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Big Picture Science

Seth Shostak, Molly Bentley, SETI Institute

445
Followers
6.5K
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Big Picture Science

Big Picture Science

Seth Shostak, Molly Bentley, SETI Institute

445
Followers
6.5K
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

DecodeHer [rebroadcast]

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 led to the concept of the Big Bang. Elizabeth Friedman, originally hired to test whether William Shakespeare really wrote his plays, was soon establishing the science of code breaking, essential to success in the two world wars. Also, the tech industry is overwhelmingly male. Girls Who Code is an initiative to redress the balance by introducing girls to computer programming, and encouraging them to follow careers in tech. Guests: Jason Fagone– Author of “The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies” Lauren Gunderson– Playwright ofSilent Sky, which is being performed all over the world, form theFirst Folio Theatreto theRepertory Philippines Reshma Saujani– Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, and the author of "Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder”

50 MIN23 h ago
Comments
DecodeHer [rebroadcast]

AI: Where Does it End?

The benefits of artificial intelligence are manifest and manifold, but can we recognize the drawbacks … and avoid them in time? In this episode, recorded before a live audience at the Seattle meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, we discuss who is making the ethical decisions about how we use this powerful technology, and a proposal to create a Hippocratic Oath for AI researchers. Guests: Oren Etzioni- CEO of The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence Mark Hill-Professor of computer sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and chair of the Computing Community Consortium

51 MIN4 d ago
Comments
AI: Where Does it End?

Climate Changed

Have you adapted to the changing climate? Rising waters, more destructive wildfires, record-breaking heatwaves. Scientists have long predicted these events, but reporting on climate change has moved from prediction to description. There’s no time for dwelling on “we should haves.” Communities and organizations are being forced to adapt. Find out what that means, the role of the new “resilience officers,” and the unique response of Native American cultures. Plus, is the coronavirus outbreak made worse by climate change? Guests: James Randerson – Professor of Earth Science, University of California, Irvine Victor Rodriguez – PhD student, Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Engineering and Public Policy Kyle Whyte – Professor in the Departments of Philosophy and Community Sustainability, and tribal member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Tracey Goldstein – Professor in the Department of Pathology, Immunology, and Microbiology, University of California, Davis

51 MIN1 w ago
Comments
Climate Changed

Frogs' Pants (Rebroadcast)

It’s one of the most bizarre biological experiments ever. In the 18thcentury, a scientist fitted a pair of tailor-made briefs on a male frog to determine the animal’s contribution to reproduction. The process of gestation was a mystery and scientists had some odd-ball theories. Today, a 5thgrader can tell you how babies are made, but we still don’t know exactly what lifeis. In our quest to understand, we’re still at the frogs’ pants stage. Find out why conception took centuries to figure out. Also, why the 1970s Viking experiments, specifically designed to detect life on Mars, couldn’t give us a definitive answer. Plus, can knowing where life isn’t help define what it is? Take a tour of the world’s barren places. Guests: Jay Gallentine- Author of books about space and space history. Edward Dolnick- Author and former science writer at theBoston Globe. His book isThe Seeds of Life: From Aristotle to Da Vinci, from Shark’s Teeth to Frogs’ Pants. Chris McKay- Planetary scientist, NASA Ames Research Center. Originally aired July 10, 2017

51 MIN2 w ago
Comments
Frogs' Pants (Rebroadcast)

Skeptic Check: Science Denial (rebroadcast)

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 Sciencewas 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 combating scientific resistance. Guests: Melanie Brickman Borchard- Director of Life Sciences Conferences at New York Academy of Sciences Nancy Tomes- professor of history at Stony Brook University Allan Brandt- professor of history of science and medicine at Harvard University. Author of “The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America” Sheila Jasanoff- Director of Program on Science, Technology and Society and professor of environment, science and technology at Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University Michael Dahlstrom- Associate Director of Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, and associate professor at Iowa State University Matthew Nisbet- professor of communication and public policy at Northeastern University Arthur (Art) Caplan- professor and founding head of medical ethics at NYU School of Medicine

