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Big Picture Science

Science Podcasts

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.

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.

Location:

Mountain View, CA

Description:

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.

Twitter:

@BiPiSci

Language:

English

Contact:

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


Episodes

DecodeHer [rebroadcast]

2/27/2020
They were pioneers in their fields, yet their names are scarcely known – because they didn’t have a Y chromosome. We examine the accomplishments of two women who pioneered code breaking and astronomy during the early years of the twentieth century and did so in the face of social opprobrium and a frequently hostile work environment. Henrietta Leavitt measured the brightnesses of thousands of stars and discovered a way to gauge the distances to galaxies, a development that soon led to the...

Duration:00:50:30

AI: Where Does it End?

2/24/2020
The benefits of artificial intelligence are manifest and manifold, but can we recognize the drawbacks … and avoid them in time? In this episode, recorded before a live audience at the Seattle meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, we discuss who is making the ethical decisions about how we use this powerful technology, and a proposal to create a Hippocratic Oath for AI researchers. Guests: Oren EtzioniMark Hill -

Duration:00:51:20

Climate Changed

2/17/2020
Have you adapted to the changing climate? Rising waters, more destructive wildfires, record-breaking heatwaves. Scientists have long predicted these events, but reporting on climate change has moved from prediction to description. There’s no time for dwelling on “we should haves.” Communities and organizations are being forced to adapt. Find out what that means, the role of the new “resilience officers,” and the unique response of Native American cultures. Plus, is the coronavirus outbreak...

Duration:00:51:32

Frogs' Pants (Rebroadcast)

2/10/2020
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...

Duration:00:51:21

Skeptic Check: Science Denial (rebroadcast)

2/3/2020
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,...

Duration:00:51:00

A Twist of Slime

1/27/2020
Your daily mucus output is most impressive. Teaspoons or measuring cups can’t capture its entire volume. Find out how much your body churns out and why you can’t live without the viscous stuff. But slime in general is remarkable. Whether coating the bellies of slithery creatures, sleeking the surface of aquatic plants, or dripping from your nose, its protective qualities make it one of the great inventions of biology. Join us as we venture to the land of ooze! Guests: Christopher...

Duration:00:51:00

The Ears Have It

1/20/2020
What’s the difference between a bird call and the sound of a pile driver? Not much, when you’re close to the loudest bird ever. Find out when it pays to be noisy and when noise can worsen your health. Just about everyone eventually suffers some hearing loss, but that’s not merely aging. It’s an ailment we inflict on ourselves. Hear how a team in New York City has put sensors throughout the city to catalog noise sources, hoping to tame the tumult. And can underwater speakers blasting the...

Duration:00:51:00

Perpetual Emotion Machine [rebroadcast]

1/13/2020
Get ready for compassionate computers that feel your pain, share your joy, and generally get where you’re coming from. Computers that can tell by your voice whether you’re pumped up or feeling down, or sense changes in heart rate, skin, or muscle tension to determine your mood. Empathetic electronics that you can relate to. But wait a minute – we don’t always relate to other humans. Our behavior can be impulsive and even self-sabotaging – our emotions are often conflicted and irrational. We...

Duration:00:50:30

Your Brain's Reins [rebroadcast]

1/6/2020
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...

Duration:00:50:30

Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself [rebroadcast]

12/30/2019
Do we still need doctors? There are umpteen alternative sources of medical advice, including endless and heartfelt health tips from people without medical degrees. Frankly, self-diagnosis with a health app is easier and cheaper than a trip to a clinic. Since we’re urged to be our own health advocate and seek second opinions, why not ask Alexa or consult with a celebrity about what ails us? Find out if you can trust these alternative medical advice platforms. Plus, lessons from an AIDS...

Duration:00:51:24

Handling the Holidays

12/23/2019
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:00:53:46

Waste Not

12/16/2019
Why create more landfill? Perhaps you should resist the urge to toss those old sneakers, the broken ceiling fan, or last year’s smart phone. Instead, repurpose them! Global junk entrepreneurs are leading the way in turning trash to treasure, while right-to-repair advocates fight for legislation that would give you a decent shot at fixing your own electronic devices. And, if you toss food scraps down the drain as you cook, are you contributing to a “fatberg” horror in the...

Duration:00:52:32

Shell on Earth

12/9/2019
(repeat) We all may retreat to our protective shells, but evolution has perfected the calcite variety to give some critters permanent defense against predators. So why did squids and octopuses lose their shells? Find out what these cephalopods gained by giving up the shell game. Plus why Chesapeake Bay oyster shells are shells of their former selves. What explains the absence of the dinner-plate sized oysters of 500,000 years ago, and how conservation paleobiology is probing deep time for...

Duration:00:51:35

Yule Like This

12/2/2019
(repeat) Fir tree needles embedded in carpet are a holiday headache. Why not decorate a genetically-modified, needle-retaining tree instead? It’s just another way that science is relevant to the holidays. We have more. How about science experiments on fruitcake? There’s a competition that includes launching it with a pneumatic device, running a heavy electric current though it, or blasting it with a blowtorch. Meanwhile, physics provides insight into those tricky how-does-he-do-it questions...

Duration:00:51:34

Skeptic Check: Betting on Pseudoscience

11/25/2019
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

Stopping Ebola

11/18/2019
A new vaccine may help turn Ebola into a disease we can prevent, and a new drug may make it one we can cure. But the political crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo has fueled violence against health workers and Ebola treatment centers. Find out why context matters in the efforts to stop Ebola, what new drugs and vaccines are on the horizon, and whether the world is prepared for the next infectious pandemic. Even if Ebola’s threat is diminishing, what about the next pandemic? Is the...

Duration:00:52:44

Radical Cosmology

11/11/2019
(repeat) 400 years ago, some ideas about the cosmos were too scandalous to mention. When the Dominican friar Giordano Bruno suggested that planets existed outside our Solar System, the Catholic Inquisition had him arrested, jailed, and burned at the stake for heresy. Today, we have evidence of thousands of planets orbiting other stars. Our discovery of extrasolar planets has dramatically changed ideas about the possibility for life elsewhere in the universe. Modern theories about the...

Duration:00:52:36

Supercomputer Showdown

11/4/2019
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:00:52:36

Skeptic Check: Rational Lampoon

10/28/2019
(repeat) 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...

Duration:00:50:30

Nobel Efforts

10/21/2019
For two Swiss astronomers, it’s “Stockholm, here we come.” Their first-ever discovery of a planet orbiting another star has been awarded the most prestigious prize in science. Find out how their exoplanet discovery led to 4,000 more and how that changes the odds of finding life beyond Earth. Also, the Nobel committee is not alone in finding distant worlds inspirational: a musician is translating their orbital signatures into sound. Guests: Roy Gould - Universe in CreationJeffrey Smith -...

Duration:00:51:21