Sunday, May 22, 2011

Listening ideas for 22 May 2011

Don't Fear the Reaper
This weekend on Tapestry Mary Hynes delves into questions of the afterlife - how our ideas of heaven and hell evolved through history and across cultures. She speaks with journalist Lisa Miller about her book Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife. She also hears from Eileen Gardiner who runs a website called Hell On Line. And finally she talks with Jeff Greenberg, a psychologist who specializes in death anxiety - our fear of the unknown.
(review, feed)

Philosophy Bites
David Eagleman on Morality and the Brain
Neuroscientist David Eagleman explores questions about responsibility and culpability in the light of recent brain research in this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast. Philosophy Bites is made in association with the Institute of Philosophy.
(review, feed)

Veertien Achttien
István Tisza en de bijval in des keizers kantlijn
'Zo moest het wel eindigen', zijn in november 1918 de laatste woorden van István Tisza. In juli 1914 ging hij om: ook de premier van Hongarije legde zich bij de noodzaak van oorlog neer.
(review, feed)

Kritisch Denken
Was dat de oorsprong van het leven?
Het is paradoxaal dat terwijl onze toonaangevende microbiologen de bouwstenen van het leven in aardse labs proberen te creëren, ons heelal vol zit met de bestanddelen voor DNA en RNA. De reusachtige gasnevels in de ruimte zijn gevuld met suikers die ribose kunnen vormen - de ruggengraat van RNA. Er is geen rationele reden waarom het systeem van DNA en RNA, dat het leven op aarde heeft vormgegeven, beperkt zou blijven tot onze afgelegen biosfeer.
(review, feed)

A podcast on climate, energy and food - Saeed Ahmed guest post

I am very happy and proud to present you another guest post by Saeed Ahmed. Saeed is a psychiatrist, a Pakistani by origin who lives and works in the US, where he has also received his professional training. He is a very thorough podcast listener, taking on themes and building wide playlists around them. Or he takes on podcast university courses and carefully goes through the whole series.


Despite the fact that food and energy are probably the two most important "things" (after air and water) for us to live, a remarkably small number of available academic podcasts have focused on these. Classes on environment may mention or perhaps spend a few lectures on these, but in general these don't get a comprehensive treatment. Furthermore it is shocking how few non-academic podcasts are devoted to these topics, although you'll find science podcasts will cover these sporadically.

It may be of some interest to podcast listeners to check out BIBC 140: "Introduction to Biofuels" by Stephen Mayfield, currently offered from UCSD (feed). As with other UCSD podcasts, if you are interested in this, get it now, before it might disappear (although I hope it is one of the one's they retain, and both the material and delivery is excellent.

Everyone has heard of global warming by now (despite the best efforts of Fox News), but how many people realize that this is the century when many things we take for granted will start to run out? Peak oil in the US occured in the 1970s, and worldwide peak oil is probably occurring now (there is some dispute about this, because for a variety of reasons, oil-producing countries and companies are not very transparent about the reserves they control). But peak oil isn't all we have to worry about; there is peak coal, and peak gas, and peak phosporus. Peak phosphorus? Turns out it is may become one of the rate limiters in food production. Food and fuel are more tied together than ever before. The reason food is comparatively cheap is because of fossil fuel. Locovores may be on to something, despite what some pundits say, who discount the transportation element, which is going to become much more expensive. On the flip side, renewables aren't cost-effective yet. But things are improving. Storage, intermittency, and grid issues limit growth here. At some point in the not to distant future, they will catch up economically.

Mayfield covers these topics and their interrelationships systematically and comprehensively, occasionally with the help of other lecturers. It seems to, given where we are in the early part of the 21st century, we may all benefit from learning about this material (even if much of it is very scary). In addition, I believe that after listening to these lectures, many items in the news and market trends become much more comprehensible, and often faulty analyses by medial talking-heads become more apparent.