Distillations

Series produced by Distillations

Series image

Science + Culture + History

Each episode of Distillations takes a deep dive into a moment of science-related history in order to shed light on the present. Produced by the Science History Institute.


167 Pieces

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
Caption: What's in a kiss?, Credit: Flickr user Scented Mirror.
Pucker up! On this episode we investigate the kiss. First, what's in the saliva we share with each other? Then we interview Sheril Kirshenbaum, aut...

Bought by Prairie Public, KSFR, PRX Remix, and Marfa Public Radio


  • Added: Feb 03, 2012
  • Length: 12:41
  • Purchases: 4
Caption: Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon on April 21, 2010., Credit: Flickr user EPI2oh.
On this episode we look at how environments recover after natural and manmade disasters. First, we hear about how ecosystems repair themselves afte...

  • Added: Feb 20, 2012
  • Length: 13:42
Caption: Godzilla attacks!, Credit: Flickr user Marxchivist.
On today's show we look at the real and imagined implications of genetic modification in the middle of the 20th century.

  • Added: Mar 02, 2012
  • Length: 14:40
Caption: Hydrogen and chlorine sitting in a tree... Image from Real Fairy Folks: Explorations in the World of Atoms, by Lucy Rider Meyer, 1887., Credit: Courtesy of CHF's collections.
In this episode we travel back in time to the Victorian era, when innovative teachers used fairies to convey complicated ideas in chemistry. We ada...

Bought by WTJU


  • Added: Mar 16, 2012
  • Length: 09:56
  • Purchases: 1
Caption: What is it and what does it do?, Credit: courtesy of the Bendix Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry Collection, CHF Collections.
In this episode we look at the diverse history of mass spectrometry, starting with a single question: exactly what is it? Then we dip into CHF's or...

  • Added: Mar 31, 2012
  • Length: 13:18
Caption: Pittsburgh's Schenley High School in its glory days., Credit: Wikimedia.
Asbestos, once a miracle product, is now a plague on the aging infrastructure to which it's bound. In this episode we explore a Pennsylvania town w...

  • Added: Apr 17, 2012
  • Length: 14:03
Caption: Don't let the cuteness fool you. This cat is spreading dander all over its owner's house., Credit: Flickr user admiller.
Sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose? We all know what that means: allergies. On this show we look at pet dander, a common cause. Then we talk to a res...

  • Added: May 02, 2012
  • Length: 14:22
Caption: Remember when I leeched all the calcium from your bones?, Credit: Flickr user paparutzi.
Big eyes, soft skin, squeezable cheeks. No doubt, babies are adorable. But in this episode we take a break from our cooing to examine some more ser...

  • Added: May 16, 2012
  • Length: 13:43
Caption: Love it or hate it., Credit: Flickr user andrewasmith.
In this episode we cross the Atlantic to learn what makes a perfect cuppa. Then we learn about the surprising health benefits of Marmite, a spreada...

  • Added: May 29, 2012
  • Length: 15:27
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We bring you some of our favorite segments from past Distillations episodes this week: animal communication in the Sonoran Desert and the toll of a...

  • Added: Aug 04, 2012
  • Length: 13:33
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We bring you some of our favorite segments from past Distillations episodes this week: attempts to contact aliens in space and the secret behind th...

  • Added: Aug 04, 2012
  • Length: 15:34
Caption: Professor John Mainstone and the pitch drop experiment.
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-instan...

Bought by WTJU


  • Added: Aug 29, 2012
  • Length: 14:12
  • Purchases: 1
Caption: A gourmet treat for some; a total gross-out for some others., Credit: Flickr user lmnop88a.
In this episode we test your gag reflex. First an exploration of rank, funky cheeses made from your own body's bacteria. Then the history of how di...

  • Added: Sep 18, 2012
  • Length: 13:13
Caption: Arthur Henry Knighton’s Caustic Pot House Stacks, “A” Power Stack, “A” Pump Station, and “A” Evaporator Building., Credit: Image courtesy of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation. On view in CHF’s museum.
On today's show we track the evolution of smog from symbol of industrial progress to public-health catastrophe.

  • Added: Oct 09, 2012
  • Length: 14:19
Caption: In Hieronymus Brunschwig’s Liber de arte Distillandi . . . (Strasbourg, 1512) two figures work with one of alchemy’s more grounded practices: distillation. From the Donald and Mildred Othmer Collection, CHF. , Credit: Will Brown.
In this episode, a conversation between two alchemy experts: James Voelkel, who curated CHF’s exhibit The Alchemical Quest, and Lawrence Principe, ...

  • Added: Oct 18, 2012
  • Length: 13:58
Caption: Sam Kean reading from his first book at CHF's inaugural Science Cabaret., Credit: Conrad Erb.
In this episode we welcome back author Sam Kean to discuss the secrets and surprises contained in our DNA.

  • Added: Oct 31, 2012
  • Length: 12:22
Caption: "Nothing sticks to 'happy pan,'" raves the bottom of this poster, the first ever advertisement for Teflon., Credit: Wikimedia Commons user trozzolo.
Treasure or toxin? In this episode we follow Teflon's rise from happy accident to indispensable tool at work, home, and even war.

  • Added: Nov 15, 2012
  • Length: 15:14
Caption: The skeleton of Harry Eastlack, whose disease-ravaged bones are on display at Philadelphia's Mütter Museum., Credit: Evi Numen, 2011, for the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
In this episode we peel back our skin. First, an innovative technology that could provide early detection of osteoporosis. Then, a look at stone ma...

Bought by KVSC


  • Added: Jan 11, 2013
  • Length: 16:24
  • Purchases: 1
Caption: 1950s ad from the Givaudan Flavorist. , Credit: the Society of Flavor Chemists Library at Monell Chemical Senses Center.
Today your taste buds take center stage. First, how super-tasters' genetic gift might afford them better health. Then the art of imitation flavors.

Bought by WTJU


  • Added: Jan 23, 2013
  • Length: 16:09
  • Purchases: 1
Caption: An engraving from Michael Maier's Symbola Aureae Mensae (1617) depicting an alchemical androgyne. , Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Also available in CHF's collections.
Just in time for Valentine's Day we explore the sexier side of alchemy. Historian Joel Klein explains how alchemists used passionate prose to disgu...

Bought by WDBM


  • Added: Feb 05, 2013
  • Length: 13:59
  • Purchases: 1