Engines of Our Ingenuity

Engines of Our Ingenuity

uh.edu/engines
The story of technological progress is one of drama and intrigue, sudden insight and plain hard work. Let’s explore technology’s spectacular failures and many magnificent success stories.


3236: The Humble Index Card
Jul 7 • 3 min
Episode: 3236 Analysis, Creativity, and the Humble Index Card. Today, the humble index card.
1902: Heat in the Shadow of Rouen
Jul 6 • 3 min
Episode: 1902 Heat in the Shadow of Rouen Cathedral. Today, heat and cold in Rouen.
1903: Flubber
Jul 5 • 3 min
Episode: 1903 Flubber: A story of persistence and reincarnation. Today, Flubber.
1901: The Timber Square Set
Jul 3 • 3 min
Episode: 1901 Philipp Deidesheimer and the remarkable timber square set. Today, the timber square set.
2520: Hybrid Electric Car Technology
Jul 2 • 3 min
Episode: 2520 Hybrid Electric Car Technology. Today, we hit the brakes.
2505: Wild America
Jul 1 • 3 min
Episode: 2505 Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher’s Wild America. Today, a legendary road trip.
2517: Rebecca Clarke
Jun 30 • 3 min
Episode: 2517 Rebecca Clarke: Violist, Composer, Woman. Today, a woman in conflict.
1900: 1900 — The Year
Jun 29 • 3 min
Episode: 1900 1900 — the year: as seen in Century Magazine. Today, 1900 — the year.
1899: Kurt Gödel
Jun 28 • 3 min
Episode: 1899 Kurt Gödel: A mathematician brings us down to earth. Today, a mathematician brings us down to earth.
1898: Pierre Gassendi
Jun 26 • 3 min
Episode: 1898 What happened after Galileo? Pierre Gassendi happened! Today, what happened after Galileo?
2513: Our Teachers
Jun 25 • 3 min
Episode: 2513 The Importance of Teachers in Shaping our Lives. Today, remembering our teachers.
2553: Complexity and Emergence
Jun 24 • 3 min
Episode: 2553 Emergence and complexity in virtual and living systems. Today, let’s talk about emergence.
2510: Reason in All Things
Jun 23 • 3 min
Episode: 2510 Reason in all things: Augustine, Galileo, Collins, The Human Genome, and God. Today, Augustine, Galileo, and the human genome.
1894: Of Accuracy and Story-Telling
Jun 22 • 3 min
Episode: 1894 Accuracy and story-telling — a learning experience in four acts. Today, accuracy and story-telling.
1893: Satyendranath Rose
Jun 21 • 3 min
Episode: 1893 Satyendranath Bose, quantum physics pioneer and Indian hero. Today, Satyendranath Bose.
1892: A Tolerance for Ambiguity
Jun 19 • 3 min
Episode: 1892 The Science Times and the need to cultivate our tolerance for ambiguity. Today, a tolerance for ambiguity.
2507: The Unsung Engineer
Jun 18 • 3 min
Episode: 2507 The Unsung Engineer: The Mechanical Arts in Diderot and D’Alembert’s Encyclopaedie. Today, celebrating the mechanical arts.
2419: Perfecting Coffee
Jun 17 • 3 min
Episode: 2419 Peter Schlumbohm and the invention of modern coffee-making techniques. Today, a chemist and his coffee.
2503: Rod Serling
Jun 16 • 3 min
Engines: 2503 Story-Teller Rod Serling and the Twilight Zone. Today, a story — submitted for your approval.
1891: Earth, Air, Fire, & Water
Jun 15 • 3 min
Episode: 1891 Earth, Air, Fire, & Water — Love & Hate. Today, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.
1890: Riding the Wrong Horse
Jun 14 • 3 min
Episode: 1890 The Picture Play, a new technology immediately displaced by the movies. Today, we ride the wrong horse.
1889: Dolly Shepherd
Jun 12 • 3 min
Episode: 1889 Dolly Shepherd, her mother, and her daughter: pioneering parachuting. Today, three women parachutists.
2501: Nietzsche, Strauss, Kubrick, and a Trilogy of Metaphor
Jun 11 • 3 min
Episode: 2501: Nietzsche, Strauss, Kubrick, and a Trilogy of Metaphor. Today, a story — in three parts.
