Do monkeys know how much fruit your sunglasses are worth? In episode 96 of Parsing Science, we talk with Jean-Baptiste “JB” Leca about his field research observing interactions among macaques at a Hindu temple in Bali. There, the monkeys have learned to rob tourists of everything from smartphones to flip flops, and then barter their return to temple staff in exchange for food.
In episode 94, we talk with Lindy McBride and Zhilei Zhao from Princeton about their research into how mosquitoes that can carry dangerous diseases such as Zika, dengue, West Nile virus and malaria are able to track us down so quickly while ignoring other warm-blooded animals.
In episode 93, Luke Cuddy from Southwestern College’s philosophy program talks about the video game ‘The Witness,’ which presents players with a multitude of increasingly sophisticated and frustrating puzzles that perhaps result from a theory of knowledge it reflects.
What effect did copying the U.S.’s legal system have on Colombia’s incarceration system? In episode 92, Ángela Zorro Medina discusses her research into how transitioning to an adversarial model of criminal procedure – one controlled by the prosecutor and defense, rather than by the judge and court – impacted the number of inmates detained before their court trials.
Are automated bots on social media having extraordinary influence on our political discourse? In episode 91, Emilio Ferrara from the University of Southern California discusses about his research into the prevalence of bots and the injection of conspiracies theories across more than 240 million tweets regarding the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
In episode 90, Eric Tourigny from Newcastle University’s School of History, Classics and Archaeology discusses his research into historic pet cemeteries and how they reveal our evolving feelings toward these animals, from beloved pets to valued family members with whom we may hope to reunify in an afterlife.
How can drones help us find settlements long-lost to time? In episode 89, Jesse Casana from Dartmouth College’s Department of Anthropology discusses his research into using multi-sensor drones to collect data about a major Native American settlement in what is now Southeastern Kansas.
How did the earliest and largest clusters of galaxies form? In episode 88, Arianna Long from the University California – Irvine discusses her research into the emergence of massive dusty star-forming galaxies which developed billions of years ago.
How could a gene that causes one type of ALS be switched off? In episode 87, Tim Miller from the Washington University in St. Louis discusses his research into therapies that target the single strands of DNA or RNA which cause many cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Can Can we knowingly fake ourselves out? In episode 86 of Parsing Science we talk with Darwin Guevarra from Michigan State University about his research exploring how placebos sometimes have the power to reduce neural markers of emotional distress, even in cases in which people are told told that they’re only taking a placebo rather than an active drug.
How are Black women using social media to develop community and identity? In episode 85 we talk with Kyesha Jennings from North Carolina State University about her analysis of what the wildly popular meme “hot girl summer” – drawn from lyrics by hip-hop phenomenon, Megan Thee Stallion – tells us about changes in the ways in which Black women cultivate community in digital spaces.
Should I have done something differently? Or could nobody have seen it coming? In episode 84 Tori Howes and Ed Kausel join us to discuss their research into the malleability of narcissists’ memory, as well as whether they’re able to reflect on their mistakes to learn from them.
Why do religious leaders abstain from some pleasures? In episode 83, Manvir Singh discusses his research into why shaman healers among the a group of people off the coast of Indonesia observe costly prohibitions, such abstinence or food restrictions, especially given that they could exploit their position for self-serving ends instead.
Does spanking really have lasting impacts on kids’ later lives? In episode 82, Nicole Barbaro from Western Governors University Labs talks with us about her research into the factors that determine the answer to this question.
Tim Tangherlini discusses his research into how conspiracy theorists interpret and use what they believe is “hidden knowledge” to connect multiple human interactions that are otherwise unlinked … and how when one of these links is cut, they’re less able to hold together a coherent story about it.
How do our brains respond when people behave in unpredictable ways? In episode 80, Jordan Theriault from Northeastern University discusses his research into a set of brain regions which, when activated by a variety of social tasks, can provide insights into how we judge the moral objectivity or subjectivity of others’ unexpected claims.
What’s that on your breath? In episode 79 of Parsing Science we talk with Neil Garg from UCLA about his research into the fundamental chemistry necessary for the creation of a small, electronic test of marijuana that works by way of a simple electrochemical oxidation process similar to that used in an alcohol breath test.
