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 2046: Beginning with Conclusions

May 17th, 2021


Episode: 2046 We struggle not to begin an inquiry with its conclusion.  Today, we try not to begin with our conclusion.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2045: Thomas Blanchard

May 16th, 2021


Episode: 2045 Thomas Blanchard, little-known, and remarkably productive, American inventor.  Today, a great inventor flies under our radar.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2044: Kettering’s Buzz Bomb

May 14th, 2021


Episode: 2044 Kettering's failed guided missile -- a 1918 Buzz-Bomb.  Today, Kettering's Buzz Bomb.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2623: Thomas Carlyle’s Past and Present

May 13th, 2021


Episode: 2623 Thomas Carlyle and the Working of Free Markets.  Today, economic salvation.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2710: Thomas Selfridge

May 12th, 2021


Episode: 2710 The First Fatality in Powered Flight Awakens the World to the Dangers of Aviation.  Today, the first powered aviation fatality.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2622: Watson

May 11th, 2021


Episode: 2622 Watson: A computer system that plays Jeopardy!.  Today, Jeopardy!.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2042: Science Remaking the World

May 10th, 2021


Episode: 2042 Looking at a brave new scientific world in 1922.  Today, science and change.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2041: James B. Emerson

May 9th, 2021


Episode: 2041 James B. Emerson: iconoclastic 19th-C turbine developer.  Today, an iconoclast tests turbines.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2037: Sleep

May 7th, 2021


Episode: 2037 Of sleep and dreams.  Today, why do we sleep?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1856: Form and Feeling

May 5th, 2021


Episode: 1856 Form and feeling, a necessary partnership.  Today, our guest. Seattle actor Megan Cole, considers a necessary partnership.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2614: Pixels

May 4th, 2021


Episode: 2614 Engineering Pictures Made of Pixels.  Today, painting with pixels.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2036: Edward Frankland

May 3rd, 2021


Episode: 2036 Edward Frankland: A brilliant chemist with a weighty secret.  Today, a remarkable Victorian chemist,and his dark secret.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2034: The High-Wheeler

May 2nd, 2021


Episode: 2034 The High-Wheeler, a brief and remarkable moment in bicycle evolution.  Today, the brief day of the high-wheeler.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2033: Milton Grosvenor Howe

April 30th, 2021


Episode: 2033 Milton Grosvenor Howe's remarkable drafting textbook.  Today, an intimate look at America emerging.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2611: Kepler’s SOMNIUM

April 29th, 2021


Episode: 2611 Early science fiction: Kepler's Somnium.  Today, a dream.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2469: Ancel Keys

April 28th, 2021


Episode: Ancel Keys and the Link between Diet and Heart Disease.  Today, a heart doctor who wasn’t.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2608: Maria Telkes

April 27th, 2021


Episode: 2608 Maria Telkes: Solar Energy Pioneer.  Today, here comes the sun.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2032: Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps

April 26th, 2021


Episode: 2032 Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps: revolution and conservativism entwined.  Today, a conservative voice in a radical cause.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2030: Ghosts Teaching History

April 25th, 2021


Episode: 2030 In which we listen to ghosts, and they explain history to us.  Today, we learn history from ghosts.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2029: The Polikarpov Fighters

April 23rd, 2021


Episode: 2029 The last great biplane fighter -- the Polikarpov beyond its prime.  Today, an airplane in the shifting skies of war.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2606: More Beautiful Books

April 22nd, 2021


Episode: 2606 More Beautiful Books: revisiting books by the foot.  Today, the measure of a book.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2707: Modeling

April 21st, 2021


Episode: 2707 Models of the world.  Today, let’s talk about models.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3253: Machine Learning

April 20th, 2021


Episode: 3253 Teaching Computers to Think.  Today, Teaching a Computer.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2028: B-36

April 19th, 2021


Episode: 2028 The B-36: an airplane that fell in the crack of technological change.  Today, we fall into a technological crack.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2026: Ritual Origins

April 18th, 2021


Episode: 2026 Ritual origins of technology: balance and metaphor.  Today, we meet the mother of invention, and she's not the lady we expected.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2025: L.U.C.A.

