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Big Picture Science | Best Science Podcasts (2019)

Our selection of the best science podcasts of 2019. New science podcasts are updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.


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Radical Cosmology
2019-02-18 07:59:40
400 years ago, some ideas about the cosmos were too scandalous to mention. When the Dominican friar Giordano Bruno suggested that planets existed outside our Solar System, the Catholic Inquisition had him arrested, jailed, and burned at the stake for heresy. Today, we have evidence of thousands of planets orbiting other stars.  Our discovery of extrasolar planets has dramatically changed ideas about the possibility for life elsewhere in the universe.  Modern theories about the existence of the ghostly particles called neutrinos or of collapsed stars with unfathomable gravity (black holes), while similarly incendiary, didn't prompt arrest, of course.  Neutrinos and black holes were arresting ideas because they came decades before we had the means to prove their existence. Hear about scientific ideas that came before their time and why extrasolar planets, neutrinos, and black holes are now found on the frontiers of astronomical research. Guests: Alberto Martínez - Professor of history, University of Texas, Austin, and author of Burned Alive: Giordano Bruno, Galileo & the Inquisition Anne Schukraft - Associate scientist, Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory Ephraim Fischbach - Professor of physics and astronomy, Purdue University Chris Impey - Professor of astronomy, University of Arizona, and author of Einstein's Monsters: The Life and Times of Black Holes
51 minutes, 12 seconds


Keeping Humans in the Loop
2019-02-11 09:00:00
Modern technology is great, but could we be losing control?  As our world becomes more crowded and demands for resources are greater, some people worry about humanity's uncertain prospects.  An eminent cosmologist considers globe-altering developments such as climate change and artificial intelligence.  Will we be able to stave off serious threats to our future? There's also another possible source of danger: our trendy digital aids.  We seem all-too-willing to let algorithms classify and define our wants, our needs, and our behavior. Instead of using technology, are we being used by it - to inadvertently become social media's product?  And while we may be skittish about the increased data our technology collects, one sci-fi writer imagines a future in which information is a pervasive and freely available commodity.  Guests: Martin Rees - Cosmologist, astrophysicist, and Great Britain's Astronomer Royal.  Author of On the Future: Prospects for Humanity. Douglas Rushkoff - Media theorist and professor of media theory and digital economics, City University of New York.  Author of Team Human. Malka Older - Author and humanitarian worker, author of The Centenal Cycle.
51 minutes, 12 seconds


Skeptic Check: Astrology Ascending
2019-02-04 08:49:40
The fault is in our stars.  And according to astrology, so is our destiny, our moods, and our character.  Mars may be in retrograde, but interest in the ancient practice of astrology is rising.  The fact that it is not science is irrelevant to those who claim "it works."  Find out why "what's your sign" is replacing "what do you do?" as an icebreaker, the historical roots of astrology and whether its truth-value matters today, and what conclusions we can draw from the many studies examining the full moon's influence on human behavior. It's our monthly look at critical thinking, but don't take our word for it! Guests: Banu Guler - CEO and co-founder of Co-Star Astrology Andrew Fraknoi - Astronomy professor at the Fromm Institute at the University of San Francisco and The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at San Francisco State University. Eric Chudler - Research association professor, department of bioengineering, University of Washington, Seattle, and curator of a collection of studies about the moon and behavior.  
51 minutes, 43 seconds


Rip Van Winkle Worm
2019-01-21 08:55:39
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.
52 minutes, 33 seconds


True Grit
2019-01-14 08:19:31
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
51 minutes, 44 seconds


Sci-Fi From the Future
2019-01-07 08:35:36
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 movies Ex Machina and Jurassic Park suggest 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 of Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi Movies.
50 minutes, 31 seconds


Yule Like This
2018-12-17 08:24:06
Fir tree needles embedded in carpet are a holiday headache.  Why not decorate a genetically-modified, needle-retaining tree instead?  It's just another way that science is relevant to the holidays.  We have more. How about science experiments on fruitcake?  There's a competition that includes launching it with a pneumatic device, running a heavy electric current though it, or blasting it with a blowtorch.  Meanwhile, physics provides insight into those tricky how-does-he-do-it questions about Santa's delivery rounds.    Finally, step away from the relatives and consider the implications of the winter solstice.  Enjoy a better holiday through science! Guests: Jenna Gallas - Special Event Coordinator, Manitou Springs Chamber of Congress, Colorado Laura Kramer - Manager of Science Conductors, Science Museum of Virginia, Richmond Lilian Matallana - Research Associate, Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Raleigh Ben Orlin - Math teacher, and author of "Math with Bad Drawings: Illuminating the Ideas That Shape Our Reality" Ethan Siegel - Theoretical astrophysicist and owner of "Starts with a Bang!" blog Andrew Fraknoi - Astronomer and educator, author of "Introduction to Astronomy"
52 minutes


Space Rocks!
2018-11-19 07:55:39
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 the Smithsonian and chief historian for NASA J. L.Galache - Asteroid astronomer and co-founder and CTO of Aten Engineering Mark Showalter - Planetary scientist and Senior Research Scientist at the SETI Institute and a member of the New Horizons team Avi Loeb - Professor of Science at Harvard and chair of the Department of Astronomy
52 minutes, 3 seconds


Skeptic Check: Science Denial
2018-11-12 07:41:10
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 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
50 minutes, 31 seconds


You've Got Whale
2018-10-29 08:35:40
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 Gilroy - Professor of botany, University of Wisconsin, Madison. His video of glowing green caterpillar-munched plants can be viewed here. Peter Greenberg - Professor of microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle
50 minutes, 31 seconds




Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
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