What if mosquitos weren’t just annoying bugs, but instead were bio-inspiring features? In episode 78, we talk with Richard Bomphrey from the University of London’s Royal Veterinary College about how mosquitoes can detect surfaces using the airflow caused by the movement of their own wings … and the autonomous drones he developed to mimic them.
What impact did Black politicians have during the Reconstruction? In episode 77, Trevon Logan from The Ohio State University’s Department of Economics discusses his research into the election of Black politicians after the Civil War ended in 1865, which led to increased tax revenues that were put toward public schools and land ownership reform. White Southerners, however, reversed that progress just 12 years later, augmenting the systematic disenfranchisement of African Americans that remains today.
In episode 75, Daniel Field from the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge discusses his research into a 66.7-million-year-old bird fossil which mashes up features from chickens, turkeys, and ducks, providing the best evidence so far for understanding when groups of modern birds first evolved and began to diverge.
Very few animals can combine information to adjust their predictions in a flexible way by using domain-general intelligence as humans do. In episode 74, Amalia Bastos from the University of Auckland discusses her research demonstrating that kea parrots can make predictions based in probabilities, and adjust those predictions based on physical and social information.
Are drivers of more expensive cars really the jerks we make them out to be? In Episode 73, Courtney Coughenour and Jennifer Pharr from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas discuss their research into what differentiates drivers who are likely to yield for pedestrians in crosswalks from those who don’t.
Are wild tigers now extinct in Laos? In episode 72, Akchousanh “Akchou” Rasphone from Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit discusses her research which concludes that improvised snares appear to have decimated the country’s wild tiger population, a species whose worldwide population is now estimated to be around 200.
Why is it that we treat various species of animals so differently? In episode 71, Verónica Sevillano with the Autonomous University of Madrid’s Department of Social Psychology and Methodology discusses her research applying social psychology and conservation biology to understand the relationships people have with animals.
Why Velcro 3D glasses onto cuttlefish? In Episode 69, Trevor Wardill from the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota discusses his research into the previously unknown ability of the cephalopod to see in stereo vision.
The global decline of births from 1990 and 2015 has to a reduction in the proportion of people aged 15-29. So might this explain why the world’s homicide rate has dropped by nearly 20%? In episode 64, we’re joined by Mateus Rennó Santos from the University of South Florida. He talks with us about his research into how an aging population is a driving force behind the decline in homicide that most countries across the globe have enjoyed for the past three decades.
Sure, you might have a tongue piercing. But would you consider something far more extreme for a bump on the social ladder? In episode 62, we’re joined by Dimitris Xygalatas from the University of Connecticut, who talks with us about how extravagant and painful rituals can foster greater subjective health and social standing.
How can what engineers learn from how barn owls pinpoint the location of the faintest sounds apply to their development of nanotechnologies capable of doing even better? In episode 61, we’re joined by Saptarshi Das, a nano-engineer from Penn State University, who talks with us about his article “A biomimetic 2D transistor for audiomorphic computing.”
In striving to develop expertise, are 10,000 hours of deliberate practice really required, and must it be guided by a teacher or coach? In episode 59, we’re joined by Brooke Macnamara from Case Western Reserve University. She’ll discuss her attempted replication of the study which led to the mantra popularized by Malcolm Gladwell that these parameters are required to master a task.
What can brain scans of radicalized jihadists tell us about how they react to what they perceive as attacks on their sacred values? In episode 58, we’re joined by Nafees Hamid from Artis International who who talks with us about his open access article “Neuroimaging ‘will to fight’ for sacred values: an empirical case study with supporters of an Al Qaeda associate,” published on June 12, 2019 in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
What changes when we attempt to measure personality outside of the contexts where the instruments were developed and validated? In episode 57, we’re joined by Karen Macours from the Paris School of Economics about her research into practical issues with using a popular Big Five personality measures outside of western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic settings.
How can a satellite the size of a loaf of bread take the heat of operating in the extreme conditions existing in space without overheating? In episode 56, we’re joined by Naia Butler-Craig from the Georgia Institute of Technology to discuss her open access article “An investigation of the system architecture of high power density 3U CubeSats capable of supporting high impulse missions,” which was published in November 2018 in the McNair Scholars Research Journal from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
How do some fish see color in the black-and-white world of the ocean’s depths? In episode 55, Zuzana Musilová, an evolutionary biologist at Charles University in Prague, discusses her research into the unique way that some fish in the deep ocean’s darkness may be able to see in color.
