Smarty Plants | Radiolab | WNYC Studios

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  1. Radiolab: Famous Tumors

    In this hour of Radiolab: an unflinching look at tumors. Famous tumors. Surprising stories of evolution, immortality, and maybe…God? Say hello to the growth that killed Ulysses S. Grant, and get to know the woman whose cancer cells changed modern medicine.

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  2. Radiolab: Parasites

    What’s gotten into you? In this hour we explore nature’s moochers - the good, the bad, and the hideous. We have stories of lethargic farmers, zombie cockroaches, and maybe even mind-controlled humans. Could parasites be the shadowy hand that pulls the strings of life?

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  3. Quirks & Quarks - Happy Birthday Mr. Darwin

    February 12 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, certainly the most important biologist in history and one of the great figures in science. Darwin, of course, spent his life developing the theory of evolution by natural selection, which has become the foundation for the understanding of biology. In the 1960’s evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky said that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution," and that’s a statement with which few biologists would argue.

    To honour Darwin’s birthday, we’re devoting our program to a discussion of the life and work of Charles Darwin, and to a discussion of his impact on modern science, with three special guests.

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  4. Future Tense: Underestimated plants

    We know that plants are living entities, but we don’t tend to associate them with intelligence. For many of us, their potential lies in what they can produce post-mortem – timber, food, textiles, etc.

    A new field of research called Plant Neurobiology challenges that assumption. Trees not only exhibit a decentralised form of intelligence, proponents argue, but also a social side. And understanding the way in which they might communicate and interact is essential for good forest management and the maintenance of a healthy environment.

    We also hear about a project called flora robotica which aims to build a symbiotic relationship between plants and robots; and we’ll meet a Swedish scientist who’s busy trying to turn roses into living electrical circuits – all in the name of cleaner energy.

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  5. Radiolab - It might be Science

    They Might Be Giants just came out with a new album, “Here Comes Science.” So we invited them to come play with us at our season launch party last week at the Water Taxi Beach in Queens. And then we ambushed them with annoying little questions about science and about the tricky business of turning science into entertainment … because of that whole, you know, “getting the facts right” thing. On this podcast, we decided to share this magical evening with those of you who weren’t able to join us live. Hope you enjoy the music, pesky science teachers, and miasmas of plasma.


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  6. Drew Endy & Jim Thomas “Synthetic Biology Debate”

    Synthetic biology will be one of the driving technological forces of this century. By transforming the complexity and diversity of life into a technology malleable by man, it simultaneously offers some of science’s highest hopes and gravest threats. Like splitting the atom, synthetic biology holds a great wealth of power that must be wielded with care.

    Bioengineer Drew Endy is the leading enabler of open-source biotechnology. Technology historian Jim Thomas is the leading critic of biotech, based with ETC Group in Ottawa. Moderated by Stewart Brand, they will meet to discuss how the emerging and potentially revolutionary capabilities of synthetic biology can be utilized safely, equitably and openly.

    Synthetic biology is swarming ahead all over the world, at a self-accelerating pace far greater than Moore’s Law, with a range of impacts far greater than genetically engineered food crops. Jim Thomas raises the question: "Is Synthetic Biology reckless or wise from the perspective of ‘the long now?’. I feel the synthetic biology community is driven by immensely short term assumptions and motivations, and as a result the medium term prospect for this platform holds both predictable problems and nasty surprises."

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