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Big Picture Science | Top Science Podcasts 2019

The top science podcasts of 2019 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.

Supercomputer Showdown
2019-11-04 07:50:46
Do you have a hard-to-answer question?  The Summit, Sierra, Trinity, Frontier, and Aurora supercomputers are built to tackle it.  Summit tops the petaflop heap - at least for now.  But Frontier and Aurora are catching up as they take aim at a new performance benchmark called exascale.    So why do we need all this processing power?  From climate modeling to personalized medicine, find out why the super-est computers are necessary to answer our biggest questions. But is the dark horse candidate, quantum computing, destined to leave classical computing in the dust? Guests: Katherine Riley - Director of Science, Argonne National Laboratory Jack Wells - Director of Science, Oak Ridge National Laboratory National Center for Computational Sciences Katie Bethea - Communications Team Lead, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Jeffrey Hawkins - Technologist and neuroscientist.  Co-founder of Palm, Handspring and Numenta Eleanor Rieffel - Mathematician, NASA Ames Research Center, and co-author of "Quantum Supremacy Using a Programmable Superconducting Processor," published in Nature magazine
52 minutes, 37 seconds

Nobel Efforts
2019-10-21 08:00:56
For two Swiss astronomers, it's "Stockholm, here we come."  Their first-ever discovery of a planet orbiting another star has been awarded the most prestigious prize in science.  Find out how their exoplanet discovery led to 4,000 more and how that changes the odds of finding life beyond Earth.  Also, the Nobel committee is not alone in finding distant worlds inspirational: a musician is translating their orbital signatures into sound. Guests: Roy Gould - Biophysicist and researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Author of "Universe in Creation" Jeffrey Smith - Data scientist and a principal investigator for TESS at the SETI Institute David Ibbett - Composer and director of the Multiverse Concert Series
51 minutes, 22 seconds

Battling Bacteria
2019-10-07 07:33:27
We can't say we weren't warned.  More than 75 years ago, bacteriologist Rene Dubos cautioned that misuse of antibiotics could breed drug-resistant bacteria - and he has been proved prescient.  In this episode: the rise of superbugs, why we ignored the warnings about them, how some are enlisting an old therapy to fight back, and whether we'll heed history's lessons in the face of a future pandemic.  Plus, a weird unforeseen effect of antibiotics being investigated at the Body Farm.  Guests: Fred Turek - Director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Biology, Department of Neurobology, Northwestern University Jennifer DeBruyn - Microbiologist at the University of Tennessee, who also works at the Anthropology Research Facility, a.k.a. the Body Farm   Steffanie Strathdee - Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences at the University of California, San Diego, and co-author (with Tom Patterson) of  "The Perfect Predator: A Scientist's Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug" Tom Patterson - Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and co-author (with Steffanie Strathdee) of  "The Perfect Predator: A Scientist's Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug" Mark Honigsbaum - Medical Historian, journalist, and lecturer at City University, London, and author of "The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris"
51 minutes, 36 seconds

Headed For Trouble
2019-09-30 08:47:12
The stone heads on Easter Island are an enduring mystery: why were they built and why were they abandoned and destroyed?  The old ideas about cultural collapse are yielding to new ones based on careful investigation on the ground - but also from above.  What surprising explanations have we found and are we off base to think that ancient societies such as the Easter Islanders or the classical Egyptians were, in the end, failures?  Can what we learn from these histories help predict which societies will survive? Guests: James Grant Peterkin - Tour guide, resident, and British Honorary Consul on Easter Island Sarah Parcak - Archaeologist, Egyptologist, remote sensing expert, professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and author of Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past Carl Lipo - Anthropologist and professor at Binghamton University, State University of New York
51 minutes, 19 seconds

