UnDisciplined

Fridays at 2:00 p.m.

Each week, UnDisciplined takes a fun, fascinating and accessible dive into the lives of researchers and explorers working across a wide variety of scientific field

HungTang Ko and David Hu, Journal of the Royal Society Interface

  Since the unification of the northern and southern dynasties in China 1,500 years ago, Chinese chefs have been making fried rice. And if you have never stopped to watch a master chef go to work preparing this dish, you are missing out.

Fried rice is prepared in a wok using a tossing technique that enables food to cook without burning at temperatures of 1,200 degrees Celsius — that’s 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit.

And there is a deep, beautiful, ancient art to this. But as our guest will explain, there’s a whole lot of science, too.

We all know that meals bring people together. But when it comes to building trust and cooperation, it turns out that not all meals are created equal. And this week on the program, we're talking to a researcher whose work has shown that people eating from shared serving plates are more likely to work together rather than compete. 

Ted Eytan, creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

We're talking to two mathematicians who have harnessed the power of numbers to solve one of the biggest challenges of the kitchen: how to cook a perfect steak. And yes, this is a fun and whimsical use of math, but it's also a true accomplishment in macromolecular science.

Mary Cassatt, The Child's Bath. 1893. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Today on the program, we are talking to Jill Suitor, one of the founders of a nearly 20 year old study focused on the relationships parents have with their adult children and, in particular, their favorite children. Yes, it's true parents have favorites. And children are often wrong about who that favorite is.

Linnaea Mallette, creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

This week on Undisciplined, we’re talking about the ways in which being innocent of a crime could make someone more likely to confess. And if that sounds like something that might only happen under really extreme circumstances, consider this: in nearly a third of the convictions that are later overturned by DNA evidence, the person who was convicted had at some point confessed to the crime.

Tony Iwane, creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

This week on Undisciplined, we’re talking about one of the world’s most poisonous creatures. Now, maybe right now you’re thinking of a snake. Or a jellyfish. Or a little yellow frog. And those are all good guesses. But the toxin that Charles Hanifin is studying might be even more powerful than the toxins that come from any of those animals. And its source might surprise you.  

Kevin Spencer, creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

This week on Undisciplined, we’re talking about jargon — specialized words or expressions that are used by people in a particular profession and which are difficult for other to understand. The sciences are particularly replete with these words, and that’s not a small problem. Our guest this week is a communications professor who says that insider language tells people that they don’t belong.  

Stephen J. Otero

This week on Undisciplined, in the wake of the devastating wildfires in Australia, we’re talking about setting fires to avoid fires. And if that sounds counterintuitive and even dangerous to you, then you’re not alone. Because even though prescribed burning has been shown to be very effective at reducing wildfire risks, it remains an underutilized tactic, in part because of the perceived risks.  

WildEarth Guardians, creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

This week on Undisciplined, we’re going to talk about climate solutions. And here’s the curveball: while you might think that politically conservative states are an unlikely place to find a science-backed roadmap for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, that might not be the case.   

John Englart, creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

This week on the program, we’re going to solve a puzzle. Or, we’re going to try, at least. And here’s the challenge: how do you communicate the depth and gravity and overwhelming scientific consensus on the changes that are coming for our world without making people throw their hands up in despair?  

Steve Strauss, creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

When we told psychologist Joshua Jackson that we were going to ask him to have a discussion with an expert in tree genetics, he wasn’t sure how it would go. But after the conversation, Jackson marvelled at just how interconnected their two worlds of research were. 

We think you will, too.

This week on the program, we’re talking about how to use genetics to reduce pollution. Then we’re going to talk about how words that convey emotion overlap and diverge as they evolve in different languages. And then, as we’re wont to do, we’re going to bring these two very different areas of research together.  

U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory

This week on Undisciplined, we’re talking about “Project Iceworm,” a secret U.S. government project to build nuclear launch sites in northern Greenland back in the 1960s. Now the project site is getting a renewed look by scientists, thanks to a 1.3-kilometer-long ice core sample that was extracted from the site and kept in storage for more than 50 years. What secrets does it hold?

Lorie Shaull, creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

This week on Undisciplined, we’re talking about the impact of sports on human behavior and impact of chaos on plants, with guests whose fields couldn’t be more different. Or, at least, that’s what it looks like at first.

James Joel, creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

This week on Undisciplined, we’re talking about the black market exchange of diabetes medications in the United States and the evolution of vocal traits of a small, nocturnal primate in Indonesia, with guests whose work is very different, but whose drive to ask and answer complicated questions is very much the same.

Stony Brook University

This week on UnDisciplined, we're talking about the discovery of an essential element for life on a meteorite, using A.I. for archaeology, and vampire bat buddies. It's time for the monthly science news roundup. 

We're joined this month by Mirella Meyer-Ficca of Utah State University, who first joined us last year to talk about her team's work to genetically engineer a mouse that is dependent on niacin in the same way as humans.

STEVE GSCHMEISSNER/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

It's the October science news roundup! This month, we're talking about the little tiny monsters of the present, the really big monsters of the past, the really scary things people do on Earth, and the even scarier stuff out there in outer space. 

Woman with net stands in high elevation grassland with green hills in the background
Joan Meiners

This week on UnDisciplined, we're talking about bee biodiversity, blood platelets, genetic engineering, environmental journalism, the fast-changing world of medicine, and the future of our planet. 

InChemistry

This week on UnDisciplined, we're talking about risk and, as we like to do, we're coming to that idea from two very different directions. One of our guests studies aquatic predators, like sharks, in an effort to better understand their role in the global ecosystem. The other creates transgenic organisms, like goats with spider genes, in an effort to build new knowledge and solve old problems. 

Earth.com

This week on UnDisciplined, we're talking about risk reduction. 

First, we'll talk to a researcher who wants to know how to get people who are at risk of skin cancer to stay out of the sun. Then we'll chat with a scientist who believes a simple drop of medicine under the tongue could protect children who have peanut allergies. 

Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

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.

Heiko Kiera / Fotalia

This week on the show, we're talking about the science behind Hurricane Dorian, a "rat-pocalypse," a new human ancestor, and poison dart frogs. Everybody on the show is an expert on something, but none of them is an expert on those things. 

KPFA

This week on UnDisciplined, we're talking to a researcher who's demonstrated that some insects may actually benefit from pesticides. Then, we'll chat with a string theorist who is uncoupling ideas about the universe faster than you can say "Nikulin involution."

Lifespanbook.com

What if aging wasn't inevtiable? What if being 90 felt pretty much the same as being 40, just with a few extra decades of life experience? And what if the science that gets us to that point in human history wasn't the subject of speculative fiction — what if it was real? 

Andrew Sutton / Shutterstock via BBC Earth

This week on UnDisciplined, we're talking about movement. Our first guest is a scientist whose research is helping us understand the ways the world's largest animal moves its body. Our second guest is a researcher whose recent studies uncover the ways animals are moved as part of complex global trafficking networks. 

Phys.Org

This week on UnDisciplined, we're talking about the shape of the Milky Way Galaxy, life on the Moon, a poorly-timed tweet, and the potential impact of artificial intelligence on Hollywood. That's right, it's time for the monthly science news roundup! 

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