Cover art for podcast Engines of Our Ingenuity

Engines of Our Ingenuity

100 EpisodesProduced by Houston Public MediaWebsite

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 2170: Back of an Envelope

January 21st, 2022


Episode: 2170 In which Fermi guesses the number of piano tuners in Chicago.  Today, we ask, How many piano tuners in Chicago?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2741: Ice King

January 20th, 2022


Episode: 2741 Frederic Tudor: Ice King.  Today, ice heads south.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2739: Hall

January 19th, 2022


Episode: 2739 Evolution of the Hall from Anglo-Saxon times to the present.  Today, a room without a view.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3056: The Truth About Ingenuity

January 18th, 2022


Episode: 3056 Truth About Ingenuity.  Today, the truth about ingenuity.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2169: Wave Power

January 17th, 2022


Episode: 2169 Energy from the sea -- harnessing waves and tides.  Today, power from the waves.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2167: Proof

January 16th, 2022


Episode: 2167 Proof and Belief: Are they related?  Today, proof and belief.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2166: Fitch’s Circle

January 14th, 2022


Episode: 2166 John Fitch, a steamboat builder surrounded by the early makers of America.  Today, a host of creative people hovers over a steamboat.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2738: Sarah Bernhardt

January 13th, 2022


Episode: 2738 Sarah Bernhardt on and off the stage.  Today, talent or celebrity?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2885: Big Numbers

January 12th, 2022


Episode: 2885 Very Large Numbers.  Today, let's talk about very large numbers.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2751: Mrs. Wilson of the Mayo Clinic

January 11th, 2022


Episode: 2751 Mrs. Maud Mellish Wilson, architect of the Mayo Clinic's style of medical writing.  Today, we look at a woman who made medical history.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2164: Hele-Shaw

January 10th, 2022


Episode: 2164 Henry Selby Hele-Shaw, and the many faces of yesterday's engineer.  Today, a remarkable engineer from another century.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2165: About Trucks

January 9th, 2022


Episode: 2165 Trucks, the important quiet cousins of our fancy automobiles.  Today, we look at trucks.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2038: Leap Second

January 7th, 2022


Episode: 2038 Putting a leap second in an elastic year.  Today, we add a second to our lives.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2566: Champagne

January 6th, 2022


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2014: Bubbles in Soda

January 5th, 2022


Episode: 2014 Boiling bubbles and fizzing bubbles: So alike, so different!  Today, bubbles in soda and bubbles in teakettles.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3052: Frankincense and Myrrh

January 4th, 2022


Episode: 3052 Frankincense and Myrrh: The True Value of a Famous Gift.  Today, the true value of a famous gift.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2163: Missing Fliers

January 3rd, 2022


Episode: 2163 Missing Fliers: In which no conspiracy means slow sales.  Today, missing fliers.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2162: New Quotations

January 2nd, 2022


Episode: 2162 A new book of quotations, and new insights into quotations.  Today, some new quotations.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2039: Quiet on the Western Front

December 31st, 2021


Episode: 2039 In which we experience quiet on the Western Front.  Today, it's quiet on the Western Front.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3037: Carol of the Bells

December 30th, 2021


Episode: 3037 Carol of the Bells.  Today, a Christmas carol.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1563: Toys

December 29th, 2021


Episode: 1563 Looking back at the impact of toys.  Today, we play with toys.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1671: Other Selves – Other Christmases

December 28th, 2021


Episode: 1671 Quantum mechanics takes to a place we didn't know was there.  Today, we think about multiple Christmases.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1760: The Christmas Lectures

December 27th, 2021


Episode: 1760 The Christmas Lectures: Michael Faraday's Gift to children.  Today, the Christmas Lectures.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2669: Christmas Greenery

December 26th, 2021


Episode: 2669 Plants and greens associated with the Christmas Season.  Today, Christmas greenery.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2161: When the Eye Plays Tricks

December 24th, 2021


Episode: 2161 When the eye plays tricks, and we see more than is.  Today, our eyes trick us.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2737: Air Conditioning

