Mar 7, 2011
ENCORE From the double-helix to the expansion of the universe, great scientific discoveries reshape our understanding of who we are and how things work. But great discoveries require more than just a great mind. We tour brainy breakthroughs from Archimedes to Darwin, and find out what made their revolutionary insights possible.
Also, why you need more than a stratospheric I.Q. to be a super-achiever. And how the invention of reading re-directed the course of civilization and re-wired our brains in the process.
- Alan Hirshfeld –“ Professor of physics at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and author of Eureka Man: The Life and Legacy of Archimedes
- Richard Holmes –“ Author of The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
- Angela Duckworth –“ Psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Her grit study can be found here
- Stanislas Dehaene –“ Cognitive neruoscientist at the the CollÃ¨ge de France in Paris, and author of Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention
Feb 28, 2011
The weaker the mixture, the stronger the potency. That paradox is a central tenet of homeopathy. More than 200 years old and developed long before germ theory, the practice is the fastest growing form of alternative medicine worldwide.
Proponents say its diluted remedies cure disease. Most scientists maintain there´s nothing in homeopathic solution but water. We´ll hear the arguments, and also the role placebos might be playing in the cure.
Plus, skeptic Phil Plait voyages to the edge of the solar system where a new planet has been discovered … maybe!
And, consider our brains: the product of millions of years of evolution. So why aren´t we more consistent in our reasoning?
It´s Skeptic Check…. but don´t take our word for it.
- Iris Bell –“ Psychiatrist and researcher in alternative medicine at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine
- Simon Singh –“ Science writer based in the U.K., author of Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine
- Phil Plait –“ Astronomer, skeptic, and keeper of the web site badastronomy.com
- Jim Underdown –“ Executive Director, Center for Inquiry, Los Angeles
- Gordy Slack –“ Science writer and keeper of the neuroscience web site, "Brainstorm"
- Robert Kurzban –“ Associate professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind
Feb 21, 2011
Think small to solve big problems. That, in a nutshell, is the promise of nanotechnology. In this barely visible world, batteries charge 100 times faster and drugs go straight to their targets in the body. Discover some of these nano breakthroughs and how what you can´t see can help you…
…or hurt you? What if tiny machines turn out to be nothing but trouble? We´ll look at the health and safety risks of nanotech.
Plus, scaling up in science fiction: why a Godzilla-sized insect is fun, but just doesn´t fly.
- Bill Flounders –“ executive director of the Marvell Nanofabrication Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley
- Joseph DeSimone –“ professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and chemical engineering at North Carolina State University
- David Guston –“ political scientist at Arizona State University where he directs The Center for Nanotechnology in Society
- Stan Williams –“ Senior Fellow and founding director of the Information and Quantum Systems Lab at Hewlett-Packard
- Michael LeBarbera –“ Professor in organismal biology, anatomy and geophysical sciences, University of Chicago
Feb 14, 2011
Earth may not be rare after all. New data from NASA´s Kepler mission suggests that the universe is chock-a-block with planets. More than a thousand new possible planets have just been found, and more than fifty of these might be suitable for life. Ready for cosmic company? We discuss the results of the Kepler mission in a roundtable with some of its top scientists.
Meanwhile, the Voyager spacecraft continues to be humanity´s point man in the race to interstellar space. Poised to leave our solar system, we reflect on the mission –“ including its on-board messages for aliens.
Plus, out-of-this world science. From lab coats to warp speed: does Hollywood get it right? Does it matter?
- Jon Jenkins –“ Co-principal investigator for the Kepler Mission
- Doug Caldwell –“ Co-investigator and instrument scientist for the Kepler Mission
- Jessie Christiansen –“ Data scientist working on the Kepler mission
- Ed Stone –“ Professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology, and former Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Jennifer Ouellette –“ Writer and former director, National Academy of Sciences´ Science and Entertainment Exchange
Feb 7, 2011
It´s the perennial dream: build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door. We go to San Jose´s famed Tech Museum to learn what it takes to turn a good idea into a grand success.
Remember the Super Soaker squirt gun? Hear how its inventor is now changing the rules for solar energy.
Where do good ideas come from? A Eureka moment in the bathtub? We´ll find out that it doesn´t happen so quickly –“ or easily.
And finally, the life cycle of society-changing technologies, from the birth of radio to the future of the Internet.
Inventions, inventors and innovation: all part of the mix on "Better Mousetrap."
