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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.


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Skeptic Check: Flat Earth
2018-06-11 07:54:54
The Earth is not round.  Technically, it's an oblate spheroid.  But for some people, the first statement is not even approximately correct.  Flat Earthers believe that our planet resembles - not a slightly squashed grapefruit - but a thick pancake.   A journalist who covered a Flat Earth convention describes the rationale behind this ever-more popular belief.  So how do you establish science truth?  We look at the difference between a truly scientific examination of extraordinary claims and approaches that feel and look science-y but aren't.   Find out how one man will use telescopes and balloons in the desert to demonstrate that the Earth is a globe, while a biologist runs a test on the waters of Loch Ness to see if it contains prehistoric reptile DNA. And what happens when amateur investigators chase ghosts, UFOs, and Bigfoot with science instruments, but without an understanding of the scientific method. Guests: James Underdown- Executive Director of the Center for Inquiry in Los Angeles and of the Independent Investigations Group. The results of his experiment will be posted here. Alex Moshakis- Journalist who writes for the Observer, the Guardian, and Esquire.  His article on the U.K.'s first Flat Earth convention appeared in May, 2018 in the     Harry Dyer-  Lecturer in education at the University of East Anglia.  His article about the flat earth convention is titled "I Watched an Entire Flat Earth Convention for my Research, Here is What I Learned." Neil Gemmell- Professor in the Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, New Zealand Sharon Hill- Geologist, science writer, speaker, and author of "Scientifical Americans: The Culture of Amateur Paranormal Researchers."
50 minutes, 31 seconds


Imagining Planets
2018-06-04 08:27:34
Pluto, we hardly knew ye.  Well, not anymore!  Until recently, Pluto and Mars were respectively the least-known and best-known planet-sized bodies in our Solar System.  Thanks to the New Horizons spacecraft, our picture of Pluto has changed from a featureless dot to a place where we can name the geologic features.  And with rovers and orbiters surveying the red planet, we now know much more about Mars than our parents ever did.  Examining our planetary backyard has provided insight into the trillion other planets in our galaxy. Dive into a mountain lake and trek though the driest desert on Earth with a scientist who's had not one but two near-fatal incidents in these extreme environments. Find out what questions compel her to keep returning. And scientists on the New Horizons mission remember why the nail-biting Pluto flyby almost failed at the last minute. Find out what surprises Pluto offered and what the mission might uncover as it heads to its next, outer solar-system target. Also, from Earth-like planets to super Earths and water worlds: a tour of some of Kepler's most intriguing extrasolar planets. Guests: Nathalie Cabrol- Planetary scientist at the SETI Institute. Alan Stern- Principal Investigator for NASA's New Horizon mission, and co-author with David Grinspoon of "Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto." David Grinspoon- Senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, and co-author with Alan Stern of "Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto." Jack Lissauer- Space scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center.
51 minutes, 43 seconds


You Are Exposed
2018-05-14 07:47:56
There's no place like "ome."  Your microbiome is highly influential in determining your health.  But it's not the only "ome" doing so.  Your exposome - environmental exposure over a lifetime - also plays a role. Hear how scientists hope to calculate your entire exposome, from food to air pollution to water contamination. Plus, new research on the role that microbes play in the development of neurological diseases such as Parkinson's, and the hot debate about when microbes first colonize the body.  Could a fetus have its own microbiome? Also, choose your friends wisely: studies of microbe-swapping gazelles reveal the benefits - and the downsides - of being social. And, why sensors on future toilets will let you do microbiome analysis with every flush. Guests: Rob Knight - Professor of Pediatrics, Computer Science and Engineering, and Director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at the University of California, San Diego Vanessa Ezenwa - Ecologist at the University of Georgia Indira Mysorekar - Microbiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri Gary Miller - Professor of public health at the Rollins School of Public Health and director of the HERCULES Exposome Research Center at Emory University. After August 2018, his lab will be at Columbia University.
52 minutes, 12 seconds


