The Joy of Why

By Steven Strogatz and Quanta Magazine

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Description

The mathematician and author Steven Strogatz interviews leading researchers about the great scientific and mathematical questions of our time.

Episode Date
Why and How Do We Dream?
2723

Dreams are so personal, subjective and fleeting, they might seem impossible to study directly and with scientific objectivity. But in recent decades, laboratories around the world have developed sophisticated techniques for getting into the minds of people while they are dreaming. In the process, they are learning more about why we need these strange nightly experiences and how our brains generate them. In this episode, Steven Strogatz speaks with sleep researcher Antonio Zadra about how new experimental methods have changed our understanding of dreams.

“The Joy of Why” is a podcast from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication supported by the Simons Foundation. Funding decisions by the Simons Foundation have no influence on the selection of topics, guests, or other editorial decisions in this podcast or in Quanta Magazine. “The Joy of Why” is produced by Susan Valot and Polly Stryker. Our editors are John Rennie and Thomas Lin, with support by Matt Carlstrom, Annie Melchor and Leila Sloman. Our theme music was composed by Richie Johnson. Our logo is by Jackie King, and artwork for the episodes is by Michael Driver and Samuel Velasco. Our host is Steven Strogatz. If you have any questions or comments for us, please email us at quanta@simonsfoundation.org.

Aug 24, 2022
What Is Quantum Field Theory and Why Is It Incomplete?
2524

Quantum field theory may be the most successful scientific theory of all time, predicting  experimental results with stunning accuracy and advancing the study of higher dimensional mathematics. Yet, there’s also reason to believe that it is missing something. Steven Strogatz speaks with David Tong, a theoretical physicist at the University of Cambridge, to explore the open questions of this enigmatic theory.

“The Joy of Why” is a podcast from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication supported by the Simons Foundation. Funding decisions by the Simons Foundation have no influence on the selection of topics, guests, or other editorial decisions in this podcast or in Quanta Magazine. “The Joy of Why” is produced by Susan Valot and Polly Stryker. Our editors are John Rennie and Thomas Lin, with support by Matt Carlstrom, Annie Melchor and Leila Sloman. Our theme music was composed by Richie Johnson. Our logo is by Jackie King, and artwork for the episodes is by Michael Driver and Samuel Velasco. Our host is Steven Strogatz. If you have any questions or comments for us, please email us at quanta@simonsfoundation.org.

Aug 10, 2022
Why Do We Get Old, and Can Aging Be Reversed?
2305

Everybody gets older, but not everyone ages in the same way. For many people, late life includes a deterioration of health brought on by age-related disease. But that’s not true for everyone, and around the world, women typically live longer than men. Why is that? In this episode, Steven Strogatz speaks with Judith Campisi and Dena Dubal, two biomedical researchers who study the causes and outcomes of aging to understand how it works — and what scientists know about postponing or even reversing the aging process.

“The Joy of Why” is a podcast from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication supported by the Simons Foundation. Funding decisions by the Simons Foundation have no influence on the selection of topics, guests, or other editorial decisions in this podcast or in Quanta Magazine. “The Joy of Why” is produced by Susan Valot and Polly Stryker. Our editors are John Rennie and Thomas Lin, with support by Matt Carlstrom, Annie Melchor and Leila Sloman. Our theme music was composed by Richie Johnson. Our logo is by Jackie King, and artwork for the episodes is by Michael Driver and Samuel Velasco. Our host is Steven Strogatz. If you have any questions or comments for us, please email us at quanta@simonsfoundation.org. 

Jul 27, 2022
How Do Mathematicians Know Their Proofs Are Correct?
1706

How can anyone say something with certainty about infinity? What can we really know about the mysterious prime numbers without knowing all of them? Just as scientists need data to assess their hypotheses, mathematicians need evidence to prove or disprove conjectures. But what counts as evidence in the intangible realm of number theory? In this episode, Steven Strogatz speaks with Melanie Matchett Wood, a professor of mathematics at Harvard University, to learn how probability and randomness can help establish evidence for the airtight arguments demanded of mathematicians.“The Joy of Why” is a podcast from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication supported by the Simons Foundation. Funding decisions by the Simons Foundation have no influence on the selection of topics, guests, or other editorial decisions in this podcast or in Quanta Magazine. “The Joy of Why” is produced by Susan Valot and Polly Stryker. Our editors are John Rennie and Thomas Lin, with support by Matt Carlstrom, Annie Melchor and Leila Sloman. Our theme music was composed by Richie Johnson. Our logo is by Jackie King, and artwork for the episodes is by Michael Driver and Samuel Velasco. Our host is Steven Strogatz. If you have any questions or comments for us, please email us at .

Jul 13, 2022
Can Computers Be Mathematicians?
1970

How do you teach mathematics to an artificial intelligence? AI has already bested humans at various problem-solving tasks, including games like chess and Go. But before any task can be tackled by a machine, it must be reinterpreted as  directions in language that computers can understand. For the last few years, researchers and amateurs all over the world have worked together to translate the essential axioms of mathematics into a programming language called Lean. Armed with this knowledge, theorem-proving programs that understand Lean have begun helping some of the world’s greatest mathematicians verify their work. Steven Strogatz speaks with Kevin Buzzard, professor of pure mathematics at Imperial College London, about the effort to “teach” math to Lean — and how projects like this one could shape the future of math.