December 23rd, 2021


Episode: 2737 Air Conditioning.  Today, we cool it.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2920: The Moon’s Eye

December 22nd, 2021


Episode: 2920 A Trip to the Moon, The First Science Fiction Film, The French Filmmaker Georges Méliès.  Today, the first sci-fi film.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3123: Vincent Coleman

December 21st, 2021


Episode: 3123 The Halifax 1917 Explosion and Vincent Coleman's Final Goodbye.  Today, a final goodbye.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3265: Graffiti

December 20th, 2021


Episode: 3265 The path from graffiti to street art to wall murals.  Today, it all began with graffiti.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2160: The Sinking of the Dix

December 19th, 2021


Episode: 2160 The day the Dix went down: Puget Sound's worst maritime disaster.  Today, the sinking of the Dix.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2159: Old Linkages

December 17th, 2021


Episode: 2159 An old book with two stories about technological change.  Today, an old book with two messages.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2736: Brought to You By

December 16th, 2021


Episode: 2736 Brought to you by our sponsor.  Today, sponsorship.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2081: A Monstrosity and a Skeptic

December 15th, 2021


Episode: 2081 A Monstrosity, a Skeptic, and a new view of the 16th century.  Today, guest historian Cathy Patterson gives birth to a cat.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2864: Bayes’ Theorem

December 14th, 2021


Episode: 2864 The theorem of Reverend Bayes.  Today, let’s talk about uncertainty and an 18th century Presbyterian minister.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2157: Web-Fed Press

December 13th, 2021


Episode: 2157 The web-fed press and the limits of useful production output.  Today, speed outruns us.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2156: Earth Without People

December 12th, 2021


Episode: 2156 Earth without people: What would it be without us?  Today, What would happen if we were gone.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2155: Glass and Bottles

December 10th, 2021


Episode: 2155 From Jamestown 'til now: the glass bottle in America.  Today, America makes bottles.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2735: Technical Communication

December 9th, 2021


Episode: 2735 The challenge of technical communication.  Today, bringing ideas to life.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3095: Making a Revolution

December 8th, 2021


Episode: 3095 Making a Revolution.  Today, the Maker revolution.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3048: Juba II

December 7th, 2021


Episode: 3048 Juba II.  Today, a scholar king of Africa.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2154: Wieliczka Sol

December 6th, 2021


Episode: 2154 Wieliczka Sol, Poland's "Great Salt Treasure."  Today, we take more than salt from a mine.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2153: Cliques and Ties

December 5th, 2021


Episode: 2153 Of cliques and connections: graph theory, society and surveillance.  Today, social cohesion, graph theory, and surveillance.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2151: Earth Abides

December 3rd, 2021


Episode: 2151 Earth Abides: Thinking about Apocalypses and lesser ills.  Today, Earth Abides.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2733: In the Palm of Your Hand

December 2nd, 2021


Episode: 2733 American culture and the inscriptions on U.S. Coins.  Today, money.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2714: Hub Motors

December 1st, 2021


Episode: 2714 Hub Motors, aka In-Wheel Motors and their applications in electric vehicles.  Today, re-inventing...wheels.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2148: American Phrenology

November 29th, 2021


Episode: 2148 The selling of phrenology -- and other would-be sciences.  Today, an old book offers a parable of our times.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2149: Electric Words

November 28th, 2021


Episode: 2149 Electrical words and a vision of the future.  Today, a new language for a new technology.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2147: What Lasts

November 26th, 2021


Episode: 2147 Technological survival in metaphors of the human body.  Today, we wonder which technologies last.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2731: Louis Braille

November 25th, 2021


Episode: 2731 Invention from Injury: The Story of Louis Braille.  Today, injury sparks creativity.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3001: Archimedes to the Rescue

November 24th, 2021


Episode: 3001 Archimedes to the Rescue.  Today, Archimedes to the rescue.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3264: Hockney’s iPad Impressionism

November 23rd, 2021


Episode: 3264 David Hockney, Digital Painting, and Art's Technophobia.  Today, painting with pixels, in the hands of a master.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2145: Extreme Time

November 22nd, 2021


Episode: 2145 The far fringes of time -- fringes beyond our comprehension.  Today, extreme time.

