UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies is an interdisciplinary centre for the integrated study of science's history, philosophy, sociology, communication and policy, located in the heart of London. Founded in 1921. Award winning for teaching and research, plus for our public engagement programme. Rated as outstanding by students at every level.

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Thinking about Science

Thinking About Science

This series of podcasts will be recorded at the STS recording studio over the coming academic year. The aim of the series is to discuss recent discoveries and research in science and the philosophical implications of these. Dr Emma Tobin (STS, UCL) will interview leading scientists in a number of fields, including astrobiology, evolutionary biochemistry, structural biology and many others. 

Contact:

For more information on the series please contact e.tobin@ucl.ac.uk. 

Episode 6 available now! 

All Episodes are now available on Soundcloud

Podcast Descriptions:

Episode 1: Life in the Universe

Dr Ian Crawford (Birkbeck/UCL):

Interviewed by Dr Emma Tobin, UCL STS

Interview Date: 5th September 2012

In this interview, Dr Ian Crawford discusses his research on Astrobiology. His empirical research is based on analogue sites on Earth, places where volcanic heat interacts with glacial ice. These sites are possible places to search for evidence of life. The discussion discusses the broader prospects for life in the universe as well as the future of space exploration. The discussion raises important philosophical issues surrounding issues like evidence and the classification of life itself and man's right to colonise other planets. 

Download Podcast (50mb)

Episode 2: Is Mars Twin Earth?

Dr Lewis Dartnell (UCL):

Interviewed by Dr Emma Tobin, UCL STS

Interview Date: 17th September 2012

In this interview, Dr Dartnell and Dr Emma Tobin discuss the recent Mars probe landing. Is it possible that microbial life could survive on Mars? If so, Is Mars, Twin Earth? Why is water and in particular liquid water so important? What counts as evidence and how will scientists assess the data once it comes in? Does Astrobiology suffer from Data Deluge? And if you've never heard of Conan the Bacterium, here's your chance!

Download Podcast (40mb)

Episode 3:  The Discovery of the Higgs Boson

Interviewed by Dr Emma Tobin, UCL STS

Interview Date: 15th October 2012

Prof Jonathan Butterworth (High Energy Physics Group, UCL)

The recent discovery of the Higg's Boson might be described as a massive coup for the Standard Model in Particle Physics. Prof Jon Butterworth (UCL, Physics and Astronomy) discusses his involvement in the Atlas project at Cern with Emma Tobin at STS and what it means for physics and scientific knowledge more generally. 

The discussion focuses on the nature of scientific discovery and evidence and on what has actually been discovered on July 4th 2012. The theory-ladenness of observation and the use of visualisation and simulation techniques on the Atlas Project are also discussed. We discuss some of these more philosophical topics centring on the largest scale scientific experiment that mankind has seen at Cern. If you want to know why Jon Butterworth is a structural realist or why he claims that the Higgs boson does not face the same problems as the atom did in its day, here's your chance to find out why!

Interviewed by Dr Emma Tobin, UCL STS
Recorded at Science and Technology Studies, UCL by Jo Pearson
Interview Date:  15th October 2012
Music: Andantino in A flat by JN Hummel, recorded  by Jo Pearson

Download Podcast (34mb)

Episode 4:  The Evolution of Biological Complexity

Dr Nick Lane (UCL):

Interviewed by Dr Emma Tobin, and Dr Brendan Clarke UCL STS

Interview Date: November 1st 2012

In this episode, Emma Tobin and Brendan Clarke talk to Nick Lane about the evolution of biological complexity. Can we ever know the truth about how complex life emerged? For Nick Lane, evolutionary biochemistry is like historical reconstruction: "The best we can aspire to is that in principle it could have worked that way and we can eliminate certain ways that it could not have worked". Nick thinks scientists should think about first principles and he rejects traditional boundaries between disciplines. Thus, for him Evolutionary Biochemistry is in certain respects "a form of philosophy"! Along the way many fascinating topics are discussed including: the great oxidation event, snowball earth, bioenergetics, and the role of context and symbiosis in the evolution of eukaryotic cells from prokaryotic cells.

The role of scientific method is also discussed: competing theories, hypothesis generation, falsification and why Popper was a little bit right, but also a little bit naive. Nick also explains why in his opinion it is ok for scientists to change their mind over time, and much more!

Interviewed by Dr Emma Tobin, and Dr Brendan Clarke UCL STS
Recorded at Science and Technology Studies, UCL by Jo Pearson
Interview Date:  1st November 2012
Music: Andantino in A flat by JN Hummel, recorded  by Jo Pearson

Download Podcast (48.1mb)

Episode 5: Biological Complexity and Structural Biology

Prof Stephen Curry (Imperial College London)

Interviewed by Dr Emma Tobin, STS UCL
Interview Date Monday 19th November 2012

In this episode, Emma Tobin talks to Prof. Stephen Curry (Imperial) about biological complexity in Structural Biology. The relationship between theory and experimentation in the context of protein crystallography is discussed. Stephen explains why "whatever works is what you do" and why protein crystallography requires a degree of pragmatism. Despite this, he maintains that protein structure is well supported by the data and justified by the statistical analysis. It turns out that the mathematical methods that Fourier used in the 18th Century to show how heat travels down a metal rod are now being used to reveal the structure of proteins using X-Ray Crystallography! The use of databases to interrogate the Protein Data Bank is also explained and Stephen suggest that even these databases should be open access!

Prof. Stephen Curry (Imperial)

Interviewed by Dr Emma Tobin UCL STS

Recorded at Science and Technology Studies, UCL by Jo Pearson
Interview Date:  19th November 2012
Music: Andantino in A flat by JN Hummel, recorded  by Jo Pearson

Episode 6: From Giant Magnets to Medical Imaging: the Computing in-between.

Dr Ivana Drobnjak

Interviewed by Dr Christine Aicardi, Science and Technology Studies, UCL

Interview Date: 8th February 2013

If you have a suggestion for a topic that you feel should be included, please get in touch.

In this episode, Christine Aicardi talks to Dr Ivana Drobnjak, of the Centre for Medical Image Computing, UCL, about Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Ivana details what goes on under the hood of an MRI scanner and opens up for us the highly complex, and largely hidden, chain of processes that leads to the visually striking images we are familiar with. She also explains about two different types of MRIs which are currently fast expanding and exciting areas of research, functional MRI and diffusion MRI. The issue of artefacts is discussed - the annoying artefacts that are a nuisance to be dealt with, as well as the intriguing ones that become re-evaluated as useful information.

Dr Ivana Drobnjak

Interviewed by Dr Christine Aicardi, Science and Technology Studies, UCL

Recorded at Science and Technology Studies, UCL by Jo Pearson

Interview Date: 8th February 2013

Music: Andantino in A flat by JN Hummel, recorded by Jo Pearson'

Page last modified on 09 apr 13 18:43 by Joe Cain


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