NPR’s Science Correspondent Joe Palca– “Sci-Chat.”

Sunday, March 25, 2018  (Original Facebook post with pics >>   )

In the, admittedly stereotyping sense, NPR traditions of mostly middle-aged to Baby Boomer Liberals (me included) gathering for a nice, quiet chat over some esoteric issues, the informal TED Talk with Joe Palca went very well! Indeed, Dr. Palca (holds a PhD in psychology!) was serving as Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET) of Lincoln, Nebraska’s guest-host while he conducted a laid back interview with two of University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s scientists: Dr. Robert Hutkins (PhD Food Microbiology and professor of Biological Sciences) and Dr. Ali Tamayol (PhD Engineering Sciences and professor; MSc from Sharif University of Technology–Iran). Though Palca was gracious to interview the two other scientists–Dr. Hutkins revealing a high-tech paint that deters barnacles and Dr. Tamayol discussed grafting-tech for dental purposes–we all knew that Joe Palca from NPR was the main reason of our attendance!
He’s got a sense of humor–you know, that self-deprecating wit that most of NPR’s anchors have that gives the Brits a run for their money. (Guess we’re talking the Pound these post-Brexit days instead of Euros!) One of the advantages of having him as a guest was he could tell us “how Nina Totenberg (NPR’s legal correspondent) really looks like!” Remember, Palca comes from the radio world… Dr. Palca went out of his way to emphasize that he sees himself as being in the ‘stead’ for the listeners. That when he’s able to have awesome opportunities to converse with scientists he wants the NPR-listeners to understand that he’d try to ask questions from an everyday person’s view.
One of the most powerful interaction came when Palca, talking with Hutkins on fermented foods, said he would brave tasting one of Dr. Hutkins’ non-conventional (my words) foods if someone in the audience would donate $100.oo to NET/NPR… An older gentleman graciously accepted the offer and Palca took a bit of the fermented substance! Nice way to bring the sciences of food home and still raise some money for public radio!
One of the most interesting subjects, to me, was when the matter of testing on animals for scientific studies came up. I don’t remember which scientist, but Dr. Palca said there was a scientist’s house that was either threatened or actually firebombed because this particular scientist’s work included testing on animals! It may explain why Joe Palca, all joking aside, honestly did not want to focus too much on the subject during the talk! I asked Dr. Tamayol (the discussion had fallen to him at this point) what did people who opposed animal testing wanted to do as an alternative? What of cloning? I mentioned that, as a science fiction author, I could relate to this section of the discussion. But the real science of cloning also had controversies in ethics, too! Dr. Tamayol, then, pointed out that lately there had been advances in (cloning, I believe) growing certain body-parts and utilizing them in a kind of ‘piecemeal’ way while conducting scientific tests…
The main thing to remember about Joe Palca is his “Joe’s Big Idea” >> . As his slogan goes, Exploring How Ideas Become Innovations And Inventions. I like the way he put it in person during the NET-science talk: with his Big Idea series, Palca likes to focus on the process of results… In other words, the science behind a lot of these headlines we read and/or hear about when they become tech-marvels or some ethical news story of the day.

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