Engines of our Ingenuity 2138: P-39, Bell Airacobra

November 21st, 2021


Episode: 2138 The P-39, Bell Airacobra: lemonade from a lemon.  Today, we're given a lemon, and we make lemonade.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2142: A View Through Schenectady

November 19th, 2021


Episode: 2142 Schenectady seen as a surprising window into American history.  Today, we look for American history in a single town.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2152: Far From home

November 18th, 2021


Episode: 2152 Far from home: Traveling with the USO.  Today, UH theatre director Sidney Berger is far from home.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3014: Measuring Almost Nothing

November 17th, 2021


Episode: 3014 Measuring Almost Nothing.  Today, we measure almost nothing.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2909: Renewable Energy

November 16th, 2021


Episode: 2909 Hydrogen Fuel Cell Providing Renewable Energy, A Comparison of Hydrogen Fuel Cell and Lithium Ion Battery.  Today, a neat way to get energy.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2139: 1897 and 1909 Sears Catalogs

November 15th, 2021


Episode: 2139 Old Sears and Roebuck catalogs tell us about buying power then and now.  Today, old catalogs and buying power.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3263: Standard Time

November 14th, 2021


Episode: 3263 Standard Time's slow victory of common sense over individualism.  Today, clocks, railways ... and individualism.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2137: Tenement Houses

November 12th, 2021


Episode: 2137 Tenement Houses: Trying to keep a roof over the poor.  Today, we look for affordable housing.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2727: Spooky Action at a Distance

November 11th, 2021


Episode: 2727 Quantum Theory's Copenhagen Interpretation and the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) Paper.  Today, we get spooky.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2654: Bike Variations

November 10th, 2021


Episode: 2654 Recumbent bicycles and the One Hour record.  Today, variations on a bicycle.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2999: Hannibal’s Grand Strategy

November 9th, 2021


Episode: 2999 Hannibal's Grand Strategy: Genius or Failure?  Today, Hannibal at the gates.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2136: Williamsburg Music

November 8th, 2021


Episode: 2136 Hi-Tech in 1740: The Musical Instrument Maker of Williamsburg.  Today, we make the machines that make our music.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2135: Zeitgeist

November 7th, 2021


Episode: 2135 Zeitgeist: a dangerous guest, or ghost, who walks among us.  Today, more about ghosts and machines.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2133: The Industrial Arts

November 5th, 2021


Episode: 2133 Industrial Arts vs. Arts and Crafts: The perfect marriage of opposite.  Today, we remember the industrial arts.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2720: Aircraft Carriers and Pykrete

November 4th, 2021


Episode: 2720 Project Habbakuk: Ice Aircraft Carriers and Pykrete.  Today, something simple.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2035: The Gunpowder Plot

November 3rd, 2021


Episode: 2035 The Gunpowder Plot: Terrorism little-changed in four hundred years.  Today, historian Cathy Patterson asks us to "Remember, remember, the fifth of November.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2817: Creativity

November 2nd, 2021


Episode: 2817 Where do creative ideas come from?  Today, let’s talk about creativity.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2132: Absolutism

November 1st, 2021


Episode: 2132 Absolutism: Biblical distortion and the death of scientific literacy.  Today, evolution and education.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2130: Before GPS

October 31st, 2021


Episode: 2130 Before GPS: airplane directions painted on rooftops.  Today, what did we do before GPS?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2129: Thomas Ewing French

October 29th, 2021


Episode: 2129 Thomas Ewing French: A reflection on "leadership" vs. true positive influence.  Today, we think about being influenced.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2718: Canning and the Tin Can

October 28th, 2021


Episode: 2718 Canning and the Tin Can.  Today, it's in the can.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3029: Model Citizen

October 27th, 2021


Episode: 3029 Model Citizen.  Today, lets talk about models.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2960: CSI Herculaneum

October 26th, 2021


Episode: 2960 CSI Herculaneum: How A Terrible Discovery Helps Paleodemography.  Today, CSI Herculaneum.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2128: Ken Richmond and the Gong

