Engines of Our Ingenuity

100 EpisodesProduced by Houston Public Media

The story of technological progress is one of drama and intrigue, sudden insight and plain hard work. Let’s explore technology’s spectacular failures and many magnificent success stories.

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Engines of Our Ingenuity 1720: The Silk Sea Lane

July 19th, 2019


Episode: 1720 The two Silk Roads: One by land, the other by sea.  Today, the Silk Road goes to sea.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2936: Parker Brothers

July 18th, 2019


Episode: 2936 George S. Parker and the Parker Brothers.  Today, for the love of games.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1719: Poe’s Cosmology

July 17th, 2019


Episode: 1719 Edgar Allen Poe's amazing cosmology.  Today, gothic cosmology.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2933: Math and the Dreyfus Affair

July 16th, 2019


Episode: 2933 Math and The Dreyfus Affair.  Today, courtroom drama.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1718: Lardner’s Steam Engines

July 15th, 2019


Episode: 1718 The Rev. Dionysius Lardner: keeping up with a world in flux.  Today, old books with a message for the present.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2931: G.H. Hardy

July 11th, 2019


Episode: 2931 G. H. Hardy, mentor and apologist.  Today, a friendship and an apology.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1715: Flying Around the World

July 10th, 2019


Episode: 1715 The first flight around the world -- in 175 days.  Today, we circle the earth.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3210: Scourge of the Sea

July 9th, 2019


Episode: 3210 Scourge of the Sea, the long search for a cure for scurvy.  Today, a medical cure, lost and found.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1714: “Infinite Reservoire” of Space

July 8th, 2019


Episode: 1714 The mischief, in space, of the "infinite reservoir" thought model.  Today, let us fill infinity.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1713: Seldon’s Automobile

July 5th, 2019


Episode: 1713 George Seldon, Henry Ford, and Clyde Champion Barrow.  Today, patents and public relations.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2930: Overhanging Books

July 4th, 2019


Episode: 2930 Overhanging Books.  Today, we stick out.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1712: Nightingale’s Graph

July 3rd, 2019


Episode: 1712 Florence Nightingale's graph: Learning what really happened.  Today, Florence Nightingale draws a graph.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2928: 1 = 1/2 = 0

July 2nd, 2019


Episode: 2928 When 1 = 1/2 = 0.  Today, that can’t be, can it?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1711: Melting Glaciers

July 1st, 2019


Episode: 1711 In which melting glaciers open up the archaeological record.  Today, we follow melting glaciers.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1710: Encyclopaedia Britannica

June 28th, 2019


Episode: 1710 Encyclopaedia Britannica.  Today, a new look at an old encyclopaedia.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2926: The Etymology of “Nerd”

June 27th, 2019


Episode: 2926 Nerd Nite and the etymology of the word Nerd.  Today, bazinga!

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1709: Cap Wigington

June 26th, 2019


Episode: 1709 Cap Wigington.  Today, a remarkable architect.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3209: Net of Life

June 25th, 2019


Episode: 3209 Net of Life: Can Technology Protect Us from Ourselves?  Today, a net of life.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1707: Virtual Temples

June 24th, 2019


Episode: 1707 In which virtual reality is more real than we'd expected.  Today, information, too dense to be objective.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1706: Eiffel’s Towers

June 21st, 2019


Episode: 1706 The Two Eiffel Towers.  Today, Eiffel builds two towers.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2924: Not In This Universe

June 20th, 2019


Episode: 2924 Not In This Universe: When the possible really isn't.  Today, we do a lot of typing.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1705: A 3000-Year-Old Toe

June 19th, 2019


Episode: 1705 A 3000-year-old woman with an artificial toe.  Today, a big toe made of wood.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2923: Nature’s Sanitation Engineer

June 18th, 2019


Episode: 2923 The opossum: nature's little sanitary engineer.  Today, nature’s sanitation engineer.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1704: Restorative Justice

