Sunday, September 23, 2018

Big Picture Science for Sep 24, 2018 - Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself












Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself

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:

This postcast will be released this coming Monday at: http://bigpicturescience.org/

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.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Big Picture Science for Sep 17, 2018 - DNA: Nature's Hard Drive












Big Picture Science - DNA: Nature's Hard Drive

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

This repeat podcast was previously released on 11/06/2017

This postcast will be released this coming Monday at: http://bigpicturescience.org/

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.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Big Picture Science for Sep 10, 2018 - Angles of a Hack












Big Picture Science - Angles of a Hack

(Repeat)
  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?

Guests:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 9/18/2017

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/angles-of-a-hack

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 03, 2018

Big Picture Science for Sep 03, 2018 - Plan of a Hack












Big Picture Science - Plan of a Hack

(Repeat)  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:


This repeat podcast was first released on 09/11/2018

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/planofahack

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.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Big Picture Science for Aug 27, 2018 - New Water Worlds.












Big Picture Science - New Water Worlds
Podcast will be made available this coming Monday at - http://bigpicturescience.org/

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:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/new-water-worlds

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.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Big Picture Science for Aug 20, 2018 - Too Big To Prove












Big Picture Science - Too Big To Prove

(Repeat) 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.

This repeat podcast was first released on 10/16/2017

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/too-big-prove

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.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Big Picture Science for Aug 13, 2018 - It's Habitable Forming












Big Picture Science - It's Habitable Forming

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
Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/its-habitable-forming

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.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Big Picture Science for Aug 06, 2018 - Skeptic Check: Brain Gain












Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Brain Gain

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:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/skeptic-check-brain-gain

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.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Big Picture Science for July 30, 2018 - It's In Material












Big Picture Science - It's In Material

ENCORE: 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:

This encore podcast was first released on 10/02/2018

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/its-in-material

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.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Big Picture Science for July 23, 2018 - Identity Crisis












Big Picture Science - Identity Crisis

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.

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/identity-crisis

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, July 16, 2018

Big Picture Science for July 16, 2018 - On Thin Ice













Big Picture Science - On Thin Ice

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, Irving, senior research scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • ├ůsmund 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

This encore podcast was first released on 08/14///2017

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/thin-ice

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.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Big Picture Science for July 09, 2018 - What Goes Around












Big Picture Science - What Goes Around

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? 

Guests:
  • Tom Szaky - CEO and founder of Terracycle.
  • Eugene Kapustin - Graduate student, Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley.
  • Etienne Schneider - Deputy Prime Minister and Economic Minister, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
  • Pete Worden - Chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and former Director, NASA Ames Research Center.
  • Paul Bogard - Assistant professor of English, James Madison University, author of, “The Ground Beneath Us: From the Oldest Cities to the Last Wilderness, What Dirt Tells Us About Who We Are.”  His op-ed about lawns, “Beyond Blades of Grass,” appeared in the June 16, 2017 New York Times.

This encore podcast was first released on 07/24/2018

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/what-goes-around

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.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Big Picture Science for July 02, 2018 - Frogs' Pants












Big Picture Science - Frogs' Pants

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:

This encore podcast was first released on 07/10/2017

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/frogs-pants

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.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Big Picture Science for June 25, 2018 - Free Range Dinosaurs












Big Picture Science - Free Range Dinosaurs

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.”

Download this podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/free-range-dinosaurs

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.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Big Picture Science for June 18, 2018 - Perpetual Emotion Machine












Big Picture Science - Perpetual Emotion Machine

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:

This encore podcast was first released on  6/19/2017

Download this podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/perpetual-emotion-machine

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.