300 episodes

The surprising connections in science and technology that give you the Big Picture.

Astronomer Seth Shostak and science journalist Molly Bentley are joined each week by leading researchers, techies, and journalists to provide a smart and humorous take on science.

Our regular "Skeptic Check" episodes cast a critical eye on pseudoscience.

Big Picture Science Wizzard Media

    • Natural Sciences

The surprising connections in science and technology that give you the Big Picture.

Astronomer Seth Shostak and science journalist Molly Bentley are joined each week by leading researchers, techies, and journalists to provide a smart and humorous take on science.

Our regular "Skeptic Check" episodes cast a critical eye on pseudoscience.

    Climate Changed

    Climate Changed

    Have you adapted to the changing climate? Rising waters, more destructive wildfires, record-breaking heatwaves. Scientists have long predicted these events, but reporting on climate change has moved from prediction to description. There’s no time for dwelling on “we should haves.” Communities and organizations are being forced to adapt. Find out what that means, the role of the new “resilience officers,” and the unique response of Native American cultures. Plus, is the coronavirus outbreak made worse by climate change? 
    Guests:
    James Randerson – Professor of Earth Science, University of California, Irvine Victor Rodriguez – PhD student, Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Engineering and Public Policy Kyle Whyte – Professor in the Departments of Philosophy and Community Sustainability, and tribal member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Tracey Goldstein – Professor in the Department of Pathology, Immunology, and Microbiology, University of California, Davis

    • 51 min
    Frogs' Pants (Rebroadcast)

    Frogs' Pants (Rebroadcast)

    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.  Originally aired July 10, 2017

    • 51 min
    Skeptic Check: Science Denial (rebroadcast)

    Skeptic Check: Science Denial (rebroadcast)

    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

    • 51 min
    A Twist of Slime

    A Twist of Slime

    Your daily mucus output is most impressive.  Teaspoons or measuring cups can’t capture its entire volume.  Find out how much your body churns out and why you can’t live without the viscous stuff.  But slime in general is remarkable.  Whether coating the bellies of slithery creatures, sleeking the surface of aquatic plants, or dripping from your nose, its protective qualities make it one of the great inventions of biology. Join us as we venture to the land of ooze!
    Guests:
    Christopher Viney - Professor of materials science and engineering at the University of California, Merced Katharina Ribbeck - Bioengineer at MIT Anna Rose Hopkins – Chef and partner at Hank and Bean in Los Angeles Ruth Kassinger - author of “Slime: How Algae Created Us, Plague Us, and Just Might Save Us”

    • 51 min
    The Ears Have It

    The Ears Have It

    What’s the difference between a bird call and the sound of a pile driver?  Not much, when you’re close to the loudest bird ever.  Find out when it pays to be noisy and when noise can worsen your health.  Just about everyone eventually suffers some hearing loss, but that’s not merely aging.  It’s an ailment we inflict on ourselves.  Hear how a team in New York City has put sensors throughout the city to catalog noise sources, hoping to tame the tumult.
    And can underwater speakers blasting the sounds of a healthy reef bring life back to dead patches of the Great Barrier Reef?
    Guests:
    Mark Cartwright – Research Assistant Professor at New York University’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering Charles Mydlarz – Research Assistant Professor at New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) and the Music and Audio Research Lab (MARL) David Owen – Staff writer at The New Yorker, and author of Volume Control: Hearing in a Deafening World Jeff Podos – Professor in the Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst Steve Simpson – Professor of Marine Biology and Global Change, Exeter University, U.K.

    • 51 min
    Perpetual Emotion Machine [rebroadcast]

    Perpetual Emotion Machine [rebroadcast]

    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 min

Customer Reviews

TheBellaGurl ,

Lets Stick together episode - one of the best

You have to listen to this one. Wait to you learn what other animal uses and controls fire to their own ends. Amazing. Also - chimps can't stand not knowing every chimp that they see. But - yep humans don't care.

o97toi76f ,

Soooo good

Thanks so much to the BPS staff members for producing such a valuable and high quality science program. I love it.

The truest of fans ,

A show for real fans

This show is a breath of fresh air. I should know, I'm a true fan.

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