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 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.

Engines of Our Ingenuity: 3205 Alice Augusta Ball

February 28th, 2019


Episode: 3205 Alice Augusta Ball and Her Work on Leprosy.  Today, a legacy with a sad coda.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1643: Athanasius Kircher

February 27th, 2019


Episode: 1643 In which Athanasius Kircher softens the 17th-C scientific revolution.  Today, -- after Galileo.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3204: Mobility Matters

February 26th, 2019


Episode: 3204 Transforming Transportation from Engines to Motors.  Today, our thoughts are about motors instead of engines.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1642: Halley’s Comet

February 25th, 2019


Episode: 1642 Reflections upon Halley's, and other, Comets.  Today, a comet approaches.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1641: Aaron Montgomery Ward

February 22nd, 2019


Episode: 1641 Aaron Montgomery Ward and the catalog that didn't belong in a store.  Today, meet Montgomery Ward.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2868: Scholasticism

February 21st, 2019


Episode: 2868 Scholasticism: Reason or Revelation?  Today, reason or revelation?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1640: Learning Electricity

February 20th, 2019


Episode: 1640 Learning electricity and learning about technological revolutions.  Today, we become electrified.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2865: Computer Divide

February 19th, 2019


Episode: 2865 Computer Divide: The Future of Microprocessors.  Today, two roads.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1639: Flying to the Edge of Air

February 18th, 2019


Episode: 1639 Helios, NASA's high-flying almost-satellite.  Today, let us ride Helios' golden chariot.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1638: Floating Airports

February 15th, 2019


Episode: 1638 Floating airports: How to fly the ocean in 1930.  Today, let us hop across the ocean.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2863: Bits, Nibbles, and Bytes

February 14th, 2019


Episode: 2863 Bits, Nibbles, and Bytes.  Today, bits, nibbles, and bytes.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1637: Natural Magic

February 13th, 2019


Episode: 1637 In which science and magic struggle to become separate pursuits.  Today, let's practice Natural Magic. 

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2860: The Cascade Tunnel

February 12th, 2019


Episode: 2860 Navigating the Cascade Tunnel.  Today, the tale of a tunnel. 

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1636: Of Books and Learning

February 11th, 2019


Episode: 1636 Of books and learning in nineteenth-century America.  Today, thoughts on books and learning. 

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1635: The Sign of the Barber Pole

February 8th, 2019


Episode: 1635 At the Sign of the Barber Pole: of barbers and barber-surgeons.  Today, reflections in a barbershop.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2859: The Mind of Georg Cantor

February 7th, 2019


Episode: 2859 The Mind of Georg Cantor.  Today, who was Georg Cantor?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1634: Daedalus

February 6th, 2019


Episode: 1634 Flying the Aegean Sea in Daedalus' slipstream.  Today, we mix a magic drink for Daedalus and Icarus.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3203: The Shape of Proteins

February 5th, 2019


Episode: 3203 The Shape of Proteins.  Today, let's talk about the shape of proteins.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1633: Studying Calculus

February 4th, 2019


Episode: 1633 In which a Cambridge don doubts his own calculus teaching.  Today, a mathematician misses the point.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1632: The Sunken Monitor

February 1st, 2019


Episode: 1632 Rediscovering the sunken Union Monitor.  Today, we find the first modern warship -- on the ocean floor. 

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3202: Gladys West

January 31st, 2019


Episode: 3202 Gladys West and the Geoid.  Today, a quiet hero.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1631: Borrowing a One

January 30th, 2019


Episode: 1631 Learning to subtract 49 from 62: more than meets the eye.  Today, what is 49 from 62?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2857: Leonid Kantorovich

January 29th, 2019


Episode: 2857 Leonid Kantorivich, Soviet Mathematician and Economist.  Today, an economic wonder.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1630: Creating Nature

January 28th, 2019


Episode: 1630 In which we ponder a very subjective notion of reality.  Today, nature changes before our eyes.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1629: Resisting Change

January 25th, 2019


Episode: 1629 An old book tells about textile engineering and conservatism.  Today, we resist change.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3201: Minimalist Music and Dennis Lee Johnson

January 24th, 2019


Episode: 3201  Some Reflections on Minimalist Music.  Today, minimal. 

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1628: The First Red Cross Ambulance

January 23rd, 2019


Episode: 1628 The first red cross ambulance.  Today, we care for wounded soldiers.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3200: The Banach-Tarski Paradox

January 22nd, 2019


Episode: 3200 Two for One: The Banach-Tarski Paradox.  Today, two for the price of one.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1627: The Medical Genius

January 21st, 2019


Episode: 1627 A shocking look at medications in 1892 shows us how far we've come.  Today, we measure how far we've come. 

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1625: Elisha Gray and Miracles

January 18th, 2019


Episode: 1625 Telephone inventor Elisha Gray talks about miracles.  Today, a telephone inventor talks about miracles.  

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1624: Garrett Morgan

January 16th, 2019


Episode: 1624 Garrett A. Morgan: Black American inventor.  Today, thoughts about traffic lights, gas masks, and hair straighteners. 

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2855: Gregorian Chant

January 15th, 2019


Episode: 2855 Plainchant, Gregorian Chant, and Today's Music.  Today, plain and simple. 

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1623: Joel Dorman and Esther Steele

January 14th, 2019


Episode: 1623 The textbooks of J. Dorman and Esther Steele.  Today, we meet two very special teachers.  

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1622: Fingerprints

January 11th, 2019


Episode: 1622 Fingerprints, crime detection, and identification.  Today, I ask, "Who are you?" 

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2853: Radio Frequency Identification

January 10th, 2019


Episode: 2853 Radio frequency identification and toll roads.  Today, we ease on down the road.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1621: Motherland

January 9th, 2019


Episode: 1621 Motherland: The Stalingrad Memorial.  Today, we visit a really big statue.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2364: The Longest Year

January 8th, 2019


Episode: 2364 46 BC: In which Julius Caesar creates the longest year.  Today, UH scholar Richard Armstrong tells us about the longest year in history.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2566: Champagne

January 7th, 2019


Episode: 2566 Taking Champagne to the Masses.  Today, we pop the cork.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1620: The Indian Canoe

January 4th, 2019


Episode: 1620 The Indian canoe -- another perfected technology.  Today, birch-bark canoes. 

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2850: Dutch Flood Control

January 3rd, 2019


Episode: 2850 Centuries of Dutch Flood Control.  Today, living on the delta. 

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1619: A Theatre of Machines

January 2nd, 2019


Episode: 1619 Theatre of Machines -- forerunners of engineering handbooks.  Today, the first handbooks.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2848: Corrugated Cardboard

January 1st, 2019


Episode: 2848 The Corrugated Cardboard Box.  Today, the power of fluting.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1585: Dissonance

December 31st, 2018


Episode: 1585 In which the elephant Prathida teaches me about dissonance and Christmas.  Today, dissonance, elephants, and the holiday season.   

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