Sunday, April 30, 2017

Big Picture Science for May 01, 2017 - Eve of Disruption

Big Picture Science - Eve of Disruption

ENCORE: Only two of the following three creations have had lasting scientific or cultural impact:  The telescope … the Sistine Chapel ceiling … the electric banana.  Find out why one didn’t make the cut as a game-changer, and why certain eras and places produce a remarkable flowering of creativity (we’re looking at you, Athens).

Plus, Yogi Berra found it difficult to make predictions, especially about the future, but we try anyway.  A technology expert says he’s identified the next Silicon Valley.  Hint: its focus is on genetic – not computer – code and its language in the lab is Mandarin.

We got the past and the future covered.  Where’s innovation now?  We leave that to the biohackers who are remaking the human body one sensory organ at a time.  Are you ready for eye-socket cameras and mind readers?


This encore podcast was first released on: 2/22/2016

Download podcast 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, April 23, 2017

Geomagnetic Storms Continue

Source - Space Weather News for April 23, 2017:

GEOMAGNETIC STORMS CONTINUE: Following on the heels of Saturday's unexpected CME impact, our planet is now moving into a stream of high speed (700 km/s) solar wind. This is re-energizing geomagnetic activity around Earth's poles. NOAA forecasters say there is an 80% chance of geomagnetic storms on April 23rd subsiding to 'only' 60% to 65% on April 24th and 25th. High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras in the nights ahead. In the USA, Northern Lights might be seen and photographed in northern-tier states from Washington to Maine. Southern Lights are also being reported by observers in high-latitude regions of New Zealand.

Visit for photos and updates.

Big Picture Science for April 24, 2017 - Spacecraft Elegy

Big Picture Science - Spacecraft Elegy

Exploration: It’s exciting, it’s novel, and you can’t always count on a round-trip ticket.  You can boldly go, but you might not come back.  That’s no showstopper for robotic explorers, though.  Spacecraft go everywhere.

While humans have traveled no farther than the moon, our mechanical proxies are climbing a mountain on Mars, visiting an ice ball far beyond Pluto, plunging through the rings of Saturn, and landing on a comet.  Oh, and did we mention they’re also bringing rock and roll to the denizens of deep space, in case they wish to listen.

We consider some of the most daring explorers since the 16th century – made of metal and plastic - venturing to places where no one else could go.  What have they done, what are they doing, and at what point do they declare “mission accomplished” and head for that great spacecraft graveyard in the sky?


Download postcast 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.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Surprise! Earth Day Aurora Storm

Source - Space Weather News for April 22, 2017:

EARTH DAY AURORA STORM: Last night, Northern Lights descended into the United States as far south as Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington, kicking off an unexpected display of bright auroras for Earth Day. What happened?  A CME that was supposed to miss Earth apparently hit instead, surprising forecasters. Geomagnetic storms are still underway as April 22nd unfolds; high-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for midnight auroras on April 22-23. Visit for updates.

WEEKEND METEOR SHOWER: The auroras tonight may be spiced by an occasional flash of light.  Earth is entering a stream of debris from Comet Thatcher, source of the annual Lyrid meteor shower. Dark sky observers could see 10 to 20 shooting stars per hour shooting out of the constellation Lyra.  Sky maps and observing tips @

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Massive Explosion on the Sun

Source - Space Weather News for April 19, 2017:

OLD SUNSPOT RETURNS, EXPLODES: Old sunspot AR2644 has returned following a 2-week trip around the backside of the sun--and it is still active. During the late hours of April 18th, the sunspot's magnetic canopy exploded, producing a C5-class solar flare and hurling a spectacularly bright coronal mass ejection (CME) into space. The massive cloud of hot plasma will almost certainly miss Earth, but future explosions could be geoeffective as the sunspot turns toward our planet. Visit for more information and updates.

CHANCE OF MAGNETIC STORMS: NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on April 19th and 20th when a high-speed stream of solar wind is due to reach our planet. This could spark bright Northern Lights in the waxing spring twilight around the Arctic Circle. Monitor the aurora gallery for sightings.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Big Picture Science for April 17, 2017 - Skeptic Check: Glutenous Maximus

Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Glutenous Maximus

ENCORE:  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

This encore podcast was first released on: 02/01/2016

Download postcast 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, April 12, 2017

Easter Storm? A CME Might Sideswipe Earth This Weekend

Source - Space Weather News for April 12, 2017:

GLANCING-BLOW CME: A magnetic filament on the sun exploded on April 9th, hurling a gaseous coronal mass ejection (CME) into space. The bulk of the CME will miss Earth; nevertheless a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field is possible this weekend. The impact, if it occurs, could cause magnetic disturbances and auroras around our planet's poles.

Visit today's edition of to view a movie of the instigating explosion and for updates as the CME approaches.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Big Picture Science for April 10, 2017 - Your Brain's Reins

Big Picture Science - Your Brain's Reins

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.


Download podcast 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.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Red ELVEs Sighted over Europe

Source - Space Weather News for April 6, 2017:

RED ELVEs OVER EUROPE: The season for exotic lightning is underway.  On April 2nd, a photographer in central Europe photographed a ring-shaped 'ELVE' hovering above the countryside of the Czech republic.  The luminous ring, measuring 300 km in diameter and located ~87 km above Earth's surface, circled the top of an unusually intense thunderstorm far below.  Red sprites danced around the circumference of the ELVE as the thunderhead shot pulses of electromagnetic radiation toward the edge of space. More of these upper atmospheric displays will surely be observed in the months ahead as spring and summer thunderstorms intensify. 

Visit today's edition of for more information.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Surprise: The Sun is Flaring Again

Source - Space Weather News for April 2, 2017:

THE SUN WAKES UP: Suddenly, solar flare activity is high. Following months of quiet with negligible flares, new sunspot AR2644 unleashed a series of M-class explosions on April 1st and 2nd. Each blast produced a shortwave radio blackout over a different part of our planet. The powerful explosions also sent beams of radio energy toward Earth, causing roars of static to issue from the loudspeakers of some shortwave receivers. Listen to a sample audio file on today's edition of, and stay tuned for more flares on April 3rd as the sunspot shows little sign of quieting.

Big Picture Science for April 03, 2017 - Winging It

Big Picture Science - Winging It

ENCORE: 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.


This encore podcast was first released on January 18, 2016

Download podcast 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.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Big Sunspot Faces Earth

Source - Space Weather News for April 1, 2017:

BIG SUNSPOT FACES EARTH: 2017 has been a year of few sunspots. That makes AR2645 even more remarkable. In recent days, the young sunspot has grown rapidly into a behemoth more than 150,000 km wide with a magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class (moderately strong) solar flares. Because it is directly facing Earth, any eruptions this weekend could partially ionize the top of our planet's atmosphere and alter the normal propagation of radio transmissions around the globe.

Visit to view a movie of the growing sunspot.