286: Robert Bilott | The Environmental Attorney Battling Dupont In “Exposure” and “Dark Waters”

We are joined on episode 286 of the show by guest Robert Bilott. He is an environmental attorney at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP. He is the author of Exposure: Poisoned Water, Corporate Greed, and One Lawyer’s Twenty-Year Battle against DuPont, which was then turned into the 2019 film Dark Waters.

From his bio, Robert is “A seasoned and internationally-recognized litigator, advocate, and author, Rob represents a diverse range of clients on a wide variety of matters involving federal, state, and local environmental laws. For more than 29 years, he has handled environmental issues of regulatory compliance, permitting, and corporate/real estate transactions, as well as all aspects of litigation arising from such issues, from administrative hearings to multi-party, complex multi-district litigation, mass torts, and class actions.”

Show notes:

  • Robert’s background becoming an environmental attorney and progressing in the field
  • Dark Waters and its representation of Robert’s extended battle with Dupont regarding PFOAs and related chemicals
  • the difference in impact of his book and the film
  • the details of the case against Dupont
  • some personality traits that match with being an environmental attorney
  • and much more

You can check out Exposure on Amazon, or Dark Waters on IMDb.

262: Matthew Cobb | The Past And Future Of Neuroscience In “The Idea Of The Brain”

Welcome Professor Matthew Cobb of the University of Manchester, author of The Idea of the Brain: The Past and Future of Neuroscience, to episode 262 of the show. His latest book is about the history of neuroscience, and its recent roots, and how that develops the idea of the brain, while our current understanding of the brain is still very limited. Inspirations come from other researchers, as well as Danish scientist Nicolas Steno of the 17th century.

Professor Cobb is is Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester, and got his Ph.D. in Psychology and Genetics from the University of Sheffield in England. He had a postdoctoral position at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. Others books of his include The Egg & Sperm Race and Life’s Greatest Secret: The Race to Crack the Genetic Code. He has studied animal behavior, human psychology, science history, and more.

Show notes:

  • how Professor Cobb got into the study of the mind, neuroscience, and fly larvae growth and processes
  • the way that Nicolas Steno informed the way Professor Cobb looks at the mind
  • the reductionist view, and how it does not allow for picking up on information regarding detailed nuance
  • his upcoming book on smell, and how that relates to the virus of our current pandemic, with its attachment to smell receptors
  • how one structure of the brain is not alone in processing information, separate from other regions of the brain
  • Eve Marder, and her study on the small number of neurons in the lobster’s stomach, with associated models of these neurons
  • research in the field done in Manchester and the UK region
  • fly maggots and their neurons, as well as the priorities that their narrow neural system requires
  • how maggots have biological clocks in the same light as humans and other animals
  • replacement of neurons and memories in small animals
  • being skeptical of science that has come before, versus going with the research that has been read (question inspired by Professor Cobb’s recent interview with past interviewee Michael Shermer)
  • a message for all

It was good to have Professor Cobb on the show. You can check out The Idea of the Brain on Amazon, his upcoming book Smell with Oxford University Press, follow on Twitter @MatthewCobb, or look at his academic biography.

260: Claire Bidwell Smith | Grief Therapist On Handling The Passing Of Others In “Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief”

Handling the stages of grief after a loss is challenging, but grief therapist and author Claire Bidwell Smith brings her knowledge and experience to the table in this category with her latest book Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief. In it, Claire details how one can handle the anxiety that is associated with a loss. She lost her mother and father to cancer by the time she had turned 25, bringing about a level of understanding normally reserved for those at a much later time in their lives.

Claire has written multiple books, including The Rules of Inheritance and After This: When Life Is Over, Where Do We Go? As an author, speaker, and grief expert, she has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, and many more publications. She has a Master’s Degree from Antioch University.

Show notes:

  • how to deal with the loss of loved ones, whether from family or friends
  • why anxiety is one of the key stages of grief to be addressed
  • some of Claire’s story regarding how she got to be a grief therapist
  • what kinds of issues she normally helps clients with
  • what people are currently facing in New York and other regions due to the epidemic, and how they can better handle end-of-life management
  • the way to prepare for a loss prior to it being a huge issue

You can check out Claire on her website, Instagram @clairebidwellsmith, or on Amazon for her book. Glad to have her on~.

221: Safi Bahcall | How To Support Innovative Ideas And The “Loonshots” Behind Them

People pushing a risky or new message are in a difficult spot, because the support for their moment is not high. They have to work well with others who do things in a more steady form. In the book “Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries”, Safi Bahcall discusses the importance of and ideas behind keeping innovative ideas from being lost into the abyss.

Safi is a technologist, business executive, and author. He got his BA summa cum laude from Harvard, and his PhD from Stanford. He worked as a consultant for McKinsey, and then co-founded a biotech company Synta Pharmaceuticals Corp. developing cancer drugs, which he served as CEO at for thirteen years. He also worked with President Obama’s council of science advisors for future national research.

Here are the show notes for my episode with Safi:

  • how Loonshots are separated into two types based on product or strategy
  • what it takes to get an innovative idea through an organization
  • how Vannevar Bush was a big part of the basis for research and development in the United States
  • where the 150-person rule for groups comes from, and why it applies to both social networks and corporations
  • what Dr. Bahcall learned from his school and work experience throughout the recent years
  • when to listen to others and take their message into account as a CEO
  • how a lone individual can only do so much based on the structure of the scenario they are placed in
  • how structure trumps culture as far as application

220: Allison Schrager | Risk Mitigation With Examples In “An Economist Walks Into A Brothel”

Understanding risk is an economic way to understand the decisions and systems in our communities and finances. Economist Allison Schrager looks at risk in fields at the more extreme ends of the spectrum, to understand it with less noise in place.

