Sam Greenspan posted on Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 | PRX | No Comments
Sam Greenspan posted on Monday, August 26th, 2013 | PRX, PRX Remix, shows | No Comments
Curious City, based at WBEZ, is a new project from AIR‘s Localore initiative. It invites listeners to ask questions about The Windy City. Upcoming episodes will have WBEZ staffers investigating queries such as, “What is it like to live on a minimum-wage job in Chicago?” “What economic impact do local colleges and universities have on the city’s economy?” “What is the average income of a street performer in Chicago per year?”
So far, my favorite stories have been about how Chicagoans speak. On a request from a listener, the Curious City team produced a story about the origin of the Chicago accent. But after hearing that story, another listener pointed out that Chicago is really home to more than just one accent–there’s also the Chicago “Blaccent” (as in, black accent). Take a listen.
If you’ve got some curiosity about Chicago, find out how your question can become a radio story over at wbez.org/curiouscity.
Episodes of Curious City are making their way onto PRX, and you can also catch them on PRX Remix.
Audrey posted on Friday, August 23rd, 2013 | PRX, What We Talk About | No Comments
This is a What We Talk About roundup post about…what we’re talking about at PRX. Links that get passed around our staff chat, happenings around the office, and other gossip and goodies.
Justin Smith, the NEW CEO of Bloomberg Media Group laid out his blueprint for modern media. He emphasized speed, acting like entrepreneurs, and embracing the chaos will be important to media’s future.
Google announced Helpouts. Are you an expert? Maybe you can make some money helping people out over live video.
Al Jazeera America promised a more sober look at the news, joining cable and satellite stations on Tuesday.
Mr. Al Shihabi and other Al Jazeera representatives say proprietary research supports their assertions that American viewers want a PBS-like news channel 24 hours a day.
National Radio Day was this week and to thank our listeners we made them this Zeega.
Welcome to Night Vale, the #1 Podcast on iTunes You Didn’t Know Existed. Ousting TAL and Radiolab for #1 in the iTunes store, we knew we had to check this podcast out.
Sail technology, America’s Cup, and the future of transportation. Go behind the scenes of this PRX STEM story.
Speaking of PRX STEM, the Tumblr Staff featured our brand new PRX STEM Tumblr this week. I suggest you follow and reblog as your heart desires.
Have a great weekend!
Lily Bui posted on Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 | PRX, STEM Story Project | No Comments
This is part of a series of posts about the PRX STEM Story Project.
Imagine for a moment you’re a kid on an epic family road trip. You roll the car window down, then extend your arm straight out into the breeze. Tilt your hand slightly upward, and your arm raises. What you’ve created is a crude “wing” generating lift. That’s why your arm rises like a plane taking off.
In Jason Albert’s story about wing sail technology, Sailing the High Seas 2.0, you’ll learn how this back-of-the-car experiment helps us understand how wing sails make catamarans race across San Francisco Bay during the America’s Cup. This technology may eventually allow cargo ships to power down engines and set sail for a port near you.
Our journey to a low-carbon society may in fact mean re-imagining the past. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, so to speak, how about re-inventing the sail? Untapped wind resources pummel the ocean’s trade routes; so it might make perfect sense for newer cargo ships to harness wind power with sails that act and look like airplane wings.
We asked Jason Albert what it was like to construct this story.
“It’s an endeavor where the paintbrush and the protractor meet [...] I spent hours with sailors and boat builders. They were unanimous in their sentiment that the way forward for the America’s Cup was through high tech sailing machines. In asking if they would ever consider going back to the slower and sluggish traditional mono-hulls, I received a collective ‘no way.’ The upshot: maybe this enterprise and its wing sails technology can serve as a proving ground for a more conservative cargo shipping industry.”
In seeking for non-petroleum-based means of propulsion, could cargo ship companies powered by sails pioneer the future of transportation? Set sail toward Jason’s STEM story, where he’ll navigate you through the latest discussion about this technology.
Video footage of a race on August 17 at America’s Cup:
Want more? Check out our other STEM Story Project pieces.
Photo by Jason Albert
Audrey posted on Friday, August 16th, 2013 | PRX, What We Talk About | No Comments
This is the first What We Talk About roundup post about…what we’re talking about at PRX. Links that get passed around our staff chat, happenings around the office, and other gossip and goodies.
