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.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Big Picture Science for June 11, 2018 - Skeptic Check: Flat Earth













Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Flat Earth

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:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/skeptic-check-flat-earth

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 03, 2018

Big Picture Science for June 04, 2018 - Imagining Planets












Big Picture Science - Imagining Planets

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:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/imagining-planets

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, May 27, 2018

Big Picture Science for May 28, 2018 - Time on Your Side












Big Picture Science - Time on Your Side

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 Machine
  • James 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

This encore podcast was first released on  05/08/2017

You can download this podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/time-your-side

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, May 20, 2018

Big Picture Science for May 21, 2018 - Your Brain's Reins












Big Picture Science - Your Brain's Reins

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:

This encore podcast was first released on  04/10/2017

Podcast will be made available 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, May 13, 2018

Big Picture Science for May 14, 2018 - You Are Exposed












Big Picture Science - You Are Exposed

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.

You can download this podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/you-are-exposed

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, May 06, 2018

Big Picture Science for May 07, 2018 - We Are VR












Big Picture Science - We Are VR

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

You can download this podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/we-are-vr

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.