Sunday, October 13, 2019

Big Picture Science for Oct. 14, Go With the Flow













Big Picture Science - Go With the Flow

(Repeat) Solid materials get all the production credit.  Don’t get us wrong, we depend on their strength and firmness for bridges, bones, and bento boxes.  But liquids do us a solid, too.  Their free-flowing properties drive the Earth’s magnetic field, inspire a new generation of smart electronics, and make biology possible.  But the weird thing is, they elude clear definition.  Is tar a liquid or a solid?  What about peanut butter?

In this episode: A romp through a cascade of liquids with a materials scientist who is both admiring and confounded by their properties; how Earth’s molten iron core is making the magnetic north pole high-tail it to Siberia; blood as your body’s information superhighway; and how a spittlebug can convert 200 times its body weight in urine into a cozy, bubble fortress.

Guests:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 04/08/2019

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, October 06, 2019

Big Picture Science for Oct. 07, 2019 - Battling Bacteria













Big Picture Science - Battling Bacteria

We can’t say we weren’t warned.  More than 75 years ago, bacteriologist Rene Dubos cautioned that misuse of antibiotics could breed drug-resistant bacteria – and he has been proved prescient.  In this episode: the rise of superbugs, why we ignored the warnings about them, how some are enlisting an old therapy to fight back, and whether we’ll heed history’s lessons in the face of a future pandemic.  Plus, a weird unforeseen effect of antibiotics being investigated at the Body Farm.

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/battling-bacteria

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 30, 2019

Big Picture Science for Sept 30, 2019 - Headed For Trouble













Big Picture Science - Headed For Trouble

The stone heads on Easter Island are an enduring mystery: why were they built and why were they abandoned and destroyed?  The old ideas about cultural collapse are yielding to new ones based on careful investigation on the ground - but also from above.  What surprising explanations have we found and are we off base to think that ancient societies such as the Easter Islanders or the classical Egyptians were, in the end, failures?  Can what we learn from these histories help predict which societies will survive?

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/headed-for-trouble

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 23, 2019

Big Picture Science for Sept 23, 2019 - Keeping Humans in the Loop












Big Picture Science - Keeping Humans in the Loop

(Repeat) Modern technology is great, but could we be losing control?  As our world becomes more crowded and demands for resources are greater, some people worry about humanity’s uncertain prospects.  An eminent cosmologist considers globe-altering developments such as climate change and artificial intelligence. Will we be able to stave off serious threats to our future?

There’s also another possible source of danger: our trendy digital aids.  We seem all-too-willing to let algorithms classify and define our wants, our needs, and our behavior. Instead of using technology, are we being used by it – to inadvertently become social media’s product?

And while we may be skittish about the increased data our technology collects, one sci-fi writer imagines a future in which information is a pervasive and freely available commodity.

Guests:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 02/11/2019

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/keeping-humans-in-the-loop

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 17, 2019

Big Picture Science for Sept 16, 2019 - Rip Van Winkle Worm












Big Picture Science - Rip Van Winkle Worm

(Repeat) Your shower pipes are alive.  So are your sinks, books, and floorboards.  New studies of our homes are revealing just what species live there – in the thousands, from bacteria to flies to millipedes.  Meanwhile, life keeps surprising us by popping up in other unexpected places: the deep biosphere houses the majority of the world’s bacteria and the Arctic tundra has kept worms frozen, but alive, for 40,000 years.

We embrace the multitude of life living on us, in us, and – as it turns out – in every possible ecological niche.  Most of it is harmless, some is beneficial, and it’s all testament to the amazing diversity and adaptability of life.  In addition, the hardiest organisms suggest where we might find life beyond Earth.

Guests:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 01/21/2019

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/rip-van-winkle-worm

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 Sept 09, 2019 - For Good Measure













Big Picture Science - For Good Measure

The reign of Le Grand K has come to an end. After 130 years, this hunk of metal sitting in a Parisian vault will no longer define the kilogram. The new kilogram mass will be defined by Planck’s constant, joining three other units for redefinition by fundamental constants.  But as we measure with increasing precision – from cesium atomic clocks to gravity waves 1000th the width of a proton – is something fundamental lost along the way?  Meanwhile, the BiPiSci team accepts the banana-measurement challenge.

Guests:
Jon Pratt – Mechanical engineer and engineer and Chief of the Quantum Measurement Division of the Physical Measurement Laboratory (PML) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology
Wolfgang Ketterle – Physicist at MIT, Nobel Laureate
Simon Winchester – Author of “The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/for-good-measure

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.

My apologies for posting this a week late. You know, life and all.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Big Picture Science for Sept 02, 2019 - Skeptic Check: Data Bias













Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Data Bias

Sexist snow plowing?  Data that guide everything from snow removal schedules to heart research often fail to consider gender.  In these cases, “reference man” stands in for “average human.”   Human bias also infects artificial intelligence, with speech recognition triggered only by male voices and facial
recognition that can’t see black faces.  We question the assumptions baked into these numbers and algorithms.

