Monday, November 30, 2020

Big Picture Science for Nov. 30, Bare Bones




 

 

 

Big Picture Science - Bare Bones

You may not feel that your skeleton does very much. But without it you’d be a limp bag of protoplasm, unable to move.  And while you may regard bones as rigid and inert, they are living tissue.

Bones are also time capsules, preserving much of your personal history. Find out how evolutionary biologists, forensic anthropologists, and even radiation scientists read them.

And why won’t your dog stop gnawing on that bone?

Guests:

  • Brian Switek – Pen name of Riley Black, Author of “Skeleton Keys: the Secret Life of Bone.”
  • Ann Ross – Forensic anthropologist at North Carolina State University.  Her lab is the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Stanley Coren – Professor emeritus of psychology at the University of British Columbia, and author of many books about canine behavior including, “Why Does My Dog Act That Way?
  • Doug Brugge – Professor and chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/bare-bones

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Big Picture Science for Nov. 23, Into the Deep







Big Picture Science - Into the Deep

Have you ever heard worms arguing? Deep-sea scientists use hydrophones to eavesdrop on “mouth-fighting worms.” It’s one of the many ways scientists are trying to catalog the diversity of the deep oceans — estimated to be comparable to a rain forest.

But the clock is ticking. While vast expanses of the deep sea are still unexplored, mining companies are ready with dredging vehicles to strip mine the seafloor, potentially destroying rare and vulnerable ecosystems. Are we willing to eradicate an alien landscape that we haven’t yet visited?

Guests:

  • Craig McClain - deep-sea and evolutionary biologist and ecologist, Executive Director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.
  • Steve Haddock - senior scientist at the Monetary Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and co-author of a New York Times op-ed about the dangers of mining.
  • Emily Hall - marine chemist at the Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, Florida
  • Chong Chen - deep sea biologist with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC)

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/into-the-deep

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Big Picture Science for Nov. 16, Sex Post Facto







Big Picture Science - Sex Post Facto

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.”

This repeat podcast originally aired on September 19, 2016

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/sex-post-facto

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Monday, November 09, 2020

Big Picture Science for Nov. 09, Time Travel Agents






 

Big Picture Science - Time Travel Agents

(Repeat) 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:


This repeat podcast originally aired on October 17, 2016

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/time-travel-agents

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Big Picture Science for Nov. 02, The Other Living World

 





 

Big Picture Science - The Other Living World

(Repeat) Reason for hope is just one thing that ecologist Carl Safina can offer.  He understands why many of us turn to nature to find solace during this stressful time. Safina studies the challenges facing the ultimate survival of many species, but also gives a portrait of animals from their point of view. He describes how diverse animals such as sperm whales, bear cubs, macaws, and chickens deal with uncertainty, and assert their quirky individuality while learning to become part of a community. So is it possible for us to reconnect not just with humanity, but also with the other living world?

Guest:


This repeat podcast originally aired on April 13, 2020

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/the-other-living-world

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Big Picture Science for OCT. 26, Skeptic Check: Stay Skeptical







Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Stay Skeptical

Whether you call it hooey, codswallop, or malarky, misinformation is not what it used to be. It’s harder to spot now. New-school BS is often cloaked in the trappings of math, science, and statistics. Can you identify which tweets about a new COVID study are fraudulent? Plus, deceptive on-line
advertisements that relentlessly beg for our attention. All in all, it’s a jungle out there. We have tips for getting through it.

Guests:


Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/skeptic-check-stay-skeptical

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Big Picture Science for OCT. 19, What’s a Few Degrees?







Big Picture Science - What’s a Few Degrees?

Brace yourself for heatwave “Lucifer.” Dangerous deadly heatwaves may soon be so common that we give them names, just like hurricanes. This is one of the dramatic consequences of just a few degrees rise in average temperatures.

Also coming: Massive heat “blobs” that form in the oceans and damage marine life, and powerful windstorms called “derechos” pummeling the Midwest.

Plus, are fungal pathogens adapting to hotter temperatures and breaching the 98.6 F thermal barrier that keeps them from infecting us?