2499: Texas Germans
Jun 10 • 3 min
Episode: 2499 Frederick Law Olmsted and the Texas Germans. Today, Texas auf Deutsch.
2495: Creativity Within Limits
Jun 9 • 3 min
Episode: 2495 Creativity Within Limits: Rules as a Source of Creativity. Today, bounded creativity.
1892: A Tolerance for Ambiguity
Jun 8 • 3 min
Episode: 1892 The Science Times and the need to cultivate our tolerance for ambiguity. Today, a tolerance for ambiguity.
1887: Ernest K. Gann
Jun 8 • 3 min
Episode: 1887 Ernest K. Gann: pioneer and portrayer of American flight. Today, Ernest Gann.
1888: Henry Winstanley
Jun 7 • 3 min
Episode: 1888 In which Henry Winstanley wishes for the perfect storm — and gets it. Today, we learn to be careful what we wish for.
1886: Key West Railway
Jun 5 • 3 min
Episode: 1886 Building the Key West Railway: Building Florida. Today, we ride the Keys.
2493: Child’s Play
Jun 4 • 3 min
Episode: 2493 Child’s Play: the role of play in education. Today, child’s play.
2838: The Mysterious Small
Jun 3 • 3 min
Episode: 2838 The World of Small Dimensions; Nano-Dimensions and Pico-Times. Today, we explore Small.
2491: Mitch Miller and the Gang
Jun 2 • 3 min
Episode: 2491 Mitch Miller and the Gang: A Look at American Pop Culture in the Late 1950s. Today, we follow the bouncing ball.
1884: Avery’s Turbine
Jun 1 • 3 min
Episode: 1884 Avery’s turbine: Important, but little-known, nineteenth-century precursor.
1885: Hurricane & Spitfire
May 31 • 3 min
Episode: 1885 Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire: plowshares become swords. Today, we beat a plowshare into a sword.
1882: Quieting the Conversation
May 29 • 3 min
Episode: 1882 In which we need just enough noise to drown out the conversation. Today, we try to quiet a conversation.
2485: Jean LeRond d’Alembert
May 28 • 3 min
Episode: 2485 Jean Le Rond d’Alembert: Controversial Mathematician of the Enlightenment. Today, who won that race?
2408: Roman Political Invective
May 27 • 3 min
Episode: 2408 Roman Political Invective. Today, a look at Roman mudslinging.
3235: Verna Fields, “Mother Cutter”
May 26 • 3 min
Episode: 3235 Gender, labor history, and the devaluation of film editing. Today, the mother of all film editors.
1880: Clark and Bronowski
May 25 • 3 min
Episode: 1880 Kenneth Clark and Jacob Bronowski: a convergence. Today, Kenneth Clark and Jacob Bronowski.
1879: Right Now
May 24 • 3 min
Episode: 1879 Living in the present: an impossible goal. Today, we look for Right Now.
1878: Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier
May 22 • 3 min
Episode: 1878 Fourier, Egypt, and modern applied mathematics. Today, Joseph Fourier.
3053: Music and the Brain
May 21 • 3 min
Episode: 3053 Music and the Brain. Today, this is your brain on music.
2382: The Invention of the Paperboy
May 20 • 3 min
Episode: 2382 The Invention of the American Paperboy during the Great Depression. Today, the invention of the paperboy.
2480: Stephanie Kwolek and Kevlar
May 19 • 3 min
Episode: 2480 Stephanie Kwolek: Inventor of Kevlar. Today, not-so-shining armor.
1876: Bayesian Statistics
May 18 • 3 min
Episode: 1876 In which Thomas Bayes mixes prior knowledge with a priori deduction. Today, we learn how to hedge bets.
1877: Ötzi’s Death
May 17 • 3 min
Episode: 1877 Ötzi’s death: 5300-year-old forensic evidence brings ancient technology to life. Today, Ötzi’s death.
1875: Inventing Modern
May 15 • 3 min
Episode: 1875 Inventing Modern: In which a book instructs its author. Today, history repeated.
3051: Rhetoric
May 14 • 3 min
Episode: 3051 The Art of Rhetoric. Today, do facts speak for themselves?
2246: Into the Wind
May 13 • 3 min
Episode: 2246 Sailing into the wind: vectors, language, and a fine summer’s day. Today, our guest, chaplain and sailor John Price, heads into the wind.
3234: The Moving Sofa Problem
May 12 • 3 min
Episode: 3234 The Moving Sofa Problem. Today, we talk about the mathematics of moving a couch.
1874: Jana River
May 11 • 3 min
Episode: 1874 Implications of a 30,000-year-old culture at Siberia’s Jana River. Today, old spears, by the cold Jana River.
1873: Mozart at Eight
May 10 • 3 min
Episode: 1873 Mozart at eight: a contemporary view. Today, when Mozart was eight.
1872: Reliving 1953
May 8 • 3 min
Episode: 1872 Art and revolution: reliving 1953. Today, this is not a movie review, but …
3049: Charcoal Briquettes
May 7 • 3 min
Episode: 3049 Charcoal Briquettes. Today, we barbeque.
2820: Remaking Ben-Hur
May 6 • 3 min
Episode: 2820 A Spectacular Series of Spectaculars: Remaking Ben-Hur. Today, remaking Ben-Hur.
3047: Thinking Machines
May 5 • 3 min
Episode: 3047 How to Think About Machines that Think. Today, thinking machines.
1870: Tyndall as Teacher
May 4 • 3 min
Episode: 1870 John Tyndall as teacher: the metaphor of the mountain. Today, ice and snow — mountains and learning.
1871: PBY Catalina
May 3 • 3 min
Episode: 1871 The PBY Catalina, a very special old airplane. Today, the last great seaplane.
1866: The Charlotte Dundas
May 1 • 3 min
Episode: 1866 Another first steamboat, the Charlote Dundas. Today, another first steamboat.
3045: The Pneumatic Tire
Apr 30 • 3 min
Episode: 3045 The Pneumatic Tire. Today, a better wheel.
2373: Two German Phrasebooks
Apr 29 • 3 min
Episode: 2373 The Phrasebook: A Dangerous Invention. Today, UH scholar, Richard Armstrong tells us about German phrasebooks.
3043: Captcha
Apr 28 • 3 min
Episode: 3043 Are You Human? The Story Behind Captcha. Today, are you human?
1865: The Kinzua Viaduct
Apr 27 • 3 min
Episode: 1865 Octave Chanute and the Kinzua Viaduct: bridging two centuries. Today, a story of railroads and airplanes.
1864: Philip and Edmund Gosse
Apr 26 • 3 min
Episode: 1864 Philip and Edmund Gosse, reaching out across a great divide. Today, a Victorian naturalist.
1862: Fine Press Incunabula
Apr 24 • 3 min
Episode: 1862 The most beautiful book. But handsome is as handsome does. Today, the most beautiful book — but so what?
3042: System Dynamics
Apr 23 • 3 min
Episode: 3042 System Dynamics. Today, the sum of the parts.
2951: Going to Sea
Apr 22 • 3 min
Episode: 2951 Scurvy, Vitamin C, and the Origins of the Modern Clinical Trial. Today, we go to sea.
3041: Consciousness
Apr 21 • 3 min
Episode: 3041 Consciousness and Strong Artificial Intelligence. Today, are you conscious?
1860: Mass, Length, and Time
Apr 20 • 3 min
Episode: 1860 Trying to shed the albatross of pounds and inches. Today, the albatross of pounds and inches.
1863: Alexis Carrel
Apr 19 • 3 min
Episode: 1863 Alexis Carrel, the murky pioneer of organ transplants. Today, a president killed, and a Nobel Prize given.
1858: Johann Josef Loschmidt
Apr 17 • 3 min
Episode: 1858 Josef Loschmidt, invisible cornerstone of 19th-C science. Today, Jimmy Doolittle’s first airplane.
3039: Computer Animation
Apr 16 • 3 min
Episode: 3039 Computer Animation. Today, taking it down a dimension.
2143: Emma Lazarus
Apr 15 • 3 min
Episode: 2143 In which Emma Lazarus reinvents the Statue of Liberty. Today, UH scholar Dorothy Baker tells us about Emma Lazarus.
3233: Toad Story
Apr 14 • 3 min
Episode: 3233 What the Toad Thought. Today, an existential moment.
1857: Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and Quiet
Apr 13 • 3 min
Episode: 1857 Anne Morrow Lindbergh, gliding, and the quest for quiet. Today, a glider pilot seeks quiet.
1854: Rocking Boats
Apr 12 • 3 min
Episode: 1854 Why boats rock — or capsize, depending on the metacenter. Today, we watch boats rocking.
1852: Doolittle’s First Airplane
Apr 10 • 3 min
Episode: 1852 Popular Mechanics and Jimmy Doolittle’s first airplane. Today, Jimmy Doolittle’s first airplane.
3038: The Video Game Crash of 1983
Apr 9 • 3 min
Episode: 3038 The Video Game Crash of 1983. Today, a video game.
2075: Rudolph Ackerman
Apr 8 • 3 min
Episode: 2075 Rudolph Ackerman and his amazing chronicles of 19th-century art and technology. Today, architectural historian Margaret Culbertson tells us about a great chronicler of technology and art.
3035: Light Emitting Diodes
Apr 7 • 3 min
Episode: 3035 Light Emitting Diodes. Today, we get the LED out.
1849: Music and News
Apr 6 • 3 min
Episode: 1849 Music and news: Our radios in our lives. Today, music and news.
1853: The Beat Generation
Apr 5 • 3 min
Episode: 1853 The Beat Generation, revolution’s precursor. Today, the Beat Generation.
1846: Tallest, Longest
Apr 3 • 3 min
Episode: 1846 Tallest and longest, bridges and skyscrapers, human energy and human hubris. Today, the tallest and the longest.
3032: Lamaze
Apr 2 • 3 min
Episode: 3032 How Lamaze Found Its Way to the US. Today, from Russia with love.
2204: Rocks, Air, and Memory
Apr 1 • 3 min
Episode: 2204 Earthquakes and Volcanoes remember, while hurricanes forget. Today, our guest, geologist Peter Copeland tells us about rocks, air and memory.
3232: Exploration by Presence and Proxy
Mar 31 • 3 min
Episode: 3232 Man vs. Machine in the Exploration of Space. Today, exploring by presence and proxy.
1847: Who Are We?
Mar 29 • 3 min
Episode: 1847 Who are we? We are, at least, a collection of cells. Today, who are we?
1844: Horizontal Society
Mar 27 • 3 min
Episode: 1844 The Horizontal Society — revealed in an acrostic. Today, the horizontal society.
3031: Mary Beale
Mar 26 • 3 min
Episode: 3031 Mary Beale As Told By Ellen Clayton. Today, a ray of light.
1702: Tricks of Memory
Mar 25 • 3 min
Episode: 1702 Memory and meaning: How actors remember all those lines. Today, our guest, Seattle actor Megan Cole, talks about memory and meaning.
3231: Sputnik Educates America
Mar 24 • 3 min
Episode: 3231 Sputnik and the New American Education. Today, a satellite shocks American education.
1843: Multivalued Universes
Mar 23 • 3 min
Episode: 1843 So many possible universes consistent with what we see! Today, single — or multi — valued universes.
1842: First Man in Space
Mar 22 • 3 min
Episode: 1842 Who was first in space? It depends on what you call space. Today, the first man in space.
1840: Questions and Ignorance
Mar 20 • 3 min
Episode: 1840 In praise of asking ignorance-based questions. Today, a new take on ignorance.
3030: Pi Music
Mar 19 • 4 min
Episode: 3030 Pi Music and Human Creativity. Today, music to the ears.
2367: Georgie Clark
Mar 18 • 3 min
Episode: 2367 Georgie Clark and the invention of white-water rafting. Today, let’s go whitewater rafting.
3230: From Close-Up to Selfie
Mar 17 • 3 min
Episode: 3230 How close-ups offer social and psychological benefits that selfies do not. Today, psychology of the close-up.
1839: William Henry Fox Talbot
Mar 16 • 3 min
Episode: 1839 Accentuate the negative: William Henry Fox Talbot. Today, let us accentuate the negative.
1841: Music, Music, Music!
Mar 15 • 4 min
Episode: 1841 “All I want is Loving you and Music,Music, Music!” Today, music, music, music!
1838: Riding the Wave
Mar 13 • 3 min
Episode: 1838 The speed of waves: light and sound — oceans and galactic gas. Today, let us ride the waves.