Big Picture Science

By SETI Institute

SHOW DESCRIPTION

Big Picture Science weaves together a universe of big ideas – from robots to memory to antimatter to dinosaurs. Tune in and make contact with science. We broadcast and podcast every week. bigpicturescience.org


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472 ratings


EPISODES LIST

Skeptic Check: Science Breaking Bad

(repeat) The scientific method is tried and true. It has led us to a reliable understanding of things from basic physics to biomedicine.  So yes, we can rely on the scientific method.  The fallible humans behind the research, not so much.  And politicians?  Don’t get us started.  Remember when one brought a snowball to the Senate floor to “prove” that global warming was a hoax?  Oy vey. We talk to authors about new books that seem to cast a skeptical eye on the scientific method… but that are really throwing shade on the ambitious labcoat-draped humans who heat the beakers and publish the papers … as well as the pinstriped politicians who twist science to win votes. Find out why the hyper-competitive pursuit of results that are “amazing” and “incredible” is undermining medical science … how a scientific breakthrough can turn into a societal scourge (heroin as miracle cure) … and what happens when civil servants play the role of citizen scientists on CSPAN. Guests: Richard Harris - NPR science correspondent, author of Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions.  Paul Offit - Professor of pediatrics, attending physician, Division of Infectious Diseases, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, author of Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong. Dave Levitan - Science journalist, author of Not a Scientist; How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent and Utterly Mangle Science.  

12.10.2018
12.03.2018
11.26.2018
11.19.2018

Skeptic Check: Science Denial

Climate change isn’t happening.  Vaccines make you sick.  When it comes to threats to public or environmental health, a surprisingly large fraction of the population still denies the consensus of scientific evidence.  But it’s not the first time – many people long resisted the evidentiary link between HIV and AIDS and smoking with lung cancer. There’s a sense that science denialism is on the rise.  It prompted a gathering of scientists and historians in New York City to discuss the problem, which included a debate on the usefulness of the word “denial” itself.  Big Picture Science was there. We report from the Science Denial symposium held jointly by the New York Academy of Sciences and Rutgers Global Health Institute.  Find out why so many people dig in their heels and distrust scientific findings.  Plus, the techniques wielded by special interest groups to dispute some inconvenient truths.  We also hear how simply stating more facts may be the wrong approach to combating scientific resistance. Guests: Melanie Brickman Borchard - Director of Life Sciences Conferences at New York Academy of Sciences Nancy Tomes - professor of history at Stony Brook University Allan Brandt - professor of history of science and medicine at Harvard University. Author of “The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America” Sheila Jasanoff - Director of Program on Science, Technology and Society and professor of environment, science and technology at Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University Michael Dahlstrom - Associate Director of Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, and associate professor at Iowa State University Matthew Nisbet - professor of communication and public policy at Northeastern University Arthur (Art) Caplan - professor and founding head of medical ethics at NYU School of Medicine

11.12.2018

Rerouting... Rerouting

(Repeat) Lost your sense of direction?  Blame your GPS. Scientists say that our reliance on dashboard devices is eroding our ability to create cognitive maps and is messing with our minds in general. We don’t even look at landmarks or the landscape anymore.  We’ve become no more than interfaces between our GPS and our steering wheels. But in other ways, GPS can spark a new appreciation of the physical world. A real-time flyover app reveals the stunning geological features otherwise invisible from our window seat.  And sensitive electronic sensors let us see where the wild things are and where they go.  Learn how scientists put belts on jellyfish and produce maps that reveal the surprising routes taken by various species – from a single wolf, a group of phytoplankton, or a float of crocodiles. Plus, one man is not ready to say goodbye to the traditional map.  Find out why this cartographer insists on paper maps, not digital apps.  Guests: Julia Frankenstein– Cognitive scientist, Darmstadt Technical University, Germany Greg Milner– Journalist, author of “Pinpoint: How GPS is Changing Technology, Culture, and our Minds”  Amy Myrbo– Earth scientist, University of Minnesota Oliver Uberti– Graphic artist and former senior design editor at National Geographic   James Cheshire– Geographer, University College London.  Co-author, along with Oliver Uberti, of “Where The Animals Go: Tracking Wildlife with Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics.” Tom Hedberg– Mapmaker and publisher at Hedberg Maps in Minneapolis, Minnesota 

