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Big Picture Science

Seth Shostak, Molly Bentley, SETI Institute

397
Followers
4.9K
Plays
Big Picture Science
Big Picture Science

Big Picture Science

Seth Shostak, Molly Bentley, SETI Institute

397
Followers
4.9K
Plays
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About Us

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.

Latest Episodes

Skeptic Check: Betting on Pseudoscience

Psychics may not be able to predict the future or sense your thoughts. Nonetheless, they rake in hundreds of millions of dollars every year. But the harm from pseudoscience can go far beyond your wallet – especially when it promotes unscientific treatments for serious disease. Find out what alarming discovery led one naturopath to quit her practice and why scientific ignorance is not bliss. It’s our regular look at critical thinking, but don’t take our word for it. Guests: Robert Palmer–Member of the Guerilla Skeptics on the Wikipedia editing team and columnist for theSkeptical Inquireron-line magazine Lee McIntyre–Research fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University and lecturer on ethics at Harvard Extension School Britt Marie Hermes–Former naturopath doctor; now doctoral student in evolutionary genetics at the University of Kiel, Germany

50 MIN2 w ago
Comments
Skeptic Check: Betting on Pseudoscience

Stopping Ebola

A new vaccine may help turn Ebola into a disease we can prevent, and a new drug may make it one we can cure. But the political crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo has fueled violence against health workers and Ebola treatment centers. Find out why context matters in the efforts to stop Ebola, what new drugs and vaccines are on the horizon, and whether the world is prepared for the next infectious pandemic. Even if Ebola’s threat is diminishing, what about the next pandemic? Is the world prepared? Guests: Richard Preston– Journalist and author of “Crisis in the Red Zone: The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History.” Yap Boum– Regional representative for Africa for Epicentre, the research arm of Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in Cameroon. Amy Maxmen–Senior reporter,Nature.Her most recent piece is "Behind the Front Lines of the Ebola Wars."

52 MIN3 w ago
Comments
Stopping Ebola

Radical Cosmology

(repeat) 400 years ago, some ideas about the cosmos were too scandalous to mention. When the Dominican friar Giordano Bruno suggested that planets existed outside our Solar System, the Catholic Inquisition had him arrested, jailed, and burned at the stake for heresy. Today, we have evidence of thousands of planets orbiting other stars. Our discovery of extrasolar planets has dramatically changed ideas about the possibility for life elsewhere in the universe. Modern theories about the existence of the ghostly particles called neutrinos or of collapsed stars with unfathomable gravity (black holes), while similarly incendiary, didn’t prompt arrest, of course. Neutrinos and black holes were arresting ideas because they came decades before we had the means to prove their existence. Hear about scientific ideas that came before their time and why extrasolar planets, neutrinos, and black holes are now found on the frontiers of astronomical research. Guests: Alberto Martínez–Professor of ...

51 MINNOV 12
Comments
Radical Cosmology

Supercomputer Showdown

Do you have a hard-to-answer question? The Summit, Sierra, Trinity, Frontier, and Aurora supercomputers are built to tackle it. Summit tops the petaflop heap – at least for now. But Frontier and Aurora are catching up as they take aim at a new performance benchmark called exascale. So why do we need all this processing power? From climate modeling to personalized medicine, find out why the super-est computers are necessary to answer our biggest questions. But is the dark horse candidate, quantum computing, destined to leave classical computing in the dust? Guests: Katherine Riley- Director of Science, Argonne National Laboratory Jack Wells- Director of Science, Oak Ridge National Laboratory National Center for Computational Sciences Katie Bethea- Communications Team Lead, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Jeffrey Hawkins– Technologist and neuroscientist. Co-founder of Palm, Handspring and Numenta Eleanor Rieffel- Mathematician, NASA Ames Resear...

