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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.


Big Picture Science
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Skeptic Check: Worrier Mentality
2019-05-27 08:33:35
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 more. Guests: Eric Chudler - Research association professor, department of bioengineering, University of Washington, Seattle and co-author of "Worried: Science Investigates Some of Life's Common Concerns" Lise Johnson - Director of the Basic Science Curriculum, Rocky Vista University, and co-author of "Worried: Science Investigates Some of Life's Common Concerns" Willie Turner - Vice President of Operations at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, CA Charles Wheelan - Senior Lecturer and Policy Fellow, Dartmouth College, and author of "Naked Statistics" David Robson - Commissioning Editor for the BBC and author of "The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes"
51 minutes, 29 seconds


Is Life Inevitable?
2019-05-13 07:25:24
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, 12 seconds


Rethinking Chernobyl
2019-05-06 08:08:08
The catastrophic explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in April 1986 triggered the full-scale destruction of the reactor.  But now researchers with access to once-classified Soviet documents are challenging the official version of what happened both before and after the explosion. They say that the accident was worse than we thought and that a number of factors - from paranoia to poor engineering - made the mishap inevitable.  Others claim a much larger death toll from extended exposure to low levels of radiation.  But with nuclear energy being a possibly essential component of dealing with rising carbon dioxide emissions, how do we evaluate risk under the long shadow of Chernobyl? Guests: Adam Higginbotham - Author of "Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster" Kate Brown - Historian of Environmental and Nuclear History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of "Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide for the Future" James Smith - Professor in the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Portsmouth, U.K. He was interviewed for and has written a review of "Manual for Survival" Ted Nordhaus - Founder and Executive Director of The Breakthrough Institute, Berkeley, California
51 minutes, 12 seconds


Gained in Translation
2019-04-22 07:59:27
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"
51 minutes, 12 seconds


Go With the Flow
2019-04-08 08:00:50
Solid materials get all the production credit.  Don't get us wrong, we depend on their strength and firmness for bridges, bones, and bento boxes.  But liquids do us a solid, too.  Their free-flowing properties drive the Earth's magnetic field, inspire a new generation of smart electronics, and make biology possible.  But the weird thing is, they elude clear definition.  Is tar a liquid or a solid?  What about peanut butter? In this episode: A romp through a cascade of liquids with a materials scientist who is both admiring and confounded by their properties; how Earth's molten iron core is making the magnetic north pole high-tail it to Siberia; blood as your body's information superhighway; and how a spittlebug can convert 200 times its body weight in urine into a cozy, bubble fortress. Guests: Mark Miodownik - Professor of Materials and Society, University College, London, and author of "Liquid rules: The Delightful and Dangerous Substances that Flow Through Our Lives" Arnaud Chulliat - Geophysicist, University of Colorado and Institut de physique du globe du Paris Philip Matthews - Comparative physiologist at the University of British Columbia Rose George - Journalist and author of "Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood"  
50 minutes, 31 seconds


DecodeHer
2019-04-01 09:00:00
DecodeHer 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 of Silent Sky, which is being performed all over the world, form the First Folio Theatre to the Repertory 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 minutes, 31 seconds


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




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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