- Steven Johnson –“ Author of Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
- Lonnie Johnson –“ Inventor and former NASA engineer; CEO of Johnson Research and Development Company
- Tim Wu –“ Professor of Communication Law at Columbia University and author of The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires (Borzoi Books)
Jan 31, 2011
You´re right: it´s a show about ESP. And, correct again: we´re excited about the publication of a paper that claims precognition exists. You´ve already divined what our paranormal investigator says about the paper, whether the statistics that it cites are significant, and what the editor-in-chief of a major scientific journal has to say on the tricky matter of publishing such a result at all.
You´re not surprised that Brains on Vacation takes on the matter of Armageddon-by-exploding-star, because, you knew that. You also knew that it will be an excellent show. But, tune in anyway –“ consider it a repeat.
- Bruce Alberts –“ Editor-in-chief of Science
- Jim Underdown –“ Executive Director, Center for Inquiry –“ Los Angeles
- Jeff Rouder –“ Quantitative psychologist, University of Missouri
- Phil Plait –“ Skeptic and keeper of the website badastronomy.com
- Steve Macknik –“ Neuroscientist, author of Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions
Jan 24, 2011
We all hear about research discoveries, but what about what scientists don´t find? Tune in for a round-up of eureka moments that have yet to come, such as the hunt for the dark energy of the universe and the search for the elusive elementary particle responsible for the mass of objects.
Also, we miss the woolly mammoth so much, scientists plan to clone the hairy beast and bring the extinct animal back.
Plus, why the missing link is no longer missing, what extrasolar planets have now been found, and –“ NASA money for science: where´d it go?
- Alan Stern –“ Aerospace consultant and planetary scientist
- Natalie Batalha –“ Deputy Science Team Lead for NASA´s Kepler Mission
- Leslea Hlusko –“ Biologist at the University of California, Berkeley
- Ian Sample –“ Science writer, author of Massive: The Missing Particle That Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science
- Saul Perlmutter –“ Physicist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
- Darin Croft –“ Professor of Anatomy, Case Western Reserve, Cleveland
Jan 17, 2011
It´s the star of our solar system, but much about the Sun is still mysterious. Find out what a new NASA mission to our favorite fireball might discover about its super-hot outer regions.
Also, why the most common stars in the galaxy don´t shine thanks to nuclear energy as our Sun does. And, recreating Sol´s energy source on Earth at the National Ignition Facility.
Plus, an ex-Star Wars animator and photographer on how to film an atomic blast.
- Peter Kuran –“ An animator on Star Wars, now a filmmaker, documentarian of “”http://www.atomcentral.com/trinity.html">Trinity and Beyond," and author of How To Photograph an Atomic Bomb
- Davy Kirkpatrick –“ Astronomer, California Institute of Technology, and scientist for NASA´s WISE mission
- Stuart Bale –“ Physicist at the University of California, Berkeley and Director of the Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory
- Mike Dunne –“ Physicist, and Program Director for Fusion Energy at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory
Jan 10, 2011
Random is as random does… makes sense doesn´t even that anyway in tune hear to randomness how lives rules.
Brain chaos the drives, restoration role of help insight ecology may into randomness the, numbers sense of make statistics can´t why we or, ants not seem of erratic behavior why the may but is.
- Leonard Mlodinow –“ Theoretical physicist and author of The Drunkard´s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives (Vintage)
- Jon Chase –“ Biologist and director of the Tyson Research center at Washington University in St. Louis
- Lori Marino –“ Evolutionary biologist, Emory University
- Deborah Gordon –“ Biologist, Stanford University
- John Beggs –“ Physicist, Indiana University at Bloomington
Jan 3, 2011
ENCORE The march of computer technology continues. But as silicon chips and search engines become faster and more productive –“ can the same be said for us?
The creator of Wolfram Alpha describes how his new "computational knowledge engine" is changing –“ and improving –“ how we process information. Meanwhile, suffering from data and distraction burnout? Find out what extremes some folks take to stop their search engines.
Also, the Singularity sensation of humans merging with machines… and, why for the ancient Greeks all of this is "been there, done that." A deep sea dive turns up a 2,000 year old computer!
