Science And Creativity From Studio 360



Science and Creativity from Studio 360: the art of innovation. A sculpture unlocks a secret of cell structure, a tornado forms in a can, and a child's toy gets sent into orbit. Exploring science as a creative act since 2005. Produced by PRI and WNYC, and supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.


  • How Time-Travel Stories Borrow from Einstein

    19/12/2016 Duration: 08min

    It's hard to believe, but the words “time” and “travel” were never really linked until H.G. Wells' 1895 novel,  “The Time Machine.” James Gleick, author of “Time Travel: A History”  discovered that everything from Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine to Doc Brown's DeLorean can be traced back to Wells. “He wasn't trying to say anything about science,” Gleick says. “In order to tell his story, he invented this gimmick.” And “The Time Machine” explained this gimmick with another bit of sci-fi whimsy: that time is the fourth dimension of space. “That was ten years before Einstein's first publication of the special theory of relativity,” Gleick says. And once Einstein validated this view of space-time, it inspired countless stories about characters visiting the past and the future.

  • Abou Farman on Leonor Caraballo’s “Vision”

    05/12/2016 Duration: 09min

    In 2012, Studio 360 aired a story about a pair of artists — a husband and wife team named Leonor Caraballo and Abou Farman. In 2008, Caraballo had been diagnosed with breast cancer and created an artwork about the experience titled Object Breast Cancer. Her husband and artistic partner Abou Farman told us that her final spiritual and creative journey began when he introduced her to Ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic and medicinal plant used in the Amazon. She wanted to make a feature film about a woman who goes to the Amazon in search of the plant. Just as they began pre-production, Carballo learned that the cancer had returned in full force, but she was determined to finish the film, even if the production process wore her down. Sadly, Leonor passed away in 2015. She worked on Icaros until the end of her life, although she didn’t live to see the film completed. ”Icaros: A Vision” screened at Tribeca and several other film festivals.  

  • Canaries in the Coal Smoke

    21/11/2016 Duration: 07min

    When artists and scientists collaborate, it’s usually because an artist wants to make a piece of art inspired by some scientific concept. But in Chicago, an artist is helping a biologist uncover something about the climate. Shane DuBay is an evolutionary biologist and Carl Fuldner is an art historian, both getting their PhDs at the University of Chicago. The two have been photographing bird specimens at The Field Museum from the last century and a half — and they noticed something strange: The feathers on the birds from a long time ago looked dirtier than newer specimens. DuBay and Fuldner used software to analyze their photographs of the birds and figured out that dinginess of their plumage correlates to the changing amount of air pollution. Which suggests that during the age of impressionist painting, all those magnificent landscapes, the new coal-powered factories were making the air dirtier than ever before — or since.

  • Now We're Cooking with Math

    07/11/2016 Duration: 14min

    Nothing clears a dinner party faster than talking about math. But maybe what the subject needs is a friendly ambassador. Someone like Eugenia Cheng, who teaches math to artists studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She’s found the ideal vehicle for teaching math to people who don’t think it’s for them: baked goods. Her book is called "How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics" The book is full of real recipes that Cheng uses to explain math concepts. She visited Kurt at his home to talk math and bake one of the recipes from the book, for chocolate lava cupcakes.

  • The Neuroscience of Jazz

    31/10/2016 Duration: 07min

    Charles Limb is a professor of otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins Medicine who has a sideline in brain research; he’s also on the faculty at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. He wants to know what happens in our brains when we play piano. Simple: stick a musician in an fMRI machine, and see what happens.  

  • This is Your Brain on Art

    11/10/2016 Duration: 12min

    Dr. Eric Kandel is a neuroscientist at Columbia University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute who won the Nobel Prize for his research into how we form memories. He’s also an avid art collector. In his latest book, "Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures," Kandel combines his two passions in an explanation of how our brains process art. Stemming from his decades of researching snail brains and memory, Kandel’s research breaks down how our cognitive functions perceive, process and appreciate art.