June 17th, 2019


Episode: 1704 Restorative Justice: a rare inventive response to necessity.  Today, invention and crime.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1703: IBM 360 Computer

June 14th, 2019


Episode: 1703 The IBM 360 computer: an imprint upon the Palouse wheat fields.  Today, a new computer.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2922: Gearing Up

June 13th, 2019


Episode: 2922 Gearing up: the continuously variable transmission.  Today, we change gears.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1701: Sewing Machine

June 12th, 2019


Episode: 1701 The sewing machine in American life.  Today, the sewing machine.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2919: Roomba

June 11th, 2019


Episode: 2919 The Roomba.  Today, we clean up.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1699: Plaster in Çatalhöyük

June 10th, 2019


Episode: 1699 Çatalhöyük: An ancient city, held together by plaster.  Today, the surprising cement that held an ancient city together.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1698: The Holland Tunnel

June 7th, 2019


Episode: 1698 The Holland Tunnel -- a story you've heard before.  Today, an oddly familiar story.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3208: Computers and Reading Comprehension

June 6th, 2019


Episode: 3208 How Computers are Chipping Away at Reading Comprehension.  Today, computer comprehension.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1697: Delphic Oracle

June 5th, 2019


Episode: 1697 Where did Delphic prophecies come from? And where did they go?  Today, the oracle speaks.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2918: Norman Brinker and Restaurant Chains

June 4th, 2019


Episode: 2918 Norman Brinker and the History of Restaurant Chains.  Today, one link at a time.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1696: Harriet Quimby

June 3rd, 2019


Episode: 1696 Harriet Quimby, first American woman licensed to fly.  Today, Harriet Quimby.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1695: Crystal Set

May 31st, 2019


Episode: 1695 On wanting to build my own crystal set.  Today, we try to make a radio.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2917: The NBC Opera Theatre

May 30th, 2019


Episode: 2917 The NBC Opera Theatre.  Today, it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1694: Technology and Communication

May 29th, 2019


Episode: 1694 In which we learn that technology is communication.  Today, technology has something to tell us.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2916: Charles K. McNeil

May 28th, 2019


Episode: 2916 Charles K. McNeil and the Point Spread.  Today, we make book.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1693: Curtiss’ Motorcycles

May 27th, 2019


Episode: 1693 Glenn Curtiss' motorcycles: before airplanes.  Today, the other life of an airplane-maker.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1692: Reaching North

May 24th, 2019


Episode: 1692 Charles Hall's star-crossed attempt to reach the North Pole.  Today, Arctic ice.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2914: Charles Loring Brace

May 23rd, 2019


Episode: 2914 Charles Loring Brace and the Orphan Trains Movement.  Today, for the love of children.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1690: Library of Work and Play

May 22nd, 2019


Episode: 1690 The Arts and Crafts Movement reflected in a book for young people.  Today, we make things.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2910: Something Big

May 21st, 2019


Episode: 2910 Something big: The world's largest manmade enclosure.  Today, something really big.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1689: Numismatics

May 20th, 2019


Episode: 1689 Numismatics -- coins as a historical record.  Today, let's read what's written on coins.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1686: Mysterious Heat

May 17th, 2019


Episode: 1686 In which steam engines struggle to teach us thermodynamics.  Today, a story about theory and practice.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2908: Kurt Vonnegut

May 16th, 2019


Episode: 2908 Kurt Vonnegut, engineers, and scientists.  Today, so it goes.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1685: Lord Byron and Steam

May 15th, 2019


Episode: 1685 Lord Mad Jack Byron, James Watt, & George Gordon, 6th Lord Byron.  Today, a strange connection between Lord Byron and steam power.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2907: Quantum Computing

May 14th, 2019


Episode: 2907 Quantum Computing.  Today, it’s magic.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1684: An Old Machinist’s Handbook

May 13th, 2019


Episode: 1684 In which we study an old machinist's handbook.  Today, a revolutionary's handbook.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1682: Zeppelin in Minnesota

