A Scientist Walks Into a Bar

Episodes feature recordings of talks given at Science on Tap events held in Portland, OR, and Vancouver, WA.

This podcast is also available through iTunes.

Episode 40 – Microbes and the Human Gut

Find out how bacteria help us digest food, battle disease, and may influence our behavior in Microbes and the Human Gut by Dr. Lisa Sardinia recorded at an event in 2017. Lisa also spoke on High Anxiety: The Gut Microbiota’s Effect on Mental Health at a Science on Tap Online event on May 14, 2020. Resources mentioned at the end of the… Read more

Episode 39 – Preview! Land of Wondrous Cold

Want a real-life adventure story mixed with modern-day science? Listen to this short interview with Gillen D’Arcy Wood, author of Land of Wondrous Cold: The Race to Discover Antarctica and Unlock the Secrets of Its Ice. Pick up and enjoy the book, then join us on Thursday, June 11 for a Science on Tap Online event with Gillen at 7pm… Read more

Episode 38 – The Cheating Cell: How Evolution Helps Us Understand and Treat Cancer

What if everything we think we know about cancer is wrong? Listen as Dr. Athena Aktipis, author and Arizona State University professor talks about her new book The Cheating Cell: How Evolution Helps Us Understand and Treat Cancer. Rather than trying to eradicate all cancer, she describes how changing our approach could help us learn to control… Read more

Episode 37 – Preview! The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another

How have simple inventions changed our lives? Learn more in this short interview with Dr. Ainissa Ramirez, materials scientist and author of the book The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another.Pick up and enjoy the book, then join us on May 21 at 7:00pm Pacific for a Science on Tap Online event with Ainissa… Read more

Episode 36 – Preview! Alien Oceans: The Search for Life in the Depths of Space

Is there life on other planets? How would we find out? Listen to a short interview with NASA scientist and author Kevin Peter Hand about his new book Alien Oceans: The Search for Life in the Depths of Space. Pick up and enjoy the book, then join us on May 28 for a Science on Tap Online… Read more

Episode 35 – The Science of Friendship (Full Event!)

Science shows that friends are vital for our mental and physical well-being, and that may be even more true in these strange, pandemic times. Listen as author Lydia Denworth talks about her book Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond, recorded at a Science on Tap event in February 2020. This talk was recorded on February… Read more

Episode 34 – Sex, Relationships, and Technology

Technology impacts our sex lives in a lot of ways, and we don’t just mean porn. Better access to education and intimacy is great! But maybe too many matches on Tinder isn’t so great? Also, what’s the deal with sex robots?  In this episode Dr. Kris Gowen talks about many of the ways we use technology to… Read more

Episode 33 – Preview! The Science of Friendship

Here’s scientific proof that friends are good for you! We’re trying something new this episode. Listen as we chat with Lydia Denworth, author of Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond. Then join us at Science on Tap at the Kiggins Theatre in Vancouver, WA on Wednesday, February 12 to hear her full talk. We’ll… Read more

Episode 32 – Under the Influence: Economics and Climate Change

In this special episode we interview Robert Frank, economist and author of the new book Under the Influence: Putting Peer Pressure to Work. He talks about using social and economic theories to encourage more climate-conscious behavior, and proposes structures for carbon taxes that wouldn’t require painful sacrifices from anyone. As he says in the interview, “every… Read more

Episode 31 – How Forests Can Help Stop Climate Change

Conserving and restoring forests can help fight climate change in two ways: cutting down forests is the second largest source of CO2 emissions (after fossil fuels), and because healthy forests can absorb and sequester massive amounts of carbon. Listen as Laurie Wayburn from the Pacific Forest Trust talks about how saving forests is good for humans and… Read more

Episode 30 – Geology and Wine

You need lots of things to produce a good wine, such as favorable weather and a skilled winemaker. But before anything else, you have to start with good dirt. In this episode, geologist Dr. Scott Burns describes how soil can be a big factor in wine quality. Listen as he talks lovingly about wine grown in his… Read more

Episode 29 – The Human Gut Microbiome

What do poop transplants, human donuts, and ecosystems have in common? Listen as Dr. Andrea McBeth, co-founder and CEO of Flora Medicine, talks all about all the microbes in a healthy human gut, and also describes some creative ways to treat our guts when things go horribly wrong. Tune in for the scoop on poop. This talk was… Read more

Episode 28 – X-Rays and Plant Biology

Do you like to eat, drink, wear clothes, have medicines, and breathe oxygen? If so, thank plants! Listen as Keith Duncan from the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center describes how to use X-rays to study plants so we can grow more of them on less land, with less water, and with fewer pesticides and fertilizers.Visit the Danforth Plant Science Center Blog to see… Read more

Episode 27 – Cannabis and the Opioid Crisis

Neuroscientist Adie Wilson-Poe, PhD, talks about exciting research into how cannabis can be used alongside or in place of opioids to manage long-term pain and addiction.This is a recording of the talk The Role of Cannabis in the Opioid Crisis and was recorded at the Kiggins Theatre in March 2019. ******** Thanks to Graham Tully and Stephen Perry for… Read more

Episode 26 – Death and the Afterlife

It’s October, so it’s time for some spooky tales of how Science is Stranger Than Fiction: Death and the Afterlife with Dr. Leslie New from WSU Vancouver. Content warning: lots of discussion of dead bodies, murder, trepanning (pre-historic brain surgery), anatomical models, mummies, grave robbing, books made of human skin, and many of the exhibits… Read more

Episode 25 – The Lives of Bees

Bees are dying at alarming rates, but what can we do? Dr. Thomas Seeley has some ideas. In this episode he talks about his latest book The Lives of Bees: The Untold Story of the Honey Bee in the Wild and how studying wild bees could give beekeepers some insight on how to fight back against colony collapse… Read more

Episode 24 – Memory and the Neuroscience of Addiction

Humans naturally seek out novelty and new experiences, and for some people that can lead to drug addiction. Repeated exposure to drugs can create powerful, persistent memories, and these drug-related memories can lead to addictive behavior and relapse, even after years of sobriety. In this episode, neuroscientist Dr. Barbara Sorg talks about what happens in the… Read more

Episode 23 – The Nature Fix

Can being in nature make us better? What is forest bathing, how can recess help improve student behavior, and can five minutes outside really make a difference in your mood? Listen to science writer Florence Williams talk about her book The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative and get some scientific encouragement to… Read more

Episode 22 – An Animal’s Guide to Dating Success

Have you ever wondered how animals find and impress that special someone? From crazy dances to unanticipated sex changes, animals have some unusual strategies for attracting and keeping their mates. Join Dr. Allison Coffin, Associate Professor of Neuroscience at WSU Vancouver, as she describes the unusual dating lives of birds, fish, and other animals. This… Read more

Episode 21 – Timefulness: Geology and Climate Change

We need all the tools we can find to fight climate change, and geologist Dr. Marcia Bjornerud offers some new perspective and insight. In this episode she talks about her book Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World, and suggests that shifting our viewpoint to understand the deep geologic past can help us… Read more

Episode 20 — Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything

Hormones don’t just control things like puberty or sex; they control SO much more about our bodies, including sleep, metabolism, hunger, and the fight-or-flight response. Find out more about hormones in this talk by Randi Hutter Epstein, MD, MPH about her book Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything. This talk was recorded… Read more

Episode 19 — Yes I’m Really A Doctor: How Equity Eludes Women in Medicine and Science

If you’re a woman or you’re someone who has ever been treated by a female medical professional, you should listen to this episode on the topic of Yes, I’m Really A Doctor: How Equity Eludes Women in Medicine and Science by Esther Choo, MD MPH. She is an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at OHSU, Founder of Equity… Read more

Episode 18: Treknology, The Real Life Science Behind Star Trek’s Technologies

Star Trek introduced us to the amazing technologies of a fictional future such as warp drive, replicators, and photon torpedoes, but it turns out that some of those technologies aren’t so fictional anymore. In this episode hear theoretical physicist and author Ethan Siegel, PhD, talk about some of the real inventions that were inspired by Star Trek… Read more

Episode 17: Gender, Sex, and Biology

Are biological sex and gender the same thing? Do anatomy and genetics completely determine sex and/or gender?In this talk from June 2018, Dr. Lisa Sardinia, Associate Professor of Biology at Pacific University, talks about some of the so-called “bathroom bills” proposed in the US to restrict access to public restrooms based on terms like “biological sex”… Read more

Episode 16: The Neuroscience of Pain

Pain is the most important and misunderstood sensory system: you cannot live without it, yet we live every day trying to avoid it. In this episode, Dr. Michael Morgan, Professor of Psychology at Washington State University Vancouver, explains how your nervous system codes pain, how your brain tries to control it, and how drugs provide relief. He’ll… Read more

Episode 15: Inventive Connections

How are actress Hedy Lamarr, GPS, and elephant seals all connected? Find out in this episode as Dr. Leslie New from WSU Vancouver celebrates women who have contributed to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but who have been dismissed or deliberately forgotten because of their gender… Read more

Episode 14: Grunt with Mary Roach

If you have a sense of humor, Mary Roach is either already your favorite science author or she’s about to be. She came to Portland in 2017 to talk about her latest book Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, and our onstage interview ranged from asking how she gets inspiration for her books to tips on how… Read more

