• Big Data

    It’s all in the numbers. The trick is, finding what you’re looking for. But that’s the name of the game with big data. We have a giga-gigabyte of information, and combing through it will lead to new cures for disease, new discoveries about the cosmos, or clues to our social and economic behavior.

    But is big data Big Brother? You leave a little bit of yourself behind with each mouse click. Discover how surveillance and privacy issues bubble out of the mix, as the terabytes keep flowing in.

    Plus one man’s quest to know himself through the numbers as he records everything – and we do mean everything – about his body.


    • Atul Butte – Associate professor, division chief, systems medicine, Stanford University
    • Larry Smarr – Professor of computer science, University of California, San Diego, director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, (Calit2)
    • Karen Nelson – Microbiologist, director of the Rockville Campus of the J. Craig Venter Institute
    • Gerry Harp – Physicist, and Director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute
    • Deirdre Mulligan – Assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Information and faculty director of the Berkeley Center of Law and Technology
    • Ken Goldberg – Professor of engineering, information and art at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Oh, Rats!

    Before you chase it with a broom, consider this – without the rat, we might miss critical insights into the nature of stress, cancer … and even love. These furry, red-eyed rodents have a unique role in medical research – and a ubiquitous companion to our urban lives.

    Discover the origins of the albino laboratory rat … what rat laughter sounds like, and why these four-legged fur balls don’t fall victim to the pressure of the rat race … but we do.


    Descripción en español

  • The Invisible In-Between

    To need air is human. Our lungs thank us for each breath we take. But air is more than a transporter of O2. It shapes our weather, keeps birds aloft and moves spores from here to there. A cubic foot of air is anything but “empty” (hot dog grease particles, anyone?).

    The same goes for space (minus the hot dog grease). It’s a happening place. Discover why interstellar space is more than a whole lot o’ nothing; and what happens when the Voyager spacecraft leaves our solar system. Plus, catch a skydiver in action!


  • A.I. Caramba!

    ENCORE When the IBM computer, Watson, snatched the “Jeopardy” title from its human competition, that raised the question of just how smart are machines? Could artificial intelligence ever beat humans at their own game… of being human?

    Hear why an A.I. expert says it’s time to make peace with your P.C.; the machines are coming. Also, why technology is already self-evolving, and presenting its own demands. Find out what technology wants.

    And, a man who went head-to-chip with a computer and says machines will never beat the human mind. Plus, we take a voyage into “2012: An Emotional Odyssey.”


    Descripción en español

    First aired March 28, 2011

  • A Martian Curiosity

    We dig the Red Planet! And so does Curiosity. After a successful landing, and a round of high-fives at NASA, the latest rover to land on Mars is on the move, shovel in mechanical hand.

    Discover how the Mars Science Laboratory will hunt for the building blocks of life, and just what the heck a lipid is. Plus, how to distinguish Martians from Earthlings, and the tricks Mars has played on us in the past (canals, anyone?).

    Also, want to visit Mars firsthand? We can point you to the sign-up sheet for a manned mission. The catch: the ticket is one-way.


    • John Grotzinger – Geologist, California Institute of Technology, and project scientist, NASA Mars Science Laboratory mission
    • Jennifer Heldmann – Research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center
    • Rachel Harris – Astrobiology student at the NASA Astrobiology Institute
    • Stuart Schlisserman – Physician in Palo Alto, California
    • Felisa Wolfe-SimonNASA astrobiology research fellow, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs
    • Bas Lansdorp – Founder, Mars One
  • Fuel’s Paradise

    ENCORE You know the joke about the car and the snail. Look at that escargot? Well, snails may be the only thing not powering the automobiles of the future. Trees, grass, algae, even the garbage you toss on the sidewalk has potential for conversion into biofuel. What is America’s next top model fuel? Join us on a tour of the contenders.

    Meet a man who’s mad about miscanthus … an astrobiologist’s attraction to algae… and the blueprint for building your own biofuel bugs.

    Also, discover whether any of these next-generation fuel sources could take us to the stars. Put that in your rocket and burn it!


    • Madhu Khanna – Professor of Agriculture and Environmental Economics at the University of Illinois and at the Energy Biosciences Institute
    • Stephen Long – Professor of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    • Michelle Chang – Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley
    • Bret Stroegn – Graduate student researcher, Energy Bioscience Institute, University of California at Berkeley
    • Jonathan Trent – Bioengineering Research Scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center and founder of Global Research into Energy and the Enviornment (GREEN )
    • Richard Obousy – Physicist and co-founder and project leader for Project Icarus

    Descripción en español

    First released April 25, 2011.

  • Olympics for the Rest of Us

    Let the games begin! The mad dash to the phone … the sudden spring out of bed … the frantic juggling of car keys, grocery bags and a cell phone! Olympic athletes may have remarkable speed and strength, but it’s easy praise the extraordinary. Here’s to the extreme averageness of the rest of us. From beer bellies to aching backs, we’re all winners in the Darwinian Olympics just by virtue of being here.

    Identify the one physical trait that you share with all Olympians – your head – and why it’s a remarkable human evolutionary achievement. Plus, the role of genes in putting on the pounds … and what event Spiderman would enter to win the gold.


  • Seth’s Storm Shelter

    Expect the unexpected when we go digging in Seth’s storm shelter – who knows what we’ll find! In this cramped never-never land, tucked between piles of dehydrated food packets and old civil defense helmets, we stumble (but don’t step) upon marauding ants … a mission to Pluto…. “evidence” of a spaceship crash … the Apollo astronaut who shot the “Earth Rise” photograph … and Jonah Lehrer meditating on creativity.

    Tune in, find out and, help move this box of canned soup, will you?


  • Skeptic Check: OMG, GMO?

    You are what you eat. But what does that mean if your food is genetically engineered? Chances are it has been if you’ve ever munched down on corn or soybean. The prospect of eating GM food makes some folks afraid, but is their fear warranted?

    Discover what experts say about the safety of genetically engineered foods … whether the technology delivers on the promised increase in yield … and the argument for and against labeling.

    Also, why some say the issue is not food safety, but the unethical business practices of multinationals. A filmmaker reports from the fields of India.

    Plus, GM crops off this planet: the role of synthetic biology in terraforming Mars.

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


  • Mass Transits

    On June 5, our sister planet Venus will slowly slide across the face of the sun. This will be the last transit of Venus until 2117, so there’s no subsequent chance to observe this celestial spectacular for anyone alive today.

    Join us for a special episode devoted to this rare event. Two centuries ago, nations were locked in a race to be the first to measure the Venus transit. From the first observation by the “father” of British astronomy to Captain Cook’s Tahitian expedition in the 18th century, meet the pioneers who were trying to nail down the scale of the cosmos

    Plus, tips for observing the 2012 transit … how the Kepler spacecraft uses transits to detect Earth-like worlds … and could there be life floating in Venusian clouds?