Big Picture Science

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big picture science setiThe Big Picture Science radio show - modern science research through lively and intelligent storytelling. Science radio doesn’t have to be dull.

Big Picture Science takes on big questions by interviewing leading researchers and weaving together their stories of discovery in a clever and off-kilter narrative style.

What came before the Big Bang? How does memory work? Will our descendants be human or machine? What’s the origin of humor? We ponder these questions daily … and expound on them weekly.

Our one-hour radio magazine reveals science as an adventure.

Seth Stoshak SETIBut wait! There’s more!

Are you a doubting Thomas? Good. Join us as we separate science from pseudoscience - and facts from the phony - in Skeptic Check, our monthly sceptic episode devoted to critical thinking.

Seth has a degree in radio astronomy, and now, as a Senior Astronomer, Seth is an enthusiastic participant in the Institute’s SETI observing programs.

He also heads up the International Academy of Astronautics’ SETI Permanent Study Group.

Broadcast with kind permission. http://radio.seti.org/


Big Picture Science Show Archive:

Skeptic Check: Science Breaking Bad

Monday 10th December 2018

(repeat) The scientific method is tried and true. It has led us to a reliable understanding of things from basic physics to biomedicine.  So yes, we can rely on the scientific method.  The fallible humans behind the research, not so much.  And politicians?  Don’t get us started.  Rememberwhen one brought a snowball to the Senate floor to “prove” that global warming was a hoax?  Oy vey. We talk to authors about new books that seem to cast a skeptical eye on the scientific method… but that are really throwing shade on the ambitious labcoat-draped humans who heat the beakers and publish the papers … as well as the pinstriped politicians who twist science to win votes. Find out why the hyper-competitive pursuit of results that are “amazing” and “incredible” is undermining medical science … how a scientific breakthrough can turn into a societal scourge (heroin as miracle cure) … and what happens when civil servants play the role of citizen scientists on CSPAN....


Creative Brains

Monday 3rd December 2018

Your cat is smart, but its ability to choreograph a ballet or write computer code isn’t great.  A lot of animals are industrious and clever, but humans are the only animal that is uniquely ingenious and creative.  Neuroscientist David Eagleman and composer Anthony Brandt discuss how human creativity has reshaped the world. Find out what is going on in your brain when you write a novel, paint a watercolor, or build a whatchamacallit in your garage. But is Homo sapiens’ claim on creativity destined to be short-lived?  Why both Eagleman and Brandt are prepared to step aside when artificial intelligence can do their jobs. Guests: Anthony Brandt – Professor of Composition and Theory, Rice University, and co-author of “The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World” David Eagleman – Neuroscientist, Stanford University, and co-author, “The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World”


Bacteria to the Future

Monday 26th November 2018

(Repeat) Why did the chicken take antibiotics?  To fatten it up and prevent bacterial infection. As a result, industrial farms have become superbug factories, threatening our life-saving antibiotics. Find out how our wonder drugs became bird feed, and how antibiotic resistant bugs bred on the farm end up on your dinner plate.  A journalist tells the story of the 1950s fad of “acronizing” poultry; the act of dipping it in an antibiotic bath so it can sit longer on a refrigerator shelf. Plus, some ways we can avoid a post-antibiotic era. The steps one farm took to make their chickens antibiotic free… and resurrecting an old therapy: enlisting viruses to target and destroy multi-drug resistant bacteria.  Set your “phages” to stun.  Guests: Maryn McKenna - Investigative journalist who specializes in public health and food policy. Author of “Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats.” Ryland...


Space Rocks!

Monday 19th November 2018

It’s not a bird or a plane, and probably not an alien spaceship, although the jury’s still deliberating that one.  Some astronomers have proposed that an oddly-shaped object that recently passed through our Solar System could be an alien artifact. We consider the E.T. explanation for ‘Oumuamua, but also other reasons asteroids are invigorating our imagination.  Are these orbiting rocks key to our future as a spacefaring species? Find out why traditional incentives for human exploration of space – such as political rivalry –aren’t igniting our rockets the way they once did, but why the potentially trillions of dollars to be made mining asteroids might. These small bodies may also hold the key to our ancient past: the New Horizons flyby of Thule in early 2019 will provide an historic look at a distant Kuiper belt object, and provide clues about the formation of the Solar System. Guests: Roger Launius – Former associate director of the National Air and Space Museum at...


