Podcasts calling BS on CSI
Welcome to the Hurt Your Brain internet playlist from November 20, 2016. It's a collection of podcasts, videos, and other links for people who love to learn online and are fascinated by the world. Click here to get playlists emailed to you as they come out.
Forensic Science and calling BS on CSI Here are four podcasts and an article that explain why science used in the courtroom has much more room for human error than you might assume. In some cases, the lack of evidence for certain commonly used forensics is downright scary. 1) DNA Evidence Has a Dark Side–What's The Point 40 minutes This episode from FiveThirtyEighta features an interview with a law professor who is an expert in DNA evidence who breaks down how DNA used in the courtroom is anything but a sure thing. It mostly comes down to real world samples not being great which usually requires biased human interpretation. 2) Forensic Science–Science Vs 40 minutes What does peer reviewed science say about the scientific arguments used in the courtroom? Turns out, not a whole heck of a lot. This episode looks specifically at figuring out time of death, the accuracy of matching bite marks, hair strands matching, and finger print matches (excellent Information on how fallible this is and how experts can be easily tricked by their biases). 3) DNA and the Smell of Death–Science Vs 49 minutes This episode uses famous trials as springboards to talk about what science says about some additional types of forensic evidence–the Amanda Knox trial for DNA evidence and the Casey Anthony trial for the smell of death. 4) Are You Sure?–Radiolab 70 minutes This is a great episode of Radiolab, but it's the third and final segment called Reasonable Doubt that I want to include in this playlist. A woman mistakenly put a man named Steven Avery in jail for sexual assault because she was absolutely sure it was him in the lineup, but he was exonorated many years later when the real criminal was caught. Anyone who has watched the Netflix series "Making a Murderer" knows what happens next, but this story highlights how difficult it is to rely on eye witness testimony. 5) Rejecting Voodoo Science in the Courtroom–The Wall Street Journal This is the most outright critical assessment of forensic science on the whole playlist. "Americans have long had an abiding faith in science, including forensic science. Popular TV shows like 'CSI' and 'Forensic Files' stoke this confidence. Yet the PCAST report will likely upend many people’s beliefs, as it should. Why trust a justice system that imprisons and even executes people based on junk science?"
A Trunk Full of Truffles Planet Money 21 minutes Overview: Host of The Sporkful podcast guest hosts this episode that follows a truffle hustler in NYC who works his connections to unload $20,000 worth of goods to head chefs. Take aways: Truffles are expensive because nobody has figured out how to cultivate them and they still need to be foraged by hand. Their strong taste/odor is from the same chemical found in sweat and urine. Quote: "He's 24 years old, sort of unshaven and looking somewhat sleep deprived. And so he has, like, more in common it seems with a mid-level weed dealer than a luxury food titan."The Haber-Bosch Process 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy (BBC World Service) 9 minutes Overview: This is the second episode of a great new series from the BBC. All three epiosdes so far are really interesting (Diesel engine and Shipping Container are other two). This boring sounding episode title packs in an amazing story that involves everything from sexism in science, war crimes, and saving the world. Take aways: Plants have five basic requirements: nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, water, and sunlight. The Haber-Bosch process allows the abundant nitrogen found in our air to be used in fertilizer which dramitically impacts crop output. One percent of all the world's energy is devoted to making this process happen. Quote: "Haber made a breakthrough, that some now consider to be the most significant invention of the 20th century. Without it, close to half the world's population wouldn't be alive today." VIDEOS Westworld: What Makes Anthony Hopkins Great Nerdwriter1 8 minutes Overview: This channel features video essays that break down various parts of culture, usually in a helpful and interesting way. I can tell when I like someone's acting, but can't usually put my finger on why. This video beautifully explains how much of this feeling can be from the masterful use of expression. Take aways: The range of subtle emotions that Anthony Hopkins can express in a few seconds is extraordinary. And if you have HBO, definitely check this show out, it tops itself each week. Quote: "That's what a great actor can do, he can give words and images–or a short scene like this–a volcanic energy with a quiet look." ARTICLES AND OTHER LINKS Young children are terrible at hiding-psychologists have a new theory why The Conversation What a great headline. Quote: "However, developmental psychologists and parents alike continue to witness that before school age, children are remarkably bad at hiding. Curiously, they often cover only their face or eyes with their hands, leaving the rest of their bodies visibly exposed."Two fun things 1) Google has a set of AI experiments you can mess around with. This one let's you draw objects and Google's machine learning program has to guess what it is. I am terrible at drawing and it was eerily accurate. We are so screwed. 2) The holidays are around the corner and I wanted to share something I've had great fun doing the past few years. Reddit has a huge secret santa gift exchange where you send a stranger a gift and a different stranger sends you a gift. Gift exchanges in real life can sometimes feel forced (with gift cards becoming ever popular) and there is something surprisingly refreshing about trying to make a complete stranger happy. And don't worry, if you don't use Reddit, this is a separate standalone thing. You can tell the person who gets you as a match all sorts of information about yourself. Signups end Nov 28. That's all for this week! Connect with me @erikthejones on twitter and if you've learned anything interesting, please forward this link to any curious natured friends or family so they can subscribe. Many thanks!