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.

Birds have it going on. Many of these winged dinosaurs delight us with their song and brilliant plumage. Migratory birds travel thousands of miles in a display of endurance that would make an Olympic athlete gasp. We inquire about these daunting migrations and how birds can fly for days without rest. And what can we do to save disappearing species? Will digital tracking technology help? Plus, how 19th century bird-lovers, appalled by feathered hats, started the modern conservation movement. Guests: Scott Weidensaul – Ornithologist and naturalist and author of “A World on the Wing: the Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds.” …

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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

Nothing lasts forever. Even the universe has several possible endings. Will there be a dramatic Big Rip or a Big Chill­–also known as the heat death of the universe–in trillions of years? Or will vacuum decay, which could theoretically happen at any moment, do us in? Perhaps the death of …
Back off, you Neanderthal! It sounds as if you’ve just been dissed, but maybe you should take it as a compliment. Contrary to common cliches, our Pleistocene relatives were clever, curious, and technologically inventive. Find out how our assessment of Neanderthals has undergone a radical rethinking, and hear about the …
Catching Fire May 9, 2022
We have too much “bad fire.” Not only destructive wildfires, but the combustion that powers our automobiles and provides our electricity has generated a worrying rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide. And that is driving climate change which is adding to the frequency of megafires. Now we’re seeing those effects in …
Skeptic Check: Dr. Oz May 2, 2022
Dr. Oz’s personable and folky approach when talking about difficult health subjects has made him a trusted source for medical information. But some of the claims offered on The Doctor Oz Show are clearly questionable, such as the existence of miracle diet pills. Now the show is on hiatus so …
The world is a colorful place, and human eyes have evolved to take it in – from vermillion red to bright tangerine to cobalt blue. But when we do, are you and I seeing the same thing? Find out why color perception is a trick of the brain, and why …
We present a grab bag of our favorite recent science stories – from how to stop aging to the mechanics of cooking pasta. Also, in accord with our eclectic theme – the growing problem of space junk. Guests: Anthony Wyss-Coray – Professor of neuroscience at Stanford University Oliver O’Reilly – …
Finding Endurance April 11, 2022
In 1915, Endurance, the ship that took Ernest Shackleton to the Antarctic, was slowly crushed and sank. Shackleton, and the 28 men he brought with him, were camped on the ice near the ship, and watched helplessly as their transport went to a watery grave, two miles down. But a …
Solid materials get all the production credit. Don’t get us wrong, we depend on their strength and firmness for bridges, bones, and bento boxes. But liquids do us a solid, too. Their free-flowing properties drive the Earth’s magnetic field, inspire a new generation of smart electronics, and make biology possible. …
The Latest Buzz March 28, 2022
Is your windshield accumulating less bug splatter? Insects, the most numerous animals on Earth, are becoming scarcer, and that’s not good news. They’re essential, and not just for their service as pollinators. We ask what’s causing the decrease in insect populations, and how can it be reversed. Also, the story …
Nuclear Worries March 21, 2022
The nuclear threat is back, and the Doomsday Clock is almost at midnight. How did we end up here again? In the 1930s, German physicists learned that splitting the nuclei of heavy atoms could release tremendous amounts of energy. Such theoretical ideas became relevant when WW II began. Today, we …
DNA is the gold standard of identification. Except when it’s not. In rare cases when a person has two complete sets of DNA, that person’s identity may be up in the air. Meanwhile, DNA ancestry tests are proving frustratingly vague: dishing up generalities about where you came from rather than …
There’s no place like “ome.” Your microbiome is highly influential in determining your health. But it’s not the only “ome” doing so. Your exposome – environmental exposure over a lifetime – also plays a role. Hear how scientists hope to calculate your entire exposome, from food to air pollution to …
Skeptic Check: 5G Feb. 28, 2022
5G, the latest mobile network standard, is coming. As new cell towers sprout around the world, do we know enough to confidently claim that this new technology is safe? After all, older networking standards relied on microwaves, radiation which has wavelengths of inches to a foot or so. 5G operates …
Melting Down Feb. 21, 2022
Climate change isn’t waiting for us to act. We’ve missed several deadlines to mitigate the dangers of this existential threat, which suggests we prefer to avert our gaze rather than deal with the problem. It’s similar to the way society reacts to an incoming comet in the movie “Don’t Look …
Iron, Coal, Wood Feb. 14, 2022
Maybe you don’t remember the days of the earliest coal-fired stoves. They changed domestic life, and that changed society. We take you back to that era, and to millennia prior when iron was first smelt, and even earlier, when axe- handles were first fashioned from wood, as we explore how …
Scientists are increasingly finding their expertise questioned by non-experts who claim they’ve done their own “research.” Whether advocating Ivermectin to treat Covid, insisting that climate change is a hoax, or asserting that the Earth is flat, doubters are now dismissed by being told to “do your own research!” But is …
Bare Bones (rebroadcast) Jan. 31, 2022
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 …
Make Space for Animals Jan. 24, 2022
Long before Yuri Gagarin became the first human to go into space, Laika, a stray dog, crossed the final frontier. Find out what other surprising species were drafted into the astronaut corps. They may be our best friends, but we still balk at giving other creatures moral standing. And why …
Testing Your Metal Jan. 17, 2022
Catalytic converters are disappearing. If you’ve had yours stolen, you know that rare earth metals are valuable. But these metals are in great demand for things other than converters, such as batteries for electric cars, wind farms and solar panels. We need rare earth metals to combat climate change, but …