Big Picture Science show

Big Picture Science

Summary: Big Picture Science is a one-hour radio show and podcast that connects ideas in surprising and humorous ways to illuminate the origins and evolution of life and technology on this planet... and beyond.

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 Math's Days Are Numbered | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

Imagine a world without algebra. We can hear the sound of school children applauding. What practical use are parametric equations and polynomials, anyway? Even some scholars argue that algebra is the Latin of today, and should be dropped from the mandatory curriculum. But why stop there? Maybe we should do away with math classes altogether. An astronomer says he’d be out of work: we can all forget about understanding the origins of the universe, the cycles of the moon and how to communicate with alien life. Also, no math = no cybersecurity + hackers (who have taken math) will have the upper hand. Also, without mathematics, you’ll laugh < you do now. The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has peppered his animated show with hidden math jokes. And why mathematics = love. Guests: Andrew Hacker – Professor of political science and mathematics at Queens College, City University of New York. His article, “Is Algebra Necessary?”, appeared in The New York Times in 2012. Bob Berman – Astronomy editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the author of The Sun’s Heartbeat: And Other Stories from the Life of the Star That Powers Our Planet, and columnist for Astronomy Magazine. His article, “How Math Drives the Universe” is the cover story in the December 2013 issue. Simon Singh – Science writer, author of The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets Rob Manning – Flight system chief engineer at the Jet Propulsion Lab, responsible for NASA’s Curiosity rover Edward Frenkel – Professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, author of Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality. His article, “The Perils of Hacking Math,” is found on the online magazine, Slate. Descripción en español

 Skeptic Check: Science Blunders | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

ENCORE We’ve all had an “oops” moment. Scientists are no exception. Sometimes science stumbles in the steady march of progress. Find out why cold fusion is a premier example why you shouldn’t hold a press conference before publishing your results. Also, how to separate fumbles from faux-science from fraud. Plus, why ignorance is what really drives the scientific method. And our Hollywood skeptic poses as a psychic for Dr. Phil, while our Dr. Phil (Plait) investigates the authenticity of a life-bearing meteorite. Guests: Phil Plait – Skeptic and author of Slate Magazine’s blog Bad Astronomy Michael Gordin – Historian of science at Princeton University, author of The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe David Goodstein – Physicist, California Institute of Technology Stuart Firestein – Neuroscientist, chair of the biology department, Columbia University, and author of Ignorance: How It Drives Science Jim Underdown – Executive Director, Center for Inquiry, Los Angeles Descripción en español First released January 28, 2013.

 The Heat is On | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

After the winds and water of Typhoon Haiyan abated, grief and hunger swept though the Philippines, along with the outbreak of disease. Are monster storms the new normal in a warmer world? Some scientists say yes, and if so, climate change is already producing real effects on human life and health. A hotter planet will serve up casualties from natural disasters, but also higher rates of asthma, allergies and an increase in mosquito-borne diseases. It is, according to one researcher, the greatest challenge of our time, straining health care efforts worldwide. But could a “medical Marshall Plan” save us? Also, why the conservative estimates from the U.N.‘s climate change group don’t help people prepare for worst-case scenarios. And, a controversial approach to saving our overburdened planet: a serious limit on population growth. Guests: Jeff Masters – Meteorologist, Wunderground Linda Marsa – Investigative journalist, contributing editor at Discover, author of Fevered: Why a Hotter Planet Will Hurt Our Health — and how we can save ourselves Fred Pearce – Freelance author and journalist, environment consultant for New Scientist. His article, “Has the U.N. Climate Panel Outlived Its Usefulness?” appeared on the website Yale Environment 360 Alan Weisman – Author, Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? Descripción en español

 Life Back Then | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

ENCORE Time keeps on ticking, ticking … and as it does, evolution operates to produce remarkable changes in species. Wings may appear, tails disappear. Sea creatures drag themselves onto the shore and become landlubbers. But it’s not easy to grasp the expansive time scales involved in these transformative feats. Travel through millennia, back through mega and giga years, for a sense of what can occur over deep time, from the Cambrian Explosion to the age of the dinosaurs to the rise of Homo sapiens. Guests: Lorna O’Brien – Evolutionary biologist, University of Toronto Ivan Schwab – Professor of ophthalmology, University of California, Davis. His blog Don Henderson – Curator of dinosaurs, Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller, Canada Gregory Cochran – Physicist, anthropologist, University of Utah Todd Schlenke – Biologist, Emory University Descripción en español First released April 2, 2012

 Shutting Down Science | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

“Sorry, closed for business.” That sign hung on doors of national laboratories when the US government shut down. What that meant for one Antarctic researcher: her critically important work was left out in the cold. So just what do we lose when public funds for science fade? The tools for answering big questions about our universe for one, says a NASA scientist … while one of this year’s Nobel Prize winners fears that it is driving our young researchers to pursue their work overseas. Yet one scientist says public funding isn’t even necessary; privatizing science would be more productive. Plus, an award-winning public-private research project changes the way we use GPS … and a BBC reporter on the fate of international projects when Americans hang up their lab coats. Guests: Jill Mikucki – WISSARD principal investigator and a microbiologist at the University of Tennessee Max Bernstein – Lead for research at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate James Rothman – Professor and chairman of the department of cell biology at Yale University, recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Medicine Alexandre Bayen – Civil engineer and computer scientist, University of California, Berkeley Pat Michaels – Director for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute Roland Pease – BBC science reporter Descripción en español

