Point Of Discovery

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Synopsis

Point of Discovery takes you on a behind-the-scenes journey to the front lines of science where you'll meet the brilliant, quirky scientists who do it. Our stories are driven by curiosity. How much of our DNA do we share with yeast? How do our brains block out noise at a party so that we can focus on just one person speaking? How do you study a terrible disease-causing bacteria that acts like a saint when you grow it in a petri dish? Come discover the answers with us. Learn more at: http://pointofdiscovery.org

Episodes

  • The Next 50 Years: A Model of Life on the Atomic Scale

    The Next 50 Years: A Model of Life on the Atomic Scale

    28/04/2020 Duration: 10min

    Can we simulate life — in all its messy complexity and at the scale of each individual atom — in a computer? Even the most powerful supercomputers today can only simulate a tiny portion of a single living cell for a few nanoseconds. Carlos Baiz is a biochemist at the University of Texas at Austin who says it might someday be possible to simulate an entire living cell for hours or longer. But he says there are two big catches. Baiz shares his vision for the future in this latest episode of our miniseries, The Next 50 Years. Check out more podcasts and essays in this series: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/tags/the-next-50-years Music for today’s show was produced by: Podington Bear - https://www.podingtonbear.com/ Chuzausen - https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Chuzausen About Point of Discovery Point of Discovery is a production of the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences. You can listen to all our episodes at @point-of-discovery . Questions or comments about this episode, or our

  • Science Amid the Social Distance

    Science Amid the Social Distance

    27/03/2020 Duration: 27min

    Daily life has changed for many of us due to the coronavirus pandemic. During this unusual time, when it’s harder to connect physically with important people in our lives, it can be helpful to step back and spend a little time thinking about the things that still bind us together, like the wonder of the natural world and the hope that scientists offer us as we take on societal challenges. We’ve put together a compilation from our previous episodes that we hope will help you find some solace right now: in rediscovering life, the people we're closest with and the universe. To listen to the full episodes that we drew these excerpts from, or to read the transcripts, visit the links below. Beauty and the Yeast: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/beauty-and-the-yeast The Science of Relationships: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/the-science-of-relationships Can Sound Save a Fish?: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/can-sound-save-a-fish Eyewitness to a Cosmic Car Wreck: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/eyewitness-to-a-cosmic-car-wreck

  • The Next 50 Years: An A.I. Designed to Make Life Better

    The Next 50 Years: An A.I. Designed to Make Life Better

    10/03/2020 Duration: 10min

    Artificial intelligence is becoming more and more a part of our daily lives. But will AI have mostly positive or negative impacts on society? Some potential unintended consequences include home service robots that accidentally break your fine china, or systems that increase the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Peter Stone co-leads the Good Systems initiative at the University of Texas at Austin, which is trying to hash out guiding principles for building AI systems that are more likely to have a positive impact and fewer unintended consequences. He shares his team’s vision for the future in this latest episode of our miniseries, The Next 50 Years. Check out more podcasts and essays in this series: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/tags/the-next-50-years Learn about the Good Systems initiative: https://bridgingbarriers.utexas.edu/good-systems/ Peter Stone also chaired the first technical report of the AI100 Study: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/experts-forecast-the-changes-artificial-intelligence-could-brin

  • The Next 50 Years: Your Perfect Meal and Exercise Plan

    The Next 50 Years: Your Perfect Meal and Exercise Plan

    13/02/2020 Duration: 07min

    Have you ever wondered why some people seem to be able to follow a specific diet or exercise plan and others fail? The answer might have to do with factors unique to each person, like their microbiomes and genetics. Geneticist Molly Bray is working toward a future where each person gets a diet and exercise plan optimized just for them. She shares her vision for how this would work in this latest episode of our miniseries, The Next 50 Years. Check out more podcasts and essays in this series: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/tags/the-next-50-years Learn about the ongoing TIGER Study, which explores how genes may alter a person’s response to exercise and diet interventions: http://tigerstudy.org/ Read about a 2015 summary report on the genetics of weight loss by some of the leading experts in this field, including Molly Bray: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/weight-loss-programs-tailored-to-a-person-s-genome-may-be-coming-soon Music for today’s show was produced by: Podington Bear - https://www.podingtonbear.com/

  • Next 50 Years: A Global Census of Life

    Next 50 Years: A Global Census of Life

    10/01/2020 Duration: 09min

    We know absolutely nothing about roughly 80 percent of the different types of life on Earth. Biologist David Hillis aims to discover all those missing species—by some estimates 5 to 10 million—possibly in the next few decades. Sound impossible? He shares his vision for how this would work in this first episode of our new miniseries, The Next 50 Years. Hillis, along with colleagues Derrick Zwickl and Robin Gutell, published a stunning new tree of life in 2003 based not just on the physical traits but also the genetics of 3,000 species from across all known groups of life. The unique circular layout which first appeared in the journal Science has come to be known as a Hillis plot. To download a printable version of the Hillis plot and see tattoos and other artistic renderings, visit: http://www.zo.utexas.edu/faculty/antisense/DownloadfilesToL.html Learn about the computational approaches that enabled this new type of tree of life: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/300/5626/1692.full and https://cns.ut

