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.
Bare Bones
2020-11-30 08:29:43
You may not feel that your skeleton does very much. But without it you'd be a limp bag of protoplasm, unable to move.  And while you may regard bones as rigid and inert, they are living tissue.  Bones are also time capsules, preserving much of your personal history. Find out how evolutionary biologists, forensic anthropologists, and even radiation scientists read them. And why won't your dog stop gnawing on that bone? Guests:  Brian Switek - Pen name of Riley Black, Author of "Skeleton Keys: the Secret Life of Bone."  Ann Ross - Forensic anthropologist at North Carolina State University.  Her lab is the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Stanley Coren - Professor emeritus of psychology at the University of British Columbia, and author of many books about canine behavior including, "Why Does My Dog Act That Way?" Doug Brugge - Professor and chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine  

52 minutes, 45 seconds
Into the Deep
2020-11-23 08:44:10
Have you ever heard worms arguing? Deep-sea scientists use hydrophones to eavesdrop on "mouth-fighting worms." It's one of the many ways scientists are trying to catalog the diversity of the deep oceans – estimated to be comparable to a rainforest. But the clock is ticking. While vast expanses of the deep sea are still unexplored, mining companies are ready with dredging vehicles to strip mine the seafloor, potentially destroying rare and vulnerable ecosystems. Are we willing to eradicate an alien landscape that we haven't yet visited? Guests: Craig McClain - deep-sea and evolutionary biologist and ecologist, Executive Director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. Steve Haddock - senior scientist at the Monetary Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and co-author of a New York Times op-ed about the dangers of mining. Emily Hall - marine chemist at the Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, Florida Chong Chen - deep sea biologist with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC)  

51 minutes, 1
Sex Post Facto (rebroadcast)
2020-11-16 08:56:21
Birds do it, bees do it, but humans may not do it for much longer.  At least not for having children. Relying on sex to reproduce could be supplanted by making babies in the lab, where parents-to-be can select genomes that will ensure ideal physical and behavioral traits. Men hoping to be fathers should act sooner rather than later. These same advancements in biotechnology could allow women to fertilize their own eggs, making the need for male sperm obsolete.  Meanwhile, some animals already reproduce asexually. Find out how female African bees can opt to shut out male bees intent on expanding the hive.   Will engineering our offspring have a down side? Sex creates vital genetic diversity, as demonstrated by evolution of wild animals in urban areas. Find out how birds, rodents and insects use sex in the city to adapt and thrive. Guests: Menno Schilthuizen  - Biologist and ecologist, at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Leiden University in The Netherlands. His New York Times op-ed, "Evolution is Happening Faster Than We Thought," is here. Matthew Webster -  Evolutionary biologist, Uppsala University, Sweden Hank Greely - Law professor and ethicist, Stanford University, who specializes in the ethical, legal and social implications of biomedical technologies. His book is "The End of Sex and The Future of Reproduction." Originally aired September 19, 2016

54 minutes, 11 seconds
Time Travel Agents (rebroadcast)
2020-11-09 09:11:21
Hey, let's meet last week for coffee. Okay, we can't meet in the past... yet. But could it be only a matter of time before we can? In an attempt to defy the grandfather paradox, scientists try sending a photon back in time to destroy itself.  Also, find out how teleportation allows particles to instantaneously skip through space-time and why sending humans wouldn't violate the laws of physics.  But before you pack your bags for that instantaneous trip to Paris, we need to understand the nature of time. A physicist offers a testable theory and ponders how it bears on free will. Plus, feel as if time comes to a standstill when you're standing in line? Tricks for altering your perception of time while you wait. Some businesses already use them on you.   Guests: Richard Muller - Physicist, University of California Berkeley, author of "Now: The Physics of Time"  Seth Lloyd - Professor of quantum mechanical engineering, M.I.T.  Emma Bentley - contributor  David Andrews - Author of, "Why Does the Other Line Always Move Faster?" Originally aired October 17, 2016

53 minutes, 37 seconds
The Other Living World (rebroadcast)
2020-11-02 12:00:00
Reason for hope is just one thing that ecologist Carl Safina can offer.  He understands why many of us turn to nature to find solace during this stressful time. Safina studies the challenges facing the ultimate survival of many species, but also gives a portrait of animals from their point of view. He describes how diverse animals such as sperm whales, bear cubs, macaws, and chickens deal with uncertainty, and assert their quirky individuality while learning to become part of a community. So is it possible for us to reconnect not just with humanity, but also with the other living world? Guest: Carl Safina - An ecologist and McArthur Fellow who writes extensively about the human relationship with the natural world. He is the founding president of the Safina Center, a professor at Stony Brook University, and author of many books - most recently, "Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace" originally aired April 13, 2020

