SETI Institute

Big Picture Science

Are We Alone weaves together a universe of big ideas – from robots to memory to antimatter to dinosaurs.
Big Picture Science

Description

Big Picture Science: A smart and humorous take on emerging trends in science and technology. Tune in and make contact with science. We broadcast and podcast every week. bigpicturescience.org

Episodes

The Ears Have It

Jan 20, 2020 51:01

Description:

What’s the difference between a bird call and the sound of a pile driver?  Not much, when you’re close to the loudest bird ever.  Find out when it pays to be noisy and when noise can worsen your health.  Just about everyone eventually suffers some hearing loss, but that’s not merely aging.  It’s an ailment we inflict on ourselves.  Hear how a team in New York City has put sensors throughout the city to catalog noise sources, hoping to tame the tumult.

And can underwater speakers blasting the sounds of a healthy reef bring life back to dead patches of the Great Barrier Reef?

Guests:

Mark Cartwright – Research Assistant Professor at New York University’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering Charles Mydlarz – Research Assistant Professor at New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) and the Music and Audio Research Lab (MARL) David Owen – Staff writer at The New Yorker, and author of Volume Control: Hearing in a Deafening World Jeff Podos – Professor in the Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst Steve Simpson – Professor of Marine Biology and Global Change, Exeter University, U.K.

Perpetual Emotion Machine [rebroadcast]

Jan 13, 2020 50:31

Description:

Get ready for compassionate computers that feel your pain, share your joy, and generally get where you’re coming from.  Computers that can tell by your voice whether you’re pumped up or feeling down, or sense changes in heart rate, skin, or muscle tension to determine your mood.  Empathetic electronics that you can relate to.

But wait a minute – we don’t always relate to other humans.  Our behavior can be impulsive and even self-sabotaging – our emotions are often conflicted and irrational.   We cry when we’re happy.  Frown when we’re pensive.  A suite of factors, much of them out of our control, govern how we behave, from genes to hormones to childhood experience. 

One study says that all it takes for a defendant to receive a harsher sentence is a reduction in the presiding judge’s blood sugar.

So grab a cookie, and find out how the heck we can build computers that understand us anyway. 

Guests:

Rosalind Picard – Professor at the MIT Media Lab and co-founder of the companies Affectiva and Empatica.  Robert Sapolsky – Professor of neuroscience at Stanford University, and author of Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

Your Brain's Reins [rebroadcast]

Jan 6, 2020 50:31

Description:

You are your brain.  But what happens when your brain changes for the worse – either by physical injury or experience?  Are you still responsible for your actions?

We hear how the case of a New York man charged with murder was one of the first to introduce neuroscience as evidence in court.  Plus, how technology hooks us – a young man so addicted to video games, he lacked social skills, or even a desire to eat.  Find out how technology designers conspire against his digital detox.

Also, even if your brain is intact and your only task is choosing a sock color, are you really in control?  How your unconscious directs even mundane behavior … and how you can outwit it. 

Guests:

Kevin Davis – Author of The Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America’s Courtrooms Hilarie Cash – Co-founder and chief clinical officer of reSTART, an internet addiction recovery program Adam Alter – Assistant professor of marketing and psychology at New York University, Stern School of Business, and author of Irresistible: the Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked Peter Vishton – Psychologist at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia

Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself [rebroadcast]

Dec 30, 2019 51:26

Description:

Do we still need doctors?  There are umpteen alternative sources of medical advice, including endless and heartfelt health tips from people without medical degrees. Frankly, self-diagnosis with a health app is easier and cheaper than a trip to a clinic.   Since we’re urged to be our own health advocate and seek second opinions, why not ask Alexa or consult with a celebrity about what ails us?

Find out if you can trust these alternative medical advice platforms.  Plus, lessons from an AIDS fighter about ignoring the findings of medical science.  

And, if AI can diagnose better than an MD, will we stop listening to doctors altogether?

It’s our monthly look at critical thinking … but don’t take our word for it!

Guests:

Katherine Foley – Science and health reporter at Quartz, and author of the article “Alexa is a Terrible DoctorPaul Offit – Professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Perlman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of “Bad Advice: Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of  Health Information Richard Marlink – Director Rutgers Global Health Institute. Shinjini Kundu – Research Fellow, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Stuart Schlisserman – Internist, Palo Alto, California

 

originally aired September 24, 2018

Handling the Holidays

Dec 23, 2019 53:47

Description:

The stress of the holidays can make you want to hide under the covers with a warm cup of cocoa.  From gift buying to family gatherings, the holidays can feel like being inside a pressure cooker.  But don’t despair!  Science can help make the holidays a little brighter, from some gift-giving tips from our animal friends to embracing pessimism before a challenging social event to stopping that annoying merry melody on repeat in your head.

Guests:

Adam South – Research assistant professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University Mitch Ratcliffe – CEO and publisher of Earth911 Julie Norem – Psychology professor at Wellesley College and author of “The Positive Power of Negative Thinking Elizabeth Margulis – Music professor at Princeton University and author of “On Repeat: How Music Plays the MindSteve Ilardi – Clinical psychology associate professor at the University of Kansas.  Read his paper on the effects of sugar here.

Waste Not

Dec 16, 2019 52:33

Description:

Why create more landfill?  Perhaps you should resist the urge to toss those old sneakers, the broken ceiling fan, or last year’s smart phone.  Instead, repurpose them!  Global junk entrepreneurs are leading the way in turning trash to treasure, while right-to-repair advocates fight for legislation that would give you a decent shot at fixing your own electronic devices. 

And, if you toss food scraps down the drain as you cook, are you contributing to a “fatberg” horror in the sewer?

Guests:

John Love – Synthetic biologist at the University of Exeter Adam Minter – Author of Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale Amanda Preske – Chemist and the owner of Circuit Breaker Labs Nathan Proctor – National campaign director for S. Public Interest Research Group – (PIRGS) Right to Repair campaign Kyle Wiens – CEO of I-Fixit, an Internet repair community

Skeptic Check: Betting on Pseudoscience

Nov 25, 2019 50:31

Description:

Psychics may not be able to predict the future or sense your thoughts.  Nonetheless, they rake in hundreds of millions of dollars every year.  But the harm from pseudoscience can go far beyond your wallet – especially when it promotes unscientific treatments for serious disease.  Find out what alarming discovery led one naturopath to quit her practice and why scientific ignorance is not bliss. 

It’s our regular look at critical thinking, but don’t take our word for it.

Guests:

Robert Palmer – Member of the Guerilla Skeptics on the Wikipedia editing team and columnist for the Skeptical Inquirer on-line magazine Lee McIntyre – Research fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University and lecturer on ethics at Harvard Extension School Britt Marie Hermes – Former naturopath doctor; now doctoral student in evolutionary genetics at the University of Kiel, Germany

 

Stopping Ebola

Nov 18, 2019 52:45

Description:

A new vaccine may help turn Ebola into a disease we can prevent, and a new drug may make it one we can cure.  But the political crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo has fueled violence against health workers and Ebola treatment centers.  Find out why context matters in the efforts to stop Ebola, what new drugs and vaccines are on the horizon, and whether the world is prepared for the next infectious pandemic.  Even if Ebola’s threat is diminishing, what about the next pandemic?  Is the world prepared?

Guests:

Richard Preston – Journalist and author  of “Crisis in the Red Zone: The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History.” Yap Boum – Regional representative for Africa for Epicentre, the research arm of Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in Cameroon. Amy Maxmen – Senior reporter, Nature.  Her most recent piece is "Behind the Front Lines of the Ebola Wars."

Supercomputer Showdown

Nov 4, 2019 52:37

Description:

Do you have a hard-to-answer question?  The Summit, Sierra, Trinity, Frontier, and Aurora supercomputers are built to tackle it.  Summit tops the petaflop heap – at least for now.  But Frontier and Aurora are catching up as they take aim at a new performance benchmark called exascale.   

So why do we need all this processing power?  From climate modeling to personalized medicine, find out why the super-est computers are necessary to answer our biggest questions. But is the dark horse candidate, quantum computing, destined to leave classical computing in the dust?

Guests:

Katherine Riley - Director of Science, Argonne National Laboratory Jack Wells - Director of Science, Oak Ridge National Laboratory National Center for Computational Sciences Katie Bethea - Communications Team Lead, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Jeffrey Hawkins – Technologist and neuroscientist.  Co-founder of Palm, Handspring and Numenta Eleanor Rieffel - Mathematician, NASA Ames Research Center, and co-author of “Quantum Supremacy Using a Programmable Superconducting Processor,” published in Nature magazine

Nobel Efforts

Oct 21, 2019 51:22

Description:

For two Swiss astronomers, it’s “Stockholm, here we come.”  Their first-ever discovery of a planet orbiting another star has been awarded the most prestigious prize in science.  Find out how their exoplanet discovery led to 4,000 more and how that changes the odds of finding life beyond Earth.  Also, the Nobel committee is not alone in finding distant worlds inspirational: a musician is translating their orbital signatures into sound.

Guests:

Roy Gould - Biophysicist and researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Author of “Universe in CreationJeffrey Smith - Data scientist and a principal investigator for TESS at the SETI Institute David Ibbett - Composer and director of the Multiverse Concert Series

Battling Bacteria

Oct 7, 2019 51:36

Description:

We can’t say we weren’t warned.  More than 75 years ago, bacteriologist Rene Dubos cautioned that misuse of antibiotics could breed drug-resistant bacteria – and he has been proved prescient.  In this episode: the rise of superbugs, why we ignored the warnings about them, how some are enlisting an old therapy to fight back, and whether we’ll heed history’s lessons in the face of a future pandemic.  Plus, a weird unforeseen effect of antibiotics being investigated at the Body Farm. 

Guests:

Fred Turek - Director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Biology, Department of Neurobology, Northwestern University Jennifer DeBruyn - Microbiologist at the University of Tennessee, who also works at the Anthropology Research Facility, a.k.a. the Body Farm   Steffanie Strathdee - Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences at the University of California, San Diego, and co-author (with Tom Patterson) of  “The Perfect Predator: A Scientist’s Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly SuperbugTom Patterson - Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and co-author (with Steffanie Strathdee) of  “The Perfect Predator: A Scientist’s Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly SuperbugMark Honigsbaum - Medical Historian, journalist, and lecturer at City University, London, and author of “The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris

Headed For Trouble

Sep 30, 2019 51:19

Description:

The stone heads on Easter Island are an enduring mystery: why were they built and why were they abandoned and destroyed?  The old ideas about cultural collapse are yielding to new ones based on careful investigation on the ground - but also from above.  What surprising explanations have we found and are we off base to think that ancient societies such as the Easter Islanders or the classical Egyptians were, in the end, failures?  Can what we learn from these histories help predict which societies will survive?

Guests:

James Grant Peterkin – Tour guide, resident, and British Honorary Consul on Easter Island Sarah Parcak – Archaeologist, Egyptologist, remote sensing expert, professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and author of Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past Carl Lipo – Anthropologist and professor at Binghamton University, State University of New York

For Good Measure

Sep 9, 2019 52:34

Description:

The reign of Le Grand K has come to an end. After 130 years, this hunk of metal sitting in a Parisian vault will no longer define the kilogram. The new kilogram mass will be defined by Planck’s constant, joining three other units for redefinition by fundamental constants.  But as we measure with increasing precision – from cesium atomic clocks to gravitational wave detectors able to measure spacetime distortions to 1/1000th the width of a proton – is something fundamental lost along the way?  Meanwhile, the BiPiSci team accepts the banana-measurement challenge.

Guests:

Jon Pratt – Mechanical engineer and engineer and Chief of the Quantum Measurement Division of the Physical Measurement Laboratory (PML) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology Wolfgang Ketterle – Physicist at MIT, Nobel Laureate Simon Winchester – Author of “The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World

Skeptic Check: Data Bias

Sep 2, 2019 51:22

Description:

Sexist snow plowing?  Data that guide everything from snow removal schedules to heart research often fail to consider gender.  In these cases, “reference man” stands in for “average human.”   Human bias also infects artificial intelligence, with speech recognition triggered only by male voices and facial recognition that can’t see black faces.  We question the assumptions baked into these numbers and algorithms.

Guests:

Caroline Criado-Perez - Journalist and author of “Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men Kade Crockford - Director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts Amy Webb - Futurist, founder and CEO of the Future Today Institute, and author of “The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and There Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity

Granting Immunity

Aug 12, 2019 52:01

Description:

“Diversity or die” could be your new health mantra. Don’t boost your immune system, cultivate it! Like a garden, your body’s defenses benefit from species diversity.  Find out why multiple strains of microbes, engaged in a delicate ballet with your T-cells, join internal fungi in combatting disease. Plus, global ecosystems also depend on the diversity of its tiniest members; so what happens when the world’s insects bug out?

Guests:

Matt Richtel – Author, most recently, of “An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of The Immune SystemRob Dunn – Biologist and professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University. Author of “Never Home AloneDavid Underhill – Professor of medicine, Cedars-Sinai Hospital, Los Angeles, California Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson – Professor in conservation biology at the Institute for Ecology and Nature Management at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.  Author of “Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects

 

Let's Stick Together

Jul 22, 2019 51:35

Description:

Crowded subway driving you crazy?  Sick of the marathon-length grocery store line? Wish you had a hovercraft to float over traffic?  If you are itching to hightail it to an isolated cabin in the woods, remember, we evolved to be together.  Humans are not only social, we’re driven to care for one another, even those outside our immediate family.  

We look at some of the reasons why this is so – from the increase in valuable communication within social groups to the power of the hormone oxytocin.  Plus, how our willingness to tolerate anonymity, a condition which allows societies to grow, has a parallel in ant supercolonies.

Guests:

Adam Rutherford – Geneticist and author of “Humanimal: How Homo sapiensBecame Nature’s Most Paradoxical Creature – a New Evolutionary HistoryPatricia Churchland – Neurophilosopher, professor of philosophy emerita at the University of California San Diego, and author most recently of “Conscience: The Origins of Moral IntuitionMark Moffett – Tropical biologist, Smithsonian Institution researcher, and author of “The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive and Fall

Math's Paths

Jul 15, 2019 50:31

Description:

If you bake, you can appreciate math’s transformative properties.  Admiring the stackable potato chip is to admire a hyperbolic sheet.  Find out why there’s no need to fear math - you just need to think outside the cuboid.  Also, how nature’s geometric shapes inspire the next generation of squishy robots and an argument for radically overhauling math class.  The end point of these common factors is acute show that’s as fun as eating Pi.

Guests:

Eugenia Cheng – Scientist in Residence at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, tenured at the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Sheffield, and author of “How to Bake PiShankar Venkataramani – Professor of math at the University of Arizona Steven Strogatz – Professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University and author of “Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the UniverseDaniel Finkel – Mathematician and founder and director of operations at “Math for Love”

Nailing the Moon Landing

Jul 1, 2019 50:31

Description:

Neil, Buzz, and Michael made it look effortless, but the moon landing was neither easy nor inevitable.  Soon after President Kennedy publicly stated the goal of sending Americans to the moon, NASA confessed that the chances of success were only about 50/50.   But on July 20, 1969, despite enormous difficulties, astronauts stepped onto the lunar regolith.

In this special anniversary episode, we go behind the iconic phrases and familiar photos to consider the errors, mishaps, and the Plan B contingencies that dogged the project, as well as hear of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who made Apollo 11 possible.   

Guests:

Charles Fishman -  author of “One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission that Flew Us to the MoonMatt Hayes -  President and CEO of the Museum of Flight, Seattle Geoff Nunn – Adjust curator for Space History at the Museum of Flight. David Whitehouse –  Journalist, broadcaster, and author of “Apollo 11: The Inside StoryDee O’Hara – NASA’s first aerospace nurse and flight nurse for the Apollo mission James Allen Joki – EMU Flight Controller, Apollo Mission Control, Houston. Ted Huetter – Museum of Flight public relations manager.

Animals Like Us

Jun 24, 2019 51:29

Description:

Laughing rats, sorrowful elephants, joyful chimpanzees.  The more carefully we observe, and the more we learn about animals, the closer their emotional lives appear to resemble our own.  Most would agree that we should minimize the physical suffering of animals, but should we give equal consideration to their emotional stress?  Bioethicist Peter Singer weighs in. Meanwhile, captivity that may be ethical: How human-elephant teamwork in Asia may help protect an endangered species.

Guests:

Frans de Waal - Primatologist and biologist at Emory University; author of “Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves.”  Watch the video of Mama and Jan Van Hooff. Peter Singer – Philosopher, professor of bioethics at Princeton University. Jacob Shell - Professor of geography at Temple University, and author of “Giants of the Monsoon Forest: Living and Working with Elephants.” Kevin Schneider - Executive director of the Nonhuman Rights Project

Skeptic Check: Worrier Mentality

May 27, 2019 51:29

Description:

Poisonous snakes, lightning strikes, a rogue rock from space.  There are plenty of scary things to fret about, but are we burning adrenaline on the right ones?  Stepping into the bathtub is more dangerous than flying from a statistical point of view, but no one signs up for “fear of showering” classes. 

Find out why we get tripped up by statistics, worry about the wrong things, and how the “intelligence trap” not only leads smart people to make dumb mistakes, but actually causes them to make more.

Guests:

Eric Chudler – Research association professor, department of bioengineering, University of Washington, Seattle and co-author of “Worried: Science Investigates Some of Life’s Common ConcernsLise Johnson – Director of the Basic Science Curriculum, Rocky Vista University, and co-author of “Worried: Science Investigates Some of Life’s Common Concerns” Willie Turner – Vice President of Operations at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, CA Charles Wheelan – Senior Lecturer and Policy Fellow, Dartmouth College, and author of “Naked StatisticsDavid Robson – Commissioning Editor for the BBC and author of “The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes

Is Life Inevitable?

May 13, 2019 51:12

Description:

A new theory about life’s origins updates Darwin’s warm little pond.  Scientists say they’ve created the building blocks of biology in steaming hot springs. Meanwhile, we visit a NASA lab where scientists simulate deep-sea vent chemistry to produce the type of environment that might spawn life.  Which site is best suited for producing biology from chemistry?

Find out how the conditions of the early Earth were different from today, how meteors seeded Earth with organics, and a provocative idea that life arose as an inevitable consequence of matter shape-shifting to dissipate heat. Could physics be the driving force behind life’s emergence?  

Guests:

Caleb Scharf – Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University, New York Laurie Barge – Research scientist in astrobiology at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Bruce Damer – Research scientist in biomolecular engineering, University of California,  Jeremy England – Physicist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 

Rethinking Chernobyl

May 6, 2019 51:12

Description:

The catastrophic explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in April 1986 triggered the full-scale destruction of the reactor.  But now researchers with access to once-classified Soviet documents are challenging the official version of what happened both before and after the explosion. They say that the accident was worse than we thought and that a number of factors – from paranoia to poor engineering – made the mishap inevitable.  Others claim a much larger death toll from extended exposure to low levels of radiation.  But with nuclear energy being a possibly essential component of dealing with rising carbon dioxide emissions, how do we evaluate risk under the long shadow of Chernobyl?

Guests:

Adam Higginbotham – Author of “Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear DisasterKate Brown – Historian of Environmental and Nuclear History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of “Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide for the Future James Smith – Professor in the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Portsmouth, U.K. He was interviewed for and has written a review of "Manual for Survival" Ted Nordhaus – Founder and Executive Director of The Breakthrough Institute, Berkeley, California

Gained in Translation

Apr 22, 2019 51:12

Description:

Your virtual assistant is not without a sense of humor. Its repertoire includes the classic story involving a chicken and a road.  But will Alexa laugh at your jokes? Will she groan at your puns? 

Telling jokes is one thing. Teaching a computer to recognize humor is another, because a clear definition of humor is lacking. But doing so is a step toward making more natural interactions with A.I.  

Find out what’s involved in tickling A.I.’s funny bone. Also, an interstellar communication challenge: Despite debate about the wisdom of transmitting messages to space, one group sends radio signals to E.T. anyway. Find out how they crafted a non-verbal message and what it contained.

Plus, why using nuanced language to connive and scheme ultimately turned us into a more peaceful species. And yes, it’s all gouda: why melted cheese may be the cosmic message of peace we need.

Guests:

Julia Rayz – Computer scientist and associate professor at Purdue University’s Department of Computer and Information Technology Steve Adler – Mayor of Austin, Texas Doug Vakoch – Psychologist and president of the non-profit organization METI International Richard Wrangham – Biological anthropologist at Harvard University and author of “The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution

Go With the Flow

Apr 8, 2019 50:31

Description:

Solid materials get all the production credit.  Don’t get us wrong, we depend on their strength and firmness for bridges, bones, and bento boxes.  But liquids do us a solid, too.  Their free-flowing properties drive the Earth’s magnetic field, inspire a new generation of smart electronics, and make biology possible.  But the weird thing is, they elude clear definition.  Is tar a liquid or a solid?  What about peanut butter?

In this episode: A romp through a cascade of liquids with a materials scientist who is both admiring and confounded by their properties; how Earth’s molten iron core is making the magnetic north pole high-tail it to Siberia; blood as your body’s information superhighway; and how a spittlebug can convert 200 times its body weight in urine into a cozy, bubble fortress.

Guests:

Mark Miodownik – Professor of Materials and Society, University College, London, and author of “Liquid rules: The Delightful and Dangerous Substances that Flow Through Our LivesArnaud Chulliat – Geophysicist, University of Colorado and Institut de physique du globe du Paris Philip Matthews – Comparative physiologist at the University of British Columbia Rose George – Journalist and author of “Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood

 

DecodeHer

Apr 1, 2019 50:31

Description:

DecodeHer

They were pioneers in their fields, yet their names are scarcely known – because they didn’t have a Y chromosome.  We examine the accomplishments of two women who pioneered code breaking and astronomy during the early years of the twentieth century and did so in the face of social opprobrium and a frequently hostile work environment.

Henrietta Leavitt measured the brightnesses of thousands of stars and discovered a way to gauge the distances to galaxies, a development that soon led to the concept of the Big Bang.

Elizabeth Friedman, originally hired to test whether William Shakespeare really wrote his plays, was soon establishing the science of code breaking, essential to success in the two world wars. 

Also, the tech industry is overwhelmingly male.  Girls Who Code is an initiative to redress the balance by introducing girls to computer programming, and encouraging them to follow careers in tech. 

Guests:

Jason Fagone – Author of “The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s EnemiesLauren Gunderson – Playwright of Silent Sky, which is being performed all over the world, form the First Folio Theatre to the Repertory Philippines Reshma Saujani – Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, and the author of "Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder

 

Radical Cosmology

Feb 18, 2019 51:12

Description:

400 years ago, some ideas about the cosmos were too scandalous to mention. When the Dominican friar Giordano Bruno suggested that planets existed outside our Solar System, the Catholic Inquisition had him arrested, jailed, and burned at the stake for heresy.

Today, we have evidence of thousands of planets orbiting other stars.  Our discovery of extrasolar planets has dramatically changed ideas about the possibility for life elsewhere in the universe. 

Modern theories about the existence of the ghostly particles called neutrinos or of collapsed stars with unfathomable gravity (black holes), while similarly incendiary, didn’t prompt arrest, of course.  Neutrinos and black holes were arresting ideas because they came decades before we had the means to prove their existence.

Hear about scientific ideas that came before their time and why extrasolar planets, neutrinos, and black holes are now found on the frontiers of astronomical research.

Guests:

Alberto Martínez – Professor of history, University of Texas, Austin, and author of Burned Alive: Giordano Bruno, Galileo & the Inquisition Anne Schukraft – Associate scientist, Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory Ephraim Fischbach – Professor of physics and astronomy, Purdue University Chris Impey – Professor of astronomy, University of Arizona, and author of Einstein’s Monsters: The Life and Times of Black Holes

Keeping Humans in the Loop

Feb 11, 2019 51:12

Description:

Modern technology is great, but could we be losing control?  As our world becomes more crowded and demands for resources are greater, some people worry about humanity’s uncertain prospects.  An eminent cosmologist considers globe-altering developments such as climate change and artificial intelligence.  Will we be able to stave off serious threats to our future?

There’s also another possible source of danger: our trendy digital aids.  We seem all-too-willing to let algorithms classify and define our wants, our needs, and our behavior. Instead of using technology, are we being used by it – to inadvertently become social media’s product? 

And while we may be skittish about the increased data our technology collects, one sci-fi writer imagines a future in which information is a pervasive and freely available commodity. 

Guests:

Martin Rees – Cosmologist, astrophysicist, and Great Britain’s Astronomer Royal.  Author of On the Future: Prospects for Humanity. Douglas Rushkoff – Media theorist and professor of media theory and digital economics, City University of New York.  Author of Team Human. Malka Older – Author and humanitarian worker, author of The Centenal Cycle.

Skeptic Check: Astrology Ascending

Feb 4, 2019 51:43

Description:

The fault is in our stars.  And according to astrology, so is our destiny, our moods, and our character.  Mars may be in retrograde, but interest in the ancient practice of astrology is rising.  The fact that it is not science is irrelevant to those who claim “it works.” 

Find out why “what’s your sign” is replacing “what do you do?” as an icebreaker, the historical roots of astrology and whether its truth-value matters today, and what conclusions we can draw from the many studies examining the full moon’s influence on human behavior.

It’s our monthly look at critical thinking, but don’t take our word for it!

Guests:

Banu Guler – CEO and co-founder of Co-Star Astrology Andrew Fraknoi – Astronomy professor at the Fromm Institute at the University of San Francisco and The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at San Francisco State University. Eric Chudler – Research associate professor, department of bioengineering, University of Washington, Seattle, and curator of a collection of studies about the moon and behavior.  

Rip Van Winkle Worm

Jan 21, 2019 52:33

Description:

Your shower pipes are alive.  So are your sinks, books, and floorboards.  New studies of our homes are revealing just what species live there – in the thousands, from bacteria to flies to millipedes.  Meanwhile, life keeps surprising us by popping up in other unexpected places: the deep biosphere houses the majority of the world’s bacteria and the Arctic tundra has kept worms frozen, but alive, for 40,000 years.

We embrace the multitude of life living on us, in us, and – as it turns out – in every possible ecological niche.  Most of it is harmless, some is beneficial, and it’s all testament to the amazing diversity and adaptability of life.  In addition, the hardiest organisms suggest where we might find life beyond Earth.

Guests:

Rob Dunn – Professor of applied ecology at North Carolina State University and at the Natural History Museum at the University of Copenhagen. Author of “Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live.” Lynn Rothschild – Astrobiologist and synthetic biologist at the NASA Ames Research Center. Karen Lloyd – Environmental microbiologist and associate professor at the University of Tennessee.

True Grit

Jan 14, 2019 51:44

Description:

Without sand, engineering would be stuck in the Middle Ages.  Wooden houses would line mud-packed streets, and Silicon Valley would be, well, just a valley.  Sand is the building material of modern cities, and we use more of this resource than any other except water and air.  Now we’re running out of it. 

Hear why the Roman recipe for making concrete was lost until the 19th century, and about the super-secret mine in North Carolina that makes your smartphone possible. 

Plus, engineered sand turns stormwater into drinking water, and why you might think twice about running barefoot on some tropical beaches once you learn about their biological source.

And, a special report from the coast of Louisiana where livelihoods and ecosystems depend on the successful release of Mississippi sand from levees into sediment-starved wetlands.

Guests:

Vince Beiser – Journalist and author of “The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How it Transformed CivilizationJoe Charbonnet – Science and policy associate at the Green Science Policy Institute in Berkeley, California Pupa Gilbert – Biophysicist and geobiologist, University of Wisconsin, Madison Rudy Simoneaux – Engineer manager, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Baton Rouge, Louisiana Elizabeth Chamberlain – Post-doctoral researcher in Earth and Environmental Sciences, Vanderbilt University

Sci-Fi From the Future

Jan 7, 2019 50:31

Description:

Are you ready to defer all your personal decision-making to machines? Polls show that most Americans are uneasy about the unchecked growth of artificial intelligence. The possible misuse of genetic engineering also makes us anxious. We all have a stake in the responsible development of science and technology, but fortunately, science fiction films can help.

The movies Ex Machina and Jurassic Park suggest where A.I. and unfettered gene-tinkering could lead. But even less popular sci-fi movies can help us imagine unsettling scenarios regarding over-population, smart drugs, and human cloning. 

And not all tales are grim.  The 1951 film, The Man in the White Suit, weaves a humorous story of materials science run amok.   

So, grab a bowl of popcorn and join us in contemplating the future of humanity as Hollywood sees it!

Guest:

Andrew Maynard – Physicist and professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University.  Author of Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi Movies.

Yule Like This

Dec 17, 2018 52:00

Description:

Fir tree needles embedded in carpet are a holiday headache.  Why not decorate a genetically-modified, needle-retaining tree instead?  It’s just another way that science is relevant to the holidays.  We have more.

How about science experiments on fruitcake?  There’s a competition that includes launching it with a pneumatic device, running a heavy electric current though it, or blasting it with a blowtorch.  Meanwhile, physics provides insight into those tricky how-does-he-do-it questions about Santa’s delivery rounds.   

Finally, step away from the relatives and consider the implications of the winter solstice. 

Enjoy a better holiday through science!

Guests:

Jenna Gallas – Special Event Coordinator, Manitou Springs Chamber of Congress, Colorado Laura Kramer – Manager of Science Conductors, Science Museum of Virginia, Richmond Lilian Matallana – Research Associate, Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Raleigh Ben Orlin – Math teacher, and author of “Math with Bad Drawings: Illuminating the Ideas That Shape Our RealityEthan Siegel – Theoretical astrophysicist and owner of “Starts with a Bang!” blog Andrew Fraknoi – Astronomer and educator, author of “Introduction to Astronomy

Space Rocks!

Nov 19, 2018 52:03

Description:

It’s not a bird or a plane, and probably not an alien spaceship, although the jury’s still deliberating that one.  Some astronomers have proposed that an oddly-shaped object that recently passed through our Solar System could be an alien artifact. We consider the E.T. explanation for ‘Oumuamua, but also other reasons asteroids are invigorating our imagination.  Are these orbiting rocks key to our future as a spacefaring species?

Find out why traditional incentives for human exploration of space – such as political rivalry –aren’t igniting our rockets the way they once did, but why the potentially trillions of dollars to be made mining asteroids might.

These small bodies may also hold the key to our ancient past: the New Horizons flyby of Thule in early 2019 will provide an historic look at a distant Kuiper belt object, and provide clues about the formation of the Solar System.

Guests:

Roger Launius – Former associate director of the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian and chief historian for NASA J. L.Galache – Asteroid astronomer and co-founder and CTO of Aten Engineering Mark Showalter – Planetary scientist and Senior Research Scientist at the SETI Institute and a member of the New Horizons team Avi Loeb – Professor of Science at Harvard and chair of the Department of Astronomy

Skeptic Check: Science Denial

Nov 12, 2018 50:31

Description:

Climate change isn’t happening.  Vaccines make you sick.  When it comes to threats to public or environmental health, a surprisingly large fraction of the population still denies the consensus of scientific evidence.  But it’s not the first time – many people long resisted the evidentiary link between HIV and AIDS and smoking with lung cancer.

There’s a sense that science denialism is on the rise.  It prompted a gathering of scientists and historians in New York City to discuss the problem, which included a debate on the usefulness of the word “denial” itself.  Big Picture Science was there. We report from the Science Denial symposium held jointly by the New York Academy of Sciences and Rutgers Global Health Institute. 

Find out why so many people dig in their heels and distrust scientific findings.  Plus, the techniques wielded by special interest groups to dispute some inconvenient truths.  We also hear how simply stating more facts may be the wrong approach to combating scientific resistance.

Guests:

Melanie Brickman Borchard - Director of Life Sciences Conferences at New York Academy of Sciences Nancy Tomes - professor of history at Stony Brook University Allan Brandt - professor of history of science and medicine at Harvard University. Author of “The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined AmericaSheila Jasanoff - Director of Program on Science, Technology and Society and professor of environment, science and technology at Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University Michael Dahlstrom - Associate Director of Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, and associate professor at Iowa State University Matthew Nisbet - professor of communication and public policy at Northeastern University Arthur (Art) Caplan - professor and founding head of medical ethics at NYU School of Medicine

You've Got Whale

Oct 29, 2018 50:31

Description:

SMS isn’t the original instant messaging system.  Plants can send chemical warnings through their leaves in a fraction of a second.  And while we love being in the messaging loop – frenetically refreshing our browsers – we miss out on important conversations that no Twitter feed or inbox can capture. That’s because eavesdropping on the communications of non-human species requires the ability to decode their non-written signals.

Dive into Arctic waters where scientists make first-ever recordings of the socializing clicks and squeals of narwhals, and find out how climate shifts may pollute their acoustic landscape.  Also, why the chemical defense system of plants has prompted one biologist to give greenery an “11 on the scale of awesomeness.” And, you can’t see them, but they sure can sense one another: how communicating microbes plan their attack.

Guests:

Susanna Blackwell – Bio-acoustician with Greeneridge Sciences. Hear her recordings of narwhals here. Simon Gilroy – Professor of botany, University of Wisconsin, Madison. His video of glowing green caterpillar-munched plants can be viewed here. Peter Greenberg – Professor of microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle

YGW1_Blackwell

Oct 28, 2018 11:47

Description:

DNA is Not Destiny

Oct 15, 2018 51:40

Description:

Heredity was once thought to be straightforward.  Genes were passed in an immutable path from parents to you, and you were stuck – or blessed – with what you got.  DNA didn’t change. 

But now we know that’s not true.   Epigenetic factors, such as your environment and your lifestyle, control how your genes are expressed.  Meanwhile, the powerful tool CRISPR allows us to tinker with the genes themselves.  DNA is no longer destiny.

Hear the results from the NASA twin study and what happened to astronaut Scott Kelly’s DNA after a year on the International Space Station.  Plus, whether there’s evidence that epigenetic changes can be passed down.  And, if we can wipe out deadly malaria by engineering the mosquito genome for sterility, should we do it?

Guests:

Scott Kelly – Former military test pilot and astronaut and author of “Infinite WonderCarl Zimmer – Columnist for The New York Times, author of “She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity" Christopher Mason – Associate professor of genetics and computational biology at Weill Cornell Medicine Michael Snyder – Chair of the genetics department and director of the Center for Genomics and Precision Medicine at Stanford University Nicole Gladish – PhD candidate, department of medical genetics, University of British Columbia

Creature Discomforts

Oct 8, 2018 50:31

Description:

Okay you animals, line up: stoned sloths, playful pandas, baleful bovines, and vile vultures.  We’ve got you guys pegged, thanks to central casting. 

Or do we?  Our often simplistic view of animals ignores their remarkable adaptive abilities.  Stumbly sloths are in fact remarkably agile and a vulture’s tricks for thermoregulation can’t be found in an outdoors store. 

Our ignorance about some animals can even lead to their suffering and to seemingly intractable problems.  The South American nutria was brought to Louisiana to supply the fur market.  But the species got loose and tens of millions of these rodents are destroying the environment.  It literally has a bounty on its tail.

Hear about research that corrects a menagerie of misunderstandings about our fellow furry, feathered, and scaly animals, and how getting over ourselves to know them better can have practical benefits. Will you still recoil from termites if you learn that they are relevant to the future of robots, global warming, and smart design?

Guests:

Lucy Cooke – Zoologist, broadcaster and author of “The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of WildlifeChris Metzler – Co-director and producer of the film Rodents of Unusual Size Lisa Margonelli – Journalist and author of "Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology"

Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself

Sep 24, 2018 51:13

Description:

Do we still need doctors?  There are umpteen alternative sources of medical advice, including endless and heartfelt health tips from people without medical degrees. Frankly, self-diagnosis with a health app is easier and cheaper than a trip to a clinic.   Since we’re urged to be our own health advocate and seek second opinions, why not ask Alexa or consult with a celebrity about what ails us?

Find out if you can trust these alternative medical advice platforms.  Plus, lessons from an AIDS fighter about ignoring the findings of medical science.  

And, if AI can diagnose better than an MD, will we stop listening to doctors altogether?

It’s our monthly look at critical thinking … but don’t take our word for it!

Guests:

Katherine Foley – Science and health reporter at Quartz, and author of the article “Alexa is a Terrible DoctorPaul Offit – Professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Perlman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of “Bad Advice: Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of  Health Information Richard Marlink – Director Rutgers Global Health Institute. Shinjini Kundu – Research Fellow, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Stuart Schlisserman – Internist, Palo Alto, California

New Water Worlds

Aug 27, 2018 50:31

Description:

The seas are rising.   It’s no longer a rarity to see kayakers paddling through downtown Miami.  By century’s end, the oceans could be anywhere from 2 to 6 feet higher, threatening millions of people and property.  But humans once knew how to adapt to rising waters.  As high water threatens to drown our cities, can we learn do it again.

Hear stories of threatened land: submerged Florida suburbs, the original sunken city (Venice), and the U.S. East Coast, where anthropologists rush to catalogue thousands of low-lying historical and cultural sites in harm’s way, including Jamestown, Virginia and ancient Native American sites.  

But also, stories of ancient adaptability: from the First American tribes of the Colusa in South Florida to the ice age inhabitants of Doggerland.  And, modern approaches to staying dry: stilt houses, seawalls, and floating cities.

Guests:

Jeff Goodell– Journalist and author of “The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized WorldBrian Fagan– Archaeologist and Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of California Santa Barbara, and author of many books including “The Attacking Ocean: the Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels”  David Anderson– Professor of Anthropology, University of Tennessee.  His team’s PLOS ONE paper is “Sea-level rise and archaeological site destruction.” His DINAA site can be used to generate maps of where people were living in the past, up to ca. 15,000 years ago.  

It's Habitable Forming

Aug 13, 2018 50:31

Description:

There’s evidence for a subsurface lake on Mars, and scientists are excitedly using the “h” word.  Could the Red Planet be habitable, not billions of years ago, but today?  While we wait – impatiently – for a confirmation of this result, we review the recipe for habitable alien worlds. For example, the moon Titan has liquid lakes on its surface.  Could they be filled with Titanites?

Dive into a possible briny, underground lake on Mars … protect yourself from the methane-drenched rain on a moon of Saturn … and cheer on the missed-it-by-that-much planets, asteroids Ceres and Vesta.

Also, do tens of billions of potentially habitable extrasolar planets mean that Earth is not unique?

Guests:

Nathalie Cabrol – Planetary scientist, Director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute Jack Holt – Geophysicist, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona Jani Radebaugh – Planetary scientist and professor of geology, Brigham Young University Marc Rayman –  Mission Director and Chief Engineer of NASA’s Dawn Mission Phil Plait – Astronomer, blogger, and widely known as the Bad Astronomer

Skeptic Check: Brain Gain

Aug 6, 2018 50:31

Description:

Looking to boost your brainpower?  Luckily, there are products promising to help.  Smart drugs, neurofeedback exercises, and brain-training video games all promise to improve your gray matter’s performance.  But it’s uncertain whether these products really work.  Regulatory agencies have come down hard on some popular brain training companies for false advertising. But other brain games have shown benefits in clinical trials.  And could we skip the brain workout altogether and pop a genius pill instead? 

In our monthly look at critical thinking, we separate the pseudo from the science of commercial cognitive enhancement techniques.

Guests:

Caroline Williams– Science journalist and author of “My Plastic Brain: One Woman’s Yearlong Journey to Discover If Science Can Improve Her MindAdam Gazzaley– Neuroscientist, University of California, San Francisco, and the executive director of Neuroscape.  His book is “The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High Tech World.”   Amy Arnsten– Professor of neuroscience and psychology at Yale Medical School Kevin Roose– Journalist for the New York Times. Leonard Mlodinow– Physicist and author of “Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change

Identity Crisis

Jul 24, 2018 51:34

Description:

DNA is the gold standard of identification.  Except when it’s not.  In rare cases when a person has two complete sets of DNA, that person’s identity may be up in the air.  Meanwhile, DNA ancestry tests are proving frustratingly vague: dishing up generalities about where you came from rather than anything specific.  And decoding a genome is still relatively expensive and time-consuming.   So, while we refine our ability to work with DNA, the search is on for a quick and easy biomarker test to tell us who we are.  

In this hour: the story of chimeras – people who have two sets of DNA; a reporter whose ancestry tests revealed she is related to Napoleon and Marie Antoinette; and the eyes have it in Somaliland, the first nation to use iris scans in an election.  Find out why your irises may be what ultimately distinguishes you from the crowd.

On Thin Ice

Jul 17, 2018 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  Water is essential for life – that we know.  But the honeycomb lattice that forms when you chill it to zero degrees Celsius is also inexorably intertwined with life.

Ice is more than a repository for water that would otherwise raise sea levels.  It’s part of Earth’s cooling system, a barrier preventing decaying organic matter from releasing methane gas, and a vault entombing ancient bacteria and other microbes. 

From the Arctic to the Antarctic, global ice is disappearing.  Find out what’s at stake as atmospheric CO2 threatens frozen H2O. 

