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World of Weird Things Podcast
33 minutes | Jan 22, 2021
WoWT Podcast Episode 064: Why Space Travel Makes You Care About The Earth
Want more people to become environmentalists who care about Earth’s future, sustainability, clean air and water, and advocate for green energy? Forget luring them on luxury eco tours and shuttling them between pristine tropical alcoves and toxic landfills. Take them to space instead to trigger a curious phenomenon that will give them an unparalleled perspective on the fragility and uniqueness of our world, a perspective we usually see in astronauts. What is this effect and how long does it last? We dive into the details on this week’s episode.
52 minutes | Dec 31, 2020
WoWT Podcast Episode 063: Further Down The Rabbit Hole With Marc-andre Argentino
On another extended episode of the WoWT Podcast, we talked to Marc-Andre Argentino, one of the world’s top experts on QAnon and conspiratorial ideation about how the far right conspiracy of everything has evolved to become an omnipresent menace on social media and in politics, how it’s changing in new ways, and what it will take for society to lessen its iron grip on millions’ of follower’s minds. What he told us was, well, rather disconcerting...
51 minutes | Dec 24, 2020
WoWT Podcast Episode 062: Christmas In A Mad Scientist’s Lab
With this horrible year coming to an end, we’re thinking about the future, the far future that is. That’s why this week, we’re doing a deep dive into the continued popularity of cyberpunk and mind uploading tropes, the science of merging humans and machines, the devices that show us what bizarre things are actually scientifically possible, and the surprising revelation that if you’re planning to get a robotic body in your old age, finding a way to preserve your stomach may be a lot more important than keeping your heart and lungs. Why? Well, there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to tune in.
39 minutes | Dec 17, 2020
WoWT Podcast Episode 061: How Science Knows If You’re An Awful Human
You’d think that in societies where we prize sharing, caring, and getting along as much as we can, angry jerks who throw temper tantrums when things don’t go exactly their way would be swiftly ostracized and face serious consequences for repeated offenses, not run entire countries with legions of supporters, and create destabilizing movements based around angry conspiracy theories and lies. So, how are they so successful? And how do you know if you may be one of these people? Believe it or not, psychology offers a great deal of insight into both questions, as well as how to shut down out of control sociopaths.
37 minutes | Dec 11, 2020
WoWT Podcast Episode 060: Did We Find The Limits Of AI?
You spent months fine tuning your neural network, constantly tweaking its architecture, training it until it achieves 99.5% accuracy, but when you deployed it in the real world with less than stellar results. Why? It’s probably because you managed to hit the limits to what our current machine learning formulas and approaches can achieve when training computers to make sense of our messy and inconsistent world. On this week’s episode we dive into some of those limits and what they mean to the humans AI is meant to help or replace.
39 minutes | Nov 27, 2020
WoWT Podcast Episode 059: The Most Abundant Lifeforms In The Universe
We think we have a pretty good handle on what life is, but the reality is that thinks we think of as living are just a subset of possible chemistries and mechanisms by which life could evolve and function. To really understand what it means to be alive and recognize alien existences radically different from everything we think we know means we need to ask ourselves some very weird and complicated questions like what life, and what sort of things could we expect to be the most common lifeforms in the universe.
35 minutes | Nov 19, 2020
WoWT Podcast Episode 058: Yes, Your Devices Are Spying On You, Here’s Why
You’re not just being paranoid. Your every step on the internet, every download, and every time you open an app are logged and stored somewhere. Almost always, the raw data is examined by software to find persistent bugs and patterns of use for programmers and designers to make better software or figure out what apps and features are popular and which ones are not. But all those oceans of data being collected along with your activity on social media and background noise from your voice-activated AI assistants are ripe for abuse and it’s long past time we had a very serious discussion on what we’re collecting, why, and how we use it.
34 minutes | Nov 13, 2020
WoWT Podcast Episode 057: In Search Of Ancient Little Green Men
Atlantis, Lemuria, Mu, and ancient alien cities buried under the Antarctic ice are standard fodder for many works by occultists and science fiction authors asking us and themselves whether over the hundreds of millions of years during which life could exist on the surface of our world. Now, scientists are starting to ask the same question. Is it possible that we’re not the first advanced society on this planet? And if so, how could we know? The answer wouldn’t just give us more perspective on our own origins, it could also help us find proof of alien life.
27 minutes | Oct 29, 2020
WoWT Podcast Episode 056: Why Space Can’t Be Our Trashcan
We’ve been launching things into space since the late 1950s, and while the aspirational talk about exploring the final frontier keeps getting louder, we’ve been a lot quieter about the fact that all those rockets left a vast, orbiting field of high-speed trash which poses increasing hazards to future missions. And while we think we know how to clean it up, actually doing it requires negotiating some very thorny politics, and establishing some very new and different priorities.
45 minutes | Oct 22, 2020
WoWT Podcast Episode 055: Why Cult Leaders Are Loving The Pandemic
After finally solving our audio problems thanks to some professional help, the WoWT Podcast is finally back, and before we get going again, we’re revisiting our episode on the psychology of cults to correct some of our predictions in light of COVID-19. With the pandemic still doing its damage, people are spiraling down conspiracy theory rabbit holes on social media and falling prey to cults ready to take advantage of their very understandable and normal discontent and anxiety. We dive into their tactics, explain how cult leaders groom their followers, and talk about the biggest thing we can do to dull the appeal of malevolent groups. And we bet it’s not what you think it is…
34 minutes | May 8, 2020
WoWT Podcast Episode 054: So, What Does Your Brain Really Do?
