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Big Picture Science | Top Science Podcasts 2020

The top science podcasts of 2020 updated daily.


Big Picture Science
Big Picture Science weaves together a universe of big ideas from robots to memory to antimatter to dinosaurs. Tune in and make contact with science.

Creative Brains (Rebroadcast)
2020-07-06 08:51:37
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"   Originally aired February 5, 2018
51 minutes, 14 seconds


Animals Like Us (rebroadcast)
2020-06-29 08:25:45
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 de Waal - Primatologist and biologist at Emory University; author of "Mama's Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves."  Watch the video of Mama and Jan Van Hooff. Peter Singer - Philosopher, professor of bioethics at Princeton University. Jacob Shell - Professor of geography at Temple University, and author of "Giants of the Monsoon Forest: Living and Working with Elephants." Kevin Schneider - Executive director of the Nonhuman Rights Project Originally aired June 24, 2019
51 minutes, 15 seconds


Let's Stick Together (rebroadcast)
2020-06-22 10:02:57
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.  Plus, how our willingness to tolerate anonymity, a condition which allows societies to grow, has a parallel in ant supercolonies. Guests: Adam Rutherford - Geneticist and author of "Humanimal: How Homo sapiensBecame Nature's Most Paradoxical Creature - a New Evolutionary History" Patricia Churchland - Neurophilosopher, professor of philosophy emerita at the University of California San Diego, and author most recently of "Conscience: The Origins of Moral Intuition" Mark Moffett - Tropical biologist, Smithsonian Institution researcher, and author of "The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive and Fall" originally aired July 22, 2019
50 minutes, 31 seconds


Skeptic Check: Data Bias (rebroadcast)
2020-06-15 08:53:00
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 - Journalist and author of "Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men" Kade Crockford - Director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts Amy Webb - Futurist, founder and CEO of the Future Today Institute, and author of "The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and There Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity
50 minutes, 31 seconds


Race and COVID
2020-06-08 08:02:16
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 another by skin color. Guests: Marcella Nunez Smith - Associate Professor of Medicine and of Epidemiology, Yale School of Medicine, Director, Equity Research and Innovation Center Utibe Essien - Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and a Core Investigator, Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System Nina Jablonski - Anthropologist, paleobiologist at Pennsylvania State University and author of, "Skin: A Natural History," and "Living Color: the Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color."  Robert Sapolsky - Professor of neuroscience at Stanford University, and author of "Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst." Harold Frazier - Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, South Dakota. The Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation COVID checkpoint on Highway 212 is featured in an article on Indianz.com.  
50 minutes, 31 seconds


Soap, Skin, Sleep
2020-06-01 08:01:53
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 Cassidy - Author, "Who Ate the First Oyster: The Extraordinary People Behind the Greatest Firsts in History." Nina Jablonski - Anthropologist, paleobiologist at Pennsylvania State University and author of "Skin: A Natural History." Eti Ben Simon - Neuroscientist and sleep researcher, Center for Human Sleep Science, University of California, Berkeley  
51 minutes, 19 seconds


Gained in Translation (rebroadcast)
2020-05-25 08:59:28
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 challenge: Despite debate about the wisdom of transmitting messages to space, one group sends radio signals to E.T. anyway. Find out how they crafted a non-verbal message and what it contained. Plus, why using nuanced language to connive and scheme ultimately turned us into a more peaceful species. And yes, it's all gouda: why melted cheese may be the cosmic message of peace we need. Guests: Julia Rayz - Computer scientist and associate professor at Purdue University's Department of Computer and Information Technology Steve Adler - Mayor of Austin, Texas Doug Vakoch - Psychologist and president of the non-profit organization METI International Richard Wrangham - Biological anthropologist at Harvard University and author of "The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution" Originally aired April 22, 2019
51 minutes, 32 seconds


Vaccine, When?
2020-05-18 07:29:53
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 - Emeritus Professor of Molecular Microbiology at the University of Edinburgh Ian Haydon - Public information specialist at the University of Washington, Seattle Bonnie Maldonado - Professor of Pediatrics and Infectious Diseases at the Stanford University School of Medicine Paul Offit - Head of the Vaccine Education Center, and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
51 minutes, 8 seconds


To the Bat Cave
2020-05-11 07:42:45
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 the viruses, what kind of human activity triggers outbreaks, and how science counters the unsubstantiated claim that the virus escaped from a lab. Guests: Jon Epstein - Veterinary epidemiologist with the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance Meredith Wadman - Staff writer for the journal Science. Read her article about the cancellation of the NIH bat coronavirus grant.
51 minutes, 8 seconds


Is Life Inevitable? (Rebroadcast)
2020-05-04 07:56:20
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 that life arose as an inevitable consequence of matter shape-shifting to dissipate heat. Could physics be the driving force behind life's emergence?   Guests: Caleb Scharf - Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University, New York Laurie Barge - Research scientist in astrobiology at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Bruce Damer - Research scientist in biomolecular engineering, University of California,  Jeremy England - Physicist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology  
51 minutes, 8 seconds




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