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Big Picture Science
The Big Picture Science radio show and podcast engages the public with modern science research through lively and intelligent storytelling. Science radio doesn't have to be dull. The only dry thing about our program is the humor.
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.
Monday, June 17, 2013 12:00am
You may be unique, but is your home planet? NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has uncovered thousands of planetary candidates, far far beyond our solar system. Some may be habitable and possibly even Earth-like. But now a failure in its steering apparatus may bring an abrupt end to this pioneering telescope’s search for new worlds.
But Kepler has a massive legacy of data still to be studied. Many new worlds will undoubtedly be found in these data. Hear why the astronomer who has discovered the greatest number of exoplanets is hopeful about the hunt for alien life, and meet the next generation of planet-hunting instruments.
Also, “Weird worlds? That was our idea!” Sci-fi writers lay claim to the first musings on exotic planetary locales. And a biographer of Magellan and Columbus describes the dangerous hunt for new worlds five centuries ago.
- Charlie Sobeck – Engineer, deputy project manager, Kepler Mission, NASA Ames Research Center
- Geoff Marcy – Astronomer, University of California, Berkeley
- Dan Clery – Deputy news editor, European office of Science
- Laurence Bergreen – author of Voyage to Mars, Columbus: The Four Voyages, 1492-1504, Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe (P.S.)
- Robert J. Sawyer – Hugo Award-winning author; most recently of Red Planet Blues
Monday, June 10, 2013 12:00am
There are many kinds of islands. There’s your iconic sandy speck of land topped with a palm tree, but there’s also our home planet – an island in the vast seas of space. You might think of yourself as a biological island … until you tally the number of microbes living outside – and inside – your body.
We go island hopping, and consider the Scottish definition of an island – one man, one sheep – as well as the swelling threat of high water to island nations. Also, how species populate islands … and tricks for communicating with extraterrestrial islanders hanging out elsewhere in the cosmos.
- Edward Chamberlin – Professor emeritus of English and comparative literature at the University of Toronto; fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; author of Island: How Islands Transform the World
- Bill McKibben – Writer, activist and professor of environmental studies, Middlebury College, founder of 350.org
- Justin Sonnenburg – Microbiologist, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University
- Guy Consolmagno – Astronomer, Vatican Observatory
- Margaret Race – Ecologist, SETI Institute
First released January 9, 2012.
Monday, June 3, 2013 12:00am
ENCORE It’s all about you. And you, and you, and you and you… that is, if we live in parallel universes. Imagine you doing exactly what you’re doing now, but in an infinite number of universes.
Discover the multiverse theory and why repeats aren’t limited to summer television.
Plus, the physics of riding on a light beam, and the creative analogies a New York Times science writer uses to avoid using the word “weird” to describe dark energy and other weird physics.
Also, people who concoct their own theories (some would say fringe) of the universe: is all matter made up of tiny coiled springs?
- Brian Greene – Physicist and mathematician, Columbia University, and author of The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos
- Dennis Overbye – Reporter, New York Times
- Simon Steel – Science educator at University College London
- Margaret Wertheim – Science writer, author of Physics on the Fringe: Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything
First released January 9, 2012.
Monday, May 27, 2013 12:00am
We’ve all hit the snooze button when the alarm goes off, but why do we crave sleep in the first place? We explore the evolutionary origins of sleep … the study of narcolepsy in dogs … and could novel drugs and technologies cut down on our need for those zzzzs.
Plus, ditch your dream journal: a brain scanner may let you record – and play back – your dreams.
And, branch out with the latest development in artificial light: bioluminescent trees. How gene tinkering may make your houseplants both grow and glow.
- Emmanuel Mignot – Professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and director of the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, Stanford University
- Kyle Taylor – Molecular biologist at Glowing Plant
- Jerry Siegel – Neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry, the University of California, Los Angeles
- Jack Gallant – Professor of psychology and neuroscience, University of California, Berkeley
Monday, May 20, 2013 12:00am
It’s a record we didn’t want to break. The carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere hits the 400 parts-per-million mark, a level which some scientists say is a point of no return for stopping climate change. A few days later, a leading newspaper prints an op-ed essay that claims CO2 is getting a bad rap: it’s actually good for the planet. The more the better.
Skeptic Phil Plait rebuts the CO2-is-awesome idea while a paleontologist paints a picture of what Earth was like when the notorious gas last ruled the planet. Note: humans weren’t around.
Plus, our skit says NO to O2 … and a claim that climate change skeptics have borrowed from the Creationists’ playbook in challenging the teaching of established science in schools.
- Phil Plait – Astronomer, skeptic, and author of Slate Magazine’s blog Bad Astronomy
- Peter Ward – Paleontologist and biologist, Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington in Seattle
- Josh Rosenau – Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education
- Eugenie Scott – Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education