Unsung Science

Unsung Science

Hear the untold stories of mind-blowing achievements in science and tech. Host David Pogue, six-time Emmy winner and “CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent, takes you behind the scenes into the worlds of the people who’ve built the best in transportation, entertainment, food, internet, and health. Creators reveal their inspirations and roadblocks they encountered in bringing their breakthroughs to the public.

Episodes

February 11, 2022 37 min

People talk about greenhouse-gas emissions from cars, planes, and factories, but one source out-pollutes them all: Cows. Raising meat animals like cows generates more methane than the entire fossil-fuel industry. So Pat Brown left his job as a Stanford biochemistry professor to dedicate his life to fixing the problem. He vowed to create perfect meat replicas using only plant ingredients. His Impossible Burger is already a megahit—b...

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By the year 2000, the internet was already becoming a cesspool. The bad guys used software bots to sign up for millions of fake email accounts—for sending out spam.

PhD student Luis Von Ahn stopped them. He invented the CAPTCHA, that website login test where you have to decipher the distorted image of a word. Or you have to find the traffic lights or fire hydrants in a grid of nine blurry photos.

Those tests help to keep down the vol...

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January 28, 2022 33 min

Each year, the powers that be endow our phones with about 70 new emoji. For 2022, you’ll be getting a mirror ball, a crutch, an X-ray, coral, a ring buoy, and a bird’s nest—with or without eggs in it.

But who ARE the powers that be? Why do they add the emoji they add? Why do we have a blowfish but not a catfish? Why do we have police car, police officer, and judge, but not handcuffs, jail, or prison?

In this hilarious episode, you’ll...

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January 21, 2022 33 min

Over the last decade, a group of California scientists has quietly amassed the biggest sleep database ever assembled. It includes every dozing off, every wakeup, every REM-cycle, every chunk of deep sleep, from 15 billion nights of human slumber. It can tell us the average person’s bedtime, whether men or women sleep longer, and which city is really the city that never sleeps. These scientists work at Fitbit—the company that sells ...

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January 14, 2022 48 min

You already knew that you can turn on subtitles for your TV show or movie—handy if you’re hearing impaired, or just want to understand the dialogue better. But there’s a corresponding feature for people with low vision: audio description tracks, where an unseen narrator tells you, in real time, what’s happening on the screen. But who creates them, and how, and when? And how do they describe the action during fast dialogue, fast act...

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In 2018, following a historic three-year drought, the water sources in Cape Town, South Africa ran dry. It was the first major city to face Day Zero: when you’d turn on the faucet—and nothing would come out.

The town leaders discussed expensive, environmentally disruptive projects like pipelines and desalination plants. But then an environmental nonprofit, the Nature Conservancy, proposed a radically different approach that could wi...

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December 31, 2021 58 min

You’ve survived 2021—thanks, no doubt, to the science and tech that made your medical care, your internet, and your smartphone work. Tonight, New Year’s Eve, many podcast hosts are taking some time to reflect, to rest—and to post a re-run.

But not “Unsung Science!” To tide you over until next week’s fresh episode, we offer a free audiobook chapter from David Pogue’s book, “How to Prepare for Climate Change.” This is the chapter on h...

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December 24, 2021 58 min

It’s the night before Christmas—and many podcasters (and listeners) are nestled all snug in their beds. But we didn’t want to leave you without a dose of witty Pogue science writing. So here, for your listening pleasure, is a free chapter from David Pogue’s latest audio book, “How to Prepare for Climate Change.” This is Chapter 2, “Where to Live.”

Obviously, not everyone can afford to move just to escape climate-crisis disasters—yet...

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The earth’s spinning is slowing down. Any clocks pegged to the earth’s rotation are therefore drifting out of alignment with our far more precise atomic clocks—only by a thousandth of a second every 50 years, but that’s still a problem for the computers that run the internet, cellphones, and financial systems.

