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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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Space Rocks!
2018-11-19 07:55:39
It's not a bird or a plane, and probably not an alien spaceship, although the jury's still deliberating that one.  Some astronomers have proposed that an oddly-shaped object that recently passed through our Solar System could be an alien artifact. We consider the E.T. explanation for 'Oumuamua, but also other reasons asteroids are invigorating our imagination.  Are these orbiting rocks key to our future as a spacefaring species? Find out why traditional incentives for human exploration of space - such as political rivalry -aren't igniting our rockets the way they once did, but why the potentially trillions of dollars to be made mining asteroids might. These small bodies may also hold the key to our ancient past: the New Horizons flyby of Thule in early 2019 will provide an historic look at a distant Kuiper belt object, and provide clues about the formation of the Solar System. Guests: Roger Launius - Former associate director of the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian and chief historian for NASA J. L.Galache - Asteroid astronomer and co-founder and CTO of Aten Engineering Mark Showalter - Planetary scientist and Senior Research Scientist at the SETI Institute and a member of the New Horizons team Avi Loeb - Professor of Science at Harvard and chair of the Department of Astronomy
52 minutes, 3 seconds


Skeptic Check: Science Denial
2018-11-12 07:41:10
Climate change isn't happening.  Vaccines make you sick.  When it comes to threats to public or environmental health, a surprisingly large fraction of the population still denies the consensus of scientific evidence.  But it's not the first time - many people long resisted the evidentiary link between HIV and AIDS and smoking with lung cancer. There's a sense that science denialism is on the rise.  It prompted a gathering of scientists and historians in New York City to discuss the problem, which included a debate on the usefulness of the word "denial" itself.  Big Picture Science was there. We report from the Science Denial symposium held jointly by the New York Academy of Sciences and Rutgers Global Health Institute.  Find out why so many people dig in their heels and distrust scientific findings.  Plus, the techniques wielded by special interest groups to dispute some inconvenient truths.  We also hear how simply stating more facts may be the wrong approach to combating scientific resistance. Guests: Melanie Brickman Borchard - Director of Life Sciences Conferences at New York Academy of Sciences Nancy Tomes - professor of history at Stony Brook University Allan Brandt - professor of history of science and medicine at Harvard University. Author of "The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America" Sheila Jasanoff - Director of Program on Science, Technology and Society and professor of environment, science and technology at Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University Michael Dahlstrom - Associate Director of Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, and associate professor at Iowa State University Matthew Nisbet - professor of communication and public policy at Northeastern University Arthur (Art) Caplan - professor and founding head of medical ethics at NYU School of Medicine
50 minutes, 31 seconds


You've Got Whale
2018-10-29 08:35:40
SMS isn't the original instant messaging system.  Plants can send chemical warnings through their leaves in a fraction of a second.  And while we love being in the messaging loop - frenetically refreshing our browsers - we miss out on important conversations that no Twitter feed or inbox can capture. That's because eavesdropping on the communications of non-human species requires the ability to decode their non-written signals. Dive into Arctic waters where scientists make first-ever recordings of the socializing clicks and squeals of narwhals, and find out how climate shifts may pollute their acoustic landscape.  Also, why the chemical defense system of plants has prompted one biologist to give greenery an "11 on the scale of awesomeness." And, you can't see them, but they sure can sense one another: how communicating microbes plan their attack. Guests: Susanna Blackwell - Bio-acoustician with Greeneridge Sciences. Hear her recordings of narwhals here. Simon Gilroy - Professor of botany, University of Wisconsin, Madison. His video of glowing green caterpillar-munched plants can be viewed here. Peter Greenberg - Professor of microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle
50 minutes, 31 seconds


YGW1_Blackwell
2018-10-28 09:06:49

11 minutes, 47 seconds


DNA is Not Destiny
2018-10-15 08:29:44
Heredity was once thought to be straightforward.  Genes were passed in an immutable path from parents to you, and you were stuck - or blessed - with what you got.  DNA didn't change.  But now we know that's not true.   Epigenetic factors, such as your environment and your lifestyle, control how your genes are expressed.  Meanwhile, the powerful tool CRISPR allows us to tinker with the genes themselves.  DNA is no longer destiny. Hear the results from the NASA twin study and what happened to astronaut Scott Kelly's DNA after a year on the International Space Station.  Plus, whether there's evidence that epigenetic changes can be passed down.  And, if we can wipe out deadly malaria by engineering the mosquito genome for sterility, should we do it? Guests: Scott Kelly - Former military test pilot and astronaut and author of "Infinite Wonder" Carl Zimmer - Columnist for The New York Times, author of "She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity" Christopher Mason - Associate professor of genetics and computational biology at Weill Cornell Medicine Michael Snyder - Chair of the genetics department and director of the Center for Genomics and Precision Medicine at Stanford University Nicole Gladish - PhD candidate, department of medical genetics, University of British Columbia
51 minutes, 4


Creature Discomforts
2018-10-08 07:47:27
Okay you animals, line up: stoned sloths, playful pandas, baleful bovines, and vile vultures.  We've got you guys pegged, thanks to central casting.  Or do we?  Our often simplistic view of animals ignores their remarkable adaptive abilities.  Stumbly sloths are in fact remarkably agile and a vulture's tricks for thermoregulation can't be found in an outdoors store.  Our ignorance about some animals can even lead to their suffering and to seemingly intractable problems.  The South American nutria was brought to Louisiana to supply the fur market.  But the species got loose and tens of millions of these rodents are destroying the environment.  It literally has a bounty on its tail. Hear about research that corrects a menagerie of misunderstandings about our fellow furry, feathered, and scaly animals, and how getting over ourselves to know them better can have practical benefits. Will you still recoil from termites if you learn that they are relevant to the future of robots, global warming, and smart design? Guests: Lucy Cooke - Zoologist, broadcaster and author of "The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife" Chris Metzler - Co-director and producer of the film Rodents of Unusual Size Lisa Margonelli - Journalist and author of "Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology"
50 minutes, 31 seconds


Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself
2018-09-24 08:29:04
Do we still need doctors?  There are umpteen alternative sources of medical advice, including endless and heartfelt health tips from people without medical degrees. Frankly, self-diagnosis with a health app is easier and cheaper than a trip to a clinic.   Since we're urged to be our own health advocate and seek second opinions, why not ask Alexa or consult with a celebrity about what ails us? Find out if you can trust these alternative medical advice platforms.  Plus, lessons from an AIDS fighter about ignoring the findings of medical science.   And, if AI can diagnose better than an MD, will we stop listening to doctors altogether? It's our monthly look at critical thinking ... but don't take our word for it! Guests: Katherine Foley - Science and health reporter at Quartz, and author of the article "Alexa is a Terrible Doctor" Paul Offit - Professor of pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the Perlman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of "Bad Advice: Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren't Your Best Source of  Health Information" Richard Marlink - Director Rutgers Global Health Institute. Shinjini Kundu - Research Fellow, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Stuart Schlisserman - Internist, Palo Alto, California
51 minutes, 13 seconds


New Water Worlds
2018-08-27 08:05:54
The seas are rising.   It's no longer a rarity to see kayakers paddling through downtown Miami.  By century's end, the oceans could be anywhere from 2 to 6 feet higher, threatening millions of people and property.  But humans once knew how to adapt to rising waters.  As high water threatens to drown our cities, can we learn do it again. Hear stories of threatened land: submerged Florida suburbs, the original sunken city (Venice), and the U.S. East Coast, where anthropologists rush to catalogue thousands of low-lying historical and cultural sites in harm's way, including Jamestown, Virginia and ancient Native American sites.   But also, stories of ancient adaptability: from the First American tribes of the Colusa in South Florida to the ice age inhabitants of Doggerland.  And, modern approaches to staying dry: stilt houses, seawalls, and floating cities. Guests: Jeff Goodell- Journalist and author of "The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World" Brian Fagan- Archaeologist and Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of California Santa Barbara, and author of many books including "The Attacking Ocean: the Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels"  David Anderson- Professor of Anthropology, University of Tennessee.  His team's PLOS ONE paper is "Sea-level rise and archaeological site destruction." His DINAA site can be used to generate maps of where people were living in the past, up to ca. 15,000 years ago.  
50 minutes, 31 seconds


It's Habitable Forming
2018-08-13 06:25:58
There's evidence for a subsurface lake on Mars, and scientists are excitedly using the "h" word.  Could the Red Planet be habitable, not billions of years ago, but today?  While we wait - impatiently - for a confirmation of this result, we review the recipe for habitable alien worlds. For example, the moon Titan has liquid lakes on its surface.  Could they be filled with Titanites? Dive into a possible briny, underground lake on Mars ... protect yourself from the methane-drenched rain on a moon of Saturn ... and cheer on the missed-it-by-that-much planets, asteroids Ceres and Vesta. Also, do tens of billions of potentially habitable extrasolar planets mean that Earth is not unique? Guests: Nathalie Cabrol - Planetary scientist, Director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute Jack Holt - Geophysicist, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona Jani Radebaugh - Planetary scientist and professor of geology, Brigham Young University Marc Rayman -  Mission Director and Chief Engineer of NASA's Dawn Mission Phil Plait - Astronomer, blogger, and widely known as the Bad Astronomer
50 minutes, 31 seconds


Skeptic Check: Brain Gain
2018-08-06 07:35:13
Looking to boost your brainpower?  Luckily, there are products promising to help.  Smart drugs, neurofeedback exercises, and brain-training video games all promise to improve your gray matter's performance.  But it's uncertain whether these products really work.  Regulatory agencies have come down hard on some popular brain training companies for false advertising. But other brain games have shown benefits in clinical trials.  And could we skip the brain workout altogether and pop a genius pill instead?  In our monthly look at critical thinking, we separate the pseudo from the science of commercial cognitive enhancement techniques. Guests: Caroline Williams- Science journalist and author of "My Plastic Brain: One Woman's Yearlong Journey to Discover If Science Can Improve Her Mind" Adam Gazzaley- Neuroscientist, University of California, San Francisco, and the executive director of Neuroscape.  His book is "The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High Tech World."   Amy Arnsten- Professor of neuroscience and psychology at Yale Medical School Kevin Roose- Journalist for the New York Times. Leonard Mlodinow- Physicist and author of "Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change"
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.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Circular
We're told if the economy is growing, and if we keep producing, that's a good thing. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers explore circular systems that regenerate and re-use what we already have. Guests include economist Kate Raworth, environmental activist Tristram Stuart, landscape architect Kate Orff, entrepreneur David Katz, and graphic designer Jessi Arrington.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#504 The Art of Logic
How can mathematics help us have better arguments? This week we spend the hour with "The Art of Logic in an Illogical World" author, mathematician Eugenia Cheng, as she makes her case that the logic of mathematics can combine with emotional resonance to allow us to have better debates and arguments. Along the way we learn a lot about rigorous logic using arguments you're probably having every day, while also learning a lot about our own underlying beliefs and assumptions.