  • The Science of Singing

    26/09/2016 Duration: 15min

    When you hear a singer like the late Whitney Houston belt out a song like“I Will Always Love You,” you’re listening to a marvel of vocal skill, but what happens when a singer damages their voice? Singers of all ages come into Dr. Steven Zeitels’ medical practice with trauma caused by breathing dried-out air in planes or singing in towns or buildings that have unfamiliar allergens. One of his patients. Aerosmith’s lead singer, Steven Tyler, is nearly 70 and has been torturing his vocal folds since he was a teenager, but with Dr. Zeitel's treatment, Tyler can sing “Dream On” as loudly as when he was 25 years old.   

  • How to Fly to Alpha Centauri

    13/09/2016 Duration: 08min

    Talking about building an interstellar space ship makes you sound like a sci-fi fan who’s lost touch with the real world. Unless you’re Mae Jemison, a former astronaut and the head of 100 Year Starship, an organization the home page of which boldly commands, “Let’s make human interstellar travel capabilities a reality within the next hundred years.” The problem: space is big, and our current rocket technology isn’t cutting it, says Marc Millis, the head of the Tau Zero Foundation. The heads of yet another interstellar organization, Starship Century, think they are on the right track. The technology is the beam sail, pushed with microwave beams, instead of wind, to extremely high speeds.

  • Will Your Next Car Fly?

    15/08/2016 Duration: 06min
  • Museum of God

    01/08/2016 Duration: 12min

    Amateur paleontologist Jon Halsey isn't afraid to turn over a few rocks. By digging in areas near his home outside of Dallas, he's been able to amass an extensive collection of fossils which he stores in his garage. He calls the collection "The American Museum of God," revering the power he believes is behind his discoveries. Lindsay Patterson went digging with Halsey in the bed of the Sulfur River..

  • Sexy Robots

    18/07/2016 Duration: 06min

    The desirable robot has been a trope in science fiction for almost a century, from the femme fatale Maria in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to Gigolo Joe in Steven Spielberg’s A.I.. Despina Kakoudaki is the author of Literature, Cinema, and the Cultural Work of Artificial People. She says a robot lover is an appealing fantasy because it can be perfectly beautiful, ageless, and brilliant. “It’s indestructible, it has replaceable body parts,” she says, “as if it is the alternative to the vulnerable, very fleshy, very gooey, very sometimes smelly human body.” An android can take physical and emotional abuse that a human being often can’t … or shouldn’t. And some social scientists have actually advocated for the creation of robot prostitutes or soldiers. But Kakoudaki says when we buy into that fantasy, we still don’t get it. “We treat objects with quite a lot of fascination and we treat objects really well. We treat people badly as a matter of course in culture,” she laments. 

  • Boldly Going Where No TV Prop Has Gone Before

    05/07/2016 Duration: 11min

    At the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, they have curators for everything you would expect, like telescopes, missiles, planetary science and space shuttles. But Margaret Weitekamp’s collection is completely different. It includes things like ray guns, board games, pins, hats, t-shirts, and lunchboxes, all having something to do with space or space science fiction. Weitekamp’s title is Curator of the Social and Cultural Dimensions of Spaceflight, with a collection of more than 4,000 pieces of space-related ephemera to show for it. The Buck Rogers XZ-31 Rocket Pistol isn’t even the coolest piece of super-nerdy space stuff in her collection. Weitekamp’s principal obsession these days is an object that may resonate more deeply than anything else in museum’s collection, at least for the generation that grew up when America was going to the Moon.

  • Music Heals

    21/06/2016 Duration: 11min

    After piano music helped him recover from brain surgery, Dr. Richard Fratianne became a true believer in music therapy. In the burn unit at the Cleveland MetroHealth Medical Center, Fratianne is measuring patients’ stress hormones during procedures to try to prove that music therapy reduces pain and anxiety.

