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Podcast Profile: The Joy of Why

podcast imageTwitter: @QuantaMagazine@stevenstrogatz
26 episodes
2022 to present
Average episode: 40 minutes
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Categories: Interview-Style • Math • Multidisciplinary

Podcaster's summary: "The Joy of Why" is a Quanta Magazine podcast about curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge. The acclaimed mathematician and author Steven Strogatz interviews leading researchers about the great scientific and mathematical questions of our time. | | You've learned from Quanta. Now we want to learn from you! Quanta is conducting a series of surveys to better serve our audience. Take our podcast listener survey and you will be entered to win a free Quanta book, t-shirt or tote bag:

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List Updated: 2023-Dec-02 13:40 UTC. Episodes: 26. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

2023-Jul-26 • 45 minutes
Does Nothingness Exist?
Aristotle argued almost 2,400 years ago that a perfect vacuum could never exist. Today, the concept of nothingness figures at least implicitly into almost every theory of modern physics. In this episode closing out season 2 of “The Joy of Why,” the theoretical physicist Isabel Garcia Garcia of New York University and the Institute for Advanced Study talks with host Steven Strogatz about the impact of quantum mechanics on the definition of a “true vacuum,” the possibility of false vacuums, how the concept of...
2023-Jul-12 • 46 minutes
Can Math and Physics Save an Arrhythmic Heart?
The heart’s electrical system keeps all its muscle cells beating in sync. A hard whack to the chest at the wrong moment, however, can set up unruly waves of abnormal electrical excitation that are potentially deadly. The resulting kind of arrhythmia may be what caused the football player Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills to collapse on the field after he took a powerful hit during a 2023 National Football League game. Today, powerful defibrillators are usually used to help resynchronize hearts in distress. ...
2023-Jun-28 • 44 minutes
What Can Jellyfish Teach Us About Fluid Dynamics?
The jellyfish that move through the seas by gently pulsing their saclike bodies may not seem to hold many secrets that would interest human engineers. But simple as the creatures are, jellyfish are masterful at harnessing and controlling the flow of the water around them, sometimes with surprising efficiency. As such, they embody sophisticated solutions to problems in fluid dynamics that engineers, mathematicians and other professionals can learn from. John Dabiri, an expert in mechanical and aerospace engi...
2023-Jun-14 • 40 minutes
What Causes Giant Rogue Waves?
Sailors have spun yarns for centuries about gigantic rogue waves that could suddenly come out of nowhere to capsize the ships of unwary mariners. Scientists didn’t believe them because the stories seemed at odds with everything else known about waves. Then cameras and other instruments began to capture undeniable proof of the existence of rogue waves. Ton van den Bremer, an expert in fluid mechanics, talks with Steven Strogatz about what science has learned about how rogue waves form, whether it’s possible ...
2023-May-31 • 52 minutes
What Is the Nature of Consciousness?
| Neuroscience has made progress in deciphering how our brains think and perceive our surroundings, but a central feature of cognition is still deeply mysterious: namely, that many of our perceptions and thoughts are accompanied by the subjective experience of having them. Consciousness, the name we give to that experience, can’t yet be explained — but science is at least beginning to understand it. In this episode, the consciousness researcher Anil Seth and host Steven Strogatz discuss why our perceptions...
2023-May-17 • 49 minutes
Are There Reasons to Believe in a Multiverse?
By definition, the universe seems like it should be the totality of everything that exists. Yet a variety of arguments emerging from cosmology, particle physics and quantum mechanics hint that there could also be unobservable universes beyond our own that follow different laws of nature. While the existence of a multiverse is speculative, for many physicists it represents a plausible explanation for some of the biggest mysteries in science. In this episode, Steven Strogatz explores the idea of a multiverse ...
2023-May-03 • 37 minutes
Is Perpetual Motion Possible at the Quantum Level?
Perpetual motion machines are impossible, at least in our everyday world. But down at the level of quantum mechanics, the laws of thermodynamics don’t always apply in quite the same way. In 2021, after years of effort, physicists successfully demonstrated the reality of a “time crystal,” a new state of matter that is both stable and ever-changing without any input of energy. In this episode, Steven Strogatz discusses time crystals and their significance with the theoretical physicist Vedika Khemani of Stanf...
2023-Apr-19 • 46 minutes
How Can Some Infinities Be Bigger Than Others?
The idea of infinity is probably about as old as numbers themselves, going back to whenever people first realized that they could keep counting forever. But even though we have a sign for infinity and can refer to the concept in casual conversation, infinity remains profoundly mysterious, even to mathematicians. In this episode, Steven Strogatz chats with his fellow mathematician Justin Moore of Cornell University about how one infinity can be bigger than another (and whether we can be sure that there isn’t...
2023-Apr-05 • 43 minutes
What Has the Pandemic Taught Us About Vaccines?
Should Covid-19 vaccines be judged by how well they prevent disease or how well they prevent death? Anna Durbin, a public health expert and vaccine researcher, talks with Steven Strogatz about the science behind vaccines.
2023-Mar-22 • 50 minutes
Is There Math Beyond the Equal Sign?