  • Coming Soon: A New Podcast Miniseries

    Coming Soon: A New Podcast Miniseries

    18/12/2019 Duration: 06min

    If you've been listening to our podcast for a while, you probably have noticed that we haven't had a new episode for a few months. We’ve taken that time to step back and reflect on our show, both what has changed over the last few years (we’re now in our fifth year of production – yay!) and where we're going in the future. In this month’s episode, producer and host Marc Airhart chats with senior editor Christine Sinatra about the podcast. We also share some exciting news: we’re kicking off a new miniseries called The Next 50 Years. The first episode drops in January 2020. Stay tuned! Music for today’s show was produced by: Podington Bear - https://www.podingtonbear.com/ Have you heard our other news? Now you can listen to Point of Discovery on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/4bWQkQ9jBV0cyKeyqeKwdA About Point of Discovery Point of Discovery is a production of the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences. You can listen to all our episodes at @point-of-discovery . Questions

  • You Belong Here: What It Takes for Success in College

    You Belong Here: What It Takes for Success in College

    20/09/2019 Duration: 15min

    Why do so many first-year students struggle in college? Who is most likely to fail? And what can professors and staff do to help them get over the hump? “I didn't know what was going on. And I just felt out of place as a whole,” said Ivonne Martinez, a first-year student at UT Austin who was in danger of failing Freshman Calculus. “I was like, What am I doing? And that kind of made me panic.” In today’s show, math professor Uri Treisman and chemistry professor David Laude describe ways they support students through this difficult time, and psychologist David Yeager explains why these tactics work. We’ll also talk about the University of Texas at Austin’s ambitious goal to boost the number of students graduating within four years from 52 percent several years ago to 70 percent, and how they did it. (Read more: https://news.utexas.edu/2018/09/27/ut-austin-records-its-highest-four-year-graduation-rate/ ) By the way, all of the people in today’s show are featured in a great new book by author Paul Tough. It’s

  • Confronting RSV, a Shape-Shifting Killer

    Confronting RSV, a Shape-Shifting Killer

    01/08/2019 Duration: 10min

    Virtually everyone contracts RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) as a child, but few people have even heard of it. It’s actually one of the leading causes of infectious disease deaths in infants. Now a team of researchers, including molecular biologist Jason McLellan, are using a radically new way to develop a potential vaccine against RSV. This method, called structure-based vaccine design, is already changing the way many vaccines are now being developed. To see a cool image of the shape-shifting protein that holds the key to the new RSV vaccine, see the full story on our website at http://pointofdiscovery.org/ Read more about how this new vaccine’s design is revolutionizing vaccine design itself: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/342/6158/546.1 Music for today’s show was produced by: Podington Bear - https://www.podingtonbear.com/ Have you heard the news? Now you can listen to Point of Discovery on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/4bWQkQ9jBV0cyKeyqeKwdA

  • Better AI Vision to Help Save Lives

    Better AI Vision to Help Save Lives

    17/06/2019 Duration: 08min

    Kristen Grauman, professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin, and her team have taught an artificial intelligence agent how to do something that usually only humans can do—take a few quick glimpses around and infer its whole environment. That will be a critical skill for search and rescue robots that can enter a dangerous situation—like a burning building—and relay information back to firefighters or other personnel. To see an animation of how the new AI agent creates a full view of the world from just a few glimpses, go to our press release at: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/new-ai-sees-like-a-human-filling-in-the-blanks Music for today’s show was produced by: Podington Bear - https://www.podingtonbear.com/ Have you heard the news? Now you can listen to Point of Discovery on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/4bWQkQ9jBV0cyKeyqeKwdA About Point of Discovery Point of Discovery is a production of the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences. You can listen to

  • A Machine That Understands Language Like a Human

    A Machine That Understands Language Like a Human

    26/04/2019 Duration: 10min

    One thing that sets humans apart from even the smartest of artificially intelligent machines is the ability to understand, not just the definitions of words and phrases, but the deepest meanings in human speech. Alex Huth, a neuroscientist and computer scientist, is trying to build an intelligent computer system that can predict the patterns of brain activity in a human listening to someone speaking. If a computer could begin to extract the same kinds of meaning from a set of words as a human does, that might help explain how the human brain itself makes sense of language – and even pave the way for a speech aid for people who can’t speak. Experience an interactive 3D map of the human brain showing which areas respond to hearing different words: https://gallantlab.org/huth2016/ Music for today’s show was produced by: Podington Bear - https://www.podingtonbear.com/ Have you heard the news? Now you can listen to Point of Discovery on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/4bWQkQ9jBV0cyKeyqeKwdA About

