News & Information

NASA, Grandma Rodeo, The Enigma Code, Letters, Laughter

Top of Mind with Julie Rose
  • Feb 24, 2015 10:00 pm
  • 1:44:50

Truth, Lies, and O-Rings (1:16)  Guest: Allan McDonald, author of “Truth, Lies, and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster”  The explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986 killed all 7 crew members, as America watched in shock.  “I was in the launch control center and frankly very nervous because just the night before, my company had recommended not launching because there was a cold front,” says McDonald.  Grandma Rodeo (23:51)  Guest: Nancy Hunter, two-time winner at Rodeo Houston, Barrel Racing Grandma  58 year-old Nancy Hunter is pretty much the coolest grandma on the block.  Nancy has motivated others to pursue their dreams, despite their age. “If it’s helping others to get off the couch and follow their dreams, then so be it,” says Hunter on telling people her age.  “I used to be that child on the side of the rode,” says Hunter, “that used to be like ‘Can I pet your horse? Can I ride your horse?’”  “We’re all competitors, but it’s not a cutthroat thing. It’s a game and you just try to play it to the best of your ability. For the most part, we all get along well,” says Hunter on her relationships with her competitors.  The Viral Equivalent of the Enigma Code (52:23)  Guest: Peter Stockley, Professor of Biological Chemistry in the University of Leeds’ Faculty of Biology Sciences  During World War ll, a team of scientists, including the father of the Modern Day computer, Alan Turing, managed to crack the “Enigma Code” used by the Nazis to scramble their secret communications. Maybe you’ve seen the movie about their efforts called The Imitation Game. Well, it turns out that viruses may have an Enigma Code, too: a genetic message embedded in the virus that tells it how to replicate and wreak havoc on the immune system.  “You can think of virus particles as a transport vehicle as the nucleic acid gets wrapped in the protein cell,” says Stockley.  “There is a hidden code that people don’t really suspect. It’s a set of instruction,” says Stockley “how to build that protection cell around the nucleic acid.”  Month of Letters (1:06:14)  Guest: Mary Robinette Kowal, leader of the movement A Month of Letters  “We have about 7,000 people signed up this year which was astonishing. The first year, we had around 700 sign up. People have been really excited about it,” says Kowal.  “The internet is a perfectly useful tool; it’s about taking time and thinking about one other person. People are rediscovering the intimacy of communication,” says Kowal.  When & Why We Laugh (1:19:08)  Guest: Scott Weems, neuroscientist at the University of Maryland and author of “HA! The Science of When We Laugh and Why”  When was the last time you really laughed? Was it because someone told a joke? Or you saw something in life that you found absurd? Maybe a sarcastic snipe on Twitter gave you a chuckle? Or perhaps your last laugh was a nervous one. When we are unsure what else to do, we often resort to laughter, don’t we?  Humor is complicated. As is humor’s most common symptom, laughter.  “Usually there is a meaning behind it, some subtle message. That’s the case with any joke; there is usually a message behind it,” explains Weems. “Our brains hate to be bored.”  “Surprise is a start, but you also have to have an outcome too,” says Weems, “a new way of thinking after the punch line.”