• Identity Crisis

    DNA is the gold standard of identification.  Except when it’s not.  In rare cases when a person has two complete sets of DNA, that person’s identity may be up in the air.  Meanwhile, DNA ancestry tests are proving frustratingly vague: dishing up generalities about where you came from rather than anything specific.  And decoding a genome is still relatively expensive and time-consuming.   So, while we refine our ability to work with DNA, the search is on for a quick and easy biomarker test to tell us who we are.

    In this hour: the story of chimeras – people who have two sets of DNA; a reporter whose ancestry tests revealed she is related to Napoleon and Marie Antoinette; and the eyes have it in Somaliland, the first nation to use iris scans in an election.  Find out why your irises may be what ultimately distinguishes you from the crowd.

  • Free Range Dinosaurs

    Dinosaurs are once again stomping and snorting their way across the screen of your local movie theater.  But these beefy beasts stole the show long before CGI brought them back in the Jurassic Park blockbusters.  Dinosaurs had global dominance for the better part of 165 million years. Compare that with a measly 56 million years of primate activity. We bow to our evolutionary overlords in this episode.

    Our conversation about these thunderous lizards roams freely as we talk with the paleontologist who discovered Dreadnoughtus – the largest land lizard unearthed to date.  Kenneth Lacovara asks that we please stop using the term “dinosaur” to refer to something outmoded, when in fact the dinos were among the most well-adapted, long-lived creatures ever.

    Plus, intriguing dino facts: if you like eating chicken, you like eating dinosaurs, and how T-Rex’s puny arms helped him survive.

    Also, with dozens of new species unearthed every year – nearly one a week – why we’ve entered the golden age of dinosaur discovery.

    Guest:

    • Kenneth Lacovara– Paleontologist who unearthed the largest land dinosaur known: Dreadnoughtus.  He is also founding dean of the School of Earth and Environment at Rowan University, director of the Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park, and author of “Why Dinosaurs Matter.”
  • Are Animals Really That Smart?

    You own a cat, or is it vice versa? Family friendly felines have trained their owners to do their bidding. Thanks to a successful evolutionary adaptation, they rule your house.

    Find out how your cat has you wrapped around its paw. And it’s not the only animal to outwit us. Primatologist Frans de Waal shares the surprising intellectual capabilities of chimps, elephants, and bats. In fact, could it be that we’re simply not smart enough to see how smart animals are?

    Plus, the discovery of a fossilized dinosaur brain. Were those lumbering lizards more clever than we thought?

    Guests:

  • Brain Dust

    Know your brain? Think again. Driven by a hidden agenda, powered by an indecipherable web of neurons, and influenced by other brains, your grey matter is a black box.

    To “know thyself” may be a challenge, and free will nonexistent, but maybe more technology can shed light on the goings on in your noggin, and the rest of your body.

    Find out how tiny implanted sensors called “brain dust” may reveal what really going on.

    Plus, the day when your brain is uploaded into a computer as ones and zeros. Will you still be you?

    Guests:

  • What Lies Beneath

    ENCORE What you can’t see may astound you. The largest unexplored region of Earth is the ocean. Beneath its churning surface, oceanographers have recently discovered the largest volcano in the world – perhaps in the solar system.

    Find out what is known – and yet to be discovered – about the marine life of the abyss, and how a fish called the bristlemouth has grabbed the crown for “most numerous vertebrate on Earth” from the chicken.

    Plus, the menace of America’s Cascadia fault, which has the potential to unleash a devastating magnitude 9 earthquake.

    Follow Dr. Sager’s voyage back to Tamu Massif in Fall 2015.

    Guests

    Bruce Robison – Deep sea biologist, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

    William Sager – Marine geophysicist, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Houston

    Chris Goldfinger – Marine geologist, geophysicist, paleo-seismologist, Oregon State University

  • It’s All Relative

    A century ago, Albert Einstein rewrote our understanding of physics with his Theory of General Relativity. Our intuitive ideas about space, time, mass, and gravity turned out to be wrong.

    Find out how this masterwork changed our understanding of how the universe works and why you can thank Einstein whenever you turn on your GPS.

    Also, high-profile experiments looking for gravitational waves and for black holes will put the theories of the German genius to the test – will they pass?

