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Look at the Mind-Bending World of Codebreaking with The Takeaway’s John Hockenberry

Sunday July 14 2024 • 6:34pm - 6:34pm ET

WNYC Science Fair returned to The Greene Space for its second installment on Tuesday, February 11 with a look inside the mind-bending, down-the-rabbit hole world of codebreaking, hosted by The Takeaway‘s John Hockenberry.

Hockenberry was joined by Tal Rabin, head of the Cryptography Research Group at the IBM T.J.Watson Research Center; John Rinn, once named in Popular Science magazine’s “Brilliant 10” and an assistant professor of Stem Cell and Regerative Biology at Harvard University and Medical School; and Neil Weiner, associate professor at the Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics at New York University. The band One Ring Zero joined us to perform live music.

Watch the conversation on demand below:

In this conversation:

  • John Rinn explains that the way to become a Harvard biology professor is to cultivate a sub-2.0 GPA in high school, go to a community college chosen because it’s near a great place to snowboard, then read up on pop science while recovering from a knee injury. That lead him to discover an interest in chemistry, which eventually lead to his studies about DNA-RNA.
  • Tal Rabin and John Rinn tell us that their work is largely about “putting handcuffs on the bad guys” – creating codes that shut down bad genes (in John’s work) or hackers (in Tal’s work). John explained that they’re discovering ways to say, cure Hepatitus by sending an RNA code into our cells that undoes the bad code that’d destroy our livers.
  • Neil Weiner explains that physicists want to figure out the places of symmetry in the universe, and that it’s all a question of where you stand. If you’re on top of a hill, all roads seem to lead down, while if you’re at the bottom, some lead up and some don’t.

Get a peek inside IBM’s Watson Research Center with guest Tal Rabin: 

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