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/skeptic-check-data-bias

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 25, 2019

Big Picture Science for Aug 26, 2019 - Skeptic Check: Brain Gain












Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Brain Gain

(Repeat)  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:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 8/6/2018

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.

Big Picture Science for Aug 19, 2019 - True Grit












Big Picture Science - True Grit

(Repeat)  Without sand, engineering would be stuck in the Middle Ages.  Wooden houses would line mud-packed streets, and Silicon Valley would be, well, just a valley.  Sand is the building material of modern cities, and we use more of this resource than any other except water and air.  Now we’re running out of it.

Hear why the Roman recipe for making concrete was lost until the 19th century, and about the super-secret mine in North Carolina that makes your smartphone possible.

Plus, engineered sand turns stormwater into drinking water, and why you might think twice about running barefoot on some tropical beaches once you learn about their biological source.

And, a special report from the coast of Louisiana where livelihoods and ecosystems depend on the successful release of Mississippi sand from levees into sediment-starved wetlands.

Guests:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 1/14/3019

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, August 11, 2019

Big Picture Science for Aug 12, 2019 - Granting Immunity













Big Picture Science - Granting Immunity

“Diversity or die” could be your new health mantra. Don’t boost your immune system, cultivate it! Like a garden, your body’s defenses benefit from species diversity.  Find out why multiple strains of microbes, engaged in a delicate ballet with your T-cells, join internal fungi in combatting disease. Plus, global
ecosystems also depend on the diversity of its tiniest members; so what happens when the world’s insects bug out?

Guests:

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, August 04, 2019

Big Picture Science for Aug 05, 2019 - Sci-Fi From the Future












(Repeat)  Are you ready to defer all your personal decision-making to machines?  Polls show that most Americans are uneasy about the unchecked growth of artificial intelligence. The possible misuse of genetic engineering also makes us anxious. We all have a stake in the responsible development of science and technology, but fortunately, science fiction films can help.

The movies Ex Machina and Jurassic Park suggest where A.I. and unfettered gene-tinkering could lead. But even less popular sci-fi movies can help us imagine unsettling scenarios regarding over-population, smart drugs, and human cloning.

And not all tales are grim.  The 1951 film, The Man in the White Suit, weaves a humorous story of materials science run amok.

So, grab a bowl of popcorn and join us in contemplating the future of humanity as Hollywood sees it!

Guest:
Andrew Maynard – Physicist and professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University.  Author of Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi Movies.

This repeat podcast was previously released on 1/07/2019

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/sci-fi-future

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 July 29, 2019 - Skeptic Check: Flat Earth


Sorry for the late posting. Life and things you know.











Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Flat Earth

(Repeat) 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:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 6/11/2018

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.


RE-ADD - This podcast will be released this coming Monday at - http://bigpicturescience.org/

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Big Picture Science for July 22, 2019 - Let's Stick Together













Big Picture Science - Let's Stick Together

Crowded subway driving you crazy?  Sick of the marathon-length grocery store line? Wish you had a hovercraft to float over traffic?  If you are itching to hightail it to an isolated cabin in the woods, remember, we evolved to be together.  Humans are not only social, we’re driven to care for one another, even those outside our immediate family.

We look at some of the reasons why this is so – from the increase in valuable communication within social groups to the power of the hormone oxytocin.  Plus, how our willingness to tolerate anonymity, a condition which allows societies to grow, has a parallel in ant supercolonies.

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/lets-stick-together

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 14, 2019

Big Picture Science for July 15, 2019 - Math's Paths













Big Picture Science - Math's Paths

If you bake, you can appreciate math’s transformative properties.  Admiring the stackable potato chip is to admire a hyperbolic sheet.  Find out why there’s no need to fear math - you just need to think outside the cuboid.  Also, how nature’s geometric shapes inspire the next generation of squishy robots and an argument for radically overhauling math class.  The end point of these common factors is acute show that’s as fun as eating Pi.

Guests:

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, July 08, 2019

Big Picture Science for July 08, 2019 - DNA is Not Destiny












Big Picture Science - DNA is Not Destiny

(Repeat) Heredity was once thought to be straightforward.  Genes were passed in an immutable path from parents to you, and you were stuck – or blessed – with what you got.  DNA didn’t change.

But now we know that’s not true.   Epigenetic factors, such as your environment and your lifestyle, control how your genes are expressed.  Meanwhile, the powerful tool CRISPR allows us to tinker with the genes themselves.  DNA is no longer destiny.

Hear the results from the NASA twin study and what happened to astronaut Scott Kelly’s DNA after a year on the International Space Station.  Plus, whether there’s evidence that epigenetic changes can be passed down.  And, if we can wipe out deadly malaria by engineering the mosquito genome for sterility, should we do it?

Guests:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 10/15/2018

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