Living With False Prophets

This week, I talk about the doomsday religion that social psychology Leon Festinger studied in the 1950s. His studies led him to develop his theory of cognitive dissonance. The concept of cognitive dissonance has been with us for a long time (Wikipedia points out an example from Aesops Fables), but Festinger was the first to coin the term. In doing so, he launched a line of research that has been really fascinating…

A Lucky Drug Discovery

This week, I talk about the chain of events that lead to the serendipitous discovery of valproic acid. Valproic acid is one of the key ingredients in Depakote, the most widely prescribed antiepileptic (seizure-controlling) drug in the world. I introduced the topic by talking about a recent lawsuit against Abbott Laboratories, the company that makes Depakote, for illegally marketing their product…

Berger’s Brain Mirror

This week’s podcast tells the story of Hans Berger, a German scientist during the first half of the 20th century. Berger (which a German speaking friend of mine assures me is pronounced “BEAR-grr”) thought he had a psychic experience while he was in the military, and that experience lead him to spend the rest of his life studying the brain. Eventually, he invented the EEG, that device that doctors hook up to a patient’s head to get a bunch of squiggly lines…