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/

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Big Picture Science for Oct 08, 2018 - Creature Discomforts












Big Picture Science - Creature Discomforts

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:

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

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, September 30, 2018

Big Picture Science for Oct 01, 2018 - Wonder Women












Big Picture Science - Wonder Women

(Repeat) We’re hearing about harassment of, and barriers to, women seeking careers in politics and entertainment. But what about science? Science is supposed to be uniquely merit-based and objective. And yet the data say otherwise. A new study reveals widespread harassment of women of color in space science.

We look at the role that a hostile work environment plays in keeping women from pursuing scientific careers. While more women than ever are holding jobs in science, the percentage in tech and computer science has flattened out or even dropped.  A memo from a software engineer at an Internet giant claims it’s because female brains aren’t suited for tech. Find out what the science says.

Plus, women staring down discrimination. One woman’s reaction to her guidance counselor’s suggestion that she skip calculus and have babies. And SACNAS, the organization changing the face of science for Latina and Native American women.

Guests:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 11/20/2017

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

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/

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Big Picture Science for Sep 24, 2018 - Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself












Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself

Do we still need doctors?  There are umpteen alternative sources of medical advice, including endless and heartfelt health tips from people without medical degrees. Frankly, self-diagnosis with a health app is easier and cheaper than a trip to a clinic.   Since we’re urged to be our own health advocate and seek second opinions, why not ask Alexa or consult with a celebrity about what ails us?

Find out if you can trust these alternative medical advice platforms.  Plus, lessons from an AIDS fighter about ignoring the findings of medical science.

And, if AI can diagnose better than an MD, will we stop listening to doctors altogether?

It’s our monthly look at critical thinking … but don’t take our word for it!

Guests:

Download podcast at: http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/skeptic-check-heal-thyself

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, September 16, 2018

Big Picture Science for Sep 17, 2018 - DNA: Nature's Hard Drive












Big Picture Science - DNA: Nature's Hard Drive

The biotech tool CRISPR lets us do more than shuffle genes.  Researchers have embedded an animated GIF into a living organism’s DNA, proving that the molecule is a great repository for information.  This has encouraged speculation that DNA could be used by aliens to send messages.

Meanwhile, nature has seized on this powerful storage system in surprising ways.  Scientists have learned that the 98% of our genome – once dismissed as “junk” – contains valuable genetic treasure. Find out what project ENCODE is learning about the “dark genome.”

Plus, how viruses became the original stealth coders, inserting their DNA into ancient bacteria and eventually leading to the development of CRISPR technology.  Discover the potential of this powerful tool, from curing disease to making pig organs transplant-friendly, and the possible dark side of quick-and-easy gene editing.

Guests:
  • Paul Davies - Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University
  • Yin Shen - Assistant professor, Department of Neurology, Institute for Human Genetics, University of California – San Francisco, member of ENCODE team
  • Sam Sternberg - Assistant professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University, and co-author of “A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution
  • Hank Greely - Director, Center for Law and the Biosciences; Chair of the Steering Committee of the Center for Biomedical Ethics; and Director, Stanford Program in Neuroscience and Society

This repeat podcast was previously released on 11/06/2017

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, September 09, 2018

Big Picture Science for Sep 10, 2018 - Angles of a Hack












Big Picture Science - Angles of a Hack

(Repeat)
  Changed your computer password recently?  We all try to stay one step ahead of the hackers, but the fear factor is increasing.  The risks can range from stolen social security numbers to sabotaging a national power grid.

Sixty years ago, when hacking meant nosing around the telephone network, it seemed innocent enough.  And not all modern hacking has criminal intent.  Today, there are biohackers who experiment with implanted electronic devices to improve themselves, and geoengineers who propose to hack the climate.  But in our efforts to cool an overheated planet, might we be going down a dangerous path?

In this second of two episodes on hacking, the modern variations of “hacking,” and their consequences. Plus: when does hacking a system improve it?

Guests:

This repeat podcast was previously released on 9/18/2017

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/angles-of-a-hack

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 03, 2018

Big Picture Science for Sep 03, 2018 - Plan of a Hack












Big Picture Science - Plan of a Hack

(Repeat)  Long before cyber criminals were stealing ATM passwords, phone phreaks were tapping into the telephone system. Their motivation was not monetary, but the thrill of defeating a complex, invisible network. Today “hacking” can apply to cyberwarfare, biological tinkering, or even geoengineering. Often it has negative connotations, but the original definition of “hacking” was something else.

In this first of two episodes on hacking, we look at the original practitioners – the teenagers and mavericks who hacked Ma Bell for thrills - and the difference between hacking for fun and for profit. 
Guests:


This repeat podcast was first released on 09/11/2018

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

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 26, 2018

Big Picture Science for Aug 27, 2018 - New Water Worlds.












Big Picture Science - New Water Worlds
Podcast will be made available this coming Monday at - http://bigpicturescience.org/

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:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/new-water-worlds

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 19, 2018

Big Picture Science for Aug 20, 2018 - Too Big To Prove












Big Picture Science - Too Big To Prove

(Repeat) Celebrations are in order for the physicists who won the 2017 Nobel Prize, for the detection of gravitational waves.  But the road to Stockholm was not easy.  Unfolding over a century, it went from doubtful theory to daring experiments and even disrepute.  100 years is a major lag between a theory and its confirmation, and new ideas in physics may take even longer to prove.

Why it may be your great, great grandchildren who witness the confirmation of string theory.  Plus, the exciting insights that gravitational waves provide into the phenomena of our universe, beginning with black holes.

And, physics has evolved - shouldn’t its rewards?  A case for why the Nobel committee should honor collaborative groups rather than individuals, and the scientific breakthroughs it’s missed.

Guests:
  • Janna Levin - Physicist and astronomer at Barnard College at Columbia University, and the author of the story of LIGO, “Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space.”
  • Roland Pease - BBC reporter, producer, and host of “Science in Action.”
  • David Gross - Theoretical physicist, string theorist, University of California, Santa Barbara, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, winner, 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics.

This repeat podcast was first released on 10/16/2017

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/too-big-prove

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 12, 2018

Big Picture Science for Aug 13, 2018 - It's Habitable Forming












Big Picture Science - It's Habitable Forming

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
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.