When pop culture wants you to think that a certain character has superhuman intelligence, that character is given an enormous head and it’s either outright stated or heavily implied that their brains are enormous compared to ours. But as science learns more and more about brains and how they actually work, not just in humans but in intelligent animals around the world, it seems like there may be a lot more to being smart than just using your brain, especially if you aren’t a primate or a mammal…
43 minutes | Apr 30, 2020
WoWT Podcast Episode 53: How Did We End Up With Coronavirus?!
It’s only the start of May and already the world is done with 2020 and its pajama apocalypse. So how did we get here? What makes COVID-19 so insidious? Why are so many people apparently so angry about trying to stave off a novel opportunistic disease? Do we have anything that can actually treat COVID-19? Why is social media drowning in absurd conspiracy theories about Bill Gates, 5G, the WHO, and China? And, of course, how do we keep this disaster from repeating itself a decade down the road? We dive into all that and more this episode of the WoWT Podcast.
43 minutes | Feb 13, 2020
WoWT Podcast Episode 052: Why And How Empathy Binds The Human Species
One of the most important traits all social animals have to make sure they stick together and help each other survive as a species is empathy, and humans are no exception. But how do you measure how empathic someone is and study the origins of something so complex? According to researchers, you start with kids and work your way up to adults. And if you do it right, you can pinpoint causes of, and unlock solutions to, seemingly intractable political and social problems…
31 minutes | Feb 6, 2020
WoWT Podcast Episode 051: The Wild, Weird World Of Antimatter
After looking through our files, it turns out we never uploaded an episode we recorded in the beginning of December about the strange substance known as antimatter. It's all the rage in sci-fi and scientific documentaries, but there's not a lot of confusing information about it beyond "if you combine it with matter it goes boom." So, we set out to fix that by breaking down what antimatter actually is, how it was discovered, how we can use it, how it exists in a universe made of matter, and since we're talking about that, why isn't the universe made of antimatter in the first place.
39 minutes | Jan 16, 2020
WoWT Podcast Episode 050: Do Cyborgs Dream Of Bionic Sheep?
We promised to talk about cyborgs, what they are, where the idea originated, and why it's so important to understand how to merge our minds and bodies with machines over the long term and here we are. On this week's episode we dive into the origins of the word and the history of the technology involved, sort out some nomenclature, and cover why we'll want to join our brains with artificial intelligence and bodies with computers, especially if we'll want to explore deep space.
33 minutes | Nov 28, 2019
WoWT Podcast Episode 049: How We Teach Math Doesn't Add Up
We know we need more people in STEM careers as we try to build a workforce of the future. But our current attempts to teach them the skills they'll need for the jobs of tomorrow are a little out of date, specifically the kind of math to which we steer them. While calculus is considered the pinnacle of math classes in many high schools, the real discipline in demand is statistics since it's required to understand and work with artificial intelligence, do research, and analyze the enormous volumes of data collected by modern software. How did we get here and how can we correct our course?
35 minutes | Oct 18, 2019
WoWT Podcast Episode 048: Why Everything We Know Is A Theory
The science illiterate and fact averse love to call scientific bodies of knowledge "just theories, not facts" with the predictability of an atomic clock when faced with something they find irksome, but this betrays a glaring lack of rudimentary understanding behind what science calls a theory and why. In this episode, we dive into the mechanics of and definitions of the terms describing the scientific method, and try to answer why so many people don't know that scientific theories are collections of facts, not a stopover for discoveries that "get promoted to laws."
42 minutes | Oct 10, 2019
WoWT Podcast Episode 047: How Dunning-Kruger Broke Politics
As the world became more and more complicated and interconnected, an awful lot of people in both high and low places decided not only that they shouldn't try to keep up with the pace of change, but they didn't have to and learning about what was coming over the horizon next was unnecessary because they already knew everything there was to know. But why do people feel so self-confident and dismissive towards actual experts sounding alarms even as they see disasters unfold in real time in front of their noses? There's a psychological phenomenon that explains exactly what's happening and it's called Dunning-Kruger.
50 minutes | Oct 4, 2019
WoWT Podcast Episode 046: Why Ad Astra Is The Breakup Letter To Space Exploration
Science fiction movies are one of the primary ways people learn about space exploration and get inspired to help build humanity's future. This is why a movie which treats it as a complete waste, doesn't even pretend to be scientifically plausible, and paints those who are passionate to solve deep existential mysteries as insane and homicidally psychotic obsessives isn't just a disservice to the genre, it's a disservice to its viewers. And this is why we're going to tackle its flaws, both scientific and creative.
34 minutes | Sep 13, 2019
WoWT Podcast Episode 045: Don't Trust Your Gut On Probiotics
Probiotics are quickly becoming a huge business, claiming to heal millions with the power of balancing the biosphere of symbiotic bacteria in their guts. But the science is a lot more complicated than hawkers of supplements and yogurts will have you believe, and far from helping good bacteria recolonize your digestive tract, they’re merely delivery mechanisms for benign and temporary microscopic visitors. So where does the science end and hype begin? Are there any real benefits to probiotics? And what can we learn from studying our bacterial biomes?
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