepresented voices and perspectives. New perspectives and voices in science may be key to science seeing blind spots for the first time.

Episode Extras — Your Transistor producers have picked out some further reading on this topic and how it affects both men and women:

This episode was produced by Kerry Donahue and Sruthi Pinnamaneni, and mixed by David Herman.

Music Credits:

Hauschka: “Cube” from Salon des amateurs

Anna Meredith: “Bubble Gun” from Jet Black Raider

Four Tet: “As Serious As Your Life” from Rounds

Not Waving: “Two-Way Mirror” from Intercepts

Laurie Spiegel: “Patchwork” from The Expanding Universe

May 14 2015

16mins

Play

Rank #15: Nautilus special: “To Save California, Read Dune”

Podcast cover
Read more

The sci-fi epic of Dune takes place on a desert planet. There, the water in even a single tear is precious. Can Dune offer lessons for drought-stricken California of 2015?

This is a special episode featuring science magazine Nautilus.

This episode was produced for PRX and Nautilus by David Schulman.

Nov 05 2015

20mins

Play

Rank #16: Trace Elements: Mystery at the Lake

Podcast cover
Read more



Lake Oneida on April 24, 2016. Photo by Carl Hagmann

Special episode #4 featuring Trace Elements with Cristina Quinn and Alison Bruzek. In the 1970s, a geochemist and a biologist banded together to solve a mystery at Lake Oneida in upstate New York. What they found is changing the way we think about human life, and where the origins of life come from.

Guests:

Kenneth Nealson, professor, University of Southern California

Willard Moore, professor emeritus, University of South Carolina

Apr 21 2016

14mins

Play

Rank #17: A Rainbow of Noise

Podcast cover
Read more

Everybody knows about white noise — that sound that comes out of your TV when it’s not working quite right. But there are many other colors of noise, too: pink, brown, blue, and purple. Marnie Chesterton brings us this story on the colorful science of sound.

Play with your own noisy rainbow — and learn more about each color — by clicking here:

Inside the Episode:

We meet Shelley, who uses pink noise to drown out the constant ringing in her head (tinnitus); Professor Trevor Cox at the Acoustic Engineering group at Salford explains why engineers need to classify different frequencies this way; and Cyrus Shahrad, electronic music producer, whose love of brown noise filters through into his work.



Producer/reporter Marnie Chesterton

We asked Marnie how she got interested in making a story about the science of sound.

She tells us that she came across this story idea after having heard about pink noise. She began an investigation sparked by her own curiosity about the spectrum of sound: “I started unpicking the stories of different colours of sound, mainly by talking about this topic to everyone I could think of,” she recounts. “After a few chats with various academics, I came to Professor Trevor Cox, an acoustic engineer at Salford University, who is obsessed with qualities of sound – reverb, echo.”



Prof. Trevor Cox

Through Trevor Cox, Chesterson got a first-hand look at an anechoic chamber, a whole room constructed to deaden any type of sound whatsoever. She describes the room as the most bizarre one she’s been in for a while: “The walls and ceiling are covered with these meter-long, dark grey foam spikes, and the floor, if you can call it that, is a mesh a bit like that of a trampoline. Through the holes in the floor, I could see down into darkness, maybe more foam spikes.”

Imagine a room that is so silent that the sounds seem to come from your own head. Chesterson explains, “The brain’s response to that kind of silence is to fill it with something, anything. And that’s what tinnitus is.”

If you’re interested in exploring the different bands of sound described in Chesterson’s story, you can play with the companion interactive rainbow of noise. Listen to which bands are used to treat tinnitus, to describe regime shifts in climate, to help sirens cut through background noise, and more.

A Rainbow of Noise was produced by Marnie Chesterton and mixed by Henry Hocking. It was hosted for this episode of Transistor by Genevieve Sponsler and mixed by Erika Lantz.

Mar 13 2015

10mins

Play

Rank #18: 700 Fathoms Under the Sea

Podcast cover
Read more



This 1948 graphic shows sound traveling on an axis 700 fathoms down in the Atlantic.

Something unusual happens about a half mile under the sea. Ocean physics create a special zone where sound travels for hundreds, even thousands of miles. Whales use it, and cold warriors plumbed its secrets. Listen in:

This story was produced by David Schulman in 2014. It was hosted for Transistor by Genevieve Sponsler and mixed for Transistor by Josh Swartz.

Feb 07 2017

8mins

Play

Rank #19: This is Crohn’s Disease

Podcast cover
Read more

Producer/reporter Jack Rodolico and his wife, Christina.

Told by the couple who lived it, this is a story of how Crohn’s disease can change lives when you least expect it. And it’s a story of how science can present multiple paths to — hopefully — relief or recovery.

What’s it like making a very personal radio piece about your spouse? Jack Rodolico shares it all in this special follow-up article.

For more on treatments for illnesses like Crohn’s and C. diff, listen to The Straight Poop. Our microbiologist host visits a fecal transplant bank north of Boston and shares some of the questions surrounding this experimental treatment.

This is Crohn’s Disease was reported and produced by Jack Rodolico in 2014 for PRX’S STEM Story Project. It was hosted for this episode of Transistor by Genevieve Sponsler and mixed for Transistor by Erika Lantz.

Photo of Christina and Jack by Shelley Fajans.

Jun 11 2015

20mins

Play

Rank #20: Peeing in Your Pants… In Your 30s

Podcast cover
Read more

Some studies suggest that one out of 10 women in her 30s is peeing herself. Others say the numbers could be much much higher. But it’s tough to talk about. Producer Lauren Whaley shares her story and the scientific approaches to hopefully one day solving this problem.

Aug 06 2016

9mins

Play

No Inoculation without Representation!

Podcast cover
Read more

Vaccinations, in one form or another, have been around longer than the United States. In fact, during the Revolutionary War in 1776, future first lady Abigail Adams pursued the controversial scientific technique to protect her 5 children against a threat more dangerous than an army of Redcoats. Here’s Luke Quinton with the story.

Nov 13 2017

9mins

Play

Cosmic Ray Catchers

Podcast cover
Read more

Cosmic rays from outer space sound like science fiction. They’re not—invisible particles flung from outer space pass through our bodies every minute. But not all cosmic rays are equal; Some are immensely powerful and very rare. For decades scientists have wondered where they're coming from – and what could possibly be hurling them at Earth. Now, they're getting closer to finding out.  Ross Chambless has the story.

Oct 30 2017

10mins

Play

Three Letters on Broom Bridge

Podcast cover
Read more

Every October 16th hundreds of people gather in Dublin to celebrate Ireland's greatest mathematician, William Rowan Hamilton. And get this – It was his act of vandalism on Broom Bridge in 1843 that put him in the history books – it actually changed mathematics forever. Samuel Hanson brings us the story.

Oct 16 2017

10mins

Play

After A Flood

Podcast cover
Read more

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma left devastation in their wake all across the southern United States as unimaginable quantities of water swallowed up small towns and cities alike. But what happens to that water and how can cities better prepare ahead of time? Two years ago, reporter Jenny Chen followed two so-called flood hydrologists to learn more about the preparation.

Oct 02 2017

9mins

Play

Bowl Tastes Delicious

Podcast cover
Read more

What if the size of our dinner plate, its color, the material of our cutlery - even background sounds - all affect how our food tastes? In other words, what if it’s not just about what we cooked for dinner, but the context of the meal itself?

Reporter Quentin Cooper brings us this story.

Sep 18 2017

10mins

Play

Hurry Up and Listen

Podcast cover
Read more

Underneath our vrooms, beeps, and rumbles, natural sound may be more important than we think.

Sep 04 2017

10mins

Play

A Job for the Bee Team

Podcast cover
Read more

On May 2, 2015, beekeepers Pam Arnold and Kristy Allen got hit with a pesticide. They couldn't see it or smell it, but when they saw their bees writhing on the ground and dying they knew something was seriously wrong. They called a panel of scientists at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Aug 21 2017

10mins

Play

An Ovarian Transplant Between Twins

Podcast cover
Read more

Thirty-six-year-old twins Carol and Katy are physically identical in every way but one: Katy was born without ovaries, and wanted to start a family. The science and ethics behind ovarian transplants as a treatment for infertility.

Aug 08 2017

11mins

Play

Tick Tock Biological Clock

Podcast cover
Read more

The headlines are often full of advice for women about when they should have children. Marnie Chesterton goes digging into the fertility stats and myths for modern women. Prepare to be surprised.

May 17 2017

11mins

Play

Owning the Clouds

Podcast cover
Read more

Humans have always been interested in controlling the weather. In the past we used raindances and sacrifices; today we turn to science. Cloud seeding is practiced all over the world, but there's still a lot we don't know about it. Delve into the surprising history, the controversial present, and the uncertain future of cloud seeding.

Apr 28 2017

10mins

Play

Spotting Fake Art -- with Math

Podcast cover
Read more

Visual stylometry is a branch of mathematics that can determine the style of a particular artist’s body of work.

Apr 03 2017

7mins

Play

Engineering NYC from Below

Podcast cover
Read more

Head underground to hear how some of the first subways were built, and how they are built today.

This story was originally produced by Bishop Sand in 2013. It was hosted for Transistor by Genevieve Sponsler and mixed for Transistor by Josh Swartz.

Image: CC BY-SA 3.0 Adam E. Moreira | Music: Whurlywind from Podington Bear

Mar 09 2017

10mins

Play

700 Fathoms Under the Sea

Podcast cover
Read more



This 1948 graphic shows sound traveling on an axis 700 fathoms down in the Atlantic.