May 10th, 2019


Episode: 1682 Count von Zeppelin learns about flying in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Today, see if you can guess our mystery inventor.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2906: Octopus

May 9th, 2019


Episode: 2906 The Octopus Mind.  Today, alien intelligence.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1681: Science in 1904

May 8th, 2019


Episode: 1681 The Literary Digest tells us about science in 1904.  Today, a bright new century.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2904: Chatterbots

May 7th, 2019


Episode: 2904 Chatterbots and the Turing Test.  Today, we chat.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1679: Last Days of Pompeii

May 6th, 2019


Episode: 1679 The last days of Pompeii, rather like our own lives.  Today, we visit Pompeii.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1678: Weave a Circle

May 3rd, 2019


Episode: 1678 Weave a circle and change history.  Today, we close a circle.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2903: Hummingbirds

May 2nd, 2019


Episode: 2903: Delicately Engineered Hummingbirds.  Today, life as a blur.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1677: Tricking the Eye

May 1st, 2019


Episode: 1677 In which I encounter the 16th Century in a Fort Worth Museum.  Today, we trick the eye.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2902: ELIZA

April 30th, 2019


Episode: 2902 ELIZA: Artificial Psychotherapist.  Today, mindless conversation.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1676: Ancient Chinese Bells

April 29th, 2019


Episode: 1676 Some 2500 year old Chinese bells harbor a secret.  Today, some very-old bells with a surprising secret.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1674: Fulton’s Battery-Catamaran

April 26th, 2019


Episode: 1674 Fulton's last boat: the steam-powered Battery-Catamaran.  Today, Fulton's last boat.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3207: New Zealand’s Ecosystem

April 25th, 2019


Episode: 3207 Repairing New Zealand's Damaged Ecosystem.  Today, what once was.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1673: Marie Lavoisier

April 24th, 2019


Episode: 1673 Who was Marie Lavoisier, amanuensis or collaborator?  Today, meet Marie Lavoisier.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2900: Hayek and the Mind

April 23rd, 2019


Episode: 2900 Hayek: the economist's contributions in neuroscience and philosophy.  Today, a man who crossed over.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1670: Tyndall and Sound

April 22nd, 2019


Episode: 1670 John Tyndall: measuring sound without electronics.  Today, how did people measure sound in the nineteenth century?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1669: Linus Torvalds and Linux

April 19th, 2019


Episode: 1669 Linus Torvalds, and giving away Linux.  Today, a parable about giving versus selling.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2898: Keynes and Hayek

April 18th, 2019


Episode: 2898 Keynes and Hayek: The nuances of their economic perspectives.  Today, how different were they?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1668: A Vocabulary of Science

April 17th, 2019


Episode: 1668 Scientific instruments creating a new rhetoric.  Today, new sciences, new languages.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2895: Measuring Up

April 16th, 2019


Episode: 2895 Measuring up: How we measure, and perceive, inclines.  Today, measuring "up."

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1667: On Trying to See

April 15th, 2019


Episode: 1667 In which we look at the problem of seeing what we expect to see.  Today, we try to see what we're looking at.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1666: The Aging of Books

April 12th, 2019


Episode: 1666 In which we watch books growing old.  Today, we watch books grow old.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2894: Wastewater Treatment

April 11th, 2019


Episode: 2894 Wastewater Treatment.  Today, the unmentionable.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1665: Artificial Hearts, Minds and Voices

April 10th, 2019


Episode: 1665 Making Artificial hearts and minds in the sixteenth century.  Today, artificial hearts, minds, and voices.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2891: Specifics and Generalities

April 9th, 2019


Episode: 2891 Specifics and Generalities: teaching and the problem of universals.  Today, what exactly is that?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1664: Nomogram

April 8th, 2019


Episode: 1664 Nomogram: the analog computer in one of its early incarnations.  Today, nomograms, analogs, and a forgotten world.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1662: Between Two Worlds

April 5th, 2019


Episode: 1662 A book on water: between two worlds in an old library.  Today, we're between two worlds in an old library.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2889: Twin Primes Conjecture

April 4th, 2019


Episode: 2889 An important step toward solving the twin primes conjecture.  Today, almost twins.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1661: Looking for the Engineers

April 3rd, 2019


Episode: 1661 Where are all the Engineers? Appearing to be something else, it would seem.  Today, where did all the engineers go?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2887: Apple’s Newton

April 2nd, 2019


Episode: 2887 Apple's most famous flop: The Newton.  Today, before there was "i."

