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Big Picture Science

Science Podcasts

The surprising connections in science and technology that give you the Big Picture. Astronomer Seth Shostak and science journalist Molly Bentley are joined each week by leading researchers, techies, and journalists to provide a smart and humorous take on science. Our regular "Skeptic Check" episodes cast a critical eye on pseudoscience.

The surprising connections in science and technology that give you the Big Picture. Astronomer Seth Shostak and science journalist Molly Bentley are joined each week by leading researchers, techies, and journalists to provide a smart and humorous take on science. Our regular "Skeptic Check" episodes cast a critical eye on pseudoscience.

Location:

Mountain View, CA

Description:

The surprising connections in science and technology that give you the Big Picture. Astronomer Seth Shostak and science journalist Molly Bentley are joined each week by leading researchers, techies, and journalists to provide a smart and humorous take on science. Our regular "Skeptic Check" episodes cast a critical eye on pseudoscience.

Twitter:

@BiPiSci

Language:

English

Contact:

SETI Institute 189 Bernardo Ave, Suite 100 Mountain View, CA 94043 510-644-2669


Episodes

Skeptic Check: Shared Reality

1/25/2021
One of the many shocking aspects of the Capitol attack was that it revealed how thoroughly the nation had cleaved into alternate realities. How did we get to this point? How did misinformation come to create beliefs embraced by millions? In this episode, experts in social media, cults, and the history of science join us for a discussion about how these alternative realities formed, why people are drawn to them, and the benefits of a shared reality. Guests: Joan Donovanthe Technology and...

Duration:00:53:52

Supercomputer Showdown (rebroadcast)

1/18/2021
Do you have a hard-to-answer question? The Summit, Sierra, Trinity, Frontier, and Aurora supercomputers are built to tackle it. Summit tops the petaflop heap – at least for now. But Frontier and Aurora are catching up as they take aim at a new performance benchmark called exascale. So why do we need all this processing power? From climate modeling to personalized medicine, find out why the super-est computers are necessary to answer our biggest questions. But is the dark horse candidate,...

Duration:00:50:30

Skeptic Check: Betting on Pseudoscience (rebroadcast)

1/11/2021
Psychics may not be able to predict the future or sense your thoughts. Nonetheless, they rake in hundreds of millions of dollars every year. But the harm from pseudoscience can go far beyond your wallet – especially when it promotes unscientific treatments for serious disease. Find out what alarming discovery led one naturopath to quit her practice and why scientific ignorance is not bliss. It’s our regular look at critical thinking, but don’t take our word for it. Guests: Robert Palmer –...

Duration:00:50:30

Headed for Trouble (rebroadcast)

1/4/2021
The stone heads on Easter Island are an enduring mystery: why were they built and why were they abandoned and destroyed? The old ideas about cultural collapse are yielding to new ones based on careful investigation on the ground - but also from above. What surprising explanations have we found and are we off base to think that ancient societies such as the Easter Islanders or the classical Egyptians were, in the end, failures? Can what we learn from these histories help predict which...

Duration:00:50:30

For Good Measure (rebroadcast)

12/28/2020
The reign of Le Grand K has come to an end. After 130 years, this hunk of metal sitting in a Parisian vault will no longer define the kilogram. The new kilogram mass will be defined by Planck’s constant, joining three other units for redefinition by fundamental constants. But as we measure with increasing precision – from cesium atomic clocks to gravity waves 1000th the width of a proton – is something fundamental lost along the way? Meanwhile, the BiPiSci team accepts the banana-measurement...

Duration:00:50:50

Handling the Holidays (rebroadcast)

12/21/2020
The stress of the holidays can make you want to hide under the covers with a warm cup of cocoa. From gift buying to family gatherings, the holidays can feel like being inside a pressure cooker. But don’t despair! Science can help make the holidays a little brighter, from some gift-giving tips from our animal friends to embracing pessimism before a challenging social event to stopping that annoying merry melody on repeat in your head. Guests: Adam SouthMitch RatcliffeJulie NoremThe Positive...

Duration:00:50:49

Fire Clouds and Ice-teroids

12/14/2020
Small bodies will hit the big time next year; a sample return from asteroid Bennu and the launch of both the DART and Lucy missions could unravel puzzles about the formation of the solar system, as well teach us how to deflect any asteroids headed our way. Meanwhile, the Juno mission to Jupiter has shown us its hard-to-study poles, where swirling gas and magnetic fields rule. On Earth, warmer temperatures threaten peat bog biodiversity and the structure of the Arctic. And massive wildfires...

Duration:00:55:35

Skeptic Check: Shroom with a View

12/7/2020
Magic mushrooms – or psilocybin - may be associated with tripping hippies and Woodstock, but they are now being studied as new treatments for depression and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Is this Age of Aquarius medicine or something that could really work? Plus, the centuries-long use of psychedelics by indigenous peoples, and a discovery in California’s Pinwheel Cave offers new clues about the relationship between hallucinogens and cave art. Guests: Merlin Sheldrake -...

Duration:00:56:08

Bare Bones

11/30/2020
You may not feel that your skeleton does very much. But without it you’d be a limp bag of protoplasm, unable to move. And while you may regard bones as rigid and inert, they are living tissue. Bones are also time capsules, preserving much of your personal history. Find out how evolutionary biologists, forensic anthropologists, and even radiation scientists read them. And why won’t your dog stop gnawing on that bone? Guests: Brian SwitekSkeleton Keys: the Secret Life of BoneAnn...

Duration:00:52:44

Into the Deep

11/23/2020
Have you ever heard worms arguing? Deep-sea scientists use hydrophones to eavesdrop on “mouth-fighting worms.” It’s one of the many ways scientists are trying to catalog the diversity of the deep oceans — estimated to be comparable to a rainforest. But the clock is ticking. While vast expanses of the deep sea are still unexplored, mining companies are ready with dredging vehicles to strip mine the seafloor, potentially destroying rare and vulnerable ecosystems. Are we willing to eradicate...

Duration:00:51:08

Sex Post Facto (rebroadcast)

11/16/2020
Birds do it, bees do it, but humans may not do it for much longer. At least not for having children. Relying on sex to reproduce could be supplanted by making babies in the lab, where parents-to-be can select genomes that will ensure ideal physical and behavioral traits. Men hoping to be fathers should act sooner rather than later. These same advancements in biotechnology could allow women to fertilize their own eggs, making the need for male sperm obsolete. Meanwhile, some animals already...

Duration:00:54:10

Time Travel Agents (rebroadcast)

11/9/2020
Hey, let’s meet last week for coffee. Okay, we can’t meet in the past… yet. But could it be only a matter of time before we can? In an attempt to defy the grandfather paradox, scientists try sending a photon back in time to destroy itself. Also, find out how teleportation allows particles to instantaneously skip through space-time and why sending humans wouldn’t violate the laws of physics. But before you pack your bags for that instantaneous trip to Paris, we need to understand the nature...

Duration:00:53:36

The Other Living World (rebroadcast)

11/2/2020
Reason for hope is just one thing that ecologist Carl Safina can offer. He understands why many of us turn to nature to find solace during this stressful time. Safina studies the challenges facing the ultimate survival of many species, but also gives a portrait of animals from their point of view. He describes how diverse animals such as sperm whales, bear cubs, macaws, and chickens deal with uncertainty, and assert their quirky individuality while learning to become part of a community. So...

Duration:00:53:35

Skeptic Check: Stay Skeptical

10/26/2020
Whether you call it hooey, codswallop, or malarky, misinformation is not what it used to be. It’s harder to spot now. New-school BS is often cloaked in the trappings of math, science, and statistics. Can you identify which tweets about a new COVID study are fraudulent? Plus, deceptive on-line advertisements that relentlessly beg for our attention. All in all, it’s a jungle out there. We have tips for getting through it. Guests: Carl Bergstrom – Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a...

Duration:00:53:53

What's a Few Degrees?

10/19/2020
Brace yourself for heatwave “Lucifer.” Dangerous deadly heatwaves may soon be so common that we give them names, just like hurricanes. This is one of the dramatic consequences of just a few degrees rise in average temperatures. Also coming: Massive heat “blobs” that form in the oceans and damage marine life, and powerful windstorms called “derechos” pummeling the Midwest. Plus, are fungal pathogens adapting to hotter temperatures and breaching the 98.6 F thermal barrier that keeps them...

Duration:00:53:52

Geology is Destiny (rebroadcast)

10/12/2020
The record of the rocks is not just the history of Earth; it’s your history too. Geologists can learn about events going back billions of years that influenced – and even made possible – our present-day existence and shaped our society. If the last Ice Age had been a bit warmer, the rivers and lakes of the Midwest would have been much farther north and the U.S. might still be a small country of 13 states. If some Mediterranean islands hadn’t twisted a bit, no roads would have led to...

Duration:00:53:48

Talk the Walk

10/5/2020
Birds and bees do it … and so do fish. In a discovery that highlights the adaptive benefits of walking, scientists have discovered fish that can walk on land. Not fin-flap their bodies, mind you, but ambulate like reptiles. And speaking of which, new research shows that T Rex, the biggest reptile of them all, wasn’t a sprinter, but could be an efficient hunter by outwalking its prey. Find out the advantage of legging it, and how human bipedalism stacks up. Not only is walking good for our...

Duration:00:52:37

Mycology Education

9/28/2020
Beneath our feet is a living network just as complex and extensive as the root systems in a forest. Fungi, which evolved in the oceans, were among the first to colonize the barren continents more than a half-billion years ago. They paved the way for land plants, animals, and (eventually) you. Think beyond penicillin and pizza, and take a moment to consider these amazing organisms. Able to survive every major extinction, essential as Nature’s decomposers, and the basis of both ale and...

Duration:00:53:07

Hubble and Beyond

9/21/2020
The universe is not just expanding; it’s accelerating. Supermassive black holes are hunkered down at the center of our galaxy and just about every other galaxy, too. We talk about these and other big discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope, now in orbit for 30 years. But two new next-generation telescopes will soon be joining Hubble: the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. Hear what cosmic puzzles they’ll address. Plus, life in a clean room while wearing...

Duration:00:52:38

Life on Venus?

9/14/2020
Have scientists found evidence of life on Venus? Known for its scorching temperatures and acidic atmosphere, Earth’s twin hardly seems a promising place for living things. But could a discovery of phosphine by researchers at MIT point to a high-altitude biosphere on this nearby world? Guests: Clara Sousa–SilvaPhosphine as a Biosignature Gas in Exoplanet Atmospheres Sara SeagerThe Smallest Lights in the UniverseNathalie CabrolDavid GrinspoonEarth in Human Hands

Duration:00:52:00