Sunday, May 21, 2017

Big Picture Science for May 22, 2017 - Skeptic Check: Science Breaking Bad

Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Science Breaking Bad

The scientific method is tried and true. It has led us to a reliable understanding of things from basic physics to biomedicine.  So yes, we can rely on the scientific method.  The fallible humans behind the research, not so much.  And politicians?  Don’t get us started.  Remember when one brought a snowball to the Senate floor to “prove” that global warming was a hoax?  Oy vey.

We talk to authors about new books that seem to cast a skeptical eye on the scientific method… but that are really throwing shade on the ambitious labcoat-draped humans who heat the beakers and publish the papers … as well as the pinstriped politicians who twist science to win votes.

Find out why the hyper-competitive pursuit of results that are “amazing” and “incredible” is undermining medical science … how a scientific breakthrough can turn into a societal scourge (heroin as miracle cure) … and what happens when civil servants play the role of citizen scientists on CSPAN.


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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

An Aurora Named "Steve"

Source - Space Weather News for May 21, 2017:

AN AURORA NAMED "STEVE": This weekend, a solar wind storm has sparked sightings of a mysterious filamentary aurora named "Steve" over the badlands of Alberta, Canada. Although the form has been seen for many years dancing among ordinary auroras, researchers do not fully understand what causes it. New clues recently emerged when a European Space Agency satellite flew directly through Steve.

The phenomenon is highlighted on today's edition of

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Anthropogenic Space Weather

Source - Space Weather News for May 18, 2017:

ANTHROPOGENIC SPACE WEATHER: A new study just published in the journal Space Science Reviews outlines some of the surprising ways human activity can affect space weather. A key example involves VLF radio waves, which are used to communicate with submarines. These waves have formed an unintentional bubble around our planet, clearing out "killer electrons" from Earth's radiation belts. Learn more on today's edition of

SOLAR WIND STORM PREDICTED: The solar wind around Earth is about to speed up. Velocities could top 700 km/s on May 19th when a stream of gaseous material flowing from a hole the sun's atmosphere reaches our planet. G2-class geomagnetic storms and high-latitude auroras are possible on May 19th and 20th. Stay tuned to for updates.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Geomagnetic Storm Watch (G2-class)

Source - Space Weather News for May 15, 2017:

: NOAA forecasters say there is a 40% chance of minor G1-class geomagnetic storms on May 16th as Earth enters a stream of solar wind flowing from a hole in the sun's atmosphere. The storm could intensify to G2-class (moderately strong) on May 17th when an incoming CME is expected to deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras, especially in the southern hemisphere where deepening autumn darkness favors visibility.

Visit for more information and updates.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Big Picture Science for May 15, 2017 - 100% Invisible

Big Picture Science - 100% Invisible

ENCORE:  In astronomy, the rule of thumb was simple: If you can’t see it with a telescope, it’s not real.  Seeing is believing.  Well, tell that to the astronomers who discovered dark energy, or dark matter … or, more recently, Planet 9.   And yet we have evidence that all these things exist (although skepticism about the ninth – or is it tenth? – planet still lingers).

Find out how we know what we know about the latest cosmic discoveries – even if we can’t see them directly.  The astronomer who found Planet 9 – and killed Pluto – offers his evidence.

And, a speculative scenario suggests that dark matter helped do away with the dinosaurs.

Plus, the winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics explains why neutrinos that are zipping through your body right now may hold clues to the origin of the universe.


This encore podcast was first released 02/08/2016

Download podcast at -

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Cosmic Rays Intensify over California

Source - Space Weather News for May 12, 2017:

COSMIC RAYS INTENSIFY: The solar cycle is plunging to its lowest level in years. As sunspots vanish and the sun's magnetic field weakens, cosmic rays are penetrating the inner Solar System in greater numbers than usual. High-altitude balloon flights over California have detected the change in the form of increased radiation levels in our planet's atmosphere.

Visit today's edition of to see the latest data and to learn how intensifying cosmic rays can affect us on Earth.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Jupiter-Moon Conjunction--Tonight!

Source - Space Weather News for May 7, 2017:

JUPITER-MOON CONJUNCTION: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look southeast. You'll see Jupiter and the waxing gibbous Moon rising together in the constellation Virgo, only couple of degrees apart. If possible, try to catch the tight pair before the sky fades completely black. The sight of these two bright celestial bodies framed by twilight blue is beautiful indeed. Sky maps and photos @

STAR WARS DAY CME: On May the 4th (Star Wars Day), unstable magnetic fields in the sun's atmosphere shifted and hurled a CME into space. The cloud's velocity was relatively low, and it might take 6 whole days to cross the sun-Earth divide. NOAA forecasters expect the CME to arrive on May 10th, possibly causing geomagnetic activity around the poles. Stay tuned to for updates

Big Picture Science for May 08, 2017 - Time on Your Side

Big Picture Science - Time on Your Side

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. 

  • 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

Download postcast at -

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

Monday, May 01, 2017

Meteors from Halley's Comet

Source - Space Weather News for May 2, 2017:

METEORS FROM HALLEY'S COMET: A radar in Canada has detected radio echoes coming from the constellation Aquarius. This is a sign that the annual eta Aquarid meteor shower is underway. In the days ahead ahead our planet will cross a network of debris streams from Halley's Comet, producing a drizzle of eta Aquarids numbering 10 to 30 meteors per hour in the northern hemisphere and perhaps twice that number in the southern hemisphere. Usually, the eta Aquarid shower peaks around May 6th. This year, there might be an additional enhancement on May 4th or 5th. 

