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Big Picture Science | Best Science Podcasts (2018)

Our selection of the best science podcasts of 2018. New science podcasts are updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.


Big Picture Science
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Bacteria to the Future
2018-02-12 06:47:31
Why did the chicken take antibiotics?  To fatten it up and prevent bacterial infection. As a result, industrial farms have become superbug factories, threatening our life-saving antibiotics. Find out how our wonder drugs became bird feed, and how antibiotic resistant bugs bred on the farm end up on your dinner plate.  A journalist tells the story of the 1950s fad of "acronizing" poultry; the act of dipping it in an antibiotic bath so it can sit longer on a refrigerator shelf. Plus, some ways we can avoid a post-antibiotic era. The steps one farm took to make their chickens antibiotic free... and resurrecting an old therapy: enlisting viruses to target and destroy multi-drug resistant bacteria.  Set your "phages" to stun.  Guests: Maryn McKenna - Investigative journalist who specializes in public health and food policy. Author of "Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats." Ryland Young - Biochemist, head of the Center for Phage Technology at Texas A&M University.
50 minutes, 31 seconds


Creative Brains
2018-02-05 08:20:10
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"
50 minutes, 31 seconds


Skeptic Check: New UFO Evidence
2018-01-29 07:32:38
It was a shocker of a story, splashed across the New York Times front page: The existence of a five-year long, hidden Pentagon investigation of UFOs.  With one-third of the American public convinced that aliens are visiting Earth, could this study finally provide the proof? We consider how this story came to light and what the $22 million program has produced.  Does the existence of a secret study mean there's now decent proof of extraterrestrial craft in our skies?  We take a look at the evidence made public so far. And why, six years after the study ended, are we learning about it now? Guests: James Oberg - Space journalist, historian and former NASA employee James McGaha - Retired Air Force pilot, astronomer and director of the Grasslands Observatory Ben Radford - Deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine and a Research Fellow with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry 
50 minutes, 31 seconds


Rerouting... Rerouting
2017-12-18 08:02:50
Lost your sense of direction?  Blame your GPS. Scientists say that our reliance on dashboard devices is eroding our ability to create cognitive maps and is messing with our minds in general. We don't even look at landmarks or the landscape anymore.  We've become no more than interfaces between our GPS and our steering wheels. But in other ways, GPS can spark a new appreciation of the physical world. A real-time flyover app reveals the stunning geological features otherwise invisible from our window seat.  And sensitive electronic sensors let us see where the wild things are and where they go.  Learn how scientists put belts on jellyfish and produce maps that reveal the surprising routes taken by various species - from a single wolf, a group of phytoplankton, or a float of crocodiles. Plus, one man is not ready to say goodbye to the traditional map.  Find out why this cartographer insists on paper maps, not digital apps.  Guests: Julia Frankenstein- Cognitive scientist, Darmstadt Technical University, Germany Greg Milner- Journalist, author of "Pinpoint: How GPS is Changing Technology, Culture, and our Minds"  Amy Myrbo- Earth scientist, University of Minnesota Oliver Uberti- Graphic artist and former senior design editor at National Geographic   James Cheshire- Geographer, University College London.  Co-author, along with Oliver Uberti, of "Where The Animals Go: Tracking Wildlife with Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics." Tom Hedberg- Mapmaker and publisher at Hedberg Maps in Minneapolis, Minnesota 
51 minutes, 11 seconds


Air Apparent
2017-12-04 08:54:33
Whether you yawn, gasp, sniff, snore, or sigh, you're availing yourself of our very special atmosphere.   It's easy to take this invisible chemical cocktail for granted, but it's not only essential to your existence: it unites you and every other life form on the planet, dead or alive.  The next breath you take likely includes molecules exhaled by Julius Caesar or Eleanor Roosevelt. And for some animals, air is an information superhighway.  Dogs navigate with their noses.  Their sniffing snouts help them to identify their owners, detect trace amounts of drugs, and even sense some diseases.  Find out what a dog's nose knows, and why no amount of bathing and dousing in perfume can mask your personal smelliness. Plus, why your own schnoz is key to not only enjoying a fine Bordeaux, but to survival of our species. Guests: Sam Kean - Science writer, author of "Caesar's Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us"  Alexandra Horowitz - Dog cognition researcher, Barnard College, author of "Being A Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell"  Rachel Herz - Cognitive neuroscientist, Brown University, author of "Why You Eat What You Eat," and "The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell"  Ken Givich - Microbiologist, Guittard Chocolate company
50 minutes, 31 seconds


Wonder Women
2017-11-17 20:18:20
We're hearing about harassment of, and barriers to, women seeking careers in politics and entertainment. But what about science? Science is supposed to be uniquely merit-based and objective. And yet the data say otherwise. A new study reveals widespread harassment of women of color in space science.  We look at the role that a hostile work environment plays in keeping women from pursuing scientific careers. While more women than ever are holding jobs in science, the percentage in tech and computer science has flattened out or even dropped.  A memo from a software engineer at an Internet giant claims it's because female brains aren't suited for tech. Find out what the science says. Plus, women staring down discrimination. One woman's reaction to her guidance counselor's suggestion that she skip calculus and have babies. And SACNAS, the organization changing the face of science for Latina and Native American women.   Guests: Jill Tarter - Astronomer, founding member of the SETI Institute, and member of the SETI Institute Board of Trustees.  She is the subject of a biography by writer Sarah Scoles: "Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence."  Angela Saini - Journalist and author of "Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong" Kathryn Clancy - Associate professor of anthropology, University of Illinois Antonia Franco - Executive director, Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS)
51 minutes


Skeptic Check: Nibiru! (Again!)
2017-11-13 08:46:35
Will your calendar entry for November 19th  be your last? Some people say yes, predicting a catastrophic collision between Earth and planet Nibiru on that date and the end of the world.  But it won't happen, because this hypothesized rogue world doesn't exist. Nibiru's malevolent disruptions have been foretold many times, most dramatically in 2012 and three times so far in 2017.  But this year NASA issued a rare public assurance that doomsday was not in the offing. Find out why the agency decided to speak out. Meanwhile, hoaxes and alarmist stories from the 19th century demonstrate that we have a long history of being susceptible to hooey.  Also, an astronomer who doesn't believe that Nibiru is hiding in the outer Solar System, but that Planet X is.   Guests: David Morrison - Astronomer and space scientist, NASA Ames Research Center Robert E. Bartholomew - Medical sociologist at Botany College, Auckland, New Zealand, and author of "A Colorful History of Popular Delusions" Michael Brown - Astronomer at the California Institute of Technology
51 minutes


DNA: Nature's Hard Drive
2017-11-06 07:18:16
The biotech tool CRISPR lets us do more than shuffle genes.  Researchers have embedded an animated GIF into a living organism's DNA, proving that the molecule is a great repository for information.  This has encouraged speculation that DNA could be used by aliens to send messages.  Meanwhile, nature has seized on this powerful storage system in surprising ways.  Scientists have learned that the 98% of our genome - once dismissed as "junk" - contains valuable genetic treasure. Find out what project ENCODE is learning about the "dark genome." Plus, how viruses became the original stealth coders, inserting their DNA into ancient bacteria and eventually leading to the development of CRISPR technology.  Discover the potential of this powerful tool, from curing disease to making pig organs transplant-friendly, and the possible dark side of quick-and-easy gene editing.   Guests: Paul Davies- Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University Yin Shen- Assistant professor, Department of Neurology, Institute for Human Genetics, University of California - San Francisco, member of ENCODE team  Sam Sternberg- Assistant professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University, and co-author of "A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution"   Hank Greely- Director, Center for Law and the Biosciences; Chair of the Steering Committee of the Center for Biomedical Ethics; and Director, Stanford Program in Neuroscience and Society
52 minutes, 1


Too Big To Prove
2017-10-16 04:29:46
Celebrations are in order for the physicists who won the 2017 Nobel Prize, for the detection of gravitational waves.  But the road to Stockholm was not easy.  Unfolding over a century, it went from doubtful theory to daring experiments and even disrepute.  100 years is a major lag between a theory and its confirmation, and new ideas in physics may take even longer to prove. Why it may be your great, great grandchildren who witness the confirmation of string theory.  Plus, the exciting insights that gravitational waves provide into the phenomena of our universe, beginning with black holes. And, physics has evolved - shouldn't its rewards?  A case for why the Nobel committee should honor collaborative groups rather than individuals, and the scientific breakthroughs it's missed.  Guests:  Janna Levin- Physicist and astronomer at Barnard College at Columbia University, and the author of the story of LIGO, "Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space." Roland Pease- BBC reporter, producer, and host of "Science in Action."  David Gross- Theoretical physicist, string theorist, University of California, Santa Barbara, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, winner, 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics. 
52 minutes, 46 seconds


It's In Material
2017-10-02 07:56:12
Astronauts are made of the "right stuff," but what about their spacesuits?   NASA's pressurized and helmeted onesies are remarkable, but they need updating if we're to boldly go into deep space.   Suiting up on Mars requires more manual flexibility, for example.  Find out what innovative materials might be used to reboot the suit. Meanwhile, strange new materials are in the pipeline for use on terra firma: spider silk is kicking off the development of biological materials that are inspiring ultra-strong, economical, and entirely new fabrics.  And, while flesh-eating bacteria may seem like an unlikely ally in materials science, your doctor might reach for them one day.  The bacterium's proteins are the inspiration for a medical molecular superglue. Plus, an overview of more innovative materials to come, from those that are 3D printed to self-healing concrete.   Guests: Nicole Stott- Retired NASA astronaut, artist  Dava Newman- Professor of Astronautics and Engineering Systems, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Andrew Dent- Vice President of Library and Materials Research, Material ConneXion Mark Howarth- Biochemist, Oxford University Mark Miodownik- Materials scientist, University College London, author of "Stuff Matters; Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape Our Man-Made World" 
50 minutes, 31 seconds




Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
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