Surprisingly Brilliant

Surprisingly Brilliant

A science history podcast uncovering the little-known stories and less-talked-about people behind well-known science & tech. Written & Hosted by Maren Hunsberger & Greg Foot for Seeker

Episodes

December 9, 2021 64 mins
Time travel? Aliens? Seeing the invisible? This special episode’s tale from science history has them all as Maren takes Greg down the long and winding road science took to understand what is perhaps the most perplexing object in the universe: the black hole. Special thanks to the John Templeton Foundation for their support in making this episode possible. Learn more at Templeton.org. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastc...
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The man who changed our understanding of disorders of the brain was a man who couldn't recognize faces himself. He was a man who saw music as a therapeutic tool, who broke all the existing rules for how to talk to and about patients, and who made us all feel a little more human. Maren tells Greg the amazing true story of Oliver Sacks. This episode is made possible thanks to HHMI Tangled Bank Studios. ‘Oliver Sacks: His Own Life’ i...
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February 18, 2021 61 mins
One bean has changed the world in unexpected ways, and the man behind it was even more extraordinary. This is the story of a man whose genius shone against all odds, how his discoveries shaped much of our modern world, and the science that he could have done...if society had let him. Maren introduces Greg to Percy Julian. Show notes, sources, and transcript can be found at https://linktr.ee/surprisinglybrilliant Learn more about y...
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February 11, 2021 63 mins
Vaccines. They're a big topic of conversation right now. But who discovered them? Who gave the first one? And what was the rather effective method around for hundreds of years before them?? Greg tells Maren a (rather gross) story of pus, pox parties, and… cuckoos? It's a tale that travels from China, through Turkey, to a small town in Gloucestershire, and asks if the ‘father of immunology’ - Edward Jenner - really earned that title...
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February 4, 2021 52 mins
The universe speaks in a common language...the mathematics of change. Maren wasn't so sure about math, but after this episode she's a truly changed person. Isaac Newton DID stand on the shoulders of giants to translate the universe...but he also had his rivals, like Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Maren tells Greg a story that starts with the beginning of civilization and goes (literally) on to infinity. Show notes, sources, and transc...
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January 28, 2021 54 mins
A story in three parts: The discovery of a revolutionary biotechnology that’s used every day by countless scientists. How that works. And the dangerous ideas (& behaviour) of the man who won a Nobel Prize for its invention. Greg tells Maren about Kary Mullis and PCR. Show notes, sources, and transcript can be found at https://linktr.ee/surprisinglybrilliant Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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January 21, 2021 67 mins
This doctor was a public health pioneer, a visionary in the medical treatments of his day, and a relatively radical voice against the entrenched establishment...but do we only remember him because of this one secret? Maren tells Greg about James Barry and a story that travers the globe and challenges all our assumptions. Show notes, sources, and transcript can be found at https://linktr.ee/surprisinglybrilliant Learn more about yo...
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January 14, 2021 60 mins
Greg tells Maren about a chemist who develops hit product after hit product, from revolutionising whisky production to developing ‘the first wonder drug'… a man who was once the most famous Japanese person in America but was soon forgotten. This is the story of Takamine Jōkichi. Show notes, sources, and transcript can be found at https://linktr.ee/surprisinglybrilliant Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/ad...
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January 7, 2021 49 mins
A forgotten figure, shrouded in mystery, is the true voice behind our modern understanding of perhaps the most important issue facing humanity today: climate change. Maren tells Greg about Eunice Foote, and a story filled with…intrigue and lost voices, and they come to understand why all these voices are so important to listen to in the first place. Show notes, sources, and transcript can be found at https://linktr.ee/surprisingly...
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December 31, 2020 61 mins
This week Greg tells Maren about shovel-faced reptiles, giant ferns, land bridges, and classified war-time research. This is the story of how we worked out what shaped - and shapes - our planet. The story of an idea that's said to be as big a deal to Earth Sciences as Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is to the Life Sciences. Yet the idea was ignored for 50 years...  Show notes, sources, and transcript can be found at https://linktr.ee...
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December 24, 2020 67 mins
One pill changed the world forever. It replaced crocodile dung inserted into the vagina. It involved rabbit embryos fertilized in a test tube. And it may be available for men in the future. Maren tells Greg a story filled with the wild characters and moral quandaries that have defined our modern sex lives. Show notes, sources, and transcript can be found at https://linktr.ee/surprisinglybrilliant Learn more about your ad choices. ...
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December 17, 2020 57 mins
Chess... Poker... Rock Paper Scissors... Your daily commute..? Nuclear war..? AND your Social Media?? Turns out you can form a winning strategy for all of these using 'Game Theory' - and in this episode Greg not only tells Maren how, but also untangles the story of its development. It’s the story of two Johns - von Neumann & Nash - and separates fact from fiction in the film ‘A Beautiful Mind’. [*Winning not guaranteed. Sorry] Sh...
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December 10, 2020 48 mins
 The first human coronavirus, yoga, and the recorder all have something in common: they were all mastered by the same woman. In this episode, Maren tells Greg the story of June Almeida, an extraordinary woman who completely changed the way we literally SEE viruses. Show notes, sources, and transcript can be found at https://linktr.ee/surprisinglybrilliant Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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December 3, 2020 63 mins
This is the story of not just one set of brothers, but three: the Wrights, the Montgolfiers & the Lilienthals. It’s a story that does pre-flight checks in Italy, takes off in France, and soars to the US, with a quick layover in Brazil. Along the way Greg tells Maren about the contenders who some claim really flew first, and their journey ends at a surprise destination: the Moon. Show notes, sources, and transcript can be found at ...
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November 26, 2020 62 mins
A story that spans from the tiniest cells in your inner ear to a technology that changed the world and will shape our future. It takes us through all of recorded history, uncovering not only how we hear the world, but how biased that world is too. Maren tells Greg a tale of biophysics, Alexander Graham Bell, the future of brain implants, and how we can reframe our perceptions of language and sensory experience. Show notes, sources,...
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November 19, 2020 59 mins
We kick off Season 2 with the story of your most requested person: Rosalind Franklin. But it’s not the story we should be remembering her for either. Greg tells Maren the tale of how the structure of DNA was unravelled, but the twist leads us somewhere else entirely. Show notes, sources, and transcript can be found at https://linktr.ee/surprisinglybrilliant Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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November 17, 2020 1 min
New amazing stories from science history are coming Thursday, November 19th! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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June 25, 2020 48 mins
Meet the ‘Rope Mother’ - the lady whose code, weaved into copper wire and magnetic rings, saved the Apollo 11 mission to the moon… Greg tells Maren the story of an incredible person who has not only been called The Fourth Astronaut, but who also pioneered, and coined the term for, ‘Software Engineering’; Margaret Hamilton. Show notes, sources, and transcript can be found at https://linktr.ee/surprisinglybrilliant Learn more about...
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June 18, 2020 50 mins
The course of World War II, the development of successful cancer treatment, and just being able to go outside without fear all come down to one thing: the humble Penicillium fungus. Maren tells Greg a tale of accidental discoveries, fungal espionage, and the daunting potential future of medicine without this life-saving substance.  Show notes, sources, and transcript can be found at https://linktr.ee/surprisinglybrilliant  Learn m...
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June 11, 2020 48 mins
What do a children’s birthday party, an accidental discovery, a shoe shop gadget, and Marie Curie have in common?? Have a listen to find out, as Greg tells Maren the amazing origin story of one of the most important pieces of medical tech ever developed: X-rays. Show notes, sources, and transcript can be found at https://linktr.ee/surprisinglybrilliant  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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