WILL - Focus - March 21, 2014

The Effects of Gender-typed Toys

Were the toys you played with as a child either pink or blue?  


(Duration: 51:54)

Supriya Hobbs and Janna Eaves are painfully aware that they are surrounded by mostly male students in their engineering classes at the University of Illinois. That’s part of the reason they’re behind the new start-up Miss Possible Inc., a toy company with intentions to manufacture dolls for girls fashioned after historical figures like Marie Curie and Amelia Earhart.

“Most toys, especially dolls, are empty,” says Hobbs, “Entrepreneur Barbie wears a suit and has a smart phone; that makes her a CEO?”

This hour on Focus, Scott Cameron talks with Hobbs about the start-up, and why Hobbs and Eaves want girls to be interested in science and technology. We’ll also hear from Analisa Russo, part of the company Electroninks, which is bringing a gel pen to draw circuits to market this summer. Isabelle Cherney, a researcher at Creighton University, will tell us how the toys we play can have an effect on our perceived capabilities and our gender identity.  

Then, we’ll switch gears at the end of the hour when Jake Kuebler of Bluestem Financial Advisors, LLC in Champaign joins us to discuss issues in personal finance.  

WILL - Focus - February 21, 2014

Encore: What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine

Have you ever had a moment at work when you were so overwhelmed by how you felt, either for personal reasons or because of something that happened at work that it was hard for you to function? This hour on Focus, we'll listen back to a conversation about the intersection between human emotion, medicine and patient care.


(Duration: 51:27)

Dr. Danielle Ofri

We’ve all seen the caricature of the unfeeling, cold-hearted, bitter doctor on cable television. Gregory House, after all, is not an exactly a model for compassion. Danielle Ofri argues in her newest book “What Doctors Feel:  How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine,” that the idea that doctors don’t have feelings, or that they can ignore those feelings, negatively affects patient care. This hour on Focus, we'll relisten to Lindsey Moon talking with Dr. Ofri about why that caricature developed and how it affects the way doctors practice medicine.

Categories: Health, Public Health, Science

WILL - Focus - February 18, 2014

Insect Fear Film Festival 31: Pesticide Fear Films

Today on Focus, we welcome back Professor May Berenbaum to talk about this year’s Insect Fear Film Festival. 


(Duration: 50:58)

May Berenbaum with an insect

At this year’s Insect Fear Film Festival, May Berenbaum says she’s out to explore our complex relationship with pesticides. This hour on Focus, Scott Cameron talks with Berenbaum, professor of entomology and department head at the University of Illinois, about this year’s films, which include Riders of the Whistling Pines (1949), a film in which spraying DDT saves the day.

Berenbaum will also tell us more about new research linking pesticides to the decline in bee populations. Call us to join our conversation on Focus! 

Read more to see a full list of films at this year’s festival.

WILL - Focus - December 31, 2013

Encore: Dreamland - Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep

We spend nearly a third of our lives asleep…but have you ever wondered why? Interestingly enough, despite years and billions of dollars in research, even leading sleep scientists still can’t answer that question. We'll listen back to a conversation, Lindsey Moon had with David Randall, author of the book “Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep.”


(Duration: 51:33)

book cover

Studies of the brain and its processes are often full of more questions than they are answers, but one such question started to nag at David Randall after he sleep walked into a wall. “Why do we sleep?”

This hour on Focus, we'll listen back to a conversation Lindsey Moon had with Randall about his book “Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep." We’ll hear about why many of the sleep disorders we classify as problems today weren’t anything to be worried about before the invention of the light bulb, why it’s so hard to pin down the biologic reason for why the human brain needs sleep and will talk about the real reason it’s so hard to drag teenagers from bed before 10 a.m. We’ll also talk about what’s being called sleep crime, cases where sleepwalkers have committed murder while dreaming.

Randall is a senior reporter at Reuters and an adjunct professor at New York University. He’s also been published in the New York Times, New York Magazine and Forbes. Dreamland is his first book. 

Categories: Science

WILL - Focus - October 01, 2013

A Conversation with Former National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh

Today on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with the Former Director of the National Science Foundation, Subra Suresh.


(Duration: 51:21)

Subra Suresh

When Subra Suresh was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate as director of the National Science Foundation in September 2010, he made history as the first Asia-born director of the organization. Today, he serves as President of Carnegie Mellon University. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Suresh about the NSF, making the transition from director to university president and about the changing nature of scientific research, which Suresh says is taking on an increasingly interdisciplinary identity.

Categories: Education, Science

WILL - Focus - September 27, 2013

Author Kim Stanley Robinson on what captivates him about science fiction

Are you a science fiction fan? Today on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with New York Times best-selling author Kim Stanley Robinson.


