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Is Life Inevitable?

From Big Picture Science - A new theory about life's origins updates Darwin's warm little pond.  Scientists say they've created the building blocks of biology in steaming hot springs. Meanwhile, we visit a NASA lab where scientists simulate deep-sea vent chemistry to produce the type of environment that might spawn life.  Which site is best suited for producing biology from chemistry? Find out how the conditions of the early Earth were different from today, how meteors seeded Earth with organics, and a provocative idea that life arose as an inevitable consequence of matter shape-shifting to dissipate heat. Could physics be the driving force behind life's emergence?   Guests: Caleb Scharf - Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University, New York Laurie Barge - Research scientist in astrobiology at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Bruce Damer - Research scientist in biomolecular engineering, University of California,  Jeremy England - Physicist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology  


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Is Life Inevitable?
2019-05-13 07:25:24
A new theory about life's origins updates Darwin's warm little pond.  Scientists say they've created the building blocks of biology in steaming hot springs. Meanwhile, we visit a NASA lab where scientists simulate deep-sea vent chemistry to produce the type of environment that might spawn life.  Which site is best suited for producing biology from chemistry? Find out how the conditions of the early Earth were different from today, how meteors seeded Earth with organics, and a provocative idea that life arose as an inevitable consequence of matter shape-shifting to dissipate heat. Could physics be the driving force behind life's emergence?   Guests: Caleb Scharf - Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University, New York Laurie Barge - Research scientist in astrobiology at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Bruce Damer - Research scientist in biomolecular engineering, University of California,  Jeremy England - Physicist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology  
51 minutes, 12 seconds


Is Life Inevitable?
2019-05-13 07:25:24
A new theory about life's origins updates Darwin's warm little pond.  Scientists say they've created the building blocks of biology in steaming hot springs. Meanwhile, we visit a NASA lab where scientists simulate deep-sea vent chemistry to produce the type of environment that might spawn life.  Which site is best suited for producing biology from chemistry? Find out how the conditions of the early Earth were different from today, how meteors seeded Earth with organics, and a provocative idea that life arose as an inevitable consequence of matter shape-shifting to dissipate heat. Could physics be the driving force behind life's emergence?   Guests: Caleb Scharf - Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University, New York Laurie Barge - Research scientist in astrobiology at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Bruce Damer - Research scientist in biomolecular engineering, University of California,  Jeremy England - Physicist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology  


Rethinking Chernobyl
2019-05-06 08:08:08
The catastrophic explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in April 1986 triggered the full-scale destruction of the reactor.  But now researchers with access to once-classified Soviet documents are challenging the official version of what happened both before and after the explosion. They say that the accident was worse than we thought and that a number of factors - from paranoia to poor engineering - made the mishap inevitable.  Others claim a much larger death toll from extended exposure to low levels of radiation.  But with nuclear energy being a possibly essential component of dealing with rising carbon dioxide emissions, how do we evaluate risk under the long shadow of Chernobyl? Guests: Adam Higginbotham - Author of "Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster" Kate Brown - Historian of Environmental and Nuclear History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of "Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide for the Future" James Smith - Professor in the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Portsmouth, U.K. He was interviewed for and has written a review of "Manual for Survival" Ted Nordhaus - Founder and Executive Director of The Breakthrough Institute, Berkeley, California


Gained in Translation
2019-04-22 07:59:27
Your virtual assistant is not without a sense of humor. Its repertoire includes the classic story involving a chicken and a road.  But will Alexa laugh at your jokes? Will she groan at your puns?  Telling jokes is one thing. Teaching a computer to recognize humor is another, because a clear definition of humor is lacking. But doing so is a step toward making more natural interactions with A.I.   Find out what's involved in tickling A.I.'s funny bone. Also, an interstellar communication challenge: Despite debate about the wisdom of transmitting messages to space, one group sends radio signals to E.T. anyway. Find out how they crafted a non-verbal message and what it contained. Plus, why using nuanced language to connive and scheme ultimately turned us into a more peaceful species. And yes, it's all gouda: why melted cheese may be the cosmic message of peace we need. Guests: Julia Rayz - Computer scientist and associate professor at Purdue University's Department of Computer and Information Technology Steve Adler - Mayor of Austin, Texas Doug Vakoch - Psychologist and president of the non-profit organization METI International Richard Wrangham - Biological anthropologist at Harvard University and author of "The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution"


