5 Science-Related Podcasts To Listen To

1. The Dropout

Money. Romance. Tragedy. Deception. The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is an unbelievable tale of ambition and fame gone terribly wrong. How did the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire lose it all in the blink of an eye? How did the woman once heralded as “the next Steve Jobs” find herself facing criminal charges — to which she pleaded not guilty — and up to decades in prison? How did her technology, meant to revolutionize health care, potentially put millions of patients at risk? And how did so many smart people get it so wrong along the way? ABC News chief business, technology and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, along with producers Taylor Dunn and Victoria Thompson, take listeners on a journey that includes a multi-year investigation. You’ll hear exclusive interviews with former employees, investors, and patients, and for the first-time, the never-before-aired deposition testimony of Elizabeth Holmes, and those at the center of this story.

When I first heard about this story I was shocked it wasn’t more popular. So I was happy to find a podcast based on the entire saga and shocked at how far Theranos went.

Most surprising was that people with biological backgrounds were on board with an idea that seemed impossible – a testing system designed around a single pinprick of blood. I’m not an expert, but to conduct multiple assays you need to have enough of your sample. Even when mixed with reagents and diluted, a speck of blood is not enough.

It was fascinating to see just how much people believed in a bad idea. My takeaway was that sometimes there’s too much focus on the becoming ‘next big thing’ and not enough on finding ways to help people.

As of writing Elizabeth Holmes is on trial for various offences and the podcast is covering that also.

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You learn something new everyday!

I like to post quotes that resonate with me from time to time and this:

…and this:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

…caught my eye. It was attributed to Darwin, and I had no reason to believe he didn’t say it. The variations in the quote were probably a flashing neon sign that I didn’t see. Something compelled me to look up the quote online and it turns out it’s a misquotation.

One so prominent, it was featured in the California Academy of Sciences (until they removed the Darwin mention).

The real quote seems to be from Leon C. Megginson, Professor of Management and Marketing at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. While the quote itself is a good one, it is a lesson in knowing when to fact check and research (hint: ALWAYS!) – something I will do for all quotes I post in future.


Sources:

torture the data and it will confess to anything

Torture the data and it will confess to anything, as they say at Guantanamo Bay.

Bad Science, Ben Goldacre

This quote is somewhat amusing but very much true of some research carried out. It’s not just limited to science either. How many times do less than reputable sources cherry-pick data and use it to support a conclusion that isn’t correct?

Particularly nowadays with the internet being an open house in terms of the information availability. Researchers must handle data with great care and avoid the temptation of moulding it to fit their hypotheses or narratives.

The Science of Today

The science of today is the technology of tomorrow

–Edward Teller

Edward Teller was an American physicist who was instrumental in the creation of the hydrogen bomb. He earned the name ‘father of the hydrogen bomb’, although he would later claim he was not as involved as people thought he was.

This is covered in an interesting article in Scientific American called ‘The many tragedies of Edward Teller‘.