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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.


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Episode 147: Babies

Big eyes, soft skin, squeezable cheeks. No doubt, babies are adorable. But on today's show we take a break from our cooing to examine some more serious aspects of parenthood. First how formula has waxed and waned in popularity. Then how embryos wreak havoc in the womb.

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Posted In: History | Medicine | Society

Episode 146: Something in the Air

Sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose? We all know what that means: allergies. On today's show we look at pet dander, a common cause. Then we talk to a researcher dissecting the makeup of dust.

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Episode 145: Asbestos

Asbestos, once a miracle product, is now a plague on the aging infrastructure to which it's bound. Today we explore a Pennsylvania town where a wide swath of asbestos-contaminated land stands capped and unusable. Then we visit a historic high school that is now dormant due to the expense of asbestos remediation.

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Posted In: Environment | History | Society

Episode 143: Fairyland of Chemistry

On today's episode we travel back in time to the Victorian era, when innovative teachers used fairies to convey complicated ideas in chemistry. We adapted one of these whimsical lessons into Distillations' first-ever podcast play.

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Posted In: History | Society

Episode 142: Midcentury Mutants

On today's episode we look at the real and imagined implications of genetic modification in the middle of the 20th century.

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Posted In: History | Society | Technology

Episode 140: Swapping Spit

Pucker up! On today's episode we investigate the kiss. First, what's in the saliva we share with each other? Then we interview Sheril Kirshenbaum, author of The Science of Kissing, to find out why our ancestors starting locking lips in the first place.

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Posted In: History | Society

Episode 139: The Brain on Sports

On today's episode of Distillations we're gearing up for this weekend's playoff games with a look at the science of sports. First, we learn how athletes go the distance. Then we look into the brain of a fan.

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Posted In: Society

Episode 138: Your Genome

On today's episode of Distillations we go straight to the source ... your DNA. First, we learn how technological advances are putting the dream of a $1,000 genome within reach. Then we discuss the implications of having genetic information at our fingertips.

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Posted In: Medicine | Society | Technology

Episode 137: Cocktails

Cheers! On today's episode of Distillations we belly up to the bar to learn about distilled spirits. Then we look ahead to the next morning to determine if our tried-and-true hangover cures have any scientific merit.

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Posted In: History | Society

Episode 132: Harvest

Today's show explores two very different ways people hope to protect future harvests. First, follow us to the Doomsday Vault, which protects 700,000 seed families. Next, join farmer Miguel Santistevan as he revives his ancestors' agricultural practices.

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The Museum at CHF

The Museum at CHF

Explore the fascinating history of chemistry and the role science plays in the modern world at our museum in Philadelphia.

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