53 minutes, 37 seconds
Skeptic Check: Stay Skeptical
2020-10-26 11:50:07
Whether you call it hooey, codswallop, or malarky, misinformation is not what it used to be. It's harder to spot now. New-school BS is often cloaked in the trappings of math, science, and statistics. Can you identify which tweets about a new COVID study are fraudulent? Plus, deceptive on-line advertisements that relentlessly beg for our attention. All in all, it's a jungle out there. We have tips for getting through it. Guests: Carl Bergstrom - Evolutionary biologist at the University of Washington and author of "Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World." Franziska Roesner - Associate Professor, Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington  Eric Zeng - Graduate student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington 

53 minutes, 54 seconds
What's a Few Degrees?
2020-10-19 09:01:29
Brace yourself for heatwave "Lucifer." Dangerous deadly heatwaves may soon be so common that we give them names, just like hurricanes. This is one of the dramatic consequences of just a few degrees rise in average temperatures. Also coming: Massive heat "blobs" that form in the oceans and damage marine life, and powerful windstorms called "derechos" pummeling the Midwest.  Plus, are fungal pathogens adapting to hotter temperatures and breaching the 98.6 F thermal barrier that keeps them from infecting us? Guests: Kathy Baughman McLeod - director and senior vice president of the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center at The Atlantic Council Pippa Moore - Marine ecologist at Newcastle University in the U.K. Ted Derouin - Michigan farmer Jeff Dukes - Ecologist and director of Purdue Climate Change Research Center at Purdue University. Arturo Casadevall - Molecular microbiologist and immunologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine  

53 minutes, 54 seconds
Geology is Destiny (rebroadcast)
2020-10-12 09:25:53
The record of the rocks is not just the history of Earth; it's your history too.  Geologists can learn about events going back billions of years that influenced - and even made possible - our present-day existence and shaped our society. If the last Ice Age had been a bit warmer, the rivers and lakes of the Midwest would have been much farther north and the U.S. might still be a small country of 13 states. If some Mediterranean islands hadn't twisted a bit, no roads would have led to Rome. Geology is big history, and the story is on-going. Human activity is changing the planet too, and has introduced its own geologic era, the Anthropocene. Will Earthlings of a hundred million years from now dig up our plastic refuse and study it the way we study dinosaur bones? Plus, the dodo had the bad luck to inhabit a small island and couldn't adapt to human predators. But guess what? It wasn't as dumb as you think. Guests: Walter Alvarez - Professor of Geology, University of California, Berkeley, and author of A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves Eugenia Gold - Instructor, Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University David Grinspoon - Senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, and author of Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet's Future Originally aired January 16, 2017

53 minutes, 49 seconds
Talk the Walk
2020-10-05 08:56:22
Birds and bees do it ... and so do fish. In a discovery that highlights the adaptive benefits of walking, scientists have discovered fish that can walk on land. Not fin-flap their bodies, mind you, but ambulate like reptiles.   And speaking of which, new research shows that T Rex, the biggest reptile of them all, wasn't a sprinter, but could be an efficient hunter by outwalking its prey. Find out the advantage of legging it, and how human bipedalism stacks up. Not only is walking good for our bodies and brains, but not walking can change your personality and adversely affect your health.  Guests:  Hans Larsson - Paleontologist and biologist, and Director of the Redpath Museum at McGill University in Montréal. Shane O'Mara - Neuroscientist and professor of experimental brain research at Trinity College Dublin. He is the author of "In Praise of Walking." Brooke Flammang - Biologist at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

52 minutes, 38 seconds
Mycology Education
2020-09-28 08:36:40
Beneath our feet is a living network just as complex and extensive as the root systems in a forest. Fungi, which evolved in the oceans, were among the first to colonize the barren continents more than a half-billion years ago. They paved the way for land plants, animals, and (eventually) you.  Think beyond penicillin and pizza, and take a moment to consider these amazing organisms. Able to survive every major extinction, essential as Nature's decomposers, and the basis of both ale and antibiotics, fungi are essential to life. And their behavior is so complex you'll be wondering if we shouldn't call them intelligent! Guest: Merlin Sheldrake - Biologist and the author of Entangled Life: How Fungi Make our Worlds, Change our Minds and Shape our Futures.  

53 minutes, 7 seconds
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