Klaus Lackner on Carbon Capture, Climate Change, and Physics – #40

Steve and Corey talk to Klaus Lackner, director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions (CNCE) at Arizona State University and the first person to suggest removing CO2 from air to address climate change. Steve asks whether Klaus’ research was motivated by a tail risk of catastrophic outcomes due to CO2 build up. Klaus explains that he sees atmospheric CO2 as a waste management problem. Calculations show that removing human-produced carbon is energetically and economically viable. Klaus describes his invention, a “mechanical tree”, that passively collects CO2 from the air, allowing it to be stored or converted to fuel.

COVID-19, Blockchain, and the Global Startup Scene – #39

Steve and Corey talk to Kieren James-Lubin and Victor Wong of the blockchain technology startup, BlockApps. They begin with a discussion of the COVID-19 epidemic (~25m): lockdown, predictions of ICU overload, and helicopter money. Will personal contact tracking become the new normal? Transitioning to blockchain, a technology many view as viable even in times of widespread societal disruption, they give a basic explanation of the underlying cryptographic and consensus algorithms. Kieren and Victor explain how BlockApps was founded, its business model, and history as a startup. They conclude with a comparison of startup ecosystems in China, Silicon Valley, and NYC.

Claude Steele on the Challenges of Multi-Cultural Societies – #38

Corey and Steve talk to Claude Steele of Stanford about his article “Why Campuses are So Tense”. The essay explores stereotype threats across racial lines. Colorblindness is a standard of fairness, but what are the costs of ignoring our differences? Claude describes his research on minority underperformance and why single sex colleges may contribute to women’s success. Corey describes why he believes his daughter’s experience is a counterexample to the findings of the experiments that led the Supreme Court to outlaw segregation. The three discuss parenting in a diverse world and how ethnic integration differs between Europe and the US.

A.J. Robison on the Neural Basis of Sex Differences in Depression – #37

Corey and Steve talk with MSU Neuroscientist A.J. Robison about why females may be more likely to suffer from depression than males. A.J. reviews past findings that low testosterone and having a smaller hippocampus may predict depression risk. He explains how a serendipitous observation opened up his current line of research and describes tools he uses to study neural circuits. Steve asks about the politics of studying sex differences and tells of a start up using CRISPR to attack heart disease. The three end with a discussion of the psychological effects of ketamine, testosterone and deep brain stimulation.

Kaja Perina on the Dark Triad: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy – #36

Kaja Perina is the Editor in Chief of Psychology Today. Kaja, Steve, and Corey discuss so-called Dark Triad personality traits: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy. Do these traits manifest more often in super successful people? What is the difference between Sociopathy and Psychopathy? Are CEOs often “warm sociopaths”? Can too much empathy be a liability? Corey laments Sociopathy in academic Philosophy. Kaja explains the operation of Psychology Today. Steve reveals his Hypomania diagnoses.

Adam Dynes on Noisy Retrospection: The Effect of Party Control on Policy Outcomes – #35

Steve and Corey talk to Adam Dynes of Brigham Young University about whether voting has an effect on policy outcomes. Adam’s work finds that control of state legislatures or governorships does not have an observable effect on macroscopic variables such as crime rates, the economy, etc. Possible explanations: parties push essentially the same policies, politicians don’t keep promises, monied interest control everything. Are voting decisions just noisy mood affiliation? Perhaps time is better spent obsessing about sports teams, which at least generates pleasure.

Yang Wang on Science and Technology in China, Hong Kong Protests, and Coronavirus – #34

Yang Wang is Dean of Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Professor Wang received his BS degree in mathematics from University of Science and Technology of China in 1983, and his PhD degree from Harvard University in 1990 under the supervision of Fields medalist David Mumford. He served as Chair of the Mathematics department at Michigan State University before joining HKUST.

Elizabeth Kolbert on Climate Change: Impacts and Mitigation Technologies – #33

Steve and Corey talk to Elizabeth Kolbert, author of the Sixth Extinction, about the current state of the climate debate. All three are pessimistic about the possibility that emissions will be substantively reduced in the near term, and they discuss technologies for removing carbon from the atmosphere. They explore uncertainty in the models regarding temperatures rise and precipitation, and contemplate a billion people are on the move in response to climate change and population increase. They ask: what is more of a threat to humanity in the coming century, runaway AI or runaway climate change?

Meghan Daum on the New Culture Wars – #32

Corey and Steve talk to Meghan Daum about her new book “The Problem With Everything: My Journey Through The New Culture Wars”. Meghan describes how she became aware of the “Red Pill” through what she calls “free speech YouTube” videos. The three ask whether their feeling of alienation from Gen-Z wokeness is just a sign of getting old or reflects principles of free speech and open debate. Megan argues that Gen-Z’s focus on fairness leads to difficult compromises. They discuss social interactions in the pre-internet, early-internet, and woke-internet eras.

Steven Broglio on Concussions, Football and Informed Choice – #31

Steve and Corey talk with Steven Broglio, Director of the Michigan Concussion Center, about concussion risk, prevention and treatment. Broglio describes how the NCAA emerged from the deaths that almost led Theodore Roosevelt to outlaw college football. He also explains recent findings on CTE, why females may be at greater concussion risk, and why sleep is critical to avoiding long-term brain injury. They discuss how new rules probably make football safer and debate why New England is so down on kids playing football. Steve wonders whether skills are in decline now that some schools have eliminated “contact” in practices.