Monday, July 16, 2018

Big Picture Science for July 16, 2018 - On Thin Ice













Big Picture Science - On Thin Ice

ENCORE: 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 encore podcast was first released on 08/14///2017

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

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Big Picture Science for July 09, 2018 - What Goes Around












Big Picture Science - What Goes Around

ENCORE: It’s not just tin cans and newspapers.  One man says that, from a technical standpoint, everything can be recycled – cigarette butts, yoga mats, dirty diapers.  Even radioactive waste.  You name it, we can recycle it.  But we choose not to.  Find out why we don’t, and how we could do more.

Plus, a solar-powered device that pulls water from the air – even desert air.

And, something upon which life depends that seems dirt cheap, but can’t be replenished: soil.  What happens when we pave over this living resource? 

Guests:
  • Tom Szaky - CEO and founder of Terracycle.
  • Eugene Kapustin - Graduate student, Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley.
  • Etienne Schneider - Deputy Prime Minister and Economic Minister, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
  • Pete Worden - Chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and former Director, NASA Ames Research Center.
  • Paul Bogard - Assistant professor of English, James Madison University, author of, “The Ground Beneath Us: From the Oldest Cities to the Last Wilderness, What Dirt Tells Us About Who We Are.”  His op-ed about lawns, “Beyond Blades of Grass,” appeared in the June 16, 2017 New York Times.

This encore podcast was first released on 07/24/2018

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/what-goes-around

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 01, 2018

Big Picture Science for July 02, 2018 - Frogs' Pants












Big Picture Science - Frogs' Pants

ENCORE:
It’s one of the most bizarre biological experiments ever. In the 18th century, a scientist fitted a pair of tailor-made briefs on a male frog to determine the animal’s contribution to reproduction.  The process of gestation was a mystery and scientists had some odd-ball theories.

Today, a 5th grader can tell you how babies are made, but we still don’t know exactly what life is.  In our quest to understand, we’re still at the frogs’ pants stage.

Find out why conception took centuries to figure out. Also, why the 1970s Viking experiments, specifically designed to detect life on Mars, couldn’t give us a definitive answer.  Plus, can knowing where life isn’t help define what it is?  Take a tour of the world’s barren places. 

Guests:

This encore podcast was first released on 07/10/2017

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/frogs-pants

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 24, 2018

Big Picture Science for June 25, 2018 - Free Range Dinosaurs












Big Picture Science - Free Range Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs are once again stomping and snorting their way across the screen of your local movie theater.  But these beefy beasts stole the show long before CGI brought them back in the Jurassic Park blockbusters.  Dinosaurs had global dominance for the better part of 165 million years. Compare that with a measly 56 million years of primate activity. We bow to our evolutionary overlords in this episode.

Our conversation about these thunderous lizards roams freely as we talk with the paleontologist who discovered Dreadnoughtus – the largest land lizard unearthed to date.  Kenneth Lacovara asks that we please stop using the term “dinosaur” to refer to something outmoded, when in fact the dinos were among the most well-adapted, long-lived creatures ever.

Plus, intriguing dino facts: if you like eating chicken, you like eating dinosaurs, and how T-Rex’s puny arms helped him survive.

Also, with dozens of new species unearthed every year – nearly one a week – why we’ve entered the golden age of dinosaur discovery.

Guest:
  • Kenneth Lacovara – Paleontologist who unearthed the largest land dinosaur known: Dreadnoughtus.  He is also founding dean of the School of Earth and Environment at Rowan University, director of the Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park, and author of “Why Dinosaurs Matter.”

Download this podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/free-range-dinosaurs

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.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Big Picture Science for June 18, 2018 - Perpetual Emotion Machine












Big Picture Science - Perpetual Emotion Machine

ENCORE
: Get ready for compassionate computers that feel your pain, share your joy, and generally get where you’re coming from.  Computers that can tell by your voice whether you’re pumped up or feeling down, or sense changes in heart rate, skin, or muscle tension to determine your mood.  Empathetic electronics that you can relate to.

But wait a minute – we don’t always relate to other humans.  Our behavior can be impulsive and even self-sabotaging – our emotions are often conflicted and irrational.   We cry when we’re happy.  Frown when we’re pensive.  A suite of factors, much of them out of our control, govern how we behave, from genes to hormones to childhood experience.

One study says that all it takes for a defendant to receive a harsher sentence is a reduction in the presiding judge’s blood sugar.
So grab a cookie, and find out how the heck we can build computers that understand us anyway.