  • Virtual Reality Starts Getting Real

    07/06/2016 Duration: 10min

    Now that virtual reality is becoming a consumer product that costs less than a smartphone or video game console, what will that mean for the future of storytelling? Obviously there will be markets for gaming — and pornography — at the start. But, for some directors, the medium has more idealistic applications.  Kurt Andersen visited Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, a pioneer in virtual reality research and development, to test drive an experience that’s more realistic than any movie or video game.

  • Two Artists Let the Animals Speak for Themselves

    25/05/2016 Duration: 08min

    Since the dawn of humanity, more or less, people have used representations of animals to tell stories. We drew pictures of them on the walls of caves, told stories about hapless spiders and mischievous rabbits, watched cartoons of coyotes running off cliffs and fish looking for lost sons.  But some artists have wanted to buck that trend, depicting animal stories from the animals’ point of view.

  • The Neuroscience of Creative Flow

    17/05/2016 Duration: 09min

    What makes us have especially productive sessions — those minutes or hours when you’re so immersed in what you’re doing that everything melts away? What exactly is going on in our brains to make us feel so focused? These are exactly the questions that drive Dr. Heather Berlin, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She studies the neuroscience of imagination, creativity and improvisation.

  • Imaginary Friends Forever

    11/04/2016 Duration: 09min

    Lots of kids have imaginary friends. (A young Kurt Andersen had a gaggle including Robbie Dobbie, Crackerpin, Jimmy the Cat, a poodle called Genevieve — which he pronounced in the French manner.) Marjorie Taylor, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon, has been looking at imaginary friends and the children who have them. “They tend to be more social, less shy, and do better on tasks which require you to take the perspective of another person in real life. We have found that they are more creative on some kinds of tasks. Other people have found that their narratives are richer.” Taylor is exploring the idea that these children are more creative — in particular, the kids who build a paracosm, a country or place for their friends “where children think about all kinds of things like entertainment, the food, the clothes, the transportation, the money.” Maxine, who is eight years old, walks us through her paracosm and the friends in it. Some are a little creepy, like Devil Man and Betchaboo, who takes t

  • How Creative Are You?

    28/03/2016 Duration: 10min

    The man nicknamed “the father of creativity” was psychologist E. Paul Torrance. In the 1940s he began researching creativity in order to improve American education. In order to encourage creativity, we needed to define it — to measure and analyze it. We measured intelligence with an IQ score; why not measure creativity? But there’s a problem. “I’m not sure I have a definition of creativity,” says James Borland. And Borland should know; he’s a professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University. “It’s one of those human constructions that isn’t discovered but invented ... It’s a word we use in everyday speech and it makes perfect sense, but when you start to study it and try to separate out its constituent parts, it becomes more and more and more confusing. Nobody agrees on what it is.” How can we measure something if we can’t agree on what it is?

  • For a Black Writer, Sci-Fi Offers a Reboot of Society

    07/03/2016 Duration: 06min

    Few readers of science fiction can name any African-American writers in the genre apart from Samuel Delaney and Octavia Butler. Black authors, however, have been contributing to sci-fi since its inception.  Carl Hancock Rux is a playwright, performer, and musician; his first novel, Asphalt, was set in a post-apocalyptic New York. Where the uses and misuses of technology have been central to mainstream sci-fi, Rux believes that, “for writers of African descent, science fiction has offered a unique place to try out something unthinkable in realistic fiction: an end to America’s tortured history with race."  Excerpts from M.P. Shiel’s The Purple Cloud were read by Reg E. Cathey; the music in this story was composed by Carl Hancock Rux and Daniel Bernard Roumain.

  • The Real Scientists of Hollywood

    23/02/2016 Duration: 07min

    You can write a movie about a gravity-defying superhero or a time-traveling zombie, and if you make that movie in Hollywood, you’re probably going to hire a science adviser. No scenario is too far out for someone with a PhD to add a real bit of jargon and a sheen of plausibility. 

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