July 25, 2012

The Social Conquest of Earth

How do we explain the willingness of one person to sacrifice for another? People will put the interests of family ahead of their own. But biologist Edward O. Wilson says more important in human development has been the advancement of the group, even those members who don’t share our genes. E. O. Wilson talks about his new book "The Social Conquest of Earth." The book explores the biological roots of human culture.

This is a repeat broadcast from Wednesday, May 30, 2012, 11 am

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June 29, 2012

Insects

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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April 23, 2012

The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms

Guest: Amy Stewart.

To most people, worms may be nothing more than things to avoid on the sidewalk after a summer shower. But earthworms do much more than that: they plow the soil, fight diseases, and make fertile land out of ordinary dirt. Today's guest on Focus, writer Amy Stewart, takes us underground to investigate the numerous different species of this creature and how they contribute to the health of our planet and population.

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April 09, 2012

The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East

Guest: Timur Kuran, Ph.D.

Between the years 1000 and 1800, the Middle East—a region that was early on at least as advanced as Europe—failed to economize modernly and thus fell drastically behind the West. What caused this, and why does the Middle East remain drastically underdeveloped? Today on Focus, we'll explore the history of this region with political scientist and Islamic Studies professor Timur Kuran.

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