Guests:

Peter Wadhams- Emeritus Professor of Ocean Physics at Cambridge University in the U.K. and the author of A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic Eric Rignot- Earth systems scientist, University of California, Irvine, senior research scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Åsmund Asdal- Biologist, Nordic Genetic Resource Center, coordinator for operations and management of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Svalbard, Norway John Priscu- Polar biologist, Montana State University

What Goes Around

Jul 10, 2018 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  It’s not just tin cans and newspapers.  One man says that, from a technical standpoint, everything can be recycled – cigarette butts, yoga mats, dirty diapers.  Even radioactive waste.  You name it, we can recycle it.  But we choose not to.  Find out why we don’t, and how we could do more. 

Plus, a solar-powered device that pulls water from the air – even desert air. 

And, something upon which life depends that seems dirt cheap, but can’t be replenished: soil.  What happens when we pave over this living resource? 

Frogs' Pants

Jul 3, 2018 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  It’s one of the most bizarre biological experiments ever. In the 18th century, a scientist fitted a pair of tailor-made briefs on a male frog to determine the animal’s contribution to reproduction.  The process of gestation was a mystery and scientists had some odd-ball theories.  

Today, a 5th grader can tell you how babies are made, but we still don’t know exactly what life is.  In our quest to understand, we’re still at the frogs’ pants stage.

Find out why conception took centuries to figure out.  Also, why the 1970s Viking experiments, specifically designed to detect life on Mars, couldn’t give us a definitive answer.  Plus, can knowing where life isn’t help define what it is?  Take a tour of the world’s barren places. 

Guests:

Jay Gallentine - Author of books about space and space history. Edward Dolnick - Author and former science writer at the Boston Globe.  His book is The Seeds of Life: From Aristotle to Da Vinci, from Shark’s Teeth to Frogs’ Pants. Chris McKay - Planetary scientist, NASA Ames Research Center. 

Free Range Dinosaurs

Jun 26, 2018 50:31

Description:

Dinosaurs are once again stomping and snorting their way across the screen of your local movie theater.  But these beefy beasts stole the show long before CGI brought them back in the Jurassic Park blockbusters.  Dinosaurs had global dominance for the better part of 165 million years. Compare that with a measly 56 million years of primate activity. We bow to our evolutionary overlords in this episode.  

Our conversation about these thunderous lizards roams freely as we talk with the paleontologist who discovered Dreadnoughtus – the largest land lizard unearthed to date.  Kenneth Lacovara asks that we please stop using the term “dinosaur” to refer to something outmoded, when in fact the dinos were among the most well-adapted, long-lived creatures ever.

Plus, intriguing dino facts: if you like eating chicken, you like eating dinosaurs, and how T-Rex’s puny arms helped him survive. 

Also, with dozens of new species unearthed every year – nearly one a week – why we’ve entered the golden age of dinosaur discovery.

Guest:

Kenneth Lacovara– Paleontologist who unearthed the largest land dinosaur known: Dreadnoughtus.  He is also founding dean of the School of Earth and Environment at Rowan University, director of the Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park, and author of “Why Dinosaurs Matter.”

 

Perpetual Emotion Machine

Jun 19, 2018 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  Get ready for compassionate computers that feel your pain, share your joy, and generally get where you’re coming from.  Computers that can tell by your voice whether you’re pumped up or feeling down, or sense changes in heart rate, skin, or muscle tension to determine your mood.  Empathetic electronics that you can relate to.

But wait a minute – we don’t always relate to other humans.  Our behavior can be impulsive and even self-sabotaging – our emotions are often conflicted and irrational.   We cry when we’re happy.  Frown when we’re pensive.  A suite of factors, much of them out of our control, govern how we behave, from genes to hormones to childhood experience. 

One study says that all it takes for a defendant to receive a harsher sentence is a reduction in the presiding judge’s blood sugar.

So grab a cookie, and find out how the heck we can build computers that understand us anyway. 

Guests:

Rosalind Picard – Professor at the MIT Media Lab and co-founder of the companies Affectiva and Empatica.  Robert Sapolsky – Professor of neuroscience at Stanford University, and author of Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

Skeptic Check: Flat Earth

Jun 12, 2018 50:31

Description:

The Earth is not round.  Technically, it’s an oblate spheroid.  But for some people, the first statement is not even approximately correct.  Flat Earthers believe that our planet resembles – not a slightly squashed grapefruit – but a thick pancake.   A journalist who covered a Flat Earth convention describes the rationale behind this ever-more popular belief. 

So how do you establish science truth?  We look at the difference between a truly scientific examination of extraordinary claims and approaches that feel and look science-y but aren’t.  

Find out how one man will use telescopes and balloons in the desert to demonstrate that the Earth is a globe, while a biologist runs a test on the waters of Loch Ness to see if it contains prehistoric reptile DNA.

And what happens when amateur investigators chase ghosts, UFOs, and Bigfoot with science instruments, but without an understanding of the scientific method.

Guests:

James Underdown– Executive Director of the Center for Inquiry in Los Angeles and of the Independent Investigations Group. The results of his experiment will be posted here. Alex Moshakis– Journalist who writes for the Observer, the Guardian, and Esquire.  His article on the U.K.’s first Flat Earth convention appeared in May, 2018 in the     Harry Dyer–  Lecturer in education at the University of East Anglia.  His article about the flat earth convention is titled "I Watched an Entire Flat Earth Convention for my Research, Here is What I Learned." Neil Gemmell– Professor in the Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, New Zealand Sharon Hill– Geologist, science writer, speaker, and author of "Scientifical Americans: The Culture of Amateur Paranormal Researchers."

Imagining Planets

Jun 5, 2018 51:43

Description:

Pluto, we hardly knew ye.  Well, not anymore!  Until recently, Pluto and Mars were respectively the least-known and best-known planet-sized bodies in our Solar System.  Thanks to the New Horizons spacecraft, our picture of Pluto has changed from a featureless dot to a place where we can name the geologic features.  And with rovers and orbiters surveying the red planet, we now know much more about Mars than our parents ever did.  Examining our planetary backyard has provided insight into the trillion other planets in our galaxy.

Dive into a mountain lake and trek though the driest desert on Earth with a scientist who’s had not one but two near-fatal incidents in these extreme environments. Find out what questions compel her to keep returning.

And scientists on the New Horizons mission remember why the nail-biting Pluto flyby almost failed at the last minute. Find out what surprises Pluto offered and what the mission might uncover as it heads to its next, outer solar-system target.

Also, from Earth-like planets to super Earths and water worlds: a tour of some of Kepler’s most intriguing extrasolar planets.

Guests:

Nathalie Cabrol- Planetary scientist at the SETI Institute. Alan Stern- Principal Investigator for NASA’s New Horizon mission, and co-author with David Grinspoon of “Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto.” David Grinspoon- Senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, and co-author with Alan Stern of “Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto.” Jack Lissauer- Space scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center.

Time on Your Side

May 29, 2018 51:16

Description:

ENCORE  Time passes like an arrow, but what if it flew like a boomerang?  Scientists are learning how to reverse time’s most relentless march: aging.  But before we rewind time, let’s try to define it, because there’s plenty of debate about just what time is – a fundamental component of the universe or a construct of our consciousness?

Find out why, even though pondering the future may cause heartburn, mental time travel has an evolutionary survival advantage.

Plus, your brain as a clock; why “brain age” may be more accurate than chronological age in determining lifespan.

And while a million-dollar monetary prize hopes to inspire researchers to crack the aging code, one group claims they already have.  By reprogramming special genes, they’ve reversed the biological clocks in mice.  Find out when human trials begin. 

Guests:

Dean Buonomano– Neurobiologist and psychologist at UCLA and author of “Your Brain is a Time MachineJames Cole– Postdoc studying neuroanatomy, Imperial College London  Joon Yun– Radiologist, head of Palo Alto Investors and creator and sponsor of the Palo Alto Longevity prize Pradeep Reddy– Research Scientist at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California

Your Brain's Reins

May 22, 2018 51:15

Description:

ENCORE  You are your brain.  But what happens when your brain changes for the worse – either by physical injury or experience?  Are you still responsible for your actions?

We hear how the case of a New York man charged with murder was one of the first to introduce neuroscience as evidence in court.  Plus, how technology hooks us – a young man so addicted to video games, he lacked social skills, or even a desire to eat.  Find out how technology designers conspire against his digital detox.

Also, even if your brain is intact and your only task is choosing a sock color, are you really in control?  How your unconscious directs even mundane behavior … and how you can outwit it. 

Guests:

Kevin Davis – Author of The Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America’s Courtrooms Hilarie Cash – Co-founder and chief clinical officer of reSTART, an internet addiction recovery program Adam Alter – Assistant professor of marketing and psychology at New York University, Stern School of Business, and author of Irresistible: the Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked Peter Vishton – Psychologist at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia

You Are Exposed

May 15, 2018 52:12

Description:

There’s no place like “ome.”  Your microbiome is highly influential in determining your health.  But it’s not the only “ome” doing so.  Your exposome – environmental exposure over a lifetime – also plays a role.

Hear how scientists hope to calculate your entire exposome, from food to air pollution to water contamination.

Plus, new research on the role that microbes play in the development of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, and the hot debate about when microbes first colonize the body.  Could a fetus have its own microbiome?

Also, choose your friends wisely: studies of microbe-swapping gazelles reveal the benefits – and the downsides – of being social.

And, why sensors on future toilets will let you do microbiome analysis with every flush.

Guests:

Rob Knight – Professor of Pediatrics, Computer Science and Engineering, and Director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at the University of California, San Diego

Vanessa Ezenwa – Ecologist at the University of Georgia

Indira Mysorekar – Microbiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri

Gary Miller – Professor of public health at the Rollins School of Public Health and director of the HERCULES Exposome Research Center at Emory University. After August 2018, his lab will be at Columbia University.

We Are VR

May 7, 2018 51:09

Description:

Will virtual reality make you a better person?  It’s been touted as the “ultimate empathy machine,” and one that will connect people who are otherwise emotionally and physically isolated.  The promise of the technology has come a long way since BiPiSci last took a VR tour.  Find out why researchers say virtual reality is no longer an exclusive club for gamers, but a powerful tool to build community.

Seth puts on a VR headset for an immersive experience of a man who’s evicted from his apartment.  Find out why researchers say the experience creates empathy and sparks activism to address homelessness.

Also, why our spouses will love our avatars as much as they do us, the dark side of VR as a space for unchecked harassment, and consider: what if you’re already living a simulation created by your brain?

Guests:

Peter Rubin – Editor for Wired, author of “Future Presence: How Virtual reality is Changing Human Connection, Intimacy, and the Limits of Ordinary Life” Jeremy Bailenson – Professor of Communication at Stanford University, founding director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab, and author of “Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do” Carolina Cruz-Neira – Director of the Emerging Analytics Center at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock Thomas Metzinger – Philosopher of Mind and Cognitive Science, at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany

What Have You Got To Move

May 1, 2018 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  Whether they swim, slither, jump, or fly, animal locomotion is more than just an urge to roam: it’s necessary for survival.  Evolution has come up with ingenious schemes to get from here to there.  Hear how backbones evolved as a consequence of fish needing to wag their fins, and why no animals have wheels. 

Motion is more than locomotion. Test the physics of movement in your kitchen and find out what popping corn has in common with the first steam engine.

And while physics insists that atoms are always moving, find how what happens to these basic building blocks when placed in the coldest spot in the universe.  The Cold Atom Laboratory chills material to nearly absolute zero, creating some weird superfluid effects as atoms slow down.  

Guests:

Matt Wilkinson– Zoologist, science writer, University of Cambridge, author of Restless Creatures: The Story of Life in Ten Movements. Technology. Helen Czerski–physicist, University College London, author of Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday LifeAnita Sengupta– Aerospace Engineer and project manager of the Cold Atom Laboratory at NASA’S Jet Propulsion Lab.

High Moon

Apr 24, 2018 51:39

Description:

"The moon or bust” is now officially bust.  No private company was able to meet the Lunar X Prize challenge, and arrange for a launch by the 2018 deadline.  The $30 million award goes unclaimed, but the race to the moon is still on. Find out who wants to go and why this is not your parents’ – or grandparents’ – space race.

With or without a cash incentive, private companies are still eyeing our cratered companion, hoping to set hardware down on its dusty surface.  Meanwhile, while the U.S. waffles about a return to the moon, India and China are sending a second round of robots skyward.  And a proposed orbiting laboratory – the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway – may literally put scientists over, and around, the moon.

The moon continues to entice sci-fi writers, and Andy Weir’s new novel describes a vibrant lunar colony. Its premise of colonists launched from Kenya is not entirely fiction: the nation is one of many in Africa with space programs.

Guests:

Andy Weir – Author of “The Martian” and, most recently, “Artemis” Allen Herbert – Vice President of Business Development and Strategy for NanoRacks, LLC and author of an article about emerging space programs in Africa Greg Schmidt – Deputy director of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute at NASA Ames Research Center Jason Crusan – NASA Director of Advanced Exploration Systems for Human Space Flight

Skeptic Check: Political Scientist

Apr 17, 2018 51:39

Description:

Hundreds of thousands of scientists took to the streets during the March for Science.  The divisive political climate has spurred some scientists to deeper political engagement – publicly challenging lawmakers and even running for office themselves.   But the scientist-slash-activist model itself is contested, even by some of their colleagues.

Find out how science and politics have been historically intertwined, what motivates scientists to get involved, and the possible benefits and harm of doing so. Is objectivity damaged when scientists advocate?

Plus, how Michael Mann became a reluctant activist, whether his “street fighter” approach is effective in defending climate science, and the price he and his family paid for speaking out.

Also, how the organization 314 Action is helping a record number of scientists run for Congress.  But will the group support only Democratic contenders?

Guests:                        

Robert Young – Geologist, Western Carolina University Douglas Haynes – Historian of medicine and science, University of California, Irvine Michael Mann – Professor, atmospheric science, Director, Earth System Science Center, Penn State University Shaugnessy Naughton – Founder and President, 314 Action Alex Berezow – Senior fellow of biomedical science at the American Council on Science and Health

Brain Dust

Apr 10, 2018 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  Know your brain?  Think again.  Driven by a hidden agenda, powered by an indecipherable web of neurons, and influenced by other brains, your grey matter is a black box.

To "know thyself" may be a challenge, and free will nonexistent, but maybe more technology can shed light on the goings on in your noggin, and the rest of your body.

Find out how tiny implanted sensors called “brain dust” may reveal what really going on.

Plus, the day when your brain is uploaded into a computer as ones and zeros.  Will you still be you?

Guests:

David Eagleman – Neuroscientist, Stanford University, author of The Brain: the Story of You. Michel Maharbiz – Electrical engineer, University of California, Berkeley.

Hawkingravity

Apr 2, 2018 52:45

Description:

Stephen Hawking felt gravity’s pull.  His quest to understand this feeble force spanned his career, and he was the first to realize that black holes actually disappear – slowly losing the mass of everything they swallow in a dull, evaporative glow called Hawking radiation. 

But one of gravity’s deepest puzzles defied even his brilliant mind.  How can we connect theories of gravity on the large scale to what happens on the very small?  The Theory of Everything remains one of the great challenges to physicists.

Also, the latest on deciphering the weirdness of black holes and why the gravitational wave detector LIGO has added colliding neutron stars to its roster of successes.

Plus, a fellow physicist describes Dr. Hawking’s extraordinary deductive abilities and what it was like to collaborate with him.  And, a surprise awaits Molly when she meets a local string theorist to discuss his search for the Theory of Everything.

Guests:

Leonard Mlodinow– physicist and author of “The Grand Design” with Stephen Hawking, and most recently, “Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change.”  Janna Levin– Physicist and astronomer, Barnard College, Columbia University, and the author of, “Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space.”  Richard Camuccio– Graduate research assistant at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy, a LIGO collaborator.  Wahltyn Rattray – Grad-student, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy. Raphael Bousso– Physicist, Berkeley Center for Theoretical Physics, University of California-Berkeley.   

Skeptic Check: Your Inner Lab Coat

Mar 27, 2018 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  Sherlock Holmes doesn’t have a science degree, yet he thinks rationally – like a scientist. You can too! Learn the secrets of being irritatingly logical from the most famous sleuth on Baker Street. Plus, discover why animal trackers 100,000 years ago may have been the first scientists, and what we can learn from about deductive reasoning from today’s African trackers.

Also, the author of a book on teaching physics to your dog provides tips for unleashing your inner scientist, even if you hated science in school.

And newly-minted scientists imagine classes they wish were available to them as grad students, such as “You Can’t Save the World 101.”

Guests:

Louis Liebenberg - Co-founder and Executive Director of Cybertracker Conservation, associate of human evolutionary biology, Harvard University Maria Konnikova - Psychologist, journalist and author of Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes. Her weekly blog on psychology is at com. Chad Orzel - Physicist and astronomer at Union College, and author of How to Teach Physics to Your Dog and Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist And newly-minted scientists Michael Kemp, Toni Lyn Morelli, Ilona Kotlewska, and Yonatan Lipsitz

First released February 9, 2015.

The X-Flies

Mar 20, 2018 50:31

Description:

Insect populations are declining.  But before you say “good riddance,” consider that insects are the cornerstone of many ecosystems.  They are dinner for numerous animal species and are essential pollinators.   Mammals are loved, but they are not indispensable.  Insects are.

Meanwhile, marvel at the extraordinary capabilities of some insects.  The zany aerial maneuvers of the fly are studied by pilots.  And, contrary to the bad press, cockroaches are very clean creatures.  Also, take a listen as we host some Madagascar hissing cockroaches in our studio (yes, they audibly hiss).

Plus, how insects first evolved … and the challenges in controlling lethal ones.  Are genetically-engineering mosquitoes the best way to combat malaria?

Guests:

Erica McAlister – Entomologist, Senior Curator of diptera in the Department of Entomology, Natural History Museum in London, author of “The Secret Life of Flies Jessica Ware – Evolutionary biologist and entomologist at Rutgers University Anthony James – Vector biologist, University of California, Irvine Lauren Esposito – Arachnologist, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

Shell on Earth

Mar 13, 2018 51:31

Description:

ENCORE  We all may retreat to our protective shells, but evolution has perfected the calcite variety to give some critters permanent defense against predators.  So why did squids and octopuses lose their shells?  Find out what these cephalopods gained by giving up the shell game.

Plus why Chesapeake Bay oyster shells are shells of their former selves.  What explains the absence of the dinner-plate sized oysters of 500,000 years ago, and how conservation paleobiology is probing deep time for strategies to bring back these monster mollusks.

Also, was the Earth once encased in a giant, continental shell?  A new theory of plate tectonics.  Land ho!

Guests:

Rowan Lockwood – Conservation paleobiologist at the College of William and Mary.  Al Tanner – Ph.D. student in paleobiology at the University of Bristol, U.K. Mike Brown – Professor of Geology, University of Maryland

Space: Why Go There?

Mar 6, 2018 51:07

Description:

It takes a lot of energy and technology to leave terra firma. But why rocket into space when there’s so much to be done on Earth?  From the practical usefulness of satellites to the thrill of exploring other worlds, let us count the ways.

The launch of a NOAA weather satellite to join its twin provides unparalleled observation of storms, wildfires, and even lightning.  Find out what it’s like to watch hurricanes form from space.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen countries want their own satellites to help solve real-world problems, including tracking disease.  Learn how one woman is helping make space accessible to everyone.

Plus, now that we’ve completed our grand tour of the Solar System, which bodies are targets for return missions and which for human exploration?  

Guests:

Sarah Cruddas – Space journalist, broadcaster, and author based in the U.K. Jamese Sims – GOES-R Project Manager at NOAA Danielle Wood – Assistant professor, MIT Media Lab, Director of the Space Enabled Research Group Jim Green – NASA Planetary Science Division Director 

Meet Your Robot Barista

Feb 27, 2018 50:31

Description:

Move over Roomba.  Café robots are the latest in adorable automation. And they may be more than a fad. As robots and artificial intelligence enter the workforce, they could serve up more than machine-made macchiato.  Digital workers are in training to do a wide variety jobs. Will humans be handed the mother of all pink slips?

We sip lattes in a robot café and contemplate the future of work. Some say the workplace will have more machines than people, while others maintain that A.I. will augment, not replace, human workers.

Meanwhile, future intelligent automation may not come from Silicon Valley.  Why China wants to become the global center for A.I.   

Plus, NASA’s first bipedal humanoid robot - Valkyrie, a prototype of a construction worker for use on Mars - teaches us that moving like a human is not as easy as it looks.

Guests:

Martin Ford – Futurist who writes about the impact of robots and artificial intelligence on society; author of “The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless FuturePeter Norvig – Director of research, Google Owen Churchill – Journalist; his article “China’s AI dreams” appeared in Nature, January 18, 2018  Kimberly Hambuchen – Aeronautics engineer; the principal technologist of robotics at NASA’s Johnson Space Center

Quantum: Why We Want 'Em

Feb 20, 2018 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  Einstein thought that quantum mechanics might be the end of physics, and most scientists felt sure it would never be useful.  Today, everything from cell phones to LED lighting is completely dependent on the weird behavior described by quantum mechanics.

But the story continues.  Quantum computers may be millions of times faster than your laptop, and applying them to big data could be transformational for biology and health.  Quantum entanglement – “spooky” action at a distance – may not allow faster-than-light communication, but could be important in other ways.  And there’s even the suggestion that quantum mechanics defines the difference between life and death.

Quantum physics.  It’s weird and exotic.  But it’s how the universe works.

Guests:

Seth Lloyd –  Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Johnjoe McFadden – Lecturer at the University of Surrey, and co-author of Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology Michael Raymer – Professor of physics at the University of Oregon, and author of Quantum Physics: What Everyone Needs to Know.

 

Bacteria to the Future

Feb 13, 2018 50:31

Description:

Why did the chicken take antibiotics?  To fatten it up and prevent bacterial infection. As a result, industrial farms have become superbug factories, threatening our life-saving antibiotics.

Find out how our wonder drugs became bird feed, and how antibiotic resistant bugs bred on the farm end up on your dinner plate.  A journalist tells the story of the 1950s fad of “acronizing” poultry; the act of dipping it in an antibiotic bath so it can sit longer on a refrigerator shelf.

Plus, some ways we can avoid a post-antibiotic era. The steps one farm took to make their chickens antibiotic free… and resurrecting an old therapy: enlisting viruses to target and destroy multi-drug resistant bacteria.  Set your “phages” to stun. 

Guests:

Maryn McKenna - Investigative journalist who specializes in public health and food policy. Author of “Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats.Ryland Young - Biochemist, head of the Center for Phage Technology at Texas A&M University.

Creative Brains

Feb 6, 2018 50:31

Description:

Your cat is smart, but its ability to choreograph a ballet or write computer code isn’t great.  A lot of animals are industrious and clever, but humans are the only animal that is uniquely ingenious and creative. 

Neuroscientist David Eagleman and composer Anthony Brandt discuss how human creativity has reshaped the world. Find out what is going on in your brain when you write a novel, paint a watercolor, or build a whatchamacallit in your garage.

But is Homo sapiens’ claim on creativity destined to be short-lived?  Why both Eagleman and Brandt are prepared to step aside when artificial intelligence can do their jobs.

Guests:

Anthony Brandt – Professor of Composition and Theory, Rice University, and co-author of “The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the WorldDavid Eagleman – Neuroscientist, Stanford University, and co-author, “The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World”

Skeptic Check: New UFO Evidence

Jan 30, 2018 50:31

Description:

It was a shocker of a story, splashed across the New York Times front page: The existence of a five-year long, hidden Pentagon investigation of UFOs.  With one-third of the American public convinced that aliens are visiting Earth, could this study finally provide the proof?

We consider how this story came to light and what the $22 million program has produced.  Does the existence of a secret study mean there’s now decent proof of extraterrestrial craft in our skies?  We take a look at the evidence made public so far.

And why, six years after the study ended, are we learning about it now?

Guests:

James Oberg - Space journalist, historian and former NASA employee James McGaha - Retired Air Force pilot, astronomer and director of the Grasslands Observatory Ben Radford - Deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine and a Research Fellow with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry 

DIY Spaceflight

Jan 23, 2018 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  For a half-century, space has been the playground of large, government agencies.  While everyone could dream of becoming an astronaut, few could actually do so.

Things have changed.  We hear how a geeky son of immigrant parents incentivized the ground-breaking launch of SpaceShipOne, and spawned the commercial rocket industry. 

And while you’re waiting for a ticket to ride, why not build your own satellite to keep tabs on the kids or just check out the back forty?  A CubeSat could be your next basement project.

And the hitherto untold story of how black women mathematicians a half-century ago helped get a man into orbit, and astronauts to the moon.

Guests:

Margot Lee Shetterly – Author of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. Simon “Pete” Worden – Chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and former Center Director of NASA Ames Research Center Julian Guthrie – Journalist and author of How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight Eddie Allison – Head of Aviation Services, Orbital Access Sean League – Cofounder and Spacecraft Engineering Director, SpaceFab.US John Gruener – Planetary Scientist, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston   Takanori Shibata – Chief Senior Research Scientist and Professor, National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology 

Geology is Destiny

Jan 16, 2018 51:54

Description:

ENCORE  The record of the rocks is not just the history of Earth; it’s your history too.  Geologists can learn about events going back billions of years that influenced – and even made possible – our present-day existence and shaped our society.

If the last Ice Age had been a bit warmer, the rivers and lakes of the Midwest would have been much farther north and the U.S. might still be a small country of 13 states.  If some Mediterranean islands hadn’t twisted a bit, no roads would have led to Rome.

Geology is big history, and the story is on-going.  Human activity is changing the planet too, and has introduced its own geologic era, the Anthropocene.  Will Earthlings of a hundred million years from now dig up our plastic refuse and study it the way we study dinosaur bones?

Plus, the dodo had the bad luck to inhabit a small island and couldn’t adapt to human predators.  But guess what?  It wasn’t as dumb as you think.

Guests:

Walter Alvarez – Professor of Geology, University of California, Berkeley, and author of A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves David Grinspoon – Senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, and author of Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future Eugenia Gold – Instructor, Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University

Are Animals Really That Smart?

Jan 9, 2018 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  You own a cat, or is it vice versa?  Family friendly felines have trained their owners to do their bidding.  Thanks to a successful evolutionary adaptation, they rule your house.

Find out how your cat has you wrapped around its paw.  And it’s not the only animal to outwit us.  Primatologist Frans de Waal shares the surprising intellectual capabilities of chimps, elephants, and bats.  In fact, could it be that we’re simply not smart enough to see how smart animals are?

Plus, the discovery of a fossilized dinosaur brain.  Were those lumbering lizards more clever than we thought?  

Guests:

Alex Liu – Paleontologist, University of Cambridge, U.K. Abigail Tucker – Author of The Lion in the Living Room: How Housecats Tamed Us and Took Over the World Frans de Waal – Primatologist, psychologist, Emory University, and author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

Weather Vain

Jan 2, 2018 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it. Not that they haven’t tried.  History is replete with attempts to control the weather, but we’d settle for an accurate seven-day forecast.

Find out how sophisticated technology might improve accuracy, including predicting the behavior of severe storms.  Plus, the age when “weather forecast” was a laughable idea, but why 19th century rebel scientists pursued it anyway.

Also, a meteorologist who was falsely claimed to have “solved” the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle, and a climate scientist recounts the history of trying to control the weather, and the potential future of geoengineering.

Guests:

Cliff Mass – Professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington. Peter Moore – Author of “The Weather Experiment: The Pioneers Who Sought to See the Future.” Steven Miller – Meteorologist, Colorado State University Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere. Alan Robock – Meteorologist and climatologist, Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University, IPCC lead author.

DIY Diagnosis

Dec 26, 2017 51:11

Description:

ENCORE  Got aches and pains?  Critters in the Cretaceous would have been sympathetic.  A new study reveals that painful arthritis plagued a duck-billed dinosaur.  Scientists impressively diagnosed the animal’s condition without a house call by examining its 70 million-year old bones.

The technology we use for health diagnoses are becoming so sophisticated, some people are prompted to bypass doctors and do it themselves.  Meet a man who had his genome sequenced and then had all 70 gigabytes delivered directly to him so that he could gauge his genetic health.   

Also, practitioners who are trying to improve cognitive function using a battery and a few wires.   Find out the possible risks and benefits of DIY brain stimulation. 

Guests:

Jennifer Anne - Recent graduate, University of Manchester, studies injuries and diseases in dinosaurs. Carl Zimmer - Science writer, author.  National correspondent for STAT, an online magazine that reports on the frontiers of science and medicine.  His weekly column “Matter,” appears in the New York Times. Peter Simpson-Young - A graduate student at the University of Sydney studying neuroscience. Anna Wexler - Neuroethicist and PhD candidate in the History, Anthropology, Science, Technology and Society program at MIT.

Rerouting... Rerouting

Dec 19, 2017 51:11

Description:

Lost your sense of direction?  Blame your GPS. Scientists say that our reliance on dashboard devices is eroding our ability to create cognitive maps and is messing with our minds in general. We don’t even look at landmarks or the landscape anymore.  We’ve become no more than interfaces between our GPS and our steering wheels.

But in other ways, GPS can spark a new appreciation of the physical world. A real-time flyover app reveals the stunning geological features otherwise invisible from our window seat. 

And sensitive electronic sensors let us see where the wild things are and where they go.  Learn how scientists put belts on jellyfish and produce maps that reveal the surprising routes taken by various species – from a single wolf, a group of phytoplankton, or a float of crocodiles.

Plus, one man is not ready to say goodbye to the traditional map.  Find out why this cartographer insists on paper maps, not digital apps. 

Guests:

Julia Frankenstein– Cognitive scientist, Darmstadt Technical University, Germany Greg Milner– Journalist, author of “Pinpoint: How GPS is Changing Technology, Culture, and our Minds”  Amy Myrbo– Earth scientist, University of Minnesota Oliver Uberti– Graphic artist and former senior design editor at National Geographic   James Cheshire– Geographer, University College London.  Co-author, along with Oliver Uberti, of “Where The Animals Go: Tracking Wildlife with Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics.” Tom Hedberg– Mapmaker and publisher at Hedberg Maps in Minneapolis, Minnesota 

With All Our Mites

Dec 12, 2017 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  You are not alone.  You can’t see ‘em, but your face is a festival of face mites. They’ve   evolved with us for millennia.  And a new study finds that hundreds of different tiny spiders, beetles, and – our favorite - book lice make your home theirs.  But before you go bonkers with the disinfectant, consider: eradicating these critters may do more harm than good.  Some are such close evolutionary partners with humans that they keep us healthy and can even reveal something about our ancestry.

But then there are bed bugs.  Pests without redemption.  However, their newly-sequenced genome may help us end their nightly nuisances.  And of course some microscopic critters are deadly.  So when it comes to bugs: when do we accommodate and when do we attack?  

Guests:

Michelle Trautwein – Curator of entomology, California Academy of Sciences Matt Bertone –  Entomologist, North Carolina State University Joshua Benoit -- Insect molecular biologist, University of Cincinnati  Thomas McDade – Biological anthropologist, Northwestern University

Air Apparent

Dec 5, 2017 50:31

Description:

Whether you yawn, gasp, sniff, snore, or sigh, you’re availing yourself of our very special atmosphere.   It’s easy to take this invisible chemical cocktail for granted, but it’s not only essential to your existence: it unites you and every other life form on the planet, dead or alive.  The next breath you take likely includes molecules exhaled by Julius Caesar or Eleanor Roosevelt.

And for some animals, air is an information superhighway.  Dogs navigate with their noses.  Their sniffing snouts help them to identify their owners, detect trace amounts of drugs, and even sense some diseases.  Find out what a dog’s nose knows, and why no amount of bathing and dousing in perfume can mask your personal smelliness.

Plus, why your own schnoz is key to not only enjoying a fine Bordeaux, but to survival of our species.

Guests:

Sam Kean – Science writer, author of “Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us”  Alexandra Horowitz – Dog cognition researcher, Barnard College, author of “Being A Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell”  Rachel Herz – Cognitive neuroscientist, Brown University, author of “Why You Eat What You Eat,” and “The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell”  Ken Givich – Microbiologist, Guittard Chocolate company

Time Travel Agents

Nov 28, 2017 51:00

Description:

ENCORE  Hey, let’s meet last week for coffee.  Okay, we can’t meet in the past … yet.  But could it be only a matter of time before we can?  In an attempt to defy the grandfather paradox, scientists try sending a photon back in time to destroy itself. 

Also, find out how teleportation allows particles to instantaneously skip through space-time and why sending humans wouldn’t violate the laws of physics. 

But before you pack your bags for that instantaneous trip to Paris, we need to understand the nature of time.  A physicist offers a testable theory and ponders how it bears on free will.

Plus, feel as if time comes to a standstill when you’re standing in line?  Tricks for altering your perception of time while you wait.  Some businesses already use them on you.  

Guests:

Richard Muller – Physicist, University of California Berkeley, author of “Now: The Physics of Time”  Seth Lloyd – Professor of quantum mechanical engineering, M.I.T.  Emma Bentley – contributor  David Andrews – Author of, “Why Does the Other Line Always Move Faster?

Wonder Women

Nov 21, 2017 51:00

Description:

We’re hearing about harassment of, and barriers to, women seeking careers in politics and entertainment. But what about science? Science is supposed to be uniquely merit-based and objective. And yet the data say otherwise. A new study reveals widespread harassment of women of color in space science. 

We look at the role that a hostile work environment plays in keeping women from pursuing scientific careers. While more women than ever are holding jobs in science, the percentage in tech and computer science has flattened out or even dropped.  A memo from a software engineer at an Internet giant claims it’s because female brains aren’t suited for tech. Find out what the science says.

Plus, women staring down discrimination. One woman’s reaction to her guidance counselor’s suggestion that she skip calculus and have babies. And SACNAS, the organization changing the face of science for Latina and Native American women.  

Guests:

Jill Tarter - Astronomer, founding member of the SETI Institute, and member of the SETI Institute Board of Trustees.  She is the subject of a biography by writer Sarah Scoles: “Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.”  Angela Saini – Journalist and author of “Inferior: How Science Got Women WrongKathryn Clancy – Associate professor of anthropology, University of Illinois Antonia Franco – Executive director, Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS)

Skeptic Check: Nibiru! (Again!)

Nov 14, 2017 51:00

Description:

Will your calendar entry for November 19th  be your last? Some people say yes, predicting a catastrophic collision between Earth and planet Nibiru on that date and the end of the world.  But it won’t happen, because this hypothesized rogue world doesn’t exist. Nibiru’s malevolent disruptions have been foretold many times, most dramatically in 2012 and three times so far in 2017.  But this year NASA issued a rare public assurance that doomsday was not in the offing.

Find out why the agency decided to speak out. Meanwhile, hoaxes and alarmist stories from the 19th century demonstrate that we have a long history of being susceptible to hooey. 

Also, an astronomer who doesn’t believe that Nibiru is hiding in the outer Solar System, but that Planet X is.  

Guests:

David Morrison – Astronomer and space scientist, NASA Ames Research Center Robert E. Bartholomew – Medical sociologist at Botany College, Auckland, New Zealand, and author of “A Colorful History of Popular DelusionsMichael Brown – Astronomer at the California Institute of Technology

DNA: Nature's Hard Drive

Nov 7, 2017 52:10

Description:

The biotech tool CRISPR lets us do more than shuffle genes.  Researchers have embedded an animated GIF into a living organism’s DNA, proving that the molecule is a great repository for information.  This has encouraged speculation that DNA could be used by aliens to send messages. 

Meanwhile, nature has seized on this powerful storage system in surprising ways.  Scientists have learned that the 98% of our genome – once dismissed as “junk” – contains valuable genetic treasure. Find out what project ENCODE is learning about the “dark genome.”

Plus, how viruses became the original stealth coders, inserting their DNA into ancient bacteria and eventually leading to the development of CRISPR technology.  Discover the potential of this powerful tool, from curing disease to making pig organs transplant-friendly, and the possible dark side of quick-and-easy gene editing.  

Guests:

Paul Davies- Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University Yin Shen- Assistant professor, Department of Neurology, Institute for Human Genetics, University of California – San Francisco, member of ENCODE team  Sam Sternberg- Assistant professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University, and co-author of “A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution”   Hank Greely- Director, Center for Law and the Biosciences; Chair of the Steering Committee of the Center for Biomedical Ethics; and Director, Stanford Program in Neuroscience and Society

Venom Diagram

Oct 31, 2017 51:36

Description:

ENCORE  We all get defensive sometimes.  For some animals, evolution has provided a highly effective mechanism for saying “back off!”.  A puncture by a pair of venom-filled fangs gets the point across nicely. 

But one animal’s poison may be another’s cure.  Some dangerous critters churn out compounds that can be synthesized into life-saving drugs.

Meet the spiny, fanged, and oozing creatures who could help defend us against such illnesses as hypertension and kidney disease. 

Plus, the King of Pain - a scientist who has been stung by more than 80 species of insects in his pursuit of a better understanding of venom’s biochemistry.  Find out which winged stinger scored the highest on his pain index.   

And, why the drug we need most may come from the quietest members of the biosphere: turning to plants for a new generation of antibiotics. 

Guests:

Owen Maercks – Co-owner, East Bay Vivarium, Berkeley, California  Justin Schmidt – Entomologist, University of Arizona, author of “The Sting of the Wild: The Story of the Man Who Got Stung for ScienceChristie Wilcox – author of “Venomous: How Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry”  Cassandra Quave – Ethnobotanist, assistant professor of dermatology, herbarium curator, Emory University 

Sex Post Facto

Oct 24, 2017 51:36

Description:

ENCORE  Birds do it, bees do it, but humans may not do it for much longer.  At least not for having children.  Relying on sex to reproduce could be supplanted by making babies in the lab, where parents-to-be can select genomes that will ensure ideal physical and behavioral traits.

Men hoping to be fathers should act sooner rather than later.  These same advancements in biotechnology could allow women to fertilize their own eggs, making the need for male sperm obsolete. 

Meanwhile, some animals already reproduce asexually.  Find out how female African bees can opt to shut out male bees intent on expanding the hive.  

Will engineering our offspring have a down side?  Sex creates vital genetic diversity, as demonstrated by evolution of wild animals in urban areas.  Find out how birds, rodents and insects use sex in the city to adapt and thrive.

Guests:

Menno Schilthuizen  – Biologist and ecologist, at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Leiden University in The Netherlands.   His New York Times op-ed, “Evolution is Happening Faster Than We Thought,” is here. Matthew Webster –  Evolutionary biologist, Uppsala University, Sweden Hank Greely – Law professor and ethicist, Stanford University, who specializes in the ethical, legal and social implications of biomedical technologies.  His book is “The End of Sex and The Future of Reproduction.”

Too Big To Prove

Oct 16, 2017 52:46

Description:

Celebrations are in order for the physicists who won the 2017 Nobel Prize, for the detection of gravitational waves.  But the road to Stockholm was not easy.  Unfolding over a century, it went from doubtful theory to daring experiments and even disrepute.  100 years is a major lag between a theory and its confirmation, and new ideas in physics may take even longer to prove.

Why it may be your great, great grandchildren who witness the confirmation of string theory.  Plus, the exciting insights that gravitational waves provide into the phenomena of our universe, beginning with black holes.

And, physics has evolved - shouldn’t its rewards?  A case for why the Nobel committee should honor collaborative groups rather than individuals, and the scientific breakthroughs it’s missed. 

Guests: 

Janna Levin- Physicist and astronomer at Barnard College at Columbia University, and the author of the story of LIGO, “Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space.” Roland Pease- BBC reporter, producer, and host of “Science in Action.”  David Gross- Theoretical physicist, string theorist, University of California, Santa Barbara, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, winner, 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics. 

On Defense

Oct 10, 2017 51:00

Description:

ENCORE  The military is a dangerous calling.  But technology can help out, so researchers are constantly trying to make soldiers safer.  Writer Mary Roach investigates how scientists studying so-called human factors are protecting troops from such aggressive foes as heat, noise, and fatigue.  She also learns how bad odors were once considered a secret weapon.

And while soldiers have long used camouflage to help them blend in, insects may be the original masters of disguise.  A discovery in fossilized amber shows that a variety of bugs employed D.I.Y. camouflaging tricks 100 million years ago.

But where is the defense race headed?  The top-secret branch of the Pentagon whose job is to make tomorrow happen today has some ideas.  A reporter shares DARPA’s plan for augmented super-soldiers.

Plus, do we always need a technological boost to stay safe?  Find out how your innate chemical defense system protects you.  It’s an adrenaline rush!

Guests:

Mary Roach  - Science reporter, author of “Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at WarMichael Engel – Entomologist, invertebrate paleontologist, University of Kansas, and senior curator of its Natural History Museum Annie Jacobsen – Journalist, author of The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top-Secret Military Research Agency Brian Hoffman – Professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, author of Adrenaline

It's In Material

Oct 3, 2017 50:31

Description:

Astronauts are made of the “right stuff,” but what about their spacesuits?   NASA’s pressurized and helmeted onesies are remarkable, but they need updating if we’re to boldly go into deep space.   Suiting up on Mars requires more manual flexibility, for example.  Find out what innovative materials might be used to reboot the suit.

