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Big Picture Science | Best Science Podcasts (2017)

Our selection of the best science podcasts of 2017. New science podcasts are updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.


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Angles of a Hack
2017-09-18 07:23:12
Changed your computer password recently?  We all try to stay one step ahead of the hackers, but the fear factor is increasing.  The risks can range from stolen social security numbers to sabotaging a national power grid.  Sixty years ago, when hacking meant nosing around the telephone network, it seemed innocent enough.  And not all modern hacking has criminal intent.  Today, there are biohackers who experiment with implanted electronic devices to improve themselves, and geoengineers who propose to hack the climate.  But in our efforts to cool an overheated planet, might we be going down a dangerous path? In this second of two episodes on hacking, the modern variations of "hacking," and their consequences. Plus: when does hacking a system improve it?  
52 minutes, 8 seconds


Plan of a Hack
2017-09-11 07:37:45
Long before cyber criminals were stealing ATM passwords, phone phreaks were tapping into the telephone system. Their motivation was not monetary, but the thrill of defeating a complex, invisible network. Today "hacking" can apply to cyberwarfare, biological tinkering, or even geoengineering.  Often it has negative connotations, but the original definition of "hacking" was something else. In this first of two episodes on hacking, we look at the original practitioners - the teenagers and mavericks who hacked Ma Bell for thrills - and the difference between hacking for fun and for profit.  Guests: Phil Lapsley- Author of "Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws Who Hacked Ma Bell" 
51 minutes, 48 seconds


On Thin Ice
2017-08-14 07:33:42
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, Irvine, 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
50 minutes, 31 seconds


What Goes Around
2017-07-24 07:47:45
It's not just tin cans and newspapers.  One man says that, from a technical standpoint, everything can be recycled - cigarette butts, yoga mats, dirty diapers.  Even radioactive waste.  You name it, we can recycle it.  But we choose not to.  Find out why we don't, and how we could do more.  Plus, a solar-powered device that pulls water from the air - even desert air.  And, something upon which life depends that seems dirt cheap, but can't be replenished: soil.  What happens when we pave over this living resource? 
51 minutes, 24 seconds


Eclipsing All Other Shows
2017-07-17 08:35:14
They say that the experience of watching a total eclipse is so profound, you're not the same afterward.  If life-changing events are your thing and you're in the lower 48 states on August 21st, let us help you make the most of viewing the Great American Solar Eclipse. Learn the basics of where to be and what to bring, even on short notice. No eclipse glasses?  Find out why a kitchen colander is an excellent Plan B. Also, the strange behavior of animals and private jet pilots during an eclipse.  The latter is making the FAA sweat. Plus, how 1878 eclipse fever inspired Thomas Edison and astronomer Maria Mitchell, and what was at stake for them scientifically.  And today, with astronauts able to view the Sun from space, what new science can we still learn by eclipse expeditions on Earth? And, NASA turns up the heat on solar studies with a probe to within a hair's breadth of the Sun.  Guests: David Baron - Author of "American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World."   Andrew Fraknoi - Chair of the Astronomy Department, Foothill College.  His latest book, for children:  "When the Sun Goes Dark."  Jay Pasachoff - Professor of Astronomy, Williams College, chair of the International Astronomical Union Working Group on Solar Eclipses.  Madhulika Guhathakurta - Astrophysicist, NASA Heliophysics Science Division and Program Scientist for the Solar Probe Plus mission.
52 minutes, 3 seconds


Frogs' Pants
2017-07-10 08:26:21
It's one of the most bizarre biological experiments ever. In the 18th century, a scientist fitted a pair of tailor-made briefs on a male frog to determine the animal's contribution to reproduction.  The process of gestation was a mystery and scientists had some odd-ball theories.   Today, a 5th grader can tell you how babies are made, but we still don't know exactly what life is.  In our quest to understand, we're still at the frogs' pants stage. Find out why conception took centuries to figure out.  Also, why the 1970s Viking experiments, specifically designed to detect life on Mars, couldn't give us a definitive answer.  Plus, can knowing where life isn't help define what it is?  Take a tour of the world's barren places.  Guests: Jay Gallentine - Author of books about space and space history. Edward Dolnick - Author and former science writer at the Boston Globe.  His book is The Seeds of Life: From Aristotle to Da Vinci, from Shark's Teeth to Frogs' Pants. Chris McKay - Planetary scientist, NASA Ames Research Center. 
50 minutes, 31 seconds