  • A Love Letter from Texas Scientists to the Periodic Table

    A Love Letter from Texas Scientists to the Periodic Table

    06/03/2019 Duration: 16min

    We’re celebrating the 150th anniversary of the periodic table. Join us as we tour the cosmos, from the microscopic to the telescopic, with four scientists studying the role of four elements—zinc, oxygen, palladium and gold—in life, the universe and everything. Emily Que is a chemist who helped capture, for the first time on video, zinc fireworks that burst from an egg when it’s fertilized by sperm. Astronomer Michael Endl is searching for chemical signs of life in the atmospheres of exoplanets. Kate Biberdorf (a.k.a. Kate the Chemist) found new ways to speed up chemical reactions using palladium. And physicist Aaron Zimmerman explains why the gold in your jewelry was probably forged in an ultraviolent explosion billions of years ago. Watch zinc-spark fireworks: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/when-sperm-meets-egg-zinc-fireworks-on-display Listen to our interview with Kate the Chemist on a previous Point of Discovery podcast: https://soundcloud.com/point-of-discovery/fun-with-chemistry See a periodic table sh

  • All in the (Scientific) Family

    All in the (Scientific) Family

    25/02/2019 Duration: 11min

    Scientists often talk about the people who mentored them, and the students and postdocs they supervise, in ways that sound like a family. Today, in the second of a two-part conversation, we listen in on two members of a well-known scientific lineage: Bill Press, a professor of computer science and integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin and his former doctoral adviser, Kip Thorne, one of the recipients of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of gravitational waves. Missed the first part of the conversation? Thorne and Press talked about what it’s like to be a scientist advising on a major Hollywood movie such as Interstellar (which just so happens to star UT Austin alum Matthew McConaughey)? Check it out here: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/bringing-real-science-to-the-big-screen Special thanks to the family of Bryce DeWitt and Cécile DeWitt-Morette for their involvement in bringing Dr. Thorne to Austin for the inaugural Cécile Dewitt-Morette Memorial lecture in 2018. Watch a vid

  • Bringing Real Science to the Big Screen

    Bringing Real Science to the Big Screen

    22/01/2019 Duration: 09min

    What’s it like for a scientist to work as an advisor on a major Hollywood film? In this first of a two-part conversation, Kip Thorne talks with his former graduate student Bill Press about the impact that a film like Interstellar can have on the public, balancing scientific accuracy and entertainment and what winning the Nobel Prize really says about a scientists’ worth. (BTW, Interstellar star Matthew McConaughey is also a UT Austin alum) Special thanks to the family of Bryce DeWitt and Cécile DeWitt-Morette for their involvement in bringing Dr. Thorne to Austin for the inaugural Cécile Dewitt-Morette Memorial lecture in 2018. Watch a video of that lecture: https://youtu.be/0ypzGfHXHlw Stay tuned for part two of this conversation, when we’ll learn more about the rather famous scientific family tree that both Press and Thorne belong to, as well as what gravitational waves mean for the future of astronomical research. Music for today’s show was produced by Podington Bear and used via a Creative Commons lice

  • Recap: A Big Week in Science

    Recap: A Big Week in Science

    05/10/2018 Duration: 42min

    The first week of October is like a science-lover’s World Series: Each year, the spotlight falls on high-impact science, when day after day, a series of Nobel Prizes and other prestigious awards are announced all in one week. This has been an especially exciting week for us here in UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences. For the second year in a row, one of our alumni (James Allison) nabbed the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine. What’s more, the Nobel Prizes given in the categories of physics and chemistry this year were also celebrated by scientists on campus, because the breakthroughs getting attention have implications for research happening right here. Finally, on Thursday, another big announcement came: the MacArthur Foundation announced it had awarded UT Austin chemist Livia Eberlin a MacArthur Fellowship, sometimes called “a genius award.” So today on Point of Discovery, we're going to do something completely different. We’re bundling some past stories related to the science that’s been in the

  • Of Fruit Flies, Nobel Prizes and Genetic Discoveries that Change the World

    Of Fruit Flies, Nobel Prizes and Genetic Discoveries that Change the World

    27/09/2018 Duration: 10min

    Last year, University of Texas at Austin alumnus Michael Young won the Nobel prize for discovering the molecular mechanism behind circadian rhythms. Circadian clocks are critical for the health of all living things, acting as the internal timekeepers in plants and animals that help to synchronize functions like eating and sleeping with our planet’s daily rhythm of light and dark. In today’s episode, Young reveals the series of lucky events that launched him into the forefront of circadian rhythm research, what’s really going on in your body when you experience jet lag and how insights from the lowly fruit fly might now help millions of people with sleep disorders. About Point of Discovery Point of Discovery is a production of the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences. You can listen to all our episodes at @point-of-discovery . Questions or comments about this episode, or our series in general? Email Marc Airhart at mairhart[AT]austin.utexas.edu

  • Can We Build Machines that are Less Biased Than We Are?