Meanwhile, strange new materials are in the pipeline for use on terra firma: spider silk is kicking off the development of biological materials that are inspiring ultra-strong, economical, and entirely new fabrics.  And, while flesh-eating bacteria may seem like an unlikely ally in materials science, your doctor might reach for them one day.  The bacterium’s proteins are the inspiration for a medical molecular superglue.

Plus, an overview of more innovative materials to come, from those that are 3D printed to self-healing concrete.  

Guests:

Nicole Stott– Retired NASA astronaut, artist  Dava Newman– Professor of Astronautics and Engineering Systems, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Andrew Dent– Vice President of Library and Materials Research, Material ConneXion Mark Howarth– Biochemist, Oxford University Mark Miodownik– Materials scientist, University College London, author of “Stuff Matters; Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape Our Man-Made World” 

Skeptic Check: Aliens - The Evidence

Sep 26, 2017 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  Once again the aliens have landed … in theaters.  It’s no spoiler to say that the latest cinematic sci-fi, Arrival, involves extraterrestrials visiting Earth. 

But for some folks, the film’s premise is hardly shocking.  They’re convinced that the aliens have already come.  But is there any proof that aliens are here now or that they landed long ago to, for example, help build the Egyptian pyramids?

Meanwhile, SETI scientists are deploying their big antennas in an effort to establish that extraterrestrials exist far beyond Earth.

Find out why – even if E.T. is out there – one scientist says making contact is a long shot, while another pioneering scientist involved in SETI remains hopeful  … and could aliens be responsible for the peculiar behavior of two star systems now making the news?

Guests:

Ben Radford– Research Fellow with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and managing editor of “Skeptical Inquirer Science Magazine” Paul Davies– Physicist, Director of the Beyond Center at Arizona State University, and author of The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence Jill Tarter– Scientist, Board member, and Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI, SETI Institute

Angles of a Hack

Sep 19, 2017 52:08

Description:

Changed your computer password recently?  We all try to stay one step ahead of the hackers, but the fear factor is increasing.  The risks can range from stolen social security numbers to sabotaging a national power grid. 

Sixty years ago, when hacking meant nosing around the telephone network, it seemed innocent enough.  And not all modern hacking has criminal intent.  Today, there are biohackers who experiment with implanted electronic devices to improve themselves, and geoengineers who propose to hack the climate.  But in our efforts to cool an overheated planet, might we be going down a dangerous path?

In this second of two episodes on hacking, the modern variations of “hacking,” and their consequences. Plus: when does hacking a system improve it?  

Plan of a Hack

Sep 12, 2017 51:48

Description:

Long before cyber criminals were stealing ATM passwords, phone phreaks were tapping into the telephone system. Their motivation was not monetary, but the thrill of defeating a complex, invisible network. Today “hacking” can apply to cyberwarfare, biological tinkering, or even geoengineering.  Often it has negative connotations, but the original definition of “hacking” was something else.

In this first of two episodes on hacking, we look at the original practitioners – the teenagers and mavericks who hacked Ma Bell for thrills - and the difference between hacking for fun and for profit. 

Guests:

Phil Lapsley- Author of “Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws Who Hacked Ma Bell” 

Born Legacy

Sep 5, 2017 52:09

Description:

ENCORE  We know how the stars shine, but how do you make a star?  We take an all-night ride on a high-flying jet – an airborne observatory called SOFIA – to watch astronomers investigate how a star is born.

As for how the universe was born, we know about the Big Bang but modern physics suggests that similar cosmic explosions may be happening all the time, and even hint that we could – in principle – create a new universe in a laboratory.  What does this mean, and how could we do it?

From stars to universes, how it all came to be.

Guests:

Zeeya Merali– Journalist and editor for the Foundational Questions Institute, author of A Big Bang in a Little Room: The Quest to Create New Universes Nick Veronico– Manager of SOFIA Communications for NASA Ames Research Center and Universities Space Research Association Felix Reimann– Freelance photographer Huub Rottgering– Director of Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands Dietmar Lilienthal– Manager, DLR SOFIA Institute, Germany Cornelia Pabst– Astronomer, Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands Charlie Kaminski– Engineering and Maintenance Manager, SOFIA David McAllister– Deputy Program Manager for Operations, SOFIA, NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

Elements Never Forget

Aug 29, 2017 51:50

Description:

ENCORE  It’s elementary, Watson.  Things are in flux – from the elements in the air you breathe to party balloons.   We investigate the massive, historic loss of nitrogen from the atmosphere and meet the culprits behind a modern-day helium shortage. 

But it’s not all a disappearing act: be thankful that oxygen showed up in our atmosphere a few billion years ago.  Meanwhile, atom smashers have recently produced some new elements.  Their appearance was brief, but long enough to fill out the periodic table.

And perhaps the tastiest use of an element – one that gives Seth a chilly reception.

Guests: 

Inna Vishik – Postdoctoral fellow in physics at MIT Roland Pease – Science reporter in the U.K.  Mark Stoyer – Nuclear chemist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Musical Universe

Aug 21, 2017 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  In space, no one can hear you scream, but, using the right instruments, scientists can pick up all types of cosmic vibrations – the sort we can turn into sound.  After a decade of listening, LIGO, a billion-dollar physics experiment, has detected gravitational waves caused by the collision of massive black holes, a brief shaking of spacetime that can be translated into a short squeal. 

We listen to the chirp of black holes crashing into each other and wonder: could the universe contain more than individual sounds, but have actual musical structure? 

A theoretical physicist and jazz saxophonist updates the ancient philosophical concept of the Music of the Spheres to probe the most vexing questions confronting modern cosmology.  Find out how the evolution of the universe resembles an improvisational jazz piece, and the musical inspiration John Coltrane drew from Albert Einstein. 

Guests:

Janna Levin – Physicist, astronomer, Barnard College at Columbia University, author of “Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer SpaceStephon Alexander - Professor of physics, Brown University, author of “The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe” 

Skeptic Check: Busting Myths with Adam Savage

Aug 8, 2017 51:33

Description:

ENCORE  Can an opera singer’s voice really shatter glass?  Can you give your car a rocket-assisted boost and survive the test drive?  How do you protect yourself from a shark attack?   Those are among the many intriguing questions and urban legends tested by the MythBusters team in front of the camera.

Now that the series has ended after a 16 year run, co-host Adam Savage tells us how it all began, how he and Jamie Hyneman walked the line between science and entertainment, and why he considers himself a scientist but not a “skeptic.”

Also, he reveals the location of the episode, “Duct Tape Island.”

Guests:

Adam Savage - Former co-host and executive producer of MythBusters

Caught in a Traps

Aug 1, 2017 51:50

Description:

ENCORE  "Locked and loaded” is how one scientist recently described the San Andreas fault.  Find out when this famous west-coast rift might cause “the big one;” also, the state of early earthquake warning systems.

Plus, another sign of our planet’s unceasing turmoil: volcanos!  Could the eruption that produced the Deccan Traps, and not a rock from space, have been the nail in the coffin for the dinosaurs?  One seismologist shares new evidence about some suspicious timing.

And, the man who was the first to take the temperature of lava, established the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, and essentially pioneered the field of volcanology a century ago is nearly lost to history.  A scientist rescues fellow volcanologist Thomas Jagger from obscurity. 

Guests:

Tom Jordan – Seismologist, director, Southern California Earthquake Center, University of Southern California  Mark Richards – Professor of earth and planetary science, University of California, Berkeley John Dvorak -  Volcanologist who worked with the United States Geological Survey for 16 years, author, “The Last Volcano: A Man, A Romance, and the Quest to Understand Nature’s Most Magnificent Fury

Eclipsing All Other Shows

Jul 18, 2017 52:03

Description:

They say that the experience of watching a total eclipse is so profound, you’re not the same afterward.  If life-changing events are your thing and you’re in the lower 48 states on August 21st, let us help you make the most of viewing the Great American Solar Eclipse.

Learn the basics of where to be and what to bring, even on short notice. No eclipse glasses?  Find out why a kitchen colander is an excellent Plan B.

Also, the strange behavior of animals and private jet pilots during an eclipse.  The latter is making the FAA sweat.

Plus, how 1878 eclipse fever inspired Thomas Edison and astronomer Maria Mitchell, and what was at stake for them scientifically.  And today, with astronauts able to view the Sun from space, what new science can we still learn by eclipse expeditions on Earth?

And, NASA turns up the heat on solar studies with a probe to within a hair’s breadth of the Sun. 

Guests:

David Baron - Author of “American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World.”   Andrew Fraknoi - Chair of the Astronomy Department, Foothill College.  His latest book, for children:  “When the Sun Goes Dark.”  Jay Pasachoff - Professor of Astronomy, Williams College, chair of the International Astronomical Union Working Group on Solar Eclipses.  Madhulika Guhathakurta - Astrophysicist, NASA Heliophysics Science Division and Program Scientist for the Solar Probe Plus mission.

Skeptic Check: Rational Lampoon

Jul 4, 2017 51:42

Description:

Two heads may be better than one.  But what about three or more?  A new study shows that chimpanzees excel at complex tasks when they work in groups, and their accumulated knowledge can even be passed from one generation to the next. 

But group-think also can be maladaptive.  When humans rely on knowledge that they assume other people possess, they can become less than rational.

Find out why one cognitive scientist says that individual thinking is a myth.  Most of your decisions are made in groups, and most derive from emotion, not rationality.

Also, why we know far less than we think we do.  For example, most people will say they understand how an everyday object like a zipper works, but draw a blank when asked to explain it. 

Plus, why we have a biological drive to categorize people as “us” or “them,” and how we can override it.   

Guests: 

Steven Sloman - Professor of cognitive linguistics and psychological sciences at Brown University and editor-in-chief of the journal, Cognition Robert Sapolsky - Professor of neuroscience at Stanford University and author of Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst Laurance Doyle - Scientist at the SETI Institute

Skeptic Check: How Low Can You Go?

Jun 27, 2017 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  Baby, it’s cold outside… but you still might want to be there.  Some people claim that chilly temperatures are good for your health, and proponents of cryotherapy suggest you have a blast – of sub-zero air – to stave off wrinkles and perhaps halt aging altogether. 

Meanwhile the field of cryonics offers the ultimate benefit by suggesting that you put future plans – and your body – on ice when you die.  That way you might be revived when the technology to do so is developed.

So, will a chill wind blow you some good?  Possibly, as scientists are discovering that the body can endure colder temperatures than previously thought.  We examine the science of extreme cold and claims of its salubrious benefits.

It’s our monthly look at critical thinking, Skeptic Check … but don’t take our word for it! 

Guests: 

Seth Abramovitch - Senior writer at the Hollywood Reporter Gordon Giesbrecht - Professor of thermal physiology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada Grant Shoffstall - Sociologist, Williams College

PEM4_Picard2

Jun 20, 2017 04:38

Description:

Science Fiction

Jun 13, 2017 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  No one knows what the future will bring, but science fiction authors are willing to take a stab at imagining it.  We take our own stab at imagining them imagining it.  Find out why the genre of science fiction is more than a trippy ride through a bizarre, hi-tech world, but a way to assess and vote on our possible shared future. 

Also, an astronomer learns how many rejection slips it takes before becoming a published science fiction author …. what author Bruce Sterling wants to get off his chest … and what the joke about the neutron walking into a bar to ask the price of beer has in common with H.G. Wells, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Ridley Scott.

Oh, and the price of beer?  Bartender: “For you, no charge.”

Guests:

Ed Finn - Director of the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University Andrew Fraknoi – Chair of the astronomy department at Foothill College.  His story, "The Cave in Arsia Mons", is in "Building Red", here.  His list of astronomically correct science fiction is here. Bruce Sterling - Science fiction author, journalist, and editor
 Brian Malow - Science comedian, science communication officer, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh

Gene-y in a Bottle

Jun 6, 2017 51:33

Description:

ENCORE  You can’t pick your parents.  But soon you may be able to change the DNA they gave you.  CRISPR technology is poised to take DNA editing to new levels of precision and speed.  Imagine deleting genes from your body that you don’t like and inserting the ones you want.  The swap might not even require a fancy lab.  Biohackers are already tinkering with genes in their homes.  

Find out how CRISPR technology might change everything when the genetic lottery is no longer destiny. 

Plus, a cardiologist identifies the troublesome genes that once gave us evolutionary advantages but today are fueling obesity, depression and other modern illness.

Guests:

Lee Goldman – Cardiologist, dean of Columbia University Medical Center, author of “Too Much of a Good Thing; How Four Key Survival Traits Are Now Killing Us”  Jacob Corn – Scientific director, Innovative Genomics Initiative, University of California, Berkeley Katelynn Kazane – Research assistant, Innovative Genomics Initiative,  University of California, Berkeley Josiah Zayner - Biohacker, former NASA synthetic biologist.  His biohacking store.

The Crater Good

May 30, 2017 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  It was “one giant leap for mankind,” but the next step forward may require going back.  Yes, back to the moon.  Only this time the hardware may come from China.  Or perhaps Europe.  In fact, it seems that the only developed nation not going lunar is the U.S.

Find out why our pockmarked satellite is such hot real estate, and whether it has the raw materials we’d need to colonize it.  A new theory of how the moon formed may tell us what’s below its dusty surface.

But – before packing your bags – you’ll want to skim Article IX of the U.N. treaty on planetary protection.  We can’t go contaminating any old planetary body, can we?  

Guests:

James Oberg - Former Space Shuttle Mission Control engineer and space policy expert Clive Neal - Geologist, University of Notre Dame Edward Young - Cosmochemist, geochemist, UCLA Margaret Race - Biologist and research scientist at the SETI Institute

Skeptic Check: Science Breaking Bad

May 23, 2017 52:19

Description:

The scientific method is tried and true. It has led us to a reliable understanding of things from basic physics to biomedicine.  So yes, we can rely on the scientific method.  The fallible humans behind the research, not so much.  And politicians?  Don’t get us started.  Remember when one brought a snowball to the Senate floor to “prove” that global warming was a hoax?  Oy vey.

We talk to authors about new books that seem to cast a skeptical eye on the scientific method… but that are really throwing shade on the ambitious labcoat-draped humans who heat the beakers and publish the papers … as well as the pinstriped politicians who twist science to win votes.

Find out why the hyper-competitive pursuit of results that are “amazing” and “incredible” is undermining medical science … how a scientific breakthrough can turn into a societal scourge (heroin as miracle cure) … and what happens when civil servants play the role of citizen scientists on CSPAN.

Guests:

Richard Harris - NPR science correspondent, author of Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes BillionsPaul Offit - Professor of pediatrics, attending physician, Division of Infectious Diseases, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, author of Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong. Dave Levitan - Science journalist, author of Not a Scientist; How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent and Utterly Mangle Science.  

100% Invisible

May 16, 2017 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  In astronomy, the rule of thumb was simple: If you can’t see it with a telescope, it’s not real.  Seeing is believing.  Well, tell that to the astronomers who discovered dark energy, or dark matter … or, more recently, Planet 9.   And yet we have evidence that all these things exist (although skepticism about the ninth – or is it tenth? – planet still lingers).

Find out how we know what we know about the latest cosmic discoveries – even if we can’t see them directly.  The astronomer who found Planet 9 – and killed Pluto – offers his evidence. 

And, a speculative scenario suggests that dark matter helped do away with the dinosaurs. 

Plus, the winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics explains why neutrinos that are zipping through your body right now may hold clues to the origin of the universe. 

Guests:

Michael Brown - Astronomer, California Institute of Technology Michael Lemonick - science writer and an editor at Scientific American magazine Lisa Randall - Theoretical physicist, Harvard University, author of Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe Arthur McDonald - Astrophysicist emeritus, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, and winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics

Eve of Disruption

May 2, 2017 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  Only two of the following three creations have had lasting scientific or cultural impact:  The telescope … the Sistine Chapel ceiling … the electric banana.  Find out why one didn’t make the cut as a game-changer, and why certain eras and places produce a remarkable flowering of creativity (we’re looking at you, Athens). 

Plus, Yogi Berra found it difficult to make predictions, especially about the future, but we try anyway.  A technology expert says he’s identified the next Silicon Valley.  Hint: its focus is on genetic – not computer – code and its language in the lab is Mandarin.

We got the past and the future covered.  Where’s innovation now?  We leave that to the biohackers who are remaking the human body one sensory organ at a time.  Are you ready for eye-socket cameras and mind readers?

Guests:

Eric Weiner - Author of “The Geography of Genius; A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley” Alec Ross – Technology policy expert, former Senior Advisor for Innovation for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and author of “The Industries of the Future”  Kara Platoni - Science reporter, author of “We Have the Technology: How Biohackers, Foodies, Physicians, and Scientists Are Transforming Human Perception, One Sense at a Time”

Spacecraft Elegy

Apr 24, 2017 51:49

Description:

Exploration: It’s exciting, it’s novel, and you can’t always count on a round-trip ticket.  You can boldly go, but you might not come back.  That’s no showstopper for robotic explorers, though.  Spacecraft go everywhere.

While humans have traveled no farther than the moon, our mechanical proxies are climbing a mountain on Mars, visiting an ice ball far beyond Pluto, plunging through the rings of Saturn, and landing on a comet.  Oh, and did we mention they’re also bringing rock and roll to the denizens of deep space, in case they wish to listen.

We consider some of the most daring explorers since the 16th century – made of metal and plastic - venturing to places where no one else could go.  What have they done, what are they doing, and at what point do they declare “mission accomplished” and head for that great spacecraft graveyard in the sky?

Guests:

Matt Tiscareno– Planetary Scientist at the SETI Institute Mark Showalter– Senior Research Scientist, SETI Institute Jonathan Amos– BBC Senior Writer and Science Correspondent Ashwin Vasavada– Curiosity Project Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Skeptic Check: Glutenous Maximus

Apr 18, 2017 51:48

Description:

ENCORE  Eat dark chocolate.  Don’t drink coffee.  Go gluten-free.  If you ask people for diet advice, you’ll get a dozen different stories.  Ideas about what’s good for us sprout up faster than alfalfa plants (which are still healthy … we think).  How can you tell if the latest is fact or fad?

We’ll help you decide, and show you how to think skeptically about popular trends.  One example: a study showing that gluten-free diets didn’t ease digestive problems in athletes.  Also, medical researchers test whether wearable devices succeed in getting us off the couch and a nutritionist explains how things got so confusing. 

Plus, why part of our confusion may be language.  Find out why one cook says that no foods are “healthy,” not even kale.

It’s Skeptic Check … but don’t take our word for it!

Guests:

Dana Lis - Sports dietician, PhD student, University of Tasmania Michael Ruhlman - Cook, author of many books about cooking as well as the recent trio of novellas, In Short Measures Beth Skwarecki - Freelance health and science writer, nutrition teacher Mitesh Patel - Assistant professor of medicine, Perlman School of Medicine, Assistant Professor of Health Care Management, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Winging It

Apr 4, 2017 50:31

Description:

ENCORE Ask anyone what extraordinary powers they’d love to have, and you’re sure to hear “be able to fly.”  We’ve kind of scratched that itch with airplanes.  But have we gone as far as we can go, or are better flying machines in our future?  And whatever happened to our collective dream of flying cars?   We look at the evolution - and the future - of flight.

Animals and insects have taught us a lot about the mechanics of becoming airborne.  But surprises remain.  For example, bats may flit around eccentrically, but they are actually more efficient fliers than birds.   

Meanwhile, new technology may change aviation when self-healing material repairs structural cracks in mid-flight.   And a scientist who worked on flying cars for DARPA says he’s now working on the next best thing. 

Guests:                                                     

Merlin Tuttle – Ecologist and founder of Bat Conservation International. Executive director of Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation and author of The Secret Life of Bats: My Adventures with the World’s Most Misunderstood Animals. Join his effort and browse his stunning photography at http://www.merlintuttle.com/ David Alexander - Ecologist, evolutionary biologist, the University of Kansas, author of On the Wing: Insects, Pterosaurs, Birds, Bats and the Evolution of Animal Flight  Duncan Wass - Professor of chemistry, University of Bristol, U.K.  Sanjiv Singh - Research professor, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University

Cosmic Conundra

Mar 7, 2017 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  Admit it – the universe is cool, but weird.  Just when you think you’ve tallied up all the peculiar phenomena that the cosmos has to offer – it throws more at you. We examine some of the recent perplexing finds.

Could massive asteroid impacts be as predictable as phases of the moon?  Speaking of moons – why are some of Pluto’s spinning like turbine-powered pinwheels?  Plus, we examine a scientist’s claim of evidence for parallel universes.

And, could the light patterns from a distant star be caused by alien mega-structures? 

Guests:

Mike Rampino - Professor of biology and environmental studies at New York University Mark Showalter - Senior research scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California Ranga-Ram Chary - Astronomer, U.S. Planck Data Center, California Institute of Technology

Skeptic Check: Not So Sweet

Feb 28, 2017 51:40

Description:

Obesity, diabetes, heart disease … maybe even Alzheimer’s.  Could these modern scourges have a common denominator?  Some people believe they do: sugar.

But is this accusation warranted?  We talk with a journalist who has spent two decades reporting on nutrition science, and while he says there’s still not definitive proof that sugar makes us sick, he can make a strong case for it.

Also, how a half-century ago the sugar industry secretly paid Harvard scientists to shift the culprit for heart disease from their product to dietary fat.  We hear how the companies borrowed from the playbook of Big Tobacco.

So is your sweet tooth a threat to your health?

Guests:

Gary Taubes– Investigative reporter and the author of The Case Against Sugar. Cristin Kearns– Postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco. Naomi Oreskes– Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, and the co-author of Merchants of Doubt.

Thinking About Thinking

Feb 21, 2017 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  Congratulations, you have a big brain.  Evolution was good to Homo sapiens.  But make some room on the dais.  Research shows that other animals, such as crows, may not look smart, but can solve complex problems. 

Meanwhile human engineers are busily developing cogitating machines.   Intelligent entities abound – but are they all capable of actual thought?   

Hear how crows fashion tools from new materials and can recognize you by sight.  Also, how an IBM computer may one day outthink the engineers who designed it.   

Plus, scientists who simulated a rat brain in a computer, neuron-by-neuron, look ahead to modeling the human brain.  And, what brain disorders teach us about the brain and our sense of self.

Guests:

John Marzluff – Professor of wildlife science, University of Washington and the author of In the Company of Crows and Ravens Idan Segev – Professor of computation and neuroscience, Hebrew University, Jerusalem Jeff Welser – Vice president and Lab Director, IBM Almaden Research Center Anil Ananthaswamy – Science journalist, correspondent for “New Scientist,” and author of The Man Who Wasn't There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self

Going All to Species

Feb 14, 2017 50:31

Description:

ENCORE Meet your new relatives.   The fossilized bones of Homo naledi are unique for their sheer number, but they may also be fill a special slot in our ancestry: the first of our genus Homo.   Sporting modern hands and feet but only a tiny brain, this creature may link us and our ape-like ancestors.   

Some anthropologists hail the discovery as that of a new hominid species.  Not all their colleagues agree.  Find out what’s at stake in the debate. 

Also, the scientist who helped retrieve the fossils describes her perilous crawl through a cave with only ten inches of elbow room.  And a radical theory about what these old bones might mean: could they be from a burial two million years ago?

Guests:

Marina Elliott  – Paleoanthropologist, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa Carl Ward – Biological anthropologist, University of Missouri John Hawks- Anthropologist, University of Wisconsin, Madison Tim White - Anthropologist, University of California, Berkeley

Skeptic Check: Amelia Earhart

Jan 24, 2017 50:31

Description:

She’s among the most famous missing persons in history.  On the eightieth anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, mystery still shrouds her fate.  What happened during the last leg of her round-the-world trek?

Theories abound.  Perhaps she ran out of fuel, and plunged into the ocean … or was captured by the Japanese.  A non-profit international organization, TIGHAR, suggests she was a castaway, and offers up a new analysis of bones found on a Pacific atoll during the time of the Second World War. Their researchers will return to this possible landing spot to seek more clues this summer.

We consider these theories and weigh the new evidence surrounding Earhart’s puzzling last flight.  Also, why are we uncomfortable with open-ended mysteries?

Guests:

Andrew McKenna– Researcher with TIGHAR (The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery) Claire Maldarelli– Editor at Popular Science Magazine Andrew Maynard– Director of the Risk Innovation Lab, Arizona State University John Norberg– Journalist and former writer on air and space for Purdue University

No Face to Hide

Jan 10, 2017 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  Face it – your mug is not entirely yours.  It’s routinely uploaded to social media pages and captured on CCTV cameras with – and without – your consent.  Sophisticated facial recognition technology can identify you and even make links to your personal data.  There are few places where you’re safe from scrutiny.

Find out how a computer analyzes the geometry of a face and why even identical twins don’t fool its discerning gaze.  Proponents say that biometrics are powerful tools to stop crime, but the lack of regulation concerns privacy groups.  Do you want to be identified – and your habits tracked – whenever you step outside? 

Plus, astronomy meets forensics.  How analyzing photos and paintings using weather records, sky charts, and phases of the moon help solve intriguing mysteries, including the history of an iconic V.J. Day photo.

Guests:

•   Donald Olson – Physicist, astronomer, Texas State University  

•   Marios Savvides – Computer engineer, Director, CyLab Biometrics Center, Carnegie Mellon University

•   Alvaro Bedoya – Executive director, Center on Privacy and Technology, Georgetown Law 

The Light Stuff

Jan 3, 2017 50:31

Description:

ENCORE The light bulb needs changing.  Edison’s incandescent bulb, virtually unaltered for more than a century, is now being eclipsed by the LED.  The creative applications for these small and efficient devices are endless: on tape, on wallpaper, even in contact lenses.  They will set the world aglow.  But is a brighter world a better one?

Discover the many ingenious applications for LEDs and the brilliance of the 19th century scientist, James Clerk Maxwell, who first discovered just what light is.  But both biologists and astronomers are alarmed by the disappearance of dark.   Find out how light pollution is making us and other animals sick and – when was the last time you saw a starry night?

Guests:

•  Ian Ferguson – Engineer, dean of the College of Engineering and Computing, Missouri University of Science and Technology

•  Jay Neitz – Professor, department of ophthalmology, University of Washington

•  Martin Hendry - Professor, gravitational astrophysics and cosmology, University of Glasgow

•  John Barentine  - Program manager, International Dark Sky Association 

The Fix is In

Dec 27, 2016 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  The moon jellyfish has remarkable approach to self-repair.  If it loses a limb, it rearranges its remaining body parts to once again become radially symmetric.  Humans can’t do that, but a new approach that combines biology with nanotechnology could give our immune systems a boost.  Would you drink a beaker of nanobots if they could help you fight cancer?

Also, materials science gets into self-healing with a novel concrete that fixes its own cracks. 

Plus, why even the most adaptive systems can be stretched to their limit.  New research suggests that the oceans will take a millennium to recover from climate change. 

Guests:

•   Lea Goentoro – Professor of biology, California Institute of Technology

•   Michael Abrams - Biologist, California Institute of Technology

•   Sarah Moffitt – Paleo-oceanographer, Bodega Marine Laboratory, University of California, Davis

•   Mark Miodownik – Materials scientist, director of the Institute of Making, University College, London.  Author of “Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape our Man-Made World

•   Shawn Douglas  - Computer scientist, assistant professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco

Skeptic Check: Fear Itself

Dec 20, 2016 50:31

Description:

ENCORE  Shhh.  Is someone coming? Okay, we’ll make this quick.  There are a lot of scary things going on in the world.  Naturally you’re fearful.  But sometimes fear has a sister emotion: suspicion.  A nagging worry about what’s really going on. You know, the stuff they aren’t telling you.  Don’t share this, but we have evidence that both our fear response and our tendency to believe conspiracy theories are evolutionarily adaptive.  

A sociologist who studies fear tells us why we’re addicted to its thrill when we control the situation, and how the media exploit our fear of losing control to keep us on edge.  Plus, we examine some alien “cover-ups” and discover why it’s not just the tinfoil hat crowd that falls for outrageous plots.

It’s Skeptic Check …. but you didn’t hear it from us!

Guests:

Margee Kerr – Sociologist who studies fear, author of Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear Rob Brotherton – Psychologist, adjunct assistant professor at Barnard College, and author of Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories

What Lies Beneath

Nov 29, 2016 50:31

Description:

ENCORE What you can’t see may astound you.  The largest unexplored region of Earth is the ocean.  Beneath its churning surface, oceanographers have recently discovered the largest volcano in the world – perhaps in the solar system.

Find out what is known – and yet to be discovered – about the marine life of the abyss, and how a fish called the bristlemouth has grabbed the crown for “most numerous vertebrate on Earth” from the chicken.

Plus, the menace of America’s Cascadia fault, which has the potential to unleash a devastating magnitude 9 earthquake. 

Follow Dr. Sager’s voyage back to Tamu Massif in Fall 2015.

Guests 

•  Bruce Robison – Deep sea biologist, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

•  William Sager – Marine geophysicist, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Houston

•  Chris Goldfinger  - Marine geologist, geophysicist, paleo-seismologist, Oregon State University 

And To Space We Return

Nov 8, 2016 50:31

Description:

ENCORE Earth may be the cradle of life, but our bodies are filled with materials cooked up billions of years ago in the scorching centers of stars. As Carl Sagan said, “We are all stardust.” We came from space, and some say it is to space we will return.

Discover an astronomer’s quest to track down remains of these ancient chemical kitchens. Plus, a scientist who says that it’s in our DNA to explore – and not just the nearby worlds of the solar system, but perhaps far beyond.

But would be still be human when we arrive? Hear what biological and cultural changes we might undergo in a multi-generational interstellar voyage.

Guests:

 •   Timothy Beers – Astronomer, University of Notre Dame

•   Chris Impey – Astronomer, University of Arizona, author of Beyond: Our Future in Space

•   Cameron Smith – Archaeologist, Portland State University

Hidden History

Nov 1, 2016 50:31

Description:

ENCORE Archaeologists continue to hunt for the city of Atlantis, even though it may never have existed. But, what if it did? Its discovery would change ancient history. Sometimes when we dig around in the past, we can change our understanding of how we got to where we are.

We thought we had wrapped up the death of the dinosaurs: blame it on an asteroid. But evidence unearthed in Antarctica and elsewhere suggests the rock from space wasn’t the sole culprit.

Also, digging into our genetic past can turn up surprising – and sometimes uncomfortable truths – from ancestral origins to genes that code for disease. But do we always want to know?

Guests:

•   Mark Adams – author, Meet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City

•   David Morrison – Senior scientist, NASA Ames Research Center

•   Peter Ward – Paleontologist, University of Washington, author of A New History of Life: The Radical New Discoveries about the Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth

•   Christine Kenneally – Journalist and author of The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures

Moral's Law

Oct 25, 2016 51:03

Description:

ENCORE "If it bleeds, it leads” is the tried and true tenet of news.  Indeed, headlines are often no more than a long list of moral atrocities.  Yet one man argues that we’re living in the most civilized era in history.  And he credits this to scientific thought and reason.  

Hang on!  Our executive function isn’t enough to promote ethical behavior, says a psychologist.  The real fuel behind our drive to be good?  Anger, compassion, pride: your emotions!

But whether or not you’re a pillar of the community, good intentions might all be for naught when future ethical decisions are made by our silicon successors.  Get ready for moral machines. Or not.

Guests:

•   Michael Shermer - Publisher of Skeptic Magazine, author of The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom

•   David DeSteno – Psychologist, Northeastern University, author of The Truth About Trust

•   Colin Allen – Historian, philosopher of science and cognitive science, Indiana University.  Co-author of Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right From Wrong

Skeptic Check: Science and the Election

Oct 11, 2016 51:38

Description:

This year’s election is divisive, but one subject enjoys some consensus: science and technology policies are important.  So why aren’t the candidates discussing these issues?  The answers might surprise you.

The organizer of Science Debate, who wants a live debate devoted to science and technology, describes one obstacle to meaningful discussion.  He also shares how the candidates responded to probing questions about science. 

Communication expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson looks back to the televised debate of Kennedy and Nixon to discern trends that have made productive discussion about science nearly impossible today (it didn’t start out that way!)

And, the unique situation in which the man at the top of one political ticket is flat out wrong about science: a physicist describes how Donald Trump’s anti-science position affects the election. 

Guests:

Shawn Otto - co-founder of sciencedebate.org, and the author of “The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters and What We Can Do About It"   Lawrence Krauss - Professor of theoretical physics at Arizona State University, director of its Origins Project, and a member of sciencedebate.org Kathleen Hall Jamieson - Professor of communication, University of Pennsylvania, director of the university’s Annenberg Public Policy Center. Author of more than a dozen books on politics and the media, and co-founder of factcheck.org that has a separate page for science: scifact.org

Skeptic Check: Skeptic Seth

Sep 27, 2016 50:55

Description:

ENCORE Are you skeptical?  Sure, you raise an eyebrow when some Nigerian prince asks for your bank numbers, or when a breakfast cereal claims that it will turn your kid into a professional athlete overnight.

But what do you really know about the benefits of organic milk?  Or the power of whitening ingredients in your toothpaste?  How credible is what you read on Twitter?

Today, information overwhelms us, and the need to keep our skeptical wits about us has never been greater.  We follow Seth around as he faces the daily onslaught of hype and hokum.

It’s Skeptic Check, our monthly look at critical thinking … but don’t take our word for it!

Guests: 

•   Steven Novella  – Assistant professor of neurology at Yale University School of Medicine and host of the “Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe” podcast

•   Guy P. Harrison – journalist and author.  His latest book, Good Thinking: What You Need to Know to be Smarter, Safer, Wealthier, and Wiser, will be in bookstores in October 2015.  

•   Andrew Maynard – Professor in the School for Innovation in Society, Arizona State University

•   Peter Adams – Senior vice president for educational programs with the News Literacy Project

•   Daniel Armistead – Dentist, Palo Alto, California

The Evolution of Evolution

Sep 13, 2016 52:00

Description:

ENCORE Darwinian evolution is adaptive and slow … millennia can go by before a species changes very much. But with the tools of genetic engineering we can now make radical changes in just one generation. By removing genes or inserting new ones, we can give an organism radically different traits and behaviors. We are taking evolution into our own hands.

It all began with the domestication of plants and animals, which one science writer says created civilization. Today, as humans tinker with their own genome, is it possible we will produce Homo sapiens 2.0?

Also, what happens to those species who can’t control their destiny? How climate change is forcing the biggest genetic reshuffling in recorded history.

Guests:

•   Richard Francis – Science writer, author of Domesticated: Evolution in a Man-Made World

•   Juan Enriquez – Academic, businessman, author, founding director of the Life Sciences Project, Harvard Business School, managing director, Excel Venture Management, and author of Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation are Changing Life on Earth

•   Jessica Hellmann – Biologist, University of Notre Dame

Asteroids!

Sep 6, 2016 55:58

Description:

Everyone knows that a big rock did in the dinosaurs, but smaller asteroids are millions of times more common and can also make a violent impact.   Yet unlike the bigger asteroids, we’re not tracking them.  Find out what we’d need to keep an eye on the size of space rocks such as that which exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia.   And how an asteroid whizzed by Earth in late August 2016, only hours after it had been spotted.

Asteroids are the one natural disaster we can defend against, but an economist explains why humans are reluctant to invest in protection against “low probability, high impact” threats. 

Also, how to authenticate that chunk of asteroid that you found in a field and NASA’s first ever return mission to an asteroid.  It plans to bring some fresh samples back to Earth. 

Guests:

Peter Jenniskens – Senior Research Scientist, SETI Institute David Morrison – Senior Scientist of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, NASA Ames Research Center Alex Tabarrok – Economist, George Mason University Sharon Cisneros – Mineralogical Research Company, San Jose, California J. L. Galache – Astronomer, Minor Planet Center, Harvard Center for Astrophysics Christina Richey – NASA Planetary scientist, deputy program scientist, OSIRIS-Rex mission

They Know Who You Are

Aug 23, 2016 51:10

Description:

ENCORE You’re a private person. But as long as you’re on-line and have skin and hair, you’re shedding little bits of data and DNA everywhere you go. Find out how that personal information – whether or not it’s used against you – is no longer solely your own. Are your private thoughts next?

A security expert shares stories of ingenious computer hacking … a forensic scientist develops tools to create a mug shot based on a snippet of DNA … and from the frontiers of neuroscience: mind reading may no longer be the stuff of sketchy psychics.

Guests:

•   Marc Goodman – Global security advisor, founder, Future Crimes Institute, author of Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It

•   Susan Walsh – Forensic geneticist, Indiana University – Purdue University in Indianapolis

•   Marvin Chun – Psychologist, Yale University

Are We Over the Moon?

Aug 16, 2016 51:13

Description:

When astronaut Gene Cernan stepped off the moon in 1972, he didn’t think he’d be the last human ever to touch its surface.  But no one’s been back.  Hear astronaut Cernan’s reaction to being the last man on the moon, the reasons why President Kennedy launched the Apollo program, and why Americans haven’t returned.

Now other countries – and companies – are vying for a bigger piece of the space pie. Find out who – or what – will be visiting and even profiting.  Will the moon become an important place to make money?  

Plus, the moon landing was a great step for “a man,” and “men not machines” make space history.  But what about women?  More than a dozen were qualified for space flight in the early 1960s.  Hear from one of these original “Mercury 13,” and find out why NASA grounded them. 

Guests:

Gene Cernan – Retired American naval officer, former NASA Astronaut.  John Logsdon – Professor emeritus, Space Policy Institute, George Washington University Al Hallonquist – Aerospace historian Robert Richards – Founder and CEO of Moon Express Sarah Ratley – Former pilot, member of the "Mercury 13" Dan Durda – Planetary scientist, Southwest Research Institute. 

Skeptic Check: After the Hereafter

Aug 9, 2016 51:11

Description:

ENCORE There are few enduring truths, but one is that no one gets out of life alive. What’s less certain is what comes next. Does everything stop with death, or are we transported to another plane of existence? First-hand accounts of people who claim to have visited heaven are offered as proof of an afterlife. Now the author of one bestseller admits that his story was fabricated.

We’ll look at the genre of “heaven tourism” to see if it has anything to say about the possible existence of the hereafter, and why the idea of an afterlife seriously influences how we live our lives on Earth.

Also, a neurologist describes what is going on in the brain during near-death and other out-of-body experiences.

It’s Skeptic Check, our monthly look at critical thinking … but don’t take our word for it!

Guests:

•   Ben Radford – Paranormal investigator, research fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and deputy editor of the Skeptical Inquirer, and author of the Discovery News article, “Why People Believed Boy’s ‘Visit to Heaven’ Story”

•   Greg Garrett – Professor of English at Baylor University, writer on books, culture and religion for the Huffington Post, and author of Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination

•   Steven Novella – Professor of neurology at Yale University School of Medicine and host of the “Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe” podcast

Originally Aired May 24, 2015

Raising the Minimum Age

Jul 19, 2016 51:14

Description:

ENCORE  We all try to fight it: the inexorable march of time. The fountain of youth doesn’t exist, and all those wrinkle creams can’t help. But modern science is giving us new weapons in the fight against aging. So how far are we willing to go?

Hear when aging begins, a summary of the latest biotech research, and how a lab full of youthful worms might help humans stay healthy.

Also, a geneticist who takes a radical approach: collect the DNA that codes for longevity and restructure our genome. He finds inspiration – and perhaps genes as well – in the bi-centenarian bowhead whale.

But what if age really is mind over matter? A psychologist’s extraordinary thought experiment with septuagenarian men turns back the clock 20 years. Will it work on diseases such as cancer as well? 

Guests:

Gordon Lithgow – Geneticist, Buck Institute for Research on Aging, Novato, California Manish Chamoli – Post-doctoral researcher, Buck Institute for Research on Aging George Church – Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, author of Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves Ellen Langer – Professor of Psychology, Harvard University and author of Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility

First released April 6, 2015.

Microbes: Resistance is Futile

Jul 12, 2016 51:11

Description:

ENCORE  You are what you eat. Whether you dine on kimchi, carnitas, or corn dogs determines which microbes live in your stomach. And gut microbes make up only part of your total micro biome. 

Find out how your microbes are the brains-without-brains that affect your health and even your mood. Also, why you and your cohorts are closer than you thought: new research suggests that you swap and adopt bugs from your social set.

Plus, the philosophical questions that are arise when we realize that we have more microbial DNA than human DNA.

And a woman who skipped soap and shampoo for a month to see what would grow on her.

Guests:

Bill Miller – Physician and author of The Microcosm Within: Evolution and Extinction in the Hologenome Beth Archie – Biologist at the University of Notre Dame Nada Gligorov – Assistant professor of medical education at Mount Sinai Hospital Julia Scott – Freelance reporter working in San Francisco. Her article, “A Wash on the Wild Side” appeared in the May 22, 2014 issue of the New York Times Magazine. of the New York Times Magazine.