Guests:

This encore podcast was first released on  6/19/2017

Download this podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/perpetual-emotion-machine

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 10, 2018

Big Picture Science for June 11, 2018 - Skeptic Check: Flat Earth













Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Flat Earth

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:

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.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Big Picture Science for June 04, 2018 - Imagining Planets












Big Picture Science - Imagining Planets

Pluto, we hardly knew ye.  Well, not anymore!  Until recently, Pluto and Mars were respectively the least-known and best-known planet-sized bodies in our Solar System.  Thanks to the New Horizons spacecraft, our picture of Pluto has changed from a featureless dot to a place where we can name the geologic features.  And with rovers and orbiters surveying the red planet, we now know much more about Mars than our parents ever did.  Examining our planetary backyard has provided insight into the trillion other planets in our galaxy.

Dive into a mountain lake and trek though the driest desert on Earth with a scientist who’s had not one but two near-fatal incidents in these extreme environments. Find out what questions compel her to keep returning.

And scientists on the New Horizons mission remember why the nail-biting Pluto flyby almost failed at the last minute. Find out what surprises Pluto offered and what the mission might uncover as it heads to its next, outer solar-system target.

Also, from Earth-like planets to super Earths and water worlds: a tour of some of Kepler’s most intriguing extrasolar planets.

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/imagining-planets

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 27, 2018

Big Picture Science for May 28, 2018 - Time on Your Side












Big Picture Science - Time on Your Side

ENCORE:  Time passes like an arrow, but what if it flew like a boomerang?  Scientists are learning how to reverse time’s most relentless march: aging.  But before we rewind time, let’s try to define it, because there’s plenty of debate about just what time is – a fundamental component of the universe or a construct of our consciousness?

Find out why, even though pondering the future may cause heartburn, mental time travel has an evolutionary survival advantage.

Plus, your brain as a clock; why “brain age” may be more accurate than chronological age in determining lifespan.

And while a million-dollar monetary prize hopes to inspire researchers to crack the aging code, one group claims they already have.  By reprogramming special genes, they’ve reversed the biological clocks in mice.  Find out when human trials begin.

Guests:
  • Dean Buonomano – Neurobiologist and psychologist at UCLA and author of “Your Brain is a Time Machine
  • James Cole – Postdoc studying neuroanatomy, Imperial College London
  • Joon Yun – Radiologist, head of Palo Alto Investors and creator and sponsor of the Palo Alto Longevity prize
  • Pradeep Reddy – Research Scientist at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California

This encore podcast was first released on  05/08/2017

You can download this podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/time-your-side

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 20, 2018

Big Picture Science for May 21, 2018 - Your Brain's Reins












Big Picture Science - Your Brain's Reins

ENCORE: You are your brain.  But what happens when your brain changes for the worse – either by physical injury or experience?  Are you still responsible for your actions?

We hear how the case of a New York man charged with murder was one of the first to introduce neuroscience as evidence in court.  Plus, how technology hooks us – a young man so addicted to video games, he lacked social skills, or even a desire to eat.  Find out how technology designers conspire against his digital detox.

Also, even if your brain is intact and your only task is choosing a sock color, are you really in control?  How your unconscious directs even mundane behavior … and how you can outwit it.

Guests:

This encore podcast was first released on  04/10/2017

Podcast will be made available 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, May 13, 2018

Big Picture Science for May 14, 2018 - You Are Exposed












Big Picture Science - You Are Exposed

There’s no place like “ome.”  Your microbiome is highly influential in determining your health.  But it’s not the only “ome” doing so.  Your exposome – environmental exposure over a lifetime – also plays a role.

Hear how scientists hope to calculate your entire exposome, from food to air pollution to water contamination.

Plus, new research on the role that microbes play in the development of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, and the hot debate about when microbes first colonize the body.  Could a fetus have its own microbiome?

Also, choose your friends wisely: studies of microbe-swapping gazelles reveal the benefits – and the downsides – of being social.

And, why sensors on future toilets will let you do microbiome analysis with every flush.

Guests:
  • Rob Knight – Professor of Pediatrics, Computer Science and Engineering, and Director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at the University of California, San Diego
  • Vanessa Ezenwa – Ecologist at the University of Georgia
  • Indira Mysorekar – Microbiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri
  • Gary Miller – Professor of public health at the Rollins School of Public Health and director of the HERCULES Exposome Research Center at Emory University. After August 2018, his lab will be at Columbia University.

You can download this podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/you-are-exposed

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 06, 2018

Big Picture Science for May 07, 2018 - We Are VR












Big Picture Science - We Are VR

Will virtual reality make you a better person?  It’s been touted as the “ultimate empathy machine,” and one that will connect people who are otherwise emotionally and physically isolated.  The promise of the technology has come a long way since BiPiSci last took a VR tour.  Find out why researchers say virtual reality is no longer an exclusive club for gamers, but a powerful tool to build community.

Seth puts on a VR headset for an immersive experience of a man who’s evicted from his apartment.  Find out why researchers say the experience creates empathy and sparks activism to address homelessness.

