Sunday, January 20, 2019

Big Picture Science for Jan 21, 2019 - Rip Van Winkle Worm












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:

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.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Big Picture Science for Jan 14, 2019 - True Grit












Big Picture Science - True Grit

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:

Download podcast at: http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/true-grit

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 06, 2019

Big Picture Science for Jan 07, 2019 - Sci-Fi From the Future












Big Picture Science - Sci-Fi From the Future

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:

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.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Big Picture Science for Dec 31, 2018 - The X-Flies












Big Picture Science - The X-Flies

(Repeat)  Insect populations are declining.  But before you say “good riddance,” consider that insects are the cornerstone of many ecosystems.  They are dinner for numerous animal species and are essential pollinators.   Mammals are loved, but they are not indispensable.  Insects are.

Meanwhile, marvel at the extraordinary capabilities of some insects.  The zany aerial maneuvers of the fly are studied by pilots.  And, contrary to the bad press, cockroaches are very clean creatures.  Also, take a listen as we host some Madagascar hissing cockroaches in our studio (yes, they audibly hiss)

Plus, how insects first evolved … and the challenges in controlling lethal ones.  Are genetically-engineering mosquitoes the best way to combat malaria?

Guests:
  • Erica McAlister – Entomologist, Senior Curator of diptera in the Department of Entomology, Natural History Museum in London, author of “The Secret Life of Flies
  • Jessica Ware – Evolutionary biologist and entomologist at Rutgers University
  • Anthony James – Vector biologist, University of California, Irvine
  • Lauren Esposito – Arachnologist, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

This repeat podcast was previously released on 03/19/2018

Download podcast at: http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/x-flies

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 24, 2018

Big Picture Science for Dec 24, 2018 - Space: Why Go There?













Big Picture Science - Space: Why Go There?

(Repeat) It takes a lot of energy and technology to leave terra firma. But why rocket into space when there’s so much to be done on Earth?  From the practical usefulness of satellites to the thrill of exploring other worlds, let us count the ways.

The launch of a NOAA weather satellite to join its twin provides unparalleled observation of storms, wildfires, and even lightning.  Find out what it’s like to watch hurricanes form from space.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen countries want their own satellites to help solve real-world problems, including tracking disease.  Learn how one woman is helping make space accessible to everyone.

Plus, now that we’ve completed our grand tour of the Solar System, which bodies are targets for return missions and which for human exploration?

Guests:
  • Sarah Cruddas – Space journalist, broadcaster, and author based in the U.K.
  • Jamese Sims – GOES-R Project Manager at NOAA
  • Danielle Wood – Assistant professor, MIT Media Lab, Director of the Space Enabled Research Group
  • Jim Green – NASA Planetary Science Division Director

This repeat podcast was previously released on 03/05/2018

Download podcast at: http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/space-why-go-there

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 16, 2018

Big Picture Science for Dec 17, 2018 - Yule Like This












Big Picture Science - Yule Like This

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:

Download podcast at: http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/yule

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 09, 2018

Big Picture Science for Dec 10, 2018 - Skeptic Check: Science Breaking Bad













Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Science Breaking Bad

(Repeat) 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.

Guests:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 05/22/2018

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 02, 2018

Big Picture Science for Dec 03, 2018 - Creative Brains












Big Picture Science - Creative Brains

(Repeat) Your cat is smart, but its ability to choreograph a ballet or write computer code isn’t great.  A lot of animals are industrious and clever, but humans are the only animal that is uniquely ingenious and creative.

Neuroscientist David Eagleman and composer Anthony Brandt discuss how human creativity has reshaped the world. Find out what is going on in your brain when you write a novel, paint a watercolor, or build a whatchamacallit in your garage.

But is Homo sapiens’ claim on creativity destined to be short-lived?  Why both Eagleman and Brandt are prepared to step aside when artificial intelligence can do their jobs.

Guests:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 02/15/2018

Download podcast at: http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/creative-brains

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, November 25, 2018

Big Picture Science for Nov 26, 2018 - Bacteria to the Future












Big Picture Science - Bacteria to the Future

(REPEAT) Why did the chicken take antibiotics?  To fatten it up and prevent bacterial infection. As a result, industrial farms have become superbug factories, threatening our life-saving antibiotics.

