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UnDisciplined: The Microbial Pathologist And The Computational Social Scientist

Peter Dazeley / Getty Images
One of our guests this week analyzed the spread of misinformation during the 2016 presidential election, and uncovered some surprising patterns in the way "fake news" is spread.

This week on UnDisciplined, we're talking about two ideas that fly in the face of conventional thought. One of our guests will tell us about the creatures in our gut — bacteria. The other will talk about an idea in many of our heads about how fake news impacts the political process.

Both say we might not have the picture quite right. 

Joining us today is June Round, an associate professor in the department of pathology at the University of Utah. In a recent paper, published in the journal Science, her team identified a specific class of gut bacteria that prevents mice from becoming obese. 

With us on the line from Boston, where she is a postdoctoral researcher working on questions of behavior at Northeastern University, is Lisa Friedland. She was one of the authors on a recent paper, also published in Science, that found engagement with fake news sources during the 2016 election cycle was extremely concentrated — perhaps far more than most people think. 

Matthew LaPlante has reported on ritual infanticide in Northern Africa, insurgent warfare in the Middle East, the legacy of genocide in Southeast Asia, and gang violence in Central America. But a few years back, something donned on him: Maybe the news doesn't have to be brutally depressing all the time. Today, he balances his continuing work on more heartbreaking subjects by writing books about the intersection of science, human health and society, including the New York Times best-selling Lifespan with geneticist David Sinclair and the Nautilus Award-winning Longevity Plan with cardiologist John Day. His first solo book, Superlative, looks at what scientists are learning by studying organisms that have evolved in record-setting ways, and his is currently at work on another book about embracing the inevitability of human-caused climate change with an optimistic outlook on the future.