April 16th, 2021


Episode: 2025 Looking for LUCA, the Last Universal Common Ancestor.  Today, our last universal common ancestor.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2603: Correlation

April 15th, 2021


Episode: 2603 Correlation and Risk: When more egg baskets don't help.  Today, eggs and baskets.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2798: Transistor

April 14th, 2021


Episode: 2798 Behold the Mighty Transistor.  Today, a small item creates a large impact.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3252: Curious George Shows Us the Stars

April 13th, 2021


Episode: 3252 The Astronomy Lessons of Curious George's Creator.  Today, Curious George shows us the stars.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2023: George Hubert Wilkens

April 12th, 2021


Episode: 2023 George Hubert Wilkins: a life brimful and running over.  Today, we risk our lives.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2022: Alexander W. Brandon

April 11th, 2021


Episode: 2022 Alexander W. Brandon's, and my father's, old surveying book.  Today, another ghost in an old book.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2020: Screwdrivers and Obviousness

April 9th, 2021


Episode: 2020 The screwdriver: archetype of subtle obviousness.  Today, let's talk about screwdrivers.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2599: Strange Attractors and Imagery

April 8th, 2021


Episode: 2599 The Art of Attraction: Imagery from Strange Attractors.  Today, the art of attraction.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2018: The Chamberlen Family Secret

April 7th, 2021


Episode: 2018 The Chamberlen family secret: the invention of forceps.  Today, guest historian Cathy Patterson reveals family secrets.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2598: The Three Body Problem

April 6th, 2021


Episode: 2598 Henri Poincaré, the three body problem, and chaos.  Today, three bodies.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2019: Robert Millikan

April 5th, 2021


Episode: 2019 Robert Millikan: a remarkable late-bloomer in modern physics.  Today, the man who didn't want to be a physicist.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2017: Stretching

April 4th, 2021


Episode: 2017 In which we S-T-R-E-T-C-H our imaginations.  Today, let us stretch out imaginations.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2016: Multigenium

April 2nd, 2021


Episode: 2016 In which we invent a new word: Multigenium.  Today, let's fill a void with a new word.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2596: Golf Club Grooves

April 1st, 2021


Episode: 2596 Golf Club Grooves: How small changes in technology can cause controversy.  Today’s episode is brought to you by the letters U and V.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2873: Encounter of the Third Kind

March 31st, 2021


Episode: 2873 The Search for Extraterrestrial Life; Drake Equation Explained; Aliens from Other Planets.  Today, an encounter of the third kind.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3251: Alma Mahler

March 30th, 2021


Episode: 3251 Alma Mahler, Composer of Haunting Songs.  Today, music that blooms forth.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2015: Five Hornblowers

March 29th, 2021


Episode: 2015 Five Hornblowers and three generations of steam engine development.  Today, five Hornblowers.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2013: The Battleship Texas

March 28th, 2021


Episode: 2013 Battleship Texas: a lesson in technological change.  Today, Battleship Texas.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2012: 125 Questions

March 26th, 2021


Episode: 2012 In which we use 125 questions to explain science.  Today, 125 Questions.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2594: Ptolemy’s Geographia

March 25th, 2021


Episode: 2594 Mapping the World: Ptolemy's Geographia.  Today, a man and a map.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2448: Rachmaninoff Unblocked

March 24th, 2021


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2591: Instant Runoff Voting

March 23rd, 2021


Episode: 2591 Instant runoff voting and the Academy Awards.  Today, what’s best?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2011: Doubt & Leadership

March 22nd, 2021


Episode: 2011 Doubt and Leadership: The value of finding our own ignorance.  Today, thoughts on leadership and doubt.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2009: The End of Books: 1894

