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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.


Big Picture Science
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Wonder Women
2017-11-17 20:18:20
We're hearing about harassment of, and barriers to, women seeking careers in politics and entertainment. But what about science? Science is supposed to be uniquely merit-based and objective. And yet the data say otherwise. A new study reveals widespread harassment of women of color in space science.  We look at the role that a hostile work environment plays in keeping women from pursuing scientific careers. While more women than ever are holding jobs in science, the percentage in tech and computer science has flattened out or even dropped.  A memo from a software engineer at an Internet giant claims it's because female brains aren't suited for tech. Find out what the science says. Plus, women staring down discrimination. One woman's reaction to her guidance counselor's suggestion that she skip calculus and have babies. And SACNAS, the organization changing the face of science for Latina and Native American women.   Guests: Jill Tarter - Astronomer, founding member of the SETI Institute, and member of the SETI Institute Board of Trustees.  She is the subject of a biography by writer Sarah Scoles: "Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence."  Angela Saini - Journalist and author of "Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong" Kathryn Clancy - Associate professor of anthropology, University of Illinois Antonia Franco - Executive director, Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS)
51 minutes


Skeptic Check: Nibiru! (Again!)
2017-11-13 08:46:35
Will your calendar entry for November 19th  be your last? Some people say yes, predicting a catastrophic collision between Earth and planet Nibiru on that date and the end of the world.  But it won't happen, because this hypothesized rogue world doesn't exist. Nibiru's malevolent disruptions have been foretold many times, most dramatically in 2012 and three times so far in 2017.  But this year NASA issued a rare public assurance that doomsday was not in the offing. Find out why the agency decided to speak out. Meanwhile, hoaxes and alarmist stories from the 19th century demonstrate that we have a long history of being susceptible to hooey.  Also, an astronomer who doesn't believe that Nibiru is hiding in the outer Solar System, but that Planet X is.   Guests: David Morrison - Astronomer and space scientist, NASA Ames Research Center Robert E. Bartholomew - Medical sociologist at Botany College, Auckland, New Zealand, and author of "A Colorful History of Popular Delusions" Michael Brown - Astronomer at the California Institute of Technology
51 minutes


DNA: Nature's Hard Drive
2017-11-06 07:18:16
The biotech tool CRISPR lets us do more than shuffle genes.  Researchers have embedded an animated GIF into a living organism's DNA, proving that the molecule is a great repository for information.  This has encouraged speculation that DNA could be used by aliens to send messages.  Meanwhile, nature has seized on this powerful storage system in surprising ways.  Scientists have learned that the 98% of our genome - once dismissed as "junk" - contains valuable genetic treasure. Find out what project ENCODE is learning about the "dark genome." Plus, how viruses became the original stealth coders, inserting their DNA into ancient bacteria and eventually leading to the development of CRISPR technology.  Discover the potential of this powerful tool, from curing disease to making pig organs transplant-friendly, and the possible dark side of quick-and-easy gene editing.   Guests: Paul Davies- Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University Yin Shen- Assistant professor, Department of Neurology, Institute for Human Genetics, University of California - San Francisco, member of ENCODE team  Sam Sternberg- Assistant professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University, and co-author of "A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution"   Hank Greely- Director, Center for Law and the Biosciences; Chair of the Steering Committee of the Center for Biomedical Ethics; and Director, Stanford Program in Neuroscience and Society
52 minutes, 1


Too Big To Prove
2017-10-16 04:29:46
Celebrations are in order for the physicists who won the 2017 Nobel Prize, for the detection of gravitational waves.  But the road to Stockholm was not easy.  Unfolding over a century, it went from doubtful theory to daring experiments and even disrepute.  100 years is a major lag between a theory and its confirmation, and new ideas in physics may take even longer to prove. Why it may be your great, great grandchildren who witness the confirmation of string theory.  Plus, the exciting insights that gravitational waves provide into the phenomena of our universe, beginning with black holes. And, physics has evolved - shouldn't its rewards?  A case for why the Nobel committee should honor collaborative groups rather than individuals, and the scientific breakthroughs it's missed.  Guests:  Janna Levin- Physicist and astronomer at Barnard College at Columbia University, and the author of the story of LIGO, "Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space." Roland Pease- BBC reporter, producer, and host of "Science in Action."  David Gross- Theoretical physicist, string theorist, University of California, Santa Barbara, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, winner, 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics. 
52 minutes, 46 seconds


It's In Material
2017-10-02 07:56:12
Astronauts are made of the "right stuff," but what about their spacesuits?   NASA's pressurized and helmeted onesies are remarkable, but they need updating if we're to boldly go into deep space.   Suiting up on Mars requires more manual flexibility, for example.  Find out what innovative materials might be used to reboot the suit. Meanwhile, strange new materials are in the pipeline for use on terra firma: spider silk is kicking off the development of biological materials that are inspiring ultra-strong, economical, and entirely new fabrics.  And, while flesh-eating bacteria may seem like an unlikely ally in materials science, your doctor might reach for them one day.  The bacterium's proteins are the inspiration for a medical molecular superglue. Plus, an overview of more innovative materials to come, from those that are 3D printed to self-healing concrete.   Guests: Nicole Stott- Retired NASA astronaut, artist  Dava Newman- Professor of Astronautics and Engineering Systems, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Andrew Dent- Vice President of Library and Materials Research, Material ConneXion Mark Howarth- Biochemist, Oxford University Mark Miodownik- Materials scientist, University College London, author of "Stuff Matters; Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape Our Man-Made World" 
50 minutes, 31 seconds


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




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.
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