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Chris Mooney and Indre Viskontas' Posts

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8 scary facts about antibiotic resistance

A drug resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (staph).
Centers for Disease Control
A drug resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (staph).

This episode of Inquiring Mindsa podcast hosted by best-selling author Chris Mooney and neuroscientist and musician Indre Viskontas, also features a discussion of the surprising reasons that U.S. students are so bad at math (just 26th in the world, in a recent study). Plus, Indre takes apart a highly controversial new study purporting to show that male-female gender stereotypes are rooted in different wiring of our brains.

To catch future shows right when they are released, subscribe to Inquiring Minds via iTunes or RSS. You can also follow the show on Twitter at @inquiringshow and like us on Facebook.

It's flu season. And we're all about to crisscross the country to exchange hugs, kisses, and germs. We're going to get sick. And when we do, many of us will run to our doctors and, hoping to get better, demand antibiotics.

And that's the problem: Antibiotics don't cure the flu (which is viral, not bacterial), but the overprescription of antibiotics imperils us all by driving antibiotic resistance. This threat is growing, so much so that in a recent widely read Medium articleWired science blogger and self-described "scary disease girl" Maryn McKenna painted a disturbingly plausible picture of a world in which antibiotics have become markedly less effective. That future is the focus of McKenna's interview this week on the Inquiring Minds podcast:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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How the Simpsons have secretly been teaching you math

America's favorite dysfunctional family of math geniuses?
Fox
America's favorite dysfunctional family of math geniuses?

This episode of Inquiring Mindsa podcast hosted by best-selling author Chris Mooney and neuroscientist and musician Indre Viskontas, also features a discussion of some of the science behind Thanksgiving: Why thankfulness is good for us, and what kinds of food safety issues you should know about when it comes to Thanksgiving leftovers.

To catch future shows right when they are released, subscribe to Inquiring Minds via iTunes or RSS. You can also follow the show on Twitter at @inquiringshow and like us on Facebook.

Simon Singh may not sound like your average fan of The Simpsons. He has a PhD in particle physics from Cambridge and made an award-winning documentary about Fermat's Last Theorem. Let's be frank: He's a math geek.

But then, so are a surprisingly large number of the show's writers. You may not have realized it, but as Singh shows in his new book, The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets, a seemingly endless supply of mathematical jokes and references are crammed into each Simpsons episode.

"There are lots of mathematicians on the Simpson's [writing team] … and they still have a great affection towards numbers and geometry," says Singh in this week's interview on the Inquiring Minds podcast (listen below).

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We all start out as scientists, but then some of us forget

baby genius
Shutterstock

This episode of Inquiring Minds, a podcast hosted by best-selling author Chris Mooney and neuroscientist and musician Indre Viskontas, also features a discussion about why so many Ph.D.s today are unemployed and the surprising discovery that our brain cells actually have different DNA — different genetic codes within the same brain. To catch future shows right when they are released, subscribe to Inquiring Minds via iTunes. You can also follow the show on Twitter at @inquiringshow and like us on Facebook. Up until fairly recently, scientists, writers and philosophers alike have viewed human babies as little more than primitive adults. …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Could this 2013 Nobel laureate afford college today?

Climate Desk has launched a new science podcast, Inquiring Minds, cohosted by contributing writer Chris Mooney and neuroscientist and musician Indre Viskontas. To subscribe via iTunes, click here. You can also follow the show on Twitter at @inquiringshow, and like us on Facebook.

This episode of Inquiring Minds also features a discussion of the scientific accuracy of the new hit sci-fi film Gravity, and a controversy over the Nobel Prize in physics.

Randy_Schekman_8_February_2012
James Kegley

When Randy Schekman attended the University of California-Los Angeles in the late 1960s, getting a good college education was unimaginably cheap. Student fees were just a few hundred dollars; room and board was a few hundred more. "I could work a summer job and pay myself for the whole school year," says Schekman, now a cell biologist at the University of California-Berkeley.

On Monday, Schekman was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for his pioneering research on how cells transport proteins to other cells -- a process fundamental to cellular communication.

Schekman's college experience at UCLA, from which he graduated with a degree in molecular sciences in 1971, shifted him from wanting to pursue a career as a medical doctor to a fascination with scientific research. It was pivotal to his success -- in science, the ultimate success. That's why it's so striking to hear Schekman say that as a Nobelist, he now wants to use his newfound influence to stand up for publicly funded higher education, which he considers to be "really in peril all over the country."

In this episode of Inquiring Minds (click above to stream audio), Schekman explains that his dad, a middle-class father of five, "never had to pay virtually anything to educate his kids. That simply isn't possible now, and it's just tragic that this happened." The numbers are staggering, particularly within Schekman's own state of California. For example:

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