Professor Allison Schrager teaches at NYU, and has a PhD in Economics from Columbia University, with her Bachelors from the University of Edinburgh. She is an economist, journalist at Quartz, and cofounder of LifeCycle Finance Partners, LLC. She has contributed to The Economist, Reuters, and Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Show notes:

  • what sex work can teach about risk management, and how Allison looked at a specific brothel to understand the value proposition
  • where in life you have your risks managed, whereas you have them completely ignored in other categories
  • when to take a risk and when to lean towards the safer option
  • why you should define what risk and reward mean to you, so that you can take and seek levels complementary to your nature
  • how to include your human irrationality into your risk modeling
  • what it takes to get the most bang for your buck in the department of risk-taking
  • how hedging and insurance are methods used to master your domain
  • what you can expect in your assessments, and what type of room you need to leave for unanticipated events
  • where the perspective of the world has gone, in terms of having control of the world you live in

I was glad to have Professor Schrager on episode 220. You can check out her articles on Quartz, home page, or her book on Amazon.

218: David Hu | Animal/Robotic Movement, Fluid Mechanics, And More In “How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls”

The way that organisms move is a precursor to how robots will map their movements out. Animals can do things like walk on water and climb up vertical surfaces, and knowing how this works is useful. Professor David Hu of Georgia Tech explores these topics in his book How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls.

Professor Hu is Associate Professor of Fluid Mechanics at The George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech. He runs the Hu Laboratory for Locomotion at his institution. He got his Bachelors and Masters, along with his PhD in Mathematics, at MIT. Most of his research focuses on hydrodynamics and elasticity problems as they relate to biology.

Show notes:

  • what biolocomotion is involved with, and how evolution has impacted animals and the insect world in terms of movement
  • why looking at nature is a good way to get ideas for mechanical devices that are more effective or better maintaining
  • where Professor Hu looked for inspiration, or bioinspiration, to see what the next item of research would be
  • how insects or animals can walk on water based on surface tension
  • what kinds of analysis it requires to be able to take a guess regarding locomotion and test it out in terms of basis
  • how body movements and material properties have to be looked at as a pair to be able to decipher their value
  • what kinds of animals need to undulate or slither to be able to get the most efficiency for their movement
  • how some of these advances connect to upcoming robots that are able to touch and move things in a more gentle way than current robots

I was glad to have Professor Hu on the show. He is a personable individual with a good sense of humor. You can check out his book on Amazon, look at his research articles, or look at his lab page.

217: Vince Beiser | How Sand Served As A Natural Resource That Transformed Civilization

Sand is one of the overlooked natural resources of the world, and is a huge part of the cities that we live and transport around in. In his book The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How it Transformed Civilization, journalist Vince Beiser speaks to the importance of this resource, as well as the stories related to its acquisition and usage.

Vince has served as a journalist in over 100 countries, reported from California’s harshest prisons, ridden with first responders, and contributed to Wired, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, the LA Times, and more. He continues to work as an award-winning journalist based in Los Angeles.

Show notes:

  • why sand on beaches is at risk of being reduced all around the world
  • how violence is attached to battles for sand in some parts of India and elsewhere
  • where sand operations have allowed for building of whole cities
  • what sand is used to build, and what other substances come from sand
  • how reinforced concrete became the main element for strong buildings
  • how more cars leads to more paved road, which led to more cars
  • why is it worthwhile to look at sustainability and personal usage of cars and fuel sources in relation to sand limits and violence related to it

I was glad to have Vince on the show. You can check out his book The World in a Grain on Amazon, or check out his website.

202: Robin Hanson | Career, Viewpoints And Articles From His Blog “Overcoming Bias”

Welcome to episode number 202, with Dr. Robin Hanson, co-author of The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life.

Robin Hanson is associate professor of economics at George Mason University, and research associate at the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University. He has a doctorate in social science from California Institute of Technology, master’s degrees in physics and philosophy from the University of Chicago, and nine years experience as a research programmer, at Lockheed and NASA.

On my episode with Dr. Hanson, we discussed topics and tangents connecting off of his blog articles and book messages, including:

  • having a thing, whether it be a viewpoint or something you stand for
  • hidden motives and the ways they can be look at more rationally
  • the concept of the Great Filter, which is a viewpoint about the universe and lack of activity beyond our planet
  • viewquakes, and the ability to bring individuals to growth through change of their thinking that is not rigid
  • a message to young eccentrics, the value and efficiencies that they have, and how they can look at themselves
  • the way that Edward Snowden was a form of hero, and what kinds of traits Dr. Hanson might look for in relevant individuals
  • Black Mirror translating some of the scientific messages available to a broader audience
  • how stories are used by people, and if they are somewhat religious in the way that they function
  • more topics on the mindset that you take to a difficulty

You can check out Dr. Robin Hanson’s blog at Overcoming Bias, look at his faculty page, or check out his biography. You can also take a look at my past text interview with Dr. Hanson and his The Elephant in the Brain  co-author Kevin Simler.