In the April 22nd episode Dirty Bomb there were three suspects who wouldn't talk. Charlie, the mathematician, likened the situation to Prisoner's Dilemma and suggested putting the suspects in the same room, which is usually the wrong thing to do in prisoner's dilemma. What Charlie did was compute the utility for each suspect cooperating (with each other and not the FBI) based on family considerations and their previous record and convinced the one with the most to lose by cooperating to defect and talk to the FBI. Clever, but I really wonder if that would work in real life.
Last Friday's episode Sacrifice took a more philosophical direction. A murdered think-tank computer scientist was developing a program that measured academic potential based on where someone grew up, down to a city block. If such a program actually worked, how should a program be used, if at all? How far should one go to stop the project?
Charlie and his physicist friend Larry ruminated on whether scientists are responsible for how their research gets used, as well as a discussion on the lonely life of a scientist at a lightly attended memorial service for the murder victim. The episode also had a physics joke I don't quite get.
Applied physicists are from Venus; Theoretical physicists wonder why it spins in the other direction.I really enjoy those discussions between Charlie and Larry because they ask some interesting questions and add some dimension to a public view of mathematicians and scientists.