ENCORE Calling all pessimists! Your brain is wired for optimism! Yes, deep down, we’re all Pollyannas. So wipe that scowl off your face and discover the evolutionary advantage of thinking positive. Also, enjoy other smile-inducing research suggesting that if you crave happiness, you should do the opposite of what your brain tells you to do.
Plus, why a “well-being index” may replace Dow Jones as a metric for success … a Twitter study that predicts your next good mood … and whether our furry and finned animal friends can experience joy.
Descripción en español
First released October 17, 2011
Face it – humans are pattern-seeking animals. We identify eyes, nose and mouth where there are none. Martian rock takes on a visage and the silhouette of Elvis appears in our burrito. Discover the roots of our face-tracking tendency – pareidolia – and why it sometimes leads us astray.
Plus, why some brains can’t recognize faces at all … how computer programs exhibit their own pareidolia … and why it’s so difficult to replicate human vision in a machine
ENCORE 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?
First aired September 19, 2011
Researchers have discovered life in a buried Antarctic lake. But we’re not surprised. Life is amazingly adaptive. Expose it to any environment – heat, ice, acid or even jet fuel – and it thrives. But this discovery of life under the ice may have exciting implications for finding biology beyond Earth.
Scientists share their discovery, and how they drilled down through a half-mile of ice.
Also, plunge into another watery alien world with director James Cameron, and the first solo dive to the deepest, darkest part of the ocean.
Plus, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist tries to create life in his lab to learn more about biology’s origins, and martian fossils abound in Robert J. Sawyer’s latest sci-fi novel.
We all crave power: to run laptops, charge cell phones, and play Angry Birds. But if generating energy is easy, storing it is not. Remember when your computer conked out during that cross-country flight? Why can’t someone build a better battery?
Discover why battery design is stuck in the 1800s, and why updating it is key to future green transportation (not to mention more juice for your smartphone). Also, how to build a new type of solar cell that can turn sunlight directly into fuel at the pump.
Plus, force fields, fat cells and other storage systems. And: Shock lobster! Energy from crustaceans?
The machines are coming! Meet the prototypes of your future robot buddies and discover how you may come to love a hunk of hardware. From telerobots that are your mechanical avatars … to automated systems for the disabled … and artifical hands that can diffuse bombs.
Plus, the ethics of advanced robotics: should life-or-death decisions be automated?
And, a biologist uses robo-fish to understand evolution.
ENCORE 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.
First released June 27, 2011
It’s one of the biggest questions you can ask: has the universe existed forever? The Big Bang is supposedly the moment it all began. But now scientists wonder if there isn’t an earlier chapter to our origin story. And maybe chapters before that! What happened before the Big Bang? It’s the ultimate prequel.
Plus – the Big Bang as scientific story: nail biter or snoozer?
Computers and DNA have a few things in common. Both use digital codes and are prone to viruses. And, it seems, both can be hacked. From restoring the flavor of tomatoes to hacking into the president’s DNA, discover the promise and peril of gene tinkering.
Plus, computer hacking. Just how easy is it to break into your neighbor’s email account? What about the CIA’s?
Also, one man’s concern that radio telescopes might pick up an alien computer virus.
If there is only one show you hear about the end of the world, let it be this one. Recorded before a live audience at the Computer History Museum on October 27th, 2012, this two-part special broadcast of Big Picture Science separates fact from fiction in doomsday prediction.
In this second episode: a global viral pandemic … climate change … and the threat of assimilation by super-intelligent machines.
Presented as part of the Bay Area Science Festival.
Find out more about our guests and their work.