It’s a record we didn’t want to break. The carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has hit the 400 parts-per-million mark, a level at which some scientists say is a point of no return for stopping climate change. A few days later, a leading newspaper prints an op-ed essay that claims CO2 is getting a bad rap: it’s actually good for the planet. The more the better.
Skeptic Phil Plait rebuts the CO2-is-awesome idea while a paleontologist paints a picture of what Earth was like when the notorious gas last ruled the planet. Note: humans weren’t around.
Plus, our skit says NO to O2 … and a claim that climate change skeptics have borrowed from the Creationists’ playbook in challenging the teaching of established science in schools.
Descripción en español
You can remember yesterday, but not tomorrow. But why? We consider the arrow of time and why its direction was set by the Big Bang. Also, artificial blood cells and life in a deep Antarctic lake.
You’ll hear how Stephen King thinks that humankind is metaphorically living under a big dome, and why we really want to go into space, according to Neil Tyson.
And … skeptical takes on faces in cheese sandwiches and the supposedly special powers of psychics.
All this and more on this special Big Picture Science podcast.
Not all conversation is appropriate for the dinner table – and that includes, strangely enough, the subject of eating. Yet what happens during the time that food enters our mouth and its grand exit is a model of efficiency and adaptation.
Author Mary Roach takes us on a tour of the alimentary canal, while a researcher describes his invention of an artificial stomach. Plus, a psychologist on why we find certain foods and smells disgusting. And, you don’t eat them but they could wiggle their way within nonetheless: surgical snakebots.
Maybe goodbye isn’t forever. Get ready to mingle with mammoths and gaze upon a ground sloth. Scientists want to give some animals a round-trip ticket back from oblivion. Learn how we might go from scraps of extinct DNA to creating live previously-extinct animals, and the man who claims it’s his mission to repopulate the skies with passenger pigeons.
But even if we have the tools to bring vanished animals back, should we?
Plus, the extinction of our own species: are we engineering the end of humans via our technology?
Think back, way back. Beyond last week or last year … to what was happening on Earth 100,000 years ago. Or 100 million years ago. It’s hard to fathom such enormous stretches of time, yet to understand the evolution of the cosmos – and our place in it – your mind needs to grasp the deep meaning of eons. Discover techniques for thinking in units of billions of years, and how the events that unfold over such intervals have left their mark on you.
Plus: the slow-churning processes that turned four-footed creatures into the largest marine animals that ever graced the planet and using a new telescope to travel in time to the birth of the galaxies.
ENCORE Just remember this: memory is like Swiss cheese. Even our recollection of dramatic events that seem to sear their images directly onto our brain turn out to be riddled with errors. Discover the reliability of these emotional “flashbulb” memories.
Also, a judge questions the utility of eyewitness testimony in court. And, don’t blame Google for destroying your powers of recall! Socrates thought the same thing about the written word.
Plus, Brains on Vacation!
First released May 7, 2012
There are always surprises when we sort through Seth’s wine cellar – who knows what we’ll find!
In this cramped cavern, tucked between boxes of old fuses and a priceless bottle of 1961 Chateau Palmer Margaux, we discover the next generation of atomic clock … the key to how solar storms disrupt your cell phone … nano-gold particles that could make gasoline obsolete … and what NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has learned about how our solar system stacks up to others.
Tune in, find out and, help us lift these boxes, will you?
ENCORE What’s in a name? “Holocene” defines the geologic epoch we’re in. Or were in? Goodbye to “Holocene” and hello “Anthropocene!” Yes, scientists may actually re-name our geologic era as the “Age of Man” due to the profound impact we’ve had on the planet.
We’ll examine why we’ve earned this new moniker and who votes on such a thing. Plus, discover the strongest evidence for human-caused climate change.
Also, why cities should be celebrated, not reviled… a musing over the possible fate of alien civilizations … and waste not: what an unearthed latrine – and its contents – reveal about ancient Roman habit and diet.
First released October 24, 2011
We love our family and friends, but sometimes their ideas about how the world works seem a little wacky. We asked BiPiSci listeners to share examples of what they can’t believe their loved-ones believe, no matter how much they hear rational explanations to the contrary. Then we asked some scientists about those beliefs, to get their take.
Discover whether newspaper ink causes cancer … if King Tut really did add a curse to his sarcophagus … the efficacy of examining your irises – iridology – to diagnose disease … and more!
Oh, and what about string theory? Is it falsifiable?
It’s hard to get lost these days. GPS pinpoints your location to within a few feet. Discover how our need to get from A to B holds clues about what makes us human, and what we lose now that every digital map puts us at the center.
Plus, stories of animal navigation: how a cat found her way home across Florida, and the magnetic navigation systems used by salmon and sea turtles.
Also, why you’ll soon be riding in driverless cars. And, how to map our universe.