Guests:


Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/whats-few-degrees

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Big Picture Science for OCT. 12, Geology is Destiny







Big Picture Science - Geology is Destiny

(Repeat) 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:


This repeat podcast was previously released on January 16, 2017

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/geology-is-destiny

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Big Picture Science for OCT. 05, Talk the Walk





 

  

Big Picture Science - Talk the Walk

Birds and bees do it … and so do fish. In a discovery that highlights the adaptive benefits of walking, scientists have discovered fish that can walk on land. Not fin-flap their bodies, mind you, but ambulate like reptiles.

And speaking of which, new research shows that T Rex, the biggest reptile of them all, wasn’t a sprinter, but could be an efficient hunter by outwalking its prey.

Find out the advantage of legging it, and how human bipedalism stacks up. Not only is walking good for our bodies and brains, but not walking can change your personality and adversely affect your health.

Guests:

  • Hans Larsson – Paleontologist and biologist, and Director of the Redpath Museum at McGill University in MontrĂ©al.
  • Shane O’Mara – Neuroscientist and professor of experimental brain research at Trinity College Dublin. He is the author of “In Praise of Walking.”
  • Brooke Flammang – Biologists at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/talk-the-walk

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Big Picture Science for Sep. 28, Mycology Education






 

Big Picture Science - Mycology Education

Beneath our feet is a living network just as complex and extensive as the root systems in a forest. Fungi, which evolved in the oceans, were among the first to colonize the barren continents more than a half-billion years ago. They paved the way for land plants, animals, and (eventually) you.

Think beyond penicillin and pizza, and take a moment to consider these amazing organisms. Able to survive every major extinction, essential as Nature’s decomposers, and the basis of both ale and antibiotics, fungi are essential to life. And their behavior is so complex you’ll be wondering if we shouldn’t call
them intelligent!

Guest:


Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/mycology-education

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Big Picture Science for Sep. 21, Hubble and Beyond







Big Picture Science - Hubble and Beyond

The universe is not just expanding; it’s accelerating. Supermassive black holes are hunkered down at the center of our galaxy and just about every other galaxy, too. We talk about these and other big discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope, now in orbit for 30 years.

But two new next-generation telescopes will soon be joining Hubble: the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. Hear what cosmic puzzles they’ll address. Plus, life in a clean room while wearing a coverall “bunny suit”; what it takes to assemble a telescope.

Guests: 

  • Meg Urry – Professor of physics and astronomy, Director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Yale University
  • John Grunsfeld – Former NASA Associate Administrator, and astronaut
  • Kenneth Harris – Senior Project Engineer, Aerospace Corporation


Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/hubble-and-beyond

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.



Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Big Picture Science for Sep. 14, Life on Venus?







Big Picture Science - Life on Venus?

Have scientists found evidence of life on Venus? Known for its scorching temperatures and acidic atmosphere, Earth’s twin hardly seems a promising place for living things. But could a discovery of phosphine by researchers at MIT point to a high-altitude biosphere on this nearby world?

Guests:


Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/life-on-venus

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.



Monday, September 07, 2020

Big Picture Science for Sep. 07, Space: Why Go There?


 

 

 

 

 

Big Picture Science - Space: Why Go There?

(Repeat) 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 
 
This repeat podcast was previously released on March 5, 2018

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/space-why-go-there

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Big Picture Science for Aug 31, Home Invasions

 







 

Big Picture Science - Home Invasions

As we struggle to control a viral invader that moves silently across the globe and into its victims, we are also besieged by other invasions. Murder hornets have descended upon the Pacific Northwest, threatening the region’s honeybees. In Africa, locust swarms darken the sky. In this episode, we draw on a
classic science fiction tale to examine the nature of invasions, and what prompts biology to go on the move.

Guests: 

  • Peter Ksander – Associate professor at Reed College in the Department of Theater. Producer of the spring 2020 production of War of the Worlds
  • Eva Licht – A senior at Reed College, and producer and director of War of the Worlds
  • Chris Looney – Entomologist with the Washington State Department of Agriculture, where he manages its general entomology laboratory
  • Nipun Basrur – Neurobiologist at The Rockefeller University
  • Amy Maxmen – Reporter at the journal Nature, in which her story about pandemic war games appeared.


Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/home-invasions

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Big Picture Science for Aug 24, The X-Flies

 






 

Big Picture Science - The X-Flies

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


This repeat podcast was previously released on March 19, 2018

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/x-flies

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.