Sunday, March 08, 2020

Big Picture Science for Mar 09, Skeptic Check: Pandemic Fear












Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Pandemic Fear

Contagion aside, coronavirus is a powerful little virus.  It has prompted a global experiment in behavior modification: elbow bumps instead of handshakes, hand sanitizer and mask shortages, a gyrating stock market.

Pragmatism motivates our behavior toward the spread of this virus, but so do fear and panic. In 1918, amplified fear made the Spanish Flu pandemic more deadly.

Can we identify when we’re acting sensibly in the face of COVID-19, or when fear has hijacked our ability to think rationally and protect ourselves?

Guests:

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.

Big Picture Science for Mar 02, DecodeHer













Big Picture Science - DecodeHer

(Repeat) 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:

This repeat podcast was previously released on  04/01/2019

This podcast 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, February 23, 2020

Big Picture Science for Feb 24, AI: Where Does it End?












Big Picture Science - AI: Where Does it End?

The benefits of artificial intelligence are manifest and manifold, but can we recognize the drawbacks … and avoid them in time?

In this episode, recorded before a live audience at the Seattle meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, we discuss who is making the ethical decisions about how we use this powerful technology, and a proposal to create a Hippocratic Oath for AI researchers.

Guests:
  • Oren Etzioni - CEO of The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence
  • Mark Hill - Professor of computer sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and chair of the Computing Community Consortium

This podcast 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, February 16, 2020

Big Picture Science for Feb 17, Climate Changed













Big Picture Science - Climate Changed

Have you adapted to the changing climate? Rising waters, more destructive wildfires, record-breaking heatwaves. Scientists have long predicted these events, but reporting on climate change has moved from prediction to description. There’s no time for dwelling on “we should haves.” Communities and organizations are being forced to adapt. Find out what that means, the role of the new “resilience officers,” and the unique response of Native American cultures. Plus, is the coronavirus outbreak made worse by climate change?

Guests:
  • James Randerson – Professor of Earth Science, University of California, Irvine
  • Victor Rodriguez – PhD student, Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Engineering and Public Policy
  • Kyle Whyte – Professor in the Departments of Philosophy and Community Sustainability, and tribal member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation
  • Tracey Goldstein – Professor in the Department of Pathology, Immunology, and Microbiology, University of California, Davis

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/climate-changed

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, February 09, 2020

Big Picture Science for Feb 10, Frogs' Pants













Big Picture Science - Frogs' Pants

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 repeat podcast was previously released on July 10, 2017

This podcast 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.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Big Picture Science for Feb 03, Skeptic Check: Science Denial












Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Science Denial

(Repeat) 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:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 11/12/2018

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/skeptic-check-science-denial

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, January 26, 2020

Big Picture Science for Jan 27, A Twist of Slime













Big Picture Science - A Twist of Slime

Your daily mucus output is most impressive.  Teaspoons or measuring cups can’t capture its entire volume.  Find out how much your body churns out and why you can’t live without the viscous stuff.  But slime in general is remarkable.  Whether coating the bellies of slithery creatures, sleeking the surface of aquatic plants, or dripping from your nose, its protective qualities make it one of the great inventions of biology. Join us as we venture to the land of ooze!

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/a-twist-of-slime

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, January 19, 2020

Big Picture Science for Jan 20, The Ears Have It













Big Picture Science - The Ears Have It

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.

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/the-ears-have-it

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, January 12, 2020

Big Picture Science for Jan 13, Perpetual Emotion Machine












Big Picture Science - Perpetual Emotion Machine

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 repeat podcast was previously released on 06/19/2017

Download 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, January 05, 2020

Big Picture Science for Jan 06, Your Brain's Reins












Big Picture Science - Your Brain's Reins

(Repeat) 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 repeat podcast was previously released on April 10, 2017

This podcast 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, December 29, 2019

Big Picture Science for Dec 30, Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself












Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself

(Repeat) 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 repeat podcast was previously released on September 24, 2018

This podcast 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, December 22, 2019

Big Picture Science for Dec 23, Handling the Holidays













Big Picture Science - Handling the Holidays

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:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/handling-the-holidays

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, December 16, 2019

Big Picture Science for Dec 16, Waste Not












Big Picture Science - Waste Not

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:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/waste-not

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, December 08, 2019

Big Picture Science for Dec 09, Shell on Earth












Big Picture Science - Shell on Earth

(Repeat) 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
This repeat podcast was previously released on 03/27/2017

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

Monday, December 02, 2019

Big Picture Science for Dec 02, Yule Like This












Big Picture Science - Yule Like This

(Repeat)  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:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 12/17/2018

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/yule-like-this

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.