Find out how our wonder drugs became bird feed, and how antibiotic resistant bugs bred on the farm end up on your dinner plate.  A journalist tells the story of the 1950s fad of “acronizing” poultry; the act of dipping it in an antibiotic bath so it can sit longer on a refrigerator shelf.

Plus, some ways we can avoid a post-antibiotic era. The steps one farm took to make their chickens antibiotic free… and resurrecting an old therapy: enlisting viruses to target and destroy multi-drug resistant bacteria.  Set your “phages” to stun.

Guests:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 02/12/2018

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

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Big Picture Science for Nov 19, 2018 - Space Rocks!












Big Picture Science - Space Rocks!

It’s not a bird or a plane, and probably not an alien spaceship, although the jury’s still deliberating that one.  Some astronomers have proposed that an oddly-shaped object that recently passed through our Solar System could be an alien artifact. We consider the E.T. explanation for ‘Oumuamua, but also other reasons asteroids are invigorating our imagination.  Are these orbiting rocks key to our future as a spacefaring species?

Find out why traditional incentives for human exploration of space – such as political rivalry –aren’t igniting our rockets the way they once did, but why the potentially trillions of dollars to be made mining asteroids might.

These small bodies may also hold the key to our ancient past: the New Horizons flyby of Thule in early 2019 will provide an historic look at a distant Kuiper belt object, and provide clues about the formation of the Solar System.

Guests:
  • Roger Launius – Former associate director of the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian and chief historian for NASA
  • J. L.Galache – Asteroid astronomer and co-founder and CTO of Aten Engineering
  • Mark Showalter – Planetary scientist and Senior Research Scientist at the SETI Institute and a member of the New Horizons team
  • Avi Loeb – Professor of Science at Harvard and chair of the Department of Astronomy
Download podcast at: http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/space-rocks

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, November 11, 2018

Big Picture Science for Nov 12, 2018 - Skeptic Check: Science Denial












Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Science Denial

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:

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, November 04, 2018

Big Picture Science for Nov 05, 2018 - Rerouting... Rerouting












Big Picture Science - Rerouting... Rerouting

(REPEAT)  Lost your sense of direction?  Blame your GPS. Scientists say that our reliance on dashboard devices is eroding our ability to create cognitive maps and is messing with our minds in general. We don’t even look at landmarks or the landscape anymore.  We’ve become no more than interfaces between our GPS and our steering wheels.

But in other ways, GPS can spark a new appreciation of the physical world. A real-time flyover app reveals the stunning geological features otherwise invisible from our window seat.

And sensitive electronic sensors let us see where the wild things are and where they go.  Learn how scientists put belts on jellyfish and produce maps that reveal the surprising routes taken by various species – from a single wolf, a group of phytoplankton, or a float of crocodiles.

Plus, one man is not ready to say goodbye to the traditional map.  Find out why this cartographer insists on paper maps, not digital apps.

Guests:

This repeat podcast was previously released on12/18/2017

Download podcast at: http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/rerouting-rerouting

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 28, 2018

Big Picture Science for Oct 29, 2018 - You've Got Whale













Big Picture Science - You've Got Whale

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

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.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Big Picture Science for Oct 22, 2018 - Air Apparent












Big Picture Science - Air Apparent

(Repeat)  Whether you yawn, gasp, sniff, snore, or sigh, you’re availing yourself of our very special atmosphere.   It’s easy to take this invisible chemical cocktail for granted, but it’s not only essential to your existence: it unites you and every other life form on the planet, dead or alive.  The next breath you take likely includes molecules exhaled by Julius Caesar or Eleanor Roosevelt.

And for some animals, air is an information superhighway.  Dogs navigate with their noses.  Their sniffing snouts help them to identify their owners, detect trace amounts of drugs, and even sense some diseases.  Find out what a dog’s nose knows, and why no amount of bathing and dousing in perfume can mask your personal smelliness.

Plus, why your own schnoz is key to not only enjoying a fine Bordeaux, but to survival of our species.

Guests:

This repeat podcast first aired on 12/04/2017

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, October 14, 2018

Big Picture Science for Oct 15, 2018 - DNA is Not Destiny












Big Picture Science - DNA is Not Destiny

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:

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.


**Podcast will be made available this coming Monday at - http://bigpicturescience.org/