Let's Get Mental

Let's Get Mental is a podcast about science, technology, and society by Portland-based tech writer and journalist Dustin Driver. It covers CRISPR, artificial intelligence, computer security, Star Trek TNG, killer robots, Elon Musk, and lizard people. Subscribe now:

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Episode 13: History of Clean Air Regulations

September 25, 2018 Many of us never got to experience it, but the air quality in LA in the ‘40s ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s was deadly. Smog hung in the air like a thick fog and many residents actually said that it hurt to breathe. May 26, 2018

Episode 12: Booze is Poison

September 25, 2018 This summer a lot of science news bubbled up out of the quantum foam, but the one thing that really caught my attention was booze. And not Oregon’s world-famous craft beers. A study landed that allegedly found that any amount of alcohol—any—is bad for you. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't drink. May 26, 2018

Episode 11: Raccoon Poop

That’s the bone-chilling shriek of America’s favorite pest, the trash panda. Or Raccoon. And while they may sound like demons shredding the flesh from helpless babes, there’s something even more terrifying about them: Their poop.

Episode 10: A Simple Procedure

May 3, 2018 Psychologist and author David P. Barash recently wrote an article for Nautilus Magazine arguing that now is the time to make a humanzee. I wrote a story about an experiment gone horribly wrong. How are they related? Listen to find out!

Episode 9: More CRISPR with Sam Sternberg

April 23, 2018 No fancy sci-fi introduction is needed this time, folks, because today we have world-renown CRISPR expert Sam Sternberg. Sam worked with biochemist, author, and science celebrity Jennifer Doudna to refine CRISPR gene editing technology at UC Berkeley. The two wrote best-selling book A Crack in Creation about the discovery and what it could mean for humanity. Today Sam is working on CRISPR at Columbia University in New York. Sam was kind enough to take an hour or so out of his busy schedule to chat about CRISPR and how it’s being used to revolutionize science and medicine.

Episode 8: AI and Common Voice with Kelly Davis

April 4, 2018 In this episode I chat with the head of the Mozilla Common Voice project, Kelly Davis. Kelly is a trained physicist who studied string theory before getting hooked on artificial intelligence in the late ‘90s. We talk about AI art collectives, his fascination with creating an intelligent agent, project Common Voice, and a little about the future of humanity.

Episode 7: Fusion Power!

March 19, 2018 Nuclear fusion technology could herald a golden age of energy that will make the fossil fuel age look like the stone age! That’s right, limitless carbon-free energy for everyone, all thanks to the hard work of genius nuclear physicists and engineers! MIT recently announced that their fusion reactor project is only about 15 years away.

Episode 6: Nuclear Apocalypse?

March 12, 2018 Everybody’s favorite crony capitalist and democratically elected dictator Vladimir Putin just announced an all-new nuclear-powered cruise missile that can hit any target on earth. The missile can, according to Putin, fly under any existing US missile defense systems undetected. It’s a bizarre announcement, because Russia already has more than 1,900 nuclear missiles on standby that most experts agree could bypass any missile defense systems anywhere. The announcement comes just weeks after the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the Doomsday Clock to two minutes till midnight. If you don’t know, the Doomsday Clock represents expert global opinion of how close the world is to nuclear apocalypse. Midnight means the party’s over, and experts believe the planet is closer to total nuclear destruction than it has been since the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was really really damn close. Well, and in 1953, just after the United states tested a hydrogen bomb.

Episode 5: Clone Puppies

March 5, 2018 Barbra Streisand cloned her favorite dog and things didn’t turn out as expected. Why? And How? And, most importantly, Whuuuuuuuut? First, Streisand revealed in a recent interview with Variety Magazine that she had her recently deceased dog Samantha cloned—twice. Well, she had two clones made. According to the world-renown singer, the dogs have different personalities than Samantha and aren’t exactly identical to her, either. More from National Geographic.

Episode 4: Crawdad Invasion

February 19, 2018 In science fiction they call it gray goo - nanobots that replicate without limits until eventually everything on the planet is a featureless gray goo. It’s the first thing that came to mind when I read a recent article in the NY Times about a new species of crayfish that clones itself and is taking over Europe. The species emerged just 25 years ago as a mutation. Normally, animals have two chromosomes, one from each parent. This female crayfish ended up with three, meaning that she could produce her own fertilized eggs without mating. And every egg is a perfect clone of the original crayfish. Oh, and crayfish lay hundreds of eggs at a time. More from the German Cancer Research Institute.

Episode 3: Molerat Underlords

February 5, 2018 That’s right, naked mole rats may be the true underlords of this planet, shriveled immortals lurking beneath our feet, sewing discontent throughout society until humanity is on the verge of collapse. Explains the current state of the world quite well, I’d say. But unfortunately we can’t pin humanity’s failings on the machinations of mole rats. We may, however, learn how to extend our misery indefinitely by studying their apparent agelessness. elifesciences.org/articles/31157

Episode 2: Spectre and Meltdown

January 20, 2018 Spectre and Meltdown are two serious security vulnerabilities discovered in nearly every computer processor made since 1995. So what does it mean? Is this the end of computing? Should we throw our computers on the campfire and live among mother nature? I wanted to find out, so I talked to security expert Wu-chang Feng at Portland State University. The verdict? You might just want to break out the abacus, because we’re all in big trouble.

Episode 1: CRISPR at OHSU

December 29, 2017 In this, the very first podcast, I chat with Amy Koski at the Oregon Health and Science University about CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing. Amy is the lab manager at the Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy at OHSU. The lab made headlines in August 2017 when they successfully repaired heart disease genes in human embryonic cells using CRISPR/Cas9.

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