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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

Math's Paths

7/15/2019
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If you bake, you can appreciate math’s transformative properties. Admiring the stackable potato chip is to admire a hyperbolic sheet. Find out why there’s no need to fear math - you just need to think outside the cuboid. Also, how nature’s geometric shapes inspire the next generation of squishy robots and an argument for radically overhauling math class. The end point of these common factors is acute show that’s as fun as eating Pi. Guests: Eugenia Cheng – How to Bake PiShankar...

Duration:00:50:30

DNA is Not Destiny

7/8/2019
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(repeat) Heredity was once thought to be straightforward. Genes were passed in an immutable path from parents to you, and you were stuck – or blessed – with what you got. DNA didn’t change. But now we know that’s not true. Epigenetic factors, such as your environment and your lifestyle, control how your genes are expressed. Meanwhile, the powerful tool CRISPR allows us to tinker with the genes themselves. DNA is no longer destiny. Hear the results from the NASA twin study and what happened...

Duration:00:51:35

Nailing the Moon Landing

7/1/2019
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Neil, Buzz, and Michael made it look effortless, but the moon landing was neither easy nor inevitable. Soon after President Kennedy publicly stated the goal of sending Americans to the moon, NASA confessed that the chances of success were only about 50/50. But on July 20, 1969, despite enormous difficulties, astronauts stepped onto the lunar regolith. In this special anniversary episode, we go behind the iconic phrases and familiar photos to consider the errors, mishaps, and the Plan B...

Duration:00:50:30

Animals Like Us

6/24/2019
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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 suffering of animals, but should we give equal consideration to their emotional stress? Bioethicist Peter Singer weighs in. Meanwhile, captivity that may be ethical: How human-elephant teamwork in Asia may help protect an endangered species. Guests: Frans...

Duration:00:51:27

You've Got Whale

6/17/2019
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(repeat) SMS isn’t the original instant messaging system. Plants can send chemical warnings through their leaves in a fraction of a second. And while we love being in the messaging loop – frenetically refreshing our browsers – we miss out on important conversations that no Twitter feed or inbox can capture. That’s because eavesdropping on the communications of non-human species requires the ability to decode their non-written signals. Dive into Arctic waters where scientists make first-ever...

Duration:00:51:27

It's Habitable Forming

6/10/2019
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(repeat) There’s evidence for a subsurface lake on Mars, and scientists are excitedly using the “h” word. Could the Red Planet be habitable, not billions of years ago, but today? While we wait – impatiently – for a confirmation of this result, we review the recipe for habitable alien worlds. For example, the moon Titan has liquid lakes on its surface. Could they be filled with Titanites? Dive into a possible briny, underground lake on Mars … protect yourself from the methane-drenched rain...

Duration:00:51:27

Creature Discomforts

6/3/2019
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(repeat) Okay you animals, line up: stoned sloths, playful pandas, baleful bovines, and vile vultures. We’ve got you guys pegged, thanks to central casting. Or do we? Our often simplistic view of animals ignores their remarkable adaptive abilities. Stumbly sloths are in fact remarkably agile and a vulture’s tricks for thermoregulation can’t be found in an outdoors store. Our ignorance about some animals can even lead to their suffering and to seemingly intractable problems. The South...

Duration:00:51:27

Skeptic Check: Worrier Mentality

5/27/2019
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Poisonous snakes, lightning strikes, a rogue rock from space. There are plenty of scary things to fret about, but are we burning adrenaline on the right ones? Stepping into the bathtub is more dangerous than flying from a statistical point of view, but no one signs up for “fear of showering” classes. Find out why we get tripped up by statistics, worry about the wrong things, and how the “intelligence trap” not only leads smart people to make dumb mistakes, but actually causes them to make...