October 25th, 2021


Episode: 2128 Ken Richmond, James Blades, and the J. Arthur Rank gong.  Today, the death of an icon.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2127: How It Works

October 24th, 2021


Episode: 2127 How It Works vs. How to Make It: An early 20th-C case history.  Today, How It Works.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2125: Religious Cartoons

October 22nd, 2021


Episode: 2125 Religious cartoons: a window into the mechanics of media persuasion.  Today, a window into the mechanics of media persuasion.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2717: Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

October 21st, 2021


Episode: 2717 Kant, rationalism, empiricism, and the Critique of Pure Reason.  Today, a critique of pure reason.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2815: How Ideas Spread

October 20th, 2021


Episode: 2815 The spread of ideas in social networks.  Today, let’s talk about engineered social networks.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3262: Skull Island Procreation

October 19th, 2021


Episode: 3262 Where Is Skull Island & Could Such A Place Be Real?  Today, explaining the impossible.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2124: A Crystal Ball

October 18th, 2021


Episode: 2124 On Crystal Ballgazing: A 1918 airplane of the future.  Today, a crystal ball.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2122: Other People’s Money

October 17th, 2021


Episode: 2122 Other people's money: Thoughts about diamonds and con games.  Today, other people's money.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2121: How Soon We Forget

October 15th, 2021


Episode: 2121 Reading about domestic mechanics in 1918 -- how soon we forget.  Today, how soon we forget.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2716: Building With Ice

October 14th, 2021


Episode: 2716 On the rocks: building with ice.  Today, on the rocks.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2905: The Gift of Imagination

October 13th, 2021


Episode: 2905 Imagination's Contributions to Science and Technology, Developmental Psychology and Imagination.  Today, the gift of imagination.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2888: Strength Through Joy Car

October 12th, 2021


Episode: 2888 The Strength Through Joy Car: Hitler's Volkswagen and American Consumer Culture.  Today, the "strength through joy" car.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2120: The ME-163B KOMET

October 11th, 2021


Episode: 2120 ME-163B Komet: a secret weapon that almost worked.  Today, the problem with secret weapons.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2119: Casting and Optics

October 10th, 2021


Episode: 2119 Gutenberg, spherical mirrors, and cast type.  Today, we see into the Renaissance.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2118: We Are the Machines’ Media

October 8th, 2021


Episode: 2118 We are the machines' media - metaphors of function and metaphors of form.  Today, our machines speak through us.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2715: Bulbous Bows

October 7th, 2021


Episode: 2715 Bulbous bows.  Today, bulbous bows.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2670: Expanding the Human Environment

October 6th, 2021


Episode: 2670 The Expanded Human Habitat: Our Solar System as a Defining Environment.  Today, we expand the notion of environment.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2881: Racial Mythologies: Günther vs. Huxley

October 5th, 2021


Episode: 2881 Racial Mythologies: Hans Günther vs. Julian Huxley on the Concept of Race.  Today, poison in the library.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2115: The Color of Water

October 4th, 2021


Episode: 2115 The color of water, the color of air, the color of God.  Today, let's measure the color of water.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2116: Hydraulic Ram

October 3rd, 2021


Episode: 2116 Balloons and hydraulic rams -- unexpected bedfellows.  Today, gravity versus the incredible lightness of being.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2114: Blimp

October 1st, 2021


Episode: 2114 A house for the blimps that saved us from submarines.  Today, blimps and houses made to hold them.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2713: Storing Energy for the Power Grid

September 30th, 2021


Episode: 2713 Storing energy for the power grid.  Today, power.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2645: Arch

September 29th, 2021


Episode: 2645 Eero Saarinen, Hannskarl Bandel and the creation of the Gateway Arch.  Today, a chain and an arch.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2836: Bumping Into Signs

September 28th, 2021


Episode: 2836 Bumping into Signs: Emergent Semiotic Spaces.  Today, signs of the times.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2112: Röntgen in 1896

September 27th, 2021


Episode: 2112 In which Röntgen struggles to put fact before fame -- not so easy to do.

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