“The Joy of Why” is a podcast from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication supported by the Simons Foundation. Funding decisions by the Simons Foundation have no influence on the selection of topics, guests, or other editorial decisions in this podcast or in Quanta Magazine. “The Joy of Why” is produced by Susan Valot and Polly Stryker. Our editors are John Rennie and Thomas Lin, with support by Matt Carlstrom, Annie Melchor and Leila Sloman. Our theme music was composed by Richie Johnson. Our logo is by Jackie King, and artwork for the episodes is by Michael Driver and Samuel Velasco. Our host is Steven Strogatz. If you have any questions or comments for us, please email us at quanta@simonsfoundation.org.

Jun 29, 2022
What Is Life?
2518

Scientists don’t really agree on a definition for life. We may recognize life instinctively most of the time, but any time we try to nail it down with set criteria, some stubborn counterexample spoils the effort. Still, can we really search for life on other worlds, or understand the earliest stages of life on this planet, if we don’t know what to look for? On this episode, Steven Strogatz speaks with Robert Hazen, a mineralogist, astrobiologist and senior staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution’s Earth and Planets Laboratory, along with Sheref Mansy, professor of chemistry at the University of Alberta, to learn more about how new taxonomies and a “cellular Turing test” might help us answer this essential question.

“The Joy of Why” is a podcast from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication supported by the Simons Foundation. Funding decisions by the Simons Foundation have no influence on the selection of topics, guests, or other editorial decisions in this podcast or in Quanta Magazine. “The Joy of Why” is produced by Susan Valot and Polly Stryker. Our editors are John Rennie and Thomas Lin, with support by Matt Carlstrom, Annie Melchor and Leila Sloman. Our theme music was composed by Richie Johnson. Our logo is by Jackie King, and artwork for the episodes is by Michael Driver and Samuel Velasco. Our host is Steven Strogatz. If you have any questions or comments for us, please email us at quanta@simonsfoundation.org. 

Jun 15, 2022
How Could Life Evolve From Cyanide?
2363

How did life begin on Earth? It’s one of the greatest and most ancient mysteries in all of science — and the clues to solving it are all around us. Biologists have sometimes imagined evolutionary history as a recorded “tape of life” that might turn out differently if it were replayed again and again. In this episode, Steven Strogatz speaks with two researchers inspecting different parts of the tape. First, hear from the Nobel Prize-winning biologist Jack Szostak, who explores how a boiling pool laced with cyanide could have given rise to essential life elements like RNA and DNA. Then hear from Betül Kaçar, a paleogeneticist and astrobiologist who resurrects ancient genes to learn how they helped evolve the processes essential to modern life.

“The Joy of Why” is a podcast from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication supported by the Simons Foundation. Funding decisions by the Simons Foundation have no influence on the selection of topics, guests, or other editorial decisions in this podcast or in Quanta Magazine. “The Joy of Why” is produced by Susan Valot and Polly Stryker. Our editors are John Rennie and Thomas Lin, with support by Matt Carlstrom, Annie Melchor and Leila Sloman. Our theme music was composed by Richie Johnson. Our logo is by Jackie King, and artwork for the episodes is by Michael Driver and Samuel Velasco. Our host is Steven Strogatz. If you have any questions or comments for us, please email us at quanta@simonsfoundation.org. 

Jun 01, 2022
Will the James Webb Space Telescope Reveal Another Earth?
2984
The space telescope is one of the most ambitious scientific projects ever undertaken. Marcia Rieke and Nikole Lewis, two of the scientists leading JWST investigations, talk to Steven Strogatz about how it may transform our understanding of the universe.

The post Will the James Webb Space Telescope Reveal Another Earth? first appeared on Quanta Magazine

May 18, 2022
Where Do Space, Time and Gravity Come From?
2524
Einstein’s description of curved space-time doesn’t easily mesh with a universe made up of quantum wavefunctions. Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll discusses the quest for quantum gravity with host Steven Strogatz.

The post Where Do Space, Time and Gravity Come From? first appeared on Quanta Magazine

May 04, 2022
Why Is Inflammation a Dangerous Necessity?
2413
The immune system protects us from a full spectrum of pathogens, but without balance, it can end up hurting us over time, too. The immunologist Shruti Naik explains how our defenses can turn on us.

The post Why Is Inflammation a Dangerous Necessity? first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Apr 20, 2022
Untangling Why Knots Are Important
2655
Steven Strogatz explores the mysteries of knots with the mathematicians Colin Adams and Lisa Piccirillo.

The post Untangling Why Knots Are Important first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Apr 06, 2022
Why Do We Die Without Sleep?
2627
The reasons why sleep is so vital often hide in unexpected parts of the body, as host Steven Strogatz discovers in conversations with researchers Dragana Rogulja and Alex Keene.

The post Why Do We Die Without Sleep? first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Mar 23, 2022
Trailer: The Joy of Why
163
The noted mathematician and author Steven Strogatz explains how the conversations with experts in his new Quanta Magazine podcast address his lifelong fascination with timeless mysteries.

The post Deep Curiosity Inspires The Joy of Why Podcast first appeared on Quanta Magazine

Mar 17, 2022