Duration:00:51:27

New Water Worlds

5/20/2019
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(repeat) The seas are rising. It’s no longer a rarity to see kayakers paddling through downtown Miami. By century’s end, the oceans could be anywhere from 2 to 6 feet higher, threatening millions of people and property. But humans once knew how to adapt to rising waters. As high water threatens to drown our cities, can we learn do it again. Hear stories of threatened land: submerged Florida suburbs, the original sunken city (Venice), and the U.S. East Coast, where anthropologists rush to...

Duration:00:50:30

Is Life Inevitable?

5/13/2019
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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 produce the type of environment that might spawn life. Which site is best suited for producing biology from chemistry? Find out how the conditions of the early Earth were different from today, how meteors seeded Earth with organics, and a provocative idea...

Duration:00:51:11

Rethinking Chernobyl

5/6/2019
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The catastrophic explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in April 1986 triggered the full-scale destruction of the reactor. But now researchers with access to once-classified Soviet documents are challenging the official version of what happened both before and after the explosion. They say that the accident was worse than we thought and that a number of factors – from paranoia to poor engineering – made the mishap inevitable. Others claim a much larger death toll from extended...

Duration:00:51:11

Identity Crisis

4/29/2019
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(repeat) 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 anything specific. And decoding a genome is still relatively expensive and time-consuming. So, while we refine our ability to work with DNA, the search is on for a quick and easy biomarker test...

Duration:00:51:11

Gained in Translation

4/22/2019
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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. Teaching a computer to recognize humor is another, because a clear definition of humor is lacking. But doing so is a step toward making more natural interactions with A.I. Find out what’s involved in tickling A.I.’s funny bone. Also, an interstellar communication...

Duration:00:51:11

Free Range Dinosaurs

4/15/2019
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(repeat) Dinosaurs are once again stomping and snorting their way across the screen of your local movie theater. But these beefy beasts stole the show long before CGI brought them back in the Jurassic Park blockbusters. Dinosaurs had global dominance for the better part of 165 million years. Compare that with a measly 56 million years of primate activity. We bow to our evolutionary overlords in this episode. Our conversation about these thunderous lizards roams freely as we talk with the...

Duration:00:50:30

Go With the Flow

4/8/2019
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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. But the weird thing is, they elude clear definition. Is tar a liquid or a solid? What about peanut butter? In this episode: A romp through a cascade of liquids with a materials...

Duration:00:50:30

DecodeHer

4/1/2019
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DecodeHer 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...

Duration:00:50:30

You Are Exposed

3/25/2019
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(repeat) 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 water contamination. Plus, new research on the role that microbes play in the development of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, and the hot debate about when microbes first...

Duration:00:51:27

Skeptic Check: Political Scientist

3/18/2019
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(repeat) Hundreds of thousands of scientists took to the streets during the March for Science. The divisive political climate has spurred some scientists to deeper political engagement – publicly challenging lawmakers and even running for office themselves. But the scientist-slash-activist model itself is contested, even by some of their colleagues. Find out how science and politics have been historically intertwined, what motivates scientists to get involved, and the possible benefits and...

Duration:00:51:27

Hawkingravity

3/11/2019
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(repeat) Stephen Hawking felt gravity’s pull. His quest to understand this feeble force spanned his career, and he was the first to realize that black holes actually disappear – slowly losing the mass of everything they swallow in a dull, evaporative glow called Hawking radiation. But one of gravity’s deepest puzzles defied even his brilliant mind. How can we connect theories of gravity on the large scale to what happens on the very small? The Theory of Everything remains one of the great...

Duration:00:51:11

High Moon

3/4/2019
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(repeat) "The moon or bust” is now officially bust. No private company was able to meet the Lunar X Prize challenge, and arrange for a launch by the 2018 deadline. The $30 million award goes unclaimed, but the race to the moon is still on. Find out who wants to go and why this is not your parents’ – or grandparents’ – space race. With or without a cash incentive, private companies are still eyeing our cratered companion, hoping to set hardware down on its dusty surface. Meanwhile, while the...

Duration:00:51:11