In 1972, scientists began re-aligning atomic clocks with earth-rotation time by inserting a leap second every December 31, o...

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In the early 1970s, “mobile phones” were car phones: Permanently installed monstrosities that filled up your trunk with boxes and, in a given city, could handle only 20 calls at a time. Nobody imagined that there’d be a market for handheld, pocketable cellphones; the big phone companies thought the idea was idiotic. But Marty Cooper, now 92, saw a different future for cellular technology—and he had 90 days to make it work. A story ...

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Your smartphone can see, hear, and speak—even if you can’t. So it occurred to the engineers at Apple and Microsoft: Can the phone be a talking companion for anyone with low vision, describing what it’s seeing in the world around you?

Today, it can. Thanks to some heavy doses of machine learning and augmented reality, these companies’ apps can identify things, scenes, money, colors, text, and even people (“30-year-old man with brown ...

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November 26, 2021 6 min

It's Thanksgiving weekend, and for many podcasts, a week off. But we didn't want to sock you with some re-run—or, worse, leave you with no episode at all. So David Pogue is here to offer a free chapter from his audio book, "How to Prepare for Climate Change." You'll hear the complete Introduction, which is designed to teach you the difference between mitigation and adaptation—and convince you to keep doing the f...

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The first time you heard “Star Trek” characters speak Klingon, or the “Game of Thrones” characters speaking Dothraki and High Valyrian, you might have assumed that the actors were just speaking a few words of gibberish, created by some screenwriter to sound authentic. But these are complete languages, with vocabulary, syntax, grammar, and even made-up histories. There’s only one person on the planet whose full-time job is creating ...

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Perseverance, NASA's latest Mars rover, is a one-ton, $2 billion marvel. The plan was for it to enter the Mars atmosphere going 12,000 miles an hour. The problem: How do you slow it down enough to set it down gently on the surface? You can't use retro rockets, because they'd stir up so much dust, the rover’s cameras and instruments would be ruined. You can’t deliver Perseverance inside a larger spaceship, because the ro...

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Tornadoes are nasty and dangerous. They appear and disappear so fast, there’s usually no time for evacuation—and the United States gets 75% of all the world’s tornadoes, about 1,300 of them a year. They occur all year ‘round, in all 50 states, but the biggest swarm forms in Tornado Alley, in the southern Plains states like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. In 2018, storm chaser and meteorologist Victor Gensini made a startling...

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October 29, 2021 42 min

The media is plenty freaked out about “deepfakes”: Computer-generated videos of famous people saying things they never actually said. But only the video is faked; the audio parts, the voices of those fake celebrities, were supplied by human impersonators. But now, software exists to mimic anyone’s voice, opening a Pandora’s Box of fraud, deception, and what one expert calls “the end of trust.” Fortunately, a new coalition of 60 new...

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October 22, 2021 38 min

It may seem as though we got the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines incredibly quickly. But Hungarian biochemist Katalin Karikó had been trying to make mRNA vaccines work for 30 years while fighting scientific gatekeepers who thought her idea was absurd. Her grants were denied, her papers rejected, her speaking invitations withdrawn; eventually, the University of Pennsylvania demoted her. But she still refused to quit, and in 2005, ...

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Mosquitoes are the deadliest creatures on earth; they kill 500,000 people a year—and as the planet warms, more species are spreading North from the tropics. In 2013, a nasty new type, called Aedes Aegypti, arrived in Fresno, California. But traditional tactics, like spraying insecticide and genetic modification, have ugly side effects. So one genius programmer from Google thought up a better solution—that doesn’t involve insecticid...

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The untold stories of mind-blowing achievements in science and tech. Host David Pogue takes you behind the scenes into the worlds of the people who’ve built the best in transportation, entertainment, food, Hear the untold stories of mind-blowing achievements in science and tech. Host David Pogue, five-time Emmy winner and “CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent, takes you behind the scenes into the worlds of the people who’ve built the ...

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Mark as Played

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