51 MIN3 w ago
Comments
Skeptic Check: Science Denial (rebroadcast)

A Twist of Slime

Your daily mucus output is most impressive. Teaspoons or measuring cups can’t capture its entire volume. Find out how much your body churns out and why you can’t live without the viscous stuff. But slime in general is remarkable. Whether coating the bellies of slithery creatures, sleeking the surface of aquatic plants, or dripping from your nose, its protective qualities make it one of the great inventions of biology. Join us as we venture to the land of ooze! Guests: Christopher Viney- Professor of materials science and engineering at the University of California, Merced Katharina Ribbeck- Bioengineer at MIT Anna Rose Hopkins–Chef and partner at Hank and Bean in Los Angeles Ruth Kassinger- author of “Slime: How Algae Created Us, Plague Us, and Just Might Save Us”

51 MINJAN 28
Comments
A Twist of Slime

The Ears Have It

What’s the difference between a bird call and the sound of a pile driver? Not much, when you’re close to the loudest bird ever. Find out when it pays to be noisy and when noise can worsen your health. Just about everyone eventually suffers some hearing loss, but that’s not merely aging. It’s an ailment we inflict on ourselves. Hear how a team in New York City has put sensors throughout the city to catalog noise sources, hoping to tame the tumult. And can underwater speakers blasting the sounds of a healthy reef bring life back to dead patches of the Great Barrier Reef? Guests: Mark Cartwright– Research Assistant Professor at New York University’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering Charles Mydlarz– Research Assistant Professor at New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) and the Music and Audio Research Lab (MARL) David Owen–Staff writer atThe New Yorker, and author ofVolume Control: Hearing in a Deafening World Jeff Podos– Professor in ...

51 MINJAN 21
Comments
The Ears Have It

Perpetual Emotion Machine [rebroadcast]

Get ready for compassionate computers that feel your pain, share your joy, and generally get where you’re coming from. Computers that can tell by your voice whether you’re pumped up or feeling down, or sense changes in heart rate, skin, or muscle tension to determine your mood. Empathetic electronics that you can relate to. But wait a minute – we don’t always relate to otherhumans. Our behavior can be impulsive and even self-sabotaging – our emotions are often conflicted and irrational. We cry when we’re happy. Frown when we’re pensive. A suite of factors, much of them out of our control, govern how we behave, from genes to hormones to childhood experience. One study says that all it takes for a defendant to receive a harsher sentence is a reduction in the presiding judge’s blood sugar. So grab a cookie, and find out how the heck we can build computers that understand us anyway. Guests: Rosalind Picard– Professor at the MIT Media Lab and co-founder of the companies Affectiva and Empatica. Robert Sapolsky– Professor of neuroscience at Stanford University, and author ofBehave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst.

50 MINJAN 13
Comments
Perpetual Emotion Machine [rebroadcast]

Your Brain's Reins [rebroadcast]

You are your brain. But what happens when your brain changes for the worse – either by physical injury or experience? Are you still responsible for your actions? We hear how the case of a New York man charged with murder was one of the first to introduce neuroscience as evidence in court. Plus, how technology hooks us – a young man so addicted to video games, he lacked social skills, or even a desire to eat. Find out how technology designers conspire against his digital detox. Also, even if your brain is intact and your only task is choosing a sock color, are you really in control? How your unconscious directs even mundane behavior … and how you can outwit it. Guests: Kevin Davis– Author ofThe Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America’s Courtrooms Hilarie Cash– Co-founder and chief clinical officer of reSTART, an internet addiction recovery program Adam Alter– Assistant professor of marketing and psychology at New York University, Stern School...

50 MINJAN 6
Comments
Your Brain's Reins [rebroadcast]

Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself [rebroadcast]

Do we still need doctors? There are umpteen alternative sources of medical advice, including endless and heartfelt health tips from people without medical degrees. Frankly, self-diagnosis with a health app is easier and cheaper than a trip to a clinic. Since we’re urged to be our own health advocate and seek second opinions, why not ask Alexa or consult with a celebrity about what ails us? Find out if you can trust these alternative medical advice platforms. Plus, lessons from an AIDS fighter about ignoring the findings of medical science. And, if AI can diagnose better than an MD, will we stop listening to doctors altogether? It’s our monthly look at critical thinking … but don’t take our word for it! Guests: Katherine Foley–Science and health reporter atQuartz,and author of the article “Alexa is a Terrible Doctor” Paul Offit–Professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Perlman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of “Bad Advice: Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of Health Information” Richard Marlink–Director Rutgers Global Health Institute. Shinjini Kundu–Research Fellow, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Stuart Schlisserman–Internist, Palo Alto, California originally aired September 24, 2018

