Scientific Controversies

Are there Many Worlds? Does Time Exist? Are We Alone? Hosted by Director of Sciences Janna Levin, the Scientific Controversies series brings creative minds together to celebrate the passionate spirit of scientific curiosity. Previous guests include Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek, geneticist George Church, and neuroscientist Christof Koch with subjects ranging from artificial intelligence and string theory, to dark matter, consciousness, and other unsolved scientific quandaries.

Does the Body Keep the Score?
Janna Levin sat down with Bessel van der Kolk—author of the New York Times best-selling book The Body Keeps the Score—and Rachel Yehuda—a pioneer in the epigenetics of trauma. Together, they considered the impact of trauma on our brains and bodies, pondering: Are we permanently damaged by trauma? Or is there resilience inherent in our very biology?
The Goddamn Particle
The Goddamn Particle—that is, the “Higgs Boson” that functions as the glue holding our material reality together—was finally discovered in July a dozen years ago. Leon Lederman famously referred to the Higgs as the “Goddamn Particle,” but his publisher resisted the moniker and pushed him to name his book “The God Particle” instead. As Lederman put it, ‘‘We managed to offend two groups, those that believed in god and those that didn’t. We were warmly received by those in the middle.’’ Watch the conversation between Janna Levin and physicists Sean Carroll and Melissa Franklin that details how the particle keeps our theories hanging together, and why a multi-billion dollar machine was built in Switzerland just to find it.
Janna Levin hosts experts Brian Hare and Alexandra Horowitz in a discussion of the latest scientific research into dogs’ cognition, perception, and behavior.
Artificial Intelligence
Janna Levin invites computer scientist Yann LeCun and physicist Max Tegmark to consider if humanity’s role in evolution will be to initiate the era of Artificial Intelligence at the peril of our own species.
Dark Matter
Janna Levin invites physicists Elena Aprile and Peter Fisher to ask if we truly should look for a new fundamental constituent of nature, or could dark matter actually be microscopic black holes?
Dark Energy
Janna Levin invites cosmologist Pedro Ferreira and theoretical physicist Rachel Rosen to consider the most pressing question facing cosmology: What is dark energy?
Is Math Invented or Discovered?
Join Janna Levin as she hosts cognitive scientist Rafael Nuñez and physicist Max Tegmark in a conversation to challenge our beliefs on mathematics—discovered or invented?—and to question if mathematics does in fact provide a fundamental, beautiful structure to the universe.
Body, Brain, and Consciousness
Janna Levin hosts neuroscientists Anil Seth and Joseph LeDoux to discuss consciousness, and how to see ourselves as less apart from, and more a part of, the rest of nature.
James Webb Space Telescope
Janna Levin invites NASA’s Senior Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, Nobel Laureate John Mather, and renowned observational astronomer Wendy Freedman to discuss Webb’s very first glimpse of the universe and this new era in astronomy.
Genetic Manipulation
Janna Levin invites renowned geneticist George Church of Harvard and physician/biologist Siddhartha Mukherjee, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, to discuss the stunning implications and potential disasters of a brave new genetically modified world.
Are We Alone?
Astrophysicist Janna Levin invites biochemist Nick Lane and astrobiologist Caleb Scharf to discuss the origin of life on this planet, on other planets, and even in other universes.
Janna Levin invites NASA’s Kepler Mission Scientist, Natalie Batalha, and comparative exoplanetary scientist Rebecca Oppenheimer to discuss exoplanets, undiscovered life forms beyond our solar system, and if we will ever encounter kindred inhabitants of the Milky Way.
String Theory
Is the entire universe a complex score played out on elementary strings? Janna Levin discusses with Nobel laureate and string theory pioneer David Gross and theoretical physicist Clifford Johnson.
Animal Consciousness
Famed primatologist Frans de Waal and marine mammal scientist and cognitive psychologist Diana Reiss join Janna Levin in conversation to explore the possibilities of animal consciousness.
Event Horizon
Join black-hole astrophysicist, Janna Levin, alongside Dr. Sheperd Doeleman, Director of the Event Horizon Telescope, and theoretical physicist Andrew Strominger to consider the staggering implications of event horizons from astrophysics to the theory of everything.
Black Holes
Janna Levin invites astrophysicists Priyamvada Natarajan and Feryal Özel to question if our very existence is contingent on the shepherding role of black holes in the history of the cosmos.
Janna Levin invites historian Peter Galison and public policy expert Allison Macfarlane to discuss the implications and viability of containment.