Big Picture Science

by Big Picture Science · · · · 148 subscribers

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.

Think you’re some kind of expert? Join the club. It’s one thing to question authority; another to offer up your untrained self as its replacement. Rebellion may be a cherished expression of American individualism, but, from sidelining Dr. Fauci to hiding public health data, find out what we lose when we silence health experts and “go with our gut” during a pandemic. Plus, from ancestors to algorithms: how we’ve replaced credentialed experts with sketchy web sites and social media posts. Guests: * Charles Piller * – Investigative reporter for _Science_ magazine * Alison Galvani * – Epidemiologist and Director of …

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Tags: physics, natural sciences, evolution, society & culture, science, science & medicine, seth shostak, space, seti, astronomy, big picture science, universe, biology, skepticism, education, technology, aliens, astrobiology, higher education, audio, skepticism, science

Older Episodes

Something in the Air July 20, 2020
Inhale. Now exhale. Notice anything different? Our response to the virus is changing the air in unexpected ways. A pandemic-driven pause on travel has produced clear skies and a world-wide air quality experiment. And a new study reveals that hundreds...
COVID Curiosities July 13, 2020
COVID Curiosities Some dogs and cats have become sick with COVID. But it’s not just domestic critters that are vulnerable: zoo animals have fallen ill too. There’s more strange news about the pandemic, for example scientists who track the...
Your cat is smart, but its ability to choreograph a ballet or write computer code isn’t great. A lot of animals are industrious and clever, but humans are the only animal that is uniquely ingenious and creative. Neuroscientist David...
Laughing rats, sorrowful elephants, joyful chimpanzees. The more carefully we observe, and the more we learn about animals, the closer their emotional lives appear to resemble our own. Most would agree that we should minimize the physical...
Crowded subway driving you crazy? Sick of the marathon-length grocery store line? Wish you had a hovercraft to float over traffic? If you are itching to hightail it to an isolated cabin in the woods, remember, we evolved to be together....
Sexist snow plowing? Data that guide everything from snow removal schedules to heart research often fail to consider gender. In these cases, “reference man” stands in for “average human.” Human bias also infects artificial intelligence,...
Race and COVID June 8, 2020
While citizens take to the streets to protest racist violence, the pandemic has its own brutal inequities. Black, Latino, and Native American people are bearing the brunt of COVID illness and death. We look at the multitude of factors that contribute...
Soap, Skin, Sleep June 1, 2020
Some safeguards against COVID-19 don’t require a medical breakthrough. Catching sufficient Z’s makes for a healthy immune system. And, while you wash your hands for the umpteenth time, we'll explain how soap sends viruses down the drain. Plus,...
Your virtual assistant is not without a sense of humor. Its repertoire includes the classic story involving a chicken and a road. But will Alexa laugh at your jokes? Will she groan at your puns? Telling jokes is one thing....
Vaccine, When? May 18, 2020
It will be the shot heard ‘round the world, once it comes. But exactly when can we expect a COVID vaccine? We discuss timelines, how it would work, who’s involved, and the role of human challenge trials. Also, although he...
To the Bat Cave May 11, 2020
To fight a pandemic, you need to first understand where a virus comes from. That quest takes disease ecologist Jon Epstein to gloomy caverns where bats hang out. There he checks up on hundreds of the animals as his team from the EcoHealth Alliance...
A new theory about life’s origins updates Darwin’s warm little pond. Scientists say they’ve created the building blocks of biology in steaming hot springs. Meanwhile, we visit a NASA lab where scientists simulate deep-sea vent chemistry to...
Nature abhors a vacuum, but conspiracy theorists love one. While we wait for scientists to nail down the how and why of the coronavirus, opportunists have jumped into the void, peddling DIY testing kits and fake COVID cures like colloidal...
Treating the Virus April 20, 2020
Treating the Virus It’s not like waiting for Godot, because he never arrived. A coronavirus vaccine will come. But it is still months away. Meanwhile, scientists are adding other weapons to our growing arsenal against this virus....
The Other Living World April 13, 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...
What do a zombie attack and a viral pandemic have in common? They are both frightening, mindless, and relentless in their assault. And both require preparedness. That’s why the author of “World War Z” – a story about a...
Let's Take a Paws March 30, 2020
Humans aren’t the only animals stressed-out by social distancing. Narwhals send out echolocation clicks to locate their buddies and ease their loneliness. And a plant about to be chomped by a caterpillar knows that the world can be a...
“Climate change at warp speed” is the way one scientist described the coronavirus outbreak. In a show recorded before a live audience at the Seattle AAAS meeting, and co-presented with the BBC World Service, we discuss out how politics...
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...