Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Big Picture Science for June Aug 3, On Thin Ice














Big Picture Science - On Thin Ice

(Repeat) Water is essential for life – that we know. But the honeycomb lattice that forms when you chill it to zero degrees Celsius is also inexorably intertwined with life.

Ice is more than a repository for water that would otherwise raise sea levels. It’s part of Earth’s cooling system, a barrier preventing decaying organic matter from releasing methane gas, and a vault entombing ancient bacteria and other microbes.

From the Arctic to the Antarctic, global ice is disappearing. Find out what’s at stake as atmospheric CO2 threatens frozen H2O.

Guests:
  • Peter Wadhams - Emeritus Professor of Ocean Physics at Cambridge University in the U.K. and the author of A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic
  • Eric Rignot - Earth systems scientist, University of California, Irving, senior research scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • ├ůsmund Asdal - Biologist, Nordic Genetic Resource Center, coordinator for operations and management of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Svalbard, Norway
  • John Priscu - Polar biologist, Montana State University

This repeat podcast was previously released on August 14, 2017

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/on-thin-ice

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 27, 2020

Big Picture Science for June July 27, Skeptic Check: Know-It-Alls
















Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Know-It-All

Think you’re some kind of expert? Join the club. It’s one thing to question authority; another to offer up your untrained self as its replacement. Rebellion may be a cherished expression of American individualism, but, from sidelining Dr. Fauci to hiding public health data, find out what we lose when we silence health experts and “go with our gut” during a pandemic. Plus, from ancestors to algorithms: how we’ve replaced credentialed experts with sketchy web sites and social media posts.

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/skeptic-check-know-it-alls

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 26, 2020

Big Picture Science for June July 20, Something in the Air














Big Picture Science - Something in the Air

Inhale. Now exhale. Notice anything different? Our response to the virus is changing the air in unexpected ways. A pandemic-driven pause on travel has produced clear skies and a world-wide air quality experiment. And a new study reveals that hundreds of tons of microplastics are raining down on us each day.

But we can improve the quality of the breaths we do take; engineers have devised a high-tech mask that may kill coronavirus on contact. Plus, although you do it 25,000 times a day, you may not be breathing properly. Nose-breathing vs mouth breathing: getting the ins-and-outs of respiration.

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/something-in-the-air

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 June July 13, COVID Curiosities














Big Picture Science - COVID Curiosities

Some dogs and cats have become sick with COVID. But it’s not just domestic critters that are vulnerable: zoo animals have fallen ill too. There’s more strange news about the pandemic, for example scientists who track the coronavirus in our sewage, and computer models that show that flushing the toilet
can launch persistent, pathogenic plumes into the room. And scientists have warned the WHO that infectious virus remains airborne. Also, how a shortage of glass vials could delay the deployment of a vaccine.

Guests:
  • Yvette Johnson-Walker - Epidemiologist at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, and affiliate faculty with the University of Chicago Illinois School of Public Health.
  • Rolf Halden - Professor and Director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering at Arizona State University.
  • Bryan Bzdek - Chemist, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, U.K.
  • Megan Molteni - Staff writer, “Wired.”

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/covid-curiosities

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 June July 6, 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 February 5, 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, July 19, 2020

Big Picture Science for June 29, Animals Like Us













Big Picture Science - Animals Like Us

(Repeat) 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 repeat podcast was previously released on June 24, 2019

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/animals-like-us

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 22, 2020

Big Picture Science for June 22, 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:

This repeat podcast was previously released on July 22, 2019

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.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Big Picture Science for June 15, Skeptic Check: Data Bias













Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Data Bias

(Repeat) 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:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 09/02/2019

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.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Big Picture Science for June 8, Race and COVID













Big Picture Science - Race and COVID

While citizens take to the streets to protest racist violence, the pandemic has its own brutal inequities. Black, Latino, and Native American people are bearing the brunt of COVID illness and death. We look at the multitude of factors that contribute to this disparity, most of which existed long before the
pandemic. Also, how the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe maintained their coronavirus safeguards in defiance of the South Dakota governor. And, the biological reasons why we categorize one another by skin color.