52 MINNOV 4
Comments
Supercomputer Showdown

Skeptic Check: Rational Lampoon

(repeat) Two heads may be better than one. But what about three or more? A new study shows that chimpanzees excel at complex tasks when they work in groups, and their accumulated knowledge can even be passed from one generation to the next. But group-think also can be maladaptive. When humans rely on knowledge that they assume other people possess, they can become less than rational. Find out why one cognitive scientist says that individual thinking is a myth. Most of your decisions are made in groups, and most derive from emotion, not rationality. Also, why we know far less than we think we do. For example, most people will say they understand how an everyday object like a zipper works, but draw a blank when asked to explain it. Plus, why we have a biological drive to categorize people as “us” or “them,” and how we can override it. Guests: Steven Sloman-Professor of cognitive linguistics and psychological sciences at Brown University and editor-in-chief of the journal,Cognition...

51 MINOCT 29
Comments
Skeptic Check: Rational Lampoon

Nobel Efforts

For two Swiss astronomers, it’s “Stockholm, here we come.” Their first-ever discovery of a planet orbiting another star has been awarded the most prestigious prize in science. Find out how their exoplanet discovery led to 4,000 more and how that changes the odds of finding life beyond Earth. Also, the Nobel committee is not alone in finding distant worlds inspirational: a musician is translating their orbital signatures into sound. Guests: Roy Gould-Biophysicist and researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Author of “Universe in Creation” Jeffrey Smith-Data scientist and a principal investigator for TESS at the SETI Institute David Ibbett-Composer and director of the Multiverse Concert Series

51 MINOCT 21
Comments
Nobel Efforts

Go With the Flow

(repeat) 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 scientist who is both admiring and confounded by their properties; how Earth’s molten iron core is making the magnetic north pole high-tail it to Siberia; blood as your body’s information superhighway; and how a spittlebug can convert 200 times its body weight in urine into a cozy, bubble fortress. Guests: Mark Miodownik–Professor of Materials and Society, University College, London, and author of “Liquid rules: The Delightful and Dangerous Substances that Flow Through Our Lives” Arna...

50 MINOCT 14
Comments
Go With the Flow

Battling Bacteria

We can’t say we weren’t warned. More than 75 years ago, bacteriologist Rene Dubos cautioned that misuse of antibiotics could breed drug-resistant bacteria – and he has been proved prescient. In this episode: the rise of superbugs, why we ignored the warnings about them, how some are enlisting an old therapy to fight back, and whether we’ll heed history’s lessons in the face of a future pandemic. Plus, a weird unforeseen effect of antibiotics being investigated at the Body Farm. Guests: Fred Turek- Director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Biology, Department of Neurobology, Northwestern University Jennifer DeBruyn- Microbiologist at the University of Tennessee, who also works at the Anthropology Research Facility, a.k.a.the Body Farm Steffanie Strathdee- Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences at the University of California, San Diego,and co-author (with Tom Patterson) of“The Perfect Predator: A Scientist’s Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug” Tom Patterso...

51 MINOCT 7
Comments
Battling Bacteria

Headed For Trouble

The stone heads on Easter Island are an enduring mystery: why were they built and why were they abandoned and destroyed? The old ideas about cultural collapse are yielding to new ones based on careful investigation on the ground - but also from above. What surprising explanations have we found and are we off base to think that ancient societies such as the Easter Islanders or the classical Egyptians were, in the end, failures? Can what we learn from these histories help predict which societies will survive? Guests: James Grant Peterkin– Tour guide, resident, and British Honorary Consul on Easter Island Sarah Parcak– Archaeologist, Egyptologist, remote sensing expert, professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and author ofArchaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past Carl Lipo– Anthropologist and professor at Binghamton University, State University of New York

51 MINSEP 30
Comments
Headed For Trouble

Keeping Humans in the Loop

(repeat) Modern technology is great, but could we be losing control? As our world becomes more crowded and demands for resources are greater, some people worry about humanity’s uncertain prospects. An eminent cosmologist considers globe-altering developments such as climate change and artificial intelligence. Will we be able to stave off serious threats to our future? There’s also another possible source of danger: our trendy digital aids. We seem all-too-willing to let algorithms classify and define our wants, our needs, and our behavior. Instead of using technology, are we being usedbyit – to inadvertently become social media’s product? And while we may be skittish about the increased data our technology collects, one sci-fi writer imagines a future in which information is a pervasive and freely available commodity. Guests: Martin Rees–Cosmologist, astrophysicist, and Great Britain’s Astronomer Royal. Author ofOn the Future: Prospects for Humanity. Douglas Rushkoff–Media th...

