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
    • 5.0, 3 Ratings

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.

    Gained in Translation (rebroadcast)

    Gained in Translation (rebroadcast)

    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” Originally aired April 22, 2019

    • 51 min
    Vaccine, When?

    Vaccine, When?

    It will be the shot heard ‘round the world, once it comes.  But exactly when can we expect a COVID vaccine?  We discuss timelines, how it would work, who’s involved, and the role of human challenge trials. 
    Also, although he doesn’t consider himself brave, we do.  Meet a Seattle volunteer enrolled in the first coronavirus vaccine trial.  And, while we mount an elaborate defense against a formidable foe, scientists ask a surprising question: is a virus even alive?
    Guests:
    Nigel Brown – Emeritus Professor of Molecular Microbiology at the University of Edinburgh Ian Haydon – Public information specialist at the University of Washington, Seattle Bonnie Maldonado – Professor of Pediatrics and Infectious Diseases at the Stanford University School of Medicine Paul Offit – Head of the Vaccine Education Center, and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

    • 51 min
    To the Bat Cave

    To the Bat Cave

    To fight a pandemic, you need to first understand where a virus comes from. That quest takes disease ecologist Jon Epstein to gloomy caverns where bats hang out. There he checks up on hundreds of the animals as his team from the EcoHealth Alliance trace the origins of disease-causing viruses. But their important work is facing its own threat; the Trump administration recently terminated funding to the Alliance because of its collaboration with Chinese scientists.
    Hear how Dr. Epstein finds the viruses, what kind of human activity triggers outbreaks, and how science counters the unsubstantiated claim that the virus escaped from a lab.
    Guests:
    Jon Epstein – Veterinary epidemiologist with the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance Meredith Wadman – Staff writer for the journal Science. Read her article about the cancellation of the NIH bat coronavirus grant.

    • 51 min
    Is Life Inevitable? (Rebroadcast)

    Is Life Inevitable? (Rebroadcast)

    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 min
    Skeptic Check: Covid Conspiracy

    Skeptic Check: Covid Conspiracy

    Nature abhors a vacuum, but conspiracy theorists love one. While we wait for scientists to nail down the how and why of the coronavirus, opportunists have jumped into the void, peddling DIY testing kits and fake COVID cures like colloidal silver. They’ve even cooked up full-blown conspiracy theories about a lab-grown virus. Find out why this crisis has dished up more than the usual share of misinformation and hucksterism, and how these interfere with our ability to navigate it safely.
    Guests:
    Whitney Phillips - Professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University, and author of three books, most recently You Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Polluted Information Joan Donovan - Research director at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy  

    • 51 min
    Treating the Virus

    Treating the Virus

    Treating the Virus
    It’s not like waiting for Godot, because he never arrived.  A coronavirus vaccine will come.  But it is still months away.  Meanwhile, scientists are adding other weapons to our growing arsenal against this virus. The development of antibody tests, antibody cures, and antivirals offer hope that we can soon have the tools to battle those who’ve been sickened by the COVID-19 virus while we wait for the inoculation that will prevent it.
    Guests:
    Deepta Bhattacharya – Immunologist at the University of Arizona whose lab is making a coronavirus antibody test.   Mark Denison – Professor of pathology, microbiology, and immunology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine  

    • 50 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
3 Ratings

3 Ratings

Simewn ,

Best Podcast

It is the best podcast I heard , ever!
I have just recently discovered it and I have dowloaded every single episode I could find!
It shows how podcasts should be done!

cookeecut ,

Gets everything right.

I have been listening to "Are We Alone" for about two years now.
Seth and crew are doing an amazing job presenting science topics in an accessible and entertaining manner.

Despite its title, the show deals with science topics from all areas and not just astronomy or the search for extra-terrestrial life.

Humour and good production values enhance the overall appeal.

All in all, if you have even the faintest interest in science you would do well to hit that 'subscribe' button, now.

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