From the PBS science series NOVA, a biweekly podcast digging into the science behind the headlines. Alok Patel takes you behind the scenes with the people—scientists, engineers, technologists, mathematicians and more—working to understand our world. Now it's more critical than ever to distinguish fact from fiction and find science-based answers to the most pressing questions of our time.
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The science of fear
In a year that’s felt like a never-ending horror movie, some might actually find relief in watching thrillers on-screen this Halloween. But why is it that some people love all things spooky on screen while others can only watch through parted fingers? What makes horror films so scary yet so alluring? And does our fascination with horror media actually help us cope with the horrors of real life? Host Alok Patel zeros in on the science of fear, enlisting the expert guidance of a horror researcher, a neuroscientist, and the Emmy-winning Foley artist behind the tantalizing and terrorizing sounds in movies and shows like Invisible Man and Monsterland.
Science in the courtroom
With confirmation hearings set to begin for Judge Amy Coney Barrett to join the Supreme Court, we ask the question that senators probably won’t: Do judges also need to be scientists? Science may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the U.S. court system, but everything from criminal cases’ forensic evidence to intellectual property disputes involve it. Host Alok Patel goes straight to the source for answers, speaking with a sitting federal judge and a lawyer who has worked on many Supreme Court cases.
Rising health risks from West Coast wildfires
It's wildfire season—and something about this year is especially sinister. West Coasters experienced days of hazy orange skies in early September as a result of the burning wildfires. As COVID-19 still looms, threatening our respiratory systems, now too does the smoke in the air. What is this smoke made of, and how does breathing it in affect our lungs and bodies? To find out, Host Alok Patel speaks with an atmospheric scientist, a pulmonologist, and a pair of veteran engineers who are experts in effective face masks to learn about the composition of wildfire smoke, what that smoke does to our lungs and bodies, and what we can do to protect ourselves.
COVID meets CRISPR
Many agree that we need a fast, accurate, and easy COVID-19 test—yet none of the commonly used diagnostic technologies have been able to meet that need. Enter CRISPR, a gene-editing tool that can also be used to identify viruses. Host Alok Patel follows the story of the two scientists who first discovered this potential for battling the coronavirus, and the biotech company that hopes to use it to revolutionize modern diagnostics.
About the Host
Dr. Alok Patel is a physician, journalist, and producer who firmly believes humor and relatability should drive science communication. "Scientists," he'll tell you, "need a much louder megaphone." He is a special correspondent for ABC News and regularly appears as an on-camera expert for several news outlets. Additionally, he is co-host of "Parentalogic,” a digital series from NOVA and PBS Digital Studios on the science of parenting, and hosts a popular web series for Medscape. Previously, he worked as a medical producer for CNN/HLN and as a host/contributor for both ABC and NBC News in New York. He is involved with several advocacy projects including a media-based sex trafficking education campaign, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to improving healthcare's presence on social media, and on initiatives to improve access to mental health care. Dr. Patel is originally from Arizona, completed his pediatric residency at Seattle Children's Hospital and is currently faculty as a pediatric hospitalist, at Columbia University, Stanford University, and the University of California, San Francisco.
In his rare downtime, you can catch him practicing martial arts, creating cocktails, discovering new music (ask him about this), or spending time with his wife, a renowned wedding/event planner, who is more creative, talented, and far better-looking, than he is.
National corporate funding for NOVA is provided by Draper. Major funding for NOVA is provided by the David H. Koch Fund for Science, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers. Additional funding is provided by the NOVA Science Trust.