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Big Picture Science

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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.
More Information

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

Geology is Destiny

1/15/2018
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ENCORE 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: 00:51:52


Are Animals Really That Smart?

1/8/2018
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ENCORE You own a cat, or is it vice versa? Family friendly felines have trained their owners to do their bidding. Thanks to a successful evolutionary adaptation, they rule your house. Find out how your cat has you wrapped around its paw. And it’s not the only animal to outwit us. Primatologist Frans de Waal shares the surprising intellectual capabilities of chimps, elephants, and bats. In fact, could it be that we’re simply not smart enough to see how smart animals are? Plus, the...

Duration: 00:50:30


Weather Vain

1/1/2018
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ENCORE Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it. Not that they haven’t tried. History is replete with attempts to control the weather, but we’d settle for an accurate seven-day forecast. Find out how sophisticated technology might improve accuracy, including predicting the behavior of severe storms. Plus, the age when “weather forecast” was a laughable idea, but why 19th century rebel scientists pursued it anyway. Also, a meteorologist who was falsely claimed to...

Duration: 00:50:30


DIY Diagnosis

12/25/2017
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ENCORE Got aches and pains? Critters in the Cretaceous would have been sympathetic. A new study reveals that painful arthritis plagued a duck-billed dinosaur. Scientists impressively diagnosed the animal’s condition without a house call by examining its 70 million-year old bones. The technology we use for health diagnoses are becoming so sophisticated, some people are prompted to bypass doctors and do it themselves. Meet a man who had his genome sequenced and then had all 70 gigabytes...

Duration: 00:51:10


Rerouting... Rerouting

12/18/2017
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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...

Duration: 00:51:10


With All Our Mites

12/11/2017
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ENCORE You are not alone. You can’t see ‘em, but your face is a festival of face mites. They’ve evolved with us for millennia. And a new study finds that hundreds of different tiny spiders, beetles, and – our favorite - book lice make your home theirs. But before you go bonkers with the disinfectant, consider: eradicating these critters may do more harm than good. Some are such close evolutionary partners with humans that they keep us healthy and can even reveal something about our...

Duration: 00:50:30


Air Apparent

12/4/2017
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Whether you yawn, gasp, sniff, snore, or sigh, you’re availing yourself of our very special atmosphere. It’s easy to take this invisible chemical cocktail for granted, but it’s not only essential to your existence: it unites you and every other life form on the planet, dead or alive. The next breath you take likely includes molecules exhaled by Julius Caesar or Eleanor Roosevelt. And for some animals, air is an information superhighway. Dogs navigate with their noses. Their sniffing...

Duration: 00:50:30


Time Travel Agents

11/27/2017
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ENCORE 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...

Duration: 00:50:59


Wonder Women

11/20/2017
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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...

Duration: 00:50:59


Skeptic Check: Nibiru! (Again!)

11/13/2017
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Will your calendar entry for November 19th be your last? Some people say yes, predicting a catastrophic collision between Earth and planet Nibiru on that date and the end of the world. But it won’t happen, because this hypothesized rogue world doesn’t exist. Nibiru’s malevolent disruptions have been foretold many times, most dramatically in 2012 and three times so far in 2017. But this year NASA issued a rare public assurance that doomsday was not in the offing. Find out why the agency...

Duration: 00:50:59


DNA: Nature's Hard Drive

11/6/2017
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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...

Duration: 00:52:09


Venom Diagram

10/30/2017
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ENCORE We all get defensive sometimes. For some animals, evolution has provided a highly effective mechanism for saying “back off!”. A puncture by a pair of venom-filled fangs gets the point across nicely. But one animal’s poison may be another’s cure. Some dangerous critters churn out compounds that can be synthesized into life-saving drugs. Meet the spiny, fanged, and oozing creatures who could help defend us against such illnesses as hypertension and kidney disease. Plus, the King of...

Duration: 00:51:35


Sex Post Facto

10/23/2017
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ENCORE 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...

Duration: 00:51:35


Too Big To Prove

10/16/2017
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Celebrations are in order for the physicists who won the 2017 Nobel Prize, for the detection of gravitational waves. But the road to Stockholm was not easy. Unfolding over a century, it went from doubtful theory to daring experiments and even disrepute. 100 years is a major lag between a theory and its confirmation, and new ideas in physics may take even longer to prove. Why it may be your great, great grandchildren who witness the confirmation of string theory. Plus, the exciting...

Duration: 00:52:45


On Defense

10/9/2017
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ENCORE The military is a dangerous calling. But technology can help out, so researchers are constantly trying to make soldiers safer. Writer Mary Roach investigates how scientists studying so-called human factors are protecting troops from such aggressive foes as heat, noise, and fatigue. She also learns how bad odors were once considered a secret weapon. And while soldiers have long used camouflage to help them blend in, insects may be the original masters of disguise. A discovery in...

Duration: 00:50:59


It's In Material

10/2/2017
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Astronauts are made of the “right stuff,” but what about their spacesuits? NASA’s pressurized and helmeted onesies are remarkable, but they need updating if we’re to boldly go into deep space. Suiting up on Mars requires more manual flexibility, for example. Find out what innovative materials might be used to reboot the suit. Meanwhile, strange new materials are in the pipeline for use on terra firma: spider silk is kicking off the development of biological materials that are inspiring...

Duration: 00:50:30


Skeptic Check: Aliens - The Evidence

9/25/2017
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ENCORE Once again the aliens have landed … in theaters. It’s no spoiler to say that the latest cinematic sci-fi, Arrival, involves extraterrestrials visiting Earth. But for some folks, the film’s premise is hardly shocking. They’re convinced that the aliens have already come. But is there any proof that aliens are here now or that they landed long ago to, for example, help build the Egyptian pyramids? Meanwhile, SETI scientists are deploying their big antennas in an effort to establish...

Duration: 00:50:30


Angles of a Hack

9/18/2017
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Changed your computer password recently? We all try to stay one step ahead of the hackers, but the fear factor is increasing. The risks can range from stolen social security numbers to sabotaging a national power grid. Sixty years ago, when hacking meant nosing around the telephone network, it seemed innocent enough. And not all modern hacking has criminal intent. Today, there are biohackers who experiment with implanted electronic devices to improve themselves, and geoengineers who...

Duration: 00:52:07


Plan of a Hack

9/11/2017
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Long before cyber criminals were stealing ATM passwords, phone phreaks were tapping into the telephone system. Their motivation was not monetary, but the thrill of defeating a complex, invisible network. Today “hacking” can apply to cyberwarfare, biological tinkering, or even geoengineering. Often it has negative connotations, but the original definition of “hacking” was something else. In this first of two episodes on hacking, we look at the original practitioners – the teenagers and...

Duration: 00:51:47


Born Legacy

9/4/2017
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ENCORE We know how the stars shine, but how do you make a star? We take an all-night ride on a high-flying jet – an airborne observatory called SOFIA – to watch astronomers investigate how a star is born. As for how the universe was born, we know about the Big Bang but modern physics suggests that similar cosmic explosions may be happening all the time, and even hint that we could – in principle – create a new universe in a laboratory. What does this mean, and how could we do it? From...

Duration: 00:52:07

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