Big Picture Science
Big Picture Science: A smart and humorous take on emerging trends in science and technology. Tune in and make contact with science. We broadcast and podcast every week. bigpicturescience.org
Rip Van Winkle Worm
Your shower pipes are alive. So are your sinks, books, and floorboards. New studies of our homes are revealing just what species live there – in the thousands, from bacteria to flies to millipedes. Meanwhile, life keeps surprising us by popping up in other unexpected places: the deep biosphere houses the majority of the world’s bacteria and the Arctic tundra has kept worms frozen, but alive, for 40,000 years. We embrace the multitude of life living on us, in us, and – as it turns out – in every possible ecological niche. Most of it is harmless, some is beneficial, and it’s all testament to the amazing diversity and adaptability of life. In addition, the hardiest organisms suggest where we might find life beyond Earth. Guests: Rob Dunn–Professor of applied ecology at North Carolina State University and at the Natural History Museum at the University of Copenhagen. Author of “Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live.” Lynn Rothschild–Astrobiologist and synthetic biologist at the NASA Ames Research Center. Karen Lloyd– Environmental microbiologist and associate professor at the University of Tennessee.
Without sand, engineering would be stuck in the Middle Ages. Wooden houses would line mud-packed streets, and Silicon Valley would be, well, just a valley. Sand is the building material of modern cities, and we use more of this resource than any other except water and air. Now we’re running out of it. Hear why the Roman recipe for making concrete was lost until the 19th century, and about the super-secret mine in North Carolina that makes your smartphone possible. Plus, engineered sand turns stormwater into drinking water, and why you might think twice about running barefoot on some tropical beaches once you learn about their biological source. And, a special report from the coast of Louisiana where livelihoods and ecosystems depend on the successful release of Mississippi sand from levees into sediment-starved wetlands. Guests: Vince Beiser– Journalist and author of “The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How it Transformed Civilization” Joe Charbonnet– Science and policy associate at the Green Science Policy Institute in Berkeley, California Pupa Gilbert– Biophysicist and geobiologist, University of Wisconsin, Madison Rudy Simoneaux– Engineer manager, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Baton Rouge, Louisiana Elizabeth Chamberlain– Post-doctoral researcher in Earth and Environmental Sciences, Vanderbilt University
Sci-Fi From the Future
Are you ready to defer all your personal decision-making to machines? Polls show that most Americans are uneasy about the unchecked growth of artificial intelligence. The possible misuse of genetic engineering also makes us anxious. We all have a stake in the responsible development of science and technology, but fortunately, science fiction films can help. The moviesEx MachinaandJurassic Parksuggest where A.I. and unfettered gene-tinkering could lead. But even less popular sci-fi movies can help us imagine unsettling scenarios regarding over-population, smart drugs, and human cloning. And not all tales are grim. The 1951 film,The Man in the White Suit, weaves a humorous story of materials science run amok. So, grab a bowl of popcorn and join us in contemplating the future of humanity as Hollywood sees it! Guest: Andrew Maynard–Physicist and professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University. Author ofFilms from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi Movies.
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