    And why the story of a box, a Geiger counter, and a zombie cat made Einstein and his friend Erwin Schrödinger uneasy about the quantum physics revolution.

    Guests:

       Jeffrey Bennett – Astronomer, author of What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter

       Beverly Berger – Theoretical physicist and the Secretary for the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation

       Hiawatha Bray – Technology reporter, Boston Globe, author of You Are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselves

     

     

      Paul Halpern – Physicist at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, author of Einstein’s Dice and Schrödinger’s Cat: How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness to Create a Unified Theory of Physics

  • And To Space We Return

    Earth may be the cradle of life, but our bodies are filled with materials cooked up billions of years ago in the scorching centers of stars. As Carl Sagan said, “We are all stardust.” We came from space, and some say it is to space we will return.

    Discover an astronomer’s quest to track down remains of these ancient chemical kitchens. Plus, a scientist who says that it’s in our DNA to explore – and not just the nearby worlds of the solar system, but perhaps far beyond.

    But would be still be human when we arrive? Hear what biological and cultural changes we might undergo in a multi-generational interstellar voyage.

    Guests:

        Timothy Beers – Astronomer, University of Notre Dame

       Chris Impey – Astronomer, University of Arizona, author of Beyond: Our Future in Space

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       Cameron Smith – Archaeologist, Portland State University

  • Math’s Days Are Numbered

    ENCORE  Imagine a world without algebra. We can hear the sound of school children applauding. What practical use are parametric equations and polynomials, anyway? Even some scholars argue that algebra is the Latin of today, and should be dropped from the mandatory curriculum.

    But why stop there? Maybe we should do away with math classes altogether.

    An astronomer says he’d be out of work: we can all forget about understanding the origins of the universe, the cycles of the moon and how to communicate with alien life. Also, no math = no cybersecurity + hackers (who have taken math) will have the upper hand.

    Also, without mathematics, you’ll laugh < you do now. The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has peppered his animated show with hidden math jokes.

    And why mathematics = love.

    Guests:

       Andrew Hacker – Professor of political science and mathematics at Queens College, City University of New York. His article, “Is Algebra Necessary?”, appeared in The New York Times in 2012.

       Bob Berman – Astronomy editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the author of The Sun’s Heartbeat: And Other Stories from the Life of the Star That Powers Our Planet

    , and columnist for Astronomy Magazine. His article, “How Math Drives the Universe” is the cover story in the December 2013 issue.

       Simon Singh – Science writer, author of The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets

       Rob ManningFlight system chief engineer at the Jet Propulsion Lab, responsible for NASA’s Curiosity rover

  • Skeptic Check: After the Hereafter

    There are few enduring truths, but one is that no one gets out of life alive. What’s less certain is what comes next. Does everything stop with death, or are we transported to another plane of existence? First-hand accounts of people who claim to have visited heaven are offered as proof of an afterlife. Now the author of one bestseller admits that his story was fabricated.

    We’ll look at the genre of “heaven tourism” to see if it has anything to say about the possible existence of the hereafter, and why the idea of an afterlife seriously influences how we live our lives on Earth.

    Also, a neurologist describes what is going on in the brain during near-death and other out-of-body experiences.

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

    Guests:

       Ben Radford – Paranormal investigator, research fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and deputy editor of the Skeptical Inquirer, and author of the Discovery News article, “Why People Believed Boy’s ‘Visit to Heaven’ Story”

       Greg Garrett – Professor of English at Baylor University, writer on books, culture and religion for the Huffington Post, and author of Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination

       Steven Novella – Professor of neurology at Yale University School of Medicine and host of the “Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe” podcast

  • They Know Who You Are

    You’re a private person. But as long as you’re on-line and have skin and hair, you’re shedding little bits of data and DNA everywhere you go. Find out how that personal information – whether or not it’s used against you – is no longer solely your own. Are your private thoughts next?

    A security expert shares stories of ingenious computer hacking … a forensic scientist develops tools to create a mug shot based on a snippet of DNA … and from the frontiers of neuroscience: mind reading may no longer be the stuff of sketchy psychics.

    Guests:

       Marc Goodman – Global security advisor, founder, Future Crimes Institute, author of Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It

       Susan Walsh – Forensic geneticist, Indiana University – Purdue University in Indianapolis

       Marvin Chun – Psychologist, Yale University