In this episode we’ll explore humanity’s, and the entire animal kingdom’s, fraught relationship with its closest biological cousins, fungi. We will hear about how we can’t live without them, how they’re trying to wipe us off the face of the planet, and how at least one company thinks they’re the key to changing how we view our own mortality.
This one of our largest single episodes, comprised of four parts!
First, Dr. Dennis Desjardin of San Francisco State University will tell us about his lifelong relationship with fungi and some of the bizarre organisms he has discovered. Next, we’ll talk to Dr. Margo Daub of North Carolina State University about a deadly pathogen that threatens our food security. Third, we will hear from Dr. Anita Sil of UCSF about a deadly fungus that uses our own immune system against us, and finally, Claire McNamara from the startup Coeio will explain how their product can leverage the power of fungi to create a radical shift in our view on death.
In this episode we bring back Professor Terrence Deacon, a biological anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley, to talk about language. He tells us one possible story of how language first evolved, and why he believes language is a uniquely human capability. Listen to find out how language is about a lot more than just speech.
In Part 2 of “How to Build a Human”, we continue our investigation of our unique features that set us apart from other animals. We spoke to Dr. Nathan Young from the University of California San Francisco, who studies the development of the human skeleton and looks at how the variations in our skeletal structure have contributed to our evolution and the development of human civilization.
We humans like to think of ourselves as pretty different from other animals. Language, philosophy, art, technology - we do things it seems like no other animal is capable of. But what makes us this way? In part one of our investigation, we focus on two features of the brain that seem to be particular to people. We start with Arnold Kriegstein of the University of California, San Francisco, who studies a type of stem cell that does something special during human brain development. We then turn to Kira Poskanzer and Anna Molofsky, also of UCSF, who believe the secret to human-ness might lie with a totally different, often neglected kind of brain cell.
Science journalism generally focuses on new discoveries. But this leaves out a part of the process that will make or break you as a scientist: how do you come up with the right questions to ask in the first place? In today’s episode, we talk to Charles Zuker of Columbia University about this process. Listen to find out the two questions he asks to determine whether an experiment is worth doing.
Our ability to diagnose and treat disorders of the mind lags far behind other medical disciplines. For our latest episode, we talked to Dr. Matthew State about why this is the case, and discussed how his research into the genetics of autism is revealing promising paths to future treatments.
Ready to get blasted with science? We recorded five different PhD students as they summarized their entire thesis in 3 minutes or less. The challenge was to describe their research with as little jargon as possible, for a general audience. You’ll hear about everything from cancer, to the developing embryo, to how dieting might make you smarter.
Humankind is fascinated by origin stories. We find them everywhere and they come in many forms... every religion has one, science has lots, they're in biographies, and they're even in superhero movies.
In this episode, Dr. Terry Deacon, a biological anthropologist at UC Berkeley, guides us through a novel perspective on how life itself might have started.
Constellation - Podington Bear
Dreamlike - Kevin Macleod
Erratum: Soccer balls have both hexagons and pentagons!
On average, five pounds of our body weight is made up of bacteria. But what are they doing there? Do they keep us healthy, make us sick, or are they just along for the ride? In this two-part episode, we will explore the mysterious and complex function of these microscopic critters that collectively make up our micro biome.
In part 1, we talk with Katie Pollard, a UCSF professor who studies the microbiome. Katie explains the current state of microbiome research and how critical her work is to forming appropriate conclusions about the relationship between our microbial ecosystem and disease.
In part 2, we take a plunge into a man's toilet bowl! (Not-so-average) Joe Hiatt shares an audio diary of his experiences with two extreme diets and the changes he sees in his microbiome. Join him as he chronicles both his bathroom habits along with his microbial diversity.
For our fourth and most delicious Bite yet, we take a journey through the five basic tastes guided by Dr. Gary Beauchamp. Together we investigate why the things that we eat and drink have different tastes, and what it means to taste something in the first place.