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Distillations Podcast

Distillations explores the human stories behind science and technology, tracing a path through history in order to better understand the present. Our hosts are Michal Meyer, historian of science and editor in chief of Chemical Heritage magazine, and Bob Kenworthy, CHF’s in-house chemist. Each month we examine the intersections of culture, history, and material science.

 

All posts in History

Episode 160: Teflon 

Treasure or toxin? Today we follow Teflon's rise from happy accident to indispensable tool at work, home, and even war. 

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Posted In: History | Technology

Episode 159: Kean on Genes

Today we welcome back author Sam Kean to discuss the secrets and surprises contained in our DNA.

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Posted In: History | Society

Episode 158: The Alchemical Quest

On today’s show is a special conversation between two alchemy experts: James Voelkel, who curated CHF’s exhibit The Alchemical Quest, and Lawrence Principe, author of The Secrets of Alchemy.

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Episode 157: Smoke and Mirrors

On today's show we track the evolution of smog from symbol of industrial progress to public-health catastrophe.

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Posted In: Environment | History | Society

Episode 156: Hard to Stomach

On today's show we test your gag reflex. First an exploration of rank, funky cheeses made from your own body's bacteria. Then the history of how distaste evolved into disgust.

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Posted In: History | Society

Episode 155: Shipwrecks

Ahoy, mateys. Join us on the ocean floor. On today's show we look at sunken ships: how they are preserved, and what they can tell us about civilizations from the past.

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Posted In: History | Society | Technology

Episode 154: Fast and Slow

Good science takes time... or not? On today's show we explore the extremes. First the longest-running experiment in the world; then the near-instant chemical reaction that helps airbags protect you in a crash.

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Posted In: History | Society | Technology

Episode 153: Best of Distillations #10

We bring you some of our favorite segments from past Distillations episodes this week: attempts to contact aliens in space and the secret behind the sweet sound of Stradivari violins.

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Posted In: History | Society | Technology

Episode 152: Best of Distillations #9

We bring you some of our favorite segments from past Distillations episodes this week: animal communication in the Sonoran Desert and the toll of asbestos waste on a small Pennsylvanian town.

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Posted In: Environment | History | Society

Episode 151: Tears

Today we wrap up the three-part series Blood, Sweat, and Tears. First how it feels to lose your ability to cry; then why onions bring on the waterworks.

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