Go With the Flow
2019-04-08 08:00:50
Solid materials get all the production credit.  Don't get us wrong, we depend on their strength and firmness for bridges, bones, and bento boxes.  But liquids do us a solid, too.  Their free-flowing properties drive the Earth's magnetic field, inspire a new generation of smart electronics, and make biology possible.  But the weird thing is, they elude clear definition.  Is tar a liquid or a solid?  What about peanut butter? In this episode: A romp through a cascade of liquids with a materials scientist who is both admiring and confounded by their properties; how Earth's molten iron core is making the magnetic north pole high-tail it to Siberia; blood as your body's information superhighway; and how a spittlebug can convert 200 times its body weight in urine into a cozy, bubble fortress. Guests: Mark Miodownik - Professor of Materials and Society, University College, London, and author of "Liquid rules: The Delightful and Dangerous Substances that Flow Through Our Lives" Arnaud Chulliat - Geophysicist, University of Colorado and Institut de physique du globe du Paris Philip Matthews - Comparative physiologist at the University of British Columbia Rose George - Journalist and author of "Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood"  


DecodeHer
2019-04-01 09:00:00
DecodeHer They were pioneers in their fields, yet their names are scarcely known - because they didn't have a Y chromosome.  We examine the accomplishments of two women who pioneered code breaking and astronomy during the early years of the twentieth century and did so in the face of social opprobrium and a frequently hostile work environment. Henrietta Leavitt measured the brightnesses of thousands of stars and discovered a way to gauge the distances to galaxies, a development that soon led to the concept of the Big Bang. Elizabeth Friedman, originally hired to test whether William Shakespeare really wrote his plays, was soon establishing the science of code breaking, essential to success in the two world wars.  Also, the tech industry is overwhelmingly male.  Girls Who Code is an initiative to redress the balance by introducing girls to computer programming, and encouraging them to follow careers in tech.  Guests: Jason Fagone - Author of "The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies" Lauren Gunderson - Playwright of Silent Sky, which is being performed all over the world, form the First Folio Theatre to the Repertory Philippines Reshma Saujani - Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, and the author of "Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder"  


Radical Cosmology
2019-02-18 07:59:40
400 years ago, some ideas about the cosmos were too scandalous to mention. When the Dominican friar Giordano Bruno suggested that planets existed outside our Solar System, the Catholic Inquisition had him arrested, jailed, and burned at the stake for heresy. Today, we have evidence of thousands of planets orbiting other stars.  Our discovery of extrasolar planets has dramatically changed ideas about the possibility for life elsewhere in the universe.  Modern theories about the existence of the ghostly particles called neutrinos or of collapsed stars with unfathomable gravity (black holes), while similarly incendiary, didn't prompt arrest, of course.  Neutrinos and black holes were arresting ideas because they came decades before we had the means to prove their existence. Hear about scientific ideas that came before their time and why extrasolar planets, neutrinos, and black holes are now found on the frontiers of astronomical research. Guests: Alberto Martínez - Professor of history, University of Texas, Austin, and author of Burned Alive: Giordano Bruno, Galileo & the Inquisition Anne Schukraft - Associate scientist, Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory Ephraim Fischbach - Professor of physics and astronomy, Purdue University Chris Impey - Professor of astronomy, University of Arizona, and author of Einstein's Monsters: The Life and Times of Black Holes


Keeping Humans in the Loop
2019-02-11 09:00:00
Modern technology is great, but could we be losing control?  As our world becomes more crowded and demands for resources are greater, some people worry about humanity's uncertain prospects.  An eminent cosmologist considers globe-altering developments such as climate change and artificial intelligence.  Will we be able to stave off serious threats to our future? There's also another possible source of danger: our trendy digital aids.  We seem all-too-willing to let algorithms classify and define our wants, our needs, and our behavior. Instead of using technology, are we being used by it - to inadvertently become social media's product?  And while we may be skittish about the increased data our technology collects, one sci-fi writer imagines a future in which information is a pervasive and freely available commodity.  Guests: Martin Rees - Cosmologist, astrophysicist, and Great Britain's Astronomer Royal.  Author of On the Future: Prospects for Humanity. Douglas Rushkoff - Media theorist and professor of media theory and digital economics, City University of New York.  Author of Team Human. Malka Older - Author and humanitarian worker, author of The Centenal Cycle.