First released 

Science Fiction True

Jul 4, 2016 51:13

Description:

ENCORE Don’t believe everything you see on TV or the movies. Science fiction is just a guide to how our future might unfold. It can be misleading, as anyone who yearns for a flying car can tell you. And yet, sometimes fantasy becomes fact. Think of the prototype cellphones in Star Trek.

We take a look at science that seems inspired by filmic sci-fi, for example scientists manipulating memory as in Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And despite his famous film meltdown, Charleton Heston hasn’t stopped the Soylent company from producing what it calls the food of the future.

Plus, why eco-disaster films have the science wrong, but not in the way you might think. And, what if our brains are simply wired to accept film as fact?

Guests:

Steve Ramirez -Neuroscientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Rob Rhinehart – CEO and founder of Soylent Jason Mark – Editor of Earth Island Journal Jeffrey Zacks – Cognitive Neuroscientist, Washington University, St. Louis, and author of Flicker: Your Brain on Movies


First released December 22, 2014.

Skeptic Check: The Me in Measles

Jun 28, 2016 51:53

Description:

ENCORE  Wondering whether to vaccinate your children? The decision can feel like a shot in the dark if you don’t know how to evaluate risk. Find out why all of us succumb to the reasoning pitfalls of cognitive and omission bias, whether we’re saying no to vaccines or getting a tan on the beach.

Plus, an infectious disease expert on why it may take a dangerous resurgence of preventable diseases – measles, whooping cough, polio – to remind us that vaccines save lives.

Also, a quaint but real vaccine fear: that the 18th century smallpox vaccine, made from cowpox, could turn you into a cow!

It’s our monthly look at critical thinking … but don’t take our word for it!

Guests:

Paul Offit – Infectious disease specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Neil deGrasse Tyson – Astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City Adam Korbitz – Lawyer specializing in space law Andrew Maynard – Professor of environmental health science, director, Risk Science Center, University of Michigan

Surviving the Anthropocene

Jun 14, 2016 51:11

Description:

ENCORE  The world is hot, and getting hotter. But higher temperatures aren’t the only impact our species is having on mother Earth. Urbanization, deforestation, and dumping millions of tons of plastic into the oceans … these are all ways in which humans are leaving their mark.

So are we still in the Holocene, the geological epoch that started a mere 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age? Some say we’ve moved on to the age of man – the Anthropocene.

It’s the dawn of an era, but can we survive this new phase in the history of our planet?

Guests:

Pat Porter - Relative Jonathan Amos – Science writer for the BBC in London Gaia Vince – Writer, broadcaster, former editor for New Scientist, news editor of Nature, and author of Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made David Grinspoon – Astrobiologist, senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona Francisco Valero – Emeritus physicist and research scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego

First released February 23, 2015.

How to Talk to Aliens

Jun 6, 2016 51:12

Description:

ENCORE  "Dear E.T. …” So far, so good. But now what? Writing is never easy, but what if your task was to craft a message to aliens living elsewhere in the universe, and your prose would represent all humankind? Got writer’s block yet?

What to say to the aliens was the focus of a recent conference in which participants shifted their attentions away from listening for extraterrestrial signals to transmitting some. In this show, we report on the “Communicating Across the Cosmos” conference held at the SETI Institute in December 2014. 

Find out what scientists think we should say. Also, how archeology could help us craft messages to an unfamiliar culture. Plus, why journalists might be well-suited to writing the message. And, a response to Stephen Hawking’s warning that attempting to contact aliens is too dangerous.

Guests:

Douglas Vakoch – Director of interstellar message composition, SETI Institute Paul Wason – Archaeologist, anthropologist and vice president for the life sciences and genetics program at the Templeton Foundation Al Harrison – Emeritus professor of psychology, University of California, Davis Morris Jones – Journalist and space analyst in Sydney, Australia Shari Wells-Jensen – Professor of English, Bowling Green State University

First released January 12, 2015.

Shocking Ideas

May 9, 2016 51:31

Description:

ENCORE  Electricity is so 19th century. Most of the uses for it were established by the 1920s. So there’s nothing innovative left to do, right? That’s not the opinion of the Nobel committee that awarded its 2014 physics prize to scientists who invented the blue LED.

Find out why this LED hue of blue was worthy of our most prestigious science prize … how some bacteria actually breathe rust … and a plan to cure disease by zapping our nervous system with electric pulses.

Guests:

Siddha Pimputkar – Postdoctoral researcher in the Materials Department of the Solid State Lighting and Energy Electronics Center under Shuji Nakamura, winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara Jeff Gralnick – Associate professor of microbiology at the University of Minnesota Kevin Tracey – Neurosurgeon and president of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York

First released December 2014.

Living Computers

May 2, 2016 51:33

Description:

ENCORE  It’s the most dramatic technical development of recent times: Teams of people working for decades to produce a slow-motion revolution we call computing. As these devices become increasingly powerful, we recall that a pioneer from the nineteenth century – Ada Lovelace, a mathematician and Lord Byron’s daughter – said they would never surpass human ability. Was she right?

We consider the near-term future of computing as the Internet of Things is poised to link everything together, and biologists adopt the techniques of information science to program living cells.

Plus: What’s your favorite sci-fi computer?

Guests:

Walter Isaacson – President and CEO of the Aspen Institute and the author of The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution Christopher Voigt – Bioengineer at MIT Andy Ihnatko – Technology journalist André Bormanis – Writer, screenwriter, Star Trek John Barrett – Electronic engineer, NIMBUS Centre for Embedded Systems Research at the Cork Institute of Technology, Ireland

First released December 7, 2014.

Moving Right Along

Apr 18, 2016 52:01

Description:

ENCORE  You think your life is fast-paced, but have you ever seen a bacterium swim across your countertop? You’d be surprised how fast they can move.

Find out why modeling the swirl of hurricanes takes a roomful of mathematicians and supercomputers, and how galaxies can move away from us faster than the speed of light.

Also, what happens when we try to stop the dance of atoms, cooling things down to the rock bottom temperature known as absolute zero.

And why your watch doesn’t keep the same time when you’re in a jet as when you’re at the airport. It’s all due to the fact that motion is relative, says Al Einstein.

Guests:

William Phillips – Nobel Prize-winning physicist at Joint Quantum Institute, a partnership between the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Maryland. Bob Berman – Astronomy writer and author of Zoom: How Everything Moves: From Atoms and Galaxies to Blizzards and Bees Michael Smith – Meteorologist, senior vice president of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions, and author of Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather

First released August 18, 2014.

Surfeit of the Vitalest

Apr 11, 2016 50:55

Description:

ENCORE  In the century and a half since Charles Darwin wrote his seminal On the Origin of the Species, our understanding of evolution has changed quite a bit. For one, we have not only identified the inheritance molecule DNA, but have determined its sequence in many animals and plants.

Evolution has evolved, and we take a look at some of the recent developments.

A biologist describes the escalating horn-to-horn and tusk-to-tusk arms race between animals, and a paleoanthropologist explains why the lineage from chimp to human is no longer thought to be a straight line but, instead, a bush. Also, New York Times science writer Carl Zimmer on the diversity of bacteria living on you, and which evolutionary concepts he finds the trickiest to explain to the public.

Guests:

Douglas Emlen – Biologist, University of Montana and author of Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle Bernard Wood – Paleoanthropologist, George Washington University Carl Zimmer – Columnist for the New York Times

Tale of the Distribution

Apr 5, 2016 50:55

Description:

ENCORE  We all have at least some musical talent. But very few of us can play the piano like Vladimir Horowitz. His talent was rarefied, and at the tail end of the bell curve of musical ability – that tiny sliver of the distribution where you find the true outliers. Outliers also exist with natural events: hurricane Katrina, for example, or the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. Such events are rare, but they often have outsized effects.

In this hour we imagine the unimaginable – including the unexpected events labeled “black swans” – and how we weigh the risk for any of them. Also, how a supervolcano explosion at Yellowstone National Park could obliterate the western U.S. but shouldn’t stop you from putting the park on your vacation itinerary.

Guests:

Donald Prothero – Paleontologist, geologist, author of many books, among them, Catastrophes!: Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Tornadoes, and Other Earth-Shattering Disasters Dawn Balmer – Ornithologist at the British Trust for Ornithology Jake Lowenstern – Geologist, USGS, Scientist-in-Charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory Hank Heasler – Yellowstone National Park geologist Andrew Maynard – Director of the Risk Science Center at the University of Michigan

First released October 19, 2014.

TCG2_Neal

Mar 22, 2016 07:27

Description:

Who's Controlling Whom?

Mar 15, 2016 50:55

Description:

ENCORE  A single ant isn’t very brainy. But a group of ants can do remarkable things. Biological swarm behavior is one model for the next generation of tiny robots. Of course, biology can get hijacked: a fungus can seize control of an ant’s brain, for example. So will humans always remain the boss of super-smart, swarming machines?

We discuss the biology of zombie ants and how to build robots that self-assemble and work together. Also, how to guarantee the moral behavior of future ‘bots.

And, do you crave cupcakes? Research suggests that gut bacteria control what we eat and how we feel.

Guests:

David Hughes – Biologist, entomologist, Penn State University Mike Rubenstein – Roboticist, Self-Organizing Systems Research Group, Harvard University Wendell Wallach – Bioethicist, chair, Technology and Ethics Study Group, Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics Athena Aktipis – Cooperation theorist, Arizona State University and director of Human and Social Evolution, Center for Evolution and Cancer, University of California, San Francisco

First released October 13, 2014

Land on the Run

Mar 8, 2016 50:55

Description:

ENCORE  Hang on to your globe. One day it’ll be a collector’s item. The arrangement of continents you see today is not what it once was, nor what it will be tomorrow. Thank plate tectonics.

Now evidence suggests that the crowding together of all major land masses into one supercontinent – Pangaea, as it’s called – is a phenomenon that’s happened over and over during Earth’s history. And it will happen again. Meet our future supercontinent home, Amasia, and learn what it will look like.

Meanwhile, as California waits for the Big One, geologists discover that major earthquakes come in clusters. Also, our planet is not the only solar system body with tectonic activity. Icy Europa is a mover and shaker too.

And why is land in the western part of the U.S. literally rising up? Mystery solved!

Guests:

John Dvorak – Geologist, author of Earthquake Storms: The Fascinating History and Volatile Future of the San Andreas Fault Adrian Borsa – Geophysicist, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego Ross Mitchell – Geologist and post-doctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology Simon Kattenhorn – Structural geologist and a planetary geologist who did his work on Europa while at the University of Idaho

First released September 29, 2014

Replace What Ails You

Jan 26, 2016 50:56

Description:

ENCORE  Germs can make us sick, but we didn’t know about these puny pathogens prior to the end of the 19th century. Just the suggestion that a tiny bug could spread disease made eyes roll. Then came germ theory, sterilization, and antibiotics. It was a revolution in medicine. Now we’re on the cusp of another one. This time we may cure what ails us by replacing what ails us.

Bioengineers use advancements in stem cell therapy to grow red and white cells for human blood. Meanwhile, a breakthrough in 3D printing: scientists print blood vessels and say that human organs may be next.

Plus, implanting electronic grids to repair neural pathways. Future prosthetics wired to the brain may allow paralyzed limbs to move.

We begin with the story of the scientist who discovered the bacteria that caused tuberculosis, and the famous author who revealed that his cure for TB was a sham.

Guests:

Thomas Goetz – Author of The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis Jose Carmena – Neuroscientist and biomedical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley; co-director of the Berkeley-UCSF Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses William Murphy -Bioengineer and co-director of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison Ali Khademhosseini – Bioengineer, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Woman’s Hospital

Apt to Adapt

Jan 12, 2016 50:55

Description:

ENCORE If you move with the times, you might stick around long enough to pass on your genes. And that is adaptation and evolution, in a nutshell.

But humans are changing their environment faster than their genes can keep pace. This has led to a slew of diseases – from backache to diabetes – according to one evolutionary biologist. And our technology may not get us out of the climate mess we’ve created. So just how good are we at adapting to the world around us?

Find out as you also discover why you should run barefoot … the history of rising tides … why one dedicated environmentalist has thrown in the towel … and an answer to the mystery of why Hawaiian crickets suddenly stopped chirping.

Guests: Daniel Lieberman – Professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University, author of The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease Brian Fagan – Emeritus professor of anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of The Attacking Ocean: The Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels Paul Kingsnorth – Environmental journalist and author of Real England: The Battle Against the Bland and The Wake. The profile of his retreat from environmentalism appeared in the “New York Times Magazine”. Marlene Zuk – Evolutionary biologist, University of Minnesota

First aired June 11, 2014.

A Stellar Job

Jan 5, 2016 50:55

Description:

ENCORE  The stars are out tonight. And they do more than just twinkle. These boiling balls of hot plasma can tell us something about other celestial phenomena. They betray the hiding places of black holes, for one. But they can also fool us. Find out why one of the most intriguing discoveries in astrobiology – that of the potentially habitable exoplanet Gliese 581g – may have been just a mirage.

Plus, the highest levels of ultraviolet light ever mentioned on Earth’s surface puzzles scientists: is it a fluke of nature, or something manmade?

And a physicist suggests that stars could be used by advanced aliens to send hailing signals deep into space.

Guests: Paul Robertson – Postdoctoral fellow, Penn State Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds Mike Joner – Research professor of astronomy at Brigham Young University Nathalie Cabrol – Planetary scientist, SETI Institute Anthony Zee – Theoretical physicist at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara

First aired July 23, 2014.

You Think; You're So Smart

Dec 29, 2015 50:55

Description:

ENCORE  Sure you have a big brain; it’s the hallmark of Homo sapiens. But that doesn’t mean that you’ve cornered the market on intelligence. Admittedly, it’s difficult to say, since the very definition of the term is elusive. Depending on what we mean by intelligence, a certain aquatic mammal is not as smart as we thought (hint: rhymes with “caulpin”) … and your rhododendron may be a photosynthesizing Einstein.

And what I.Q. means for A.I. We may be building our brilliant successors.

Guests:

•   Laurance Doyle – Senior researcher, SETI Institute

•   Justin Gregg – Animal behaviorist, The Dolphin Communication Project, author of Are Dolphins Really Smart?: The mammal behind the myth

•   Michael Pollan – Journalist, author of Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. His article, “The Intelligent Plant,” appeared in the December 23rd issue of The New Yorker

•   Luke Muehlhauser – Executive Director of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute

 

First aired March 19, 2014

Look Who's Not Talking

Dec 15, 2015 51:59

Description:

We may be connected, but some say we’re not communicating.  The consequences could be dire.  A U.S. Army major says that social media are breaking up our “band of brothers,” and that soldiers who tweet rather than talk have less cohesion in combat.

What’s the solution?  Maybe more connectivity to jump start conversation? The makers of Hello Barbie say its sophisticated speech recognition system will engage children in conversation.  But an alternative strategy is to go cold turkey: sign up for a device-free camp (for adults) or stuff a NoPhone in your pocket, and wean yourself from the real thing.

But MIT’s Sherry Turkle says there’s only one solution: more face-to-face time.  Without it, we are in danger of losing our empathy. 

Guests:

John Spencer – Major in the United States Army, scholar at the Modern War Institute, United States Military Academy, West Point.  His op-ed, “A Band of Tweeters,” appeared in the New York Times.  Sarah Wulfeck – Head writer and creative director for Hello Barbie Oren Jacob – Chief Executive Officer, ToyTalk  Levi Felix – Founder, Digital Detox, director, Camp Grounded, summer camp for adults Van Gould -  Co-founder, NoPhone company Sherry Turkle – Professor, Social Studies of Science and Technology, MIT, and author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

Happily Confused

Dec 1, 2015 50:56

Description:

ENCORE  Do you feel happy today? How about happily disgusted? Maybe sadly surprised, or sadly disgusted? Human emotions are complex. But at least they’re the common language that unites us all – except when they don’t. A tribe in Namibia might interpret our expression of fear as one of wonderment. And people with autism don’t feel the emotions that others do.

So if you’re now delightfully but curiously perplexed, tune in and discover the evolutionary reason for laughter … how a computer can diagnose emotional disorders that doctors miss … and why the world’s most famous autistic animal behaviorist has insight into the emotional needs of cattle.

Guests:

Scott Weems – Cognitive scientist, author of Ha!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why Brian Malow – Science comedian Aleix Martinez – Cognitive neuroscientist at The Ohio State University Maria Gendron – Post-doctoral researcher at Northeastern University Temple Grandin – Professor of animal science, Colorado State University, author of 
Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals

First released April 21, 2014

Climate Conversation

Nov 24, 2015 51:35

Description:

The Paris climate talks are scheduled to go ahead despite the terrorist attacks, and attendees hope to sign an international agreement on climate change.  A BBC reporter covering the meetings tells us what we can expect from the conference.

Also, it’s unclear whether Pope Francis himself will travel to the City of Light, but his encyclical may have already influenced the talks there.  A historian considers whether the Church’s acceptance of climate change represents a departure from its historical positions on science.  Galileo, anyone?

Plus, Hollywood may have stretched the science facts to maximum effect in its cli-sci thriller, The Day After Tomorrow, but find out why the film may not be pure fiction. 

And why the developing world may take most of the hit as the planet warms.

Guests:

Sybren Druifhout – Physical oceanographer and climate scientist, Netherlands Meteorological Institute and the University of Southampton, U.K.  Virginia Burkett – Associate Director for Climate and Land Use Change at the United States Geological Survey, and one of the Nobel Prize winning authors of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth assessment report  John Durant – Director of the MIT Museum and teacher in the MIT Science, Technology and Society program Matt McGrath - Environment correspondent for the BBC, based in London

Skeptic Check: Paleo Diet

Nov 17, 2015 52:16

Description:

ENCORE  What’s for dinner? Meat, acorns, tubers, and fruit. Followers of the Paleo diet say we should eat what our ancestors ate 10,000 years ago, when our genes were perfectly in synch with the environment.

We investigate the reasoning behind going paleo with the movement’s pioneer, as well as with an evolutionary biologist. Is it true that our genes haven’t changed much since our hunter-gatherer days?

Plus, a surprising dental discovery is nothing for cavemen to smile about.

And another fad diet that has a historical root: the monastic tradition of 5:2 – five days of eating and two days of fasting.

It’s our monthly look at critical thinking, Skeptic Check … but don’t take our word for it.

Guests: Loren Cordain – Professor of health and exercise science, Colorado State University, founder of the modern-day paleo diet, author, The Paleo Diet Revised: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat Andrew Jotischky – Professor of medieval history, Lancaster University Louise Humphrey – Archeologist, Natural History Museum in London Marlene Zuk – Evolutionary biologist, University of Minnesota, and author of Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live

First released February 19, 2014.

Skeptic Check: Check the Skeptics

Oct 27, 2015 51:37

Description:

ENCORE  One day, coffee is good for you; the next, it’s not. And it seems that everything you eat is linked to cancer, according to research. But scientific studies are not always accurate. Insufficient data, biased measurements, or a faulty analysis can trip them up. And that’s why scientists are always skeptical.

Hear one academic say that more than half of all published results are wrong, but that science still remains the best tool we have for learning about nature.

Also, a cosmologist points to reasons why science can never give us all the answers.

And why the heck are scientists so keen to put a damper on spontaneous combustion?

Studies discussed in this episode:
Chocolate and red wine aren’t good for you after all
The Moon is younger than we thought

Guests: John Ioannidis – Professor of medicine, health research and policy, and statistics, and co-director of the Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford University. His paper, “Why Most Published Research Findings are False,” was published in PLoS Medicine. Marcelo Gleiser – Physicist and astronomer at Dartmouth College, author of The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning Joe Schwarcz – – Professor of chemistry and Director of the Office for Science and Society, McGill University, Montreal and author of Is That a Fact?: Frauds, Quacks, and the Real Science of Everyday Life

First released June 16, 2014.

Smiley Virus

Oct 20, 2015 51:37

Description:

ENCORE For many, the word virus is a synonym for disease – diseases of humans, plants, and even computers. Ebola is an example: a virus with a big and terrifying reputation. And yet the vast majority of viruses are not only friendly, they are essential for life.

Find out how viruses make plant life in Yellowstone’s hottest environments possible, and fear your spinach salad no longer: a scientist recruits viruses to defeat E. coli bacteria.

Plus, a new study presents the disconcerting facts of just how far a sneeze travels, and viruses in another kind of culture: but is ours benevolent? Find out from the man who coined the term, “viral media.”

Guests: David Quammen – Science journalist, contributing writer for National Geographic Magazine, author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. His Op Ed about Ebola appeared in the New York Times. Marilyn Roossinck – Professor of plant pathology and environmental microbiology, Penn State, Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics Paul Ebner – Microbiologist and an associate professor of animal sciences, Purdue University Lydia Bourouiba – Physical applied mathematician, department of civil and environmental engineering, M.I.T. Douglas Rushkoff – Media theorist, author, Media Virus! Hidden Agendas in Popular Cultureand Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now

First released May 12, 2014.

Space for Everyone

Oct 13, 2015 51:38

Description:

ENCORE  Is space the place for you? With a hefty amount of moolah, a trip there and back can be all yours. But when the price comes down, traffic into space may make the L.A. freeway look like a back-country lane.

Space is more accessible than it once was, from the development of private commercial flights … to a radical new telescope that makes everyone an astronomer … to mining asteroids for their metals and water to keep humanity humming for a long time.

Plus, move over Russia and America: Why the next words you hear from space may be in Mandarin.

Guests:

Leonard David – Space journalist, writer for SPACE.com Mario Juric – Astronomer working on data processing for the LSST – the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope John Lewis – Chemist, professor emeritus of planetary sciences, University of Arizona, chief scientist, Deep Space Industries Philip Lubin – Professor of physics, University of California, Santa Barbara James Oberg – Retired NASA rocket scientist, space historian, and a self-described space nut

First released March 3, 2014.

Martian Madness

Oct 6, 2015 51:36

Description:

It’s the starkly beautiful setting for the new film “The Martian,” and – just in time – NASA has announced that the Red Planet is more than a little damp, with liquid water occasionally oozing over its surface.  But Mars remains hostile terrain.  Mark Watney, the astronaut portrayed by Matt Damon, struggles to survive there. If he has a hard time, what chance does anyone else have?

Find out how long you could last just eating Martian potatoes.  Also, author Andy Weir describes how he prevailed upon his readers to turn his serialized blog posts into a technically accurate thriller that inspired the film.   Plus, the NASA advisor to “The Martian” sorts the science from the fiction.

And, how the discovery of water on Mars might change NASA’s game plan.

Guests:

Andy Weir – Author, “The Martian” James Green - Director, NASA’s Planetary Science Christopher Wanjek - Health and science reporter based in Baltimore, Maryland James Watzin – Director, NASA’s Mars Exploration Program

Skeptic Check: What, We Worry?

Sep 29, 2015 51:37

Description:

ENCORE  We all have worries. But as trained observers, scientists learn things that can affect us all. So what troubles them should also trouble us. From viral pandemics to the limits of empirical knowledge, find out what science scenarios give researchers insomnia.

But also, we discover which scary scenarios that preoccupy the public don’t worry the scientists at all. Despite the rumors, you needn’t fear that the Large Hadron Collider will produce black holes that could swallow the Earth.

It’s Skeptic Check, our monthly look at critical thinking … but don’t take our word for it!

Guests:

David Quammen – Science journalist, contributing writer for National Geographic Magazine, author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic Sandra Faber – Astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz Paul Saffo – Technology forecaster based in the Silicon Valley Seth Shostak – Senior astronomer, SETI Institute, host, Big Picture Science Elisa Quintana – Research scientist, SETI Institute Lawrence Krauss – Theoretical physicist, Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University 

Inspiration for this episode comes from the book, What Should We Be Worried About?: Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night edited by John Brockman.

First released May 5, 2014.

Stranded

Sep 15, 2015 51:37

Description:

ENCORE Imagine not knowing where you are – and no one else knowing either. Today, that’s pretty unlikely. Digital devices pinpoint our location within a few feet, so it’s hard to get lost anymore. But we can still get stranded.

A reporter onboard an Antarctic ship that was stuck for weeks in sea ice describes his experience, and contrasts that with a stranding a hundred years prior in which explorers ate their dogs to survive.

Plus, the Plan B that keeps astronauts from floating away forever … how animals and plants hitch rides on open sea to populate new lands … and the rise of the mapping technology that has made hiding a thing of the past.

Guests: Hiawatha Bray – Technology reporter, Boston Globe, author of You Are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselves Andrew Luck-Baker – Producer, BBC radio science unit, London Alan de Queiroz – Evolutionary biologist, University of Nevada, Reno and author of The Monkey’s Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life Chris Hadfield – Astronaut and author of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything. His Space Oddity video.

Descripción en español

First released February 3, 2014.

The Pest of Us

Sep 8, 2015 51:36

Description:

ENCORE Picture a cockroach skittering across your kitchen. Eeww! Now imagine it served as an entrée at your local restaurant. There’s good reason these diminutive arthropods give us the willies – but they may also be the key to protein-rich meals of the future. Get ready for cricket casserole, as our relationship to bugs is about to change.

Also, share in one man’s panic attack when he is swarmed by grasshoppers. And the evolutionary reason insects revolt us, but also why the cicada’s buzz and the beetle’s click may have inspired humans to make music.

Plus, the history of urban pests: why roaches love to hide out between your floorboards. And Molly adopts a boxful of mealworms.

Guests: Jeffrey Lockwood – Professor of natural sciences and humanities, University of Wyoming, author of The Infested Mind: Why Humans Fear, Loathe, and Love Insects David Rothenberg – Musician, author of Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise Dawn Day Biehler – Assistant professor of geography and environmental studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore county, author of Pests in the City: Flies, Bedbugs, Cockroaches, and Rats (Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books) Andrew Brentano, Jena Brentano and Daniel Imrie-Situnayake – Co-founders, Tiny Farms, Berkeley, California

Descripción en español

First released January 27, 2014.

Solar System Vacation

Aug 11, 2015 52:23

Description:

Ever gone bungee jumping on Venus?  Of course not.  No one has.  However your great-great-great grandchildren might find themselves packing for the cloudy planet … or for another locale in our cosmic backyard.  That’s what we picture as we accelerate our imagination to escape velocity and beyond – and tour vacation spots that are out of this world. 

An enormous mountain and an impressive canyon await you on Mars.  If the outer solar system is more your thing, consider making a ten minute free-fall on Miranda, a moon of Uranus, or step up to the challenge of playing catch on an asteroid. 

Also, just opened up: Pluto. A member of the New Horizons science team describes why the dwarf planet could be a holiday haven.  Bring your crampons for ice climbing!

Guests:

•   Andrew Fraknoi – Chair of the astronomy department, Foothill College

•   Lori Fenton - Planetary scientist, SETI Institute 

•   David Grinspoon – Astrobiologist, author of Venus Express

•   Mark Showalter – Planetary scientist, SETI institute, and member of the New Horizons team

•   Michael Busch – Planetary scientist, SETI Institute

Skeptic Check: Are You Sure You're Sure?

Jul 28, 2015 52:22

Description:

ENCORE Nuclear fission powers the Sun. Or is it fusion? At any rate, helium is burned in the process, of that you are certain. After all, you read that article on astronomy last week*.

You know what you know. But you probably don’t know what you don’t know. Few of us do. Scientists say we’re spectacularly incompetent at recognizing our own incompetency, and that sometimes leads to trouble.

Find out why wrongness is the by-product of big brains and why even scientists – gasp! – are not immune. Plus, a peek into the trash bin of history: the biggest scientific blunders and the brighter-than-bright brains that made them. Including Einstein.

*Oh, and the Sun burns hydrogen to produce helium. But then, you knew that.

Guests:

•   David Dunning – Psychologist, Cornell University. His cover story, “We Are All Confidence Idiots,” appeared in the November/December issue of The Pacific Standard.

•   Robert Burton – Neurologist, author, On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not and A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind: What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves

•   Brendan Nyhan – Political scientist, Dartmouth College

•   Mario Livio – Astrophysicist, Space Telescope Science Institute, author, Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein – Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe

First released November 10, 2014.

Forget to Remember

Jul 14, 2015 52:21

Description:

ENCORE  You must not remember this. Indeed, it may be key to having a healthy brain. Our gray matter evolved to forget things; otherwise we’d have the images of every face we saw on the subway rattling around our head all day long. Yet we’re building computers with the capacity to remember everything. Everything! And we might one day hook these devices to our brains.

Find out what’s it’s like – and whether it’s desirable – to live in a world of total recall. Plus, the quest for cognitive computers, and how to shake that catchy – but annoying – jingle that plays in your head over and over and over and …

Guests:

•   Ramamoorthy Ramesh – Materials physicist, deputy director of science and technology, Oakridge National Lab

•   Michael Anderson – Neuroscientist, Memory Control Lab, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge in the U.K.

•   Ira Hyman – Psychologist at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington

•   James McGaugh – Neurobiologist, University of California, Irvine

•   Larry Smarr – Professor of computer science, University of California, San Diego; director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2)

 

First released January 20, 2014.

Dogged Pursuit of Pluto

Jul 7, 2015 50:31

Description:

Pluto is ready for its close up – but the near encounter during this historic flyby will last less than three minutes. Be ready for the action with our special New Horizons episode!

Hear from researchers who are Pluto rock stars: the astronomer who discovered two of Pluto’s five moons, the planetary scientist who coined the term “dwarf planet,” and the man who claims to have “killed Pluto.”

Find out how the New Horizons spacecraft will dodge rocks and other dangers as it approaches the planet and what we might learn about planet formation once we arrive. And why the battle over Pluto’s nomenclature continues.

Plus, Neil deGrasse Tyson reads his hate mail – from 3rd graders. 

Guests:

•   Neil deGrasse Tyson – Astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium, New York City

•   Alan Stern – Planetary scientist, Principal Investigator, New Horizons mission

•   Mark Showalter – Senior research scientist, SETI Institute, New Horizons team member

•   Mike Brown – Astronomer, California Institute of Technology

What the Hack

Jun 30, 2015 51:37

Description:

ENCORE  A computer virus that bombards you with pop-up ads is one thing. A computer virus that shuts down a city’s electric grid is another. Welcome to the new generation of cybercrime. Discover what it will take to protect our power, communication and transportation systems as scientists try to stay ahead of hackers in an ever-escalating game of cat and mouse.

The expert who helped decipher the centrifuge-destroying Stuxnet virus tells us what he thinks is next. Also convenience vs. vulnerability as we connect to the Internet of Everything. And, the journalist who wrote that Google was “making us stupid,” says automation is extracting an even higher toll: we’re losing basic skills. Such as how to fly airplanes.

Guests:

•   Ray Sims – Computer Technician, Computer Courage, Berkeley, California

•   Eric Chien – Technical Director of Security Technology and Response, Symantec

•   Paul Jacobs – Chairman and CEO of Qualcomm

•   Shankar Sastry – Dean of the College of Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, director of TRUST

•   Nicholas Carr – Author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains and the forthcoming “The Glass Cage”. His article, “The Great Forgetting,” is in the November 2013 issue of The Atlantic.

 

First released November 11, 2013.

Skeptic Check: Evolutionary Arms Race

Jun 23, 2015 51:36

Description:

ENCORE It’s hard to imagine the twists and turns of evolution that gave rise to Homo Sapiens. After all, it required geologic time, and the existence of many long-gone species that were once close relatives. That may be one reason why – according to a recent poll – one-third of all Americans reject the theory of evolution. They prefer to believe that humans and other living organisms have existed in their current form since the beginning of time.

 

 

 

But if you’ve ever been sick, you’ve been the victim of evolution on a very observable time scale. Nasty viruses and bacteria take full advantage of evolutionary forces to adapt to new hosts. And they can do it quickly.

Discover how comparing the deadly 1918 flu virus with variants today may help us prevent the next pandemic. Also, while antibiotic resistance is threatening to become a major health crisis, better understanding of how bacteria evolve their defenses against our drugs may help us out.

And the geneticist who sequenced the Neanderthal genome says yes, our hirsute neighbors co-mingled with humans.

It’s Skeptic Check … but don’t take our word for it!

Guests:

•   Svante Pääbo – Evolutionary geneticist, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, author of Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes

•   Ann Reid – – Molecular biologist, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, Oakland, California

•   Martin Blaser – Microbiologist, New York University School of Medicine, member of the National Academy of Sciences, author of Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues

•   Gautam Dantas – Pathologist, immunologist, Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology, Washington University, Saint Louis

First released March 31, 2014.

It's All Relative

Jun 16, 2015 51:36

Description:

A century ago, Albert Einstein rewrote our understanding of physics with his Theory of General Relativity. Our intuitive ideas about space, time, mass, and gravity turned out to be wrong.

Find out how this masterwork changed our understanding of how the universe works and why you can thank Einstein whenever you turn on your GPS.

Also, high-profile experiments looking for gravitational waves and for black holes will put the theories of the German genius to the test – will they pass?

And why the story of a box, a Geiger counter, and a zombie cat made Einstein and his friend Erwin Schrödinger uneasy about the quantum physics revolution.

Guests:

•   Jeffrey Bennett – Astronomer, author of What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter

•   Beverly Berger – Theoretical physicist and the Secretary for the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation

•   Hiawatha Bray – Technology reporter, Boston Globe, author of You Are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselves

•  Paul Halpern – Physicist at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, author of Einstein’s Dice and Schrödinger’s Cat: How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness to Create a Unified Theory of Physics

Math's Days Are Numbered

Jun 2, 2015 51:37

Description:

ENCORE  Imagine a world without algebra. We can hear the sound of school children applauding. What practical use are parametric equations and polynomials, anyway? Even some scholars argue that algebra is the Latin of today, and should be dropped from the mandatory curriculum.

But why stop there? Maybe we should do away with math classes altogether.

An astronomer says he’d be out of work: we can all forget about understanding the origins of the universe, the cycles of the moon and how to communicate with alien life. Also, no math = no cybersecurity + hackers (who have taken math) will have the upper hand.

Also, without mathematics, you’ll laugh < you do now. The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has peppered his animated show with hidden math jokes.

And why mathematics = love.

Guests:

•   Andrew Hacker – Professor of political science and mathematics at Queens College, City University of New York. His article, “Is Algebra Necessary?”, appeared in The New York Times in 2012.

•   Bob Berman – Astronomy editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the author of The Sun’s Heartbeat: And Other Stories from the Life of the Star That Powers Our Planet, and columnist for Astronomy Magazine. His article, “How Math Drives the Universe” is the cover story in the December 2013 issue.

•   Simon Singh – Science writer, author of The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets

•   Rob ManningFlight system chief engineer at the Jet Propulsion Lab, responsible for NASA’s Curiosity rover

•   Edward Frenkel – Professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, author of Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality. His article, “The Perils of Hacking Math,” is found on the online magazine, Slate.

 

First released December 2, 2015.

A Fundy Thing Happened

May 12, 2015 01:05:25

Description:

Get ready for déjà vu as you listen to some of our favorite interviews from the past year. It’s our annual fundraising podcast. Come for the great interviews, stay for the great interviews. Lend us your support along the way. 

What’s for dinner? Maybe Soylent. Made by … people! We do a taste test. Then meet your gut microbes. They control your health and even your mood.

Get tips on how to talk to aliens, why you should keep an eye on government surveillance, and the future of 3D printing human tissue. Also, why extraordinary beliefs persist – including Holocaust denial – despite the persistence of evidence to the contrary.

And, global perspective: why Ebola won’t be the next big pandemic but sea level rise could wipe out coasts along Florida and Thailand.

Plus, we imagine life hundreds of years ago for the renegades on the rough seas, and what the world would be like had the dinosaurs not gone extinct.

All this and more on a special Big Picture Science podcast!

Guests:

•   Bill Miller – Physician and author of The Microcosm Within: Evolution and Extinction in the Hologenome

•   Rob Rhinehart – CEO and founder of Soylent

•   Brian Fagan – Emeritus professor of anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of The Attacking Ocean: The Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels

•   David Quammen – Science journalist, contributing writer for National Geographic Magazine, author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. His Op Ed article about Ebola appeared in the New York Times.

•   Shari Wells-Jensen – Professor of English, Bowling Green State University

•   Susan Landau – Mathematician and engineer who works on cybersecurity, privacy and public policy at the Worchester Polytechnic Institute, author most recently of Surveillance or Security?: The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies

•   Will Storr – Journalist, author of The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science

•   Ali Khademhosseini – Bioengineer, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Woman’s Hospital

Invisible Worlds

Apr 28, 2015 51:37

Description:

ENCORE  You can’t see it, but it’s there, whether an atom, a gravity wave, or the bottom of the ocean … but we have technology that allows us to detect what eludes our sight. When we do, whole worlds open up.

Without telescopes, asteroids become visible only three seconds before they slam into the Earth. Find out how we track them long before that happens. Also, could pulsars help us detect the gravity waves that Einstein’s theory predicts?

Plus, why string theory and parallel universes may remain just interesting ideas … the story of the woman who mapped the ocean floor … and why the disappearance of honeybees may change what you eat.

Guests:

•   David Morrison – NASA space scientist and Director of the Carl Sagan Center at the SETI Institute

•   May Berenbaum – Entomologist, University of Illinois

•   Scott Ransom – Astronomer, National Radio Astronomy Observatory

•   Lee Smolin – Theoretical physicist, Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics, Canada, author of Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe

•   Hali Felt – Author of Soundings: The Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor

 

First released September 23, 2013.

Life in Space

Apr 21, 2015 51:36

Description:

Discovering bacteria on Mars would be big news. But nothing would scratch our alien itch like making contact with intelligent life. Hear why one man is impatient for the discovery, and also about the new tools that may speed up the “eureka” moment. One novel telescope may help us find E.T. at home, by detecting the heat of his cities.

Also, the father of modern SETI research and how decoding the squeals of dolphins could teach us how to communicate with aliens.

Guests:

•   Lee Billings – Journalist and author of Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars

•   Oliver Guyon – Optical physicist, astronomer, University of Arizona and Suburu telescope; 2012 McArthur Genius award winner

•   Jeff Kuhn – Physicist, Institute for Astronomy in Honolulu, Colossus Telescope

•   Frank Drake – Astronomer, SETI Institute

•   Denise Herzing – Behavioral biologist and research director of the Wild Dolphin Project

Skeptic Check: Monster Mashup

Apr 14, 2015 51:36

Description:

ENCORE  Monsters don’t exist. Except when they do. And extinction is forever, except when it isn’t. So, which animals are mythical and which are in hiding?

Bigfoot sightings are plentiful, but real evidence for the hirsute creature is a big zilch. Yet, the coelacanth, a predatory fish thought extinct, actually lives. Today, its genome is offering clues as to how and when our fishy ancestors first flopped onto land.

Meanwhile, the ivory-billed woodpecker assumes mythic status as it flutters between existence and extinction. And, from passenger pigeons to the wooly mammoth, hi-tech genetics may imitate Jurassic Park, and bring back vanished animals.

Guests:

•   Donald Prothero – Paleontologist, geologist, former professor at Occidental College, co-author of Abominable Science!: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids

•   Chris Amemiya – Biologist and geneticist at the University of Washington and the Benaroya Research Institute, Seattle

•   John Fitzpatrick – Ornithologist and director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University

•   Ben Novak – Visiting biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, lead coordinating scientist of “The Great Comeback” at the Revive and Restore project, Long Now Foundation

 

First released December 9, 2013.

Power to the People

Mar 24, 2015 51:37

Description:

ENCORE  Let there be light! Well, it’s easy to do: just flip a switch. But it took more than the invention of the light bulb to make that possible. It required new technology for the distribution of electricity. And that came, not so much from Thomas Edison, but from a Serbian genius named Nikola Tesla.

Hear his story plus ideas on what might be the breakthrough energy innovations of the future. Perhaps hydrogen-fueled cars, nuclear fusion electrical generators or even orbiting solar cells?

Plus, a reminder of cutting-edge technology back in Napoleon’s day: lighthouses.

Guests:

•   W. Bernard Carlson – Professor of science, technology and society, University of Virginia, and author of Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age

•   Michael Dunne – Physicist, program director for laser fusion energy, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

•   R. Tom Baker – Chemist, director of the Center for Catalysis Research and Innovation, University of Ottawa

•   Paul Young – Radio engineer, director of Powersat Ltd.

•   Theresa Levitt – Historian, University of Mississippi, and author of A Short Bright Flash: Augustin Fresnel and the Birth of the Modern Lighthouse

 

First released September 30, 2013.

Mars-Struck

Mar 10, 2015 51:36

Description:

You love to travel. But would you if doing so meant never coming home? The private company Mars One says it will land humans on the Red Planet by 2026, but is only offering passengers one-way tickets. Hundreds of thousands of people volunteered to go.

Meet a young woman who made the short list, and hear why she’s ready to be Mars-bound. Also, why microbes could be hiding in water trapped in the planet’s rocks. And, how a wetter, better Mars lost its atmosphere and became a dry and forbidding place.

Plus, why Kim Stanley Robinson, author of a famous trilogy about colonizing and terraforming Mars, thinks that the current timeline for going to the planet is unrealistic.