Skeptic Check: Science Denial

Monday 12th November 2018

Climate change isn’t happening.  Vaccines make you sick.  When it comes to threats to public or environmental health, a surprisingly large fraction of the population still denies the consensus of scientific evidence.  But it’s not the first time – many people long resisted the evidentiary link between HIV and AIDS and smoking with lung cancer. There’s a sense that science denialism is on the rise.  It prompted a gathering of scientists and historians in New York City to discuss the problem, which included a debate on the usefulness of the word “denial” itself.  Big Picture Science was there. We report from the Science Denial symposium held jointly by the New York Academy of Sciences and Rutgers Global Health Institute.  Find out why so many people dig in their heels and distrust scientific findings.  Plus, the techniques wielded by special interest groups to dispute some inconvenient truths.  We also hear how simply stating more facts may be the wrong approach to...


Rerouting... Rerouting

Monday 5th November 2018

(Repeat) Lost your sense of direction?  Blame your GPS. Scientists say that our reliance on dashboard devices is eroding our ability to create cognitive maps and is messing with our minds in general. We don’t even look at landmarks or the landscape anymore.  We’ve become no more than interfaces between our GPS and our steering wheels. But in other ways, GPS can spark a new appreciation of the physical world. A real-time flyover app reveals the stunning geological features otherwise invisible from our window seat.  And sensitive electronic sensors let us see where the wild things are and where they go.  Learn how scientists put belts on jellyfish and produce maps that reveal the surprising routes taken by various species – from a single wolf, a group of phytoplankton, or a float of crocodiles. Plus, one man is not ready to say goodbye to the traditional map.  Find out why this cartographer insists on paper maps, not digital apps.  Guests: Julia Frankenstein– Cognitive...


You've Got Whale

Monday 29th October 2018

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 recordings of the socializing clicks and squeals of narwhals, and find out how climate shifts may pollute their acoustic landscape.  Also, why the chemical defense system of plants has prompted one biologist to give greenery an “11 on the scale of awesomeness.” And, you can’t see them, but they sure can sense one another: how communicating microbes plan their attack. Guests: Susanna Blackwell – Bio-acoustician with Greeneridge Sciences. Hear her recordings of narwhals here. Simon...


YGW1_Blackwell

Sunday 28th October 2018


Air Apparent

Monday 22nd October 2018

(Repeat) Whether you yawn, gasp, sniff, snore, or sigh, you’re availing yourself of our very special atmosphere.   It’s easy to take this invisible chemical cocktail for granted, but it’s not only essential to your existence: it unites you and every other life form on the planet, dead or alive.  The next breath you take likely includes molecules exhaled by Julius Caesar or Eleanor Roosevelt. And for some animals, air is an information superhighway.  Dogs navigate with their noses.  Their sniffing snouts help them to identify their owners, detect trace amounts of drugs, and even sense some diseases.  Find out what a dog’s nose knows, and why no amount of bathing and dousing in perfume can mask your personal smelliness. Plus, why your own schnoz is key to not only enjoying a fine Bordeaux, but to survival of our species. Guests: Sam Kean – Science writer, author of “Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us”  Alexandra Horowitz – Dog...


DNA is Not Destiny

Monday 15th October 2018

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 to astronaut Scott Kelly’s DNA after a year on the International Space Station.  Plus, whether there’s evidence that epigenetic changes can be passed down.  And, if we can wipe out deadly malaria by engineering the mosquito genome for sterility, should we do it? Guests: Scott Kelly – Former military test pilot and astronaut and author of “Infinite Wonder” Carl Zimmer – Columnist for The New York Times, author of “She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers,...