Something unusual happens about a half mile under the sea. Ocean physics create a special zone where sound travels for hundreds, even thousands of miles. Whales use it, and cold warriors plumbed its secrets. Listen in:

This story was produced by David Schulman in 2014. It was hosted for Transistor by Genevieve Sponsler and mixed for Transistor by Josh Swartz.

Feb 07 2017

8mins

Play

Sidedoor from the Smithsonian: Shake it Up

Podcast cover
Read more

For the next few episodes, we’re featuring the Smithsonian’s new series, Sidedoor, about where science, art, history, and humanity unexpectedly overlap — just like in their museums.

In this episode: an astronomer has turned the night sky into a symphony; an architecture firm has radically re-thought police stations; and an audiophile builds a successful record company on under-appreciated sounds.

For even more from Sidedoor, subscribe in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

Music credits under backannounce: “Candy” by Jahzzar.

Jan 20 2017

24mins

Play

Sidedoor from the Smithsonian: Butting Heads

Podcast cover
Read more

For the next few episodes, we’re featuring the Smithsonian’s new series, Sidedoor, about where science, art, history, and humanity unexpectedly overlap — just like in their museums.

In this episode: two besties turn into lifelong enemies over a dining room; a researcher embraces the panda craze; and why some dinosaur skulls were built to take a beating.

For even more from Sidedoor, subscribe in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

Music credits under backannounce: “Walking Barefoot On Grass” by Kai Engel.

Dec 09 2016

19mins

Play

Sidedoor from the Smithsonian: Masters of Disguise

Podcast cover
Read more

For the next few episodes, we’re featuring select episodes from the Smithsonian’s new series, Sidedoor, about where science, art, history, humanity and where they unexpectedly overlap — just like their museums. Up first: tales of scientific deception and trickery.

For even more from Sidedoor, subscribe in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

Dec 01 2016

19mins

Play

Dance: It’s Only Human

Podcast cover
Read more



Bronwyn Tarr with Carimbó dancers.

Oxford evolutionary neuroscientist Bronwyn Tarr was in a remote area of Brazil to begin an experiment. On her first night there, she heard distant drumbeats, went looking for them, and experienced firsthand what she was there to study: how dancing develops a sense of community.

This story was produced by Katie Burke in 2015 with the assistance of Jagmeet Mac, and edited by Andrea Mustain. It was hosted for Transistor by Genevieve Sponsler and mixed for Transistor by Josh Swartz.

Image by: José Roberto Corrêa

Nov 11 2016

10mins

Play

The Words are a Jumble

Podcast cover
Read more

Vissarion Shebalin was not a great composer. But his music could unlock an important truth about how the brain processes music and language.

This story was produced by Tobin Low in 2015 and edited by Andrea Mustain. It was hosted for Transistor by Genevieve Sponsler and mixed for Transistor by Josh Swartz.

Oct 20 2016

10mins

Play

The Art and Science of Polynesian Wayfinding

Podcast cover
Read more

Ancient navigators traveled across the Pacific without the aid of maps or instruments. We’ll hear from modern-day navigators in New Zealand, Hawai’i and North America about the techniques used to do so. This is the art and science of Polynesian wayfinding, brought to us by producer Lily Bui.

This story was produced by Lily Bui in 2015 and edited by Andrea Mustain. It was hosted for Transistor by Genevieve Sponsler and mixed for Transistor by Josh Swartz. Image by Lily Bui.

Sep 21 2016

11mins

Play

Remaking the Science Fair

Podcast cover
Read more

This episode is brought to you by… science fair memories. I (your host Genevieve) remember being inspired to create my sixth grade science fair project by a visit to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia (more on that below).

I found this piece from Adam Hochberg in our archive. It’s about schools remaking science fairs to include more actual science and less papier-mâché volcanos. Enjoy!

As mentioned in the episode, here’s a photo of my Rube Goldberg machine that I built after seeing Newton’s Dream — a large contraption of golf balls moving along tracks — at the Franklin Institute. My version is obviously a bit simpler: drop a ball from the top, and it would roll through the pipe to flip a die suspended on a pipe cleaner inside the box box.

Here’s a video of Netwon’s Dream. Jump to about 21 seconds to see it more in action.

What inspired you to create when you were a child? Do you have a favorite science fair project you’ve seen or done? Share your #sciencefairmemory with me in the comments below or @TransistorShow.

The story in this podcast was produced by Adam Hochberg in 2013. It was hosted for Transistor by Genevieve Sponsler and mixed for Transistor by Josh Swartz.

Photo copyright Genevieve Sponsler.

Sep 02 2016

7mins

Play

iTunes Ratings

42 Ratings
Average Ratings
25
12
4
0
1

This rocks

By morphy232 - Mar 17 2016
Read more
Love love love the trace elements series. Cristina Quinn and Alison Bruzek rock it.

Inspiring, intelligent, interesting

By mdvmcr - Jun 12 2015
Read more
Smart, interesting and I always come away with something I want to research more. Excellent!!