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Plan of a Hack

From Big Picture Science - 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" 


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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


Skeptic Check: Flat Earth
2018-06-11 07:54:54
The Earth is not round.  Technically, it's an oblate spheroid.  But for some people, the first statement is not even approximately correct.  Flat Earthers believe that our planet resembles - not a slightly squashed grapefruit - but a thick pancake.   A journalist who covered a Flat Earth convention describes the rationale behind this ever-more popular belief.  So how do you establish science truth?  We look at the difference between a truly scientific examination of extraordinary claims and approaches that feel and look science-y but aren't.   Find out how one man will use telescopes and balloons in the desert to demonstrate that the Earth is a globe, while a biologist runs a test on the waters of Loch Ness to see if it contains prehistoric reptile DNA. And what happens when amateur investigators chase ghosts, UFOs, and Bigfoot with science instruments, but without an understanding of the scientific method. Guests: James Underdown- Executive Director of the Center for Inquiry in Los Angeles and of the Independent Investigations Group. The results of his experiment will be posted here. Alex Moshakis- Journalist who writes for the Observer, the Guardian, and Esquire.  His article on the U.K.'s first Flat Earth convention appeared in May, 2018 in the     Harry Dyer-  Lecturer in education at the University of East Anglia.  His article about the flat earth convention is titled "I Watched an Entire Flat Earth Convention for my Research, Here is What I Learned." Neil Gemmell- Professor in the Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, New Zealand Sharon Hill- Geologist, science writer, speaker, and author of "Scientifical Americans: The Culture of Amateur Paranormal Researchers."


Imagining Planets
2018-06-04 08:27:34
Pluto, we hardly knew ye.  Well, not anymore!  Until recently, Pluto and Mars were respectively the least-known and best-known planet-sized bodies in our Solar System.  Thanks to the New Horizons spacecraft, our picture of Pluto has changed from a featureless dot to a place where we can name the geologic features.  And with rovers and orbiters surveying the red planet, we now know much more about Mars than our parents ever did.  Examining our planetary backyard has provided insight into the trillion other planets in our galaxy. Dive into a mountain lake and trek though the driest desert on Earth with a scientist who's had not one but two near-fatal incidents in these extreme environments. Find out what questions compel her to keep returning. And scientists on the New Horizons mission remember why the nail-biting Pluto flyby almost failed at the last minute. Find out what surprises Pluto offered and what the mission might uncover as it heads to its next, outer solar-system target. Also, from Earth-like planets to super Earths and water worlds: a tour of some of Kepler's most intriguing extrasolar planets. Guests: Nathalie Cabrol- Planetary scientist at the SETI Institute. Alan Stern- Principal Investigator for NASA's New Horizon mission, and co-author with David Grinspoon of "Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto." David Grinspoon- Senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, and co-author with Alan Stern of "Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto." Jack Lissauer- Space scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center.


You Are Exposed
2018-05-14 07:47:56
There's no place like "ome."  Your microbiome is highly influential in determining your health.  But it's not the only "ome" doing so.  Your exposome - environmental exposure over a lifetime - also plays a role. Hear how scientists hope to calculate your entire exposome, from food to air pollution to water contamination. Plus, new research on the role that microbes play in the development of neurological diseases such as Parkinson's, and the hot debate about when microbes first colonize the body.  Could a fetus have its own microbiome? Also, choose your friends wisely: studies of microbe-swapping gazelles reveal the benefits - and the downsides - of being social. And, why sensors on future toilets will let you do microbiome analysis with every flush. Guests: Rob Knight - Professor of Pediatrics, Computer Science and Engineering, and Director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at the University of California, San Diego Vanessa Ezenwa - Ecologist at the University of Georgia Indira Mysorekar - Microbiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri Gary Miller - Professor of public health at the Rollins School of Public Health and director of the HERCULES Exposome Research Center at Emory University. After August 2018, his lab will be at Columbia University.


We Are VR
2018-05-07 06:10:29
Will virtual reality make you a better person?  It's been touted as the "ultimate empathy machine," and one that will connect people who are otherwise emotionally and physically isolated.  The promise of the technology has come a long way since BiPiSci last took a VR tour.  Find out why researchers say virtual reality is no longer an exclusive club for gamers, but a powerful tool to build community. Seth puts on a VR headset for an immersive experience of a man who's evicted from his apartment.  Find out why researchers say the experience creates empathy and sparks activism to address homelessness. Also, why our spouses will love our avatars as much as they do us, the dark side of VR as a space for unchecked harassment, and consider: what if you're already living a simulation created by your brain? Guests: Peter Rubin - Editor for Wired, author of "Future Presence: How Virtual reality is Changing Human Connection, Intimacy, and the Limits of Ordinary Life" Jeremy Bailenson - Professor of Communication at Stanford University, founding director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab, and author of "Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do" Carolina Cruz-Neira - Director of the Emerging Analytics Center at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock Thomas Metzinger - Philosopher of Mind and Cognitive Science, at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany


High Moon
2018-04-23 07:19:12
"The moon or bust" is now officially bust.  No private company was able to meet the Lunar X Prize challenge, and arrange for a launch by the 2018 deadline.  The $30 million award goes unclaimed, but the race to the moon is still on. Find out who wants to go and why this is not your parents' - or grandparents' - space race. With or without a cash incentive, private companies are still eyeing our cratered companion, hoping to set hardware down on its dusty surface.  Meanwhile, while the U.S. waffles about a return to the moon, India and China are sending a second round of robots skyward.  And a proposed orbiting laboratory - the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway - may literally put scientists over, and around, the moon. The moon continues to entice sci-fi writers, and Andy Weir's new novel describes a vibrant lunar colony. Its premise of colonists launched from Kenya is not entirely fiction: the nation is one of many in Africa with space programs. Guests: Andy Weir - Author of "The Martian" and, most recently, "Artemis" Allen Herbert - Vice President of Business Development and Strategy for NanoRacks, LLC and author of an article about emerging space programs in Africa Greg Schmidt - Deputy director of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute at NASA Ames Research Center Jason Crusan - NASA Director of Advanced Exploration Systems for Human Space Flight


Skeptic Check: Political Scientist
2018-04-16 08:04:58
Hundreds of thousands of scientists took to the streets during the March for Science.  The divisive political climate has spurred some scientists to deeper political engagement - publicly challenging lawmakers and even running for office themselves.   But the scientist-slash-activist model itself is contested, even by some of their colleagues. Find out how science and politics have been historically intertwined, what motivates scientists to get involved, and the possible benefits and harm of doing so. Is objectivity damaged when scientists advocate? Plus, how Michael Mann became a reluctant activist, whether his "street fighter" approach is effective in defending climate science, and the price he and his family paid for speaking out. Also, how the organization 314 Action is helping a record number of scientists run for Congress.  But will the group support only Democratic contenders? Guests:                         Robert Young - Geologist, Western Carolina University Douglas Haynes - Historian of medicine and science, University of California, Irvine Michael Mann - Professor, atmospheric science, Director, Earth System Science Center, Penn State University Shaugnessy Naughton - Founder and President, 314 Action Alex Berezow - Senior fellow of biomedical science at the American Council on Science and Health


Hawkingravity
2018-04-02 05:27:43
Stephen Hawking felt gravity's pull.  His quest to understand this feeble force spanned his career, and he was the first to realize that black holes actually disappear - slowly losing the mass of everything they swallow in a dull, evaporative glow called Hawking radiation.  But one of gravity's deepest puzzles defied even his brilliant mind.  How can we connect theories of gravity on the large scale to what happens on the very small?  The Theory of Everything remains one of the great challenges to physicists. Also, the latest on deciphering the weirdness of black holes and why the gravitational wave detector LIGO has added colliding neutron stars to its roster of successes. Plus, a fellow physicist describes Dr. Hawking's extraordinary deductive abilities and what it was like to collaborate with him.  And, a surprise awaits Molly when she meets a local string theorist to discuss his search for the Theory of Everything. Guests: Leonard Mlodinow- physicist and author of "The Grand Design" with Stephen Hawking, and most recently, "Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change."  Janna Levin- Physicist and astronomer, Barnard College, Columbia University, and the author of, "Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space."  Richard Camuccio- Graduate research assistant at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy, a LIGO collaborator.  Wahltyn Rattray - Grad-student, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy. Raphael Bousso- Physicist, Berkeley Center for Theoretical Physics, University of California-Berkeley.   


The X-Flies
2018-03-19 07:50:08
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


Space: Why Go There?
2018-03-05 07:55:09
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 


Meet Your Robot Barista
2018-02-26 06:48:52
Move over Roomba.  Café robots are the latest in adorable automation. And they may be more than a fad. As robots and artificial intelligence enter the workforce, they could serve up more than machine-made macchiato.  Digital workers are in training to do a wide variety jobs. Will humans be handed the mother of all pink slips? We sip lattes in a robot café and contemplate the future of work. Some say the workplace will have more machines than people, while others maintain that A.I. will augment, not replace, human workers. Meanwhile, future intelligent automation may not come from Silicon Valley.  Why China wants to become the global center for A.I.    Plus, NASA's first bipedal humanoid robot - Valkyrie, a prototype of a construction worker for use on Mars - teaches us that moving like a human is not as easy as it looks. Guests: Martin Ford - Futurist who writes about the impact of robots and artificial intelligence on society; author of "The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future" Peter Norvig - Director of research, Google Owen Churchill - Journalist; his article "China's AI dreams" appeared in Nature, January 18, 2018  Kimberly Hambuchen - Aeronautics engineer; the principal technologist of robotics at NASA's Johnson Space Center