- Jo Marchant –“ Freelance science journalist and author of Decoding the Heavens: A 2,000-Year-Old Computer—and the Century-Long Search to Discover Its Secrets
- Stephen Wolfram –“ Mathematican, computer programmer, and founder of Wolfram Research and Wolfram Alpha
- Fred Stutzman –“ PhD student at the University of North Carolina School of Information and Library Science
- Peggy Orenstein –“ author and contributing editor to the New York Times Magazine, which is where we found her article "Stop Your Search Engines"
- Ray Kurzweil –“ Inventor, futurist and author, most recently, of The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology
Dec 27, 2010
ENCORE It´s always an adventure to go digging in Seth´s storage locker –“ who knows what we´ll find …
In this imposing pile of paraphernalia, tucked between boxes of socket wrenches and old 45s, we stumble upon the hunt for extrasolar planets, the evidence for water on moons of the solar system, theories of language, a controversial hypothesis for the peopling of the Americas, and a new dinosaur fossil.
- Steve Brusatte –“ Vertebrate paleontologist from the American Museum of Natural History in New York
- Steven Pinker –“ Psychologist, Harvard University
- Geoff Marcy –“ Astronomer, University of California, Berkeley
- Adam Showman –“ Planetary scientist at the University of Arizona
- Mike Collins –“ Associate Director, Texas Archeological Research Laboratory
Dec 20, 2010
Every ten microseconds, someone places a cell phone call. These portable gadgets are ubiquitous, and increasingly a take-for-granted part of everyday life.
But could cell phones be dangerous? Could holding a microwave transmitter up to your head for hours each day substantially increase the risk of cancer?
We investigate some of the latest thinking on the danger of cell phones, and also explain that everyone –“ even you –“ is a radio transmitter.
It´s Skeptic Check on Are We Alone. And we´ve got your number.
- James Geary –“ Author and journalist. Read “The Man Who Was Allergic to Radio Waves”
- Richard Muller –“ Professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of The Instant Physicist: An Illustrated Guide
- Devra Davis –“ Scientist, and author of Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family
Dec 13, 2010
The language of science is mathematics. As incredible as it seems, the universe seems to run according to laws we can write down on chalkboards.
But it´s not just lab-coated researchers who wield the tool of math: Madison Avenue knows that if they tell you that a shampoo is 32 percent better, you´re likely to buy it.
Also, how scientists of the early twentieth century were forced to invent entirely new mathematical paradigms to describe the cosmos on big scales and small –“ the theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics.
Plus, what about everyday arithmetic? Have pocket calculators and digital cash registers dumbed down the populace?
- Charles Seife –“ Professor of journalism at New York University, and author of Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception
- James Kakalios –“ Professor of physics at the University of Minnesota, and author of The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics: A Math-Free Exploration of the Science that Made Our World
- Leonard Mlodinow –“ Physicist, and author with Stephen Hawking of The Grand Design
- Aimee Ellington –“ Professor of mathematics at Virginia Commonwealth University
Dec 6, 2010
The times are a changing -” rising temperatures, growing population, and new technology coming at us faster than a greased cheetah.
So how will humans respond? Find out about future farming in the city -” your vegetables might be grown in downtown, hi-rise greenhouses. Also, a population expert tells us how our planet can cope with billions more people, and the man who invented the term -˜cyberspace describes what the future might hold for the techno-savvy.
Darwinian evolution takes a long time to accommodate to new environments. But Homo sapiens can beat that rap by wielding the right technology -” and becoming early adapters.
- Dickson Despommier -” Emeritus professor of public health and microbiology at Columbia University, author of The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century
- William Gibson -” Author, most recently, of Zero History
- Joel Cohen -” Mathematician and biologist at Rockefeller University
- David DeGusta -” Paleoanthropologist at the Paleoanthropology Institute in California
Nov 29, 2010
ENCORE We think of major geologic events as taking place a long time ago –“ but the Earth is just as active as it ever was. We´re a planet in motion. Discover why earthquakes might be increasing worldwide… descend into daring cave exploration… and take a trip to Hawaii where new volcanoes are gurgling up right now.
Plus –“ the supervolcano under Yellowstone Park… when might it erupt again?
- Robert Nadeau –“ Geologist, University of California, Berkeley Seismological Laboratory and part of a team from Rice University researching the San Andreas Fault
- Joel Achenbach –“ Reporter, author of "When Yellowstone Explodes", August 2009 National Geographic cover story
- Jim Kauahikaua –“ Scientist-in-Charge, United States Geologic Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
- Pat Kambesis –“ Geologist, Assistant Director of the Hoffman Environmental Research Institute at Western Kentucky University