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Big Picture Science

Science Podcasts

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.

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.

Location:

Mountain View, CA

Description:

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.

Twitter:

@BiPiSci

Language:

English

Contact:

SETI Institute 189 Bernardo Ave, Suite 100 Mountain View, CA 94043 510-644-2669


Episodes

Life on Venus?

9/14/2020
Have scientists found evidence of life on Venus? Known for its scorching temperatures and acidic atmosphere, Earth’s twin hardly seems a promising place for living things. But could a discovery of phosphine by researchers at MIT point to a high-altitude biosphere on this nearby world? Guests: Clara Sousa–SilvaPhosphine as a Biosignature Gas in Exoplanet Atmospheres Sara SeagerThe Smallest Lights in the UniverseNathalie CabrolDavid GrinspoonEarth in Human Hands

Duration:00:52:00

Space: Why Go There? (rebroadcast)

9/7/2020
It takes a lot of energy and technology to leave terra firma. But why rocket into space when there’s so much to be done on Earth? From the practical usefulness of satellites to the thrill of exploring other worlds, let us count the ways. The launch of a NOAA weather satellite to join its twin provides unparalleled observation of storms, wildfires, and even lightning. Find out what it’s like to watch hurricanes form from space. Meanwhile, more than a dozen countries want their own...

Duration:00:53:36

Home Invasions

8/31/2020
As we struggle to control a viral invader that moves silently across the globe and into its victims, we are also besieged by other invasions. Murder hornets have descended upon the Pacific Northwest, threatening the region’s honeybees. In Africa, locust swarms darken the sky. In this episode, we draw on a classic science fiction tale to examine the nature of invasions, and what prompts biology to go on the move. Guests: Peter Ksander War of the WorldsEva Licht War of the WorldsChris Looney...

Duration:00:52:34

The X-Flies (rebroadcast)

8/24/2020
Insect populations are declining. But before you say “good riddance,” consider that insects are the cornerstone of many ecosystems. They are dinner for numerous animal species and are essential pollinators. Mammals are loved, but they are not indispensable. Insects are. Meanwhile, marvel at the extraordinary capabilities of some insects. The zany aerial maneuvers of the fly are studied by pilots. And, contrary to the bad press, cockroaches are very clean creatures. Also, take a listen as we...

Duration:00:53:36

Skeptic Check: Worrier Mentality (rebroadcast)

8/17/2020
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:00:53:36

Math's Paths (rebroadcast)

8/10/2020
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:00:51:53

On Thin Ice (rebroadcast)

8/3/2020
Water is essential for life – that we know. But the honeycomb lattice that forms when you chill it to zero degrees Celsius is also inexorably intertwined with life. Ice is more than a repository for water that would otherwise raise sea levels. It’s part of Earth’s cooling system, a barrier preventing decaying organic matter from releasing methane gas, and a vault entombing ancient bacteria and other microbes. From the Arctic to the Antarctic, global ice is disappearing. Find out what’s at...

Duration:00:51:17

Skeptic Check: Know-It-Alls

7/27/2020
Think you’re some kind of expert? Join the club. It’s one thing to question authority; another to offer up your untrained self as its replacement. Rebellion may be a cherished expression of American individualism, but, from sidelining Dr. Fauci to hiding public health data, find out what we lose when we silence health experts and “go with our gut” during a pandemic. Plus, from ancestors to algorithms: how we’ve replaced credentialed experts with sketchy web sites and social media...

Duration:00:51:22

Something in the Air

7/20/2020
Inhale. Now exhale. Notice anything different? Our response to the virus is changing the air in unexpected ways. A pandemic-driven pause on travel has produced clear skies and a world-wide air quality experiment. And a new study reveals that hundreds of tons of microplastics are raining down on us each day. But we can improve the quality of the breaths we do take; engineers have devised a high-tech mask that may kill coronavirus on contact. Plus, although you do it 25,000 times a day, you...

Duration:00:51:17

COVID Curiosities

7/13/2020
COVID Curiosities Some dogs and cats have become sick with COVID. But it’s not just domestic critters that are vulnerable: zoo animals have fallen ill too. There’s more strange news about the pandemic, for example scientists who track the coronavirus in our sewage, and computer models that show that flushing the toilet can launch persistent, pathogenic plumes into the room. And scientists have warned the WHO that infectious virus remains airborne. Also, how a shortage of glass vials could...

Duration:00:51:16

Creative Brains (Rebroadcast)

7/6/2020
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...

Duration:00:51:13

Animals Like Us (rebroadcast)

6/29/2020
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:00:51:14

Let's Stick Together (rebroadcast)

6/22/2020
Crowded subway driving you crazy? Sick of the marathon-length grocery store line? Wish you had a hovercraft to float over traffic? If you are itching to hightail it to an isolated cabin in the woods, remember, we evolved to be together. Humans are not only social, we’re driven to care for one another, even those outside our immediate family. We look at some of the reasons why this is so – from the increase in valuable communication within social groups to the power of the hormone oxytocin....

Duration:00:50:30

Skeptic Check: Data Bias (rebroadcast)

6/15/2020
Sexist snow plowing? Data that guide everything from snow removal schedules to heart research often fail to consider gender. In these cases, “reference man” stands in for “average human.” Human bias also infects artificial intelligence, with speech recognition triggered only by male voices and facial recognition that can’t see black faces. We question the assumptions baked into these numbers and algorithms. Guests: Caroline Criado-Perez - Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for...

Duration:00:50:30

Race and COVID

6/8/2020
While citizens take to the streets to protest racist violence, the pandemic has its own brutal inequities. Black, Latino, and Native American people are bearing the brunt of COVID illness and death. We look at the multitude of factors that contribute to this disparity, most of which existed long before the pandemic. Also, how the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe maintained their coronavirus safeguards in defiance of the South Dakota governor. And, the biological reasons why we categorize one...

Duration:00:50:30

Soap, Skin, Sleep

6/1/2020
Some safeguards against COVID-19 don’t require a medical breakthrough. Catching sufficient Z’s makes for a healthy immune system. And, while you wash your hands for the umpteenth time, we'll explain how soap sends viruses down the drain. Plus, your body’s largest organ – skin – is your first line of defense against the pandemic and is also neglected because of it. Find out why we're suffering from "skin hunger" during this crisis. Guests: Cody CassidyWho Ate the First Oyster: The...

Duration:00:51:18

Gained in Translation (rebroadcast)

5/25/2020
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:00:51:31

Vaccine, When?

5/18/2020
It will be the shot heard ‘round the world, once it comes. But exactly when can we expect a COVID vaccine? We discuss timelines, how it would work, who’s involved, and the role of human challenge trials. Also, although he doesn’t consider himself brave, we do. Meet a Seattle volunteer enrolled in the first coronavirus vaccine trial. And, while we mount an elaborate defense against a formidable foe, scientists ask a surprising question: is a virus even alive? Guests: Nigel Brown Ian Haydon...

Duration:00:51:07

To the Bat Cave

5/11/2020
To fight a pandemic, you need to first understand where a virus comes from. That quest takes disease ecologist Jon Epstein to gloomy caverns where bats hang out. There he checks up on hundreds of the animals as his team from the EcoHealth Alliance trace the origins of disease-causing viruses. But their important work is facing its own threat; the Trump administration recently terminated funding to the Alliance because of its collaboration with Chinese scientists. Hear how Dr. Epstein finds...

Duration:00:51:07

Is Life Inevitable? (Rebroadcast)

5/4/2020
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:00:51:07