Can mathematics handle things that are essentially the same without being exactly equal? Category theorist Eugenia Cheng and host Steven Strogatz discuss the power and pleasures of abstraction.
2023-Mar-08 • 45 minutes
Can We Program Our Cells?
By genetically instructing cells to perform tasks that they wouldn't in nature, synthetic biologists can learn deep secrets about how life works. Steven Strogatz discusses the potential of this young field with researcher Michael Elowitz.
2023-Feb-22 • 44 minutes
How Will the Universe End?
"The Joy of Why" is a podcast about curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge from Quanta Magazine. The acclaimed mathematician and author Steven Strogatz interviews leading researchers about the great scientific and mathematical questions of our time.
2023-Feb-09 • 3 minutes
The Joy of Asking About Infinity, Jellyfish and the End of the Universe
As The Joy of Why podcast returns for a second season, producer Polly Stryker and host Steven Strogatz invite listeners to join them and their brilliant new guests on another voyage of discovery.
2022-Aug-24 • 45 minutes
Why and How Do We Dream?
Dreams are subjective and fleeting, but laboratories have developed ways of getting into the minds of people while they are dreaming. In this episode, Steven Strogatz speaks with sleep researcher Antonio Zadra about how new experimental methods have changed our understanding of dreams.
2022-Aug-10 • 42 minutes
What Is Quantum Field Theory and Why Is It Incomplete?
Quantum field theory may be the most successful scientific theory of all time, but there's reason to think it's missing something. Steven Strogatz speaks with theoretical physicist David Tong about this enigmatic theory.
2022-Jul-27 • 38 minutes
Why Do We Get Old, and Can Aging Be Reversed?
Everybody gets older, but not everyone ages in the same way. 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 age works - and what scientists know about postponing or even reversing the aging process.
2022-Jul-13 • 28 minutes
How Do Mathematicians Know Their Proofs Are Correct?
Just as scientists test hypotheses, mathematicians prove or disprove conjectures. But what makes a proof stronger than a guess? What does evidence look like in the world of mathematics? Hear Melanie Matchett Wood, professor of mathematics at Harvard University, explain how probability helps to guide number theorists toward certainty.
2022-Jun-29 • 33 minutes
Can Computers Be Mathematicians?
Artificial intelligence has bested humans at problem-solving tasks including games like chess and Go. Is mathematics research next? Steven Strogatz speaks with Kevin Buzzard, professor of pure mathematics at Imperial College London, to learn about the ongoing multidisciplinary effort to translate math into language that computers understand.
2022-Jun-15 • 42 minutes
What Is Life?
Without a good definition of life, how do we look for it on alien planets? Steven Strogatz speaks with Robert Hazen, a mineralogist and astrobiologist, and Sheref Mansy, a chemist, to learn more.
2022-Jun-01 • 39 minutes
How Could Life Evolve From Cyanide?
How did life arise 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. Steven Strogatz speaks with Jack Szostak, a Nobel Prize-winning biologist, and Betül Kaçar, a paleogeneticist and astrobiologist, to explore our best understanding of how we all got here.
2022-May-18 • 50 minutes
Will the James Webb Space Telescope Reveal Another Earth?
With the December 2021 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, one of the most expensive and ambitious scientific initiatives ever attempted commenced operations. Now that the telescope has been successfully deployed in its unique position in space, its advanced instruments will be able to gather data on questions that scientists once could only dream of answering. Is there life on other planets? How do supermassive black holes mold the mass in their galaxies? JWST may soon be able to tell us. In this epi...
2022-May-04 • 42 minutes
Where Do Space, Time and Gravity Come From?
Einstein's description of gravity as a curvature in space-time doesn't easily mesh with a universe made up of quantum wavefunctions. Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll (of the "Mindscape" podcast) tells Steven Strogatz about the mind-bending implications of the quest for quantum gravity.
2022-Apr-20 • 40 minutes
Why Is Inflammation a Dangerous Necessity?
We've heard a lot about the immune system during the COVID-19 pandemic, but of course our immune system fights off much more than the coronavirus. And while the immune system protects us brilliantly from countless pathogens every day, sometimes it can also attack our own bodies, causing harmful and even deadly inflammation. In this episode, host Steven Strogatz speaks with Shruti Naik, an immunologist and assistant professor of biological sciences at NYU's Langone Medical Center, to learn why the immune sys...
2022-Apr-06 • 44 minutes
Untangling Why Knots Are Important
Everyone knows what a knot is. But they have special significance in math and science because their properties can help unlock hidden secrets like the biochemistry of DNA or the geometry of three-dimensional spaces. In this episode, Steven Strogatz explores the mysteries of knots with the mathematicians Colin Adams and Lisa Piccirillo.
2022-Mar-23 • 44 minutes
Why Do We Die Without Sleep?
Why do we need sleep? In the search for answers, scientists have uncovered more thought-provoking mysteries central to what sleep is, how it evolved and the benefits that it provides. In this episode, the mathematician and science communicator Steven Strogatz speaks with Dragana Rogulja, an assistant professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School who recently discovered how sleep deprivation causes death in fruit flies, and Alex Keene, a neurogeneticist at Texas A and M University studying cave fish to...
2022-Mar-17 • 3 minutes
Trailer: The Joy of Why
An introduction to the new Quanta Magazine podcast The Joy of Why, in which noted mathematician and author Steven Strogatz talks with experts about some of the greatest scientific questions of all time.