Skeptic Check: Rational Lampoon
2017-07-03 09:04:43
Two heads may be better than one.  But what about three or more?  A new study shows that chimpanzees excel at complex tasks when they work in groups, and their accumulated knowledge can even be passed from one generation to the next.  But group-think also can be maladaptive.  When humans rely on knowledge that they assume other people possess, they can become less than rational. Find out why one cognitive scientist says that individual thinking is a myth.  Most of your decisions are made in groups, and most derive from emotion, not rationality. Also, why we know far less than we think we do.  For example, most people will say they understand how an everyday object like a zipper works, but draw a blank when asked to explain it.  Plus, why we have a biological drive to categorize people as "us" or "them," and how we can override it.    Guests:  Steven Sloman - Professor of cognitive linguistics and psychological sciences at Brown University and editor-in-chief of the journal, Cognition Robert Sapolsky - Professor of neuroscience at Stanford University and author of Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst Laurance Doyle - Scientist at the SETI Institute
51 minutes, 42 seconds


Skeptic Check: How Low Can You Go?
2017-06-26 08:48:54
ENCORE  Baby, it's cold outside... but you still might want to be there.  Some people claim that chilly temperatures are good for your health, and proponents of cryotherapy suggest you have a blast - of sub-zero air - to stave off wrinkles and perhaps halt aging altogether.  Meanwhile the field of cryonics offers the ultimate benefit by suggesting that you put future plans - and your body - on ice when you die.  That way you might be revived when the technology to do so is developed. So, will a chill wind blow you some good?  Possibly, as scientists are discovering that the body can endure colder temperatures than previously thought.  We examine the science of extreme cold and claims of its salubrious benefits. It's our monthly look at critical thinking, Skeptic Check ... but don't take our word for it!  Guests:  Seth Abramovitch - Senior writer at the Hollywood Reporter Gordon Giesbrecht - Professor of thermal physiology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada Grant Shoffstall - Sociologist, Williams College
50 minutes, 31 seconds


PEM4_Picard2
2017-06-19 10:26:12

4 minutes, 38 seconds


Perpetual Emotion Machine
2017-06-19 08:47:37
Get ready for compassionate computers that feel your pain, share your joy, and generally get where you're coming from.  Computers that can tell by your voice whether you're pumped up or feeling down, or sense changes in heart rate, skin, or muscle tension to determine your mood.  Empathetic electronics that you can relate to. But wait a minute - we don't always relate to other humans.  Our behavior can be impulsive and even self-sabotaging - our emotions are often conflicted and irrational.   We cry when we're happy.  Frown when we're pensive.  A suite of factors, much of them out of our control, govern how we behave, from genes to hormones to childhood experience.  One study says that all it takes for a defendant to receive a harsher sentence is a reduction in the presiding judge's blood sugar. So grab a cookie, and find out how the heck we can build computers that understand us anyway.  Guests: Rosalind Picard - Professor at the MIT Media Lab and co-founder of the companies Affectiva and Empatica.  Robert Sapolsky - Professor of neuroscience at Stanford University, and author of Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. 
50 minutes, 31 seconds




Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Radiolab Presents: Anna in Somalia
This week, we are presenting a story from NPR foreign correspondent Gregory Warner and his new globe-trotting podcast Rough Translation. Mohammed was having the best six months of his life - working a job he loved, making mixtapes for his sweetheart - when the communist Somali regime perp-walked him out of his own home, and sentenced him to a lifetime of solitary confinement.  With only concrete walls and cockroaches to keep him company, Mohammed felt miserable, alone, despondent.  But then one day, eight months into his sentence, he heard a whisper, a whisper that would open up a portal to - of all places and times - 19th century Russia, and that would teach him how to live and love again. 
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Future Consequences
From data collection to gene editing to AI, what we once considered science fiction is now becoming reality. This hour, TED speakers explore the future consequences of our present actions. Guests include designer Anab Jain, futurist Juan Enriquez, biologist Paul Knoepfler, and neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris.