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.

Love makes us feel warm and mushy, but the sweet sting of Cupid's arrow makes a compelling chemistry lesson, too. Research into animal mating and human courtship provides clues to an eternal mystery: what's the purpose of love? Learn lessons...
Who's on First? Jan. 25, 2010
Being first counts in science. Land that coveted spot and you’ll make history, whether it’s with the first steam engine or the discovery of our earliest human ancestor. But what does “first” mean when technological invention so heavily builds on what’s come before… and evolution represents continuous change? Find out …
Public distrust of science is higher than at any time since the Enlightenment. New Yorker writer Michael Specter argues how our anti-science bias and our irrationalism about everything from genetically modified foods to climate change to childhood vaccines endangers our future. And remember when… a look back at scientists who …
Eureka! Jan. 11, 2010
From the double-helix to the expansion of the universe, great scientific discoveries reshape our understanding of who we are and how things work. But great discoveries require more than just a great mind. We tour brainy breakthroughs from Archimedes to Darwin, and find out what made their revolutionary insights possible. …
ENCORE Ever since Einstein, we've known that time doesn't barrel willy-nilly into the future. Moving clocks tick at a different rates, and by riding a fast rocket, we can slow time to a crawl. Such tricks may give you a way to see the distant...
ENCORE Ever since Einstein, we’ve known that time doesn’t barrel willy-nilly into the future. Moving clocks tick at a different rates, and by riding a fast rocket, we can slow time to a crawl. Such tricks may give you a way to see the distant future, but can you …
ENCORE Time’s a mystery, yet we’ve invented clever ways to capture it. From sundials to atomic clocks, trace the history of time-keeping. Also, discover the surprising accuracy of nature’s dating schemes – from the decay of carbon to laying down tree rings. Plus, why the “New York minute” stretches …
Journey to a Black Hole Dec. 21, 2009
A massive black hole lies at the center of our galaxy, a monster hunkered down in the Milky Way’s innermost sanctum. Here, the bizarre laws of General Relativity take over, as the physics we know break down. And our spaceship is headed straight for it. Join us on a …
While the Kepler spacecraft hunts for habitable planets beyond the solar system, we’ve let one of our own planets slip away! Find out why Pluto’s demotion to dwarf status created a public uproar as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson reads us his hate mail. From third-graders! Also, how we might …
Feather Knows Best Dec. 7, 2009
Can animals think? Merely asking the question was once thought ridiculous. But studies that range from chimps to birds to sea creatures have prompted scientists to reassess the cognitive capabilities of our animal friends. These results challenge not only our idea of intelligence, but man’s unequivocal perch at the …
As the anti-vax campaign rages, parents are just saying “no” to vaccines. But now the incidence of childhood diseases such as whooping cough are on the rise. A number of studies have refuted the link between vaccines, autism and other chronic conditions, yet the anti-vaccine movement continues. Find out why. …
Carbon Your Enthusiasm Nov. 23, 2009
Bond it to oxygen and it’s the scourge of climate change. But earthly life wouldn’t be possible without carbon, and maybe that’s true for alien life, too. And carbon has other exciting forms: tiny diamonds may be evidence of a catastrophic comet impact 13,000 years ago. And, chalky carbonates may …
SETI: Now What? Nov. 16, 2009
Hello! Is anyone out there? As the scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence marks its 50th anniversary, there’s been no contact as yet with alien beings. But SETI researchers maintain that we are not alone. Find out why in a SETI retrospective that looks at the past and future …
Hollywood has a few ideas of how the world will end: killer asteroids … lethal pandemics … deadly ice-ages. These themes have all played out on the big screen. But, hey, they’re only movies, right? We’ll separate the science from the fiction in doomsday movies. From the 2012 prophesy …
Do Computers Byte? Nov. 2, 2009
The march of computer technology continues. But as silicon chips and search engines become faster and more productive – can the same be said for us? The creator of Wolfram Alpha describes how his new “computational knowledge engine” is changing – and improving – how we process information. Meanwhile, suffering …
Popping a pill may help when you’re sick… but maybe not for the reasons you think. Sugar pills – placebos – cure illness better than prescription pills in as many as half of all cases in clinical trials … and the placebo effect is getting stronger. Plus, the safety …
Seth's Storage Locker Oct. 19, 2009
It’s always an adventure to go digging in Seth’s storage locker – who knows what we’ll find … In this imposing pile of paraphernalia, tucked between boxes of socket wrenches and old 45s, we stumble upon the hunt for extrasolar planets, the evidence for water on moons of the solar …