They’re the questions that keep scientists up at night: Why did life begin? Are space and time fundamental or emergent properties of the universe? Why do women usually outlive men? Why do we have to sleep? In “The Joy of Why,” a new podcast by Quanta Magazine, mathematician and author Steven Strogatz interviews leading scientists and mathematicians about some of the universe’s biggest unanswered questions.
“It’s all about the great timeless mysteries of science,” Strogatz says. “You don’t have to be a scientist or a mathematician to wonder why. That’s the point. The joy is in asking and trying to understand.”
The podcast’s premiere episode explores the secrets of sleep with Dragana Rogulja and Alex Keene. That journey takes Strogatz from studies of deadly sleep deprivation in fruit flies to blind fish in pitch-black caves who sleep less than their sighted surface-dwelling counterparts. In the second episode, Strogatz untangles why knots are important in math and science with Colin Adams and Lisa Piccirillo. In episode three, Shruti Naik reveals why inflammation is a dangerous necessity.
The next episode, to be released on May 5, features the theoretical physicist and popular author Sean Carroll explaining why physicists think space-time is emergent. Future guests this season include the science and math luminaries Sheref Mansy, Melanie Wood, Kevin Buzzard, Marcia Rieke, Dena Dubal and Jack Szostak.
“It has been such a thrill talking to these experts about the eternal mysteries and the latest thinking about them,” Strogatz says.
Strogatz is the Jacob Gould Schurman professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University. A highly cited mathematician and a passionate communicator, he is the author of critically acclaimed books including Infinite Powers and The Joy of x.
Quanta Magazine is an award-winning, editorially independent publication launched by the Simons Foundation to illuminate big ideas in science and math through public service journalism. Its reporters and editors focus on developments in mathematics, theoretical physics, theoretical computer science and the basic life sciences, emphasizing timely, accurate, in-depth and well-crafted articles for its broad discerning audience.