Guests:

•   Laurel Kaye – A senior in the physics department at Duke University

•   Alfonso Davila – Senior scientist at the SETI Institute

•   Stephen Brecht – Physicist and president of the Bay Area Research Group

•   Kim Stanley Robinson – Hugo Award-winning science Fiction author of the Mars trilogy: Red Mars (Mars Trilogy), Green Mars (Mars Trilogy), Blue Mars (Mars Trilogy)

Sesquicentennial Science

Feb 17, 2015 51:36

Description:

Today, scientists are familiar to us, but they weren’t always. Even the word “scientist” is relatively modern, dating from the Victorian Era.

And it is to that era we turn as we travel to the University of Notre Dame to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its College of Science with a show recorded in front of a live audience.

Find out how the modern hunt for planets around other stars compares to our knowledge of the cosmos a century and a half ago. Also how faster computers have ushered in the realm of Big Data.

And a science historian describes us what major science frontiers were being crossed during the era of Charles Darwin and germ theory.

It’s then versus now on Sesquicentennial Science!

Recorded at the Eck Center at the University of Notre Dame, February 4th, 2015

Guests:

•   Justin Crepp – Professor of physics, University of Notre Dame

•   Nitesh Chawla – Professor of computer science and engineering and director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Network Sciences and Applications at Notre Dame

•   John Durant – Historian of science, director of the MIT Museum

Digging Our Past

Feb 3, 2015 52:17

Description:

ENCORE  What’s past is prologue. For centuries, researchers have studied buried evidence – bones, teeth, or artifacts – to learn about murky human history, or even to investigate vanished species. But today’s hi-tech forensics allow us to analyze samples dug from the ground faster and at a far more sophisticated level.

First, the discovery of an unknown species of dinosaur that changes our understanding of the bizarre beasts that once roamed North America.

And then some history that’s more recent: two projects that use the tools of modern chemistry and anthropology to deepen our understanding of the slave trade.

Plus, an anthropologist on an evolutionary habit that is strange to some, but nonetheless common all over the world: the urge to eat dirt.

Guests:

•   Scott Sampson – Paleontologist at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and author of Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life

•   Fatimah Jackson – Biologist, anthropologist, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, director of the Cobb Lab at Howard University, and advisor to EUROTAST

•   Joseph Jones – Biological anthropologist, visiting assistant professor at the College of William and Mary, researcher on the African Burial Ground Project

•   Sera Young – Research scientist, division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, and author of Craving Earth: Understanding Pica—the Urge to Eat Clay, Starch, Ice, and Chalk

 

First released August 12, 2013.

Skeptic Check: Mummy Dearest

Jan 27, 2015 52:19

Description:

ENCORE  Shh …mummy’s the word! We don’t want to provoke the curse of King Tut. Except that there are many curses associated with this fossilized pharaoh – from evil spirits to alien malevolence. So it’s hard to know which one we’d face.

We’ll unravel secrets about the famous young pharaoh, including the bizarre events that transpired after the discovery of his tomb in the Valley of the Kings, and learn what modern imaging reveals about life 3,000 years ago.

Plus, we dispel myths about how to make a mummy, while learning the origin of that notorious mummy curse. Also, discover why superstitions have survival value.

Guests:

•   Jo Marchant – Author of The Shadow King: The Bizarre Afterlife of King Tut’s Mummy

•   Andrew Wade – Physical anthropologist, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario

•   Salim Ikram – Professor of Egyptology, American University, Cairo

•   Stuart Vyse – Professor of psychology, Connecticut College, New London, Connecticut, author of Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition

•   F. DeWolfe Miller – Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa

 

First released June 24, 2013.

Big Questions Somewhat Answered

Jan 20, 2015 52:36

Description:

Here are questions that give a cosmologist – and maybe even you – insomnia: What happened after the Big Bang? What is dark matter? Will dark energy tear the universe apart?

Let us help you catch those zzzzs. We’re going to provide answers to the biggest cosmic puzzlers of our time. Somewhat. Each question is the focus of new experiments that are either underway or in the queue.

Hear the latest results in the search for gravitational waves that would be evidence for cosmic inflation, as well as the hunt for dark matter and dark energy. And because these questions are bigger than big, we’ve enlisted cosmologist Sean Carroll as our guide to what these experiments might reveal and what it all means.

Guests:

•   Sean Carroll – Cosmologist, California Institute of Technology

•   Jamie Bock – Experimental cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a member of the BICEP team

•   Brendan Crill – Cosmologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and member of the Planck collaboration

•   Jeff Filippini – Post-doctoral Fellow, California Institute of Technology, assistant professor of physics at the University of Illinois and member of the Spider team

•   Neil Gehrels – Astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, project scientist for WFIRST

Meet Your Replacements

Jan 6, 2015 51:31

Description:

ENCORE There’s no one like you. At least, not yet. But in some visions of the future, androids can do just about everything, computers will hook directly into your brain, and genetic human-hybrids with exotic traits will be walking the streets. So could humans become an endangered species?

Be prepared to meet the new-and-improved you. But how much human would actually remain in the humanoids of the future?

Plus, tips for preventing our own extinction in the face of inevitable natural catastrophes.

Guests:

•   Robin Hanson – Associate professor of economics, George Mason University

•   Luke Muehlhauser – Executive director of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute

•   Stuart Newman – Professor of cell biology and anatomy, New York Medical College

•   Annalee Newitz – Editor of io9.com, and author of Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction

 

First released July 1, 2013.

Skeptic Check: Got a Sweet Truth?

Dec 30, 2014 52:13

Description:

ENCORE  The sweet stuff is getting sour press. Some researchers say sugar is toxic. A new study seems to support that idea: mice fed the human equivalent of an extra three sodas a day become infertile or die. But should cupcakes be regulated like alcohol?

Hear both sides of the debate. Another researcher says that animal studies are misleading, and that, for good health, you should count calories, not candy and carbs.

Plus, an investigative reporter exposes the tricks that giant food companies employ to keep you hooked on sugar, salt, and fat.

It’s Skeptic Check … but don’t take our word for it!

Guests:

•   Robert Lustig – University of California, San Francisco, author of Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease

•   James Ruff – Biologist post-doc at The University of Utah

•   John Sievenpiper – Knowledge Synthesis Lead of the Toronto 3D Knowledge Synthesis and Clinical Trials Unit, St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, Canada

•   Michael Moss – Pulitzer prize-winning journalist at The New York Times, and author of Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

 

First released August 19, 2013.

Shocking Ideas

Dec 16, 2014 52:12

Description:

Electricity is so 19th century. Most of the uses for it were established by the 1920s. So there’s nothing innovative left to do, right? That’s not the opinion of the Nobel committee that awarded its 2014 physics prize to scientists who invented the blue LED.

Find out why this LED hue of blue was worthy of our most prestigious science prize … how some bacteria actually breathe rust … and a plan to cure disease by zapping our nervous system with electric pulses.

Guests:

•   Siddha Pimputkar – Postdoctoral researcher in the Materials Department of the Solid State Lighting and Energy Electronics Center under Shuji Nakamura, winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara

•   Jeff Gralnick – Associate professor of microbiology at the University of Minnesota

•   Kevin Tracey – Neurosurgeon and president of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York

Long Live Longevity

Dec 2, 2014 52:07

Description:

Here’s to a long life – which, on average, is longer today than it was a century ago. How much farther can we extend that ultimate finish line? Scientists are in hot pursuit of the secret to longer life.

The latest in aging studies and why there’s a silver lining for the silver-haired set: older people are happier. Also, what longevity means if you’re a tree. Plus, why civilizations need to stick around if we’re to make contact with E.T.

And, how our perception of time shifts as we age, and other tricks that clocks play on the mind.

Guests:

•   Ted Anton – Professor of English, DePaul University, Chicago, author of The Longevity Seekers: Science, Business, and the Fountain of Youth

•   Laura Carstensen – Psychologist, Stanford University, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity

•   Peter Crane – Botanist, dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental studies, Yale University, and author of Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot

•   Frank Drake – Astronomer, SETI Institute

•   Claudia Hammond – BBC broadcaster and author of Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception

This Land Is Island

Nov 24, 2014 51:34

Description:

There are many kinds of islands. There’s your iconic sandy speck of land topped with a palm tree, but there’s also our home planet – an island in the vast seas of space. You might think of yourself as a biological island … until you tally the number of microbes living outside – and inside – your body.

We go island hopping, and consider the Scottish definition of an island – one man, one sheep – as well as the swelling threat of high water to island nations. Also, how species populate islands … and tricks for communicating with extraterrestrial islanders hanging out elsewhere in the cosmos.

Guests:

•   Edward Chamberlin – Professor emeritus of English and comparative literature at the University of Toronto; fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; author of Island: How Islands Transform the World

•   Bill McKibben – Writer, activist and professor of environmental studies, Middlebury College, founder of 350.org

•   Justin Sonnenburg – Microbiologist, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University

•   Guy Consolmagno – Astronomer, Vatican Observatory

•   Margaret Race – Ecologist, SETI Institute

Sounds Abound

Nov 4, 2014 52:22

Description:

The world is a noisy place. But now we have a better idea what the fuss is about. Not only can we record sound, but our computers allow us to analyze it.

Bird sonograms reveal that our feathery friends give each other nicknames and share details about their emotional state. Meanwhile, hydrophones capture the sounds of dying icebergs, and let scientists separate natural sound from man-made in the briny deep.

Plus, native Ohio speakers help decipher what Neil Armstrong really said on that famous day. And, think your collection of 45 rpm records is impressive? Try feasting your ears on sound recorded before the Civil War.

Guests:

•   Bob Dziak – Oceanographer, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon State University, Program Manager, Acoustics Program, NOAA

•   Michael Porter – Senior scientist of H.L.S. Research, La Jolla, California

•   Patrick Feaster – Sound media historian at Indiana University

•   Laura Dilley – Assistant professor in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University

•   Jenny Papka – Co-director of Native Bird Connections

•   Michael Webster – Professor of neurobiology and behavior, director of the Macaulay Library, Cornell University

Skeptic Check: Friends Like These

Oct 28, 2014 52:27

Description:

We love our family and friends, but sometimes their ideas about how the world works seem a little wacky. We asked BiPiSci listeners to share examples of what they can’t believe their loved-ones believe, no matter how much they hear rational explanations to the contrary. Then we asked some scientists about those beliefs, to get their take.

Discover whether newspaper ink causes cancer … if King Tut really did add a curse to his sarcophagus … the efficacy of examining your irises – iridology – to diagnose disease … and more!

Oh, and what about string theory? Is it falsifiable?

Guests:

•   Steven Novella – Physician at Yale University, host of the podcast, “Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe”

•   Matthew Hutson – Author of The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane

•   Brian Greene – Physicist, Columbia University, author of The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos and The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory

•   Guy Harrison – Author of 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True and, most recently, 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian

What's the Difference?

Oct 6, 2014 51:36

Description:

We make split second decisions about others – someone is male or female, black or white, us or them. But sometimes the degrees of separation are incredibly few. A mere handful of genes determine skin color, for example.

Find out why race is almost non-existent from a biological perspective, and how the snippet of DNA that is the Y chromosome came to separate male from female.

Plus, why we’re wired to categorize. And, a groundbreaking court case proposes to erase the dividing line between species: lawyers argue to grant personhood status to our chimpanzee cousins.

Guests: David Page – Biologist and geneticist, at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Stephen Stearns – Evolutionary biologist, Yale University John Dovidio – Social psychologist at Yale University Steven M. Wise – Lawyer, Nonhuman Rights Project

Descripción en español

As You Were

Sep 22, 2014 52:11

Description:

ENCORE We all want to turn back time. But until we build a time machine, we’ll have to rely on a few creative approaches to capturing things as they were – and preserving them for posterity. One is upping memory storage capacity itself. Discover just how much of the past we can cram into our future archives, and whether going digital has made it all vulnerable to erasure.

Plus – scratch it and tear it – then watch this eerily-smart material revert to its undamaged self. And, what was life like pre-digital technology? We can’t remember, but one writer knows; he’s living life circa 1993 (hint: no cell phone).

Also, using stem cells to save the white rhino and other endangered species. And, the arrow of time itself – could it possibly run backwards in another universe?

Guests: Michael S. Malone – Professor of professional writing at Santa Clara University and the author of The Guardian of All Things: The Epic Story of Human Memory Oliver Ryder – Director of genetics, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research Michael E. Smith – Chemist, Arkema, Inc Sean Carroll – Theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology, author of The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World Pico Iyer – Writer, author of The Man Within My Head and the New York Times article, “The Joy of Quiet”

Descripción en español

First released October 29, 2012.

Skeptic Check: Is It True?

Sep 15, 2014 52:12

Description:

We often hear fantastic scientific claims that would change everything if true. Such as the report that algae is growing on the outside of the International Space Station or that engineers have built a rocket that requires no propellant to accelerate. We examine news stories that seem too sensational to be valid, yet just might be – including whether a killer asteroid has Earth’s name on it.

Plus, a journalist investigates why people hold on to their beliefs even when the evidence is stacked hard against them – from skepticism about climate change to Holocaust denial. And, why professional skeptics are just as enamored with their beliefs as anyone else.

Guests: Lynn Rothschild – Evolutionary biologist and astrobiologist at NASA Ames Research Center Will Storr – Journalist, author of The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science Steven Novella – Assistant professor, Yale University School of Medicine, host of the “Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe” podcast David Morrison – Director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, SETI Institute

Descripción en español

A Sudden Change in Planets

Sep 8, 2014 52:13

Description:

A planet is a planet is a planet. Unless it’s Pluto – then it’s a dwarf planet. But even then it’s a planet, according to experts. So what was behind the unpopular re-classification of Pluto by astronomers, and were they justified?

As the New Horizons spacecraft closes in on this small body, one planetary scientist says that this dwarf planet could be more typical of planets than Mars, Mercury, and Saturn. And that our solar system has not 8 or even 9 planets, but 900.

Also, meet a type of planet that’s surprisingly commonplace, although we don’t have one in our solar system: super Earths. Could they harbor life?

And the DAWN mission continues its visit to the two most massive residents of the asteroid belt: Vesta and Ceres. Discover what these proto-planets may reveal to us about the early solar system.

Guests: Alan Stern – Planetary scientist, Southwest Research Institute, Principal Investigator of the New Horizons mission Marc Rayman – DAWN Mission chief engineer and mission director David Stevenson – Professor of planetary science at CalTech Rebekah Dawson – Astronomer, postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley David Eicher – Editor-in-chief, Astronomy Magazine

Descripción en español

Welcome to Our Labor-atory

Sep 1, 2014 52:07

Description:

ENCORE Hi ho, hi ho … it’s out with work we go! As you relax this holiday weekend, step into our labor-atory and imagine a world with no work allowed. Soft robots help us with tasks at home and at the office, while driverless cars allow us to catch ZZZZs in the front seat.

Plus, the Internet of Everything interconnects all your devices, from your toaster to your roaster to … you. So there’s no need to ever get off the couch. But is a machine-ruled world a true utopia?

And, the invention that got us into our 24/7 rat race: Edison’s electric light.

Guests: Barry Trimmer – Professor of biology, neuroscience, and biomedical engineering at Tufts University, and editor-in-chief, Soft Robotics Red Whittaker – Roboticist at Carnegie Mellon University Ernest Freeberg – Historian, University of Tennessee, and author of The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America Rob Chandhok – Computer scientist, president of Qualcomm Interactive Platforms Andre Bormanis – Television writer, producer, screenwriter and science advisor to Star Trek and Cosmos

Descripción en español

First released August 26, 2013.

ZZZZZs Please

Aug 25, 2014 51:28

Description:

ENCORE We’ve all hit the snooze button when the alarm goes off, but why do we crave sleep in the first place? We explore the evolutionary origins of sleep … the study of narcolepsy in dogs … and could novel drugs and technologies cut down on our need for those zzzzs.

Plus, ditch your dream journal: a brain scanner may let you record – and play back – your dreams.

And, branch out with the latest development in artificial light: bioluminescent trees. How gene tinkering may make your houseplants both grow and glow.

Guests: Emmanuel Mignot – Professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and director of the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, Stanford University Kyle Taylor – Molecular biologist at Glowing Plant Jerry Siegel – Neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry, the University of California, Los Angeles Jack Gallant – Professor of psychology and neuroscience, University of California, Berkeley

Descripción en español

First released May 27, 2013.

De-Extinction Show

Aug 11, 2014 51:30

Description:

ENCORE Maybe goodbye isn’t forever. Get ready to mingle with mammoths and gaze upon a ground sloth. Scientists want to give some animals a round-trip ticket back from oblivion. Learn how we might go from scraps of extinct DNA to creating live previously-extinct animals, and the man who claims it’s his mission to repopulate the skies with passenger pigeons.

But even if we have the tools to bring vanished animals back, should we?

Plus, the extinction of our own species: are we engineering the end of humans via our technology?

Guests: Beth Shapiro – Associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, University of California, Santa Cruz Ben Novak – Biologist, Revive and Restore project at the Long Now Foundation, visiting biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz Hank Greely – Lawyer working in bioethics, director of the Stanford Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University Melanie Challenger – Poet, writer, author of On Extinction: How We Became Estranged from Nature Nick Bostrom – Director of the Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University

Descripción en español

First released April 29, 2013.

Eye Spy

Aug 4, 2014 51:54

Description:

Who’s watching you? Could be anyone, really. Social media sites, webcams, CCTV cameras and smartphones have made keeping tabs on you as easy as tapping “refresh” on a tablet. And who knows what your cell phone records are telling the NSA?

Surveillance technology has privacy on the run, as we navigate between big data benefits and Big Brother intrusion.

Find out why wearing Google Glass could make everything you see the property of its creator, and which Orwellian technologies are with us today. But just how worried should we be? A cyber security expert weighs in.

Also, the benefits of an eye in the sky. A startup company claims that their suite of microsatellites will help protect Earth’s fragile environment.

And Gary catches a cat burglar!

Guests: Robert Gehl – Professor in the Department of Communication, University of Utah. His article, “A Mind Meld with the Surveillance State” appeared in an online issue of The Week. Hal Rappaport – Technology consultant for businesses, author of the paranormal thriller Hath No Fury: The Lesson of Three Book One. His article, “7 Sinister Technologies from Orwell’s 1984", appeared on the SyFy Channel’s online magazine. Susan Landau – Professor of cyber security policy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, author of Surveillance or Security?: The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies and Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption. William Marshall – Physicist, Planet Labs

Descripción en español

Skeptic Check: About Face

Jul 14, 2014 52:25

Description:

ENCORE Face it – humans are pattern-seeking animals. We identify eyes, nose and mouth where there are none. Martian rock takes on a visage and the silhouette of Elvis appears in our burrito. Discover the roots of our face-tracking tendency – pareidolia – and why it sometimes leads us astray.

Plus, why some brains can’t recognize faces at all … how computer programs exhibit their own pareidolia … and why it’s so difficult to replicate human vision in a machine

Guests: Phil Plait – Astronomer, Skeptic, and author of Slate Magazine’s blog Bad Astronomy Josef Parvizi – Associate professor, Stanford University, and clinical neurologist and epilepsy specialist at Stanford Medical Center Nancy Kanwisher – Cognitive neuroscientist, at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT Greg Borenstein – Artist, creative technologist who teaches at New York University Pietro Perona – Professor of electrical engineering, computation and neural systems, California Institute of Technology

Descripción en español

First released February 25, 2013.

Deep Time

Jul 7, 2014 51:30

Description:

ENCORE Think back, way back. Beyond last week or last year … to what was happening on Earth 100,000 years ago. Or 100 million years ago. It’s hard to fathom such enormous stretches of time, yet to understand the evolution of the cosmos – and our place in it – your mind needs to grasp the deep meaning of eons. Discover techniques for thinking in units of billions of years, and how the events that unfold over such intervals have left their mark on you.

Plus: the slow-churning processes that turned four-footed creatures into the largest marine animals that ever graced the planet and using a new telescope to travel in time to the birth of the galaxies.

Guests: Jim Rosenau – Artist, Berkeley, California Robert Hazen – Senior staff scientist at the Geophysical Laboratory at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, executive director of the Deep Carbon Observatory and the author of The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet Neil Shubin – Biologist, associate dean of biological sciences at the University of Chicago, and the author of The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People Nicholas Pyenson – Curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Alison Peck – Scientist, National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia

Descripción en español

First released April 22, 2013.

Time for a Map

Jun 30, 2014 52:28

Description:

ENCORE It’s hard to get lost these days. GPS pinpoints your location to within a few feet. Discover how our need to get from A to B holds clues about what makes us human, and what we lose now that every digital map puts us at the center.

Plus, stories of animal navigation: how a cat found her way home across Florida, and the magnetic navigation systems used by salmon and sea turtles.

Also, why you’ll soon be riding in driverless cars. And, how to map our universe.

Guests: John Bradshaw – Director of the University of Bristol’s Anthrozoology Institute, author of Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet and, most recently, Cat Sense Kenneth Lohmann – Biologist at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill Simon Garfield – Author of On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks William “Red” Whittaker – Roboticist at Carnegie Mellon University James Trefil – Physicist at George Mason University, author of Space Atlas: Mapping the Universe and Beyond

Descripción en español

First released March 18, 2013.

What Do You Make Of It?

Jun 23, 2014 52:27

Description:

You are surrounded by products. Most of them, factory-made. Yet there was a time when building things by hand was commonplace, and if something stopped working, well, you jumped into the garage and fixed it, rather than tossing it into the circular file.

Participants at the Maker Faire are bringing back the age of tinkering, one soldering iron and circuit board at a time. Meet the 12-year old who built a robot to solve his Rubik’s Cube, and learn how to print shoes at home. Yes, “print.”

Plus, the woman who started Science Hack Day … the creation of a beard-slash-cosmic-ray detector … the history of the transistor … and new materials that come with nervous systems: get ready for self-healing concrete.

(Photo is a model of the first transistor built in 1947 at the Bell Telephone Labs in New Jersey that led to a Nobel Prize. Today’s computers contain many million transistors … but they’re a lot smaller than this one, which is about the size of a quarter. Credit: Seth Shostak.)

Guests: Lucy Beard – Founder of Feetz Mark Miodownik – Materials scientist, director of the Institute of Making, University College, London, and author of Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World Steve Nelson – Team K.I.S.S. Robotics, maker of Beer2D2 Dan Lankford – Managing director, Wavepoint Ventures Ariel Waldman – Founder, Spacehack.org, global instigator of Science Hack Day Saurabh Narain – 12 year-old participant in Maker Faire

Descripción en español

A New Hope for Life In Space

Jun 2, 2014 51:31

Description:

Alien life. A flurry of recent discoveries has shifted the odds of finding it. Scientists use the Kepler telescope to spot a planet the same size and temperature as Earth … and announce that there could be tens of billions of similar worlds, just in our galaxy!

Plus, new gravity data suggests a mammoth reservoir of water beneath the icy skin of Saturn’s moon Enceladus … and engineers are already in a race to design drills that can access the subsurface ocean of another moon, Jupiter’s Europa.

Meanwhile, Congress holds hearings to assess the value of looking for life in space. Seth Shostak goes to Washington to testify. Hear what he said and whether the exciting discoveries in astrobiology have stimulated equal enthusiasm among those who hold the purse strings.

Guests: Elisa Quintana – Research scientist at the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center Christopher McKay – Planetary scientist, NASA Ames Research Center Victoria Siegel – Autonomous systems engineer for Stone Aerospace Inc. Cynthia Phillips – Planetary geologist, SETI Institute

Descripción en español

Just For the Fund Of It

May 26, 2014 01:08:41

Description:

Get ready for déjà vu as you listen to some of our favorite interviews in the past year. It’s our annual fundraising podcast. Come for the great interviews, stay for the great interviews. Lend us your support along the way.

What’s for dinner? Maybe fried bugs. Listen as we do a taste test. Speaking of dinner, learn why saliva’s acceptable as long as it’s in our mouth. But dollop some into our own soup, and we push the bowl away.

Hear adventures of space walking and of space hunting: what happens to the search for extrasolar planets now that the Kepler spacecraft is compromised, and an astronomy research project that takes our interviewer by surprise. Plus, the case for scrapping high school algebra. That’s right: No more “the first train leaves Cleveland at 4:00 pm …” problems. Also … why “The Simpsons” is chock-a-block with advanced math.

And, in a world where everyone carries GPS technology in their pockets, will humans ever get lost again – and what’s lost if we don’t.

Plus, Mary Roach gives us a tour of our digestive systems.

All this and more on a special Big Picture Science podcast.

Guests: Hiawatha Bray – Technology reporter, Boston Globe, author of You Are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselves Chris Hadfield – Astronaut and author of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything Geoff Marcy – Astronomer, University of California, Berkeley Andrew Hacker – Professor of political science and mathematics at Queens College, City University of New York. His article, “Is Algebra Necessary?”, appeared in The New York Times in 2012. Simon Singh – Science writer, author of The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets Mary Roach – Author, most recently, of Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal Jill Mikucki – Microbiologist at the University of Tennessee Michael Pollan – Journalist, author of Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
. His article, “The Intelligent Plant,” appeared in the December 23rd issue of The New Yorker.

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We Can Rebuild It

May 19, 2014 52:30

Description:

What goes up must come down. But it’s human nature to want to put things back together again. It can even be a matter of survival in the wake of some natural or manmade disasters.

First, a portrait of disaster: the eruption of Tambora in 1815 is the biggest volcanic explosion in 5,000 years. It changed the course of history, although few people have heard of it.

Then, stories of reconstruction: assembling, disassembling, moving and reassembling one of the nation’s largest T. Rex skeletons, and what we learn about dinos in the process.

Also, the reanimation of Gorongosa National Park in Africa, after years of civil war destroyed nearly all the wildlife.

And a handbook for rebuilding civilization itself from scratch.

Guests: Gillen D’Arcy Wood – Professor of English, University of Illinois, author of Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World Patrick Leiggi – Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, Montana Matt Carrano – Curator of dinosauria, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution Greg Carr – Entrepreneur and philanthropist, president of Gorongosa National Park, in Mozambique Lewis Dartnell – Astrobiologist, University of Leicester, author of The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch

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Our Tasteless Show

Apr 28, 2014 51:30

Description:

ENCORE Imagine biting into a rich chocolate donut and not tasting it. That’s what happened to one woman when she lost her sense of smell. Discover what scientists have learned about how the brain experiences flavor, and the evolutionary intertwining of odor and taste.

Plus a chef who tricks tongues into tasting something they’re not. It’s chemical camouflage that can make crabgrass taste like basil and turn bitter crops into delicious dishes – something that could improve nutrition world-wide.

Meanwhile, are we a tasty treat for aliens? Discover whether we might be attractive snacks for E.T. And, out-of-this-world recipes from a “gAstronomy” cookbook!

Guests: Bonnie Blodgett – Author of Remembering Smell: A Memoir of Losing—and Discovering—the Primal Sense Gordon Shepherd – Neurobiologist, Yale University School of Medicine, author of Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters Homaro Cantu – Chef and owner of restaurants Moto and iNG in Chicago, chairman and founder of Cantu Designs Firm Niki Parenteau – Astrobiologist, SETI Institute Markus Hotakainen – Astronomer, chef, author of gAstronomical Cookbook

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First released March 11, 2013

That's Containment!

Apr 14, 2014 51:30

Description:

ENCORE We all crave power: to run laptops, charge cell phones, and play Angry Birds. But if generating energy is easy, storing it is not. Remember when your computer conked out during that cross-country flight? Why can’t someone build a better battery?

Discover why battery design is stuck in the 1800s, and why updating it is key to future green transportation (not to mention more juice for your smartphone). Also, how to build a new type of solar cell that can turn sunlight directly into fuel at the pump.

Plus, force fields, fat cells and other storage systems. And: Shock lobster! Energy from crustaceans?

Guests: Dan Lankford – Former CEO of three battery technology companies, and a managing director at Wavepoint Ventures Jackie Stephens – Biochemist at Louisiana State University Kevin MacVittie – Graduate student of chemistry, Clarkson University, New York Nate Lewis – Chemist, California Institute of Technology Alex Filippenko – Astronomer, University of California, Berkeley Peter Williams – Physicist, San Francisco Bay Area

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First released February 4, 2103.

Since Sliced Bread

Apr 7, 2014 52:09

Description:

Happy Birthday, World Wide Web! The 25-year-old Web, along with the Internet and the personal computer, are among mankind’s greatest inventions. But back then, who knew?

A techno-writer reminisces about the early days of the WWW and says he didn’t think it would ever catch on.

Also, meet an inventor who claims his innovation will leave your laptop in the dust. Has quantum computing finally arrived?

Plus, why these inventions are not as transformative as other creative biggies of history: The plow. The printing press. And… the knot?

And, why scientific discoveries may beat out technology as the most revolutionary developments of all. A new result about the Big Bang may prove as important as germ theory and the double helix.

Guests: Kevin Kelly – Senior maverick, Wired, author of What Technology Wants Eric Ladizinsky – Physicist, co-founder and the chief scientist of D-Wave Systems Palo Alto, California Aaron Gardner – Bakery manager, Hy-Vee Store, Chillicothe, Missouri George Dyson – Historian of technology, author of Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe and Darwin Among The Machines: The Evolution Of Global Intelligence Rob Shostak – Brother and founder of Vocera Communications, San Jose, California Jamie Bock – Physicist at the California Institute of Technology

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Do the Math

Mar 24, 2014 51:30

Description:

ENCORE One plus one is two. But what’s the square root of 64, divided by 6 over 12?* Wait, don’t run for the hills! Math isn’t scary. It helps us describe and design our world, and can be easier to grasp than the straight edge of a protractor.

Discover how to walk through the city and number-crunch simultaneously using easy tips for estimating the number of bricks in a building or squirrels in the park. Plus, why our brains are wired for finger-counting … whether aliens would have calculators … and history’s most famous mathematical equations (after e=mc2).

*The answer is 16

Guests: Ian Stewart – Emeritus professor of Mathematics, University of Warwick, U.K., author of In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World Michael Anderson – Psychologist and neuroscientist, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA Keith Devlin – Mathematician and Director of the Human Sciences and Technology Advanced Research Institute, Stanford University John Adam – Mathematician, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, and author of X and the City: Modeling Aspects of Urban Life

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We Heart Robots

Mar 10, 2014 51:31

Description:

ENCORE The machines are coming! Meet the prototypes of your future robot buddies and discover how you may come to love a hunk of hardware. From telerobots that are your mechanical avatars … to automated systems for the disabled … and artificial hands that can diffuse bombs.

Plus, the ethics of advanced robotics: should life-or-death decisions be automated?

And, a biologist uses robo-fish to understand evolution.

Guests: Illah Nourbakhsh – Professor of robotics, Carnegie Mellon University, author of Robot Futures. Check out his Robot Futures blog. Marco Mascorro – Vice President of Hardware, 9th Sense Robotics, Mountain View, California Curt Salisbury – Mechanical engineer, senior member, technical staff, Sandia National Laboratories Joe Karnicky – Retired engineer, Menlo Park, California. Videos of his gadgetry can be found at the bottom of this page. John Long – Professor of biology and cognitive science at Vassar College and the author of Darwin’s Devices: What Evolving Robots Can Teach Us About the History of Life and the Future of Technology

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First released January 21, 2013

Before the Big Bang

Feb 24, 2014 52:06

Description:

ENCORE It’s one of the biggest questions you can ask: has the universe existed forever? The Big Bang is supposedly the moment it all began. But now scientists wonder if there isn’t an earlier chapter to our origin story. And maybe chapters before that! What happened before the Big Bang? It’s the ultimate prequel.

Plus – the Big Bang as scientific story: nail biter or snoozer?

Guests Roger Penrose – Cosmologist, Oxford University Sean Carroll – Theoretical physicist, Caltech, author of The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World Simon Steel – Astronomer, Tufts University Andrei Linde – Physicist, Stanford University Jonathan Gottschall – Writer, author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human Marcus Chown – Science writer and cosmology consultant for New Scientist magazine

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First released December 17, 2012

Gene Hack, Man

Feb 10, 2014 52:21

Description:

ENCORE Computers and DNA have a few things in common. Both use digital codes and are prone to viruses. And, it seems, both can be hacked. From restoring the flavor of tomatoes to hacking into the president’s DNA, discover the promise and peril of gene tinkering.

Plus, computer hacking. Just how easy is it to break into your neighbor’s email account? What about the CIA’s?

Also, one man’s concern that radio telescopes might pick up an alien computer virus.

Guests: George Weinstock – Microbiologist, geneticist, associate director at the Washington University Genome Institute, St. Louis Jim Giovannoni – Plant molecular biologist, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cornell University campus Andrew Hessel – Faculty member, Singularity University, research scientist at Autodesk, and co-author of “Hacking the President’s DNA” in the November 2012 issue of The Atlantic Dan Kaminsky – Chief scientist of security firm DHK Dick Carrigan – Scientist emeritus at Fermilab, Batavia, Illinois

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First released December 10, 2012

Skeptic Check: Zombies Aren't Real

Jan 13, 2014 51:33

Description:

ENCORE Zombies are making a killing in popular culture. But where did the idea behind these mythical, cerebrum-supping nasties come from? Discover why they may be a hard-wired inheritance from our Pleistocene past.

Also, how a whimsical mathematical model of a Zombie apocalypse can help us withstand earthquakes and disease outbreaks, and how the rabies virus contributed to zombie mythology.

Plus, new ideas for how doctors should respond when humans are in a limbo state between life and death: no pulse, but their brains continue to hum.

Meet the songwriter who has zombies on the brain …. and we chase spaced-out animated corpses in the annual Run-For-Your-Lives foot race.

Guests: Guy P. Harrison – Science writer and author of 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True Jonathan Coulton – Singer and songwriter Robert Smith? – Mathematician and epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa, in Canada Dick Teresi – Science writer and author of The Undead: Organ Harvesting, the Ice-Water Test, Beating Heart Cadavers—How Medicine Is Blurring the Line Between Life and Death Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy – - Respectively Senior Editor at Wired Magazine and veterinarian, and the co-authors of Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

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First released November 12, 2012

Can We Talk?

Jan 6, 2014 51:31

Description:

ENCORE You can get your point across in many ways: email, texts, or even face-to-face conversation (does anyone do that anymore?). But ants use chemical messages when organizing their ant buddies for an attack on your kitchen. Meanwhile, your human brain sends messages to other brains without you uttering a word.

Hear these communication stories … how language evolved in the first place… why our brains love a good tale …and how Facebook is keeping native languages from going extinct.

Guests: Mark Moffett – Entomologist, research associate at the Smithsonian Institution, author of Adventures among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions V.S. Ramachandran – Neuroscientist, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego Clare Murphy – Performance storyteller, Ireland Mark Pagel – Evolutionary biologist, University of Reading, U.K., and author of Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind Margaret Noori – Poet and linguist at the University of Michigan, specializing in Ojibwe, and director of the Comprehensive Studies Program

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First released June 11, 2012

Animal Instinct

Dec 30, 2013 52:06

Description:

ENCORE Mooooove over, make way for the cows, the chickens … and other animals! Humans can learn a lot from our hairy, feathered, four-legged friends. We may wear suits and play Sudoku, but Homo sapiens are primates just the same. We’ve met the animal, and it is us.

Discover the surprising similarity between our diseases and those that afflict other animals, including pigs that develop eating disorders. Plus, what the octopus can teach us about national security … how monkeying around evolved into human speech … and the origins of moral behavior in humans.

Guests: Rafe Sagarin – Marine ecologist, Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona, author of Learning From the Octopus: How Secrets from Nature Can Help Us Fight Terrorist Attacks, Natural Disasters, and Disease Barbara Natterson-Horowitz – Professor of cardiology, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, and co-author of Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing Kathryn Bowers – Writer, co-author of Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing Asif Ghazanfar – Neuroscientist, psychologist, Princeton University Christopher Boehm – Biological and cultural anthropologist at the University of Southern California, director of the Jane Goodall Research Center, author of Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame

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First released July 9, 2012

Group Think

Dec 23, 2013 52:04

Description:

ENCORE If two is company and three a crowd, what’s the ideal number to write a play or invent a new operating system? Some say you need groups to be creative. Others disagree: breakthroughs come only in solitude.

Hear both sides, and find out why you always have company even when alone: meet the “parliament of selves” that drive your brain’s decision-making.

Plus, how ideas of societies lead them to thrive or fall, and why educated conservatives have lost trust in science.

Guests: Susan Cain – Author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking Keith Sawyer – Psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis and author of Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration David Eagleman – Neuroscientist, Baylor College of Medicine and author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain Gordon Gauchat – Sociologist, University North Carolina, Chapel Hill Joseph Tainter – Professor, Environment & Society Department, Utah State University and author of The Collapse of Complex Societies

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First released April 30, 2012.

Some Like It Cold

Dec 16, 2013 52:05

Description:

We all may prefer the goldilocks zone – not too hot, not too cold. But most of the universe is bitterly cold. We can learn a lot about it if we’re willing to brave a temperature drop.

A chilly Arctic island is the closest thing to Mars-on-Earth for scientists who want to go to the Red Planet. Meanwhile, the ice sheet at the South Pole is ideal for catching neutrinos – ghostly particles that may reveal secrets about the nature of the universe.

Comet ISON is comet ice-off after its passage close to the Sun, but it’s still giving us the word on solar system’s earliest years.

Also, scientists discover the coldest spot on Earth. A champion chill, but positively balmy compared to absolute zero. Why reaching a temperature of absolute zero is impossible, although we’ve gotten very, very close.

Guests: Francis Halzen – Physicist, University of Wisconsin-Madison, principal investigator of The IceCube Neutrino Observatory Ted Scambos – Glaciologist, lead scientist, National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado Pascal Lee – Planetary scientist, SETI Institute, director, NASA Haughton-Mars Project, and co-founder of the Mars Institute. His new book is Mission: Mars Andrew Fraknoi – Chair, astronomy department, Foothill College Vladan Vuletić – Physicist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Math's Days Are Numbered

Dec 2, 2013 51:31

Description:

Imagine a world without algebra. We can hear the sound of school children applauding. What practical use are parametric equations and polynomials, anyway? Even some scholars argue that algebra is the Latin of today, and should be dropped from the mandatory curriculum.

But why stop there? Maybe we should do away with math classes altogether.

An astronomer says he’d be out of work: we can all forget about understanding the origins of the universe, the cycles of the moon and how to communicate with alien life. Also, no math = no cybersecurity + hackers (who have taken math) will have the upper hand.

Also, without mathematics, you’ll laugh < you do now. The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has peppered his animated show with hidden math jokes.

And why mathematics = love.

Guests: Andrew Hacker – Professor of political science and mathematics at Queens College, City University of New York. His article, “Is Algebra Necessary?”, appeared in The New York Times in 2012. Bob Berman – Astronomy editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the author of The Sun’s Heartbeat: And Other Stories from the Life of the Star That Powers Our Planet, and columnist for Astronomy Magazine. His article, “How Math Drives the Universe” is the cover story in the December 2013 issue. Simon Singh – Science writer, author of The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets Rob ManningFlight system chief engineer at the Jet Propulsion Lab, responsible for NASA’s Curiosity rover Edward Frenkel – Professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, author of Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality. His article, “The Perils of Hacking Math,” is found on the online magazine, Slate.

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Skeptic Check: Science Blunders

Nov 25, 2013 51:33

Description:

ENCORE We’ve all had an “oops” moment. Scientists are no exception. Sometimes science stumbles in the steady march of progress. Find out why cold fusion is a premier example why you shouldn’t hold a press conference before publishing your results. Also, how to separate fumbles from faux-science from fraud.

Plus, why ignorance is what really drives the scientific method.

And our Hollywood skeptic poses as a psychic for Dr. Phil, while our Dr. Phil (Plait) investigates the authenticity of a life-bearing meteorite.

Guests: Phil Plait – Skeptic and author of Slate Magazine’s blog Bad Astronomy Michael Gordin – Historian of science at Princeton University, author of The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe David Goodstein – Physicist, California Institute of Technology Stuart Firestein – Neuroscientist, chair of the biology department, Columbia University, and author of Ignorance: How It Drives Science Jim Underdown – Executive Director, Center for Inquiry, Los Angeles

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First released January 28, 2013.

The Heat is On

Nov 19, 2013 52:31

Description:

After the winds and water of Typhoon Haiyan abated, grief and hunger swept though the Philippines, along with the outbreak of disease. Are monster storms the new normal in a warmer world? Some scientists say yes, and if so, climate change is already producing real effects on human life and health.

A hotter planet will serve up casualties from natural disasters, but also higher rates of asthma, allergies and an increase in mosquito-borne diseases. It is, according to one researcher, the greatest challenge of our time, straining health care efforts worldwide. But could a “medical Marshall Plan” save us?

Also, why the conservative estimates from the U.N.‘s climate change group don’t help people prepare for worst-case scenarios. And, a controversial approach to saving our overburdened planet: a serious limit on population growth.