 Skeptic Check: War of the Worlds | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

It was the most famous invasion that never happened. But Orson Welles’ 1938 “War of the Worlds” broadcast sure sounded convincing as it used news bulletins and eyewitness accounts to describe an existential Martian attack. The public panicked. Or did it? New research says that claims of mass hysteria were overblown. On the 75th anniversary of the broadcast: How the media manufactured descriptions of a fearful public and why – with our continued fondness for conspiracies – we could be hoodwinked again. Plus, journalism ethics in the age of social media. Can we tweet “Mars is attacking!” with impunity? And why we’re obsessed with the Red Planet. Guests: Michael Socolow – Associate professor of communication and journalism at the University of Maine Jesse Walker – Senior editor at Reason Magazineand author of The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory Katy Culver – Assistant professor at the school of journalism and mass communication at the University of Wisconsin, Madison Kevin Schindler – Outreach manager at the Lowell Observatory Descripción en español

 Emergence | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

Your brain is made up of cells. Each one does its own, cell thing. But remarkable behavior emerges when lots of them join up in the grey matter club. You are a conscious being – a single neuron isn’t. Find out about the counter-intuitive process known as emergence – when simple stuff develops complex forms and complex behavior – and all without a blueprint. Plus self-organization in the natural world, and how Darwinian evolution can be speeded up. Guests: Randy Schekman – Professor of molecular and cell biology, University of California, Berkeley, 2013 Nobel Prize-winner Steve Potter – Neurobiologist, biomedical engineer, Georgia Institute of Technology Terence Deacon – Biological anthropologist, University of California, Berkeley Simon DeDeo – Research fellow at the Santa Fe Institute Leslie Valiant – Computer scientist, Harvard University, author of Probably Approximately Correct: Nature’s Algorithms for Learning and Prospering in a Complex World Descripción en español

 You Say You Want an Evolution? | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

Imagine: Your pint-sized pup is descended from a line of predatory wolves. We have purposefully bred a new species – dogs – to live in harmony with us. But interactions between species, known as co-evolution, happen all the time, even without deliberate intervention. And it’s frequently a boon to survival: Without the symbiotic relationship we have with bugs in our gut, one that’s evolved with time, we wouldn’t exist. Discover the Bogart-and-Bacall-like relationships between bacteria and humans, and what we learn by seeing genes mutate in the lab, real time. Also, the dog-eat-dog debate about when canines were first domesticated, and how agriculture, hip-hop music, and technology can alter our DNA (eventually). Plus, why some of the fastest humans in history have hailed from one small area of a small Caribbean island. Is there a gene for that? Guests: Greger Larsen – Evolutionary biologist, department of archaeology, Durham University Peter Richerson – Professor emeritus, University of California, Davis, department of Environmental Science and Policy, author of Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution Dave van Ditmarsch – Biologist, post-doctoral researcher, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center David Epstein – Senior writer, Sports Illustrated, author of The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance Descripción en español

 Skeptic Check: Follywood Science | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

ENCORE The Day After. 2001. Prometheus. There are sci-fi films a’plenty … but how much science is in the fiction? We take the fact checkers to Hollywood to investigate the science behind everything from space travel to human cloning. Plus, guess what sci-fi film is the most scientifically accurate (hint: we’ve already mentioned it). Also, why messing with medical facts on film can be dangerous … and the inside scoop from a writer of one of television’s most successful sci-fi franchises. And, a robot who surpasses even Tinseltown’s lively imagination: a humanoid that may become a surrogate you. Guests: David Kirby – Senior lecturer in science communication studies at the University of Manchester in the U.K. and author of Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists, and Cinema Lucas Kavner – Reporter, Huffington Post, author of a piece on the rise of robot surrogates Wayne Grody – Medical geneticist, director of the DNA diagnostic Laboratory, UCLA Medical Center Andre Bormanis – Television writer and science consultant for Star Trek Descripción en español First released July 30, 2012.

 Catch a Wave | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

ENCORE Let there be light. Otherwise we couldn’t watch a sunset or YouTube. Yet what your eye sees is but a narrow band in the electromagnetic spectrum. Shorten those light waves and you get invisible gamma radiation. Lengthen them and tune into a radio broadcast. Discover what’s revealed about our universe as you travel along the electromagnetic spectrum. There’s the long of it: an ambitious goal to construct the world’s largest radio telescope array … and the short: a telescope that images high-energy gamma rays from black holes. Also, the structure of the universe as seen through X-ray eyes and a physicist sings the praises of infrared light. Literally. And, while gravity waves are not in the electromagnetic club, these ripples in spacetime could explain some of the biggest mysteries of the cosmos. But first, we have to catch them! Guests: Anil Ananthaswamy – Journalist and consultant for New Scientist in London Harvey Tananbaum – Director of the Chandra X-Ray Center, located in Cambridge Massachusetts at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory David Reitze – Executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), California Institute of Technology Albert Lazzarini – Deputy director, LIGO, California Institute of Technology Alan Marscher – Professor of astronomy at Boston University Descripción en español First released March 19, 2012