Google essentially end’s their “20% time” which supported ventures like AdSense and Gmail.
PRX’s Audrey (that’s me) is reading poems tonight at the Boston Poetry Marathon. It’s a proven fact that radio makers love poetry. A lot of them are poets, too!
Tonight is the deadline for the PRX Remix Assistant Producer Job. Get your application in by tonight at 11:59 ET.
Your burning questions answered. Behind the scenes of “Forensics in Flames,” one of the PRX STEM Story Project pieces.
What, no aliens?
44th anniversary of Woodstock. We weren’t there, but here’s what we would have wanted to see.
Lily Bui posted on Friday, August 16th, 2013 | PRX, STEM Story Project | No Comments
This is part of a series of blog posts for the STEM Story Project.
What if you could commit a crime and destroy all the evidence? With fire, you can. Michael May’s STEM Story Project piece “Forensics in Flames” answers our burning questions about how this is possible.
Over the past 20 years, there has been a revolution in the science of arson investigations. Many clues that scientists once looked to in order to determine that a fire was not accidental have been proven false.
Reporter Michael May looks closely at two deadly fires to explore the cutting edge of fire science. He shows us that a new understanding of a phenomenon called “flashover” has disproved many old assumptions. What’s more–clues left in victims’ blood can help determine how a fire started and spread.
We asked Michael some of our burning questions about how the piece came together. Here’s what he had to say:
“My favorite part about making this piece was being able to try new approaches to storytelling and sound design. Since there were no witnesses to the deadly Graf fire the story looks at—and since the various narratives of what happened that day was based solely on forensic science—it gave me the freedom to use reenactments to play out various scenarios. My other favorite part was working with some of my favorite collaborators: Julia Barton, who edited the piece; Kaitlin Prest, who composed the music and sound design, and Dave Mann, who has been reporting on arson science for years.
“My least favorite part was being unable to interview Ed Graf, who was convicted of arson based on flawed science. He’s sitting in county jail and the sheriff refused me access.
“I was completely shocked to learn that a fire lit by a child could engulf an entire house in a matter of minutes. And that a fire in a cabinet or under a table could produce enough carbon monoxide to kill someone, even if they didn’t feel the heat.
“I was also surprised to find how sympathetic I was to the prosecution’s narrative while reading the trial transcript—even though I ultimately concluded they’d sent an innocent man to prison. It just goes to show that once prosecutors have decided someone is guilty, they can find plenty of circumstantial and forensic evidence to show how a suspect, even a mild-mannered banker, had a motive to do an unthinkable crime.”
Michael’s story is one that will leave your ears burning. Take a listen and tell us what you think.
Lily Bui posted on Monday, August 5th, 2013 | PRX, STEM Story Project | No Comments
This post is part of a series of posts featuring the stories from our STEM Story Project.
In music, everything seems to have another digital life. Pianists can play with different voicings on an electric keyboard. Guitarists can filter their instrument’s signal through a pedal or amp to create various effects. Why shouldn’t violinists be able to digitally harness the sound of a Stradivarius too?
For starters, it takes an incredible feat of engineering to capture the authentic sound of a violin. In this STEM Story piece, “The Elusive Digital Stradivarius,” producer David Schulman takes us to visit a top violinmaker who has been working with a physicist and two engineers to create a prototype digital violin.
PRX was able to ask David about his experience making the piece. He beams,
“The chance to do this piece brought together several things I am deeply fascinated by — music, violins, sound-rich audio storytelling, and the nature of creativity & discovery.”
Something that didn’t make the final cut of the story, which sheds more light on why a digital Stradivarius is so difficult to engineer, is
“Weinreich’s research has shown that a violin’s sound is in fact deeply varied in the spatial dimension, and that, with each note, the physical power and direction of the overtones changes widely — one likely reason why it’s hard to actually record an acoustic violin well.”
On convolution, the name of the technology developed for the digital Strad, David says,
“With it’s potential for alternate aural realities, [convolution] is a richly metaphorical area for scientists, artists and storytellers [...] Imagine a situation in which convolution impulse maps are the most vivid documentation remaining of a ransacked temple, or a lost Stradivarius.”