Check today's edition of for more information and observing tips.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Big Picture Science for May 01, 2017 - Eve of Disruption

Big Picture Science - Eve of Disruption

ENCORE: Only two of the following three creations have had lasting scientific or cultural impact:  The telescope … the Sistine Chapel ceiling … the electric banana.  Find out why one didn’t make the cut as a game-changer, and why certain eras and places produce a remarkable flowering of creativity (we’re looking at you, Athens).

Plus, Yogi Berra found it difficult to make predictions, especially about the future, but we try anyway.  A technology expert says he’s identified the next Silicon Valley.  Hint: its focus is on genetic – not computer – code and its language in the lab is Mandarin.

We got the past and the future covered.  Where’s innovation now?  We leave that to the biohackers who are remaking the human body one sensory organ at a time.  Are you ready for eye-socket cameras and mind readers?


This encore podcast was first released on: 2/22/2016

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

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Geomagnetic Storms Continue

Source - Space Weather News for April 23, 2017:

GEOMAGNETIC STORMS CONTINUE: Following on the heels of Saturday's unexpected CME impact, our planet is now moving into a stream of high speed (700 km/s) solar wind. This is re-energizing geomagnetic activity around Earth's poles. NOAA forecasters say there is an 80% chance of geomagnetic storms on April 23rd subsiding to 'only' 60% to 65% on April 24th and 25th. High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras in the nights ahead. In the USA, Northern Lights might be seen and photographed in northern-tier states from Washington to Maine. Southern Lights are also being reported by observers in high-latitude regions of New Zealand.

Visit for photos and updates.

Big Picture Science for April 24, 2017 - Spacecraft Elegy

Big Picture Science - Spacecraft Elegy

Exploration: It’s exciting, it’s novel, and you can’t always count on a round-trip ticket.  You can boldly go, but you might not come back.  That’s no showstopper for robotic explorers, though.  Spacecraft go everywhere.

While humans have traveled no farther than the moon, our mechanical proxies are climbing a mountain on Mars, visiting an ice ball far beyond Pluto, plunging through the rings of Saturn, and landing on a comet.  Oh, and did we mention they’re also bringing rock and roll to the denizens of deep space, in case they wish to listen.

We consider some of the most daring explorers since the 16th century – made of metal and plastic - venturing to places where no one else could go.  What have they done, what are they doing, and at what point do they declare “mission accomplished” and head for that great spacecraft graveyard in the sky?


Download postcast at -

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Surprise! Earth Day Aurora Storm

Source - Space Weather News for April 22, 2017:

EARTH DAY AURORA STORM: Last night, Northern Lights descended into the United States as far south as Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington, kicking off an unexpected display of bright auroras for Earth Day. What happened?  A CME that was supposed to miss Earth apparently hit instead, surprising forecasters. Geomagnetic storms are still underway as April 22nd unfolds; high-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for midnight auroras on April 22-23. Visit for updates.

WEEKEND METEOR SHOWER: The auroras tonight may be spiced by an occasional flash of light.  Earth is entering a stream of debris from Comet Thatcher, source of the annual Lyrid meteor shower. Dark sky observers could see 10 to 20 shooting stars per hour shooting out of the constellation Lyra.  Sky maps and observing tips @

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Massive Explosion on the Sun

Source - Space Weather News for April 19, 2017:

OLD SUNSPOT RETURNS, EXPLODES: Old sunspot AR2644 has returned following a 2-week trip around the backside of the sun--and it is still active. During the late hours of April 18th, the sunspot's magnetic canopy exploded, producing a C5-class solar flare and hurling a spectacularly bright coronal mass ejection (CME) into space. The massive cloud of hot plasma will almost certainly miss Earth, but future explosions could be geoeffective as the sunspot turns toward our planet. Visit for more information and updates.

CHANCE OF MAGNETIC STORMS: NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on April 19th and 20th when a high-speed stream of solar wind is due to reach our planet. This could spark bright Northern Lights in the waxing spring twilight around the Arctic Circle. Monitor the aurora gallery for sightings.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Big Picture Science for April 17, 2017 - Skeptic Check: Glutenous Maximus

Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Glutenous Maximus

ENCORE:  Eat dark chocolate.  Don’t drink coffee.  Go gluten-free.  If you ask people for diet advice, you’ll get a dozen different stories.  Ideas about what’s good for us sprout up faster than alfalfa plants (which are still healthy … we think).  How can you tell if the latest is fact or fad?

We’ll help you decide, and show you how to think skeptically about popular trends.  One example: a study showing that gluten-free diets didn’t ease digestive problems in athletes.  Also, medical researchers test whether wearable devices succeed in getting us off the couch and a nutritionist explains how things got so confusing.

Plus, why part of our confusion may be language.  Find out why one cook says that no foods are “healthy,” not even kale.

It’s Skeptic Check … but don’t take our word for it!

  • Dana Lis - Sports dietician, PhD student, University of Tasmania
  • Michael Ruhlman - Cook, author of many books about cooking as well as the recent trio of novellas, In Short Measures
  • Beth Skwarecki - Freelance health and science writer, nutrition teacher
  • Mitesh Patel - Assistant professor of medicine, Perlman School of Medicine, Assistant Professor of Health Care Management, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

This encore podcast was first released on: 02/01/2016

Download postcast at -

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