Skeptic Check: Astrology Ascending
2019-02-04 08:49:40
The fault is in our stars.  And according to astrology, so is our destiny, our moods, and our character.  Mars may be in retrograde, but interest in the ancient practice of astrology is rising.  The fact that it is not science is irrelevant to those who claim "it works."  Find out why "what's your sign" is replacing "what do you do?" as an icebreaker, the historical roots of astrology and whether its truth-value matters today, and what conclusions we can draw from the many studies examining the full moon's influence on human behavior. It's our monthly look at critical thinking, but don't take our word for it! Guests: Banu Guler - CEO and co-founder of Co-Star Astrology Andrew Fraknoi - Astronomy professor at the Fromm Institute at the University of San Francisco and The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at San Francisco State University. Eric Chudler - Research association professor, department of bioengineering, University of Washington, Seattle, and curator of a collection of studies about the moon and behavior.  


Rip Van Winkle Worm
2019-01-21 08:55:39
Your shower pipes are alive.  So are your sinks, books, and floorboards.  New studies of our homes are revealing just what species live there - in the thousands, from bacteria to flies to millipedes.  Meanwhile, life keeps surprising us by popping up in other unexpected places: the deep biosphere houses the majority of the world's bacteria and the Arctic tundra has kept worms frozen, but alive, for 40,000 years. We embrace the multitude of life living on us, in us, and - as it turns out - in every possible ecological niche.  Most of it is harmless, some is beneficial, and it's all testament to the amazing diversity and adaptability of life.  In addition, the hardiest organisms suggest where we might find life beyond Earth. Guests: Rob Dunn - Professor of applied ecology at North Carolina State University and at the Natural History Museum at the University of Copenhagen. Author of "Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live." Lynn Rothschild - Astrobiologist and synthetic biologist at the NASA Ames Research Center. Karen Lloyd - Environmental microbiologist and associate professor at the University of Tennessee.


True Grit
2019-01-14 08:19:31
Without sand, engineering would be stuck in the Middle Ages.  Wooden houses would line mud-packed streets, and Silicon Valley would be, well, just a valley.  Sand is the building material of modern cities, and we use more of this resource than any other except water and air.  Now we're running out of it.  Hear why the Roman recipe for making concrete was lost until the 19th century, and about the super-secret mine in North Carolina that makes your smartphone possible.  Plus, engineered sand turns stormwater into drinking water, and why you might think twice about running barefoot on some tropical beaches once you learn about their biological source. And, a special report from the coast of Louisiana where livelihoods and ecosystems depend on the successful release of Mississippi sand from levees into sediment-starved wetlands. Guests: Vince Beiser - Journalist and author of "The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How it Transformed Civilization" Joe Charbonnet - Science and policy associate at the Green Science Policy Institute in Berkeley, California Pupa Gilbert - Biophysicist and geobiologist, University of Wisconsin, Madison Rudy Simoneaux - Engineer manager, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Baton Rouge, Louisiana Elizabeth Chamberlain - Post-doctoral researcher in Earth and Environmental Sciences, Vanderbilt University


Sci-Fi From the Future
2019-01-07 08:35:36
Are you ready to defer all your personal decision-making to machines? Polls show that most Americans are uneasy about the unchecked growth of artificial intelligence. The possible misuse of genetic engineering also makes us anxious. We all have a stake in the responsible development of science and technology, but fortunately, science fiction films can help. The movies Ex Machina and Jurassic Park suggest where A.I. and unfettered gene-tinkering could lead. But even less popular sci-fi movies can help us imagine unsettling scenarios regarding over-population, smart drugs, and human cloning.  And not all tales are grim.  The 1951 film, The Man in the White Suit, weaves a humorous story of materials science run amok.    So, grab a bowl of popcorn and join us in contemplating the future of humanity as Hollywood sees it! Guest: Andrew Maynard - Physicist and professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University.  Author of Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi Movies.


