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. This content is in service of Houston Public Media’s education mission and is sponsored by the University of Hou… read more

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Engines of Our Ingenuity 2894: Wastewater Treatment

March 30th, 2023


Episode: 2894 Wastewater Treatment.  Today, the unmentionable.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2666: Alan Turing

March 29th, 2023


Episode: 2666 Codes, ciphers and Alan Turing.  Today codes, ciphers and Alan Turing.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2951: Going to Sea

March 28th, 2023


Episode: 2951 Scurvy, Vitamin C, and the Origins of the Modern Clinical Trial.  Today, we go to sea.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2540: Semi-Submersible Ships

March 27th, 2023


Episode: 2540 Semi-Submersible Ships, or how the USS Cole hitched a ride home.  Today, semi-submersible ships.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2537: Vredefort and Apophis

March 26th, 2023


Episode: 2537 Vredefort, Chicxulub, Apophis — once and future threats to Earth.  Today, Vredefort and Apophis.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2536: Scapa Flow

March 25th, 2023


Episode: 2536 The Scapa Flow ship cemetery.  Today, Scapa Flow.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2532: Fanny Kemble

March 24th, 2023


Episode: 2532 Fanny Kemble, technology, and London's circle of radical intellectual women.  Today, another kind of radical.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2891: Specifics and Generalities

March 23rd, 2023


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2448: Rachmaninoff Unblocked

March 22nd, 2023


Episode: 2448 Sergei Rachmaninoff visits a hypnotist to remove his writer's block.  Today, a composer unblocked.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3288: Yellow-Bellies

March 21st, 2023


Episode: 3288 Yellow-Bellies.  Today we consider "Yellow Bellies".

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2528: Weights and Measures

March 20th, 2023


Episode: 2528 le Systeme international d'units, our real standard of units.  Today, another look at weights and measures.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2526: Montagu/Sandwich

March 19th, 2023


Episode: 2526 John Montague, Lord Sandwich, and a little-known island chain.  Today, Sandwich's islands.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2525: Protruding Land

March 18th, 2023


Episode: 2525 Reflections on protruding land, shipwrecks and lighthouses.  Today, protruding land.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2524: Art Arfons and Speed

March 17th, 2023


Episode: 2524 Art Arfons' last Hurrah.  Today, a thought about folly and Function.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2889 Twin Primes Conjecture

March 16th, 2023


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2658: Massively Multiplayer Mathematics

March 15th, 2023


Episode: 2658 Massively Multiplayer Math.  Today, let's talk massively multiplayer mathematics.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2724: Let’s Be Pedants

March 14th, 2023


Episode: 2724 Let's be pedants — well, insofar as language allows.  Today, let's be pedants.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2522: Farnum Fish

March 13th, 2023


Episode: 2522 Farnum Thayer Fish, first airplane combat casualty.  Today, first aerial combat casualty.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2521: Radical Buildings

March 12th, 2023


Episode: 2521 The Stata Center, Caligari's Cabinet, and radical buildings.  Today, radical buildings.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2519: James Dewar

March 11th, 2023


Episode: 2519 James Dewar freezes hydrogen solid and invents the thermos bottle.  Today, the man who froze hydrogen.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2518: Annular Wings

March 10th, 2023


Episode #2518:  Annular wings: another idea that seems as though it should work. Will it?  Today, a strange airplane wing.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2887: Apple’s Newton

March 9th, 2023


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3216: Internment Camp Art Schools

March 8th, 2023


Episode: 3216 World War II, the Los Angeles Art Students League, and Japanese American internment.  Today, art and survival.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1660: Simple Gifts

March 7th, 2023


Episode: 1660 Simplicity, complexity, and Shakespeare (with guest Megan Cole).  Today, a treat.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2516: Atapuerca

March 6th, 2023


Episode: 2516 The Atapuerca dig and a missing link: Homo Antecessor.  Today, the Atapuerca dig.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2512: The Saluda Explosion

March 4th, 2023


Episode: 2512 Saluda: The worst steamboat explosion, not much worse than all the rest.  the Saluda, the Glenco, Captain Francis Belt, steamboats, riverboats, boiler explosions, safety, accidents, Mormon migration, LDS, …

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2511: Nostrums and Quackery

March 3rd, 2023


Episode: 2511 An Early 20th-century crackdown on medical quacks.  Today, quack medicine.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2886: Not Just Gadgets

March 2nd, 2023


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3287: Darwin Goes to Hollywood

February 28th, 2023


Episode: 3287 Darwin Goes to Hollywood - Learning Evolution from Movies.  Today, offbeat lessons in evolution.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2508: Asymmetry

February 27th, 2023


Episode: 2508 The paradox of asymmetry — in faces, airplanes, and tigers.  Today, dare we look upon asymmetry?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2509 Human/Machine Endurance

February 26th, 2023


Episode: 2509 Human-Powered Machines — bringing the question of human endurance back to technology.  Today, human and machine endurance.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2506: Spanish Moss

