Thursday, April 14, 2011
Listen to El Mariachi Infante perform!
Last night in the Greene Space, Leonard spoke with award-winning journalist Jon Alpert and four young filmmakers from Downtown Community Television Center, who also screened excerpts from documentaries they made in the DCTV's youth media training program. And El Mariachi Infante, a mariachi band featured in one of the films, performed.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
A few weeks ago, Leonard spoke to David Pogue and Katrinn Eismann about digital photography. Now, photographer David Friedman has posted a short video of his interview with Steven Sasson, the inventor of the first digital camera.
In the video, Sasson shows Friedman the first digital camera he invented, which looks like a high school student's poorly designed shop project. According to Sasson, the first digital image was captured by him in December 1975. Check out the full video below—the latest in Friedman's long-running series profiling inventors.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that federal prosecutors in New Jersey are now investigating whether some smartphone applications are illegally grabbing or transmit your personal information without the proper disclosure. It’s an issue that came up during Leonard’s discussions with WSJ editor Julia Angwin in August 2010 and last month.
The online music service Pandora is one of the companies that has received a subpoena, but the WSJ tested 101 apps and found that 56 of them were transmitting information about the device without the user’s consent.
Do you think that you’ll change the way you use your smartphone? Will you cut back on the apps you use on your iPhone or Droid? Should information gathering be a criminal offense? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Monday, April 04, 2011
During Friday’s Please Explain about anger, Dr. Philip Muskin brought up a man named Phineas Gage, who, he said, “was a very responsible manager on the railroad. One day a tamping rod went through his eye, through his brain, and basically gave him a frontal lobotomy. And Phineas Gage then became basically a ne’er do well. He was not responsible, he drank, he caroused, he lost his temper all the time. That is, the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the rest of the brain is really important.”
Phineas Gage was 25 in 1848, and the foreman of a crew building a new railroad track in Vermont. He was packing explosives with a tamping iron that was “43 inches long, 1.25 inches in diameter and weighing 13.25 pounds,” according Steve Twomey, writing in Smithsonian magazine, when an explosion shot the tamping iron through his head—it entered through his cheek and exited through the top of his skull. He survived, but his doctor and friends noticed a remarkable change in his personality in the months following the accident. He became the most famous patient in neuroscience because his injury demonstrated a connection between brain trauma and personality change and showed that specific parts of the brain were responsible for our moods. Read more about Phineas Gage—and see a photograph of him with the tamping iron that injured him—in Smithsonian Magazine.
In February, Dr. V. S. Ramachandran spoke with Leonard about his work in neuroscience, and he described how strokes cause brain trauma that can alter senses and change personalities. One patient started drawing with incredible detail after he suffered a stroke, although he was never particularly interested in or skilled at making art before. In Dr. Ramachandran's book The Tell-Tale Brain, he gives a number of examples of how brain injuries reveal the ways the brain works. You can listen to that interview here.
Friday, April 01, 2011
Today we aired our interview with Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonette, two autistic men who are featured in Geraldine Wurzberg’s new documentary film “Wretches and Jabberers.” They use computers and iPads to communicate with the rest of the world.
It was unlike any other pretaped interview we’ve done on the show. Along with Tracy, Larry, and Geraldine, there were 2 professional aides in the studios, helping Tracy and Larry slowly type their answers to Leonard’s questions. The taping took us 41 minutes to get about 13 minutes of conversation, with our engineers making sure that we had the equipment and the studio time we needed to record the whole thing.
Parts of the interview are moving, others funny. We hope you enjoy this unusual conversation as much as the Lopate Show team has enjoyed bringing it to you.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Today's Please Explain is about radiation. We present for you a primer on uranium, the radioactive rock:
Uranium is one of the heaviest and certainly one of the most volatile elements in nature. It’s also fairly abundant in the universe and can be found in the Earth's crust at a rate nearly 40 times that of silver. It's nucleus is so densely packed that uranium atoms can only be produced through the extreme force and pressure of a supernova. >>>
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Wool was the topic of a Please Explain segment in December, but because winter is not quite over (it’s snowing as I write this), many of us are still wearing scarves and hats and heavy winter coats made of wool, so I'm continuing the conversation. There were a few unanswered questions about wool and about animal cruelty in the wool industry, and Clara Parkes was kind enough to e-mail some answers, which I’ve included below.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
A conversation that happened on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 in the Lopate Show offices...
Blakeney: On Wednesday's Patricia T. O’Conner segment we’re talking about “cat words”—like “cat’s pajamas” and “kitty corner.”
Steven: That’s exciting. I’ve always wondered what’s up with the phrase “sitting in the cat bird seat.” It doesn’t make any sense to me. At all. Is it about a cat that that is perfectly poised to catch a bird sitting in a seat? Since when do birds sit in seats? Has it caught and eaten a bird and is sitting in the bird’s seat? I do not understand this idiom! Then again, as a child, I imagined the phrase “shooting fish in a barrel” involved shooting fish out of some kind fish shooting device into a barrel on the other side of a field, not using a gun to shoot fish swimming around in a closed container. So, maybe I’m not the right person to be thinking about these things.