Bacteria to the Future
2018-02-12 06:47:31
Why did the chicken take antibiotics?  To fatten it up and prevent bacterial infection. As a result, industrial farms have become superbug factories, threatening our life-saving antibiotics. Find out how our wonder drugs became bird feed, and how antibiotic resistant bugs bred on the farm end up on your dinner plate.  A journalist tells the story of the 1950s fad of "acronizing" poultry; the act of dipping it in an antibiotic bath so it can sit longer on a refrigerator shelf. Plus, some ways we can avoid a post-antibiotic era. The steps one farm took to make their chickens antibiotic free... and resurrecting an old therapy: enlisting viruses to target and destroy multi-drug resistant bacteria.  Set your "phages" to stun.  Guests: Maryn McKenna - Investigative journalist who specializes in public health and food policy. Author of "Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats." Ryland Young - Biochemist, head of the Center for Phage Technology at Texas A&M University.


Creative Brains
2018-02-05 08:20:10
Your cat is smart, but its ability to choreograph a ballet or write computer code isn't great.  A lot of animals are industrious and clever, but humans are the only animal that is uniquely ingenious and creative.  Neuroscientist David Eagleman and composer Anthony Brandt discuss how human creativity has reshaped the world. Find out what is going on in your brain when you write a novel, paint a watercolor, or build a whatchamacallit in your garage. But is Homo sapiens' claim on creativity destined to be short-lived?  Why both Eagleman and Brandt are prepared to step aside when artificial intelligence can do their jobs. Guests: Anthony Brandt - Professor of Composition and Theory, Rice University, and co-author of "The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World" David Eagleman - Neuroscientist, Stanford University, and co-author, "The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World"


Skeptic Check: New UFO Evidence
2018-01-29 07:32:38
It was a shocker of a story, splashed across the New York Times front page: The existence of a five-year long, hidden Pentagon investigation of UFOs.  With one-third of the American public convinced that aliens are visiting Earth, could this study finally provide the proof? We consider how this story came to light and what the $22 million program has produced.  Does the existence of a secret study mean there's now decent proof of extraterrestrial craft in our skies?  We take a look at the evidence made public so far. And why, six years after the study ended, are we learning about it now? Guests: James Oberg - Space journalist, historian and former NASA employee James McGaha - Retired Air Force pilot, astronomer and director of the Grasslands Observatory Ben Radford - Deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine and a Research Fellow with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry 


Rerouting... Rerouting
2017-12-18 08:02:50
Lost your sense of direction?  Blame your GPS. Scientists say that our reliance on dashboard devices is eroding our ability to create cognitive maps and is messing with our minds in general. We don't even look at landmarks or the landscape anymore.  We've become no more than interfaces between our GPS and our steering wheels. But in other ways, GPS can spark a new appreciation of the physical world. A real-time flyover app reveals the stunning geological features otherwise invisible from our window seat.  And sensitive electronic sensors let us see where the wild things are and where they go.  Learn how scientists put belts on jellyfish and produce maps that reveal the surprising routes taken by various species - from a single wolf, a group of phytoplankton, or a float of crocodiles. Plus, one man is not ready to say goodbye to the traditional map.  Find out why this cartographer insists on paper maps, not digital apps.  Guests: Julia Frankenstein- Cognitive scientist, Darmstadt Technical University, Germany Greg Milner- Journalist, author of "Pinpoint: How GPS is Changing Technology, Culture, and our Minds"  Amy Myrbo- Earth scientist, University of Minnesota Oliver Uberti- Graphic artist and former senior design editor at National Geographic   James Cheshire- Geographer, University College London.  Co-author, along with Oliver Uberti, of "Where The Animals Go: Tracking Wildlife with Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics." Tom Hedberg- Mapmaker and publisher at Hedberg Maps in Minneapolis, Minnesota 


Air Apparent
2017-12-04 08:54:33
Whether you yawn, gasp, sniff, snore, or sigh, you're availing yourself of our very special atmosphere.   It's easy to take this invisible chemical cocktail for granted, but it's not only essential to your existence: it unites you and every other life form on the planet, dead or alive.  The next breath you take likely includes molecules exhaled by Julius Caesar or Eleanor Roosevelt. And for some animals, air is an information superhighway.  Dogs navigate with their noses.  Their sniffing snouts help them to identify their owners, detect trace amounts of drugs, and even sense some diseases.  Find out what a dog's nose knows, and why no amount of bathing and dousing in perfume can mask your personal smelliness. Plus, why your own schnoz is key to not only enjoying a fine Bordeaux, but to survival of our species. Guests: Sam Kean - Science writer, author of "Caesar's Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us"  Alexandra Horowitz - Dog cognition researcher, Barnard College, author of "Being A Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell"  Rachel Herz - Cognitive neuroscientist, Brown University, author of "Why You Eat What You Eat," and "The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell"  Ken Givich - Microbiologist, Guittard Chocolate company


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)


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


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


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. 


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" 


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?  


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" 


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


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? 


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.


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