March 21st, 2021


Episode: 2009 The End of Books, as seen in 1894.  Today, a surprising vision of a future.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2008: Figuring Out Science

March 19th, 2021


Episode: 2008 Figuring Out Science: Our surprising scientifically-savvy great-grandparents.  Today, figuring out science in 1876.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2588: Synthetic Sound Waves

March 18th, 2021


Episode: 2588 Synthetic Sound Waves.  Today, the sound of music.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2824: A Brass Catalogue

March 17th, 2021


Episode: 2824 An 18th-century catalogue of brass objects, an early approach to marketing, and decorative drawer handles.  Today, we look at a mysterious catalogue.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2585: Measuring Race Times

March 16th, 2021


Episode: 2585 The technology of timing races.  Today, who won that race?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2007: Canonical Inventors

March 15th, 2021


Episode: 2007 The Canonical Inventor, stepping over the tipping point.  Today, canonical inventors.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2005: Abram S. Hewitt

March 14th, 2021


Episode: 2005 Abram S. Hewitt: The other side of genius.  Today, the other side of genius.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2004: Rice and Silk

March 12th, 2021


Episode: 2004 Rice, silk, taxes, and technological change in medieval China.  Today, rice and silk.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2583: Children and Their Goals

March 11th, 2021


Episode: 2583 Children and their Goals.  Today, president, pope, astronaut.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2818: The Pompeian Paradox

March 10th, 2021


Episode: 2818 The Pompeian Paradox and Fiorelli's Body Casts.  Today, the Pompeian paradox.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2578: Water Towers

March 9th, 2021


Episode: 2578 The Wonders of Water Towers.  Today, water flows downhill.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2003: Counterfeit

March 8th, 2021


Episode: 2003 Counterfeit: On making money without delivering the goods.  Today, we make money.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2230: James Herman Banning

March 7th, 2021


Episode: 2230 James Banning, pioneering Black pilot.  Today, James Herman Banning.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2001: Jacobean Evolution

March 5th, 2021


Episode: 2001 Of beasts, Bibles and Evolution: Intimations of Darwin in King James' court.  Today, beasts and Bibles.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2576: Screw Caps for Wine

March 4th, 2021


Episode: 2576 Are screw caps good for wine?  Today, a turn of the screw.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2691: The Body at Vacuum

March 3rd, 2021


Episode: 2691 What Happens to the Human Body When Exposed to Vacuum?  Today, the body at vacuum.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2575: Prime Numbers

March 2nd, 2021


Episode: 2575 The illustrious history of Prime Numbers.  Today, some numbers for the ages.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2000: The Arc of Invention

March 1st, 2021


Episode: 2000 The Arc of Inventions, and the problem of selecting a hero.  Today, the Arc of Inventions.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2656: An American in Paris

February 28th, 2021


Episode: 2656 An American in Paris: Eugene Bullard, Black hero in the jazz age.  Today, an American in Paris.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1076: Slave Inventors

February 26th, 2021


Episode: 1076 Slave Inventors and question, "Who owns an idea?"  Today, we ask, "Who should own a patent?"

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2572: Melville and Anna Bissell

February 25th, 2021


Episode: 2572 Melville and Anna Bissell and the Carpet Sweeper.  Today, a husband and wife engineer success.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2684: Will Computers Replace Scientists?

February 24th, 2021


Episode: 2684 Will Computers Replace Scientists?  Today, will computers replace scientists?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2570: Celebrating Human Ingenuity

February 23rd, 2021


Episode: 2570 Celebrating Human Ingenuity.  Today, a story in two parts.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1998: Fast Presses

February 22nd, 2021


Episode: 1998 Fast presses and the new literacy.  Today, let the presses roll.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1709: Cap Wigington

February 21st, 2021


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2563: Isaac Asimov

February 18th, 2021


Episode: 2563 The Prolific Isaac Asimov.  Today, science or fiction?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2666: Alan Turing