51 MINSEP 23
Comments
Keeping Humans in the Loop

Latest Episodes

Skeptic Check: Betting on Pseudoscience

Psychics may not be able to predict the future or sense your thoughts. Nonetheless, they rake in hundreds of millions of dollars every year. But the harm from pseudoscience can go far beyond your wallet – especially when it promotes unscientific treatments for serious disease. Find out what alarming discovery led one naturopath to quit her practice and why scientific ignorance is not bliss. It’s our regular look at critical thinking, but don’t take our word for it. Guests: Robert Palmer–Member of the Guerilla Skeptics on the Wikipedia editing team and columnist for theSkeptical Inquireron-line magazine Lee McIntyre–Research fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University and lecturer on ethics at Harvard Extension School Britt Marie Hermes–Former naturopath doctor; now doctoral student in evolutionary genetics at the University of Kiel, Germany

50 MIN2 w ago
Comments
Skeptic Check: Betting on Pseudoscience

Stopping Ebola

A new vaccine may help turn Ebola into a disease we can prevent, and a new drug may make it one we can cure. But the political crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo has fueled violence against health workers and Ebola treatment centers. Find out why context matters in the efforts to stop Ebola, what new drugs and vaccines are on the horizon, and whether the world is prepared for the next infectious pandemic. Even if Ebola’s threat is diminishing, what about the next pandemic? Is the world prepared? Guests: Richard Preston– Journalist and author of “Crisis in the Red Zone: The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History.” Yap Boum– Regional representative for Africa for Epicentre, the research arm of Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in Cameroon. Amy Maxmen–Senior reporter,Nature.Her most recent piece is "Behind the Front Lines of the Ebola Wars."

52 MIN3 w ago
Comments
Stopping Ebola

Radical Cosmology

(repeat) 400 years ago, some ideas about the cosmos were too scandalous to mention. When the Dominican friar Giordano Bruno suggested that planets existed outside our Solar System, the Catholic Inquisition had him arrested, jailed, and burned at the stake for heresy. Today, we have evidence of thousands of planets orbiting other stars. Our discovery of extrasolar planets has dramatically changed ideas about the possibility for life elsewhere in the universe. Modern theories about the existence of the ghostly particles called neutrinos or of collapsed stars with unfathomable gravity (black holes), while similarly incendiary, didn’t prompt arrest, of course. Neutrinos and black holes were arresting ideas because they came decades before we had the means to prove their existence. Hear about scientific ideas that came before their time and why extrasolar planets, neutrinos, and black holes are now found on the frontiers of astronomical research. Guests: Alberto Martínez–Professor of ...

51 MINNOV 12
Comments
Radical Cosmology

Supercomputer Showdown

Do you have a hard-to-answer question? The Summit, Sierra, Trinity, Frontier, and Aurora supercomputers are built to tackle it. Summit tops the petaflop heap – at least for now. But Frontier and Aurora are catching up as they take aim at a new performance benchmark called exascale. So why do we need all this processing power? From climate modeling to personalized medicine, find out why the super-est computers are necessary to answer our biggest questions. But is the dark horse candidate, quantum computing, destined to leave classical computing in the dust? Guests: Katherine Riley- Director of Science, Argonne National Laboratory Jack Wells- Director of Science, Oak Ridge National Laboratory National Center for Computational Sciences Katie Bethea- Communications Team Lead, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Jeffrey Hawkins– Technologist and neuroscientist. Co-founder of Palm, Handspring and Numenta Eleanor Rieffel- Mathematician, NASA Ames Resear...

52 MINNOV 4
Comments
Supercomputer Showdown

Skeptic Check: Rational Lampoon

(repeat) Two heads may be better than one. But what about three or more? A new study shows that chimpanzees excel at complex tasks when they work in groups, and their accumulated knowledge can even be passed from one generation to the next. But group-think also can be maladaptive. When humans rely on knowledge that they assume other people possess, they can become less than rational. Find out why one cognitive scientist says that individual thinking is a myth. Most of your decisions are made in groups, and most derive from emotion, not rationality. Also, why we know far less than we think we do. For example, most people will say they understand how an everyday object like a zipper works, but draw a blank when asked to explain it. Plus, why we have a biological drive to categorize people as “us” or “them,” and how we can override it. Guests: Steven Sloman-Professor of cognitive linguistics and psychological sciences at Brown University and editor-in-chief of the journal,Cognition...