    Can We Build Machines that are Less Biased Than We Are?

    06/09/2018 Duration: 08min

    Think about some of the most important decisions people make – who to hire for a job, which kind of treatment to give a cancer patient, how much jail time to give a criminal. James Scott says we humans are pretty lousy at making them. “I think there is room for machines to come into those realms and improve the state of our decisions,” said Scott. “That's going to involve humans and machines working together, however, not simply treating these decisions the way you might treat a microwave oven just by punching in some numbers and walking away …” Maybe machines can help us make better decisions. But ultimately, it boils down to the question: can we build machines that are less biased than we are? What do you think? You can head over to our website and leave a comment at the bottom of this month’s post: https://cns.utexas.edu/point/can-we-build-machines-that-are-less-biased-than-we-are Have more general thoughts you’d like to share about our show? You can take our survey here: https://utexas.qualtrics.co

  • Which Mental Superpower Would You Choose?

    Which Mental Superpower Would You Choose?

    28/06/2018 Duration: 13min

    What if people who lost a particular brain function—say, an Alzheimer's patient who can no longer make new memories—had the same option as many people who’ve lost limbs or other body parts—the chance to use technology to supplement what’s no longer there? Or what if you could boost a healthy person's brain, essentially giving them mental superpowers, like the ability to become a Kung Fu master by downloading new skills directly to your brain? Scientists are now working on brain-machine interfaces, systems that connect the human brain to a computer to do something neither the brain—nor the computer—can do alone. In this episode, we talk to neuroscientist Laura Colgin about the potential, and possible pitfalls, of these new technologies. Tell Us What You Think Hey, podcast listeners, we've set up an online survey where you can tell us what you like about the show, what could be better, and you can even tip us off to cool research going on right here at the university. You can get to the survey by going to: h

  • James Allison Eases Off the Brakes

    James Allison Eases Off the Brakes

    21/05/2018 Duration: 10min

    Forty years ago, when James Allison had just gotten his PhD in biochemistry, he was intrigued by this far-out idea that was floating around about a new way to treat cancer. The idea—dubbed cancer immunotherapy—was to train the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells—the same way this system already goes after bacteria and viruses. He was one of the few people who actually believed it could work. In today’s episode, Allison—an alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin and the chair of immunology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston—talks about the uphill climb to make cancer immunotherapy a reality. He also shows off his mad harmonica skills. Check out Allison playing harmonica with his band the Checkpoints: https://youtu.be/bsLwOAImzCs And check out his performance with the legendary Willie Nelson: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/prognosis/article/Willie-Nelson-shares-stage-with-Houston-cancer-6886561.php About Point of Discovery Point of Discovery is a production of the University of T

  • When Science Communication Doesn’t Get Through

    When Science Communication Doesn’t Get Through

    12/04/2018 Duration: 12min

    Climate change, vaccinations, evolution. Scientists sometimes struggle to get their message across to non-scientists. On the latest episode of the Point of Discovery podcast, what communications research can teach us about why science communication sometimes backfires, and what scientists can do about it. Today’s episode features Emma Dietrich, a PhD student in the Ecology, Evolution and Behavior graduate program at the University of Texas at Austin and a member of Austin Science Advocates. It also features Anthony Dudo, an associate professor in the Moody College of Communication at UT Austin who studies the science of science communication. Point of Discovery is a production of the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences. You can listen to all our episodes at @point-of-discovery . Questions or comments about this episode, or our series in general? Email Marc Airhart at mairhart[AT]austin.utexas.edu

  • A Score to Settle with Cancer

    A Score to Settle with Cancer

    02/03/2018 Duration: 13min

    Jonathan Sessler was a college student when he was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Fortunately, he was also a chemistry major. After surviving radiation therapy, relapsing and then surviving extremely high doses of what he calls “rat poison” (a.k.a. chemotherapy), his oncologist challenged him: “You’re a chemist. Find new cancer drugs.” In the four decades since, he’s founded two companies, one of which commercialized a blockbuster drug for leukemia and was sold for $21 billion. The other is working to develop a drug he invented to treat ovarian cancer, based on large molecules that deliver poisons to cancer cells and named after the Lone Star state: Texaphyrin. He knows the odds of bringing effective new cancer treatments to market are stacked against him, yet he tirelessly pushes ahead. Last month, he spoke to producer Marc Airhart in front of a live audience at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. About Point of Discovery Point of Discovery is a produ

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