51 MIN2019 DEC 31
Comments
Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself [rebroadcast]

Latest Episodes

DecodeHer [rebroadcast]

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 led to the concept of the Big Bang. Elizabeth Friedman, originally hired to test whether William Shakespeare really wrote his plays, was soon establishing the science of code breaking, essential to success in the two world wars. Also, the tech industry is overwhelmingly male. Girls Who Code is an initiative to redress the balance by introducing girls to computer programming, and encouraging them to follow careers in tech. Guests: Jason Fagone– Author of “The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies” Lauren Gunderson– Playwright ofSilent Sky, which is being performed all over the world, form theFirst Folio Theatreto theRepertory Philippines Reshma Saujani– Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, and the author of "Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder”

50 MIN23 h ago
Comments
DecodeHer [rebroadcast]

AI: Where Does it End?

The benefits of artificial intelligence are manifest and manifold, but can we recognize the drawbacks … and avoid them in time? In this episode, recorded before a live audience at the Seattle meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, we discuss who is making the ethical decisions about how we use this powerful technology, and a proposal to create a Hippocratic Oath for AI researchers. Guests: Oren Etzioni- CEO of The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence Mark Hill-Professor of computer sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and chair of the Computing Community Consortium

51 MIN4 d ago
Comments
AI: Where Does it End?

Climate Changed

Have you adapted to the changing climate? Rising waters, more destructive wildfires, record-breaking heatwaves. Scientists have long predicted these events, but reporting on climate change has moved from prediction to description. There’s no time for dwelling on “we should haves.” Communities and organizations are being forced to adapt. Find out what that means, the role of the new “resilience officers,” and the unique response of Native American cultures. Plus, is the coronavirus outbreak made worse by climate change? Guests: James Randerson – Professor of Earth Science, University of California, Irvine Victor Rodriguez – PhD student, Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Engineering and Public Policy Kyle Whyte – Professor in the Departments of Philosophy and Community Sustainability, and tribal member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Tracey Goldstein – Professor in the Department of Pathology, Immunology, and Microbiology, University of California, Davis

51 MIN1 w ago
Comments
Climate Changed

Frogs' Pants (Rebroadcast)

It’s one of the most bizarre biological experiments ever. In the 18thcentury, a scientist fitted a pair of tailor-made briefs on a male frog to determine the animal’s contribution to reproduction. The process of gestation was a mystery and scientists had some odd-ball theories. Today, a 5thgrader can tell you how babies are made, but we still don’t know exactly what lifeis. In our quest to understand, we’re still at the frogs’ pants stage. Find out why conception took centuries to figure out. Also, why the 1970s Viking experiments, specifically designed to detect life on Mars, couldn’t give us a definitive answer. Plus, can knowing where life isn’t help define what it is? Take a tour of the world’s barren places. Guests: Jay Gallentine- Author of books about space and space history. Edward Dolnick- Author and former science writer at theBoston Globe. His book isThe Seeds of Life: From Aristotle to Da Vinci, from Shark’s Teeth to Frogs’ Pants. Chris McKay- Planetary scientist, NASA Ames Research Center. Originally aired July 10, 2017

51 MIN2 w ago
Comments
Frogs' Pants (Rebroadcast)

Skeptic Check: Science Denial (rebroadcast)

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 Sciencewas 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 combating scientific resistance. Guests: Melanie Brickman Borchard- Director of Life Sciences Conferences at New York Academy of Sciences Nancy Tomes- professor of history at Stony Brook University Allan Brandt- professor of history of science and medicine at Harvard University. Author of “The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America” Sheila Jasanoff- Director of Program on Science, Technology and Society and professor of environment, science and technology at Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University Michael Dahlstrom- Associate Director of Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, and associate professor at Iowa State University Matthew Nisbet- professor of communication and public policy at Northeastern University Arthur (Art) Caplan- professor and founding head of medical ethics at NYU School of Medicine

51 MIN3 w ago
Comments
Skeptic Check: Science Denial (rebroadcast)

A Twist of Slime

Your daily mucus output is most impressive. Teaspoons or measuring cups can’t capture its entire volume. Find out how much your body churns out and why you can’t live without the viscous stuff. But slime in general is remarkable. Whether coating the bellies of slithery creatures, sleeking the surface of aquatic plants, or dripping from your nose, its protective qualities make it one of the great inventions of biology. Join us as we venture to the land of ooze! Guests: Christopher Viney- Professor of materials science and engineering at the University of California, Merced Katharina Ribbeck- Bioengineer at MIT Anna Rose Hopkins–Chef and partner at Hank and Bean in Los Angeles Ruth Kassinger- author of “Slime: How Algae Created Us, Plague Us, and Just Might Save Us”