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/race-and-covid

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 01, 2020

Big Picture Science for June 1, Soap, Skin, Sleep













Big Picture Science - Soap, Skin, Sleep

Some safeguards against COVID-19 don’t require a medical breakthrough. Catching sufficient Z’s makes for a healthy immune system. And, while you wash your hands for the umpteenth time, we'll explain how soap sends viruses down the drain. Plus, your body’s largest organ – skin – is your first line of defense against the pandemic and is also neglected because of it. Find out why we're suffering from "skin hunger" during this crisis.

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/soap-skin-sleep

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, May 25, 2020

Big Picture Science for May 25, Gained in Translation













Big Picture Science - Gained in Translation

(Repeat) Your virtual assistant is not without a sense of humor. Its repertoire includes the classic story involving a chicken and a road.  But will Alexa laugh at your jokes? Will she groan at your puns?

Telling jokes is one thing. Teaching a computer to recognize humor is another, because a clear definition of humor is lacking. But doing so is a step toward making more natural interactions with A.I.

Find out what’s involved in tickling A.I.’s funny bone. Also, an interstellar communication challenge: Despite debate about the wisdom of transmitting messages to space, one group sends radio signals to E.T. anyway. Find out how they crafted a non-verbal message and what it contained.

Plus, why using nuanced language to connive and scheme ultimately turned us into a more peaceful species. And yes, it’s all gouda: why melted cheese may be the cosmic message of peace we need.

Guests:

This repeat podcast was previously released on April 22, 2019

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/gained-in-translation

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, May 18, 2020

Big Picture Science for May 18, Vaccine, When?













Big Picture Science - Vaccine, When?

It will be the shot heard ‘round the world, once it comes.  But exactly when can we expect a COVID vaccine?  We discuss timelines, how it would work, who’s involved, and the role of human challenge trials.

Also, although he doesn’t consider himself brave, we do.  Meet a Seattle volunteer enrolled in the first coronavirus vaccine trial.  And, while we mount an elaborate defense against a formidable foe, scientists ask a surprising question: is a virus even alive?

Guests:
  • Nigel Brown – Emeritus Professor of Molecular Microbiology at the University of Edinburgh
  • Ian Haydon – Public information specialist at the University of Washington, Seattle
  • Bonnie Maldonado – Professor of Pediatrics and Infectious Diseases at the Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Paul Offit – Head of the Vaccine Education Center, and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/vaccine-when

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, May 11, 2020

Big Picture Science for May 11, To the Bat Cave













Big Picture Science - To the Bat Cave

To fight a pandemic, you need to first understand where a virus comes from. That quest takes disease ecologist Jon Epstein to gloomy caverns where bats hang out. There he checks up on hundreds of the animals as his team from the EcoHealth Alliance trace the origins of disease-causing viruses. But their important work is facing its own threat; the Trump administration recently terminated funding to the Alliance because of its collaboration with Chinese scientists.

Hear how Dr. Epstein finds the viruses, what kind of human activity triggers outbreaks, and how science counters the unsubstantiated claim that the virus escaped from a lab.

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/to-the-bat-cave

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 May 04, Is Life Inevitable?













Big Picture Science - Is Life Inevitable?

(Repeat) 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

This repeat podcast was previously released on May 13, 2019

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.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Big Picture Science for Apr 27, Skeptic Check: Covid Conspiracy













Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Covid Conspiracy

Nature abhors a vacuum, but conspiracy theorists love one. While we wait for scientists to nail down the how and why of the coronavirus, opportunists have jumped into the void, peddling DIY testing kits and fake COVID cures like colloidal silver. They’ve even cooked up full-blown conspiracy theories about a lab-grown virus. Find out why this crisis has dished up more than the usual share of misinformation and hucksterism, and how these interfere with our ability to navigate it safely.

Guests:
  • Whitney Phillips - Professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University, and author of three books, most recently You Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Polluted Information
  • Joan Donovan - Research director at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/skeptic-check-covid-conspiracy

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.