• Mars-Struck

    You love to travel. But would you if doing so meant never coming home? The private company Mars One says it will land humans on the Red Planet by 2026, but is only offering passengers one-way tickets. Hundreds of thousands of people volunteered to go.

    Meet a young woman who made the short list, and hear why she’s ready to be Mars-bound. Also, why microbes could be hiding in water trapped in the planet’s rocks. And, how a wetter, better Mars lost its atmosphere and became a dry and forbidding place.

    Plus, why Kim Stanley Robinson, author of a famous trilogy about colonizing and terraforming Mars, thinks that the current timeline for going to the planet is unrealistic.

    Guests:

       Laurel Kaye – A senior in the physics department at Duke University

       Alfonso Davila – Senior scientist at the SETI Institute

       Stephen Brecht – Physicist and president of the Bay Area Research Group

       Kim Stanley Robinson – Hugo Award-winning science Fiction author of the Mars trilogy: Red Mars (Mars Trilogy)

    , Green Mars (Mars Trilogy)

    , Blue Mars (Mars Trilogy)

  • Skeptic Check: The Me in Measles

    Wondering whether to vaccinate your children? The decision can feel like a shot in the dark if you don’t know how to evaluate risk. Find out why all of us succumb to the reasoning pitfalls of cognitive and omission bias, whether we’re saying no to vaccines or getting a tan on the beach.

    Plus, an infectious disease expert on why it may take a dangerous resurgence of preventable diseases – measles, whooping cough, polio – to remind us that vaccines save lives.

    Also, a quaint but real vaccine fear: that the 18th century smallpox vaccine, made from cowpox, could turn you into a cow!

    It’s our monthly look at critical thinking … but don’t take our word for it!

    Guests:

       Paul Offit – Infectious disease specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

       Neil deGrasse Tyson – Astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City

       Adam KorbitzLawyer specializing in space law

       Andrew Maynard – Professor of environmental health science, director, Risk Science Center, University of Michigan

  • Surviving the Anthropocene

    The world is hot, and getting hotter. But higher temperatures aren’t the only impact our species is having on mother Earth. Urbanization, deforestation, and dumping millions of tons of plastic into the oceans … these are all ways in which humans are leaving their mark.

    So are we still in the Holocene, the geological epoch that started a mere 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age? Some say we’ve moved on to the age of man – the Anthropocene.

    It’s the dawn of an era, but can we survive this new phase in the history of our planet?

    Guests: 

       Pat Porter – Relative

       Jonathan Amos – Science writer for the BBC in London

       Gaia Vince – Writer, broadcaster, former editor for New Scientist, news editor of Nature, and author of Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made

       David Grinspoon – Astrobiologist, senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona

       Francisco Valero – Emeritus physicist and research scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego

  • Sesquicentennial Science

    Today, scientists are familiar to us, but they weren’t always. Even the word “scientist” is relatively modern, dating from the Victorian Era.

    And it is to that era we turn as we travel to the University of Notre Dame to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its College of Science with a show recorded in front of a live audience.

    Find out how the modern hunt for planets around other stars compares to our knowledge of the cosmos a century and a half ago. Also how faster computers have ushered in the realm of Big Data.

    And a science historian describes us what major science frontiers were being crossed during the era of Charles Darwin and germ theory.

    It’s then versus now on Sesquicentennial Science!

    Recorded at the Eck Center at the University of Notre Dame, February 4th, 2015

    Guests:

       Justin Crepp – Professor of physics, University of Notre Dame

       Nitesh Chawla – Professor of computer science and engineering and director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Network Sciences and Applications at Notre Dame

       John Durant – Historian of science, director of the MIT Museum

  • Skeptic Check: Your Inner Lab Coat

    herlock Holmes doesn’t have a science degree, yet he thinks rationally – like a scientist. You can too! Learn the secrets of being irritatingly logical from the most famous sleuth on Baker Street. Plus, discover why animal trackers 100,000 years ago may have been the first scientists, and what we can learn from about deductive reasoning from today’s African trackers.

    Also, the author of a book on teaching physics to your dog provides tips for unleashing your inner scientist, even if you hated science in school.

    And newly-minted scientists imagine classes they wish were available to them as grad students, such as “You Can’t Save the World 101.”

    Guests: 

  • Big Questions Somewhat Answered

    Here are questions that give a cosmologist – and maybe even you – insomnia: What happened after the Big Bang? What is dark matter? Will dark energy tear the universe apart?