February 17th, 2021


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2562 Paul Samuelson and the Textbook Economics

February 16th, 2021


Episode: 2562 Paul Samuelson and the textbook Economics.  Today, a book that helped educate the world.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3250: Umbrella

February 16th, 2021


Episode: 3250 The sophisticated simplicity of an opening umbrella.  Today, let's open our umbrella.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1999: Mary Anne’s Book

February 14th, 2021


Episode: 1999 A new book for Mary Anne Howley: and a revolution unfulfilled.  Today, a ghost in a book.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1996: Electric Organ

February 12th, 2021


Episode: 1996 The organ electric in a brave new world.  Today, the organ electric.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2559: Going, Going, Gone!

February 11th, 2021


Episode: 2559 Going, Going, Gone! A look at auctions.  Today, going, going, gone!

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2816: Beginning Volcanology

February 10th, 2021


Episode: 2816 Sir William Hamilton and the Beginnings of Volcanology.  Today, the beginnings of volcanology.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3249: Behaving As If

February 9th, 2021


Episode: 3249 Behaving As If, a Skill for Containing Stress.  Today, a skill for challenging times.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3248: Our Rivers Meander

February 8th, 2021


Episode: 3248 How and why our rivers meander: mechanics vs. teleology.  Today, our rivers meander.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1997: Gutenberg Bible

February 7th, 2021


Episode: 1997 The one book that Johann Gutenberg printed.  Today, a new look at Gutenberg.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1995: Flying the P-40

February 5th, 2021


Episode: 1995 Sky Captain fighting evil in his P-40 -- in the year 2004.  Today, we fly P-40s.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2556: Hilbert and Euclid’s Elements

February 4th, 2021


Episode: 2556 Euclid's Elements, David Hilbert, and modern notions of mathematical abstraction.  Today, making a point.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2658: Massively Multiplayer Mathematics

February 3rd, 2021


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3247: The Proust Questionnaire

February 2nd, 2021


Episode: 3247 Proust, Turing, and the Measure of Humanity.  Today, we go from Turing to Proust.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1992: Oxford, Harvey and Willis

February 1st, 2021


Episode: 1992 Harvey and Willis at Oxford during the English Civil War.  Today, Oxford after war.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1993: Technology, Science and Contradiction

January 31st, 2021


Episode: 1993 Henry Augustis Rowland: of technology, science, and contradiction.  Today, technology, science, and contradiction.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1990: Max Munk

January 29th, 2021


Episode: 1990 Max Munk, aerodynamics, and aimful thinking.  Today, Max Munk and aimful thinking.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2554: Slogans and Jingles

January 28th, 2021


Episode: 2554 The Creativity of Slogans and Jingles.  Today, “think different.”

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2439: Picturing Monsters

January 27th, 2021


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

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2555: Google Books

January 26th, 2021


Episode: 2555 The brave new world of digitizing books for the Web.  Today, this old book.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1989: I Didn’t Have a Choice

January 25th, 2021


Episode: 1989 I didn't have a choice -- or did I?  Today, I have a choice.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1988: The Saro Princess

January 24th, 2021


Episode: 1988 The Saro Princess, a fitting finish for a lost breed.  Today, we'll fly the Princess seaplane.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 1987: The Animals Laugh

January 22nd, 2021


Episode: 1987 Looking for Animal Laughter -- and finding it.  Today, the animals laugh.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2552: Frederick The Great, Patron of the Arts

January 21st, 2021


Episode: 2552 Frederick the Great, Patron of the Arts.  Today, what made Frederick great?

Engines of Our Ingenuity 2813: An Ancient Earthquake

January 20th, 2021


Episode: 2813 Seneca the Younger and the Great Earthquake of 62 AD.  Today, an ancient earthquake.

Engines of Our Ingenuity 3246: Helium, The Up-Lifting Element

January 19th, 2021


Episode: 3246 Helium, a Noble Gas with a Noble Purpose.  Today, Helium, a noble gas.

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