Blakeney: I think it’s about being in advantageous position. As in: you’re a bird, sitting in the seat above the cat. But we could just look it up… >>>
Monday, March 21, 2011
"I think, I really fear, that the countdown to civil war in Yemen has just begun. It’s not just about protests in Yemen. You have some major defections by army generals in the last 24 hours. You have internal divisions within the ruling party of Pres. Ali Abdullah Saleh. Some elements from his own tribe are calling for him to step down. You have now a military standoff between special forces led by his son and the first division of the army of which the generals, some of his closest generals, have defected. You have turmoil engulfing most of the Yemen. You have a separatist movement in the South; you have a tribal insurgency in the North. But most important of all, I would argue, the new democratic revolt that has been sweeping the Arab world has reached Yemen with a vengeance."
Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern Politics and International Relations at the London School of Economics. For more of the interview, click here.
Friday, March 18, 2011
On today's Please Explain, Leonard will be talking to David Pogue and Katrin Eismann about digital photography. One of the issues we'll be exploring is whether digital imagery is more prone to alteration—and if this manipulability means that we have come to distrust digital photographs more than film photographs.
Below, we've created a slide show of some of our favorite faked images throughout history—both film and digital. Let us know in the comments of some other egregious—or subtle—examples of photographic fakery - and if you think digital is less trustworthy than film.
In case you're curious, the Museum of Hoaxes has a great page devoted to photo hoaxes from the 1850s to the 1950s.
Friday, March 18, 2011
This Saturday is Purim—the Jewish holiday that celebrates the victory of Persian Jews over Haman the Agatite, who was trying to annihilate them. To celebrate, most Jews dress up in costumes and eat a pastry called hamantaschen, which literally means "ears of Haman." Traditionally filled with poppy seeds, dried fruit, or nuts, the pastry is always shaped in a triangle.
Since we often cover food on the Lopate Show, and recently we've covered quite a bit of Jewish home cooking, we thought we might share some of our favorite hamantaschen recipes with you. Below, we've asked Joan Nathan and Gil Marks—two frequent guests on our show—to share their hamantaschen recipes with us. If you're interested in the history of the holiday, you should also check out an interview Leonard conducted in 2006 with Houman Sarshar, the director of publications for the Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History and author of the book Esther's Children. He explains the Persian roots of the holiday, and debunks some widely held myths.
Let us know in the comments if you have a Purim recipe or memory you'd like to share!
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
A number of authors who have recently won awards for their work have been guests on the Leonard Lopate Show, where they talked about their books and their careers as writers.
Jennifer Egan won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction for her novel A Visit from the Good Squad. She was on the Lopate Show on June 10, 2010, to talk about the book, life in Brooklyn, and composing stories in PowerPoint. Listen to that interview here.
Isabel Wilkerson won the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction for her book The Warmth of Other Suns, about the history of migration of African Americans who left the South for northern and western cities. You can listen to her interview with Leonard here.
Darin Strauss won the the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography for Half a Life, about being in a car accident as a teenager that killed a classmate. In October he spoke with Leonard about the accident and of writing about it, and you can listen to that interview here.
Deborah Eisenberg won the 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award for The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg, a compilation of her short stories. She was on the Leonard Lopate Show April 5, 2010, to talk about her writing career and her craft. You can listen to that interview here.
Monday, March 14, 2011
In the wake of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit Japan, the country's nuclear plants have been in a state of emergency. As of this writing, at least three nuclear reactors were experiencing partial meltdowns, with the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station reportedly experiencing the worst radiation disaster since Chernobyl. Over the weekend, I was keeping an eye on the disaster, but after each news report, I'd been left with one burning, unanswered question: just what exactly happens during a nuclear meltdown?
Thankfully, my dad—who is a physicist—was kind enough to answer my question, even as he gave me a look that said "I told you that you shouldn't have changed your major from chemistry to literature." His response, as well as supplemental information from some of the Lopate Show's past coverage of nuclear energy, is after the jump.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Today, Leonard spoke to ProPublica's Steve Engelberg and Frontline's Raney Aronson about long-form storytelling in a short attention span world. Part of the discussion centered on sites like Longreads and Longform.org, which aggregate good long-form pieces, new and old. Here at the Lopate Show, we thought we'd share some of our own favorite pieces of long-form reporting—both pieces that we've discussed and others—and ask you, our listeners, to tell us your favorites. Let us know in the comments below!
Friday, March 11, 2011
On today's Please Explain, Leonard spoke to geologist Lori Dengler and seismologist Geoff Abers about the tsunami in Japan. In addition to finding out that earthquakes can cause whirlpools, we found out a lot more about how tsunamis are closer to us than we think.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Thursday, March 10, 2011
The world of 17th century scientific and mathematical experimentation was, as Edward Dolnick told Leonard today, one of alchemy, experimentation, and god-fearing superstition. The experiments undertaken by the Royal Society may have led to some incredible discoveries, but some had less serious goals and were, in truth, nothing more than idle amusements. Take the cat piano.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Today, Leonard spoke to chef Grant Achatz, whose restaurant, Alinea, is consistently named one of the best restaurants in America for its creative takes on traditional food. Achatz is known as one of the leaders of molecular gastronomy, which places an emphasis on the chemical properties of food. Molecular gastronomists like Achatz are often known for their elaborate, almost surreal plating techniques.
Monday, March 07, 2011
The origins of the name Manhattan are a murky business. Today, Leonard spoke to James and Karla Murray, who have set about documenting the varied store fronts of New York's rapidly disappearing mom-and-pop stores. As part of their book, Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York, they include historical descriptions of New York's neighborhoods. In addition to the interesting tidbits and trivia (who knew that the Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery was still making yogurt with a culture brought over from Romania in the 1890s?), I was surprised to find out that the origins of present-day Manhattan could be traced to so many different words. Here's a sample of the few the Murrays named: