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What, why, how? New podcast describes science behind the human condition

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Lisa Cantrell is funding her podcast, "An Inexact Science," via Kickstarter. She's a psychologist at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

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From page A5 | August 27, 2014 |

Ever wonder why you feel the way you do? How you learned to speak as a baby? Why and what you forget?

Tune in to the newest podcast coming out of Davis and learn about what makes you experience you.

Lisa Cantrell, a psychologist at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain, will fire up “An Inexact Science” this fall, after successfully funding her project on Kickstarter.

While people grow up in a huge variety of cultures speaking some thousands of different languages, certain experiences are generally ubiquitous: to love, to speak or sign, to perceive the world around you. Cantrell hopes her podcast will help listeners better understand the research behind these phenomena.

“I started to realize there’s a bunch of information and data that we in the scientific community know, that other people don’t know and they’re actually super-interested in it,” Cantrell said.

One example, especially for parents: why toddlers seem to gain vocabulary at an exponential rate around age 2. Research suggests a development around that age when toddlers begin to categorize things based on shape. A “tractor” isn’t just a toy on the living room floor, it’s the machine in the field that the family passes on the way to Grandma’s house.

Radio shows like “Snap Judgement,” “RadioLab” and “99% Invisible” helped inspire Cantrell to start her own. She became interested in both what stories were told on the show, and how they were told.

“If it’s done really well, you don’t even have to have an initial interest in it,” she said.

Cantrell works on a tiny plastic table in her living room, and the Kickstarter campaign will help fund better equipment and travel to interview scientists in the area. But it also will help pay for local artists to design buttons, stickers and shirts for backers and fans.

In addition to weaving stories about science, Cantrell hopes “An Inexact Science” will gain enough of a following to create a small, sustainable community through which local art and music can be generated, advertised and sold. The bands, designers and visual whizzes will come from Davis, Indiana and South Carolina — one of the first episodes features snippets from Busman’s Holiday, a band from Bloomington.

A musician herself, she said she’s been lucky. With a day job, she can afford to occasionally play gigs for free. But others who do it full time need more avenues for exposure.

And that’s what it comes down to — exposure for artists, musicians, and, of course, the science behind our everyday experiences.

Cantrell has 15 days left of her funding campaign. If you’re interested in donating, visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1864204081/we-are-all-creating-an-inexact-science.

— Reach Elizabeth Case at [email protected] or 530-747-8052. Follow her on Twitter at @elizabeth_case

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