We Are VR
2018-05-07 06:10:29
Will virtual reality make you a better person?  It's been touted as the "ultimate empathy machine," and one that will connect people who are otherwise emotionally and physically isolated.  The promise of the technology has come a long way since BiPiSci last took a VR tour.  Find out why researchers say virtual reality is no longer an exclusive club for gamers, but a powerful tool to build community. Seth puts on a VR headset for an immersive experience of a man who's evicted from his apartment.  Find out why researchers say the experience creates empathy and sparks activism to address homelessness. Also, why our spouses will love our avatars as much as they do us, the dark side of VR as a space for unchecked harassment, and consider: what if you're already living a simulation created by your brain? Guests: Peter Rubin - Editor for Wired, author of "Future Presence: How Virtual reality is Changing Human Connection, Intimacy, and the Limits of Ordinary Life" Jeremy Bailenson - Professor of Communication at Stanford University, founding director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab, and author of "Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do" Carolina Cruz-Neira - Director of the Emerging Analytics Center at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock Thomas Metzinger - Philosopher of Mind and Cognitive Science, at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany
51 minutes, 9 seconds


High Moon
2018-04-23 07:19:12
"The moon or bust" is now officially bust.  No private company was able to meet the Lunar X Prize challenge, and arrange for a launch by the 2018 deadline.  The $30 million award goes unclaimed, but the race to the moon is still on. Find out who wants to go and why this is not your parents' - or grandparents' - space race. With or without a cash incentive, private companies are still eyeing our cratered companion, hoping to set hardware down on its dusty surface.  Meanwhile, while the U.S. waffles about a return to the moon, India and China are sending a second round of robots skyward.  And a proposed orbiting laboratory - the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway - may literally put scientists over, and around, the moon. The moon continues to entice sci-fi writers, and Andy Weir's new novel describes a vibrant lunar colony. Its premise of colonists launched from Kenya is not entirely fiction: the nation is one of many in Africa with space programs. Guests: Andy Weir - Author of "The Martian" and, most recently, "Artemis" Allen Herbert - Vice President of Business Development and Strategy for NanoRacks, LLC and author of an article about emerging space programs in Africa Greg Schmidt - Deputy director of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute at NASA Ames Research Center Jason Crusan - NASA Director of Advanced Exploration Systems for Human Space Flight
51 minutes, 39 seconds


Skeptic Check: Political Scientist
2018-04-16 08:04:58
Hundreds of thousands of scientists took to the streets during the March for Science.  The divisive political climate has spurred some scientists to deeper political engagement - publicly challenging lawmakers and even running for office themselves.   But the scientist-slash-activist model itself is contested, even by some of their colleagues. Find out how science and politics have been historically intertwined, what motivates scientists to get involved, and the possible benefits and harm of doing so. Is objectivity damaged when scientists advocate? Plus, how Michael Mann became a reluctant activist, whether his "street fighter" approach is effective in defending climate science, and the price he and his family paid for speaking out. Also, how the organization 314 Action is helping a record number of scientists run for Congress.  But will the group support only Democratic contenders? Guests:                         Robert Young - Geologist, Western Carolina University Douglas Haynes - Historian of medicine and science, University of California, Irvine Michael Mann - Professor, atmospheric science, Director, Earth System Science Center, Penn State University Shaugnessy Naughton - Founder and President, 314 Action Alex Berezow - Senior fellow of biomedical science at the American Council on Science and Health
51 minutes, 39 seconds


Hawkingravity
2018-04-02 05:27:43
Stephen Hawking felt gravity's pull.  His quest to understand this feeble force spanned his career, and he was the first to realize that black holes actually disappear - slowly losing the mass of everything they swallow in a dull, evaporative glow called Hawking radiation.  But one of gravity's deepest puzzles defied even his brilliant mind.  How can we connect theories of gravity on the large scale to what happens on the very small?  The Theory of Everything remains one of the great challenges to physicists. Also, the latest on deciphering the weirdness of black holes and why the gravitational wave detector LIGO has added colliding neutron stars to its roster of successes. Plus, a fellow physicist describes Dr. Hawking's extraordinary deductive abilities and what it was like to collaborate with him.  And, a surprise awaits Molly when she meets a local string theorist to discuss his search for the Theory of Everything. Guests: Leonard Mlodinow- physicist and author of "The Grand Design" with Stephen Hawking, and most recently, "Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change."  Janna Levin- Physicist and astronomer, Barnard College, Columbia University, and the author of, "Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space."  Richard Camuccio- Graduate research assistant at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy, a LIGO collaborator.  Wahltyn Rattray - Grad-student, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy. Raphael Bousso- Physicist, Berkeley Center for Theoretical Physics, University of California-Berkeley.   
52 minutes, 45 seconds


The X-Flies
2018-03-19 07:50:08
Insect populations are declining.  But before you say "good riddance," consider that insects are the cornerstone of many ecosystems.  They are dinner for numerous animal species and are essential pollinators.   Mammals are loved, but they are not indispensable.  Insects are. Meanwhile, marvel at the extraordinary capabilities of some insects.  The zany aerial maneuvers of the fly are studied by pilots.  And, contrary to the bad press, cockroaches are very clean creatures.  Also, take a listen as we host some Madagascar hissing cockroaches in our studio (yes, they audibly hiss). Plus, how insects first evolved ... and the challenges in controlling lethal ones.  Are genetically-engineering mosquitoes the best way to combat malaria? Guests: Erica McAlister - Entomologist, Senior Curator of diptera in the Department of Entomology, Natural History Museum in London, author of "The Secret Life of Flies" Jessica Ware - Evolutionary biologist and entomologist at Rutgers University Anthony James - Vector biologist, University of California, Irvine Lauren Esposito - Arachnologist, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco
50 minutes, 31 seconds


Space: Why Go There?
2018-03-05 07:55:09
It takes a lot of energy and technology to leave terra firma. But why rocket into space when there's so much to be done on Earth?  From the practical usefulness of satellites to the thrill of exploring other worlds, let us count the ways. The launch of a NOAA weather satellite to join its twin provides unparalleled observation of storms, wildfires, and even lightning.  Find out what it's like to watch hurricanes form from space. Meanwhile, more than a dozen countries want their own satellites to help solve real-world problems, including tracking disease.  Learn how one woman is helping make space accessible to everyone. Plus, now that we've completed our grand tour of the Solar System, which bodies are targets for return missions and which for human exploration?   Guests: Sarah Cruddas - Space journalist, broadcaster, and author based in the U.K. Jamese Sims - GOES-R Project Manager at NOAA Danielle Wood - Assistant professor, MIT Media Lab, Director of the Space Enabled Research Group Jim Green - NASA Planetary Science Division Director 
51 minutes, 7 seconds


Meet Your Robot Barista
2018-02-26 06:48:52
Move over Roomba.  Café robots are the latest in adorable automation. And they may be more than a fad. As robots and artificial intelligence enter the workforce, they could serve up more than machine-made macchiato.  Digital workers are in training to do a wide variety jobs. Will humans be handed the mother of all pink slips? We sip lattes in a robot café and contemplate the future of work. Some say the workplace will have more machines than people, while others maintain that A.I. will augment, not replace, human workers. Meanwhile, future intelligent automation may not come from Silicon Valley.  Why China wants to become the global center for A.I.    Plus, NASA's first bipedal humanoid robot - Valkyrie, a prototype of a construction worker for use on Mars - teaches us that moving like a human is not as easy as it looks. Guests: Martin Ford - Futurist who writes about the impact of robots and artificial intelligence on society; author of "The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future" Peter Norvig - Director of research, Google Owen Churchill - Journalist; his article "China's AI dreams" appeared in Nature, January 18, 2018  Kimberly Hambuchen - Aeronautics engineer; the principal technologist of robotics at NASA's Johnson Space Center
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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