Focus - August 02, 2012

Encore: How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival

Guest: David Kaiser, Ph.D.

In the 1970s, severe cutbacks in physics funding drove a group of eccentric scientists to take a different approach on their field, studying quantum entanglement alongside mind reading and Eastern mysticism. Today on Focus, our guest David Kaiser will explain how their work helped pave the way for numerous other breakthroughs in quantum mechanics.

Focus - July 16, 2012

Encore: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Guest: Susan Cain, J.D.

We have been told that the happiest people are the most sociable. Author Susan Cain says that may be why so many introverts hide from themselves. As a personality trait, she says, introversion is seen as something between a disappointment and a pathology. And that is a perception she is out to change. Cain talks with us about her new book Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.

Focus - June 29, 2012


Guest: May Berenbaum.

We welcome back University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum for another show about the most abundant life form on this planet, the insect. When May stops by we encourage you to put aside questions of extermination, and instead try to appreciate insects for the many and varied ways they live their lives. If you are curious about a particular insect, give us a call, and a description, and May will try to identify it and tell you something about its habits.

Focus - June 25, 2012

Encore: How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like

Guest: Paul Bloom, Ph.D.

Today on Focus, we're joined by psychologist Paul Bloom, author of How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like. He'll explain how human pleasures are not rooted in our sensory impressions of any given thing, but our belief about that thing's nature—its history and origin included.

Focus - June 20, 2012

Nanoscience and Technology

Guests: Irfan S. Ahmad, Ph.D., and Yi Lu, Ph.D.

Many scientists believe that nanotechnology, a field that involves engineering on a very small scale, has great potential to change both our economy and the way we live.  At the nanoscale, materials we know well can have very different properties, making them valuable for a wide range of products. We’ll look at recent developments in this field here at the University of Illinois. We’ll have two guests, Irfan Ahmad, associate director of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, and Yi Lu, professor of chemistry.

Focus - June 14, 2012

Tinderbox: How the West Sparked the AIDS Epidemic and How the World Can Finally Overcome It

Guest: Daniel Halperin, Ph.D.

Scientists believe that the virus that causes AIDS jumped from chimpanzees to humans about a century ago. It had been confined to a small patch of southeastern Cameroon, and it might have stayed there had not Europeans come, ensuring the disease would spread as an accident of their efforts to exploit Africa’s resources. We’ll look at the role of colonialism in the spread of AIDS. Our guest will be medical anthropologist Daniel Halperin, co-author of the new book Tinderbox: How the West Sparked the AIDS Epidemic and How the World Can Finally Overcome It.

Focus - May 09, 2012

Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think

Guest: Steven Kotler.

Imagine a world in which the entire global population has access to clean water, food, energy, health care, and education. That vision, says innovation pioneer Peter Diamandis, may not be so impossible after all. Today on Focus, we're joined by award-winning science writer Steven Kotler to discuss the possibility of a future brighter than we've ever pictured and the technology in use today that will guide us toward it.

Focus - May 01, 2012

Individual and Collective Memory Consolidation: Analogous Processes on Different Levels

Guests: Wenyi Zhang and Thomas J. Anastasio, Ph.D.

The process by which we form memories is known as consolidation: converting spare bits of information into a stable representation of events. But four University of Illinois faculty claim that this process does not only apply to individuals, but to social groups as well. This could imply the existence of collective retrograde amnesia—the loss of particular memories by an entire social group.

Focus - April 30, 2012

The Social Conquest of Earth

Guest: Edward O. Wilson, Ph.D.

It seems that blood may not be thicker than water after all. Today on Focus, we're joined by renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson, who in his new book The Social Conquest of Earth claims that human evolution has not been driven by kin selection, but by group selection—meaning that we are not naturally predisposed to put family first. He'll discuss this and more on today's show.

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