February 25th, 2023


Episode: 2506 Spanish Moss — not at all the stuff of antebellum decay.  Today, a remarkable stuffing.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2504: Marie Marvingt

February 24th, 2023


Episode: 2504 The most decorated woman in France: Marie Marvingt.  Today, a remarkable woman.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2883: Dead Salmon and Good Statistics

February 23rd, 2023


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2439: Picturing Monsters

February 22nd, 2023


Episode: 2439 Reflections on Hurricane Ike and the effect of satellite technology on the hurricane experience.  Today, picturing monsters.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2249: Mrs. Coade’s Stone

February 21st, 2023


Episode: 2249 Mrs. Coade's remarkable stones.  Today, architectural historian Margaret Culbertson tells about a woman who made artificial stone.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2498: Sturzkampfflugzeug

February 20th, 2023


Episode: 2498 The Ju-87 Stuka, another troubling story of military technology.  Today, a troubled machine.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2496: Trilobites

February 19th, 2023


Episode: 2496 Trilobites: Wondrous window upon the processes of evolution.  Today, the evolution of the trilobite.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2494: Ginning Cotton

February 18th, 2023


Episode: 2494 Inventing the cotton gin: More to it than we thought.  Today, we gin cotton.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2492: The Schooner Wyoming

February 17th, 2023


Episode: 2492 The Schooner Wyoming, world's largest wooden ship — an example of technology over-reaching.  Today, the largest wooden ship.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2879: Empty Shipping Containers

February 16th, 2023


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2682: Technical English and Verbing Nouns

February 15th, 2023


Episode: 2682 Technical English and the Verbing of Nouns.  Today, we verb a little.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2534: History and Epidemic Disease

February 14th, 2023


Episode: 2534 History and Epidemic Disease.  Today, medical historian Helen Valier offers us a new look at history and epidemic disease.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2489: Powering Aeroplanes

February 13th, 2023


Episode: 2489 Before we invent the aeroplane, let's decide how to power it.  Today, we wonder how to power our flying machines.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2490: Ancient Footprints

February 12th, 2023


Episode: 2490 In which footprints, 1.5 and 3.6 million years old, tell their story.  Today, we walk in some very old footsteps.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2486: The Sectional Windmill

February 11th, 2023


Episode: 2486 Who remembers the once ubiquitous sectional wooden windmill?  Today, sectional windmills.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2484: Ghosts in Omaha

February 10th, 2023


Episode: 2484 Ghosts in Omaha: A six-block-long sculpture.  Today, ghosts in Omaha.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2878: U-Boats in WWI

February 9th, 2023


Episode: 2878 U-boats in the First World War.  Today, full speed ahead.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2531: Reading Vienna

February 8th, 2023


Episode: 2531 Reading Vienna - A history through architecture.  Today, we read Vienna.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2613: Can We Hear Shapes?

February 7th, 2023


Episode: 2613 Can we hear shapes?  Today let’s ask: Can we hear shapes?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2482: Harold Warp’s Museum

February 6th, 2023


Episode: 2482 Where does a wise man hide a leaf: Harold Warp's Museum.  Today, where would a wise man hide a leaf?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2479: Battle of the Restigouche

February 5th, 2023


Episode: 2479 Restigouche River: site of the last naval battle in the French and Indian War.  Today, the last naval battle of The Seven Years War.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2477: Sand Hill Cranes

February 4th, 2023


Episode: 2477 The Sand Hill Crane, not just another bird.  Today, Sand Hill Cranes.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2476: Jesse Ramsden

February 3rd, 2023


Episode: 2476 Jesse Ramsden, Instrument maker to King George and to the Enlightenment.  Today, Jesse Ramsden.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2875: Pierre Fauchard

February 2nd, 2023


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2597: History and Math

February 1st, 2023


Episode: 2597 Today, let’s see what mathematics tells us about history.  Mathematical models of historical events.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2841: Imagine the Big Bangs

January 31st, 2023


Episode: 2841 Today, we imagine the Big Bangs.  Multiple Big Bangs and Multiple Universes; The Fantastical Multi-Reality of Multiverse

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2474: Antoine de St. Exupéry

January 30th, 2023


Episode: 2474 Antoine de St. Exupéry, André Gide, and a new vocabulary for a new technology.  Today, Antoine de St. Exupéry.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2471: Aeroplanes in Embryo

January 29th, 2023


Episode: 2471 In which Henry Farman and Glenn Curtiss emerge from the pack of pioneer airmen.  Today, aeroplanes in embryo.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2470: Spider Web Design

January 28th, 2023


Episode: 2470 The design and construction of a spider web.  Today, let's weave a spider web.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2468: Fort Independence

January 27th, 2023


Episode: 2468 Fort Independence, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Cask of Amontillado.  Today, a cask of Amontillado in Boston Harbor.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2872: The Stimpmeter

January 26th, 2023


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2579: Music and Mathematics

January 25th, 2023


Episode: 2579 Music and Mathematics.  Today, UH Math Professor Krešo Josić talks about music and mathematics.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2505: Wild America

January 24th, 2023


Episode: 2505 Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher's Wild America.  Today, a legendary road trip.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3157: Martin Luther King Jr.