Also, why our spouses will love our avatars as much as they do us, the dark side of VR as a space for unchecked harassment, and consider: what if you’re already living a simulation created by your brain?

Guests:
  • Peter Rubin – Editor for Wired, author of “Future Presence: How Virtual reality is Changing Human Connection, Intimacy, and the Limits of Ordinary Life”
  • Jeremy Bailenson – Professor of Communication at Stanford University, founding director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab, and author of “Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do”
  • Carolina Cruz-Neira – Director of the Emerging Analytics Center at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock
  • Thomas Metzinger – Philosopher of Mind and Cognitive Science, at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany

You can download this podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/we-are-vr

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, April 29, 2018

Big Picture Science for April 30, 2018 - What Have You Got To Move












Big Picture Science - What Have You Got To Move

ENCORE: Whether they swim, slither, jump, or fly, animal locomotion is more than just an urge to roam: it’s necessary for survival.  Evolution has come up with ingenious schemes to get from here to there.  Hear how backbones evolved as a consequence of fish needing to wag their fins, and why no animals have wheels.

Motion is more than locomotion. Test the physics of movement in your kitchen and find out what popping corn has in common with the first steam engine.

And while physics insists that atoms are always moving, find how what happens to these basic building blocks when placed in the coldest spot in the universe.  The Cold Atom Laboratory chills material to nearly absolute zero, creating some weird superfluid effects as atoms slow down.

Guests:

This encore podcast was first released on 03/13/2017

Podcast will be made available 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, April 22, 2018

Big Picture Science for April 23, 2018 - High Moon












Big Picture Science - High Moon

“The moon or bust” is now officially bust.  No private company was able to meet the Lunar X Prize challenge, and arrange for a launch by the 2018 deadline.  The $30 million award goes unclaimed, but the race to the moon is still on. Find out who wants to go and why this is not your parents’ – or grandparents’ – space race.

With or without a cash incentive, private companies are still eyeing our cratered companion, hoping to set hardware down on its dusty surface.  Meanwhile, while the U.S. waffles about a return to the moon, India and China are sending a second round of robots skyward.  And a proposed orbiting laboratory – the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway – may literally put scientists over, and around, the moon.

The moon continues to entice sci-fi writers, and Andy Weir’s new novel describes a vibrant lunar colony. Its premise of colonists launched from Kenya is not entirely fiction: the nation is one of many in Africa with space programs.

Guests:
  • Andy Weir – Author of “The Martian” and, most recently, “Artemis”
  • Allen Herbert – Vice President of Business Development and Strategy for NanoRacks, LLC and author of an article about emerging space programs in Africa
  • Greg Schmidt – Deputy director of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute at NASA Ames Research Center
  • Jason Crusan – NASA Director of Advanced Exploration Systems for Human Space Flight

Download podcast at -http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/high-moon

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, April 15, 2018

Big Picture Science for April 16, 2018 - Skeptic Check: Political Scientist












Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Political Scientist

Hundreds of thousands of scientists took to the streets during the March for Science.  The divisive political climate has spurred some scientists to deeper political engagement – publicly challenging lawmakers and even running for office themselves.   But the scientist-slash-activist model itself is contested, even by some of their colleagues.

Find out how science and politics have been historically intertwined, what motivates scientists to get involved, and the possible benefits and harm of doing so. Is objectivity damaged when scientists advocate?

Plus, how Michael Mann became a reluctant activist, whether his “street fighter” approach is effective in defending climate science, and the price he and his family paid for speaking out.

Also, how the organization 314 Action is helping a record number of scientists run for Congress.  But will the group support only Democratic contenders?

Guests:
  • Robert Young – Geologist, Western Carolina University
  • Douglas Haynes – Historian of medicine and science, University of California, Irvine
  • Michael Mann – Professor, atmospheric science, Director, Earth System Science Center, Penn State University
  • Shaugnessy Naughton – Founder and President, 314 Action
  • Alex Berezow – Senior fellow of biomedical science at the American Council on Science and Health

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/skeptic-check-political-scientist

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, April 08, 2018

Big Picture Science for April 09, 2018 - Brain Dust












Big Picture Science - Brain Dust

ENCORE: Know your brain?  Think again.  Driven by a hidden agenda, powered by an indecipherable web of neurons, and influenced by other brains, your grey matter is a black box.

To "know thyself" may be a challenge, and free will nonexistent, but maybe more technology can shed light on the goings on in your noggin, and the rest of your body.

Find out how tiny implanted sensors called “brain dust” may reveal what really going on.

Plus, the day when your brain is uploaded into a computer as ones and zeros.  Will you still be you?

Guests:

This encore podcast was first released on 12/5/2018

Downlad podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/brain-dust

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.