Guests:

•   Jeff Masters – Meteorologist, Wunderground

•   Linda Marsa – Investigative journalist, contributing editor at Discover, author of Fevered: Why a Hotter Planet Will Hurt Our Health — and how we can save ourselves

•   Fred Pearce – Freelance author and journalist, environment consultant for New Scientist. His article, “Has the U.N. Climate Panel Outlived It’s Usefulness?” appeared on the website Yale Environment 360

•   Alan Weisman – Author, Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

The Heat is On

Nov 17, 2013 52:31

Description:

After the winds and water of Typhoon Haiyan abated, grief and hunger swept though the Philippines, along with the outbreak of disease. Are monster storms the new normal in a warmer world? Some scientists say yes, and if so, climate change is already producing real effects on human life and health.

A hotter planet will serve up casualties from natural disasters, but also higher rates of asthma, allergies and an increase in mosquito-borne diseases. It is, according to one researcher, the greatest challenge of our time, straining health care efforts worldwide. But could a “medical Marshall Plan” save us?

Also, why the conservative estimates from the U.N.‘s climate change group don’t help people prepare for worst-case scenarios. And, a controversial approach to saving our overburdened planet: a serious limit on population growth.

Guests: Jeff Masters – Meteorologist, Wunderground Linda Marsa – Investigative journalist, contributing editor at Discover, author of Fevered: Why a Hotter Planet Will Hurt Our Health — and how we can save ourselves Fred Pearce – Freelance author and journalist, environment consultant for New Scientist. His article, “Has the U.N. Climate Panel Outlived Its Usefulness?” appeared on the website Yale Environment 360 Alan Weisman – Author, Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

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Life Back Then

Nov 4, 2013 52:13

Description:

ENCORE Time keeps on ticking, ticking … and as it does, evolution operates to produce remarkable changes in species. Wings may appear, tails disappear. Sea creatures drag themselves onto the shore and become landlubbers. But it’s not easy to grasp the expansive time scales involved in these transformative feats.

Travel through millennia, back through mega and giga years, for a sense of what can occur over deep time, from the Cambrian Explosion to the age of the dinosaurs to the rise of Homo sapiens.

Guests: Lorna O’Brien – Evolutionary biologist, University of Toronto Ivan Schwab – Professor of ophthalmology, University of California, Davis. His blog Don Henderson – Curator of dinosaurs, Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller, Canada Gregory Cochran – Physicist, anthropologist, University of Utah Todd Schlenke – Biologist, Emory University

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First released April 2, 2012

Shutting Down Science

Oct 28, 2013 52:13

Description:

“Sorry, closed for business.” That sign hung on doors of national laboratories when the US government shut down. What that meant for one Antarctic researcher: her critically important work was left out in the cold.

So just what do we lose when public funds for science fade? The tools for answering big questions about our universe for one, says a NASA scientist … while one of this year’s Nobel Prize winners fears that it is driving our young researchers to pursue their work overseas.

Yet one scientist says public funding isn’t even necessary; privatizing science would be more productive.

Plus, an award-winning public-private research project changes the way we use GPS … and a BBC reporter on the fate of international projects when Americans hang up their lab coats.

Guests: Jill Mikucki – WISSARD principal investigator and a microbiologist at the University of Tennessee Max Bernstein – Lead for research at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate James Rothman – Professor and chairman of the department of cell biology at Yale University, recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Medicine Alexandre Bayen – Civil engineer and computer scientist, University of California, Berkeley Pat Michaels – Director for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute Roland Pease – BBC science reporter

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Skeptic Check: War of the Worlds

Oct 21, 2013 52:13

Description:

It was the most famous invasion that never happened. But Orson Welles’ 1938 “War of the Worlds” broadcast sure sounded convincing as it used news bulletins and eyewitness accounts to describe an existential Martian attack. The public panicked. Or did it? New research says that claims of mass hysteria were overblown.

On the 75th anniversary of the broadcast: How the media manufactured descriptions of a fearful public and why – with our continued fondness for conspiracies – we could be hoodwinked again.

Plus, journalism ethics in the age of social media. Can we tweet “Mars is attacking!” with impunity?

And why we’re obsessed with the Red Planet.

Guests: Michael Socolow – Associate professor of communication and journalism at the University of Maine Jesse Walker – Senior editor at Reason Magazineand author of The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory Katy Culver – Assistant professor at the school of journalism and mass communication at the University of Wisconsin, Madison Kevin Schindler – Outreach manager at the Lowell Observatory

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Emergence

Oct 14, 2013 51:53

Description:

Your brain is made up of cells. Each one does its own, cell thing. But remarkable behavior emerges when lots of them join up in the grey matter club. You are a conscious being – a single neuron isn’t.

Find out about the counter-intuitive process known as emergence – when simple stuff develops complex forms and complex behavior – and all without a blueprint.

Plus self-organization in the natural world, and how Darwinian evolution can be speeded up.

Guests: Randy Schekman – Professor of molecular and cell biology, University of California, Berkeley, 2013 Nobel Prize-winner Steve Potter – Neurobiologist, biomedical engineer, Georgia Institute of Technology Terence Deacon – Biological anthropologist, University of California, Berkeley Simon DeDeo – Research fellow at the Santa Fe Institute Leslie Valiant – Computer scientist, Harvard University, author of Probably Approximately Correct: Nature’s Algorithms for Learning and Prospering in a Complex World

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You Say You Want an Evolution?

Sep 16, 2013 51:57

Description:

Imagine: Your pint-sized pup is descended from a line of predatory wolves. We have purposefully bred a new species – dogs – to live in harmony with us. But interactions between species, known as co-evolution, happen all the time, even without deliberate intervention. And it’s frequently a boon to survival: Without the symbiotic relationship we have with bugs in our gut, one that’s evolved with time, we wouldn’t exist.

Discover the Bogart-and-Bacall-like relationships between bacteria and humans, and what we learn by seeing genes mutate in the lab, real time. Also, the dog-eat-dog debate about when canines were first domesticated, and how agriculture, hip-hop music, and technology can alter our DNA (eventually).

Plus, why some of the fastest humans in history have hailed from one small area of a small Caribbean island. Is there a gene for that?

Guests: Greger Larsen – Evolutionary biologist, department of archaeology, Durham University Peter Richerson – Professor emeritus, University of California, Davis, department of Environmental Science and Policy, author of Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution Dave van Ditmarsch – Biologist, post-doctoral researcher, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center David Epstein – Senior writer, Sports Illustrated, author of The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

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Skeptic Check: Follywood Science

Sep 9, 2013 51:07

Description:

ENCORE The Day After. 2001. Prometheus. There are sci-fi films a’plenty … but how much science is in the fiction? We take the fact checkers to Hollywood to investigate the science behind everything from space travel to human cloning.

Plus, guess what sci-fi film is the most scientifically accurate (hint: we’ve already mentioned it). Also, why messing with medical facts on film can be dangerous … and the inside scoop from a writer of one of television’s most successful sci-fi franchises.

And, a robot who surpasses even Tinseltown’s lively imagination: a humanoid that may become a surrogate you.

Guests: David Kirby – Senior lecturer in science communication studies at the University of Manchester in the U.K. and author of Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists, and Cinema Lucas Kavner – Reporter, Huffington Post, author of a piece on the rise of robot surrogates Wayne Grody – Medical geneticist, director of the DNA diagnostic Laboratory, UCLA Medical Center Andre Bormanis – Television writer and science consultant for Star Trek

Descripción en español

First released July 30, 2012.

Catch a Wave

Sep 2, 2013 51:07

Description:

ENCORE Let there be light. Otherwise we couldn’t watch a sunset or YouTube. Yet what your eye sees is but a narrow band in the electromagnetic spectrum. Shorten those light waves and you get invisible gamma radiation. Lengthen them and tune into a radio broadcast.

Discover what’s revealed about our universe as you travel along the electromagnetic spectrum. There’s the long of it: an ambitious goal to construct the world’s largest radio telescope array … and the short: a telescope that images high-energy gamma rays from black holes.

Also, the structure of the universe as seen through X-ray eyes and a physicist sings the praises of infrared light. Literally.

And, while gravity waves are not in the electromagnetic club, these ripples in spacetime could explain some of the biggest mysteries of the cosmos. But first, we have to catch them!

Guests: Anil Ananthaswamy – Journalist and consultant for New Scientist in London Harvey Tananbaum – Director of the Chandra X-Ray Center, located in Cambridge Massachusetts at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory David Reitze – Executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), California Institute of Technology Albert Lazzarini – Deputy director, LIGO, California Institute of Technology Alan Marscher – Professor of astronomy at Boston University

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First released March 19, 2012

Rife with Life

Jul 22, 2013 51:27

Description:

ENCORE “Follow the water” is the mantra of those who search for life beyond Earth. Where there’s water, there may be life. Join us on a tour of watery solar system bodies that hold promise for biology. Dig beneath the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon Europa, and plunge into the jets of Enceladus, Saturn’s satellite.

And let’s not forget the Red Planet. Mars is rusty and dusty, but it wasn’t always a world of dry dunes. Did life once thrive here? Also, the promise of life in the exotic hydrocarbon lakes of Titan.

Science-fiction author Robert J. Sawyer joins us, and relates how these exotic outposts have prompted imaginative stories of alien life.

Guests: Robert J. Sawyer – Hugo award-winning science fiction author Cynthia Phillips – Planetary geologist at the SETI Institute Alexander Hayes – Planetary scientist at the University of California, Berkeley Rachel Mastrapa – Planetary scientist for NASA and the SETI Institute Robert Lillis – Space and planetary scientist at the Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley

Descripción en español

First released February 27, 2012.

Getting a Spacelift

Jul 15, 2013 51:26

Description:

ENCORE I need my space… but oh, how to get there? Whether it’s a mission to Mars or an ascent to an asteroid, we explore the hows of human spaceflight. Also, the whys, as in, why send humans to the final frontier if robots are cheaper? Neil deGrasse Tyson weighs in.

Plus, the astronaut who lived on the ocean floor training for a visit to an asteroid. Also, the 100YSS – the 100 Year Starship project – and interstellar travel.

And, as private rockets nip at NASA’s heels, meet one of the first tourists to purchase a (pricey) ticket-to-ride into space.

Guests: Neil deGrasse Tyson – Astrophysicst, American Museum of Natural History, and author of Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier
Shannon Walker – NASA astronaut Nathan J. Strange – Formulation system engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory C. C. Culver – Former NASA mission controller, and motivational speaker with International Stars. How to contact: internationalstars@comcast.net Marc Millis – Physicist who has been NASA’s foremost expert on advanced propulsion concepts and founder of the Tau Zero Foundation

Descripción en español

First released February 6, 2012.

Material Whirl

Jul 8, 2013 51:26

Description:

ENCORE What’s the world made of? Here’s a concrete answer: a lot of it is built from a dense, knee-scraping substance that is the most common man-made material. But while concrete may be here to stay, plenty of new materials will come our way in the 21st century.

Discover the better, faster, stronger (okay, not faster) materials of the future, and Thomas Edison’s ill-conceived plan to turn concrete into furniture.

Plus, printing objects in 3D… the development of artificial skin… and unearthing the scientific contributions of African-American women chemists.

Guests: Darren Lipomi – Chemical Engineering post-doc, Stanford University’s “Skin Lab” Linda Schadler – Professor of materials science and engineering, and associate dean for academic affairs at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York Nicolas Weidinger – Research assistant at the Institute for the Future, Palo Alto, California Jeannette Elizabeth Brown – Retired research chemist; author of African American Women Chemists Robert Courland – Author of Concrete Planet: The Strange and Fascinating Story of the World’s Most Common Man-made Material

Descripción en español

First released January 30, 2012

Exoplanets

Jun 17, 2013 51:26

Description:

You may be unique, but is your home planet? NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has uncovered thousands of planetary candidates, far far beyond our solar system. Some may be habitable and possibly even Earth-like. But now a failure in its steering apparatus may bring an abrupt end to this pioneering telescope’s search for new worlds.

But Kepler has a massive legacy of data still to be studied. Many new worlds will undoubtedly be found in these data. Hear why the astronomer who has discovered the greatest number of exoplanets is hopeful about the hunt for alien life, and meet the next generation of planet-hunting instruments.

Also, “Weird worlds? That was our idea!” Sci-fi writers lay claim to the first musings on exotic planetary locales. And a biographer of Magellan and Columbus describes the dangerous hunt for new worlds five centuries ago.

Guests: Charlie Sobeck – Engineer, deputy project manager, Kepler Mission, NASA Ames Research Center Geoff Marcy – Astronomer, University of California, Berkeley Dan Clery – Deputy news editor, European office of Science Laurence Bergreen – author of Voyage to Mars, Columbus: The Four Voyages, 1492-1504, Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe (P.S.) Robert J. Sawyer – Hugo Award-winning author; most recently of Red Planet Blues

Descripción en español

Cosmos: It's Big, It's Weird

Jun 3, 2013 51:27

Description:

ENCORE It’s all about you. And you, and you, and you and you… that is, if we live in parallel universes. Imagine you doing exactly what you’re doing now, but in an infinite number of universes.

Discover the multiverse theory and why repeats aren’t limited to summer television.

Plus, the physics of riding on a light beam, and the creative analogies a New York Times science writer uses to avoid using the word “weird” to describe dark energy and other weird physics.

Also, people who concoct their own theories (some would say fringe) of the universe: is all matter made up of tiny coiled springs?

Guests: Brian Greene – Physicist and mathematician, Columbia University, and author of The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos Dennis Overbye – Reporter, New York Times Simon Steel – Science educator at University College London Margaret Wertheim – Science writer, author of Physics on the Fringe: Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything

Descripción en español

First released January 9, 2012.

Skeptic Check: Hostile Climate

May 20, 2013 52:02

Description:

It’s a record we didn’t want to break. The carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere hits the 400 parts-per-million mark, a level which some scientists say is a point of no return for stopping climate change. A few days later, a leading newspaper prints an op-ed essay that claims CO2 is getting a bad rap: it’s actually good for the planet. The more the better.

Skeptic Phil Plait rebuts the CO2-is-awesome idea while a paleontologist paints a picture of what Earth was like when the notorious gas last ruled the planet. Note: humans weren’t around.

Plus, our skit says NO to O2 … and a claim that climate change skeptics have borrowed from the Creationists’ playbook in challenging the teaching of established science in schools.

Guests: Phil Plait – Astronomer, skeptic, and author of Slate Magazine’s blog Bad Astronomy Peter Ward – Paleontologist and biologist, Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington in Seattle Josh Rosenau – Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education Eugenie Scott – Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education

Descripción en español

Fundest Show Ever

May 13, 2013 01:10:46

Description:

You can remember yesterday, but not tomorrow. But why? We consider the arrow of time and why its direction was set by the Big Bang. Also, artificial blood cells and life in a deep Antarctic lake.

You’ll hear how Stephen King thinks that humankind is metaphorically living under a big dome, and why we really want to go into space, according to Neil Tyson.

And … skeptical takes on faces in cheese sandwiches and the supposedly special powers of psychics.

All this and more on this special Big Picture Science podcast.

Guests: Jeremy Bailenson – Director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University and co-author of Infinite Reality: The Hidden Blueprint of Our Virtual Lives Sean Carroll – Theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology, author of The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World
Helen Amanda Fricker – Glaciologist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California, San Diego Jill Mikucki – Microbiologist at the University of Tennessee Jennifer Heldmann – Research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center Jonathan Coulton – Singer and songwriter Joseph DeSimone – Professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and chemical engineering at North Carolina State University Stephen King – Novelist, author of Under the Dome: A Novel
Phil Plait – Astronomer, Skeptic, and author of Slate Magazine’s blog Bad Astronomy Benjamin Radford – Deputy editor, Skeptical Inquirer magazine Steven Novella – Physician at Yale University, host of the podcast, “Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe” Neil deGrasse Tyson – Astrophysicst, American Museum of Natural History, and author of Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier
William Anders – Astronaut on Apollo 8, and photographer of “Earth Rise” Jim Underdown – Executive Director, Center for Inquiry, Los Angeles

Descripción en español

Stomach This

May 6, 2013 51:56

Description:

Not all conversation is appropriate for the dinner table – and that includes, strangely enough, the subject of eating. Yet what happens during the time that food enters our mouth and its grand exit is a model of efficiency and adaptation.

Author Mary Roach takes us on a tour of the alimentary canal, while a researcher describes his invention of an artificial stomach. Plus, a psychologist on why we find certain foods and smells disgusting. And, you don’t eat them but they could wiggle their way within nonetheless: surgical snakebots.

Guests: Mary Roach – Author, most recently, of Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal Martin Wickham – Head of Nutrition, Leatherhead Food Research, U.K. Paul Rozin – Professor of psychology, University of Pennsylvania Michael Gershon – Professor in the Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, Columbia University Medical Center Howie Choset – Professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University

Descripción en español

Skeptic Check: Forget with the Program

Apr 15, 2013 52:04

Description:

ENCORE Just remember this: memory is like Swiss cheese. Even our recollection of dramatic events that seem to sear their images directly onto our brain turn out to be riddled with errors. Discover the reliability of these emotional “flashbulb” memories.

Also, a judge questions the utility of eyewitness testimony in court. And, don’t blame Google for destroying your powers of recall! Socrates thought the same thing about the written word.

Plus, Brains on Vacation!

Guests: Phil Plait – Astronomer, Skeptic, and author of Slate Magazine’s blog Bad Astronomy Craig Stark – Neurobiologist, Director for the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at Univeristy of California, Irvine Ronald Reinstein – Former judge on the Superior Court of Arizona and judicial consultant for the Arizona Supreme Court Betsy Sparrow – Psychologist, Columbia University

Descripción en español

First released May 7, 2012

Seth's Wine Cellar

Apr 8, 2013 52:06

Description:

There are always surprises when we sort through Seth’s wine cellar – who knows what we’ll find!

In this cramped cavern, tucked between boxes of old fuses and a priceless bottle of 1961 Chateau Palmer Margaux, we discover the next generation of atomic clock … the key to how solar storms disrupt your cell phone … nano-gold particles that could make gasoline obsolete … and what NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has learned about how our solar system stacks up to others.

Tune in, find out and, help us lift these boxes, will you?

Guests:

•   Chris Sorensen – Physicist, Kansas State University

•   Anne Curtis – Senior research scientist, National Physical Laboratory, U.K.

•   Jonathan Eisen – Evolutionary biologist, University of California, Davis

•   Karel Schrijver – Solar physicist, Lockheed Martin, Advanced Technology Center

•   Jonathan Fortney – Astronomer, University of California, Santa Cruz

•   Sanjoy Som – Astrobiologist, NASA Ames Research Center

Anthropocene and Heard

Apr 1, 2013 52:06

Description:

What’s in a name? “Holocene” defines the geologic epoch we’re in. Or were in? Goodbye to “Holocene” and hello “Anthropocene!” Yes, scientists may actually re-name our geologic era as the “Age of Man” due to the profound impact we’ve had on the planet.

We’ll examine why we’ve earned this new moniker and who votes on such a thing. Plus, discover the strongest evidence for human-caused climate change.

Also, why cities should be celebrated, not reviled… a musing over the possible fate of alien civilizations … and waste not: what an unearthed latrine – and its contents – reveal about ancient Roman habit and diet.

Guests:

•  William Steffen – Climate scientist and the Executive Director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University, Canberra

•  Simon Donner – Geographer at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver

•  Edward Glaeser – Economist, Harvard University, author of Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier

•  Douglas Vakoch – Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute

•  Mark Robinson – Director of Environmental Archaeology at the University of Oxford

•  Erica Rowan – Doctoral student, University of Oxford

Happy Daze

Mar 5, 2013 52:07

Description:

Calling all pessimists! Your brain is wired for optimism! Yes, deep down, we’re all Pollyannas. So wipe that scowl off your face and discover the evolutionary advantage of thinking positive. Also, enjoy other smile-inducing research suggesting that if you crave happiness, you should do the opposite of what your brain tells you to do.

Plus, why a “well-being index” may replace Dow Jones as a metric for success … a Twitter study that predicts your next good mood … and whether our furry and finned animal friends can experience joy.

Guests:

•               Frank Drake – Trustee at the SETI Institute and author of the Drake Equation

•               Tali Sharot – Cognitive neuroscientist at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at the University College London and the author of The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain

•               Michael Macy – Sociologist at Cornell University

His team’s Twitter study: http://timeu.se/

•               Carol Graham – Economist at the Brookings Institution and author of The Pursuit of Happiness: An Economy of Well-Being

•               David DiSalvo – Science and technology writer, author of What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite

•               Robin Ince – U.K.-based comedian

•               Jonathan Balcome – Animal behavior scientist and author of The Exultant Ark: A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasure

Whodunit, Who'll Do It?

Feb 19, 2013 52:09

Description:

The tools of forensics have moved way beyond fingerprint kits. These days, a prosecutor is as likely to wave a fMRI brain scan as a smoking gun as “Exhibit A.” Discover what happens when neuroscience has its day in court.

Meanwhile, research into the gold standard of identification, DNA, marches on. One day we may determine a suspect’s eye color from a drop of blood.

Plus, why much of forensic science – from fingerprinting to the polygraph – is more like reading tea leaves than science. And will future crime victims be robots?

Guests:

•  Owen Jones – Professor of law, Professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee

•  Manfred Kayser – Forensic molecular biologist, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

•  Marc Goodman – Founder, The Future Crimes Institute

•  David Faigman – Law professor, University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco

Say La Vie

Feb 12, 2013 52:09

Description:

Researchers have discovered life in a buried Antarctic lake. But we’re not surprised. Life is amazingly adaptive. Expose it to any environment – heat, ice, acid or even jet fuel – and it thrives. But this discovery of life under the ice may have exciting implications for finding biology beyond Earth.

Scientists share their discovery, and how they drilled down through a half-mile of ice.

Also, plunge into another watery alien world with director James Cameron, and the first solo dive to the deepest, darkest part of the ocean.

Plus, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist tries to create life in his lab to learn more about biology’s origins, and martian fossils abound in Robert J. Sawyer’s latest sci-fi novel.

Guests:

•  Helen Amanda Fricker – Glaciologist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California, San Diego

•  Jill Mikucki – Microbiologist at the University of Tennessee

•  Chris McKay – Planetary scientist, NASA Ames Research Center

•  Jack Szostak – Nobel Prize winning chemist, Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital

•  James Cameron – film director and explorer-in-residence for National Geographic

•  Robert J. Sawyer – Hugo Award-winning author; most recently: Red Planet Blues

Skeptic Check: Science Blunders

Jan 29, 2013 52:40

Description:

We’ve all had an “oops” moment. Scientists are no exception. Sometimes science stumbles in the steady march of progress. Find out why cold fusion is a premier example why you shouldn’t hold a press conference before publishing your results. Also, how to separate fumbles from faux-science from fraud.

Plus, why ignorance is what really drives the scientific method.

And our Hollywood skeptic poses as a psychic for Dr. Phil, while our Dr. Phil (Plait) investigates the authenticity of a life-bearing meteorite.

Guests:

•   Phil Plait – Skeptic and author of Slate Magazine’s blog Bad Astronomy

•   Michael Gordin – Historian of science at Princeton University, author of The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe

•   David Goodstein – Physicist, California Institute of Technology

•   Stuart Firestein – Neuroscientist, chair of the biology department, Columbia University, and author of Ignorance: How It Drives Science

•   Jim Underdown – Executive Director, Center for Inquiry, Los Angeles

Whither the Weather?

Jan 14, 2013 52:37

Description:

We all talk about the weather. And now scientists are doing something about it: providing more accurate warnings before big storms hit. Discover how smart technology – with an eye on the sky – is taking monster weather events by storm.

Plus, why severe weather events caused by a warming planet may trigger social and economic chaos.

Also, meet the storm chaser who runs toward tornadoes as everyone else flees… and why your cell phone goes haywire when the sun kicks up a storm of its own.

Guests:

•  Michael Smith – Meteorologist, founder of WeatherData and author of Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather

•  George Kourounis – Explorer and storm chaser

•  Jeffrey Scargle – Research astrophyscisit in the Astrobiology and Space Science Division at NASA Ames Research Center

•  Ken Caldeira – Climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Deparment of Global Ecology

•  Christian Pareti – Contributing editor of The Nation, visiting scholar at the City Univeristy of New York, and author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence

Ultimate Hook Up

Jan 8, 2013 52:12

Description:

Imagine moving things with your mind. Not with telekinesis, but with the future tools of brain science. Meet a pioneer in the field of computer-to-brain connection and discover the blurry boundary where the mind ends and the machine begins.

Plus, how new technology is sharpening the “real” in virtual reality. And, whether our devotion to digital devices is changing what it means to be human.

Guests:

•   Miguel Nicolelis – Director for the Center for Neuroengineering at Duke University, and author of Beyond Boundaries: The New Neuroscience of Connecting Brains with Machines and How it Will Change our Lives

•   Jeremy Bailenson – Director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University and co-author of Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution

•   Jim Blascovich – Psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara and co-author of Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution

•   Sherry Turkle – Professor of social studies of science and technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other

Skeptic Check: They're Baack!

Jan 1, 2013 52:11

Description:

Could you have had a past life? Is it possible that some part of you is the reincarnation of a person – or maybe an animal – that lived long ago?

We’ll hear the story of a young boy who started having nightmares about a plane crash. His parents thought he was the reincarnation of a downed, World War II fighter pilot. But his story might not fly.

Also … is there any biological basis for reincarnation? Animals that indulge in the big sleep.

Suspended animation is Hollywood’s favorite device for interstellar travel … But could we really put a dimmer switch on human metabolism? Learn how techniques for hitting the hold button for humans might be just around the corner.

Guests:

•   Cynthia Meyersburg – Research psychologist at Harvard University

•   Tori Hoehler – Astrobiologist at the NASA Ames Research Center

•   André Bormanis – Screenwriter, producer and former science consultant for “Star Trek”

•   Matt Andrews – Biologist at the University of Minnesota, Duluth

•   Phil Plait – Astronomer, and author of the Bad Astronomy blog at Discover Magazine

•   Mark Roth – Biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle

Remembers Only

Dec 25, 2012 52:12

Description:

You must remember this… wait, wait... I had it… on the tip of my tongue… (Memory is a tricky thing and most of us would like to improve it)… oh, yes: Discover the secrets of stupefying, knock-your-socks-off recall by a U.S. Memory Champion.

Also, almost everything we know about memory comes from the life of one man born in 1926 and known as H.M., the world’s “most unforgettable amnesiac.”

Plus, the sum total of the global data storage capacity in hard drives, thumb drives, the Internet, you name it… guess how many exabytes it comes to?

Guests:

•   Larry Squire – Professor of psychiatry and neurosciences and psychology at the University of California, San Diego and a scientist at the VA Medical Center in San Diego

•   Jacopo Annese – Neuroanatomist and Director of the Brain Observatory at the University of California, San Diego

•   Joshua Foer – Author of Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

•   Martin Hilbert – Economist and social scientist, University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Before the Big Bang

Dec 18, 2012 52:17

Description:

It’s one of the biggest questions you can ask: has the universe existed forever? The Big Bang is supposedly the moment it all began. But now scientists wonder if there isn’t an earlier chapter to our origin story. And maybe chapters before that! What happened before the Big Bang? It’s the ultimate prequel.

Plus – the Big Bang as scientific story: nail biter or snoozer?

Guests

•   Roger Penrose – Cosmologist, Oxford University

•   Sean Carroll – Theoretical physicist, Caltech, author of The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World

•   Simon Steele – Astronomer, Tufts University

•   Andrei Linde – Physicist, Stanford University

•   Jonathan Gottschall – Writer, author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

•   Marcus Chown – Science writer and cosmology consultant for New Scientist magazine

Doomsday Live, Part 2

Dec 4, 2012 52:16

Description:

If there is only one show you hear about the end of the world, let it be this one. Recorded before a live audience at the Computer History Museum on October 27th, 2012, this two-part special broadcast of Big Picture Science separates fact from fiction in doomsday prediction.

In this second episode: a global viral pandemic … climate change … and the threat of assimilation by super-intelligent machines.

Presented as part of the Bay Area Science Festival.

Find out more about our guests and their work.

Guests:

•   Kirsten Gilardi – Wildlife veterinarian at the University of California, Davis. leader of the Gorilla Doctors program, and team leader for the US-AID Emerging Pandemic Threats PREDICT program

•   Ken Caldeira – Climate scientist, Carnegie Intuition for Science at Stanford University

•   Luke Muehlhauser – Executive Director of the Singularity Institute

•   Bradley Voytek – Neuroscience researcher at the University of California, San Francisco

Doomsday Live, Part I

Nov 26, 2012 57:15

Description:

If there is only one show you hear about the end of the world, let it be this one. Recorded before a live audience at the Computer History Museum on October 27th, 2012, this two-part special broadcast of Big Picture Science separates fact from fiction in doomsday prediction. In this episode: Maya prophesy for December 21, 2012 … asteroid impact and cosmic threats …. and alien invasion.

Presented as part of the Bay Area Science Festival.

Find out more about our guests and their work.

Guests: Guy P. Harrison – Science writer and author of 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True Andrew Fraknoi – Chair of the Astronomy Department at Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, California

No Expiration Date

Nov 20, 2012 52:12

Description:

We all have to go sometime, and that final hour is the mother of all deadlines. But scientists are working to file an extension. Discover how far we can push the human expiration date.

Plus, the animal with the shortest lifespan and the chemistry that causes your pot-roast to eventually clothe itself in fuzzy green mold.

Also, a clock that won’t stop ticking (for 10,000 years) and our love-hate relationship with that long-lived hydrocarbon that keeps our snack cakes fresh: plastic!

Guests:

Martin Bucknavage- Senior Food Safety Extension Associate, Department of Food Science at Penn State Leonard Guarente – Biologist, Laboratory for the Science of Aging, M.I.T. Alexander Rose – Executive Director and Clock Project Manager, Long Now Foundation Rick Hochberg – Biologist, University of Massachusetts – Lowell Susan Freinkel – Author of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

Going Global

Nov 5, 2012 52:17

Description:

The Internet is not the only globally-uniting phenomenon. Viruses and bacteria can circle the globe as fast as we can, and the effects can be devastating. Discover what it takes for an animal disease to become a human pandemic. Also, was hurricane Sandy a man-made disaster? The future of severe storms and climate change.

Plus, the view of our science from abroad: why Brits have no trouble accepting the theory of evolution but Americans do. And what about a new annex for Silicon Valley – 12 miles out to sea?

Guests:

•   Jerry Meehl – Senior scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO

•   Alok Jha – Science correspondent, The Guardian

•   David Quammen – Science journalist and author, most recently of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

•   Max Marty – Co-founder and CEO of Blueseed

Space Archaeology

Oct 22, 2012 52:11

Description:

Indiana Jones meets Star Trek in the field of space archaeology. Satellites scan ancient ruins so that scientists can map them without disturbing one grain of sand. Discover how some archaeologists forsake their spades and brushes in favor of examining historic sites from hundreds of miles high.

Also, if you were to hunt for alien artifacts – what would you look for? Why ET might choose to send snail mail rather than a radio signal.

Plus, the culture of the hardware we send into space, and roaming the Earth, the moon, and Mars the Google way.

Guests:

•   Alice Gorman – Archaeologist at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia

•   Christopher Rose – Professor of Computer and Intellectual Engineering, Rutgers University, New Jersey

•   Robin Hanson – Economist at George Mason University, Virginia

•   Tiffany Montague – Engineer, and Intergalactic Federation King Almighty, Commander of the Universe, at Google, Inc.

•   Compton Tucker – Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

As the Worlds Turn

Oct 15, 2012 51:47

Description:

If you’re itching it get away from it all, really get away from it all, have we got some exotic destinations for you. Mars … Jupiter’s moon Europa … asteroids . Tour some enticing worlds that are worlds away, but ripe for exploration.

Also, why private spaceships may be just the ticket for getting yourself into space, unless you want to wait for a space elevator.

And, why one science journalist boasts of an infectious, unabashed, and unbridled enthusiasm for space travel.

Guests:

•   Cynthia Phillips – Planetary geologist, SETI Institute

•   Britney Schmidt – Research scientist, University of Texas, Austin

•   Paul Abell – Planetary geologist, NASA’s Johnson Space Center

•   Richard Hollingham – Science journalist, producer of Space Boffins podcast, living in the U.K.

•   Barry Matsumori – Senior vice president for commercial sales and business development, SpaceX Corporation

•   Peter Swan – Space System Engineer and Vice President, International Space Elevator Consortium

[Rectangular Container] Thinking

Oct 8, 2012 52:52

Description:

By thinking different, scientists can make extraordinary breakthroughs. Learn about the creative cogitation that led to the discovery of dark matter and the invention of a.c. power grids, disinfectant, and the Greek “death ray.” Also, whether one person’s man of genius is another’s mad scientist.

And, the scientist who claims pi is wrong and biopunks who tinker with DNA – in their kitchens and on the cheap.

Plus, from string theory to the greenhouse effect – how metaphor sheds light on science. Discover why your brain is like a rain forest (that’s a simile!).

Guests:

•   Anil Ananthaswamy – Corresponding editor for New Scientist magazine in London and author of The Edge of Physics: A Journey to Earth’s Extremes to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe

•   Marcus Wohlsen – Reporter for the Associated Press, and author of Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life

•   John Monahan – Author of They Called Me Mad: Genius, Madness, and the Scientists Who Pushed the Outer Limits of Knowledge

•   Michael Hartl – Physicist, creator of “Tau Day”

•   James Geary – Author of I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World

Skeptic Check: Mysterious Illness

Oct 2, 2012 52:52

Description:

Stuttering speech and facial tics are among the strange symptoms that swept through a New York high school. Discover what’s behind the odd outbreak, and why one sociologist sees parallels to Salem, Massachusetts 300 years ago.

Also, an update on the cellphone cancer debate, and why one congressman wants warning labels on all new phones.

Plus, the ultimate cleanse: giving up on food to survive on light and air. We investigate the claims of Breatharians.

It’s Skeptic Check … but don’t take our word for it!

Guests:

•   Dennis Kucinich – U.S. Representative, Ohio’s 10th congressional district

•   Joshua Muscat – Epidemiologist, professor of public health sciences, Penn State at Hershey College of Medicine

•   Michael Wyde – Toxicologist, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

•   Robert Bartholomew – Sociologist, Botany College, Auckland, New Zealand, author of Outbreak! The Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Social Behavior

•   Gordy Slack – Science writer

•   Benjamin Radford – Deputy editor, Skeptical Inquirer magazine

Big Data

Sep 24, 2012 52:21

Description:

It’s all in the numbers. The trick is, finding what you’re looking for. But that’s the name of the game with big data. We have a giga-gigabyte of information, and combing through it will lead to new cures for disease, new discoveries about the cosmos, or clues to our social and economic behavior.

But is big data Big Brother? You leave a little bit of yourself behind with each mouse click. Discover how surveillance and privacy issues bubble out of the mix, as the terabytes keep flowing in.

Plus one man’s quest to know himself through the numbers as he records everything – and we do mean everything – about his body.

Guests:

•   Atul Butte – Associate professor, division chief, systems medicine, Stanford University

•   Larry Smarr – Professor of computer science, University of California, San Diego, director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, (Calit2)

•   Karen Nelson – Microbiologist, director of the Rockville Campus of the J. Craig Venter Institute

•   Gerry Harp – Physicist, and Director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute

•   Deirdre Mulligan – Assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Information and faculty director of the Berkeley Center of Law and Technology

•   Ken Goldberg – Professor of engineering, information and art at the University of California, Berkeley

Skeptic Check: Energy Vortex

Sep 17, 2012 52:21

Description:

"I feel your vibe!” Well, that describes a number of fabled locales that claim to pulse with mysterious energy – perhaps prompting books to fly across the room or airplanes to vanish into thin air. But what’s the science behind it?

We examine spots marked with an X, for “extraordinary” – from a haunted house to the Bermuda Triangle – to sort out natural from supernatural phenomena.

Plus, what causes the aurora borealis… a haywire Russian space probe… and just what the heck is an “energy vortex,” anyway?

Guests:

•  Phil Plait – Skeptic and keeper of Discover Magazine’s blog: badastronomy

•  Mike Borg – Group Sales Coordinator, Winchester Mystery House

•  Jim Underdown – Executive Director, Center for Inquiry, Los Angeles

•  Peter Williams – Hydrodynamicist at Agilent Technologies

•  Guy P. Harrison – Writer and business owner in Southern California, author of 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True

•  Rob Lillis – Space and Planetary Physicist, Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley

Oh, Rats!

Sep 10, 2012 52:16

Description:

Before you chase it with a broom, consider this – without the rat, we might miss critical insights into the nature of stress, cancer … and even love. These furry, red-eyed rodents have a unique role in medical research – and a ubiquitous companion to our urban lives.

Discover the origins of the albino laboratory rat … what rat laughter sounds like, and why these four-legged fur balls don’t fall victim to the pressure of the rat race … but we do.

Guests:

•   Kelly Lambert – Behavioral Neuroscientist, Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, Virginia, author of The Lab Rat Chronicles: A Neuroscientist Reveals Life Lessons from the Planet’s Most Successful Mammals

•   Michael Gould – Professor of Oncology and Medical Physics, University of Wisconsin, Madison

•   Jaak Pankseep – Neuroscientist, Veterinary College, Washington State University, author of The Archaeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotions (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology)

•   Pico Iyer – Writer, author of The Man Within My Head and the New York Times article The Joy of Quiet

The Invisible In-Between

Sep 3, 2012 51:54

Description:

To need air is human. Our lungs thank us for each breath we take. But air is more than a transporter of O2. It shapes our weather, keeps birds aloft and moves spores from here to there. A cubic foot of air is anything but “empty” (hot dog grease particles, anyone?).

The same goes for space (minus the hot dog grease). It’s a happening place. Discover why interstellar space is more than a whole lot o’ nothing; and what happens when the Voyager spacecraft leaves our solar system. Plus, catch a skydiver in action!

Guests:

•   Mako Igarashi – Skydiving instructor, Skydive Hollister, Hollister, CA

•   Rhett Allain – Physicist at Southeastern Louisiana University, blogger for Wired.com

•   William Bryant Logan – Author of Air: The Restless Shaper of the World

•   Robert Wagoner – Emeritus professor of physics, Stanford University

•   Alex Filippenko – Astronomer, University of California, Berkeley

•   Ed Stone – Physicist at CalTech, former Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, project scientist for the Voyager mission

Skeptic Check: Monsters, Magic, and Music

Aug 27, 2012 52:16

Description:

If Bigfoot walks through a forest and no one sees him, does he exist? It’s the job of paranormal investigator Joe Nickell to find out! Discover whether eyewitness accounts are reliable when it comes to tracking down the hirsute big guy and other monsters.

Also, on the subject of “seeing is believing”: how magic fools the brain.

Plus, in our potpourri show: can music boost brain power? A new study says listening to music makes brains happy. Does this support the dubious “Mozart Effect,” that claims listening to Wolfie’s compositions boosts IQ?

And, skeptic Phil Plait on why the so-called “super moon theory” doesn’t predict devastating earthquakes.

It’s Skeptic Check… but don’t take our word for it.

Guests:

•   Joe Nickell – Paranormal investigator and author of Tracking the Man-beasts: Sasquatch, Vampires, Zombies, and More

•   Stephen Macknik – Director of the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona

•   Susana Martinez-Conde – Director of the Laboratory of Visual Neuroscience at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona

•   Phil Plait – Astronomer, and author of the Bad Astronomy blog at Discover Magazine

•   Valorie Salimpoor – Researcher at Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Quebec, Canada

•   Penny Glass – Developmental psychologist and associate professor of pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine

A.I. Caramba!

Aug 20, 2012 52:16

Description:

When the IBM computer, Watson, snatched the “Jeopardy” title from its human competition, that raised the question of just how smart are machines? Could artificial intelligence ever beat humans at their own game… of being human?

Hear why an A.I. expert says it’s time to make peace with your P.C.; the machines are coming. Also, why technology is already self-evolving, and presenting its own demands. Find out what technology wants.

And, a man who went head-to-chip with a computer and says machines will never beat the human mind. Plus, we take a voyage into “2012: An Emotional Odyssey.”

Guests:

•   Kevin Kelly – Editor-at-large at Wired and author of What Technology Wants

•   Henry Lieberman – Research scientist at the M.I.T. Media Laboratory

•   Brian Christian – Science writer, poet and author of The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive

•   Horst Simon – Deputy Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

•   Shankar Sastry – Dean of Engineering, University of California, Berkeley

•   Jean Paul Jacob – Scholar in Residence at U.C. Berkeley and IBM Researcher, Emeritus

A Martian Curiosity

Aug 13, 2012 52:10

Description:

We dig the Red Planet! And so does Curiosity. After a successful landing, and a round of high-fives at NASA, the latest rover to land on Mars is on the move, shovel in mechanical hand.

Discover how the Mars Science Laboratory will hunt for the building blocks of life, and just what the heck a lipid is. Plus, how to distinguish Martians from Earthlings, and the tricks Mars has played on us in the past (canals, anyone?).