For Good Measure
2019-09-09 07:53:48
The reign of Le Grand K has come to an end. After 130 years, this hunk of metal sitting in a Parisian vault will no longer define the kilogram. The new kilogram mass will be defined by Planck's constant, joining three other units for redefinition by fundamental constants.  But as we measure with increasing precision - from cesium atomic clocks to gravitational wave detectors able to measure spacetime distortions to 1/1000th the width of a proton - is something fundamental lost along the way?  Meanwhile, the BiPiSci team accepts the banana-measurement challenge. Guests: Jon Pratt - Mechanical engineer and engineer and Chief of the Quantum Measurement Division of the Physical Measurement Laboratory (PML) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology Wolfgang Ketterle - Physicist at MIT, Nobel Laureate Simon Winchester - Author of "The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World"
52 minutes, 34 seconds

Skeptic Check: Data Bias
2019-09-02 09:00:00
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"
51 minutes, 22 seconds

Granting Immunity
2019-08-12 07:44:53
"Diversity or die" could be your new health mantra. Don't boost your immune system, cultivate it! Like a garden, your body's defenses benefit from species diversity.  Find out why multiple strains of microbes, engaged in a delicate ballet with your T-cells, join internal fungi in combatting disease. Plus, global ecosystems also depend on the diversity of its tiniest members; so what happens when the world's insects bug out? Guests: Matt Richtel - Author, most recently, of "An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of The Immune System" Rob Dunn - Biologist and professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University. Author of "Never Home Alone" David Underhill - Professor of medicine, Cedars-Sinai Hospital, Los Angeles, California Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson - Professor in conservation biology at the Institute for Ecology and Nature Management at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.  Author of "Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects"  
52 minutes, 1 second

Let's Stick Together
2019-07-22 08:56:11
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"
51 minutes, 35 seconds

Math's Paths
2019-07-15 06:42:47
If you bake, you can appreciate math's transformative properties.  Admiring the stackable potato chip is to admire a hyperbolic sheet.  Find out why there's no need to fear math - you just need to think outside the cuboid.  Also, how nature's geometric shapes inspire the next generation of squishy robots and an argument for radically overhauling math class.  The end point of these common factors is acute show that's as fun as eating Pi. Guests: Eugenia Cheng - Scientist in Residence at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, tenured at the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Sheffield, and author of "How to Bake Pi" Shankar Venkataramani - Professor of math at the University of Arizona Steven Strogatz - Professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University and author of "Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe" Daniel Finkel - Mathematician and founder and director of operations at "Math for Love"
50 minutes, 31 seconds

Nailing the Moon Landing
2019-07-01 08:36:21
Neil, Buzz, and Michael made it look effortless, but the moon landing was neither easy nor inevitable.  Soon after President Kennedy publicly stated the goal of sending Americans to the moon, NASA confessed that the chances of success were only about 50/50.   But on July 20, 1969, despite enormous difficulties, astronauts stepped onto the lunar regolith. In this special anniversary episode, we go behind the iconic phrases and familiar photos to consider the errors, mishaps, and the Plan B contingencies that dogged the project, as well as hear of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who made Apollo 11 possible.    Guests: Charles Fishman -  author of "One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission that Flew Us to the Moon" Matt Hayes -  President and CEO of the Museum of Flight, Seattle Geoff Nunn - Adjust curator for Space History at the Museum of Flight. David Whitehouse -  Journalist, broadcaster, and author of "Apollo 11: The Inside Story" Dee O'Hara - NASA's first aerospace nurse and flight nurse for the Apollo mission James Allen Joki - EMU Flight Controller, Apollo Mission Control, Houston. Ted Huetter - Museum of Flight public relations manager.
50 minutes, 31 seconds

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
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Now Playing: Science for the People

#540 Specialize? Or Generalize?
Ever been called a "jack of all trades, master of none"? The world loves to elevate specialists, people who drill deep into a single topic. Those people are great. But there's a place for generalists too, argues David Epstein. Jacks of all trades are often more successful than specialists. And he's got science to back it up. We talk with Epstein about his latest book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at