While he was gathering tape and doing interviews, David tells us that he was even able to play some of Curtin’s instruments, an added bonus for someone who is a musician on top of being a radio producer. Still, such an idyllic experience still was not without its challenges:
“The central challenge of the piece involved using demos to link several rich — though rather technical — ideas,and to arrive at a final comparison where you’d hear the digital Strad and an actual Strad, side by side.”
We’re often so quick to dismiss digital counterparts of things as inauthentic, but it just might be that digitizing a Stradivarius leads to improving it somehow too. At last, musicians can finally have access to an enterprise that was previously unavailable for the violin. As David illustrates in his piece, this technology enables new tools, new techniques, and new sounds for musicians and engineers alike to innovate.
Photos: David Schulman
Listen to all the other PRX STEM Story Project pieces.
Sam Greenspan posted on Wednesday, July 31st, 2013 | Blog, PRX | No Comments
Earlier this year, the Third Coast International Audio Festival ordered up an auditory feast with their annual ShortDoc contest. The challenge was: make a two- to three-minute radio story on the idea of “appetite,” serve it up in three “courses” (i.e. chapters), and title it with one of the five tastes. (Yes, umami counts.)
Team Third Coast sorted through nearly 250 submissions and hand-picked eight superior ShortDocs. And they’re turning it over to We, The People to pick the best one for a “People’s Choice” award.
These ShortDocs will not be on the table for long. Voting closes today, July 31 — BUT, word on the street is that voting will stay open until 11:59pm Hawaii time, or 5:59am on August 1 on the east coast. Get your fill of ShortDocs while they last!
Lily Bui posted on Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 | PRX, STEM Story Project | No Comments
This post is part of a series of posts featuring the stories from our STEM Story Project.
In the fall of 1902, twelve robust young men in suits gather in the basement of a government building in Washington, D.C. Waiters serve them dinner on fine china, prepared by chefs–courses like chipped beef, turnips, celery on toast, and applesauce. The men eat what they’re served, even though they know that their food is poisoned. They do this every day, three square meals a day, for months.
This is the story of the Poison Squad, an experiment that begins in that basement dining room and continues on our dinner plates today.
Harvey Washington Wiley is the mastermind behind this experiment. Before you condemn him, you’d be surprised to know that you probably owe him a debt of gratitude. Incidentally, Wiley is the founding father of the Food and Drug Administration. The intention of these experiments was not to induce digestive discomfort for its own sake. Rather, they were part of an extensive study on how chemical preservatives in food–before regulations existed–could harm human beings over time. You might cringe at what was once used to keep food “fresh.”
PRX STEM Story Project producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni gave us a closer look inside the story, beyond her radio piece. About diving deep into archival materials, she says,
“I spent hours [at the Library of Congress], reading thousands of [Wiley's] letters and squinting at his tiny journals. It is when you know every curve and squiggle of a man’s handwriting that you feel as though you’re starting to get to know him!”
One surprising fact that she discovered while researching the piece was that while Wiley’s experiments contributed so much to food regulation, today’s practices still leave something to be desired:
“…The FDA doesn’t really test food additives anymore. There are more than five thousand additives commonly found in processed food and most of them haven’t been tested on animals and almost none (except for dietary supplements) have been tested on humans.”
Sruthi sent us some photographs of the Poison Squad, Wiley, and some (how shall I put this?) unconventional tools that were used during the experiments.
“None but the brave can eat the fare.” Are you brave enough? Full serving of intrigue and radio in this piece. Bon appetit.
All photos: FDA
Listen to all the other PRX STEM Story Project pieces.
Audrey posted on Monday, July 22nd, 2013 | PRX | No Comments
We’re very excited to announce a new partnership between PRX and FRONTLINE. We’ll be working on an iPad app to feature FRONTLINE’s award-winning documentaries. Here’s an excerpt, but head over to the PRX Apps Blog to read more about the project.
It will take advantage of the tablet’s unique form and features, and the unique ways in which people tend to use tablets — in particular, tablet users spend more time with longer-form media. It will keep FRONTLINE’s powerful work front and center, while also providing deeper multimedia info and follow-up to ongoing events. This app will further FRONTLINE’s and PRX’s reputations for bringing broadcast and digital together in innovative and effective ways.
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