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 Power to the People

Let there be light! Well, it’s easy to do: just flip a switch. But it took more than the invention of the light bulb to make that possible. It required new technology for the distribution of electricity. And that came, not so much from Thomas Edison, but from a Serbian genius named Nikola Tesla.

Hear his story plus ideas on what might be the breakthrough energy innovations of the future. Perhaps hydrogen-fueled cars, nuclear fusion electrical generators or even orbiting solar cells?

Plus, a reminder of cutting-edge technology back in Napoleon’s day: lighthouses.

Guests:

Descripción en español

09/30/13



 
 Invisible Worlds

You can’t see it, but it’s there, whether an atom, a gravity wave, or the bottom of the ocean … but we have technology that allows us to detect what eludes our sight. When we do, whole worlds open up.

Without telescopes, asteroids become visible only three seconds before they slam into the Earth. Find out how we track them long before that happens. Also, could pulsars help us detect the gravity waves that Einstein’s theory predicts?

Plus, why string theory and parallel universes may remain just interesting ideas … the story of the woman who mapped the ocean floor … and why the disappearance of honeybees may change what you eat.

Guests:

Descripción en español

09/23/13



 
 You Say You Want an Evolution?

Imagine: Your pint-sized pup is descended from a line of predatory wolves. We have purposefully bred a new species – dogs – to live in harmony with us. But interactions between species, known as co-evolution, happen all the time, even without deliberate intervention. And it’s frequently a boon to survival: Without the symbiotic relationship we have with bugs in our gut, one that’s evolved with time, we wouldn’t exist.

Discover the Bogart-and-Bacall-like relationships between bacteria and humans, and what we learn by seeing genes mutate in the lab, real time. Also, the dog-eat-dog debate about when canines were first domesticated, and how agriculture, hip-hop music, and technology can alter our DNA (eventually).

Plus, why some of the fastest humans in history have hailed from one small area of a small Caribbean island. Is there a gene for that?

Guests:

Descripción en español

09/16/13



 
 Skeptic Check: Follywood Science

ENCORE The Day After. 2001. Prometheus. There are sci-fi films a’plenty … but how much science is in the fiction? We take the fact checkers to Hollywood to investigate the science behind everything from space travel to human cloning.

Plus, guess what sci-fi film is the most scientifically accurate (hint: we’ve already mentioned it). Also, why messing with medical facts on film can be dangerous … and the inside scoop from a writer of one of television’s most successful sci-fi franchises.

And, a robot who surpasses even Tinseltown’s lively imagination: a humanoid that may become a surrogate you.

Guests:

Descripción en español

First released July 30, 2012.

09/09/13



 
 Catch a Wave

ENCORE Let there be light. Otherwise we couldn’t watch a sunset or YouTube. Yet what your eye sees is but a narrow band in the electromagnetic spectrum. Shorten those light waves and you get invisible gamma radiation. Lengthen them and tune into a radio broadcast.

Discover what’s revealed about our universe as you travel along the electromagnetic spectrum. There’s the long of it: an ambitious goal to construct the world’s largest radio telescope array … and the short: a telescope that images high-energy gamma rays from black holes.

Also, the structure of the universe as seen through X-ray eyes and a physicist sings the praises of infrared light. Literally.

And, while gravity waves are not in the electromagnetic club, these ripples in spacetime could explain some of the biggest mysteries of the cosmos. But first, we have to catch them!

Guests:

  • Anil Ananthaswamy – Journalist and consultant for New Scientist in London
  • Harvey Tananbaum – Director of the Chandra X-Ray Center, located in Cambridge Massachusetts at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
  • David Reitze – Executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), California Institute of Technology
  • Albert Lazzarini – Deputy director, LIGO, California Institute of Technology
  • Alan Marscher – Professor of astronomy at Boston University

Descripción en español

First released March 19, 2012

09/02/13



 
 Welcome to Our Labor-atory

Hi ho, hi ho... it’s out with work we go! As you relax this holiday weekend, step into our labor-atory and imagine a world with no work allowed. Soft robots help us with tasks at home and at the office, while driverless cars allow us to catch ZZZZs in the front seat.

Plus, the Internet of Everything interconnects all your devices, from your toaster to your roaster to … you. So there’s no need to ever get off the couch. But is a machine-ruled world a true utopia?

And, the invention that got us into our 24/7 rat race: Edison’s electric light.

Guests:

Descripción en español

08/26/13



 
 Skeptic Check: Got a Sweet Truth?

The sweet stuff is getting sour press. Some researchers say sugar is toxic. A new study seems to support that idea: mice fed the human equivalent of an extra three sodas a day become infertile or die. But should cupcakes be regulated like alcohol?

Hear both sides of the debate. Another researcher says that animal studies are misleading, and that for good health, you should count calories, not candy and carbs.

Plus, an investigative reporter exposes the tricks that giant food companies employ to keep you hooked on sugar, salt, and fat.

Also, a listener corrects our pronunciation of Neil Armstrong’s birthplace in the Sounds Abound episode.

It’s Skeptic Check … but don’t take our word for it!

Guests:

Descripción en español

08/19/13



 
 Digging Our Past

What’s past is prologue. For centuries, researchers have studied buried evidence – bones, teeth, or artifacts – to learn about murky human history, or even to investigate vanished species. But today’s hi-tech forensics allow us to analyze samples dug from the ground faster and at a far more sophisticated level.

First, the discovery of an unknown species of dinosaur that changes our understanding of the bizarre beasts that once roamed North America.

And then some history that’s more recent: two projects that use the tools of modern chemistry and anthropology to deepen our understanding of the slave trade.

Plus, an anthropologist on an evolutionary habit that is strange to some, but nonetheless common all over the world: the urge to eat dirt.

Guests:

Descripción en español

08/12/13



 
 Sounds Abound

The world is a noisy place. But now we have a better idea what the fuss is about. Not only can we record sound, but our computers allow us to analyze it.

Bird sonograms reveal that our feathery friends give each other nicknames and share details about their emotional state. Meanwhile, hydrophones capture the sounds of dying icebergs, and let scientists separate natural sound from man-made in the briny deep.

Plus, native Ohio speakers help decipher what Neil Armstrong really said on that famous day. And, think your collection of 45 rpm records is impressive? Try feasting your ears on sound recorded before the Civil War.

Guests:

  • Bob Dziak – Oceanographer, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon State University, Program Manager, Acoustics Program, NOAA
  • Michael Porter – Senior scientist of H.L.S. Research, La Jolla, California
  • Patrick Feaster – Sound media historian at Indiana University
  • Laura Dilley – Assistant professor in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University
  • Jenny Papka – Co-director of Native Bird Connections
  • Michael Webster – Professor of neurobiology and behavior, director of the Macaulay Library, Cornell University

Descripción en español

08/05/13



 
 Long Live Longevity

Here’s to a long life – which, on average, is longer today than it was a century ago. How much farther can we extend that ultimate finish line? Scientists are in hot pursuit of the secret to longer life.

The latest in aging studies and why there’s a silver lining for the silver-haired set: older people are happier. Also, what longevity means if you’re a tree. Plus, why civilizations need to stick around if we’re to make contact with E.T.

And, how our perception of time shifts as we age, and other tricks that clocks play on the mind.

Guests:

Descripción en español

07/29/13


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