Yule Like This
2018-12-17 08:24:06
Fir tree needles embedded in carpet are a holiday headache.  Why not decorate a genetically-modified, needle-retaining tree instead?  It's just another way that science is relevant to the holidays.  We have more. How about science experiments on fruitcake?  There's a competition that includes launching it with a pneumatic device, running a heavy electric current though it, or blasting it with a blowtorch.  Meanwhile, physics provides insight into those tricky how-does-he-do-it questions about Santa's delivery rounds.    Finally, step away from the relatives and consider the implications of the winter solstice.  Enjoy a better holiday through science! Guests: Jenna Gallas - Special Event Coordinator, Manitou Springs Chamber of Congress, Colorado Laura Kramer - Manager of Science Conductors, Science Museum of Virginia, Richmond Lilian Matallana - Research Associate, Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Raleigh Ben Orlin - Math teacher, and author of "Math with Bad Drawings: Illuminating the Ideas That Shape Our Reality" Ethan Siegel - Theoretical astrophysicist and owner of "Starts with a Bang!" blog Andrew Fraknoi - Astronomer and educator, author of "Introduction to Astronomy"


Space Rocks!
2018-11-19 07:55:39
It's not a bird or a plane, and probably not an alien spaceship, although the jury's still deliberating that one.  Some astronomers have proposed that an oddly-shaped object that recently passed through our Solar System could be an alien artifact. We consider the E.T. explanation for 'Oumuamua, but also other reasons asteroids are invigorating our imagination.  Are these orbiting rocks key to our future as a spacefaring species? Find out why traditional incentives for human exploration of space - such as political rivalry -aren't igniting our rockets the way they once did, but why the potentially trillions of dollars to be made mining asteroids might. These small bodies may also hold the key to our ancient past: the New Horizons flyby of Thule in early 2019 will provide an historic look at a distant Kuiper belt object, and provide clues about the formation of the Solar System. Guests: Roger Launius - Former associate director of the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian and chief historian for NASA J. L.Galache - Asteroid astronomer and co-founder and CTO of Aten Engineering Mark Showalter - Planetary scientist and Senior Research Scientist at the SETI Institute and a member of the New Horizons team Avi Loeb - Professor of Science at Harvard and chair of the Department of Astronomy


Skeptic Check: Science Denial
2018-11-12 07:41:10
Climate change isn't happening.  Vaccines make you sick.  When it comes to threats to public or environmental health, a surprisingly large fraction of the population still denies the consensus of scientific evidence.  But it's not the first time - many people long resisted the evidentiary link between HIV and AIDS and smoking with lung cancer. There's a sense that science denialism is on the rise.  It prompted a gathering of scientists and historians in New York City to discuss the problem, which included a debate on the usefulness of the word "denial" itself.  Big Picture Science was there. We report from the Science Denial symposium held jointly by the New York Academy of Sciences and Rutgers Global Health Institute.  Find out why so many people dig in their heels and distrust scientific findings.  Plus, the techniques wielded by special interest groups to dispute some inconvenient truths.  We also hear how simply stating more facts may be the wrong approach to combating scientific resistance. Guests: Melanie Brickman Borchard - Director of Life Sciences Conferences at New York Academy of Sciences Nancy Tomes - professor of history at Stony Brook University Allan Brandt - professor of history of science and medicine at Harvard University. Author of "The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America" Sheila Jasanoff - Director of Program on Science, Technology and Society and professor of environment, science and technology at Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University Michael Dahlstrom - Associate Director of Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, and associate professor at Iowa State University Matthew Nisbet - professor of communication and public policy at Northeastern University Arthur (Art) Caplan - professor and founding head of medical ethics at NYU School of Medicine


You've Got Whale
2018-10-29 08:35:40
SMS isn't the original instant messaging system.  Plants can send chemical warnings through their leaves in a fraction of a second.  And while we love being in the messaging loop - frenetically refreshing our browsers - we miss out on important conversations that no Twitter feed or inbox can capture. That's because eavesdropping on the communications of non-human species requires the ability to decode their non-written signals. Dive into Arctic waters where scientists make first-ever recordings of the socializing clicks and squeals of narwhals, and find out how climate shifts may pollute their acoustic landscape.  Also, why the chemical defense system of plants has prompted one biologist to give greenery an "11 on the scale of awesomeness." And, you can't see them, but they sure can sense one another: how communicating microbes plan their attack. Guests: Susanna Blackwell - Bio-acoustician with Greeneridge Sciences. Hear her recordings of narwhals here. Simon Gilroy - Professor of botany, University of Wisconsin, Madison. His video of glowing green caterpillar-munched plants can be viewed here. Peter Greenberg - Professor of microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle


YGW1_Blackwell
2018-10-28 09:06:49



DNA is Not Destiny
2018-10-15 08:29:44
Heredity was once thought to be straightforward.  Genes were passed in an immutable path from parents to you, and you were stuck - or blessed - with what you got.  DNA didn't change.  But now we know that's not true.   Epigenetic factors, such as your environment and your lifestyle, control how your genes are expressed.  Meanwhile, the powerful tool CRISPR allows us to tinker with the genes themselves.  DNA is no longer destiny. Hear the results from the NASA twin study and what happened to astronaut Scott Kelly's DNA after a year on the International Space Station.  Plus, whether there's evidence that epigenetic changes can be passed down.  And, if we can wipe out deadly malaria by engineering the mosquito genome for sterility, should we do it? Guests: Scott Kelly - Former military test pilot and astronaut and author of "Infinite Wonder" Carl Zimmer - Columnist for The New York Times, author of "She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity" Christopher Mason - Associate professor of genetics and computational biology at Weill Cornell Medicine Michael Snyder - Chair of the genetics department and director of the Center for Genomics and Precision Medicine at Stanford University Nicole Gladish - PhD candidate, department of medical genetics, University of British Columbia


Creature Discomforts
2018-10-08 07:47:27
Okay you animals, line up: stoned sloths, playful pandas, baleful bovines, and vile vultures.  We've got you guys pegged, thanks to central casting.  Or do we?  Our often simplistic view of animals ignores their remarkable adaptive abilities.  Stumbly sloths are in fact remarkably agile and a vulture's tricks for thermoregulation can't be found in an outdoors store.  Our ignorance about some animals can even lead to their suffering and to seemingly intractable problems.  The South American nutria was brought to Louisiana to supply the fur market.  But the species got loose and tens of millions of these rodents are destroying the environment.  It literally has a bounty on its tail. Hear about research that corrects a menagerie of misunderstandings about our fellow furry, feathered, and scaly animals, and how getting over ourselves to know them better can have practical benefits. Will you still recoil from termites if you learn that they are relevant to the future of robots, global warming, and smart design? Guests: Lucy Cooke - Zoologist, broadcaster and author of "The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife" Chris Metzler - Co-director and producer of the film Rodents of Unusual Size Lisa Margonelli - Journalist and author of "Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology"


Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself
2018-09-24 08:29:04
Do we still need doctors?  There are umpteen alternative sources of medical advice, including endless and heartfelt health tips from people without medical degrees. Frankly, self-diagnosis with a health app is easier and cheaper than a trip to a clinic.   Since we're urged to be our own health advocate and seek second opinions, why not ask Alexa or consult with a celebrity about what ails us? Find out if you can trust these alternative medical advice platforms.  Plus, lessons from an AIDS fighter about ignoring the findings of medical science.   And, if AI can diagnose better than an MD, will we stop listening to doctors altogether? It's our monthly look at critical thinking ... but don't take our word for it! Guests: Katherine Foley - Science and health reporter at Quartz, and author of the article "Alexa is a Terrible Doctor" Paul Offit - Professor of pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the Perlman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of "Bad Advice: Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren't Your Best Source of  Health Information" Richard Marlink - Director Rutgers Global Health Institute. Shinjini Kundu - Research Fellow, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Stuart Schlisserman - Internist, Palo Alto, California


New Water Worlds
2018-08-27 08:05:54
The seas are rising.   It's no longer a rarity to see kayakers paddling through downtown Miami.  By century's end, the oceans could be anywhere from 2 to 6 feet higher, threatening millions of people and property.  But humans once knew how to adapt to rising waters.  As high water threatens to drown our cities, can we learn do it again. Hear stories of threatened land: submerged Florida suburbs, the original sunken city (Venice), and the U.S. East Coast, where anthropologists rush to catalogue thousands of low-lying historical and cultural sites in harm's way, including Jamestown, Virginia and ancient Native American sites.   But also, stories of ancient adaptability: from the First American tribes of the Colusa in South Florida to the ice age inhabitants of Doggerland.  And, modern approaches to staying dry: stilt houses, seawalls, and floating cities. Guests: Jeff Goodell- Journalist and author of "The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World" Brian Fagan- Archaeologist and Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of California Santa Barbara, and author of many books including "The Attacking Ocean: the Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels"  David Anderson- Professor of Anthropology, University of Tennessee.  His team's PLOS ONE paper is "Sea-level rise and archaeological site destruction." His DINAA site can be used to generate maps of where people were living in the past, up to ca. 15,000 years ago.  


