Glitter, Chestnuts, DNA Data Art, Mistletoe. Dec 23, 2022, Part 2
Glitter—it’s everywhere this time of year. You open up a holiday card, and out comes a sprinkle of it. And that glitter will seemingly be with you forever, hugging your sweater, covering the floor. But glitter doesn’t stop there. It washes down the drain, and travels into the sewage system and waterways. Since it’s made from microplastics, it’s never going away.
As it turns out, all that glitters is not gold—or even biodegradable.
But what if you could make glitter that was biodegradable? Silivia Vignolini, professor of chemistry at the University of Cambridge joins Ira to discuss her latest discovery—eco-glitter made from plant cellulose.The Resurrection Of The American Chestnut
At the turn of the 20th century, the American chestnut towered over other trees in forests along the eastern seaboard. These giants could grow up to 100 feet high and 13 feet wide. According to legend, a squirrel could scamper from New England to Georgia on the canopies of American chestnuts, never touching the ground.
Then the trees began to disappear, succumbing to a mysterious fungus. The fungus first appeared in New York City in 1904—and it spread quickly. By the 1950s, the fungus had wiped out billions of trees, effectively driving the American chestnut into extinction.
Now, some people are trying to resurrect the American chestnut—and soon. But not everyone thinks that’s a good idea. Reporter Shahla Farzan and “Science Diction” host and producer Johanna Mayer bring us the story of the death and life of the American chestnut.
A DNA Map You Can Touch—Or Walk Through
When science involves visualizing the intricate movements of DNA through time and space, examining minutiae like how DNA folds and rearranges itself during cell division, or the relationships between miniscule beads on microscopic strings, the data can get complicated really fast.
Which is why biophysicist Adam Lamson is collaborating with artist Laura Splan in a project the two of them call ‘Sticky Settings.’ It’s a kind of an inside joke about the nature of DNA strands, and the kinds of digital transformations that can be applied to data in animation software.
But the result of this partnership has been anything but a joke. From giant tapestries that present maps of DNA in colorful, tactile formats, to otherworldly animations set to music, their art invites a non-scientific audience to literally walk into the processes our own cells are undergoing every day.
Producer Christie Taylor talks with Splan and Lamson about their partnership, and the natural intersection between an artist’s creativity and a scientist’s. Plus how an artist’s interpretation can bring new insights to difficult data.
The Secret Life Of Mistletoe (When It’s Not Christmas)
This time of year, it’s not uncommon to see a little sprig of greenery hanging in someone’s doorway. It’s probably mistletoe, the holiday decoration that inspires paramours standing beneath it to kiss.
But as it turns out, we may have miscast mistletoe as the most romantic plant of the Christmas season. In reality, the plant that prompts your lover’s kiss is actually a parasite. Ira talks with evolutionary biologist Josh Der about the myth and tradition behind the parasitic plant, and what it may be up to the other 11 months of the year.