11.05.2018
10.29.2018
10.28.2018
10.22.2018
10.15.2018
10.08.2018

Wonder Women

(Repeat) We’re hearing about harassment of, and barriers to, women seeking careers in politics and entertainment. But what about science? Science is supposed to be uniquely merit-based and objective. And yet the data say otherwise. A new study reveals widespread harassment of women of color in space science.  We look at the role that a hostile work environment plays in keeping women from pursuing scientific careers. While more women than ever are holding jobs in science, the percentage in tech and computer science has flattened out or even dropped.  A memo from a software engineer at an Internet giant claims it’s because female brains aren’t suited for tech. Find out what the science says. Plus, women staring down discrimination. One woman’s reaction to her guidance counselor’s suggestion that she skip calculus and have babies. And SACNAS, the organization changing the face of science for Latina and Native American women.   Guests: Jill Tarter - Astronomer, founding member of the SETI Institute, and member of the SETI Institute Board of Trustees.  She is the subject of a biography by writer Sarah Scoles: “Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.”  Angela Saini – Journalist and author of “Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong” Kathryn Clancy – Associate professor of anthropology, University of Illinois Antonia Franco – Executive director, Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS)

10.01.2018
09.24.2018

DNA: Nature's Hard Drive

(Repeat) The biotech tool CRISPR lets us do more than shuffle genes.  Researchers have embedded an animated GIF into a living organism’s DNA, proving that the molecule is a great repository for information.  This has encouraged speculation that DNA could be used by aliens to send messages.  Meanwhile, nature has seized on this powerful storage system in surprising ways.  Scientists have learned that the 98% of our genome – once dismissed as “junk” – contains valuable genetic treasure. Find out what project ENCODE is learning about the “dark genome.” Plus, how viruses became the original stealth coders, inserting their DNA into ancient bacteria and eventually leading to the development of CRISPR technology.  Discover the potential of this powerful tool, from curing disease to making pig organs transplant-friendly, and the possible dark side of quick-and-easy gene editing.   Guests: Paul Davies- Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University Yin Shen- Assistant professor, Department of Neurology, Institute for Human Genetics, University of California – San Francisco, member of ENCODE team  Sam Sternberg- Assistant professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University, and co-author of “A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution”   Hank Greely- Director, Center for Law and the Biosciences; Chair of the Steering Committee of the Center for Biomedical Ethics; and Director, Stanford Program in Neuroscience and Society

09.17.2018
09.10.2018
09.03.2018

New Water Worlds

The seas are rising.   It’s no longer a rarity to see kayakers paddling through downtown Miami.  By century’s end, the oceans could be anywhere from 2 to 6 feet higher, threatening millions of people and property.  But humans once knew how to adapt to rising waters.  As high water threatens to drown our cities, can we learn do it again. Hear stories of threatened land: submerged Florida suburbs, the original sunken city (Venice), and the U.S. East Coast, where anthropologists rush to catalogue thousands of low-lying historical and cultural sites in harm’s way, including Jamestown, Virginia and ancient Native American sites.   But also, stories of ancient adaptability: from the First American tribes of the Colusa in South Florida to the ice age inhabitants of Doggerland.  And, modern approaches to staying dry: stilt houses, seawalls, and floating cities. Guests: Jeff Goodell– Journalist and author of “The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World” Brian Fagan– Archaeologist and Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of California Santa Barbara, and author of many books including “The Attacking Ocean: the Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels”  David Anderson– Professor of Anthropology, University of Tennessee.  His team’s PLOS ONE paper is “Sea-level rise and archaeological site destruction.” His DINAA site can be used to generate maps of where people were living in the past, up to ca. 15,000 years ago.  

