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?
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Imagine moving things with your mind. Not with telekinesis, but with the future tools of brain science. Meet a pioneer in the field of computer-to-brain connection and discover the blurry boundary where the mind ends and the machine begins.
Plus, how new technology is sharpening the "real" in virtual reality. And, whether our devotion to digital devices is changing what it means to be human.
Could you have had a past life? Is it possible that some part of you is the reincarnation of a person –“ or maybe an animal –“ that lived long ago?
We´ll hear the story of a young boy who started having nightmares about a plane crash. His parents thought he was the reincarnation of a downed, World War II fighter pilot. But his story might not fly.
Also ... is there any biological basis for reincarnation? Animals that indulge in the big sleep.
Suspended animation is Hollywood´s favorite device for interstellar travel ... But could we really put a dimmer switch on human metabolism? Learn how techniques for hitting the hold button for humans might be just around the corner.
We all have to go sometime, and that final hour is the mother of all deadlines. But scientists are working to file an extension. Discover how far we can push the human expiration date.
Plus, the animal with the shortest lifespan and the chemistry that causes your pot-roast to eventually clothe itself in fuzzy green mold.
Also, a clock that won´t stop ticking (for 10,000 years) and our love-hate relationship with that long-lived hydrocarbon that keeps our snack cakes fresh: plastic!
Indiana Jones meets Star Trek in the field of space archaeology. Satellites scan ancient ruins so that scientists can map them without disturbing one grain of sand. Discover how some archaeologists forsake their spades and brushes in favor of examining historic sites from hundreds of miles high.
Also, if you were to hunt for alien artifacts –“ what would you look for? Why ET might choose to send snail mail rather than a radio signal.
Plus, the culture of the hardware we send into space, and roaming the Earth, the moon, and Mars the Google way.
You must remember this... wait, wait… I had it... on the tip of my tongue... (Memory is a tricky thing and most of us would like to improve it)... oh, yes: Discover the secrets of stupefying, knock-your-socks-off recall by a U.S. Memory Champion.
Also, almost everything we know about memory comes from the life of one man born in 1926 and known as H.M., the world´s "most unforgettable amnesiac."
Plus, the sum total of the global data storage capacity in hard drives, thumb drives, the Internet, you name it... guess how many exabytes it comes to?
By thinking different, scientists can make extrordinary breakthroughs. Learn about the creative cogitation that led to the discovery of dark matter and the invention of a.c. power grids, disinfectant, and the Greek "death ray." Also, whether one person´s man of genius is another´s mad scientist.
And, the scientist who claims pi is wrong and biopunks who tinker with DNA –“ in their kitchens and on the cheap.
Plus, from string theory to the greenhouse effect –“ how metaphor sheds light on science. Discover why your brain is like a rain forest (that´s a simile!).
ENCORE Physics means getting physical if you´re tackling the biggest, most mysterious questions in the universe. Stoic scientists endure the driest, darkest, coldest spots on the planet to find out how it all began and why there´s something rather than nothing. From the bottom of an old iron mine to the top of the Andes, we´ll hear their stories.
Plus, Steven Weinberg on this weird stuff called dark energy, and Leonard Susskind sees double, no, triple, no, ...infinite universes.
ENCORE Memories are slippery things –“ some are crystal clear, others more like a muddy pool, and some... well, they seem to vanish completely.
Scientists admit that memory is all very complicated, but one piece of the puzzle lies in how we age –“ we´ll hear the latest research.
Meanwhile, meet the man who digitally logged his every waking moment –“ and why maybe the secret to happiness isn´t in remembering but in forgetting.
Plus, the case for deleting data from your hard-drive... and from your brain itself.
The end is nigh. Only, on which nigh should we rely? According to billboards, Judgment Day is in May and the end of the world follows months later. But other authorities claim 2012 as the apocalyptic year, as predicted by the ancient Mayans. It´s a busy time for doomsday prophecy.
Find out what´s driving these pessimistic predictions and whether it´s time to cash in your stock portfolio.
Meanwhile, a survey of the real threats to Earth, and indeed to the universe, from asteroids, exploding stars, or a big cosmic rip. And the lingering menace of atomic weapons… Is nuclear war inevitable or can intelligence and political will forestall atomic Armageddon?
Finally, why everything´s going to be alright! An optimist´s tour of the future.
It´s Skeptic Check, our monthly look at critical thinking on Are We Alone.