Sunday, January 31, 2016

Big Picture Science for Monday February 01, 2016 - Skeptic Check: Glutenous Maximus


Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Glutenous Maximus

Eat dark chocolate.  Don’t drink coffee.  Go gluten-free.  If you ask people for diet advice, you’ll get a dozen different stories.  Ideas about what’s good for us sprout up faster than alfalfa plants (which are still healthy … we think).  How can you tell if the latest is fact or fad?

We’ll help you decide, and show you how to think skeptically about popular trends.  One example: a study showing that gluten-free diets didn’t ease digestive problems in athletes.  Also, medical researchers test whether wearable devices succeed in getting us off the couch and a nutritionist explains how things got so confusing.

Plus, why part of our confusion may be language.  Find out why one cook says that no foods are “healthy,” not even kale.

It’s Skeptic Check … but don’t take our word for it!

  • Dana Lis - Sports dietician, PhD student, University of Tasmania
  • Michael Ruhlman - Cook, author of many books about cooking as well as the recent trio of novellas, In Short Measures
  • Beth Skwarecki - Freelance health and science writer, nutrition teacher
  • Mitesh Patel - Assistant professor of medicine, Perlman School of Medicine, Assistant Professor of Health Care Management, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

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You can listen to this and other episodes at, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cosmic Rays in Earth's Atmosphere are Intensifying

Source - Space Weather News for Jan. 27, 2016:

COSMIC RAYS IN THE ATMOSPHERE: Newly-released measurements by high-altitude balloons show that cosmic rays in Earth's atmosphere are intensifying.  The ongoing increase, which has been tracked since early 2015, will likely accelerate in the months and years ahead as the solar cycle swings away from Solar Max. This result is of interest to everyone from mountain climbers and air travelers to operators of high-altitude drones. Visit for more information.

MORNING SKY SHOW: The five brightest planets in the solar system have lined up in the morning sky for a naked-eye display of rare beauty.  In a few days, the Moon will begin to hop from planet to planet, acting as a helpful guide to novice sky watchers. 

Check for dates and sky maps.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Big Picture Science for Monday January 25, 2016 - Replace What Ails You

Big Picture Science - Replace What Ails You

ENCORE: Germs can make us sick, but we didn’t know about these puny pathogens prior to the end of the 19th century. Just the suggestion that a tiny bug could spread disease made eyes roll. Then came germ theory, sterilization, and antibiotics. It was a revolution in medicine. Now we’re on the cusp of another one.

This time we may cure what ails us by replacing what ails us.

Bioengineers use advancements in stem cell therapy to grow red and white cells for human blood. Meanwhile, a breakthrough in 3D printing: scientists print blood vessels and say that human organs may be next.

Plus, implanting electronic grids to repair neural pathways. Future prosthetics wired to the brain may allow paralyzed limbs to move.

We begin with the story of the scientist who discovered the bacteria that caused tuberculosis, and the famous author who revealed that his cure for TB was a sham.


This encore podcast was first released in July 2014

Download episode at:

You can listen to this and other episodes at, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A New 9th Planet Beyond Pluto?

Source - Space Weather News for Jan. 20, 2016:

A 9TH PLANET BEYOND PLUTO? Today, planetary scientists from Caltech announced intriguing new evidence for a Neptune-sized planet orbiting the sun beyond Pluto.  The planet itself has not yet been seen, but its gravitational influence on other objects in the outer solar system may lead to its discovery. Visit for more information.

SOLAR ECLIPSE BALLOON NETWORK: and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have developed a balloon payload that can photograph solar eclipses from the stratosphere. This sets the stage for an ambitious experiment: We plan to launch more than a dozen balloons into the path of totality of the Great American Eclipse in August 2017 to create a unique video portrait of an eclipse sweeping across the USA. Visit today's edition of to learn more about the Solar Eclipse Balloon Network and how you can get involved.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Big Picture Science for Monday January 18, 2016 - Winging It

Big Picture Science - Winging It

Ask anyone what extraordinary powers they’d love to have, and you’re sure to hear “be able to fly.”  We’ve kind of scratched that itch with airplanes.  But have we gone as far as we can go, or are better flying machines in our future?  And whatever happened to our collective dream of flying cars?   We look at the evolution - and the future - of flight.

Animals and insects have taught us a lot about the mechanics of becoming airborne.  But surprises remain.  For example, bats may flit around eccentrically, but they are actually more efficient fliers than birds.

Meanwhile, new technology may change aviation when self-healing material repairs structural cracks in mid-flight.   And a scientist who worked on flying cars for DARPA says he’s now working on the next best thing.


Download episode at:

You can listen to this and other episodes at, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Comet Catalina's Closest Approach to Earth

Source - Space Weather News for Jan 17, 2016:

COMET CATALINA: This weekend, Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) is making its closest approach to Earth, only 67 million miles away. The beautiful green comet is only barely visible to the naked eye, but it is an easy target for backyard telescopes and digital cameras as it passes through the handle of the Big Dipper. Visit for photos and finder charts.

MINOR STORM WARNING: NOAA forecasters say there is a 45% chance of minor geomagnetic storms on Jan. 19th when a CME is expected to sideswipe Earth's magnetic field.  Aurora alerts are available from (text) and (voice).

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Big Picture Science for Monday January 11, 2016 - Apt to Adapt

Big Picture Science - Apt to Adapt

ENCORE: If you move with the times, you might stick around long enough to pass on your genes. And that is adaptation and evolution, in a nutshell.

But humans are changing their environment faster than their genes can keep pace. This has led to a slew of diseases – from backache to diabetes – according to one evolutionary biologist. And our technology may not get us out of the climate mess we’ve created. So just how good are we at adapting to the world around us?

Find out as you also discover why you should run barefoot … the history of rising tides … why one dedicated environmentalist has thrown in the towel … and an answer to the mystery of why Hawaiian crickets suddenly stopped chirping.


This encore podcast was first released on June 11, 2014

Download episode at:

You can listen to this and other episodes at, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Big Picture Science for Monday January 4, 2016 - A Stellar Job

Big Picture Science - A Stellar Job

ENCORE: The stars are out tonight. And they do more than just twinkle. These boiling balls of hot plasma can tell us something about other celestial phenomena. They betray the hiding places of black holes, for one. But they can also fool us. Find out why one of the most intriguing discoveries in astrobiology – that of the potentially habitable exoplanet Gliese 581g – may have been just a mirage.

Plus, the highest levels of ultraviolet light ever mentioned on Earth’s surface puzzles scientists: is it a fluke of nature, or something manmade?

And a physicist suggests that stars could be used by advanced aliens to send hailing signals deep into space.

  • Paul Robertson – Postdoctoral fellow, Penn State Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds
  • Mike Joner – Research professor of astronomy at Brigham Young University
  • Nathalie Cabrol – Planetary scientist, SETI Institute\
  • Anthony Zee – Theoretical physicist at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara

This encore podcast was first released on July 23, 2014

Download episode

You can listen to this and other episodes at, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Shattered comet sparks weekend meteor shower

Source - Space Weather News for Jan. 3, 2016:

QUADRANTID METEOR SHOWER:  Earth is about to pass through a narrow stream of debris from shattered comet 2003 EH1, source of the annual Quadrantid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Monday morning, Jan. 4th during the hours around 3 a.m. ET (0800 UT). The timing favors observers in North America who could see dozens of meteors per hour flowing from a radiant near the North Star. Visit for more information.

GEOMAGNETIC STORM POSSIBLE ON JAN. 3-4:  NOAA analysts say a CME is heading toward Earth and could deliver a glancing blow to our planet's magnetic field during the next 24 hours. The impact is expected to spark minor to moderate geomagnetic storms on Jan. 3rd and 4th.  Aurora alerts are available from

Friday, January 01, 2016

First Auroras of 2016

Source - Space Weather News for Jan. 1, 2016:

FIRST AURORAS OF THE NEW YEAR: A CME strike on New Year's Eve has sparked a moderately strong geomagnetic storm (happening now) and the first auroras of  2016. High-latitude sky watchers are reporting bright auroras in both hemispheres as Earth moves through the strongly magnetized wake of the CME.  NOAA forecasters say there is a 75% chance that the storms will continue through Jan. 1st, subsiding to 45% on Jan. 2nd. 

Visit for images and updates.