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 Skeptic Check, Beast Of

Zombies, aliens, Bigfoot, oh my!! We´ve covered –“ or rather uncovered –“ them all and more on Skeptic Check, our monthly look of critical thinking. And now we´ve collected enough strange encounters to assemble a sordid retrospective of sorts.

Sharpen your brain, it´s Skeptic Check, Beast Of. But don´t take our word for it!


Descripción en español


 Whodunit, Who'll Do It?

The tools of forensics have moved way beyond fingerprint kits. These days, a prosecutor is as likely to wave a fMRI brain scan as a smoking gun as “Exhibit A.” Discover what happens when neuroscience has its day in court.

Meanwhile, research into the gold standard of identification, DNA, marches on. One day we may determine a suspect´s eye color from a drop of blood.

Plus, why much of forensic science –“ from fingerprinting to the polygraph –“ is more like reading tea leaves than science. And will future crime victims be robots?


  • Owen Jones –“ Professor of law, Professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Manfred Kayser –“ Forensic molecular biologist, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  • Marc Goodman –“ Founder, The Future Crimes Institute
  • David Faigman –“ Law professor, University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco

Descripción en español


 Whither the Weather?

We all talk about the weather. And now scientists are doing something about it: providing more accurate warnings before big storms hit. Discover how smart technology –“ with an eye on the sky –“ is taking monster weather events by storm.

Plus, why severe weather events caused by a warming planet may trigger social and economic chaos.

Also, meet the storm chaser who runs toward tornadoes as everyone else flees... and why your cell phone goes haywire when the sun kicks up a storm of its own.



 Seth's Tool Shed

Anyone who does gardening knows that life is tough. It´s also ancient –“ the first living things appeared on this planet nearly as soon as our world was habitable. We consider life on real worlds –“ like Earth and Mars –“ as well as fictional ones, such as the desert planet from the movie "Dune". We´ll hear about a new scheme to find Martians, and practical approaches to coping with climate change.

And is Pluto seeking revenge? The unmasking of a fourth moon around this former planet!

We´re making some lively discoveries in Seth´s Tool Shed on Big Picture Science.


  • Philip Duffy –“ Physicist and senior scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Kevin Zahnle –“ Planetary scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center
  • David Summers –“ Astrobiologist at the SETI Institute
  • Christopher Carr –“ Researcher in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Mark Showalter –“ Research scientist at the SETI Institute

Descripción en español


 Into the Unknown

During the great age of exploration men risked their lives to set foot upon unknown lands, whether in the humid jungles of Peru or on the barren ice cap of the South Pole. We´ll hear those dramatic tales...

... but also where modern exploration is taking us. Could it be to the deepest, darkest part of the sea?

Or to space? Discover how to build a space suit that will let you move like an athlete on Mars. Also, why some say that the ultimate frontier requires no packing and no travel: voyages into the human brain.


Descripción en español


 Skeptic Check: Plotting Along

It´s been ten years since the fall of the Twin Towers, but some still believe that the attack was an inside job. They´re not the only ones to buy into a conspiratorial view of world events. Others deny President Obama´s American birth... link autism with vaccines... and even claim that the fluo
ride in our drinking water is there to control our minds. Is it the truth –“ or the fringe groups –“ that are "out there?"

Find out why some tinfoil hat ideas never go away. Also, the roots of rational argument: did our brains evolve to seek the truth... or just win arguments?

It´s Skeptic Check... but don´t take our word for it!



 Cell! Cell!
ENCORE Live forever? Both cancer cells and stem cells can make a claim to immortality. Left unchecked, tumors will grow indefinitely. And stem cells offer the promise of non-stop rejuvenation. We´ll find out whether the surprising discovery of stem cells in the brain really can keep our thinking organ young. And we´ll hear the remarkable story of Henrietta Lacks, the woman who unwittingly donated tissue to science in 1951, and whose cancer cells are still grown in laboratories around the world today. 08/02/11

 Water the Chances

Water, water everywhere. But most of it is sea water –“ you can´t drink it. Discover the most promising technologies for desalination and why solar cells are key. Also, how astronauts filter "water-closet water" to drink it, and how to turn a salt pond back to a wetland.

Plus, from Roman aqueducts to modern-day pumps: a history of quenching human thirst. And, why NASA strives to "follow the water."



 Know Laughing Matter

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. It´s nearly impossible to fake a laugh. Yet, humans will laugh even if something isn´t funny. Discover the evolutionary function of cracking up and meet the other species that love to giggle (and monkey around).

Also, hilarious science comedy. Yes, science comedy. Plus, teaching machines to write punch lines... and stretching –“ and splitting –“ your sides with laughter yoga.



 The Big Picture

How did life begin? What´s the universe made of, and what´s the nature of consciousness?

These are truly some of the biggest puzzlers in science, but answers are in the offing.

We consider the modern-day hunt for life beyond Earth, as well as a new theory of consciousness: could it be merely an illusion to entertain us and make our lives more worthwhile?

Also, after thousands of years of examining the heavens, are we finally learning the true nature of the cosmos?


Descripción en español


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