51 MINJAN 28
Comments
A Twist of Slime

The Ears Have It

What’s the difference between a bird call and the sound of a pile driver? Not much, when you’re close to the loudest bird ever. Find out when it pays to be noisy and when noise can worsen your health. Just about everyone eventually suffers some hearing loss, but that’s not merely aging. It’s an ailment we inflict on ourselves. Hear how a team in New York City has put sensors throughout the city to catalog noise sources, hoping to tame the tumult. And can underwater speakers blasting the sounds of a healthy reef bring life back to dead patches of the Great Barrier Reef? Guests: Mark Cartwright– Research Assistant Professor at New York University’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering Charles Mydlarz– Research Assistant Professor at New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) and the Music and Audio Research Lab (MARL) David Owen–Staff writer atThe New Yorker, and author ofVolume Control: Hearing in a Deafening World Jeff Podos– Professor in ...

51 MINJAN 21
Comments
The Ears Have It

Perpetual Emotion Machine [rebroadcast]

Get ready for compassionate computers that feel your pain, share your joy, and generally get where you’re coming from. Computers that can tell by your voice whether you’re pumped up or feeling down, or sense changes in heart rate, skin, or muscle tension to determine your mood. Empathetic electronics that you can relate to. But wait a minute – we don’t always relate to otherhumans. Our behavior can be impulsive and even self-sabotaging – our emotions are often conflicted and irrational. We cry when we’re happy. Frown when we’re pensive. A suite of factors, much of them out of our control, govern how we behave, from genes to hormones to childhood experience. One study says that all it takes for a defendant to receive a harsher sentence is a reduction in the presiding judge’s blood sugar. So grab a cookie, and find out how the heck we can build computers that understand us anyway. Guests: Rosalind Picard– Professor at the MIT Media Lab and co-founder of the companies Affectiva and Empatica. Robert Sapolsky– Professor of neuroscience at Stanford University, and author ofBehave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst.

50 MINJAN 13
Comments
Perpetual Emotion Machine [rebroadcast]

Your Brain's Reins [rebroadcast]

You are your brain. But what happens when your brain changes for the worse – either by physical injury or experience? Are you still responsible for your actions? We hear how the case of a New York man charged with murder was one of the first to introduce neuroscience as evidence in court. Plus, how technology hooks us – a young man so addicted to video games, he lacked social skills, or even a desire to eat. Find out how technology designers conspire against his digital detox. Also, even if your brain is intact and your only task is choosing a sock color, are you really in control? How your unconscious directs even mundane behavior … and how you can outwit it. Guests: Kevin Davis– Author ofThe Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America’s Courtrooms Hilarie Cash– Co-founder and chief clinical officer of reSTART, an internet addiction recovery program Adam Alter– Assistant professor of marketing and psychology at New York University, Stern School...

50 MINJAN 6
Comments
Your Brain's Reins [rebroadcast]

Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself [rebroadcast]

Do we still need doctors? There are umpteen alternative sources of medical advice, including endless and heartfelt health tips from people without medical degrees. Frankly, self-diagnosis with a health app is easier and cheaper than a trip to a clinic. Since we’re urged to be our own health advocate and seek second opinions, why not ask Alexa or consult with a celebrity about what ails us? Find out if you can trust these alternative medical advice platforms. Plus, lessons from an AIDS fighter about ignoring the findings of medical science. And, if AI can diagnose better than an MD, will we stop listening to doctors altogether? It’s our monthly look at critical thinking … but don’t take our word for it! Guests: Katherine Foley–Science and health reporter atQuartz,and author of the article “Alexa is a Terrible Doctor” Paul Offit–Professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Perlman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of “Bad Advice: Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of Health Information” Richard Marlink–Director Rutgers Global Health Institute. Shinjini Kundu–Research Fellow, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Stuart Schlisserman–Internist, Palo Alto, California originally aired September 24, 2018

51 MIN2019 DEC 31
Comments
Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself [rebroadcast]

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