Science and Creativity from Studio 360

Science and Creativity from Studio 360

From PRI

Science and Creativity from Studio 360: the art of innovation. A sculpture unlocks a secret of cell structure, a tornado forms in a can, and a child's toy gets sent into orbit. Exploring science as a creative act since 2005. Produced by PRI and WNYC, and supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.More from Science and Creativity from Studio 360 »

Most Recent Episodes

Virtual Reality Starts Getting Real

Until recently, virtual reality has been the stuff of science fiction. But last year, Facebook placed a large bet on the future of the medium when it bought Oculus Rift, the leading virtual reality technology company. Oculus VR will start selling its affordable, state-of-the-art setup early next year. Samsung has just released a $99 version of its Gear VR headset. And Google has even made a low-end cardboard device that wraps around your smartphone to turn it into a virtual reality viewer — and, if you subscribe to The New York Times, you recently got one in your Sunday paper. Kurt Andersen visited Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, a pioneer in virtual reality research and development, to test drive an experience that's more realistic than any movie or video game. Now that virtual reality is within months of becoming a consumer product that costs less than a smartphone or video game console, what will that mean for the future of storytelling? Obviously there will be markets for gaming — and pornography — at the start. But, for some directors, the medium has more idealistic applications.

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The Tommy Westphall Universe

When Tom Fontana was a producer on the show "St. Elsewhere" in the 1980s, he loved to push the boundaries of weirdness that he could get away with on network TV. For instance, he staged a crossover with "Cheers" — a sitcom — but they shot the sequence like a drama. And he pulled one of the strangest trick endings in TV history. In the series finale of "St. Elsewhere," we learn that the entire show had been a fantasy of a boy with autism named Tommy Westphall. These shenanigans didn't go unnoticed by fans like Keith Gow, a writer in Melbourne, Australia. He wondered if every show that Tom Fontana produced or staged a crossover with could be connected back to the finale of "St. Elsewhere." In other words, did Tommy Westphall — the kid who dreamed up the characters on "St. Elsewhere" — dream up all these other shows as well?

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Microbial Videogames

Ingmar Riedel-Kruse runs a biophysics lab at Stanford University, but he spends about half his time tinkering with videogames. He's not playing World of Warcraft. Riedel-Kruse creates his own videogames using living microbes. The most playable is Pacmecium, inspired by classic Pac-Man, in which the player guides a host of paramecia around obstacles and targets. The four-button controller shifts a weak electrical field, which the paramecia are attracted to. To test the game, our reporter enlisted Scott Patterson, the world record holder on several versions of Pac-man, for a pixilated showdown in the lab. Patterson was impressed, noting subtle differences in game play: "It's more like I'm guiding them, rather than instructing them." Who will win the title — the inventor, or the champ?

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Smart Programs Read Shakespeare

Patrick Winston is a researcher at MIT's Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab. He believes that creating better artificial intelligence is not a matter of more powerful processing. First, he thinks, we have to teach computers how to think more like humans. To this end, he has created a computer program that takes in text — for example, a synopsis of "Macbeth" — and extracts patterns and themes, such as the concept of revenge.

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Library of Dust

For over twenty years the Oregon State Psychiatric Hospital stored the cremated remains of patients in copper containers. Photographer David Maisel found them, and shows the beautiful — and bizarre — chemical reactions that took place as the canisters corroded in his exhibit, "Library of Dust." Produced by Sarah Lilley.

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7:57

Robopainter

AARON is the world’s first cybernetic artist: an artificially intelligent system that composes its own paintings. Incredibly, the system is the work of one man, Harold Cohen, who had no background in computing when he began the effort. 

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12:02

Making Portraits Out of DNA

Everywhere we go, we leave a trail of personal information — in the stray hairs that land on park benches, or saliva on the edges of coffee cups. And artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg may be collecting that information, whether you like it or not. Using equipment and procedures now easily available, she extracts the DNA from strangers’ hair or fingernail clippings, and uses it to makes life-like models of people’s faces — people she’s never met or seen. She calls the project Stranger Visions.

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8:43

The Art and Science of De-Extinction

Bringing extinct animals back has usually been left to the world of science fiction. But a group of biologists is attempting it in the real world. The organization Revive & Restore, a project of the Long Now Foundation, held a day-long TEDx conference on de-extinction at the National Geographic Society. This is not quack science; some of the research involves Harvard University, UC Santa Cruz, and Wake Forest University, among other institutions. Painter Isabella Kirkland, who is also a research associate at the California Academy of Sciences, opened the event with an image of her painting Gone. It looks like a Dutch master’s oil painting, depicting 63 extinct New World species arrayed on a table elegantly: the Carolina parakeet, the golden toad, and in the central place of honor, Martha, the last passenger pigeon, who died in 1914. The passenger pigeon is the preoccupation of Revive & Restore’s Ben Novak, a genetic biologist. “It’s my job to bring the bird back to life.” 

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8:05

Hollywood Know-How Makes Good Medicine

A Louisiana physician (and amateur filmmaker) teamed up with a cinematographer to invent a system that they say improves the quality and reliability of photos used in medical records — using some basic Hollywood technology.

 

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7:39

Drone Art

If just reading the word “drone” makes you nervous, you’re not alone. Americans have been uneasy – fascinated but nervous – ever since unmanned aerial vehicles entered our consciousness about a decade ago. We talked to some artists who are exploring how we think and feel about UAVs, from “Stealthware” burqas and hoodies that make the wearer invisible to surveillance, to drones that dance instead of spying.

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9:39
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