(Duration: 55:01)

Robinson in August 2005, at the 63rd World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s interest in science fiction all started with an orange grove. When he was young, he says he watched southern California suffer what he calls “future shock,” – a process by which the natural landscape was rapidly replaced with apartment buildings and roads. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Robinson about how this inspires his writing.

We’ll also talk with Robinson about his Mars Trilogy that depicts a society where people have colonized Mars to escape overpopulation and ecological disaster on Earth. We’ll hear how he imagined life on Mars and how he deals with questions of plausibility as he writes about future time.

WILL - Focus - August 20, 2013

The Science Delusion

Why is there something instead of nothing? What is our purpose on earth? Depending on which camp you’re in – science or religion, you’ll have a much different answer to these questions. But when did that dictomy develop and why do they have to be at odds with each other? This hour on Focus, Jack Brighton talks with Curtis White about his new book “The Science Delusion.”


(Duration: 51:42)

Curtis White

Illinois State University English Professor Emeritus Curtis White has spent much of his career writing fiction, but he’s recently released his newest book “The Science Delusion,” a non-fiction work devoted to investigating the way we think about the intersection between science and religion. This hour on Focus, Jack Brighton talks with White about what the two camps can learn from each other. Can science resolve our questions about the origins of the universe, the basis of morality and the source of creativity? Is it wrong to say science can’t?

This hour on Focus, we also talk about “scientism,” atheism, and religion’s influence on scientific research. Do you have faith in the unseen? Or do you have to see it to believe it? We want to hear from you this hour! Tweet us @Focus580 or find the show on Facebook.

White is also author of the book “Memories of My Father Watching TV and Requiem. His Book, “The Middle Mind: Why American Don’t Think for Themselves” was an international best-seller and his essays have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, Orion and Playboy.

WILL - Focus - February 25, 2013

Weird Life

We are fascinated with exotic life forms; legends of monsters like the Kraken and Nessie liter our folklore. But why? Today on Focus, host Jim Meadows talked with David Toomey, the author of the new book Weird Life.


(Duration: 50:24)

the book cover

During this episode of Focus, host Jim Meadows talked with author David Toomey about his new book, “Weird Life: The Search for Life that is Very, Very Different From Our Own.” He tells us about organisms that live off acid rather than water, those that reproduce without DNA and thrive in temperatures and pressures so extreme that they really shouldn’t be alive in the first place. Meadows also talked with Toomey about our fascination with exotic life forms here on Earth and why we’re so fascinated with the possibility of the discovery of life in the rest of the universe.

What’s your favorite exotic animal? We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter or post in the comments section below.

WILL - Focus - February 19, 2013

X-Files Creator Chris Carter and Conspiracy Theories

The Truth is out there… Are you a believer? Today on Focus, host Craig Cohen talked with Chris Carter, the creator of the X-Files and John Grant, author of “Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions and the War Against Reality.” Find the podcast here.


(Duration: 50:45)

 David Duchovny (Fox Mulder) and Gillian Anderson (Dana Scully) on set of the X-Files with creator Chris Carter.

Tens of millions of viewers were captivated by Fox’s “The X-Files” in the late 1990’s. Inspired by shows like The Twilight Zone, The X-Files resonated with skeptics, conspiracy theorists and those who see reason to mistrust the government. This hour on Focus, host Craig Cohen talks with the show’s creator, Chris Carter, about what inspired the show, what made it a hit and why he slept on a couch in Fox studios' lobby after pulling an all-nighter to finish the pilot. We’ll also ask Carter about his character Bambi Berenbaum, a knock-out entomologist who appears in season 3 and was named after University of Illinois Professor May Berenbaum.

Carter joins Focus in preview of his visit to this year’s Insect Fear Film Festival

In the second half of the hour, we’ll talk with John Grant, the author of “Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions and the War Against Reality” about conspiracy theories in popular culture and why they persist.

WILL - Focus - February 01, 2013

The Future of Space Travel

Ten years ago, the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded on re-entry over Texas, killing seven astronauts; in the years that followed, state-funded space flight dwindled. Today on Focus, we'll talk the future of space exploration with a former astronaut, an aerospace engineer and a businessman who wants to make human settlements in space a reality. Join our conversation at 10 or on Facebook and Twitter


(Duration: 50:39)

A satellite in space

Ten years ago, the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded on re-entry over Texas, killing seven astronauts. While the shuttle program continued for some years thereafter, state-funded space flight dwindled in the decade that followed. Now, space is becoming more of a private industry. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about the future of space travel. Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former astronaut and President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation will be here to talk about his experiences in space and what needs to happen for commercial space tourism and research to become a reality. We’ll also talk with Philippe Geubelle, a Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the UIUC and the Director of the Illinois Space Grant Consortium about funding for aerospace education for next generation and Jonathan Card, Executive Director of the Space Frontier Foundation.

Did you ever dream of being an astronaut? If you could plan a vacation to space, would you? Join our conversation on Facebook or on Twitter .

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