Also, want to visit Mars firsthand? We can point you to the sign-up sheet for a manned mission. The catch: the ticket is one-way.

Guests:

•   John Grotzinger – Geologist, California Institute of Technology, and project scientist, NASA Mars Science Laboratory mission

•   Jennifer Heldmann – Research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center

•   David Blake – Principal Investigator of CheMin, a mineralogical instrument that is included in the analytical laboratory of the Mars Science Laboratory mission

•   Rachel Harris – Astrobiology student at the NASA Astrobiology Institute

•   Stuart Schlisserman – Physician in Palo Alto, California

•   Felisa Wolfe-Simon – NASA astrobiology research fellow, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs

•   Bas Lansdorp – Founder, Mars One

Fuel's Paradise

Aug 6, 2012 52:10

Description:

You know the joke about the car and the snail. Look at that escargot? Well, snails may be the only thing not powering the automobiles of the future. Trees, grass, algae, even the garbage you toss on the sidewalk has potential for conversion into biofuel. What is America’s next top model fuel? Join us on a tour of the contenders.

Meet a man who’s mad about miscanthus … an astrobiologist’s attraction to algae… and the blueprint for building your own biofuel bugs.

Also, discover whether any of these next-generation fuel sources could take us to the stars. Put that in your rocket and burn it!

Guests:

•   Madhu Khanna – Professor of Agriculture and Environmental Economics at the University of Illinois and at the Energy Biosciences Institute

•   Stephen Long – Professor of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

•   Michelle Chang – Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley

•   Bret Stroegn – Graduate student researcher, Energy Bioscience Institute, University of California at Berkeley

•   Jonathan Trent – Bioengineering Research Scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center and founder of Global Research into Energy and the Enviornment (GREEN )

•   Richard Obousy – Physicist and co-founder and project leader for Project Icarus

Olympics for the Rest of Us

Jul 23, 2012 52:14

Description:

Let the games begin! The mad dash to the phone … the sudden spring out of bed … the frantic juggling of car keys, grocery bags and a cell phone! Olympic athletes may have remarkable speed and strength, but it’s easy praise the extraordinary. Here’s to the extreme averageness of the rest of us. From beer bellies to aching backs, we’re all winners in the Darwinian Olympics just by virtue of being here.

Identify the one physical trait that you share with all Olympians – your head - and why it’s a remarkable human evolutionary achievement. Plus, the role of genes in putting on the pounds … and what event Spiderman would enter to win the gold.

Guests: Daniel Lieberman - Professor of human evolutionary biology, Harvard University, author of The Evolution of the Human Head Callum Ross - Professor of organismal biology and anatomy, University of Chicago Kelly Brownell - Psychologist, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University Robert Peaslee - Assistant professor, College of Media and Communications, Texas Tech University and author of Web-Spinning Heroics: Critical Essays on the History and Meaning of Spider-Man

Animal Instinct

Jul 9, 2012 52:14

Description:

Mooooove over, make way for the cows, the chickens … and other animals! Humans can learn a lot from our hairy, feathered, four-legged friends. We may wear suits and play Sudoku, but Homo sapiens are primates just the same. We’ve met the animal, and it is us.

Discover the surprising similarity between our diseases and those that afflict other animals, including pigs that develop eating disorders. Plus, what the octopus can teach us about national security … how monkeying around evolved into human speech … and the origins of moral behavior in humans.

Guests: Rafe Sagarin - Marine ecologist, Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona, author of Learning From the Octopus: How Secrets from Nature Can Help Us Fight Terrorist Attacks, Natural Disasters, and Disease Barbara Natterson-Horowitz - Professor of cardiology, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, and co-author of Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing Kathryn Bowers - Writer, co-author of Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing Asif Ghazanfar - Neuroscientist, psychologist, Princeton University Christopher Boehm - Biological and cultural anthropologist at the University of Southern California, director of the Jane Goodall Research Center, author of Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame

Descripción en español

Nano Nano

Jul 2, 2012 52:14

Description:

ENCORE Think small to solve big problems. That, in a nutshell, is the promise of nanotechnology. In this barely visible world, batteries charge 100 times faster and drugs go straight to their targets in the body. Discover some of these nano breakthroughs and how what you can’t see can help you…

…or hurt you? What if tiny machines turn out to be nothing but trouble? We’ll look at the health and safety risks of nanotech.

Plus, scaling up in science fiction: why a Godzilla-sized insect is fun, but just doesn’t fly.

Guests: Bill Flounders - executive director of the Marvell Nanofabrication Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley Joseph DeSimone - professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and chemical engineering at North Carolina State University David Guston - political scientist at Arizona State University where he directs The Center for Nanotechnology in Society Stan Williams - Senior Fellow and founding director of the Information and Quantum Systems Lab at Hewlett-Packard Michael LaBarbera - Professor in organismal biology, anatomy and geophysical sciences, University of Chicago

Descripción en español

First released February 21 2011

Seth's Storm Shelter

Jun 25, 2012 51:35

Description:

Expect the unexpected when we go digging in Seth’s storm shelter – who knows what we’ll find! In this cramped never-never land, tucked between piles of dehydrated food packets and old civil defense helmets, we stumble (but don’t step) upon marauding ants … a mission to Pluto…. “evidence” of a spaceship crash … the Apollo astronaut who shot the “Earth Rise” photograph … and Jonah Lehrer meditating on creativity.

Tune in, find out and, help move this box of canned soup, will you?

Guests: Mark Moffett - Entomologist, research associate at the Smithsonian Institution, author of Adventures among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions John Spencer - Planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and member of the New Horizons science team Joe Nickell - Paranormal investigator, Senior Research Fellow, Skeptical Inquirer Magazine William Anders - Astronaut on Apollo 8, and photographer of “Earth Rise” Jonah Lehrer - Author of Imagine: How Creativity Works

Skeptic Check: OMG, GMO?

Jun 18, 2012 51:35

Description:

You are what you eat. But what does that mean if your food is genetically engineered? And the chances are good that it has been engineered if you munch down on corn or soybean. The prospect of eating GM food makes some folks afraid, but is their fear warranted?

Discover what experts say about the safety of genetically engineered foods … whether the technology delivers on the promised increase in yield … and the argument for and against labeling.

Also, why some say the issue is not food safety, but the unethical business practices of multinationals. A filmmaker reports from the fields of India.

Plus, GM crops off this planet: the role of synthetic biology in terraforming Mars.

It’s Skeptic Check … but don’t take our word for it.

Guests: Pamela Ronald - Professor in the department of Plant Pathology and the Genome Center at the University of California, Davis, co-author of Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food Ronald Lindsay - President and Chief Executive Officer and Senior Research Fellow, Center for Inquiry, and author of Future Bioethics: Overcoming Taboos, Myths, and Dogmas Micha Peled - Founder, Teddy Bear Films, and the filmmaker for “Bitter Seeds” Doug Gurian-Sherman - Plant pathologist, senior scientist, Food and Environment Program, Union of Concerned Scientists John Cumbers - Synthetic biologist, working in Northern California

Can We Talk?

Jun 11, 2012 52:26

Description:

You can get your point across in many ways: email, texts, or even face-to-face conversation (does anyone do that anymore?). But ants use chemical messages when organizing their ant buddies for an attack on your kitchen. Meanwhile, your human brain sends messages to other brains without you uttering a word.

Hear these communication stories … how language evolved in the first place… why our brains love a good tale …and how Facebook is keeping native languages from going extinct.

Guests: Mark Moffett - Entomologist, research associate at the Smithsonian Institution, author of Adventures among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions V.S. Ramachandran - Neuroscientist, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego Clare Murphy - Performance storyteller, Ireland Mark Pagel - Evolutionary biologist, University of Reading, U.K., and author of Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind Margaret Noori - Poet and linguist at the University of Michigan, specializing in Ojibwe, and director of the Comprehensive Studies Program

Descripción en español

Better Mousetrap

Jun 4, 2012 51:35

Description:

ENCORE It’s the perennial dream: build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door. We go to San Jose’s famed Tech Museum to learn what it takes to turn a good idea into a grand success.

Remember the Super Soaker squirt gun? Hear how its inventor is now changing the rules for solar energy.

Where do good ideas come from? A Eureka moment in the bathtub? We’ll find out that it doesn’t happen so quickly – or easily.

And finally, the life cycle of society-changing technologies, from the birth of radio to the future of the Internet.

Inventions, inventors and innovation: all part of the mix on “Better Mousetrap.”

Guests: Steven Johnson - Author of Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation Lonnie Johnson - Inventor and former NASA engineer; CEO of Johnson Research and Development Company Tim Wu - Professor of Communication Law at Columbia University and author of The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires (Borzoi Books) Alana Connor - Vice President Content Development, The Tech Museum, San Jose

Descripción en español

Originally released February 7, 2011

Mass Transits

May 28, 2012 51:33

Description:

On June 5, our sister planet Venus will slowly slide across the face of the sun. This will be the last transit of Venus until 2117, so there’s no subsequent chance to observe this celestial spectacular for anyone alive today.

Join us for a special episode devoted to this rare event. Two centuries ago, nations were locked in a race to be the first to measure the Venus transit. From the first observation by the “father” of British astronomy to Captain Cook’s Tahitian expedition in the 18th century, meet the pioneers who were trying to nail down the scale of the cosmos

Plus, tips for observing the 2012 transit … how the Kepler spacecraft uses transits to detect Earth-like worlds … and could there be life floating in Venusian clouds?

Guests: Jay Pasachoff - Astronomer, Williams College Peter Aughton - Astronomer and author of The Transit of Venus: The Brief, Brilliant Life of Jeremiah Horrocks, Father of British Astronomy Nick Lomb - Former Curator of Astronomy, Sydney Observatory, and author of Transit of Venus: 1631 to the Present Andrea Wulf - Author of Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens David Grinspoon - Curator of Astrobiology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science Jon Jenkins - Lead analyst with the Kepler Mission and senior scientist with the SETI Institute

Descripción en español

To Earth and Back

May 21, 2012 52:46

Description:

We are all Martians … or could be, if, billions of years ago, Red Plant microbes fell to Earth and eventually evolved to us. Okay, that one’s a big “if.” But microbes can survive space travel. Meet the NASA officer whose task is to keep Earth, Mars - and the entire solar system –safe from hitchhiking bacteria.

And, even if we’re not Martians (darn!), did life once thrive on the Red Planet ... and does it still today?

Plus, why meteorites may be happy habitats for life.

Guests: Catharine Conley - NASA planetary protection officer Chris McKay - Planetary scientist, NASA Ames Research Center Paul Davies - Director of the BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University Aaron Burton - Astrobiologist, NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center Debbie Kolyer - Grants Manager, SETI Institute

Descripción en español

That's So Random!

May 14, 2012 51:09

Description:

ENCORE Random is as random does… makes sense doesn’t even that anyway in tune hear to randomness how lives rules.

Brain chaos the drives, restoration role of help insight ecology may into randomness the, numbers sense of make statistics can’t why we or, ants not seem of erratic behavior why the may but is.

Guests: Leonard Mlodinow - Theoretical physicist and author of The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives (Vintage) Jon Chase - Biologist and director of the Tyson Research center at Washington University in St. Louis Lori Marino - Evolutionary biologist, Emory University Deborah Gordon - Biologist, Stanford University John Beggs - Physicist, Indiana University at Bloomington

First released January 10, 2011

Early Adapters

Apr 23, 2012 52:35

Description:

ENCORE The times are a’changing – rising temperatures, growing population, and new technology coming at us faster than a greased cheetah.

So how will humans respond? Find out about future farming in the city – your vegetables might be grown in downtown, hi-rise greenhouses. Also, a population expert tells us how our planet can cope with billions more people, and the man who invented the term ‘cyberspace’ describes what the future might hold for the techno-savvy.

Darwinian evolution takes a long time to accommodate to new environments. But Homo sapiens can beat that rap by wielding the right technology – and becoming early adapters.

Guests: Dickson Despommier - Emeritus professor of public health and microbiology at Columbia University, author of The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century William Gibson - Author, most recently, of Zero History Joel Cohen - Mathematician and biologist at Rockefeller University David DeGusta - Paleoanthropologist at the Paleoanthropology Institute in California

Descripción en español

First aired December 6, 2010

Humans Need Not Apply

Apr 16, 2012 51:36

Description:

ENCORE You are one-of-a-kind, unique, indispensible… oh, wait, never mind! It seems that computer over there can do what you do … faster and with greater accuracy.

Yes, it’s silicon vs. carbon as intelligent, interactive machines out-perform humans in tasks beyond data-crunching. We’re not only building our successors, we’re developing emotional relationships with them. Find out why humans are hard-wired to be attached to androids.

Also, the handful of areas where humans still rule… as pilots, doctors and journalists. Scratch that! Journalism is automated too – tune in for a news story written solely by a machine.

Guests: Clifford Nass - Social psychologist at Stanford University and Director of the Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab Tom Jones - United States astronaut, space consultant, and veteran of four Space Shuttle flights Chris Ford - Business director at Pixar Animation Studios Eric Van De Graaff -Cardiologist at Alegent Health James Bennighof - Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, and professor of music theory at Baylor University in Texas Kathy Abbott - Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for Flight Deck Human Factors at the Federal Aviation Administration Kristian Hammond - Co-founder, Narrative Science

Descripción en español

First aired November 22, 2010.

Second That Emotion

Apr 9, 2012 52:00

Description:

So you weep at sappy commercials and give drivers the bird. Have no regrets: emotion is what makes us human! Discover the survival value in feeling disgust … why humans are terrible liars … and how despair fuels creativity.

Also, mis-firing emotions and the emotional consequences of facial paralysis. And why E.T. will need to feel fear and joy to survive.

Guests: Rachel Herz - Psychologist, author of That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion Paul Ekman - Psychologist, professor emeritis, University of California, San Francisco Kathleen Bogart - Psychologist, Tufts University Gordy Slack - Science writer Jonah Lehrer - Author of Imagine: How Creativity Works

Descripción en español

Found in Space

Mar 26, 2012 52:00

Description:

ENCORE If someone asks where you get off, you can now respond with precision. Satellites and computers spit out coordinates accurate to a few paces. And digital maps stand the Copernican principle on its head – putting you at the center of everything (how does it feel?).

Find out how today’s maps are shuffling our world view. Also, how does a rat navigate a maze without GPS? Hear of the plotting that goes on in that tiny rodent brain.

Plus, mapping the universe and pinpointing just where we are in cosmic time – lucky for us, human evolution is right on schedule.

Guests: Josh Winn - Astronomer, MIT David Redish - Neuroscientist, University of Minnesota Mario Livio - Astrophysicist, Space Telescope Science Institute and author of Is God a Mathematician? Mike Goodchild - Professor of Geography, Center for Spatial Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

Descripción en español

Seth's Cabinet of Wonders

Mar 12, 2012 52:02

Description:

It’s always a surprise to sort through Seth's cabinet of wonders – who knows what we’ll find!

In this cramped cupboard, tucked between shelves of worm gears and used clarinet reeds, we discover a forgotten U.S. sea floor laboratory … copies of the new Cosmos TV series … evidence of science fiction’s predictive powers … software that may replace scientists … and tips on surviving a deadly poison (hint: it helps to be a snake).

Tune in, find out and grab a duster, will you?

Guests: Neil deGrasse Tyson - Astrophysicst at the American Museum of Natural History and author of Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier
Robert J. Sawyer - Hugo award-wining science fiction author; his newest title is Triggers
Ben Hellwarth - Author of Sealab: America's Forgotten Quest to Live and Work on the Ocean Floor Hod Lipson - Roboticist at Cornell University Chris Feldman - Biologist, University of Nevada, Reno

Descripción en español

Skeptic Check: Prog-Not-Stication

Mar 5, 2012 52:03

Description:

The future is no mystery … according to psychics who say they have special access to tomorrow’s events. For example, adherents to the Mayan doomsday prophecy warn that when 2012 ends, so will the world.

Discover what’s behind claims of prognostication, and why – if it really works – no one is making a killing in Las Vegas.

Also, could science divine the future? Programmers with the Living Earth Simulator say that with sufficient data, their billion-dollar computer project can predict world events.

It’s Skeptic Check… but don’t take our word for it!

Guests: Phil Plait - Skeptic and keeper of Discover Magazine’s blog, badastronomy.com Christopher French - Psychologist, Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London Guy Harrison - Writer and business owner, author of 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True Alessandro Vespignani - Physicist, Northeastern University Ken Caldeira - Climate scientist in the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology, Stanford University Sue Wilhite - Master Tarot card reader at East
West Bookstore in Mountain View, California

Descripción en español

Skeptic Check: Saucer's Apprentice

Feb 20, 2012 51:36

Description:

ENCORE They’re here! About one-third of all Americans believe we’re being visited by extraterrestrial spacecraft. But wait, you want evidence?

UFO sighting are as prevalent as flies at a picnic. But proof of visitation – well, that’s really alien.

Hear why belief in extraterrestrial UFOs persists … and why military sightings that “can’t be explained” don’t warrant rolling out a welcome mat for ET.

Plus, the most fab UFOs in the movies!

It’s Skeptic Check… but don’t take our word for it!

Guests: Phil Plait - Keeper of the skeptical website badastronomy.com Benjamin Radford - Research Fellow with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and managing editor of “Skeptical Inquirer Science Magazine” Leslie Kean - Journalist, and author of UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record Susan Clancy - Psychology Researcher, Harvard University
and author of Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens Thomas Bullard - Folkorist at Indiana University and author of The Myth and Mystery of UFOs

FIrst aired November 15, 2010.

Descripción en español

Aware Am I?

Feb 13, 2012 51:58

Description:

ENCORE Humans are pleasure-seekers – from food to sex to fine art. But do we know why we crave what we do? Discover the surprising motivation behind our desires. Also, why our hedonistic cousins, the bonobos, may hold the secret to world peace.

Plus, self-awareness in monkeys: can they really pass the mirror test? Can bacteria, for that matter? Nope! But since you are, cell for cell, more microbe than human, you’ll want to know just how cognitively aware these critters are.

Guests: Paul Bloom - Psychologist at Yale University and author of How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like Julie Neiworth - Psychologist, Carleton College Vanessa Woods - Research scientist at Duke University and author of Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo. Find out more about helping bonobos. Jim Shapiro - Bacterial geneticist, University of Chicago

First aired November 1, 2010.

Descripción en español

Wired for Thought

Jan 16, 2012 51:36

Description:

A cup of coffee can leave you wired for the day. But a chip in your brain could wire you to a machine forever. Imagine manipulating a mouse without moving a muscle, and doing a Google search with your mind. Welcome to the future of the brain-machine interface.

Don your EEG thinking-cap, and discover a high-tech thought game that may be the harbinger of machine relationships to come.

Plus, the ultimate mapping project: the Human Connectdome Project aims to identify all the neural pathways in the human brain. It may help us understand what makes us human, but could it also point the way to making us smarter?

And, what all this brain research reveals about the mind and free will – who, or what, is really in charge?

Guests: Jan Rabaey - Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS), University of California, Berkeley Arthur Toga - Neurologist at the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, UCLA School of Medicine, and researcher on the Human Connectome Project Michael Gazzaniga - Neuroscientist, director of the University of California Santa Barbara’s SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, and author of Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain Bradley Voytek - Neuroscientist, University of California, San Francisco

Descripción en español

Light, the Universe, and Everything

Jan 2, 2012 52:13

Description:

ENCORE What’s it all about? And we mean ALL. What makes up this vast sprawling cosmos? Why does it exist? Why do we exist? Why is there something rather than nothing? Ow, my head hurts!

For possible answers, we travel to the moment after the Big Bang and discover all that came into being in those few minutes after the great flash: time, space, matter, and light. Plus, the bizarre stuff that makes up the bulk of the universe: dark energy and dark matter.

Also, what we set in motion with the invention of the light blub. How artificial light lit up our homes, our cities and – inadvertently – our skies.

Guests: Sean Carroll - Theoretical physicist at California Institute of Technology Leonard Susskind - Theoretical physicist, Stanford University Jane Brox - Author of Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light Peter Fisher - Physicist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Descripción en español

First aired September 6, 2010

Skeptic Check: Superstition

Dec 26, 2011 53:00

Description:

ENCORE Wait! Before you step outside... is it Friday the 13th? Any black cats prowling around? Broken a mirror lately? Homo sapiens are a superstitious lot. Find out why our brains are wired for irrational belief. Plus, from the 2012-end-of-the-world prophesy to colliding planets - why some people believe the universe is out to get ‘em.

Also, Brains on Vacation takes on a challenge to relativity and our Hollywood skeptic has doubts about exorcism. It’s enough to make your head spin on Skeptic Check… but don’t take our word for it!

Guests: Bruce Hood - Cognitive scientist at the University of Bristol in the U.K. and author of The Science of Superstition: How the Developing Brain Creates Supernatural Beliefs David Morrison - Director of the Carl Sagan Center for The Study of Life in The Universe at the SETI Institute and keeper of the NASA website Ask an Astrobiologist Martin Snow - Research Scientist, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder Jim Underdown - Executive Director, Center for Inquiry, West - Los Angeles Phil Plait - Astronomer, keeper of badastronomy.com, and author of Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End . . .

Descripción en español

First aired August 16, 2010

Sensor Sensibility

Dec 19, 2011 52:28

Description:

Have you lost your senses? You’ll find them everywhere you look. Sensors respond to external stimuli – light, sound, temperature and much else – to help us make sense (ha!) of our universe. And more are on their way. “Ubiquitous sensing” is the term that describes a world blanketed by tiny sensors: on bridges, in paint and medicine bottles, and even in our brains!

Discover where you’ll find sensors next. And, has the world’s largest detection device found the elusive particle that will help explain the universe? Where are you, Higgsy-wiggsy?

Also, out-of-this world sensors have detected a possibly Earth-like planet. What’s next for the Kepler planet-hunters?

Plus, DIY sensor kits, and, if computers can do all that, why can’t we send the odor of, say, freshly-baked bread over the Internet? The case for a smell-o-meter.

Guests: Frank Close - Physicist at Oxford University, author of The Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe Jan Rabaey - Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS), University of California, Berkeley Barry Shell - Writer in Vancouver, Canada Andy Huntington - Interaction designer, based in London Sara Seager - Professor of planetary science and physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Planet hunters - Daryll LaCourse and Tom Jacobs, citizen scientists with Planet Hunters

Descripción en español

Going Viral

Dec 12, 2011 52:27

Description:

The term “bird flu” is a misnomer, scientists say, because almost all human influenza originates in our feathered friends. How it lands in you and spreads is another matter …

Hear what it takes for a virus to go global, from a virus hunter who plans to stop epidemics in their tiny DNA tracks with an innovative global surveillance system.

Also, why your genome is littered with fossil viruses of the past … the two largest viruses discovered so far, Mimi and Mega, square off … and, what it takes for ideas to “go viral.”

Guests: Nathan Wolfe - Viral Ecologist, Director of the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative Robert Gifford - Evolutionary virologist, Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Rockefeller University Vincent Racaniello - Virologist at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, host of the podcast, “This Week in Microbiology,” and author of the “Virology Blog” Bill Wasik - Senior Editor at Wired, author of And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture

Descripción en español

Science's Alliances

Dec 5, 2011 52:16

Description:

Mom and apple pie. Computers and silicon. Martians and death rays. Some things just go together naturally. But how about science and politics? Science and religion? Science and fiction? These pairings are often unnatural and contentious … but they don’t have to be.

Discover how science can team up with other endeavors in productive, if surprising, symbiosis.

Meet a particle physicist, turned U.S. Congressman, who calls for more scientists on Capitol Hill. Also, a tour of the Golden Age of Islamic Science.

Plus, scientists named Elmo and Super Grover 2.0 teach small children to conduct experiments with the help of chickens and dancing penguins.

And, it’s not quite science but it’s not entirely fiction either: how sci-fi helps shape our cultural debates about the future.

Guests: Bill Foster - Physicist and former U.S. representative from Illinois Carol-Lynn Parente - Executive Producer, Sesame Street Ranjana Mehra - Docent at The Tech Museum, San Jose, California Brooks Peck - Curator, EMP Museum, Seattle, Washington

Descripción en español

Skeptic Check: Dubiology

Nov 28, 2011 51:47

Description:

There’s no harm talking to your houseplant, but will your chatter really help it grow? We look at various biological claims, from whether plants feel pain to the ability of cats to predict earthquakes. Feline forecasters, anyone?

Also, when does understanding biology have important implications for health and policy? The arguments for and against genetically modified foods, and the danger of “pox parties” as a replacement for childhood vaccination.

Plus, the history and current state of scientific literacy in the United States. When did we stop trusting science?

Guests: Andy Michael - Seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California Ron Lindsay - President of the Center for Inquiry, headquartered in Amherst, NY Steven Novella - Clinical neurologist and Director of General Neurology at Yale University School of Medicine; host of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast Shawn Lawrence Otto - Author of Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America Chelsea Specht - Professor, Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley

Descripción en español

We've Got You Made

Nov 21, 2011 51:47

Description:

ENCORE Wish you could ditch computers? There’s no escape button for that. Computers are not only a part of your daily grind, they may soon be a part of you. We’ll hear from the world’s first cyborg about why we should make nice in our arms race with machines.

Also, the secret behind the extraordinary breakthroughs that DARPA scientists are making – from building autonomous cars to wiring robotic surgeons.

Plus, making space for humans… and their bodily functions: the engineering tricks of toiletry. And, a carbon-based astronaut on the view of Earth from orbit.

Guests: Kevin Warwick - Professor of Cybernetics at University of Reading in the U.K. Santiago Bilinkis - Student at the Singularity University Mary Roach - Writer and author of Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void Tom Jones - United States astronaut, space consultant, and veteran of four Space Shuttle flights Michael Belfiore - Space and Technology writer, and author of The Department of Mad Scientists: How DARPA Is Remaking Our World, from the Internet to Artificial Limbs

Descripción en español

First aired August 23, 2010.

Bonus - Peter Hudson on Monitoring Dormant Diseases

Nov 20, 2011 05:03

Description:

It's scary to think that the pathogens responsible for some of the most terrifying epidemics in history are still around - they've just gone underground. In this extra portion of her interview with biologist Peter Hudson, Molly asks him about how these dormant diseases affect the way we approach and monitor emerging diseases worldwide.

Blame it on Bacterio

Nov 14, 2011 53:20

Description:

Think small! Microbes are tinier than the dot at the end of this sentence, yet they can make humans sicker than dogs, dogs sicker than humans, jump from animal to human and keep scientists guessing when and where the next disease will appear.

Discover how doctors diagnosed one man’s mysterious infection, the role that animals play as hosts for disease, and why the rate of emerging diseases is increasing worldwide.

Also, why your kitchen is a biosafety hazard, and how the Human Microbiome Project will tally all the microbes on – and in - you.

Plus, the extreme places on Earth where microbes thrive and what it suggests for the existence of alien life. And, how one strain of bacteria helped a farmer grow a pumpkin the weight of a small car!

Guests: Peter Hudson - Biologist, Director of Life Sciences at Penn State University Peter Krause - Senior research scientist at the Yale School of Public Health Durland Fish - Epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health. Information on his Lyme disease app David Relman - Stanford University microbiologist and infectious disease clinician Erich Fleming - Biologist, SETI Institute O. Peter Snyder - Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management John Raeside - Oakland, California Frances Raeside - Oakland, California Jennifer Kate Arnold - Infectious Disease Clinic, Kaiser Permanente Medical Group Dave Stelts - Farmer, head of the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth Neil Anderson - Owner, president of Reforestation Technologies International. Find retail products.

Descripción en español

NASA or What?

Nov 7, 2011 51:21

Description:

“Making space for everyone” could be NASA’s motto. But as commercial spaceships get ready to blast off, that populist idea is being tested. Space cowboys in the private sector say they’re the ones who can provide unfettered access to space, for tourists and scientists alike.

Meet a scientist who already has a ticket to ride on SpaceShip Two and discover what he hopes to learn about asteroids during his five minutes of weightlessness.

Plus, NASA in motion: it’s back to the moon as the GRAIL mission probes the interior of our lovely lunar satellite. Also, can you dig it? The rover Curiosity can. It’s headed to Mars to hunt for clues to alien life … with a jackhammer.

Also, as the Hubble Space Telescope shuts down, the James Webb Space Telescope revs up. Or does it? The telescope is designed to study the birth of galaxies and hunt for evidence of water on far away worlds. But will Congress pull the plug?

Guests: James Oberg - former Space Shuttle Mission Control engineer, and space expert Maria Zuber - Planetary scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Principal Investigator of NASA’s GRAIL mission Joy Crisp - Geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Principal Investigator on the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity Massimo Stiavelli - Astronomer at the Space Science Telescope Institute, and Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope Dan Durda - Planetary scientist, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado

More about the Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference

Descripción en español

Bug Off!

Oct 31, 2011 51:46

Description:

ENCORE What you can’t see … can make you sick. Humans have been battling viruses and bacteria since the beginning of time. The malaria parasite has been keeping deadly company with us for 500,000 years. King Tut had it and so did Julius Caesar. What’s keeping this bug going today?

Also, how disease almost halted the most ambitious engineering project in the world … how elite disease detectives puzzle out perplexing epidemics … And – could tiny bugs from spaaace, ace, ace be our ancestors?

Guests: Sonia Shah - Author of The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years Michael Conniff - Historian, director of Global Studies at San Jose State University, and author of Black Labor on a White Canal: Panama, 1904-1981 (Pitt Latin American Series) Mark Pendergrast - Author of Inside the Outbreaks: The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service Robert Zubrin - President of the Mars Society

Descripción en español

First aired August 2, 2010

Happy Daze

Oct 17, 2011 51:33

Description:

Calling all pessimists! Your brain is wired for optimism! Yes, deep down, we’re all Pollyannas. So wipe that scowl off your face and discover the evolutionary advantage of thinking positive. Also, enjoy other smile-inducing research suggesting that if you crave happiness, you should do the opposite of what your brain tells you to do.

Plus, why a “well-being index” may replace Dow Jones as a metric for success … a Twitter study that predicts your next good mood … and whether our furry and finned animal friends can experience joy.

Guests: Frank Drake - Astronomer and author of the Drake Equation Tali Sharot - Cognitive neuroscientist at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at the University College London and the author of The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain Michael Macy - Sociologist at Cornell University

His team’s Twitter study: http://timeu.se/ Carol Graham - Economist at the Brookings Institution and author of The Pursuit of Happiness: An Economy of Well-Being David DiSalvo - Science and technology writer, author of What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite Robin Ince - U.K.-based comedian Jonathan Balcombe - Animal behavior scientist and author of The Exultant Ark: A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasure

Descripción en español

Skeptic Check, Beast Of

Oct 3, 2011 52:06

Description:

Zombies, aliens, Bigfoot, oh my!! We've covered - or rather uncovered - them all and more on Skeptic Check, our monthly look of critical thinking. And now we've collected enough strange encounters to assemble a sordid retrospective of sorts.

Sharpen your brain, it's Skeptic Check, Beast Of. But don't take our word for it!

Guests: Phil Plait - Skeptic and keeper of Discover Magazine’s blog, badastronomy.com Bruce Hood - Cognitive scientist at the University of Bristol in the U.K. and author of The Science of Superstition: How the Developing Brain Creates Supernatural Beliefs Susan Jacoby - Author of The Age of American Unreason Steve Silberman - Contributing editor, Wired Magazine, author of “The Placebo Problem” in the September 2009 issue Mary Pope-Handy - Estate Agent, Silicon Valley and keeper of the website hauntedrealestate.com Jim Underdown - Executive Director, Center for Inquiry, West – Los Angeles Paul Offit - Pediatrician, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and author of Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure Stephen Schneider - Climate scientist, Stanford University Brendan Riley - Assistant professor of English, Columbia College, Chicago

Descripción en español

Rend Me Your Ears

Sep 26, 2011 50:58

Description:

ENCORE Shh - can you keep it down? Nope. Not unless you want to do away with civilization. Our buzzing, humming, whirling, machine-driven world is a poster child for technological progress, right? As is hearing loss. It’s driven one man to search the world for silence. We’ll hear what he didn’t hear, and what Einstein predicted we should hear in deep space, where gravitational waves may reveal the hidden sounds of the universe, including the birth of black holes.

Guests: George Foy - Author of Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence Garret Keizer - Author of The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want Craig Hogan - Director for Particle Astrophysics at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

Descripción en español

First aired July 5, 2010

Seth's Tool Shed

Sep 5, 2011 50:58

Description:

Anyone who does gardening knows that life is tough. It’s also ancient – the first living things appeared on this planet nearly as soon as our world was habitable. We consider life on real worlds – like Earth and Mars – as well as fictional ones, such as the desert planet from the movie “Dune”. We’ll hear about a new scheme to find Martians, and practical approaches to coping with climate change.

And is Pluto seeking revenge? The unmasking of a fourth moon around this former planet!

We’re making some lively discoveries in Seth’s Tool Shed on Big Picture Science.

Guests: Philip Duffy - Physicist and senior scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Kevin Zahnle - Planetary scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center David Summers - Astrobiologist at the SETI Institute Christopher Carr - Researcher in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Mark Showalter - Research scientist at the SETI Institute

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Into the Unknown

Aug 29, 2011 52:07

Description:

During the great age of exploration men risked their lives to set foot upon unknown lands, whether in the humid jungles of Peru or on the barren ice cap of the South Pole. We'll hear those dramatic tales…

… but also where modern exploration is taking us. Could it be to the deepest, darkest part of the sea?

Or to space? Discover how to build a space suit that will let you move like an athlete on Mars. Also, why some say that the ultimate frontier requires no packing and no travel: voyages into the human brain.

Guests: Dava Newman - Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering Systems, MIT David Eagleman - Neuroscientist, Baylor College of Medicine and author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain Mark Adams - Author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu Edward Larson - Author of An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science Liz Taylor - President, Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, Alameda, CA

Descripción en español

Home Brew Science

Aug 27, 2011 51:33

Description:

The recipe for being a scientist was easy in the old days… just be born into a rich family, have an interest in nature and plenty of time to indulge yourself. But are the days of gentlemen scientists over? Maybe not.

We go to the Maker Faire and check out how small-scale projects have big-scale ambitions.

Also, how everyday experience often tells us something profound about the universe.

Guests: Spencer Weart – Former director of the Center for the History of Physics, at the American Institute of Physics Tim Russ – Actor, and the character Tuvok on Star Trek Voyager Marcus Chown – Science writer and author of The Matchbox That Ate a Forty-Ton Truck: What Everyday Things Tell Us About the Universe

Swarm in Here... or Is It Just Me?

Aug 22, 2011 50:58

Description:

ENCORE An ant … can’t … move a rubber tree plant… but the colony can. As a group, ants are an efficient, organized, can-do bunch. And a model for humans trying to manage complex systems.

Find out about the eerie collective intelligence of animals, and how an MIT researcher is hoping to put humans to work collaboratively to solve problems like climate change.

Also … hear how research into flocking behavior helps Hollywood film a herd of stampeding dinosaurs.

Guests: Steve Strogatz - Applied mathematician at Cornell University and author of Sync: How Order Emerges From Chaos In the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life Craig Reynolds - Senior researcher for Sony Computer Entertainment Thomas Malone - Director of the Center for Collective Intelligence at MIT Iain Couzin - Biologist at Princeton University

Descripción en español

Originally aired June 21, 2010

Skeptic Check: Plotting Along

Aug 15, 2011 50:59

Description:

It’s been ten years since the fall of the Twin Towers, but some still believe that the attack was an inside job. They’re not the only ones to buy into a conspiratorial view of world events. Others deny President Obama’s American birth… link autism with vaccines… and even claim that the fluo
ride in our drinking water is there to control our minds. Is it the truth - or the fringe groups - that are “out there?”

Find out why some tinfoil hat ideas never go away. Also, the roots of rational argument: did our brains evolve to seek the truth… or just win arguments?

It’s Skeptic Check… but don’t take our word for it!

Guests: Jonathan Kay - Managing editor of National Post in Canada and author of Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground Michael Shermer - Founding Publisher of Skeptic Magazine and author of The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies – How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them As Truths Phil Plait - Skeptic and keeper of Discover Magazine’s blog, badastronomy.com Hugo Mercier - Postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Darcia Narvaez - Psychologist at the University of Notre Dame Ben Recht - Computer Scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and author of the paper “On the Effectiveness of Tinfoil Hats”

Descripción en español

Written in Code

Aug 8, 2011 51:27

Description:

ENCORE Genes – what are they good for? Absolutely… something. But not everything. Your “genius” genes need to be turned on – and your environment determines that. Find out how to unleash your inner-Einstein, and what scientists learned from studying the famous physicist’s brain.

Also, the bizarre notion that your children inherit not just your genes, but also the consequences of your habits – smoking, stress, diet, and other behaviors that turn the genes on.

Plus Francis Collins on affordable personal genomes, and a man who decoded his own DNA in under a week.

Guests: Francis Collins - Geneticist, Director of the National Institutes of Health David Shenk - Journalist, and author of The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About Genetics, Talent and IQ is Wrong Stephen Quake - Biophysicist, Stanford University Dean Falk - Anthropologist and Senior Scholar at the School For Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Descripción en español

Cell! Cell!

Aug 2, 2011 51:27

Description:

ENCORE Live forever? Both cancer cells and stem cells can make a claim to immortality. Left unchecked, tumors will grow indefinitely. And stem cells offer the promise of non-stop rejuvenation.

We’ll find out whether the surprising discovery of stem cells in the brain really can keep our thinking organ young. And we’ll hear the remarkable story of Henrietta Lacks, the woman who unwittingly donated tissue to science in 1951, and whose cancer cells are still grown in laboratories around the world today.

Guests: Rebecca Skloot - Journalist and author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Fred Gage - Neurobiologist at the Salk Institute Randy Schekman - Molecular and cell biologist at the University of California, Berkeley

Descripción en español

Water the Chances

Jul 25, 2011 51:27

Description:

Water, water everywhere. But most of it is sea water - you can’t drink it. Discover the most promising technologies for desalination and why solar cells are key. Also, how astronauts filter “water-closet water” to drink it, and how to turn a salt pond back to a wetland.

Plus, from Roman aqueducts to modern-day pumps: a history of quenching human thirst. And, why NASA strives to “follow the water.”

Guests: Brian Fagan - Anthropologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, author of Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind John Bourgeois - Biologist and Executive Project Manager, South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project Michael Meyer - Lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program Farouk El-Baz - Geologist and Director of the Center for Remote Sensing, Boston University Michael Flynn - Principal investigator for NASA’s advanced life support branch, Ames Research Center

Descripción en español

Know Laughing Matter

Jul 18, 2011 51:27

Description:

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. It’s nearly impossible to fake a laugh. Yet, humans will laugh even if something isn’t funny. Discover the evolutionary function of cracking up and meet the other species that love to giggle (and monkey around).

Also, hilarious science comedy. Yes, science comedy. Plus, teaching machines to write punch lines… and stretching – and splitting – your sides with laughter yoga.

Guests: Frans de Waal - Primatologist, Emory University and the Yerkes Primate Center in Atlanta, Georgia Brian Malow - Science comedian Robert Provine - Neuroscientist, University of Maryland, Baltimore, author of Laughter: A Scientific Investigation Tony Veale - Computer scientist and natural language processing researcher. University College, Dublin, Ireland Tommy Westerfield - Instructor, We Are Laughter

Know Laughing Matter

Jul 18, 2011 51:27

Description:

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. It’s nearly impossible to fake a laugh. Yet, humans will laugh even if something isn’t funny. Discover the evolutionary function of cracking up and meet the other species that love to giggle (and monkey around).

Also, hilarious science comedy. Yes, science comedy. Plus, teaching machines to write punch lines… and stretching – and splitting – your sides with laughter yoga.

Guests: Frans de Waal - Primatologist, Emory University and the Yerkes Primate Center in Atlanta, Georgia Brian Malow - Science comedian Robert Provine - Neuroscientist, University of Maryland, Baltimore, author of Laughter: A Scientific Investigation Tony Veale - Computer scientist and natural language processing researcher. University College, Dublin, Ireland Tommy Westerfield - Instructor, We Are Laughter

The Big Picture

Jul 11, 2011 50:58

Description:

How did life begin? What’s the universe made of, and what’s the nature of consciousness?

These are truly some of the biggest puzzlers in science, but answers are in the offing.

We consider the modern-day hunt for life beyond Earth, as well as a new theory of consciousness: could it be merely an illusion to entertain us and make our lives more worthwhile?

Also, after thousands of years of examining the heavens, are we finally learning the true nature of the cosmos?

Guests: Marc Kaufman - Reporter for the Washington Post, and author of First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth Carolyn Porco - Planetary scientist and leader of the Cassini Imaging Team Michael Russell - Research Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Nicholas Humphrey - Theoretical psychologist and author of Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness Saul Perlmutter - Physicist at the University of California, Berkeley and senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National laboratory

Descripción en español

Alien Invasion

Jun 20, 2011 52:23

Description:

ENCORE They’re heeeere! Yes, aliens are wreaking havoc and destruction throughout the land. But these aliens are Arizona beetles, and the land is in California, where the invasive insects are a serious problem.

