Sunday, July 29, 2018

Big Picture Science for July 30, 2018 - It's In Material












Big Picture Science - It's In Material

ENCORE: Astronauts are made of the “right stuff,” but what about their spacesuits?   NASA’s pressurized and helmeted onesies are remarkable, but they need updating if we’re to boldly go into deep space.   Suiting up on Mars requires more manual flexibility, for example.  Find out what innovative materials might be used to reboot the suit.

Meanwhile, strange new materials are in the pipeline for use on terra firma: spider silk is kicking off the development of biological materials that are inspiring ultra-strong, economical, and entirely new fabrics.  And, while flesh-eating bacteria may seem like an unlikely ally in materials science, your doctor might reach for them one day.  The bacterium’s proteins are the inspiration for a medical molecular superglue.

Plus, an overview of more innovative materials to come, from those that are 3D printed to self-healing concrete.

Guests:

This encore podcast was first released on 10/02/2018

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/its-in-material

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 22, 2018

Big Picture Science for July 23, 2018 - Identity Crisis












Big Picture Science - Identity Crisis

DNA is the gold standard of identification.  Except when it’s not.  In rare cases when a person has two complete sets of DNA, that person’s identity may be up in the air.  Meanwhile, DNA ancestry tests are proving frustratingly vague: dishing up generalities about where you came from rather than anything specific.  And decoding a genome is still relatively expensive and time-consuming.   So, while we refine our ability to work with DNA, the search is on for a quick and easy biomarker test to tell us who we are.

In this hour: the story of chimeras – people who have two sets of DNA; a reporter whose ancestry tests revealed she is related to Napoleon and Marie Antoinette; and the eyes have it in Somaliland, the first nation to use iris scans in an election.  Find out why your irises may be what ultimately distinguishes you from the crowd.

Guests:

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

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 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.