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.
What's a Few Degrees?
Brace yourself for heatwave “Lucifer.” Dangerous deadly heatwaves may soon be so common that we give them names, just like hurricanes. This is one of the dramatic consequences of just a few degrees rise in average temperatures.
Also coming: Massive heat “blobs” that form in the oceans and damage marine life, and powerful windstorms called “derechos” pummeling the Midwest.
Plus, are fungal pathogens adapting to hotter temperatures and breaching the 98.6 F thermal barrier that keeps them from infecting us?
Kathy Baughman McLeod – director and senior vice president of the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center at The Atlantic Council Pippa Moore – Marine ecologist at Newcastle University in the U.K. Ted Derouin – Michigan farmer Jeff Dukes – Ecologist and director of Purdue Climate Change Research Center at Purdue University. Arturo Casadevall – Molecular microbiologist and immunologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Geology is Destiny (rebroadcast)
The record of the rocks is not just the history of Earth; it’s your history too. Geologists can learn about events going back billions of years that influenced – and even made possible – our present-day existence and shaped our society.
If the last Ice Age had been a bit warmer, the rivers and lakes of the Midwest would have been much farther north and the U.S. might still be a small country of 13 states. If some Mediterranean islands hadn’t twisted a bit, no roads would have led to Rome.
Geology is big history, and the story is on-going. Human activity is changing the planet too, and has introduced its own geologic era, the Anthropocene. Will Earthlings of a hundred million years from now dig up our plastic refuse and study it the way we study dinosaur bones?
Plus, the dodo had the bad luck to inhabit a small island and couldn’t adapt to human predators. But guess what? It wasn’t as dumb as you think.
Walter Alvarez – Professor of Geology, University of California, Berkeley, and author of A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves Eugenia Gold – Instructor, Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University David Grinspoon – Senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, and author of Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future Originally aired January 16, 2017
Talk the Walk
Birds and bees do it … and so do fish. In a discovery that highlights the adaptive benefits of walking, scientists have discovered fish that can walk on land. Not fin-flap their bodies, mind you, but ambulate like reptiles.
And speaking of which, new research shows that T Rex, the biggest reptile of them all, wasn’t a sprinter, but could be an efficient hunter by outwalking its prey.
Find out the advantage of legging it, and how human bipedalism stacks up. Not only is walking good for our bodies and brains, but not walking can change your personality and adversely affect your health.
Hans Larsson – Paleontologist and biologist, and Director of the Redpath Museum at McGill University in Montréal. Shane O’Mara – Neuroscientist and professor of experimental brain research at Trinity College Dublin. He is the author of “In Praise of Walking.” Brooke Flammang – Biologist at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Beneath our feet is a living network just as complex and extensive as the root systems in a forest. Fungi, which evolved in the oceans, were among the first to colonize the barren continents more than a half-billion years ago. They paved the way for land plants, animals, and (eventually) you.
Think beyond penicillin and pizza, and take a moment to consider these amazing organisms. Able to survive every major extinction, essential as Nature’s decomposers, and the basis of both ale and antibiotics, fungi are essential to life. And their behavior is so complex you’ll be wondering if we shouldn’t call them intelligent!
Merlin Sheldrake – Biologist and the author of Entangled Life: How Fungi Make our Worlds, Change our Minds and Shape our Futures.
Hubble and Beyond
The universe is not just expanding; it’s accelerating. Supermassive black holes are hunkered down at the center of our galaxy and just about every other galaxy, too. We talk about these and other big discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope, now in orbit for 30 years.
But two new next-generation telescopes will soon be joining Hubble: the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. Hear what cosmic puzzles they’ll address. Plus, life in a clean room while wearing a coverall “bunny suit”; what it takes to assemble a telescope.
Meg Urry – Professor of physics and astronomy, Director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Yale University John Grunsfeld – Former NASA Associate Administrator, and astronaut Kenneth Harris – Senior Project Engineer, Aerospace Corporation
Life on Venus?
Have scientists found evidence of life on Venus? Known for its scorching temperatures and acidic atmosphere, Earth’s twin hardly seems a promising place for living things. But could a discovery of phosphine by researchers at MIT point to a high-altitude biosphere on this nearby world?
Clara Sousa–Silva - Research scientist in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. She and Sara Seager co-authored a paper in January 2020 titled, “Phosphine as a Biosignature Gas in Exoplanet Atmospheres” Sara Seager - Professor of physics and planetary science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of “The Smallest Lights in the Universe” Nathalie Cabrol - Planetary Scientist and Director of the Cal Sagan Center at the SETI Institute David Grinspoon - Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, author of “Earth in Human Hands”