And what of space-faring aliens? We have those too: how to find them, and how to protect our planet – and theirs.

From Hollywood to SETI’s hi-tech search for extraterrestrials, aliens are invading Are We Alone?

Guests: Paul Davies - Physicist and author of The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence Frank Drake- Senior Scientist, SETI Institute Andy Ihnatko - Journalist and tech blogger Margaret Race - Biologist and Principal Investigator at the SETI Institute Margaret McLean - Director of bioethics at the Markkula Center for Ethics, Santa Clara University Mark Hoddle - Biological Control Specialist at the University of California, Riverside Vanessa Lopez - Graduate student in entomology, University of California, Riverside

Descripción en español

Physics Phrontiers

May 16, 2011 51:34

Description:

ENCORE Physics means getting physical if you’re tackling the biggest, most mysterious questions in the universe. Stoic scientists endure the driest, darkest, coldest spots on the planet to find out how it all began and why there’s something rather than nothing. From the bottom of an old iron mine to the top of the Andes, we’ll hear their stories.

Plus, Steven Weinberg on this weird stuff called dark energy, and Leonard Susskind sees double, no, triple, no, …infinite universes.

Guests: Anil Ananthaswamy - Corresponding editor for New Scientist magazine in London and author of The Edge of Physics: A Journey to Earth's Extremes to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe Steven Weinberg - Nobel Prize-winning physicist at University of Texas at Austin and author of Lake Views: This World and the Universe Leonard Susskind - Professor of theoretical physics, Stanford University André de Gouvêa - Associate professor of physics, Northwestern University

Descripción en español

Thanks for the Memories

May 9, 2011 51:03

Description:

ENCORE Memories are slippery things – some are crystal clear, others more like a muddy pool, and some… well, they seem to vanish completely.

Scientists admit that memory is all very complicated, but one piece of the puzzle lies in how we age – we’ll hear the latest research.

Meanwhile, meet the man who digitally logged his every waking moment - and why maybe the secret to happiness isn’t in remembering but in forgetting.

Plus, the case for deleting data from your hard-drive… and from your brain itself.

Guests: Adam Gazzaley - Director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center at University of California, San Francisco Gordon Bell - Principal researcher at Microsoft Research Jim Gemmell - Senior researcher at Microsoft Research James McGaugh - Neurobiologist at the University of California, Irvine Viktor Mayer-Schönberger - Director of the Information and Innovation Policy Research Center at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and the author of Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age Todd Sacktor - Neurologist, SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Descripción en español

Skeptic Check: Mayhem and Octoberhem

May 2, 2011 51:06

Description:

The end is nigh. Only, on which nigh should we rely? According to billboards, Judgment Day is in May and the end of the world follows months later. But other authorities claim 2012 as the apocalyptic year, as predicted by the ancient Mayans. It’s a busy time for doomsday prophecy.

Find out what’s driving these pessimistic predictions and whether it’s time to cash in your stock portfolio.

Meanwhile, a survey of the real threats to Earth, and indeed to the universe, from asteroids, exploding stars, or a big cosmic rip. And the lingering menace of atomic weapons... Is nuclear war inevitable or can intelligence and political will forestall atomic Armageddon?

Finally, why everything’s going to be alright! An optimist’s tour of the future.

It’s Skeptic Check, our monthly look at critical thinking on Are We Alone.

Guests: Phil Plait - Astronomer, and author of the Bad Astronomy blog at Discover Magazine Ron Rosenbaum - Author of How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III Catherine Wessinger - Professor of religious studies at Loyola University in New Orleans Mark Stevenson - Author of An Optimist's Tour of the Future: One Curious Man Sets Out to Answer "What's Next?"

Descripción en español

Big, Really Big

Apr 18, 2011 51:47

Description:

The universe is big – really big.* Galaxies, for instance, are often large enough to hold a trillion stars. But how did these heavenly heavyweights come to be? Hear how still-mysterious dark matter is implicated in the birth of galaxies.

Also, gamma ray bursts - explosions more energetic than anything since the Big Bang - take place somewhere in the visible universe every day. What are they, and could they obliterate life on Earth?

And, the biggest cosmic mystery de jour: dark energy. Why new, super-size telescopes may finally reveal just what it is.

We’re living large on “Big, Really Big.”

*appreciative nod to Douglas Adams

Guests: George Djorgovski - Astronomer, California Institute of Technology Sandra Faber - Astronomer and Chair of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of California at Santa Cruz; leads the CANDELS survey that uses the Hubble Space Telescope to image more than
250,000 distant galaxies Daniel Perley - Astronomer, University of California at Berkeley Ed Stone - Former director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and physicist at the California Institute of Technology Richard Panek - Author of The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality

Descripción en español

Skeptic Check: Swimming in Denial

Apr 11, 2011 51:11

Description:

ENCORE Public distrust of science is higher than at any time since the Enlightenment. New Yorker writer Michael Specter argues how our anti-science bias and our irrationalism about everything from genetically modified foods to climate change to childhood vaccines endangers our future.

And remember when… a look back at scientists who at first pooh-poohed plate tectonics... meteorites, and quantum physics. How the evidence turned them around.

It’s Skeptic Check… but don’t take our word for it.

Guests: Michael Specter - Writer for The New Yorker and author of Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives Read Montague - Director of the Human Neuroimaging Lab at Baylor College of Medicine and author of Why Choose This Book?: How We Make Decisions Spencer Weart - Historian of science

Descripción en español

Sex and the SETI

Apr 4, 2011 50:54

Description:

ENCORE Birds do it. Bees do it. But no one sings about how they do it. And frankly, not even Cole Porter can make bedroom behavior that involves decapitating your mate sound romantic. And what rhymes with “cannibalism?” But the animal world abounds with bizarre sexual behavior… and it’s all perfectly normal.

Find out how female spiders lure males to their doom… why dolphins are the friskiest of mammals… whether E.T. would have sex… and why sexual reproduction evolved in the first place.

Also, why the marketing gurus have it all wrong: driving a Hummer or wearing Gucci won’t help you land a mate. Find out what will.

Guests: Olivia Judson - Evolutionary biologist at Imperial College in London and author of Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex Lori Marino - Evolutionary Biologist at Emory University Sharon Moalem - Neuro-geneticist, evolutionary biologist and author of How Sex Works: Why We Look, Smell, Taste, Feel, and Act the Way We Do Geoffrey Miller - Evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico and author of Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior

Descripción en español

Who's on First?

Mar 14, 2011 50:13

Description:

ENCORE Being first counts in science. Land that coveted spot and you’ll make history, whether it’s with the first steam engine or the discovery of our earliest human ancestor.

But what does “first” mean when technological invention so heavily builds on what’s come before... and evolution represents continuous change?

Find out how “publish or perish” made Darwin famous… why we’ll never find the first human fossil… and how powerful new telescopes are allowing us to see the earliest galaxies.

Plus, the chicken and egg battle it out in line.

Guests: Garth Illingworth - Astrophysicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz Sean B. Carroll - Molecular biologist and geneticist at the University of Wisconsin Madison and author of Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species Leslea Hlusko - Paleontologist at the University of California- Berkeley. Read more about Ardi

Descripción en español

Eureka!

Mar 7, 2011 50:41

Description:

ENCORE From the double-helix to the expansion of the universe, great scientific discoveries reshape our understanding of who we are and how things work. But great discoveries require more than just a great mind. We tour brainy breakthroughs from Archimedes to Darwin, and find out what made their revolutionary insights possible.

Also, why you need more than a stratospheric I.Q. to be a super-achiever. And how the invention of reading re-directed the course of civilization and re-wired our brains in the process.

Guests: Alan Hirshfeld - Professor of physics at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and author of Eureka Man: The Life and Legacy of Archimedes Richard Holmes - Author of The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science Angela Duckworth - Psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Her grit study can be found here Stanislas Dehaene - Cognitive neruoscientist at the the Collège de France in Paris, and author of Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention

Descripción en español

Skeptic Check: Diluted Thinking

Feb 27, 2011 51:06

Description:

The weaker the mixture, the stronger the potency. That paradox is a central tenet of homeopathy. More than 200 years old and developed long before germ theory, the practice is the fastest growing form of alternative medicine worldwide.

Proponents say its diluted remedies cure disease. Most scientists maintain there’s nothing in homeopathic solution but water. We’ll hear the arguments, and also the role placebos might be playing in the cure.

Plus, skeptic Phil Plait voyages to the edge of the solar system where a new planet has been discovered … maybe!

And, consider our brains: the product of millions of years of evolution. So why aren’t we more consistent in our reasoning?

It’s Skeptic Check…. but don’t take our word for it.

Guests:

•  Iris Bell – Psychiatrist and researcher in alternative medicine at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine

•   Simon Singh – Science writer based in the U.K., author of Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine

•   Phil Plait – Astronomer, skeptic, and keeper of the web site badastronomy.com

•   Jim Underdown – Executive Director, Center for Inquiry, Los Angeles

•   Gordy Slack – Science writer and keeper of the neuroscience web site, "Brainstorm”

•   Robert Kurzban – Associate professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind 

 

Outta This World

Feb 13, 2011 51:06

Description:

Earth may not be rare after all. New data from NASA’s Kepler mission suggests that the universe is chock-a-block with planets. More than a thousand new possible planets have just been found, and more than fifty of these might be suitable for life. Ready for cosmic company? We discuss the results of the Kepler mission in a roundtable with some of its top scientists.

Meanwhile, the Voyager spacecraft continues to be humanity’s point man in the race to interstellar space. Poised to leave our solar system, we reflect on the mission – including its on-board messages for aliens.

Plus, out-of-this world science. From lab coats to warp speed: does Hollywood get it right? Does it matter?

Guests:

•   Jon Jenkins – Co-principal investigator for the Kepler Mission

•   Doug Caldwell – Co-investigator and instrument scientist for the Kepler Mission

•   Jessie Christiansen – Data scientist working on the Kepler mission

•   Ed Stone – Professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology, and former Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Jennifer Ouellette – Writer and former director, National Academy of Sciences’ Science and Entertainment Exchange 

 

Skeptic Check: ESP or Think Again

Jan 31, 2011 50:05

Description:

You’re right: it’s a show about ESP. And, correct again: we’re excited about the publication of a paper that claims precognition exists. You’ve already divined what our paranormal investigator says about the paper, whether the statistics that it cites are significant, and what the editor-in-chief of a major scientific journal has to say on the tricky matter of publishing such a result at all.

You’re not surprised that Brains on Vacation takes on the matter of Armageddon-by-exploding-star, because, you knew that. You also knew that it will be an excellent show. But, tune in anyway – consider it a repeat.

Guests: Bruce Alberts – Editor-in-chief of Science Jim Underdown – Executive Director, Center for Inquiry – Los Angeles Jeff Rouder – Quantitative psychologist, University of Missouri Phil Plait – Skeptic and keeper of the website badastronomy.com Steve Macknik – Neuroscientist, author of Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions  

 

Gone Missing!

Jan 23, 2011 51:22

Description:

We all hear about research discoveries, but what about what scientists don’t find? Tune in for a round-up of eureka moments that have yet to come, such as the hunt for the dark energy of the universe and the search for the elusive elementary particle responsible for the mass of objects.

Also, we miss the woolly mammoth so much, scientists plan to clone the hairy beast and bring the extinct animal back.

Plus, why the missing link is no longer missing, what extrasolar planets have now been found, and – NASA money for science: where’d it go?

Guests: Alan Stern – Aerospace consultant and planetary scientist Natalie Batalha – Deputy Science Team Lead for NASA’s Kepler Mission Leslea Hlusko – Biologist at the University of California, Berkeley Ian Sample – Science writer, author of Massive: The Missing Particle That Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science Saul Perlmutter – Physicist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Darin Croft – Professor of Anatomy, Case Western Reserve, Cleveland

You've Got Sol!

Jan 21, 2011 51:19

Description:

It’s the star of our solar system, but much about the Sun is still mysterious. Find out what a new NASA mission to our favorite fireball might discover about its super-hot outer regions.

Also, why the most common stars in the galaxy don’t shine thanks to nuclear energy as our Sun does. And, recreating Sol’s energy source on Earth at the National Ignition Facility.

Plus, an ex-Star Wars animator and photographer on how to film an atomic blast.

Guests: Peter Kuran – An animator on Star Wars, now a filmmaker, documentarian of “”http://www.atomcentral.com/trinity.html">Trinity and Beyond,” and author of How To Photograph an Atomic Bomb Davy Kirkpatrick – Astronomer, California Institute of Technology, and scientist for NASA’s WISE mission Stuart Bale – Physicist at the University of California, Berkeley and Director of the Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory Mike Dunne – Physicist, and Program Director for Fusion Energy at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory

That's So Random!

Jan 16, 2011 51:22

Description:

Random is as random does… makes sense doesn’t even that anyway in tune hear to randomness how lives rules.

Brain chaos the drives, restoration role of help insight ecology may into randomness the, numbers sense of make statistics can’t why we or, ants not seem of erratic behavior why the may but is.

Guests: Leonard Mlodinow - Theoretical physicist and author of The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives (Vintage) Jon Chase - Biologist and director of the Tyson Research center at Washington University in St. Louis Lori Marino - Evolutionary biologist, Emory University Deborah Gordon - Biologist, Stanford University John Beggs - Physicist, Indiana University at Bloomington

Do Computers Byte?

Jan 15, 2011 51:22

Description:

ENCORE The march of computer technology continues. But as silicon chips and search engines become faster and more productive – can the same be said for us?

The creator of Wolfram Alpha describes how his new “computational knowledge engine” is changing – and improving - how we process information. Meanwhile, suffering from data and distraction burnout? Find out what extremes some folks take to stop their search engines.

Also, the Singularity sensation of humans merging with machines… and, why for the ancient Greeks all of this is “been there, done that.” A deep sea dive turns up a 2,000 year old computer!

Guests: Jo Marchant - Freelance science journalist and author of Decoding the Heavens: A 2,000-Year-Old Computer-and the Century-Long Search to Discover Its Secrets Stephen Wolfram - Mathematican, computer programmer, and founder of Wolfram Research and Wolfram Alpha Fred Stutzman - PhD student at the University of North Carolina School of Information and Library Science Peggy Orenstein - author and contributing editor to the New York Times Magazine, which is where we found her article “Stop Your Search Engines” Ray Kurzweil - Inventor, futurist and author, most recently, of The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

Descripción en español

Seth's Storage Locker

Dec 27, 2010 51:47

Description:

ENCORE It's always an adventure to go digging in Seth’s storage locker – who knows what we’ll find …

In this imposing pile of paraphernalia, tucked between boxes of socket wrenches and old 45s, we stumble upon the hunt for extrasolar planets, the evidence for water on moons of the solar system, theories of language, a controversial hypothesis for the peopling of the Americas, and a new dinosaur fossil.

Guests: Steve Brusatte - Vertebrate paleontologist from the American Museum of Natural History in New York Steven Pinker - Psychologist, Harvard University Geoff Marcy - Astronomer, University of California, Berkeley Adam Showman - Planetary scientist at the University of Arizona Mike Collins - Associate Director, Texas Archeological Research Laboratory

Descripción en español

Skeptic Check: Cell Phone Danger

Dec 20, 2010 51:50

Description:

Every ten microseconds, someone places a cell phone call. These portable gadgets are ubiquitous, and increasingly a take-for-granted part of everyday life.

But could cell phones be dangerous? Could holding a microwave transmitter up to your head for hours each day substantially increase the risk of cancer?

We investigate some of the latest thinking on the danger of cell phones, and also explain that everyone – even you – is a radio transmitter.

It’s Skeptic Check on Are We Alone. And we’ve got your number.

Guests: James Geary - Author and journalist. Read "The Man Who Was Allergic to Radio Waves" Richard Muller - Professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of The Instant Physicist: An Illustrated Guide Devra Davis - Scientist, and author of Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family

Method to Our Mathness

Dec 13, 2010 52:00

Description:

The language of science is mathematics. As incredible as it seems, the universe seems to run according to laws we can write down on chalkboards.

But it’s not just lab-coated researchers who wield the tool of math: Madison Avenue knows that if they tell you that a shampoo is 32 percent better, you’re likely to buy it.

Also, how scientists of the early twentieth century were forced to invent entirely new mathematical paradigms to describe the cosmos on big scales and small – the theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics.

Plus, what about everyday arithmetic? Have pocket calculators and digital cash registers dumbed down the populace?

Guests: Charles Seife - Professor of journalism at New York University, and author of Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception James Kakalios - Professor of physics at the University of Minnesota, and author of The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics: A Math-Free Exploration of the Science that Made Our World Leonard Mlodinow - Physicist, and author with Stephen Hawking of The Grand Design Aimee Ellington - Professor of mathematics at Virginia Commonwealth University

Early Adapters

Dec 6, 2010 51:45

Description:

The times are a’changing – rising temperatures, growing population, and new technology coming at us faster than a greased cheetah.

So how will humans respond? Find out about future farming in the city – your vegetables might be grown in downtown, hi-rise greenhouses. Also, a population expert tells us how our planet can cope with billions more people, and the man who invented the term ‘cyberspace’ describes what the future might hold for the techno-savvy.

Darwinian evolution takes a long time to accommodate to new environments. But Homo sapiens can beat that rap by wielding the right technology – and becoming early adapters.

Guests: Dickson Despommier - Emeritus professor of public health and microbiology at Columbia University, author of The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century William Gibson - Author, most recently, of Zero History Joel Cohen - Mathematician and biologist at Rockefeller University David DeGusta - Paleoanthropologist at the Paleoanthropology Institute in California

Descripción en español

Extreme Geology

Nov 29, 2010 51:24

Description:

ENCORE We think of major geologic events as taking place a long time ago – but the Earth is just as active as it ever was. We’re a planet in motion. Discover why earthquakes might be increasing worldwide… descend into daring cave exploration… and take a trip to Hawaii where new volcanoes are gurgling up right now.

Plus – the supervolcano under Yellowstone Park... when might it erupt again?

Guests: Robert Nadeau - Geologist, University of California, Berkeley Seismological Laboratory and part of a team from Rice University researching the San Andreas Fault Joel Achenbach - Reporter, author of “When Yellowstone Explodes”, August 2009 National Geographic cover story Jim Kauahikaua - Scientist-in-Charge, United States Geologic Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Pat Kambesis - Geologist, Assistant Director of the Hoffman Environmental Research Institute at Western Kentucky University

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Humans Need Not Apply

Nov 22, 2010 51:02

Description:

You are one-of-a-kind, unique, indispensible… oh, wait, never mind! It seems that computer over there can do what you do … faster and with greater accuracy.

Yes, it’s silicon vs. carbon as intelligent, interactive machines out-perform humans in tasks beyond data-crunching. We’re not only building our successors, we’re developing emotional relationships with them. Find out why humans are hard-wired to be attached to androids.

Also, the handful of areas where humans still rule… as pilots, doctors and journalists. Scratch that! Journalism is automated too – tune in for a news story written solely by a machine.

Guests: Clifford Nass - Social psychologist at Stanford University and Director of the Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab Tom Jones - United States astronaut, space consultant, and veteran of four Space Shuttle flights Chris Ford - Business director at Pixar Animation Studios Eric Van De Graaff -Cardiologist at Alegent Health James Bennighof - Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, and professor of music theory at Baylor University in Texas Kathy Abbott - Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for Flight Deck Human Factors at the Federal Aviation Administration Kristian Hammond - Co-founder, Narrative Science

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Off to the Traces

Oct 25, 2010 51:37

Description:

If a tree fell on another planet, would we be able to detect it? Not quite yet – but we might be able to tell if the planet was habitable. A living-planet is the promise of newly-discovered Gliese 581g. But does the planet exist at all?

Discover how we learn a planet’s geology and chemistry from afar. Also, what we learn about a civilization from what it discards, beginning with our own sloppy habits.

Plus, the hunt for derelict alien spaceships… and a man who sketches alien creatures for a living - based on real science.

Guests: Lisa Kaltenegger - Astronomer, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Brad Bebout - Biologist, NASA Ames Research Center Robin Nagle - Anthropologist, New York University Robin Hanson - Economist, George Mason University Joel Hagen - Computer graphics instructor, Modesto Junior College

Descripción en español

Aloha Astronomy

Oct 18, 2010 51:13

Description:

ENCORE From Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the view of the cosmos is spectacular. Giant black holes, distant galaxies, and extrasolar planets have all been uncovered by the massive telescopes that perch on this volcanic cone.

Join the astronomers who use the Keck Telescopes to peer at objects so far away, their light started out before Earth was born.

Also discover how the new Thirty Meter Telescope will dwarf even the massive glass eyes now in place, and why some of the world’s most important astronomical discoveries are being made in the Aloha State.

Plus, why the building of telescopes on the volcano is controversial to some native Hawaiians.

Guests: Charles Blue - Science writer, Thirty Meter Telescope Project Richard Ellis - Astronomer, California Institute of Technology
Koa Rice – Hawaiian culture consultant Julian Christou - Adaptive optics scientist, Gemini North Telescope Ashley Yeager - Outreach manager, Keck Telescope Taft Armandroff - Director of the W. M. Keck Telescope

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Earth: A Millennium Hence

Oct 11, 2010 50:57

Description:

ENCORE Humans have not gone unnoticed on this planet. We’ve left our mark with technology, agriculture, architecture, and a growing carbon footprint. But where is this trajectory headed?

In the second of a two-part series: what we’ll lose and what will last in 1000 years or more.

Discover what the planet might look like to geologists of the far-off-future… the stubborn longevity of plastic and radioactive waste... human civilization in space… and postcards from the galactic edge; crafting interstellar messages to E.T.

Guests: Charles Moore - Sea Captain and founder of Algalita Marine Research Foundation Jan Zalasiewicz - Geologist, University of Leicester and author of The Earth After Us: What Legacy Will Humans Leave in the Rocks? Matthew Wald - Reporter for the New York Times and author of the article “Is There a Place for Nuclear Waste?” in the August 2009 issue of Scientific American Doug Vakoch - Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute David Korsmeyer - Chief of the Intelligent Systems Division at NASA Ames Research Center

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Earth: A Century Hence

Oct 4, 2010 51:49

Description:

ENCORE Humans have not gone unnoticed on this planet. We’ve left our mark with technology, agriculture, architecture, and a growing carbon footprint. But where is this trajectory headed?

In the first of a two-part series: what will be lost and what will still be around 100 years from now? James Lovelock says a hotter planet will prompt mass migrations. And Cary Fowler urges us to save our seeds – the health of future farms may depend on it.

Plus, from antibiotics to sewage systems: why human ingenuity ultimately saves the day.

And, sure, humans will be around in a century, but – with bionic limbs and silicon neurons – would we recognize them?

Guests: James Lovelock - Independent scientist and author of The Vanishing Face of Gaia Cary Fowler - Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust Russell Blackford - Philosopher, writer, and editor-in-chief of the “Journal of Evolution and Technology.”

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Skeptic Check: Sheer Lunacy

Sep 26, 2010 52:00

Description:

ENCORE Watch out, the moon is full… of intrigue. Our lovely satellite is blamed for all sorts of Earth-bound mischief – from robberies to shape-shifting to general nutty behavior. It’s also the setting for more than one loony tale. In this hour, as NASA spacecraft return to the moon, a look at the mythology it inspires.

Discover the true correlation between crime and a full moon… the 1835 reports of unicorns and man-bats living on moon… and, our favorite hair-raising howler: the werewolf! Also, why some still insist the Apollo moon landing is a hoax.

Plus, space travel – boxed and bundled.

Guests: Phil Plait - Keeper of the skeptical website badastronomy.com and author of Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End . . . Matthew Goodman - Author of The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York Jim Underdown - Executive Director for the Center for Inquiry West, Los Angeles and keeper of the blog Hollywood Reality Check June Pulliam - English professor, Louisiana State University Cynthia Phillips - Scientist at the SETI Institute and author, most recently, of Space Exploration For Dummies (For Dummies (Math & Science))
Paul Spudis - Senior scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute

Descripción en español

What Makes Us Human Part II: Adaptability

Sep 20, 2010 51:51

Description:

ENCORE Are humans unique or do we just do some things a little better than other species? In the second of our two-part series – how our ability to adapt has shaped our evolution.

Find out how throwing a burger on the grill has transformed our species… the 1% genetic difference that separate us from chimps… why we’re poorly adapted and stressed out … and why human evolution is not only on the move, but picking up the pace.

Richard Wrangham - Biological anthropologist at Harvard University and author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human Katherine Pollard - Biostatistician at the Gladstone Institutes at the University of California, San Francisco Robert Sapolsky - Biological scientist at Stanford University and neurologist at Stanford’s School of Medicine. Author of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition and, more recently, Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals Gregory Cochran - Anthropologist at the University of Utah and co-author of The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution

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What Makes Us Human Part I: Others

Sep 13, 2010 52:18

Description:

Are humans unique or do we just do some things a little better than other species? In the first of our two-part series on the nature of humanity: how the influence of others has shaped our evolution.

Find out how baby talk gave root to human language and why social isolation can make us sick. Plus, the joke’s on us – new research says we’re not the only laughing species: meet your giggling gorilla cousins.

And, what a writer’s visit to a chimp retirement center revealed about human discomfort with our animal ancestry.

Dean Falk - Anthropologist at Florida State University and author of Finding Our Tongues: Mothers, Infants, and the Origins of Language John Cacioppo - Director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago and co-author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection Lori Marino - Biologist at Emory University Kathryn Denning - Anthropologist at York University Charles Siebert - Author of The Wauchula Woods Accord: Toward a New Understanding of Animals Marina Davila-Ross - Psychologist at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K.

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Say What?

Aug 30, 2010 51:44

Description:

ENCORE There’s no escape from the chattering classes – they talk, squawk, squeal and sing all around us. Every animal communicates in some form – it’s essential for survival. They’ve evolved to understand each other … but do we understand them?

Find out what’s coded in humpback whale song and whether human-cetacean dialogue is possible… how information theory reveals communication patterns within the animal kingdom… how plants call out to animals to protect them… and why only humans evolved language.

Guests: Douglas Carlton Abrams - Author of Eye of the Whale: A Novel Laurance Doyle - Scientist at the SETI Institute Douglas Vakoch - Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute David DeGusta - Anthropologist at Stanford University

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Rxs Get Personal

Aug 9, 2010 52:01

Description:

ENCORE Medicine’s back.. and this time it’s personal. Get ready to have your genome read… your brain scanned… and undergo a chemical analysis so detailed, it’ll reveal the Twinkie you had for lunch. Everyone’s different, and reading those differences at the level of the gene may provide a more accurate profile of health and how to treat disease. But are you ready to know what’s wrong with you?

Discover the future of personalized medicine with biologist Craig Venter, as well as a man who turned his body over to the new science. Learn what his tests revealed.

Plus, why stem cell research really is a horse race. And, why getting sick is sometimes the best thing.

Guests: Craig Venter - Genome scientist Frank McCormick - Director of the Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, San Francisco David Ewing Duncan - Journalist and author of Experimental Man: What One Man's Body Reveals about His Future, Your Health, and Our Toxic World Sharon Moalem - Neurogeneticist and Evolutionary Biologist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and author of Survival of the Sickest Sean Owens - Director of the Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at the University of California, Davis Julie Burges - Animal Health Technician, Regenerative Medicine Laboratory, University of California, Davis

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Grave Matters

Jul 19, 2010 51:52

Description:

ENCORE We could choose not to pay income tax and suffer the consequences. But we can’t avoid death. The biological functions of all organisms eventually cease. But why should this be? Find out why animals die and meet one creature that is biologically immortal.

Plus, a trip to the Body Farm where decaying bodies help science…how we might cheat the Big Sleep with drugs… why Mexican cemeteries look like villages… and a doctor’s fight against one of the world’s deadliest diseases.

Guests: Bill Bass - Forensic Anthropologist, founder of the University of Tennessee Forensic Research Facility. Author of Beyond the Body Farm: A Legendary Bone Detective Explores Murders, Mysteries, and the Revolution in Forensic Science and fiction, written under the pen name, Jefferson Bass. The latest: Bones of Betrayal: A Body Farm Novel. Stanley Brandes - Cultural Anthropologist, University of California, Berkeley, author of Skulls to the Living, Bread to the Dead: The Day of the Dead in Mexico and Beyond Matt Kaeberlein - Pathologist, University of Washington Ross Donaldson - Doctor and author of The Lassa Ward

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Skeptic Check: Playing Doctor

Jul 12, 2010 52:01

Description:

ENCORE A new herbal supplements is on the shelf, and it claims to improve memory. Should you take it? It’s not easy to sort through the firehose of health and nutrition advice that comes at us daily. Find out how to get healthy about health advice, plus hear the story of Bernarr Macfadden, the eccentric who kicked off America’s fitness craze; he believed that eating less was good for you, but he didn’t believe germ theory.

Plus, our Hollywood skeptic spills his guts and other entrails for a phony class for nurses and Phil Plait gives us the latest lapse in critically-thinking brains.

It’s Skeptic Check… but don’t take our word for it.

Guests: Phil Plait - Author, badastronomy.com and Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End . . . Mark Adams - writer and editor, and author of Mr. America: How Muscular Millionaire Bernarr Macfadden Transformed the Nation Through Sex, Salad, and the Ultimate Starvation Diet Jim Underdown - Executive Director, Center for Inquiry, West - Los Angeles Steven Novella - Assistant professor of neurology at Yale School of Medicine

Descripción en español

Seth's Garage

Jun 7, 2010 51:22

Description:

ENCORE It’s always a surprise to go digging in Seth’s garage – who knows what we’ll find! In this impressive heap of paraphernalia, tucked between boxes of old radio tubes and hydraulic jacks, we stumble upon the secrets to our galaxy’s central black hole… witness the dance of the PhD theses… uncover the genome of milk (while moo-ving boxes) and … hey? Who’s that crunching numbers in the corner? It’s astrophysicist Mario Livio addressing the mathematical mysteries of universe.

Guests: Andrea Ghez - Astronomer at University of California, Los Angeles Kathryn Denning - Professor of Anthropology at York University Mario Livio - Senior Astronomer at the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute and author of Is God a Mathematician? John Bohannon - Gonzo Scientist and Contributing Correspondent for Science Katrien Kolenberg - Astrophysicist, University of Vienna Danielle Lemay - Nutrition Scientist at the University of California, Davis

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Life of Brain

May 24, 2010 51:10

Description:

ENCORE We should award frequent travel miles to your brain. After all, it’s evolved a long way from the days of guiding brachiation from tree-to-tree to become the three pounds of web-surfing, Sudoku-playing powerhouse it is today. But a suite of technologies may expand human brains further still.

From smart pills to nano-wires: discover the potential – and peril – of neuro-engineering to repair and enhance our cognitive function.

Also, how our brains got so big in the first place: a defense of the modern diet.

Guests Bill Leonard - department chairman and professor of Anthropology at Northwestern University Michael Gazzaniga - neuroscientist and director of the University of California – Santa Barbara’s SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind. Author of
Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique Ian Pearson - futurologist at Futurizon Steven Rose - biologist and director of the Brain and Behavior Research Group at the Open University in London. Author of The Future of the Brain: The Promise and Perils of Tomorrow's Neuroscience Ed Boyden - neuroscientist at MIT’s Media Lab and Department of Biological Engineering

Descripción en español

Skeptic Check: Fraudcast News

May 17, 2010 50:51

Description:

There are a lot of scientific claims out there – how do you separate the good from the bad and the outright fraudulent? Experts failed to do so for years in the case of a physicist whose published papers claimed the invention of a new bio-based transistor. Plus, other stories of deceit – such as the scientist who stooped to coloring mouse fur with markers.

Also, why climate science is solid, but its scientists need to be more open with the public.

And, from the undersea “bloop” to the Denver airport conspiracy theory. Why urban myths are so popular.

Plus, Phil Plait describes someone’s plans to meditate away the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

It’s Skeptic Check… but don’t take our word for it!

Guests: Phil Plait - Astronomer, keeper of badastronomy.com, and author of Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End . . . Eugenie Samuel Reich - News reporter and author of Plastic Fantastic Michael Shermer - Publisher of Skeptic Magazine and columnist for Scientific American Sheila Jasanoff - Professor of science and public policy at Harvard University Brian Dunning - Science journalist and producer of the podcast Skeptoid

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Robots Call the Shots

May 3, 2010 50:37

Description:

ENCORE Dr. Robot, I presume? Your appendix may be removed by motor-driven, scalpel-wielding mechanical hands one day. Robots are debuting in the medical field… as well as on battlefields. And they’re increasingly making important decisions – on their own. But can we teach robots right from wrong? Find out why the onslaught of silicon intelligence has prompted a new field of robo-ethics.

Plus, robo-geologists: NASA’s vision for autonomous robots in space.

Guests: P.W. Singer - Director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution, and the author of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century Wendell Wallach - Chair of a technology and ethics working group for Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, and the co-author of Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong Pablo Garcia - – Principal engineer working on medical robotics at SRI International, Menlo Park, California Robert Anderson - Planetary geologist, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Robyn Asimov - Daughter of author Isaac Asimov

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Seas the Moment

Apr 26, 2010 50:42

Description:

ENCORE With more water than land on this planet, Earth is more aptly-named “Ocean” or “Water.” The oceans have been here for billions of years, and make all life possible. Yet, it’s taken less than a century for humans to deal some serious blows to the watery cradle of our existence. Discover how our oceans are changing and the worrisome increase in their acidity from the maker of the documentary film, A Sea Change

Also, hear how hope is bubbling up for ocean recovery from famed oceanographer Sylvia Earle. Learn about her record-breaking voyages underwater and how her reprimand to a Silicon Valley entrepreneur gave birth to Google Ocean. Plus, farming the seas for new antibiotics.

Guests: Sylvia Earle - Oceanographer, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, founder of DeepSearch Foundation, and author of Ocean: An Illustrated Atlas (National Geographic Atlas) Sven Huseby - Co-producer of the documentary A Sea Change Peter Moeller - Toxin and Natural Products Chemist at NOAA Pacific Ocean - Largest oceanic division of the world, overlay of the Pacific Plate

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Habitats Not For Humanity

Apr 19, 2010 50:52

Description:

We place sharks in aquariums and elephants in zoos – to observe and conserve. But what if aliens have done the same to us? We’ll hear from Stephen King on a doomed result of a domed experiment - hatched by off-Earth beings, and why captivity may actually save some species on this planet.

Plus, you’re entering the Habitable Zone: which is the best bet for life elsewhere in the Solar System - Europa, Enceladus or Mars?

Guests: Stephen King - Novelist, author of Under the Dome: A Novel Jim Kasting - Geoscientist, Penn State University and author of How to Find a Habitable Planet (Science Essentials) Oliver Morton - Journalist, author of Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet John Fraser - Director for the Institute for Learning Innovations and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Hunter College CUNY Amanda Hendrix - Planetary Scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Bob Pappalardo - Planetary Scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Seth's Crawl Space

Apr 12, 2010 50:28

Description:

It’s always a surprise to go digging in Seth’s crawl space – who knows what we’ll find! In this cramped never-never land, tucked between piles of spilled cat litter and old clarinet reeds, we stumble upon the language of whales … the future of technology … the secret to plant power … and the answer to whether photographic memory exists. Tune in, find out and, grab a broom, will you?

Guests: Larry Squire - Professor at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and a scientist at the V.A. Medical Center in San Diego Nathan Myhrvold - CEO of Intellectual Ventures Oliver Morton - Journalist and author of Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet Fred Sharpe - Executive Director and Principal Investigator at the Alaska Whale Foundation

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Skeptic Check: Conspiracy!

Apr 5, 2010 50:38

Description:

The Apollo moon landing is a hoax! 9-11 was an inside job! Our government keeps alien bodies racked and stacked in an underground bunker! And as for the evidence … well … put on your tin hats, folks, we’re going deep, deep, deep into conspiracy with journalist David Aaronovitch.

Also – the truth is out there, but it’s ignored. Jonah Lehrer on why scientists can overlook evidence.

Plus, money for meters and your spooks for free: ghost detectors hit the market.

And Hollywood Reality Check and Phil Plait on bogus bomb detectors.

It’s Skeptic Check… but don’t take our word for it!

Guests: Phil Plait - Astronomer, keeper of badastronomy.com, and author of Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End . . . David Aaronovitch- Columnist with the Times newspaper of London and author of Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History Jonah Lehrer - Contributing editor at Wired magazine and author of How We Decide Matt Lowry - High school physics teacher and keeper of the Skeptical Teacher web site Jim Underdown - Executive Director, Center for Inquiry, West - Los Angeles

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SETI: Now What?

Mar 29, 2010 50:42

Description:

ENCORE Hello! Is anyone out there? As the scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence marks its 50th anniversary, there’s been no contact as yet with alien beings. But SETI researchers maintain that we are not alone. Find out why in a SETI retrospective that looks at the past and future of the search.

We remember the first scientific SETI search… Carl Sagan... how the SETI Institute began… the WOW signal…and the 1993 NASA budget cuts.

We’ll also hear from critics of the search… scientists involved in optical SETI and SETI@home. Plus, international collaborations… and where the search is headed.

Guests: Frank Drake - Director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, SETI Institute Jill Tarter - Director of the Center for SETI Research, SETI Institute Tom Pierson - CEO, SETI Institute Paul Horowitz - Physicist, electrical engineer, Harvard University
Dan Werthimer - Chief Scientist, SETI@home, University of California, Berkeley Ben Zuckerman - Physicist, Astronomer, UCLA

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Skeptic Check: Climate Clamor

Mar 8, 2010 51:12

Description:

Arctic ice is melting, atmospheric temperatures are climbing – yet climate change science is under attack. Detractors claim that researchers are manipulating data and hoodwinking the public. And the public is increasingly skeptical about the science.

Find out what’s behind the surge of climate change skepticism - and what global warming deniers learned from big tobacco about how to spin scientific evidence.

It’s Skeptic Check… but don’t take our word for it!

Guests: Stephen Schneider - Climate scientist, Stanford University Phil Chapman - Apollo 14 Mission Scientist, now a geophysicist and consultant on energy and astronautics Simon Donner - Geographer at the University of British Columbia Naomi Oreskes - Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego and author of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

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You've Been Slimed!

Mar 1, 2010 51:07

Description:

Hollywood horror flicks have captivated us with alien blobs, but the slime slithering on our own planet is as beguiling. From microscopic machines to life on ocean floors, new research reveals how essential slime is to life on Earth, and possibly other worlds.

Discover the new materials made from hagfish slime… the social life of a slime mold… and the threat posed by the gray goo of self-replicating nanobots.

Plus, it’s been 50 years since it first oozed across the screen: why there’s no escape from The Blob!

Guests: Tori Hoeler - Astrobiologist, NASA Ames Research Center Douglas Fudge - Biologist, University of Guelph, Canada John Tyler Bonner - Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, and author of The Social Amoebae: The Biology of Cellular Slime Molds
Chris Phoenix - Director of Research, Center for Responsible Technology Andre Bormanis - Television Writer and Producer

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Space Race 2.0

Feb 22, 2010 50:26

Description:

It’s goodnight moon from President Obama, as he calls for canceling the program that would return astronauts to the moon by 2020. We’ll hear from the private sector, which might win in this deal, and consider whether we should really replace human explorers with robots.

Plus, if we can’t fly you to the moon, would you settle for a few acres and a deed? Meet the man who claims to have property on the moon – but will it hold up in court?

Wernher von Braun was one of America’s premier rocket engineers and, a new book contends, an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazi party. Find out what the U.S. space program was willing to ignore for the prize of beating the Russians to the moon.

Guests: Burt Rutan - Aerospace engineer, founder of Scaled Composites and designer of SpaecShipOne and SpaceShipTwo Steven Weinberg - Nobel Prize-winning physicist at University of Texas at Austin and author of Lake Views: This World and the Universe Phil Chapman - First Australian-born astronaut and Apollo 14 Mission Scientist, now a consultant on energy and astronautics Steven Durst - Editor of Space Age Publishing Frans von der Dunk - Professor of space law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Wayne Biddle - Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Dark Side of the Moon: Wernher von Braun, the Third Reich, and the Space Race

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Pave New Worlds

Feb 8, 2010 50:43

Description:

The extra-solar planet count is more than 400 and rising. Before long we may find an Earth-like planet around another star. If we do, and can visit, what next? Stake out our claim on an alien world or tread lightly and preserve it?

We’ll look at what our record on Earth says about our planet stewardship. Also, whether a massive technological fix can get us out of our climate mess. Plus, what we can learn about extreme climate from our neighbors in the solar system, Venus and Mars.

Guests: Ken Caldeira - Climate scientist from the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University Keith Cowing - Biologist, and editor of NASAwatch.com Kathryn Denning - Anthropologist at York University in Canada Gary Davis - Director of the Joint Astronomy Center in Hilo, Hawaii David Grinspoon - Curator of the Denver Museum of Science and Nature

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It's the Science, Cupid!

Feb 1, 2010 50:42