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.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Big Picture Science for July 01, 2019 - Nailing the Moon Landing













Big Picture Science - Nailing the Moon Landing

Neil, Buzz, and Michael made it look effortless, but the moon landing was neither easy nor inevitable.  Soon after President Kennedy publicly stated the goal of sending Americans to the moon, NASA confessed that the chances of success were only about 50/50.   But on July 20, 1969, despite enormous difficulties, astronauts stepped onto the lunar regolith.

In this special anniversary episode, we go behind the iconic phrases and familiar photos to consider the errors, mishaps, and the Plan B contingencies that dogged the project, as well as hear of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who made Apollo 11 possible.

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/nailing-the-moon-landing

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 23, 2019

Big Picture Science for June 24, 2019 - Animals Like Us













Big Picture Science - Animals Like Us

Laughing rats, sorrowful elephants, joyful chimpanzees.  The more carefully we observe, and the more we learn about animals, the closer their emotional lives appear to resemble our own.  Most would agree that we should minimize the physical suffering of animals, but should we give equal consideration to their emotional stress?  Bioethicist Peter Singer weighs in. Meanwhile, captivity that may be ethical: How human-elephant teamwork in Asia may help protect an endangered species.

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, June 17, 2019

Big Picture Science for June 17, 2019 - You've Got Whale












Big Picture Science - You've Got Whale

(Repeat)  SMS isn’t the original instant messaging system.  Plants can send chemical warnings through their leaves in a fraction of a second.  And while we love being in the messaging loop – frenetically refreshing our browsers – we miss out on important conversations that no Twitter feed or inbox can capture. That’s because eavesdropping on the communications of non-human species requires the ability to decode their non-written signals.

Dive into Arctic waters where scientists make first-ever recordings of the socializing clicks and squeals of narwhals, and find out how climate shifts may pollute their acoustic landscape.  Also, why the chemical defense system of plants has prompted one biologist to give greenery an “11 on the scale of awesomeness.” And, you can’t see them, but they sure can sense one another: how communicating microbes plan their attack.

Guests:
  • Susanna Blackwell – Bio-acoustician with Greeneridge Sciences. Hear her recordings of narwhals here.
  • Simon Gilroy – Professor of botany, University of Wisconsin, Madison. His video of glowing green caterpillar-munched plants can be viewed here.
  • Peter Greenberg – Professor of microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle

This repeat podcast was previously released on 10/29/2018

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/youve-got-whale

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, June 11, 2019

Big Picture Science for June 10, 2019 - It's Habitable Forming












Big Picture Science - It's Habitable Forming

(Repeat) 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

This repeat podcast was previously released on 08/13/2018

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, June 02, 2019

Big Picture Science for June 03, 2019 - Creature Discomforts













(Repeat) Okay you animals, line up: stoned sloths, playful pandas, baleful bovines, and vile vultures.  We’ve got you guys pegged, thanks to central casting.

Or do we?  Our often simplistic view of animals ignores their remarkable adaptive abilities.  Stumbly sloths are in fact remarkably agile and a vulture’s tricks for thermoregulation can’t be found in an outdoors store.

Our ignorance about some animals can even lead to their suffering and to seemingly intractable problems.  The South American nutria was brought to Louisiana to supply the fur market.  But the species got loose and tens of millions of these rodents are destroying the environment.  It literally has a bounty on its tail.

Hear about research that corrects a menagerie of misunderstandings about our fellow furry, feathered, and scaly animals, and how getting over ourselves to know them better can have practical benefits. Will you still recoil from termites if you learn that they are relevant to the future of robots, global warming, and smart design?

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.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Big Picture Science for May 27, 2019 - Skeptic Check: Worrier Mentality













Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Worrier Mentality

Poisonous snakes, lightning strikes, a rogue rock from space.  There are plenty of scary things to fret about, but are we burning adrenaline on the right ones?  Stepping into the bathtub is more dangerous than flying from a statistical point of view, but no one signs up for “fear of showering” classes.

Find out why we get tripped up by statistics, worry about the wrong things, and how the “intelligence trap” not only leads smart people to make dumb mistakes, but actually causes them to make more.

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/skeptic-check-worrier-mentality

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 19, 2019

Big Picture Science for May 20, 2019 - New Water Worlds













Big Picture Science - New Water Worlds

(Repeat) 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:

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.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Big Picture Science for May 13, 2019 - Is Life Inevitable?













Big Picture Science - Is Life Inevitable?

A new theory about life’s origins updates Darwin’s warm little pond.  Scientists say they’ve created the building blocks of biology in steaming hot springs. Meanwhile, we visit a NASA lab where scientists simulate deep-sea vent chemistry to produce the type of environment that might spawn life.  Which site is best suited for producing biology from chemistry?

Find out how the conditions of the early Earth were different from today, how meteors seeded Earth with organics, and a provocative idea that life arose as an inevitable consequence of matter shape-shifting to dissipate heat. Could physics be the driving force behind life’s emergence?  

Guests:
  • Caleb Scharf – Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University, New York
  • Laurie Barge – Research scientist in astrobiology at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Bruce Damer – Research scientist in biomolecular engineering, University of California
  • Jeremy England – Physicist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/is-life-inevitable

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, May 07, 2019

Big Picture Science for May 06, 2019 - Rethinking Chernobyl













Big Picture Science - Rethinking Chernobyl

The catastrophic explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in April 1986 triggered the full-scale destruction of the reactor.  But now researchers with access to once-classified Soviet documents are challenging the official version of what happened both before and after the explosion. They say that the accident was worse than we thought and that a number of factors – from paranoia to poor engineering – made the mishap inevitable.  Others claim a much larger death toll from extended exposure to low levels of radiation.  But with nuclear energy being a possibly essential component of dealing with rising carbon dioxide emissions, how do we evaluate risk under the long shadow of Chernobyl?

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/rethinking-chernobyl

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.