It's Habitable Forming
2018-08-13 06:25:58
There's evidence for a subsurface lake on Mars, and scientists are excitedly using the "h" word.  Could the Red Planet be habitable, not billions of years ago, but today?  While we wait - impatiently - for a confirmation of this result, we review the recipe for habitable alien worlds. For example, the moon Titan has liquid lakes on its surface.  Could they be filled with Titanites? Dive into a possible briny, underground lake on Mars ... protect yourself from the methane-drenched rain on a moon of Saturn ... and cheer on the missed-it-by-that-much planets, asteroids Ceres and Vesta. Also, do tens of billions of potentially habitable extrasolar planets mean that Earth is not unique? Guests: Nathalie Cabrol - Planetary scientist, Director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute Jack Holt - Geophysicist, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona Jani Radebaugh - Planetary scientist and professor of geology, Brigham Young University Marc Rayman -  Mission Director and Chief Engineer of NASA's Dawn Mission Phil Plait - Astronomer, blogger, and widely known as the Bad Astronomer


Skeptic Check: Brain Gain
2018-08-06 07:35:13
Looking to boost your brainpower?  Luckily, there are products promising to help.  Smart drugs, neurofeedback exercises, and brain-training video games all promise to improve your gray matter's performance.  But it's uncertain whether these products really work.  Regulatory agencies have come down hard on some popular brain training companies for false advertising. But other brain games have shown benefits in clinical trials.  And could we skip the brain workout altogether and pop a genius pill instead?  In our monthly look at critical thinking, we separate the pseudo from the science of commercial cognitive enhancement techniques. Guests: Caroline Williams- Science journalist and author of "My Plastic Brain: One Woman's Yearlong Journey to Discover If Science Can Improve Her Mind" Adam Gazzaley- Neuroscientist, University of California, San Francisco, and the executive director of Neuroscape.  His book is "The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High Tech World."   Amy Arnsten- Professor of neuroscience and psychology at Yale Medical School Kevin Roose- Journalist for the New York Times. Leonard Mlodinow- Physicist and author of "Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change"


Identity Crisis
2018-07-23 08:25:36
DNA is the gold standard of identification.  Except when it's not.  In rare cases when a person has two complete sets of DNA, that person's identity may be up in the air.  Meanwhile, DNA ancestry tests are proving frustratingly vague: dishing up generalities about where you came from rather than anything specific.  And decoding a genome is still relatively expensive and time-consuming.   So, while we refine our ability to work with DNA, the search is on for a quick and easy biomarker test to tell us who we are.   In this hour: the story of chimeras - people who have two sets of DNA; a reporter whose ancestry tests revealed she is related to Napoleon and Marie Antoinette; and the eyes have it in Somaliland, the first nation to use iris scans in an election.  Find out why your irises may be what ultimately distinguishes you from the crowd.


Free Range Dinosaurs
2018-06-25 08:31:45
Dinosaurs are once again stomping and snorting their way across the screen of your local movie theater.  But these beefy beasts stole the show long before CGI brought them back in the Jurassic Park blockbusters.  Dinosaurs had global dominance for the better part of 165 million years. Compare that with a measly 56 million years of primate activity. We bow to our evolutionary overlords in this episode.   Our conversation about these thunderous lizards roams freely as we talk with the paleontologist who discovered Dreadnoughtus - the largest land lizard unearthed to date.  Kenneth Lacovara asks that we please stop using the term "dinosaur" to refer to something outmoded, when in fact the dinos were among the most well-adapted, long-lived creatures ever. Plus, intriguing dino facts: if you like eating chicken, you like eating dinosaurs, and how T-Rex's puny arms helped him survive.  Also, with dozens of new species unearthed every year - nearly one a week - why we've entered the golden age of dinosaur discovery. Guest: Kenneth Lacovara- Paleontologist who unearthed the largest land dinosaur known: Dreadnoughtus.  He is also founding dean of the School of Earth and Environment at Rowan University, director of the Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park, and author of "Why Dinosaurs Matter."  


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."


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