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Big Picture Science | Top Science Podcasts 2020

The top science podcasts of 2020 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.

Hubble and Beyond
2020-09-21 10:09:26
The universe is not just expanding; it's accelerating. Supermassive black holes are hunkered down at the center of our galaxy and just about every other galaxy, too. We talk about these and other big discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope, now in orbit for 30 years. But two new next-generation telescopes will soon be joining Hubble: the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. Hear what cosmic puzzles they'll address. Plus, life in a clean room while wearing a coverall "bunny suit"; what it takes to assemble a telescope. Guests: Meg Urry - Professor of physics and astronomy, Director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Yale University John Grunsfeld - Former NASA Associate Administrator, and astronaut Kenneth Harris - Senior Project Engineer, Aerospace Corporation  
52 minutes, 38 seconds

Life on Venus?
2020-09-14 08:00:43
Have scientists found evidence of life on Venus? Known for its scorching temperatures and acidic atmosphere, Earth's twin hardly seems a promising place for living things. But could a discovery of phosphine by researchers at MIT point to a high-altitude biosphere on this nearby world? Guests: Clara Sousa-Silva - Research scientist in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. She and Sara Seager co-authored a paper in January 2020 titled, "Phosphine as a Biosignature Gas in Exoplanet Atmospheres" Sara Seager - Professor of physics and planetary science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of "The Smallest Lights in the Universe" Nathalie Cabrol - Planetary Scientist and Director of the Cal Sagan Center at the SETI Institute David Grinspoon - Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, author of "Earth in Human Hands"
52 minutes, 1 second

Space: Why Go There? (rebroadcast)
2020-09-07 07:58:04
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  Originally aired March 5, 2018
53 minutes, 37 seconds

Home Invasions
2020-08-31 08:12:00
As we struggle to control a viral invader that moves silently across the globe and into its victims, we are also besieged by other invasions. Murder hornets have descended upon the Pacific Northwest, threatening the region's honeybees. In Africa, locust swarms darken the sky. In this episode, we draw on a classic science fiction tale to examine the nature of invasions, and what prompts biology to go on the move. Guests: Peter Ksander - Associate professor at Reed College in the Department of Theater. Producer of the spring 2020 production of War of the Worlds Eva Licht - A senior at Reed College, and producer and director of War of the Worlds Chris Looney - Entomologist with the Washington State Department of Agriculture, where he manages its general entomology laboratory Nipun Basrur - Neurobiologist at The Rockefeller University Amy Maxmen - Reporter at the journal Nature, in which her story about pandemic war games appeared.  
52 minutes, 35 seconds

The X-Flies (rebroadcast)
2020-08-24 07:21:58
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 Originally aired March 19, 2018
53 minutes, 37 seconds

Skeptic Check: Worrier Mentality (rebroadcast)
2020-08-17 08:20:30
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 associate 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" Originally aired May 27, 2019
53 minutes, 37 seconds

Math's Paths (rebroadcast)
2020-08-10 08:23:11
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"  
51 minutes, 54 seconds

On Thin Ice (rebroadcast)
2020-08-03 08:31:47
Water is essential for life - that we know. But the honeycomb lattice that forms when you chill it to zero degrees Celsius is also inexorably intertwined with life. Ice is more than a repository for water that would otherwise raise sea levels. It's part of Earth's cooling system, a barrier preventing decaying organic matter from releasing methane gas, and a vault entombing ancient bacteria and other microbes.  From the Arctic to the Antarctic, global ice is disappearing. Find out what's at stake as atmospheric CO2 threatens frozen H2O.  Guests: Peter Wadhams- Emeritus Professor of Ocean Physics at Cambridge University in the U.K. and the author of A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic Eric Rignot- Earth systems scientist, University of California, Irving, senior research scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Åsmund Asdal- Biologist, Nordic Genetic Resource Center, coordinator for operations and management of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Svalbard, Norway John Priscu- Polar biologist, Montana State University Originally aired August 14, 2017  
51 minutes, 18 seconds

Skeptic Check: Know-It-Alls
2020-07-27 09:18:13
Think you're some kind of expert? Join the club. It's one thing to question authority; another to offer up your untrained self as its replacement. Rebellion may be a cherished expression of American individualism, but, from sidelining Dr. Fauci to hiding public health data, find out what we lose when we silence health experts and "go with our gut" during a pandemic. Plus, from ancestors to algorithms: how we've replaced credentialed experts with sketchy web sites and social media posts. Guests: Charles Piller - Investigative reporter for Science magazine Alison Galvani - Epidemiologist and Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis, at Yale University  Tom Nichols - Professor, international affairs, U.S. Naval War College, and author of "The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters" Alex Bentley - Anthropologist, University of Tennessee and author of "The Acceleration of Cultural Change: From Ancestors to Algorithms"
51 minutes, 23 seconds

Something in the Air
2020-07-20 08:53:12
Inhale. Now exhale. Notice anything different? Our response to the virus is changing the air in unexpected ways. A pandemic-driven pause on travel has produced clear skies and a world-wide air quality experiment. And a new study reveals that hundreds of tons of microplastics are raining down on us each day.  But we can improve the quality of the breaths we do take; engineers have devised a high-tech mask that may kill coronavirus on contact. Plus, although you do it 25,000 times a day, you may not be breathing properly. Nose-breathing vs mouth breathing: getting the ins-and-outs of respiration. Guests: Janice Brahney - Environmental biogeochemist at Utah State University Sally Ng - Atmospheric scientist, chemical engineer at Georgia Tech. Chandan Sen - Professor, department of surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine. James Nestor - Author of "Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art."
51 minutes, 18 seconds

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