Can communication across networks of people be optimized to share information, while at the same time lessening the likelihood of information bubbles and echo chambers? In Episode 54, we’re joined by Ida Momennejad and Ajua Duker from Columbia University and Yale University respectively to discuss their open access article “Bridge ties bind collective memories” which was published with Alin Coman on April 5, 2019 in the journal Nature Communications.
Might we be better able to understand what’s going on inside the “black box” of machine learning algorithms? In episode 52, Been Kim from Google Brain talks with us about her research into creating algorithms that can explain why they make the recommendations they do via concepts that are relatable by their users.
“Nothing in life is certain,” writes MIT mechanical engineer Seth Lloyd, “except death, taxes and the second law of thermodynamics.” But is this necessarily so? In episode 52, we’re joined by Andreas Schilling with the University of Zurich, who discusses his development of an amazingly simple device that allows heat to flow from a cold object to a warm one without an external power supply; a process that initially appears to contradict this fundamental law of physics.
When in Rome, should you really do as the Romans do? In episode 50, Wataru Toyokawa from the University of Konstanz in Germany discusses how observing and imitating others in crowds can at times enhance collective ‘wisdom’ … though other times it can lead to collective ‘madness.’
In episode 49, Carol Graham from the Brookings Institution and the University of Maryland talks with us about her research into why younger out-of-work men in the United States are so unhappy compared to their counterparts in other places in the world who are arguably struggling much more.
Can the sharing of drum break samples among musicians help us better understand how networks of artists collaborate? In episode 48, Mason Youngblood from the City University of New York discusses his research into the cultural transmission of digital music samples through collaborative networks of musicians.
In episode 45, Liz MacDonald from the NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, discusses in her research into STEVE, a previously unrecorded atmospheric phenomenon discovered by citizen scientists in late 2016 that appears as a ribbon of flickering purple and green light in the night.
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, might the manipulation of statistics in marketing research be costing companies millions? In episode 43, Ron Berman from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business discusses in his open-access article “p-Hacking and False Discovery in A/B Testing,” co-authored with Leonid Pekelis, Aisling Scott, and Christophe Van den Bulte, and published July 18, 2018 on SSRN.
Could birds’ courting behaviors change when they’re being watched? In episode 42, Masayo Soma from Hokkaido University discusses her research into monogamous songbirds which intensify their singing and dancing during courtship rituals – but only while in the presence of an audience of other birds.
Can cognitive biases and heuristics regarding race influence U.S. Supreme Court decisions? In episode 40, Jonathan Feingold and Evelyn Carter from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) discuss the sometimes selective use of social science research by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist as analyzed in their article “Eyes Wide Open: What Social Science Can Tell Us About the Supreme Court’s Use of Social Science” published on August 8, 2018 in the Northwestern University Law Review.
What can the chance discovery of an illusion tell us about how our eyes and brains work together? Ben Balas from North Dakota State University talks with us in episode 37 about his research into the Flashed Face Distortion Effect, an illusion in which normal faces – when rapidly presented in people’s peripheral vision – are perceived as grotesque and distorted.
Might our brains have greater plasticity than commonly thought? In episode 36, Marlene Behrmann from Carnegie Mellon University, discusses her 3-year longitudinal investigation of a young boy who had the region of his brain which recognizes faces removed, but regained this ability through neural plasticity.
Almost lost to history, these toys quite literally put quantum mechanics at one’s fingertips. In episode 35, Jean-François Gauvin from Université Laval in Canada, discusses how he came to understand the purpose and value of unique toy blocks that ended up on his desk at Harvard University in 2014 as the director of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments (CHSI).
Because 98% of the human genome doesn’t serve a direct role in gene expression, many biologists have long thought of them as nothing but “junk DNA.” But might they hold the key to helping stem the formation of deadly cancers? In episode 34, Mike Feigin from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center talks with us about his discovery of mutations in part of the human genome that most people have so far tended to ignore, but which appears to regulate the expression of genes which drive the formation of cancers.
Can we put the brakes on cancers’ ability to metastasize? In episode 33, John Lewis from the University of Alberta talks with us about his research into inhibiting cancer cell movement and metastasis through genomic targets.
Can auditory errors and illusions better help us understand how the brain works? In episode 32 Mike Vitevitch from the University of Kansas talks with us about his research into the cognitive mechanisms underlying the Speech-to-Song auditory illusion.