January 23rd, 2023


Episode: 3157 Martin Luther King Jr's. remarkable means.  Today, a preacher teaches us about invention.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2466: Sneaky Solar Energy

January 22nd, 2023


Episode: 2466 In which renewable energy enters by the back door.  Today, a silent arrival.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2465: A Fine Early Aeroplane Book

January 21st, 2023


Episode: 2465 Victor Lougheed's extraordinary 1909 aeroplane book.  Today, where were the first aeroplanes going?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2462: Rewriting Geography

January 20th, 2023


Episode: 2462 The Mississippi Delta: Rewriting Geography.  Today, geography shifts before our eyes.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2870: The Canal du Midi

January 19th, 2023


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3112: Creative Director

January 18th, 2023


Episode: 3112 Donald Barthelme: Creative Editor.  Today, a sheriff of an editor.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2075: Rudolph Ackerman

January 17th, 2023


Episode: 2075 Rudolph Ackerman and his amazing chronicles of 19th-century art and technology.  Today, architectural historian Margaret Culbertson …

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2460: Forms of Nature

January 16th, 2023


Episode: 2460 In praise of the City: A fine piece of the natural world.  Today, another look at form and function.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2459: St. Anthony Falls

January 15th, 2023


Episode: 2459 St. Anthony Falls, beauty lost, beauty found.  Today, a lost and found story.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2457: Beeton’s Household Management

January 14th, 2023


Episode: 2457 Isabella Beeton's remarkable book on "household" management.  Today, Beeton's household management.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2455: Fairey Swordfish

January 13th, 2023


Episode: 2455 The Fairey Swordfish: An airplane in a timewarp.  Today, the bite of a dinosaur.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2628: The Edge of Space

January 11th, 2023


Episode: 2628 When traveling into space, how do you know you're there?  Today, astronaut Michael Barratt asks, where exactly is the border of space?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3286: The Pause

January 10th, 2023


Episode: 3286 The pause, a simple act of kindness.  Today, the pause, a simple act of kindness.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2453: Meandering Rivers

January 9th, 2023


Episode: 2453 Albert Einstein and meandering rivers -- seen from above.  Today, we look down on a river.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2451: Guillaume Dufay

January 8th, 2023


Episode: 2451 Guillaume Dufay, still clear as day to us, six centuries later.  Today, Guillaume Dufay.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2566: Champagne

January 7th, 2023


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2038: Leap Second

January 6th, 2023


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2014: Bubbles in Soda

January 5th, 2023


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2868: Scholasticism

January 5th, 2023


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2838: The Mysterious Small

January 4th, 2023


Episode: 2838 The World of Small Dimensions; Nano-Dimensions and Pico-Times.  Today, we explore Small.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2499: Texas Germans

January 3rd, 2023


Episode: 2499 Frederick Law Olmsted and the Texas Germans.  Today, Texas auf Deutsch.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2449: Francis Hopkinson

January 2nd, 2023


Episode: 2449 Francis Hopkinson: My Days Have So Wondrous Free and other accomplishments.  Today, America's first song.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1563: Toys

January 1st, 2023


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2039: Quiet on the Western Front

December 31st, 2022


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1760: The Christmas Lectures

December 30th, 2022


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1671: Other Selves – Other Christmases

December 29th, 2022


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2669: Christmas Greenery

December 28th, 2022


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3285: Epiphanies: Real & Fictional

December 27th, 2022


Episode: 3285 Literature's Famous Epiphanies: Real and Fictional.  Today, one of literature's famous epiphanies.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2446: Limits of Logic

December 26th, 2022


Episode: 2446 Gödel, Ginsberg, and the limits of logic.  Today, the limits of logic.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2445: What Made Robert Norton Go?

December 25th, 2022


Episode: 2445 In which Renaissance engineer Robert Norton thinks about gunnery.  Today, the inner life of an early engineer.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2443: Dornier X

December 24th, 2022


Episode: 2443 The Dornier X: another of yesterday's extreme airplanes.  Today, Dornier's flying palace.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2442: The Mysteries of Nature and Art

December 23rd, 2022


Episode: 2442 The Mysteries of Nature and Art, John Bate's legacy for Isaac Newton.  Today, John Bate's wonderful book.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2865: Computer Divide

December 22nd, 2022


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2822: Herotodus

December 21st, 2022


Episode: 2822 Herodotus describing historical events of 5th century BC, a fantastical and entertaining component of The Histories.  Today, we visit Herodotus.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2497: From Texas to Central Park

December 20th, 2022


Episode: 2497 Frederick Law Olmsted on the Texas Frontier.  Today, we go from the Texas frontier to Central Park.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3284: Spiders and STEM

December 19th, 2022


Episode: 3284 A place for scary spiders in STEM education.  Today, Spiders and STEM education.

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