    Let us help you catch those zzzzs. We’re going to provide answers to the biggest cosmic puzzlers of our time. Somewhat. Each question is the focus of new experiments that are either underway or in the queue.

    Hear the latest results in the search for gravitational waves that would be evidence for cosmic inflation, as well as the hunt for dark matter and dark energy. And because these questions are bigger than big, we’ve enlisted cosmologist Sean Carroll as our guide to what these experiments might reveal and what it all means.

    Guests:

       Sean Carroll – Cosmologist, California Institute of Technology

       Jamie Bock – Experimental cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a member of the BICEP team

       Brendan Crill – Cosmologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and member of the Planck collaboration

       Jeff Filippini – Post-doctoral Fellow, California Institute of Technology, assistant professor of physics at the University of Illinois and member of the Spider team

       Neil Gehrels – Astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, project scientist for WFIRST

  • How to Talk to Aliens

    “Dear E.T. …” So far, so good. But now what? Writing is never easy, but what if your task was to craft a message to aliens living elsewhere in the universe, and your prose would represent all humankind? Got writer’s block yet?

    What to say to the aliens was the focus of a recent conference in which participants shifted their attentions away from listening for extraterrestrial signals to transmitting some. In this show, we report on the “Communicating Across the Cosmos” conference held at the SETI Institute in December 2014.

    Find out what scientists think we should say. Also, how archeology could help us craft messages to an unfamiliar culture. Plus, why journalists might be well-suited to writing the message. And, a response to Stephen Hawking’s warning that attempting to contact aliens is too dangerous.

    Guests:

       Douglas Vakoch – Director of interstellar message composition, SETI Institute

       Paul Wason – Archaeologist, anthropologist and vice president for the life sciences and genetics program at the Templeton Foundation

       Al Harrison – Emeritus professor of psychology, University of California, Davis

       Morris Jones – Journalist and space analyst in Sydney, Australia

       Shari Wells-Jensen – Professor of English, Bowling Green State University

  • Science Fiction True

    Don’t believe everything you see on TV or the movies. Science fiction is just a guide to how our future might unfold. It can be misleading, as anyone who yearns for a flying car can tell you. And yet, sometimes fantasy becomes fact. Think of the prototype cellphones in Star Trek.

    We take a look at science that seems inspired by filmic sci-fi, for example scientists manipulating memory as in Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And despite his famous film meltdown, Charleton Heston hasn’t stopped the Soylent company from producing what it calls the food of the future.

    Plus, why eco-disaster films have the science wrong, but not in the way you might think. And, what if our brains are simply wired to accept film as fact?

    Guests:

       Steve Ramirez -Neuroscientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

       Rob Rhinehart – CEO and founder of Soylent

       Jason Mark – Editor of Earth Island Journal

       Jeffrey Zacks – Cognitive Neuroscientist, Washington University, St. Louis, and author of Flicker: Your Brain on Movies

  • Shocking Ideas

    Electricity is so 19th century. Most of the uses for it were established by the 1920s. So there’s nothing innovative left to do, right? That’s not the opinion of the Nobel committee that awarded its 2014 physics prize to scientists who invented the blue LED.

    Find out why this LED hue of blue was worthy of our most prestigious science prize … how some bacteria actually breathe rust … and a plan to cure disease by zapping our nervous system with electric pulses.

    Guests:

       Siddha Pimputkar – Postdoctoral researcher in the Materials Department of the Solid State Lighting and Energy Electronics Center under Shuji Nakamura, winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara

       Jeff Gralnick – Associate professor of microbiology at the University of Minnesota

       Kevin Tracey – Neurosurgeon and president of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York

  • Living Computers

    It’s the most dramatic technical development of recent times: Teams of people working for decades to produce a slow-motion revolution we call computing. As these devices become increasingly powerful, we recall that a pioneer from the nineteenth century – Ada Lovelace, a mathematician and Lord Byron’s daughter – said they would never surpass human ability. Was she right?

    We consider the near-term future of computing as the Internet of Things is poised to link everything together, and biologists adopt the techniques of information science to program living cells.

    Plus: What’s your favorite sci-fi computer?

    Guests:

       Walter Isaacson – President and CEO of the Aspen Institute and the author of The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

       Christopher Voigt – Bioengineer at MIT

       Andy Ihnatko – Technology journalist

       André Bormanis – Writer, screenwriter, Star Trek

       John Barrett – Electronic engineer, NIMBUS Centre for Embedded Systems Research at the Cork Institute of Technology, Ireland