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
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!
Conservation paleobiologist at the College of William and Mary. Al
Ph.D. student in paleobiology at the University of Bristol, U.K. Mike
Brown – Professor of Geology,
University of Maryland
This encore podcast was first released on 3/27/2017
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?
Sarah Cruddas – Space journalist, broadcaster, and author based
in the U.K.
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
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.
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.
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.
It’s weird and exotic. But it’s how the universe works.
Lloyd – Professor of
Mechanical Engineering and Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of
Description from the TED Talks Youtube site for this video published on Jul 13, 2016:
"Wanda Diaz Merced studies the light emitted by gamma-ray bursts, the most energetic events in the universe. When she lost her sight and was left without a way to do her science, she had a revelatory insight: the light curves she could no longer see could be translated into sound. Through sonification, she regained mastery over her work, and now she's advocating for a more inclusive scientific community. "Science is for everyone," she says. "It has to be available to everyone, because we are all natural explorers."
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
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.
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.
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?
James Oberg - Space
journalist, historian and former NASA employee
McGaha - Retired
Air Force pilot, astronomer and director of the Grasslands Observatory
Radford - Deputy
editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine and a Research
Fellow with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry
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
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.
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?
Alex Liu –
Paleontologist, University of Cambridge, U.K.
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
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
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.
Mass – Professor of atmospheric sciences at the
University of Washington.
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.
who are trying to improve cognitive function using a battery and a few
wires. Find out the possible risks and benefits of DIY brain
Anne - Recent graduate, University of Manchester, studies
injuries and diseases in dinosaurs.
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.
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
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
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
This encore podcast was first released on 2/15/2016