08.27.2018
08.20.2018
08.13.2018
08.06.2018
07.30.2018
07.23.2018
07.16.2018
07.09.2018
07.02.2018
06.25.2018
06.18.2018

Skeptic Check: Flat Earth

The Earth is not round.  Technically, it’s an oblate spheroid.  But for some people, the first statement is not even approximately correct.  Flat Earthers believe that our planet resembles – not a slightly squashed grapefruit – but a thick pancake.   A journalist who covered a Flat Earth convention describes the rationale behind this ever-more popular belief.  So how do you establish science truth?  We look at the difference between a truly scientific examination of extraordinary claims and approaches that feel and look science-y but aren’t.   Find out how one man will use telescopes and balloons in the desert to demonstrate that the Earth is a globe, while a biologist runs a test on the waters of Loch Ness to see if it contains prehistoric reptile DNA. And what happens when amateur investigators chase ghosts, UFOs, and Bigfoot with science instruments, but without an understanding of the scientific method. Guests: James Underdown– Executive Director of the Center for Inquiry in Los Angeles and of the Independent Investigations Group. The results of his experiment will be posted here. Alex Moshakis– Journalist who writes for the Observer, the Guardian, and Esquire.  His article on the U.K.’s first Flat Earth convention appeared in May, 2018 in the     Harry Dyer–  Lecturer in education at the University of East Anglia.  His article about the flat earth convention is titled "I Watched an Entire Flat Earth Convention for my Research, Here is What I Learned." Neil Gemmell– Professor in the Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, New Zealand Sharon Hill– Geologist, science writer, speaker, and author of "Scientifical Americans: The Culture of Amateur Paranormal Researchers."

06.11.2018

Imagining Planets

Pluto, we hardly knew ye.  Well, not anymore!  Until recently, Pluto and Mars were respectively the least-known and best-known planet-sized bodies in our Solar System.  Thanks to the New Horizons spacecraft, our picture of Pluto has changed from a featureless dot to a place where we can name the geologic features.  And with rovers and orbiters surveying the red planet, we now know much more about Mars than our parents ever did.  Examining our planetary backyard has provided insight into the trillion other planets in our galaxy. Dive into a mountain lake and trek though the driest desert on Earth with a scientist who’s had not one but two near-fatal incidents in these extreme environments. Find out what questions compel her to keep returning. And scientists on the New Horizons mission remember why the nail-biting Pluto flyby almost failed at the last minute. Find out what surprises Pluto offered and what the mission might uncover as it heads to its next, outer solar-system target. Also, from Earth-like planets to super Earths and water worlds: a tour of some of Kepler’s most intriguing extrasolar planets. Guests: Nathalie Cabrol- Planetary scientist at the SETI Institute. Alan Stern- Principal Investigator for NASA’s New Horizon mission, and co-author with David Grinspoon of “Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto.” David Grinspoon- Senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, and co-author with Alan Stern of “Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto.” Jack Lissauer- Space scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center.

06.04.2018
05.28.2018
05.21.2018
05.14.2018
05.07.2018
04.30.2018
04.23.2018
04.16.2018
04.09.2018

Hawkingravity

Stephen Hawking felt gravity’s pull.  His quest to understand this feeble force spanned his career, and he was the first to realize that black holes actually disappear – slowly losing the mass of everything they swallow in a dull, evaporative glow called Hawking radiation.  But one of gravity’s deepest puzzles defied even his brilliant mind.  How can we connect theories of gravity on the large scale to what happens on the very small?  The Theory of Everything remains one of the great challenges to physicists. Also, the latest on deciphering the weirdness of black holes and why the gravitational wave detector LIGO has added colliding neutron stars to its roster of successes. Plus, a fellow physicist describes Dr. Hawking’s extraordinary deductive abilities and what it was like to collaborate with him.  And, a surprise awaits Molly when she meets a local string theorist to discuss his search for the Theory of Everything. Guests: Leonard Mlodinow– physicist and author of “The Grand Design” with Stephen Hawking, and most recently, “Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change.”  Janna Levin– Physicist and astronomer, Barnard College, Columbia University, and the author of, “Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space.”  Richard Camuccio– Graduate research assistant at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy, a LIGO collaborator.  Wahltyn Rattray – Grad-student, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy. Raphael Bousso– Physicist, Berkeley Center for Theoretical Physics, University of California-Berkeley.   

04.02.2018
03.26.2018
03.19.2018
03.12.2018
03.05.2018
02.26.2018
02.19.2018
01.29.2018
01.22.2018
01.15.2018
01.08.2018
01.01.2018
12.25.2017
Big Picture Science Podcast

LAST EPISODE

Skeptic Check: Science Brea...

12.10.2018

(repeat) The scientific method is tried and true. It has led us to a reliable understanding of things from basic physics to biomedicine. So yes, we can rely on the scientific method. The fallible humans behind the research, not so ...