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The Natural Order

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Thursday, February 02, 2012

On today’s show: We’ll take a look at how a single principle of physics, constructural law, can help explain symmetries in evolutionary design. Then, we’ll hear about the life of Paul Jennings, a slave who served President James Madison in the White House. Today’s installment of the BBC’s A History of the World in 100 Objects looks at a tiny statue of a Minoan bull leaper. Plus our latest Backstory segments look at Super-PACs and what roles they play in the primaries, and we’ll also find out what’s happening in Syria.

Design in Nature

Adrian Bejan takes the recurring patterns in nature—trees, tributaries, air passages, neural networks, and lightning bolts—and reveals how a the Constructal Law accounts for the evolution of these and all other designs in our world. Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, and Social Organization, written with J. Peder Zane, looks at how everything—from biological life to inanimate systems—generates shape and structure and evolves in a sequence of ever-improving designs in order to facilitate flow.

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A Slave in the White House

Elizabeth Dowling Taylor tells the story of Paul Jennings, who was born into slavery on the plantation of James and Dolley Madison in Virginia, and later became part of the Madison household staff at the White House. Her book A Slave in the White House is based on correspondence, legal documents, and journal entries rarely seen before, and reveals attitudes toward slavery of the 19th century.

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Backstory: Super-PACs

ProPublica’s Kim Barker and Al Shaw take a look at the role Super-PACs are playing in the 2012 election.

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Backstory: Diplomacy Surrounding Syria

Last month, the Arab League sent a team of observers to Syria, where the government has been cracking down on protesters. Colum Lynch, who writes the Turtle Bay blog for Foreign Policy and reports on the United Nations for the Washington Post, explains what internal Arab League memos reveal about the mission in Syria. Plus, a look at why Russia opposed the United Nations Security Council measure to condemn the Syrian government during a meeting on Tuesday.

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