Sunday, July 30, 2017

Big Picture Science for July 31, 2017 - Caught in a Traps

Big Picture Science - Caught in a Traps

ENCORE: “Locked and loaded” is how one scientist recently described the San Andreas fault.  Find out when this famous west-coast rift might cause “the big one;” also, the state of early earthquake warning systems.
Plus, another sign of our planet’s unceasing turmoil: volcanos!  Could the eruption that produced the Deccan Traps, and not a rock from space, have been the nail in the coffin for the dinosaurs?  One seismologist shares new evidence about some suspicious timing.

And, the man who was the first to take the temperature of lava, established the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, and essentially pioneered the field of volcanology a century ago is nearly lost to history.  A scientist rescues fellow volcanologist Thomas Jagger from obscurity. 

This encore podcast was first released on 5/30/2016

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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, July 26, 2017

Space Lightning over Hawaii

Source - Space Weather News for July 26, 2017:

SPACE LIGHTNING OVER HAWAII: This week, automated cameras atop a dormant volcano in Hawaii captured rare footage of Gigantic Jets leaping up from a powerful thunderstorm. The strange-looking bolts reached toward the edge of space, delivering a surge of electricity to the top of Earth's atmosphere. These unusual forms of "space lightning" could become more common in the years ahead as declining solar activity allows more ionizing cosmic rays to penetrate Earth's atmosphere. Learn more on today's edition of

Gigantic Jet Lightning Near Hawaii

Taken by Frankie Lucena on July 24, 2017 @ Mauna Kea Observator
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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Big Picture Science for July 24, 2017 - What Goes Around

Big Picture Science - What Goes Around

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?

  • 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.

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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.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Big Picture Science for July 17, 2017 - Eclipsing All Other Shows

Big Picture Science - Eclipsing All Other Shows

They say that the experience of watching a total eclipse is so profound, you’re not the same afterward.  If life-changing events are your thing and you’re in the lower 48 states on August 21st, let us help you make the most of viewing the Great American Solar Eclipse.

Learn the basics of where to be and what to bring, even on short notice. No eclipse glasses?  Find out why a kitchen colander is an excellent Plan B.

Also, the strange behavior of animals and private jet pilots during an eclipse.  The latter is making the FAA sweat.

Plus, how 1878 eclipse fever inspired Thomas Edison and astronomer Maria Mitchell, and what was at stake for them scientifically.  And today, with astronauts able to view the Sun from space, what new science can we still learn by eclipse expeditions on Earth?

And, NASA turns up the heat on solar studies with a probe to within a hair’s breadth of the Sun.


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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.

CME Strike Sparks Geomagnetic Storms

Source - Space Weather News for July 16, 2017:

CME STRIKE SPARKS GEOMAGNETIC STORMS: Geomagnetic storms are underway on July 16th following a CME strike at 0545 UT. Auroras have been sighted in New Zealand as well as US states such as Washington and Wyoming. G1-class storms happening now could intensity to G2-class in the hours ahead as Earth moves into the CME's magnetized wake.

Visit for images and updates

Above: Auroras over Hoopers Inlet, Otago, New Zealand, on July 16, 2017. 
Photo credit: Ian Griffin

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Solar Activity Intensifies as Huge Sunspot Grows

Source - Space Weather News for July 9, 2017:

SOLAR ACTIVITY INTENSIFIES: Sunspot AR2665, which emerged just as few days ago, has mushroomed into a behemoth nearly as wide as the planet Jupiter. On July 9th the fast-growing sunspot produced an M-class solar flare and a short-lived shortwave radio blackout over east Asia and Australia. Stronger flares and Earth-directed CMEs may be in the offing as AR2665 turns toward our planet in the days ahead.

Visit for images, movies and updates.

Big Picture Science for July 10, 2017 - Frogs' Pants

Big Picture Science - Frogs' Pants

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.


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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.

Friday, July 07, 2017

A Big Sunspot is Turning Toward Earth

Source - Space Weather News for July 7, 2017:

BIG SUNSPOT TURNS TOWARD EARTH: A new and large sunspot is rapidly growing on the solar disk, temporarily arresting the sun's plunge into Solar Minimum. Stretching more than 70,000 km from end to end, the active region numbered AR2665 has more than doubled in size in 24 hours. This makes it an easy target for backyard solar telescopes. So far the growing sunspot has not produced any strong flares, but this could change if its rapid growth continues apace and destabilizes the sunspot's magnetic field.

Visit for movies and updates.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Big Picture Science for July 03, 2017 - Skeptic Check: Rational Lampoon

Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Rational Lampoon

Two heads may be better than one.  But what about three or more?  A new study shows that chimpanzees excel at complex tasks when they work in groups, and their accumulated knowledge can even be passed from one generation to the next.

But group-think also can be maladaptive.  When humans rely on knowledge that they assume other people possess, they can become less than rational.

Find out why one cognitive scientist says that individual thinking is a myth.  Most of your decisions are made in groups, and most derive from emotion, not rationality.

Also, why we know far less than we think we do.  For example, most people will say they understand how an everyday object like a zipper works, but draw a blank when asked to explain it.

Plus, why we have a biological drive to categorize people as “us” or “them,” and how we can override it.


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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.