Sunday, November 10, 2019

Big Picture Science for Nov 11, Radical Cosmology













Big Picture Science - Radical Cosmology

(Repeat)  400 years ago, some ideas about the cosmos were too scandalous to mention. When the Dominican friar Giordano Bruno suggested that planets existed outside our Solar System, the Catholic Inquisition had him arrested, jailed, and burned at the stake for heresy.

Today, we have evidence of thousands of planets orbiting other stars.  Our discovery of extrasolar planets has dramatically changed ideas about the possibility for life elsewhere in the universe.

Modern theories about the existence of the ghostly particles called neutrinos or of collapsed stars with unfathomable gravity (black holes), while similarly incendiary, didn’t prompt arrest, of course.  Neutrinos and black holes were arresting ideas because they came decades before we had the means to prove their existence.

Hear about scientific ideas that came before their time and why extrasolar planets, neutrinos, and black holes are now found on the frontiers of astronomical research.

Guests:
This repeat podcast was previously released on 02/18/2019

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/radical-cosmology

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, November 04, 2019

Big Picture Science for Nov 04, Supercomputer Showdown













Big Picture Science - Supercomputer Showdown

Do you have a hard-to-answer question?  The Summit, Sierra, Trinity, Frontier, and Aurora supercomputers are built to tackle it.  Summit tops the petaflop heap – at least for now.  But Frontier and Aurora are catching up as they take aim at a new performance benchmark called exascale.

So why do we need all this processing power?  From climate modeling to personalized medicine, find out why the super-est computers are necessary to answer our biggest questions. But is the dark horse candidate, quantum computing, destined to leave classical computing in the dust?

Guests:
  • Jack Wells - Director of Science, Oak Ridge National Laboratory National Center for Computational Sciences
  • Eleanor Rieffel - Mathematician, NASA Ames Research Center, and co-author of “Quantum Supremacy Using a Programmable Superconducting Processor,” published in Nature magazine
  • Amanda Preske - Chemist, owner of Circuit Breaker Labs
  • Katherine Riley - Director of Science, Argonne National Laboratory
  • Katie Bethea - Communications Team Lead, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Jeffrey Hawkins – Technologist and neuroscientist.  Co-founder of Palm, Handspring and Numenta

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/supercomputer-showdown

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, October 28, 2019

Big Picture Science for Oct. 28, Skeptic Check: Rational Lampoon












Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Rational Lampoon

(Repeat)  Two heads may be better than one.  But what about three or more?  A new study shows that chimpanzees excel at complex tasks when they work in groups, and their accumulated knowledge can even be passed from one generation to the next.
But group-think also can be maladaptive.  When humans rely on knowledge that they assume other people possess, they can become less than rational.
Find out why one cognitive scientist says that individual thinking is a myth.  Most of your decisions are made in groups, and most derive from emotion, not rationality.
Also, why we know far less than we think we do.  For example, most people will say they understand how an everyday object like a zipper works, but draw a blank when asked to explain it.
Plus, why we have a biological drive to categorize people as “us” or “them,” and how we can override it.

Guests:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 7/3/2017

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/skeptic-check-rational-lampoon

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 20, 2019

Big Picture Science for Oct. 21, Nobel Efforts













Big Picture Science - Nobel Efforts

For two Swiss astronomers, it’s “Stockholm, here we come.”  Their first-ever discovery of a planet orbiting another star has been awarded the most prestigious prize in science.  Find out how their exoplanet discovery led to 4,000 more and how that changes the odds of finding life beyond Earth.  Also, the Nobel committee is not alone in finding distant worlds inspirational: a musician is translating their orbital signatures into sound.

Guests:
  • Roy Gould - Biophysicist and researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Author of “Universe in Creation
  • Jeffrey Smith - Data scientist and a principal investigator for TESS at the SETI Institute
  • David Ibbett - Composer and director of the Multiverse Concert Series

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/nobel-efforts

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 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

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/go-with-the-flow


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.