Big Picture Science – Since Sliced Bread

by Gary Niederhoff on April 7, 2014


Big Picture Science – Since Sliced Bread

Happy Birthday, World Wide Web! The 25-year-old Web, along with the Internet and the personal computer, are among mankind’s greatest inventions. But back then, who knew?

A techno-writer reminisces about the early days of the WWW and says he didn’t think it would ever catch on.

Also, meet an inventor who claims his innovation will leave your laptop in the dust. Has quantum computing finally arrived?

Plus, why these inventions are not as transformative as other creative biggies of history: The plow. The printing press. And… the knot?

And, why scientific discoveries may beat out technology as the most revolutionary developments of all. A new result about the Big Bang may prove as important as germ theory and the double helix.

Listen to individual segments here:
Part 1: Rob Shostak – PC Reminiscence
Part 2: Kevin Kelly – Advent of The Web
Part 3: Eric Ladizinsky – Quantum Computing
Part 4: George Dyson – The Greatest Inventions
Part 5: Prehistoric Almost Inventors
Part 6: Jamie Bock – Inflation Theory
Part 7: Aaron Gardner – Sliced Bread

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Big Picture Science – Evolutionary Arms Race

It’s hard to imagine the twists and turns of evolution that gave rise to Homo Sapiens. After all, it required geologic time, and the existence of many long-gone species that were once close relatives. That may be one reason why – according to a recent poll – one-third of all Americans reject the theory of evolution. They prefer to believe that humans and other living organisms have existed in their current form since the beginning of time.

But if you’ve ever been sick, you’ve been the victim of evolution on a very observable time scale. Nasty viruses and bacteria take full advantage of evolutionary forces to adapt to new hosts. And they can do it quickly.

Discover how comparing the deadly 1918 flu virus with variants today may help us prevent the next pandemic. Also, while antibiotic resistance is threatening to become a major health crisis, better understanding of how bacteria evolve their defenses against our drugs may help us out.

And the geneticist who sequenced the Neanderthal genome says yes, our hirsute neighbors co-mingled with humans.

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

Listen to individual segments here:
Part 1: Svante Pääbo – Neanderthal Ancestry
Part 2: Ann Reid – Virus Evolution
Part 3: Martin Blaser – Bacteria Evolution
Part 4: Gautam Dantas – New Antibiotics

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Big Picture Science – You Think; You’re So Smart?

March 15, 2014

Big Picture Science – You Think; You’re So Smart? Sure you have a big brain; it’s the hallmark of Homo sapiens. But that doesn’t mean that you’ve cornered the market on intelligence. Admittedly, it’s difficult to say, since the very definition of the term is elusive. Depending on what we mean by intelligence, a certain […]

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Big Picture Science – Space For Everyone

March 3, 2014

Big Picture Science – Space For Everyone Is space the place for you? With a hefty amount of moolah, a trip there and back can be all yours. But when the price comes down, traffic into space may make the L.A. freeway look like a back-country lane. Space is more accessible than it once was, […]

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How big is the Paleo diet craze?

February 17, 2014

Molly discovered this section at her local grocery store, in place of what used to be called the salad bar.

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Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: Paleo Diet

February 15, 2014

Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: Paleo Diet What’s for dinner? Meat, acorns, tubers, and fruit. Followers of the Paleo diet say we should eat what our ancestors ate 10,000 years ago, when our genes were perfectly in synch with the environment. We investigate the reasoning behind going paleo with the movement’s pioneer, as well […]

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Big Picture Science – Stranded

February 3, 2014

Big Picture Science – Stranded Imagine not knowing where you are – and no one else knowing either. Today, that’s pretty unlikely. Digital devices pinpoint our location within a few feet, so it’s hard to get lost anymore. But we can still get stranded. A reporter on board an Antarctic ship that was stuck for […]

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Football More Dangerous than War?

February 1, 2014

Years ago, I had the privilege to work with Barney Oliver – a true Silicon Valley all-star, a guy both creative and brilliant whose inventions have affected everyone. One day he surprised me by casually remarking that “sports are a waste of time.” This comment – dropped out of the blue – was startling. Mind […]

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Guess who’s crawling for dinner

January 28, 2014

The future of food is crunchy, gooey, and slightly unnerving. In the episode The Pest of Us, Molly visits Tiny Farms, where they develop open source insect farm kits for people who want to grow their own bugs for food. She picks up a mealworm kit, takes it home, and then harvests the larvae and […]

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Big Picture Science – The Pest of Us

January 27, 2014

Big Picture Science – The Pest of Us Picture a cockroach skittering across your kitchen. Eeww! Now imagine it served as an entrée at your local restaurant. There’s good reason these diminutive arthropods give us the willies – but they may also be the key to protein-rich meals of the future. Get ready for cricket […]

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