Episode 60: Memory Encoding and Recall

• March 16th, 2014

An analysis of memory, including a discussion of the different types of memory, the capacity of short term memory, how environment and depth of processing influences learning and recall, the relationship between memory and familiarity, and different types of amnesia. Complements Episode 20: The Reliability of Memory.

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Episode 59: Smell

• February 19th, 2014

A analysis of the sense of smell, beginning with the nose, the olfactory epithelium and the different types of receptor proteins, and progressing through the processes of sensory transduction, transmission of neural signals to the olfactory bulb, and thence into the higher regions of the brain. I also discuss the sense of smell in humans compared to that of other animals, with a focus on the special abilities of bloodhounds. Recommended prerequisite is Episode 38: Neurons and Synapses.

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Episode 58: Taste

• January 28th, 2014

A discussion of how our sense of taste works, including an overview of the basic anatomy of the tongue and relevant brain circuits, a discussion of taste buds and how they work, a review of the five basic tastes and how they differ, and a look at some other interesting topics such as pungency and aftertaste. Recommended pre-listening is Episode 10: The Cell and Episode 38: Neurons and Synapses.

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Episode 57: Electric Current and Circuits

• December 31st, 2013

We begin with a discussion of basic electrical phenomena such as current, voltage, resistance and power, before applying these ideas to the analysis of circuits, including series and parallel circuits. We then apply these concepts to understand a number of interesting phenomena, including light bulbs, lightning, and why electricity can be dangerous. Recommended pre-listening is Episode 43: Electric Forces and Fields.

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Episode 56: The Gains from Trade

• December 27th, 2013

A discussion of the notion of trade and exchange, including the purpose of these activities, the gains from trade, and the role of comparative advantage. I also examine some recent trends in global trade, and briefly discuss some of the major global trade institutions such as the WTO and World Bank and their role in attempting to reduce trade barriers. The episode concludes with a brief discussion of the concept of 'Buy Local'. Recommended pre-listening is Episode 12: The Price System.

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Episode 55: Sex and Gender Part 2

• December 23rd, 2013

Continuing on from the previous episode, I discuss some of the biological determinants of gender differences, including hormonal effects on interests and behaviour, and structural differences in the brain. I then examine a number of more specific topics pertinent to the issue of gender differences, including occupational segregation, women in science and technology, emotional differences, and differences in conversational form and topics.

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Episode 54: Sex and Gender Part 1

• December 21st, 2013

In this first of our two part series on sex and gender, I discuss the scientific evidence regarding some of the major behavioral and social differences between men and women, and examine the degree to which these can be explained by differential socialization and bias and discrimination. I also discuss the treatment of women in the workplace and how gender stereotypes serve to inhibit female advancement into higher positions.

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Episode 53: Sound and Music

• December 10th, 2013

We begin with a discussion of the essential nature of sound as pressure waves in air, discussing matters such as the speed of sound, harmonic frequencies, loudness, standing waves, and the Doppler effect. We then apply these basic principles to understand the nature of music, and why different musical instruments sound different. Also discussed are the various aspects of music, including beat, pitch, melody, timbre, etc, and the differences between woodwind, percussion, brass, and string instruments. Recommended prelistening is Episode 24: Vibrations and Waves

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Episode 52: Applications of Optics

• November 28th, 2013

We begin by discussing some of the basic principles of image formation in lenses and mirrors, including reflection in flat mirrors and curved mirrors, use of ray diagrams, real and virtual images, and the different ways in which images can be formed. These basic principles are then applied to gain an understanding of a number of interesting optical phenomena, including mirages, rainbows, and thin-film interference. I conclude the episode with a discussion of optical magnification, and how this is used in telescopes and microscopes.

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Episode 51: Acids and Bases

• November 23rd, 2013

A discussion of acids and basis, including a definition and description of the concepts of acidity and basicity, a look at the relationship between the concepts of strength, concentration, and corrosivity, a discussion of weak acids and acid-base equilibria, and an explanation of pH and how buffer solutions act to stabalise pH levels in solution.

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