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1659: Wright and Lilienthal

April 1st, 2019


Episode: 1659 Otto Lilienthal and Orville Wright -- one died and the other lived.  Today, one pioneer of flight dies while another lives.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1658: Drafting

March 29th, 2019


Episode: 1658 A skill eliminates itself: from drafting to computers.  Today, a skill eliminates itself.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3206: Australia Wins The America’s Cup

March 28th, 2019


Episode: 3206 Australia Wins The America's Cup.  Today, they came from the land down under.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1657: Of Nature and Multiplication

March 27th, 2019


Episode: 1657 In which nature multiplies outcomes.  Today, nature and multiplication.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2886: Not Just Gadgets

March 26th, 2019


Episode: 2886 Not Just Gadgets: The Science of Engineering Systems.  Today, beyond gadgets.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1656: Power in Colorado

March 25th, 2019


Episode: 1656 Electric power comes to Telluride, Colorado.  Today, we install a dynamo on a mountaintop.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1655: Après le Déluge

March 22nd, 2019


Episode: 1655 After the flood: Freeze-drying the history of desegragation.  Today, we Freeze-dry our past.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2883: Dead Salmon and Good Statistics

March 21st, 2019


Episode: 2883 A dead salmon points the way to better brain imaging.  Today, outrageous research.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1654: Tidal Power, 1921

March 20th, 2019


Episode: 1654 The forgotten renewable energy source, tidal (or lunar) power.  Today, solar power and lunar power.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2879: Empty Shipping Containers

March 19th, 2019


Episode: 2879 The Economics of Empty Shipping Containers.  Today, empty boxes.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1653: Aeolian Vibration

March 18th, 2019


Episode: 1653 Aeolian harps, transmission wires, and vortex wakes.  Today, the Aeolian harp.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1652: Justus von Liebig

March 15th, 2019


Episode: 1652 Justus von Liebig and the first R&D laboratory.  Today, we create the first research laboratory.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2878: U-Boats in WW-I

March 14th, 2019


Episode: U-boats in the First World War.  Today, full speed ahead.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1650: Inherent Stability in 1916

March 13th, 2019


Episode: 1650 Learning about the stability of aeroplanes in 1916.  Today, we worry about airplane stability in 1916.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2875: Pierre Fauchard

March 12th, 2019


Episode: 2875 Pierre Fauchard, Father of Modern Dentistry.  Today, a profession comes of age.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1649: Fessenden and Radio Sound

March 11th, 2019


Episode: 1649 Reginald Fessenden endows radio with sound.  Today, we add sound to radio.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1648: An American Dirigible

March 8th, 2019


Episode: 1648 Building a dirigible to get to the California gold rush.  Today, some thoughts on success, failure, and flying to California.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2872: The Stimpmeter

March 7th, 2019


Episode: 2872 The Stimpmeter: Golf's Supremely Simple Maintenance Tool.  Today, low tech in a high tech game.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1646: Who Did What By When?

March 6th, 2019


Episode: 1646 Thinking about who had done what by what age.  Today, who did what by when?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2870: The Canal Du Midi

March 5th, 2019


Episode: 2870 The Canal du Midi.  Today, coast to coast.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1645: Pi

March 4th, 2019


Episode: 1645 Figuring out the value of Pi.  Today, let's talk about  -- and not the kind you eat.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1644: Hufeland on Infants

March 1st, 2019


Episode: 1644 An 18th-century doctor helps great-grandmother raise grandpa.  Today, we raise a nineteenth-century child.

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