 Sounds Abound | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

The world is a noisy place. But now we have a better idea what the fuss is about. Not only can we record sound, but our computers allow us to analyze it. Bird sonograms reveal that our feathery friends give each other nicknames and share details about their emotional state. Meanwhile, hydrophones capture the sounds of dying icebergs, and let scientists separate natural sound from man-made in the briny deep. Plus, native Ohio speakers help decipher what Neil Armstrong really said on that famous day. And, think your collection of 45 rpm records is impressive? Try feasting your ears on sound recorded before the Civil War. Guests: Bob Dziak – Oceanographer, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon State University, Program Manager, Acoustics Program, NOAA Michael Porter – Senior scientist of H.L.S. Research, La Jolla, California Patrick Feaster – Sound media historian at Indiana University Laura Dilley – Assistant professor in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University Jenny Papka – Co-director of Native Bird Connections Michael Webster – Professor of neurobiology and behavior, director of the Macaulay Library, Cornell University Descripción en español

 Long Live Longevity | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

Here’s to a long life – which, on average, is longer today than it was a century ago. How much farther can we extend that ultimate finish line? Scientists are in hot pursuit of the secret to longer life. The latest in aging studies and why there’s a silver lining for the silver-haired set: older people are happier. Also, what longevity means if you’re a tree. Plus, why civilizations need to stick around if we’re to make contact with E.T. And, how our perception of time shifts as we age, and other tricks that clocks play on the mind. Guests: Ted Anton – Professor of English, DePaul University, Chicago, author of The Longevity Seekers: Science, Business, and the Fountain of Youth Laura Carstensen – Psychologist, Stanford University, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity Peter Crane – Botanist, dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental studies, Yale University, and author of Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot Frank Drake – Astronomer, SETI Institute Claudia Hammond – BBC broadcaster and author of Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception Descripción en español

 Rife with Life | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

ENCORE “Follow the water” is the mantra of those who search for life beyond Earth. Where there’s water, there may be life. Join us on a tour of watery solar system bodies that hold promise for biology. Dig beneath the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon Europa, and plunge into the jets of Enceladus, Saturn’s satellite. And let’s not forget the Red Planet. Mars is rusty and dusty, but it wasn’t always a world of dry dunes. Did life once thrive here? Also, the promise of life in the exotic hydrocarbon lakes of Titan. Science-fiction author Robert J. Sawyer joins us, and relates how these exotic outposts have prompted imaginative stories of alien life. Guests: Robert J. Sawyer – Hugo award-winning science fiction author Cynthia Phillips – Planetary geologist at the SETI Institute Alexander Hayes – Planetary scientist at the University of California, Berkeley Rachel Mastrapa – Planetary scientist for NASA and the SETI Institute Robert Lillis – Space and planetary scientist at the Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley Descripción en español First released February 27, 2012.

 Getting a Spacelift | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

ENCORE I need my space… but oh, how to get there? Whether it’s a mission to Mars or an ascent to an asteroid, we explore the hows of human spaceflight. Also, the whys, as in, why send humans to the final frontier if robots are cheaper? Neil deGrasse Tyson weighs in. Plus, the astronaut who lived on the ocean floor training for a visit to an asteroid. Also, the 100YSS – the 100 Year Starship project – and interstellar travel. And, as private rockets nip at NASA’s heels, meet one of the first tourists to purchase a (pricey) ticket-to-ride into space. Guests: Neil deGrasse Tyson – Astrophysicst, American Museum of Natural History, and author of Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier Shannon Walker – NASA astronaut Nathan J. Strange – Formulation system engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory C. C. Culver – Former NASA mission controller, and motivational speaker with International Stars. How to contact: Marc Millis – Physicist who has been NASA’s foremost expert on advanced propulsion concepts and founder of the Tau Zero Foundation Descripción en español First released February 6, 2012.

 Material Whirl | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

ENCORE What’s the world made of? Here’s a concrete answer: a lot of it is built from a dense, knee-scraping substance that is the most common man-made material. But while concrete may be here to stay, plenty of new materials will come our way in the 21st century. Discover the better, faster, stronger (okay, not faster) materials of the future, and Thomas Edison’s ill-conceived plan to turn concrete into furniture. Plus, printing objects in 3D… the development of artificial skin… and unearthing the scientific contributions of African-American women chemists. Guests: Darren Lipomi – Chemical Engineering post-doc, Stanford University’s “Skin Lab” Linda Schadler – Professor of materials science and engineering, and associate dean for academic affairs at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York Nicolas Weidinger – Research assistant at the Institute for the Future, Palo Alto, California Jeannette Elizabeth Brown – Retired research chemist; author of African American Women Chemists Robert Courland – Author of Concrete Planet: The Strange and Fascinating Story of the World’s Most Common Man-made Material Descripción en español First released January 30, 2012


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