Aired: July 18, 2015

Fugitive Red

In this hour we hear about the secret behind red dye. Then we discuss the challenges to making STEM fields more representative.

The Miracle of St Mark Freeing the Slave by Tintoretto (c. 1548), via Wikipedia

  • Fugitive Red (8 min.)

    With: Amy Butler Greenfield

    Cochineal, a parasitic insect native to Mexico, is the source of a vibrant red dye called carmine, which Spain’s Conquistadors encountered for the first time in 1519. Greenfield is the author of A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire, about the history of this highly sought-after commodity that eluded pirates, scientists, and kings.

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  • Chemist and the Conservator (8 min.)

    With: Kristin Wustholz, College of William & Mary and Shelley Svoboda

    When restoring priceless works of art, conservators often want to know the origins of the paint. One chemist works with art curators to trace the molecular “fingerprints” of rare paint pigments and has produced a technique that allows precise chemical analysis from a single near-microscopic particle excised from the painting.

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  • The State of Physics (11 min.)

    With: Gail Dodge, Old Dominion University

    Nuclear physicist has taken a leading role in atom-smashing experiments. Dodge, who won an Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, is also devoted to growing the number of women in a field that is still dominated by men.

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  • Imagining a Scientist Part 1 (4 min.)

    As part of our ongoing series about STEM education, we ask: what does a scientist look like? Short, tall, black, brown, male or female?

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  • The Double Bind (8 min.)

    With: Shirley Malcom, American Association for the Advancement of Science

    We discuss why women and minorities continue to face barriers to entering STEM fields.

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  • Women Engineers (4 min.)

    With: Laura Puaca, Christopher Newport University

    We also hear about what might be keeping American girls out of laboratories and the WWII history of Edna the Engineer.

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  • Imagining a Scientist Part 2 (7 min.)

    With: William and Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science

    In 2009, fewer than 2% of physical science degrees—like physics and chemistry—went to African-Americans. Considering African-Americans make up 12% of the U.S. population, these numbers are shockingly low. And they’re getting even lower.  We talk to four young scientists about their outreach project.

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  • Seeking Cochineal

    Today, we buy paint in little tubes from the arts and craft aisle, but in times past, getting the right color pigments was a difficult and complex process. Allison Quantz tells the story of a miraculous red dye and how it made its way to Virginia.

    To hear more about the art and science of paint colors, listen to our Fugitive Red show.

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