• 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?


  • 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?


  • 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.


    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.


       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.


        Timothy Beers – Astronomer, University of Notre Dame

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

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    SETI Institute




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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.


       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!


       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.


       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

  • A Fundy Thing Happened

    Get ready for déjà vu as you listen to some of our favorite interviews from the past year. It’s our annual fundraising podcast. Come for the great interviews, stay for the great interviews. Lend us your support along the way.

    What’s for dinner? Maybe Soylent. Made by … people! We do a taste test. Then meet your gut microbes. They control your health and even your mood.

    Get tips on how to talk to aliens, why you should keep an eye on government surveillance, and the future of 3D printing human tissue. Also, why extraordinary beliefs persist – including Holocaust denial – despite the persistence of evidence to the contrary.

    And, global perspective: why Ebola won’t be the next big pandemic but sea level rise could wipe out coasts along Florida and Thailand.

    Plus, we imagine life hundreds of years ago for the renegades on the rough seas, and what the world would be like had the dinosaurs not gone extinct.

    All this and more on a special Big Picture Science podcast!


    •   Bill Miller – Physician and author of The Microcosm Within: Evolution and Extinction in the Hologenome

    •   Rob Rhinehart – CEO and founder of Soylent

    •   Brian Fagan – Emeritus professor of anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of The Attacking Ocean: The Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels

    •   David Quammen – Science journalist, contributing writer for National Geographic Magazine, author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

    . His Op Ed article about Ebola appeared in the New York Times.

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

    •   Susan Landau – Mathematician and engineer who works on cybersecurity, privacy and public policy at the Worchester Polytechnic Institute, author most recently of Surveillance or Security?: The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies

    •   Will Storr – Journalist, author of The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science

    •   Ali Khademhosseini – Bioengineer, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Woman’s Hospital

  • The Evolution of Evolution

    Darwinian evolution is adaptive and slow … millennia can go by before a species changes very much. But with the tools of genetic engineering we can now make radical changes in just one generation. By removing genes or inserting new ones, we can give an organism radically different traits and behaviors. We are taking evolution into our own hands.

    It all began with the domestication of plants and animals, which one science writer says created civilization. Today, as humans tinker with their own genome, is it possible we will produce Homo sapiens 2.0?

    Also, what happens to those species who can’t control their destiny? How climate change is forcing the biggest genetic reshuffling in recorded history.


       Richard Francis – Science writer, author of Domesticated: Evolution in a Man-Made World

    Juan Enriquez – Academic, businessman, author, founding director of the Life Sciences Project, Harvard Business School, managing director, Excel Venture Management, and author of Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation are Changing Life on Earth