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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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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


Animals Like Us
2019-06-24 08:28:17
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
51 minutes, 29 seconds


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




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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Anthropomorphic
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Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...