51 MINOCT 29
Comments
Skeptic Check: Rational Lampoon

Nobel Efforts

For two Swiss astronomers, it’s “Stockholm, here we come.” Their first-ever discovery of a planet orbiting another star has been awarded the most prestigious prize in science. Find out how their exoplanet discovery led to 4,000 more and how that changes the odds of finding life beyond Earth. Also, the Nobel committee is not alone in finding distant worlds inspirational: a musician is translating their orbital signatures into sound. Guests: Roy Gould-Biophysicist and researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Author of “Universe in Creation” Jeffrey Smith-Data scientist and a principal investigator for TESS at the SETI Institute David Ibbett-Composer and director of the Multiverse Concert Series

51 MINOCT 21
Comments
Nobel Efforts

Go With the Flow

(repeat) 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 scientist who is both admiring and confounded by their properties; how Earth’s molten iron core is making the magnetic north pole high-tail it to Siberia; blood as your body’s information superhighway; and how a spittlebug can convert 200 times its body weight in urine into a cozy, bubble fortress. Guests: Mark Miodownik–Professor of Materials and Society, University College, London, and author of “Liquid rules: The Delightful and Dangerous Substances that Flow Through Our Lives” Arna...

50 MINOCT 14
Comments
Go With the Flow

Battling Bacteria

We can’t say we weren’t warned. More than 75 years ago, bacteriologist Rene Dubos cautioned that misuse of antibiotics could breed drug-resistant bacteria – and he has been proved prescient. In this episode: the rise of superbugs, why we ignored the warnings about them, how some are enlisting an old therapy to fight back, and whether we’ll heed history’s lessons in the face of a future pandemic. Plus, a weird unforeseen effect of antibiotics being investigated at the Body Farm. Guests: Fred Turek- Director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Biology, Department of Neurobology, Northwestern University Jennifer DeBruyn- Microbiologist at the University of Tennessee, who also works at the Anthropology Research Facility, a.k.a.the Body Farm Steffanie Strathdee- Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences at the University of California, San Diego,and co-author (with Tom Patterson) of“The Perfect Predator: A Scientist’s Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug” Tom Patterso...

51 MINOCT 7
Comments
Battling Bacteria

Headed For Trouble

The stone heads on Easter Island are an enduring mystery: why were they built and why were they abandoned and destroyed? The old ideas about cultural collapse are yielding to new ones based on careful investigation on the ground - but also from above. What surprising explanations have we found and are we off base to think that ancient societies such as the Easter Islanders or the classical Egyptians were, in the end, failures? Can what we learn from these histories help predict which societies will survive? Guests: James Grant Peterkin– Tour guide, resident, and British Honorary Consul on Easter Island Sarah Parcak– Archaeologist, Egyptologist, remote sensing expert, professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and author ofArchaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past Carl Lipo– Anthropologist and professor at Binghamton University, State University of New York

51 MINSEP 30
Comments
Headed For Trouble

Keeping Humans in the Loop

(repeat) Modern technology is great, but could we be losing control? As our world becomes more crowded and demands for resources are greater, some people worry about humanity’s uncertain prospects. An eminent cosmologist considers globe-altering developments such as climate change and artificial intelligence. Will we be able to stave off serious threats to our future? There’s also another possible source of danger: our trendy digital aids. We seem all-too-willing to let algorithms classify and define our wants, our needs, and our behavior. Instead of using technology, are we being usedbyit – to inadvertently become social media’s product? And while we may be skittish about the increased data our technology collects, one sci-fi writer imagines a future in which information is a pervasive and freely available commodity. Guests: Martin Rees–Cosmologist, astrophysicist, and Great Britain’s Astronomer Royal. Author ofOn the Future: Prospects for Humanity. Douglas Rushkoff–Media th...

51 MINSEP 23
Comments
Keeping Humans in the Loop
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