Episode 13: Evolution Under the Influence

We’re back! This episode is a recording of the talk “Evolution Under the Influence: Alcohol and the Coevolution of Humans and Yeast” by geneticist Dr. Kevin McCabe who works at Full Sail Brewing in Hood River, Oregon. In this talk, Kevin will take you through the history of primate alcohol consumption, the importance of yeast to human… Read more

Episode 12: The Neuroscience of Racism

This episode is a recording of the talk You and Your Racist Brain: The Neuroscience of Prejudice with Dr. Larry Sherman, a neuroscientist from OHSU. In this talk, Dr. Sherman explains how our brains have evolved to make judgments based on visual information in milliseconds, and that these preconceived opinions about other people are not based on reason or… Read more

Episode 11: Parasites

This episode is a recording of the talk Parasites: A Global Health Problem, with Dr. Buddy Ullman, a parasitologist from OHSU. In this talk, Buddy describes a number of different human parasites, including tapeworms, hookworms, and plenty that you’ve never heard of. WARNING: this talk contains pretty graphic detail of what parasites do to human… Read more

Episode 10: Neuroscience of PTSD

This episode is a recording of the talk The Neuroscience of Trauma: From Trigger Warnings to PTSD with Dr. Larry Sherman, a neuroscientist at OHSU in Portland, Oregon. In this talk, Larry describes a lot of things related to trauma and PTSD, including his own family experience with the condition, conditioned fear response, fMRI studies, epigenetics, and proven… Read more

Episode 9: Food Scraps as Compost and Energy

This episode is a recording of the talk Ignoble Rot: Food Scraps as Compost and Energy by David Allaway, senior policy analyst with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). David spoke about ways to reduce food waste, and also described some of the pros and cons of four ways of dealing with food waste once it’s been… Read more

Episode 8: Molecules with Theodore Gray

This episode features Theodore Gray talking about his new book “Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything.” Theo is known for many things, including his periodic table, his Ig Nobel award, his column in Popular Science, his app development company called Touchpress, his work as a co-founder of Wolfram Research, and his book “The Elements.” In… Read more

Episode 7: Cannabis Pharmacy

This episode features the talk Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana with author Michael Backes. The book gives “evidence-based information on using cannabis for ailments and conditions, plus a comprehensive guide to the most popular varieties.” In this talk he describes how prohibition of cannabis in the United States has inspired selective breeding and has changed the… Read more

Episode 6: Epigenetics

This episode features the talk Epigenetics: The Merger of Nature and Nurture, by Dr. Lisa Sardinia from Pacific University. Lisa teaches environmental science and biology, specializing in microbiology and genetics. In this talk she describes the emerging field of epigenetics and how changes in your environment and what you eat can contribute to genetic changes not only for yourself… Read more

Episode 5: Missoula Floods

This episode features the talk Cataclysms on the Columbia: The Great Missoula Floods, by Dr. Scott Burns from Portland State University. The Missoula Floods were a series of 80+ floods that happened in the Pacific Northwest during the last ice age around 15,000 years ago, and they dramatically shaped the geology and topography of Washington and Oregon… Read more

Episode 4: Forensic Anthropology

This episode features the talk I Dig Your Bones: Adventures in Forensic Anthropology, by Dr. Nici Vance, a forensic scientist and State Forensic Anthropologist for the Oregon State Police. In this talk she describes what happens when bones are found in the woods, where she then has to figure out: 1) are the bones human? 2) if so, are they male or female? 3) how old was… Read more

Episode 3: The Neuroscience of Pleasure and Love

This episode features Dr. Larry Sherman, a neuroscientist from OHSU in Portland, Oregon, talking about how our brains process pleasure and the special case of falling in love. Topics touched on during the talk include: ancient philosophy and the definition of “pleasure”; how hormones such as estrogen and testosterone affect our choice of partners; how drug addiction and… Read more

Episode 2: Physics for Rock Stars: Making the Laws of the Universe Work for You

This episode features an excerpt of a talk by Christine McKinley, mechanical engineer, musician, host of Brad Meltzer’s Decoded on History Channel, and author of Physics for Rock Stars: Making the Laws of the Universe Work for You. It was recorded at Nerd Nite Portland hosted by Via Productions. In this (hilarious!) talk, she describes her childhood where… Read more

Episode 1: Amphibians of the Northwest

This is a recording of the talk “Some Like It Cool and Damp: Amphibians of the Northwest,” given by Dr. Ivan Phillipsen on April 1, 2014, in Portland Oregon. Ivan has a PhD in zoology from Oregon State University and runs a nature tour company called Volcano Lands. In this talk he describes what amphibians are… Read more