Thursday, April 7, 2011

Listening ideas for 7 April 2011

Exploring Environmental History
Energy utopia or dystopia? - A historical perspective on nuclear energy
For the past decade nuclear energy has been increasingly promoted as a carbon neutral source of energy. The Japanese Tsunami of March 2011 threw a spanner in the works when the Fukushima One nuclear power plant was flooded destroying its cooling system. The accident highlighted the potential hidden risks of nuclear technologies and fuelled fear of radiation and contamination of the environment with nuclear materials among the general public. Considering past nuclear incidents it is doubtful if the Fukushima emergency will prevent the construction nuclear plants in the long run. On this episode of the podcast Horace Herring of the Open University in Britain will explore the utopian origins of nuclear energy and how it became a dystopian illusion. He argues that economics and distrust in science and big government undermined nuclear energy more than environmental or health concerns.
(review, feed)

Science Talk aka Scientific American Podcast
Can It Be Bad To Be Too Clean?: The Hygiene Hypothesis
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine researcher Kathleen Barnes talks about the Hygiene Hypothesis, which raises the possibility that our modern sterile environment may contribute to conditions such as asthma and eczema.
(review, feed)

Ben Laurence discusses collective action
In this episode, Ben Laurence discusses the difference between what an individual person does and what a group of people does.
(review, feed)

Fresh Air
Why The Future Of Yemen Is So Important
Story: New Yorker writer Dexter Filkins recently returned from Yemen, where he met with demonstrators who have called for President Ali Abdullah Saleh's immediate resignation. Filkins explains why Yemen's uprisings are particularly worrisome for U.S. counterterrorism officials.
(review, feed)

The Economist
Ginny Hill on Yemen's uprising
Despite a bloody crackdown, protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh continue across Yemen. Could democracy emerge from the unrest?
(review, feed)

London School of Economics: Public lectures and events
The End of Remembering
Once upon a time remembering was everything. Today, we have endless mountains of documents, the Internet and ever-present smart phones to store our memories. As our culture has transformed from one that was fundamentally based on internal memories to one that is fundamentally based on memories stored outside the brain, what are the implications for ourselves and for our society? What does it mean that we've lost our memory? Joshua Foer studied evolutionary biology at Yale University and is now a freelance science journalist, writing for the National Geographic and New York Times among others. Researching an article on the U.S. Memory Championships, Foer became intrigued by the potential of his own memory. After just one year of training and learning about the art and science of memory, he won the following year's Championship. Foer is the founder of the Athanasius Kircher Society, an organization dedicated to 'all things wondrous, curious and esoteric' and the Atlas Obscura, an online travel guide to the world's oddities. Moonwalking with Einstein is his first book.
(review, feed)

New Books in Public Policy

One of the new podcasts that come out of the recently instituted New Books Network is New Books in Public Policy. On this show that has produced three interesting issues already, Tevi Troy interviews the authors of recently published books in this field. (feed)

The first two issues immediately reveal a theme that Troy is engaged in: the dangerous consequences of unscientific medicine in general and the anti-vaccine movement in particular. He had first Robert Goldberg on the show to talk about his research into the workings of the internet as a source for medical information. Although also the scientifically supported medicine is described on the internet, the medium is giving equal footing to quackeries. At best this gives the uninformed public an illusion of two equally valuable perspectives, but frequently, the unscientific is propagated if only for the attention effect it can resort. Goldberg's opinion is that this is done for profit and for fear mongering.

The other interview was with Dr. Paul Offit which explicitly looks at the anti-vaccine movement. His point is that among specialists there is not a shadow of a doubt that vaccines are much needed and basically harmless. He describes the awful consequences of the diminishing percentages of people who have their children not vaccinated. Not only do these children get sick and often suffer terrible long-term handicaps or even death, but in general the population is less well protected than a decade ago. Diseases that could have been exterminated by now are in fact returning.

Troy is a very engaged interviewer which makes this podcast a valuable addition to the NBN.