Jun 03, 2012
Inventions, inventors, and innovations.

ENCORE 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.

May 27, 2012
Venus across our sun

On June 5, our sister planet Venus will slowly slide across the face of the sun. This will be the last transit of Venus until 2117, so there’s no subsequent chance to observe this celestial spectacular for anyone alive today.

Join us for a special episode devoted to this rare event. Two centuries ago, nations were locked in a race to be the first to measure the Venus transit. From the first observation by the “father” of British astronomy to Captain Cook’s Tahitian expedition in the 18th century, meet the pioneers who were trying to nail down the scale of the cosmos

May 20, 2012
Planetary protection

We are all Martians … or could be, if, billions of years ago, Red Plant microbes fell to Earth and eventually evolved to us. Okay, that one’s a big “if.” But microbes can survive space travel. Meet the NASA officer whose task is to keep Earth, Mars - and the entire solar system –safe from hitchhiking bacteria.

And, even if we’re not Martians (darn!), did life once thrive on the Red Planet ... and does it still today?

Plus, why meteorites may be happy habitats for life.

May 13, 2012
Order is overrated.

ENCORE 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.

Apr 22, 2012
Move with the times.

ENCORE 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.

Apr 15, 2012
Silicon only, please.

ENCORE You are one-of-a-kind, unique, indispensible… oh, wait, never mind! It seems that computer over there can do what you do … faster and with greater accuracy.

Yes, it’s silicon vs. carbon as intelligent, interactive machines out-perform humans in tasks beyond data-crunching. We’re not only building our successors, we’re developing emotional relationships with them. Find out why humans are hard-wired to be attached to androids.

Apr 08, 2012
It’s okay to cry.

So you weep at sappy commercials and give drivers the bird. Have no regrets: emotion is what makes us human! Discover the survival value in feeling disgust … why humans are terrible liars … and how despair fuels creativity.

Also, mis-firing emotions and the emotional consequences of facial paralysis. And why E.T. will need to feel fear and joy to survive.

Mar 25, 2012
You are here.

ENCORE If someone asks where you get off, you can now respond with precision. Satellites and computers spit out coordinates accurate to a few paces. And digital maps stand the Copernican principle on its head – putting you at the center of everything (how does it feel?).

Find out how today’s maps are shuffling our world view. Also, how does a rat navigate a maze without GPS? Hear of the plotting that goes on in that tiny rodent brain.

Plus, mapping the universe and pinpointing just where we are in cosmic time – lucky for us, human evolution is right on schedule.

Mar 11, 2012
What will we find?

It’s always a surprise to sort through Seth's cabinet of wonders – who knows what we’ll find!

In this cramped cupboard, tucked between shelves of worm gears and used clarinet reeds, we discover a forgotten U.S. sea floor laboratory … copies of the new Cosmos TV series … evidence of science fiction’s predictive powers … software that may replace scientists … and tips on surviving a deadly poison (hint: it helps to be a snake).

Tune in, find out and grab a duster, will you?

Mar 04, 2012
The future is here?

The future is no mystery … according to psychics who say they have special access to tomorrow’s events. For example, adherents to the Mayan doomsday prophecy warn that when 2012 ends, so will the world.

Discover what’s behind claims of prognostication, and why – if it really works – no one is making a killing in Las Vegas.

Also, could science divine the future? Programmers with the Living Earth Simulator say that with sufficient data, their billion-dollar computer project can predict world events.

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

Feb 19, 2012
Evidence, please.

ENCORE They’re here! About one-third of all Americans believe we’re being visited by extraterrestrial spacecraft. But wait, you want evidence?

UFO sighting are as prevalent as flies at a picnic. But proof of visitation – well, that’s really alien.

Hear why belief in extraterrestrial UFOs persists … and why military sightings that “can’t be explained” don’t warrant rolling out a welcome mat for ET.

Plus, the most fab UFOs in the movies!

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

Feb 12, 2012
The mirror test.

ENCORE Humans are pleasure-seekers – from food to sex to fine art. But do we know why we crave what we do? Discover the surprising motivation behind our desires. Also, why our hedonistic cousins, the bonobos, may hold the secret to world peace.

Plus, self-awareness in monkeys: can they really pass the mirror test? Can bacteria, for that matter? Nope! But since you are, cell for cell, more microbe than human, you’ll want to know just how cognitively aware these critters are.

Jan 15, 2012
Don your EEG thinking-cap.

A cup of coffee can leave you wired for the day. But a chip in your brain could wire you to a machine forever. Imagine manipulating a mouse without moving a muscle, and doing a Google search with your mind. Welcome to the future of the brain-machine interface.

Don your EEG thinking-cap, and discover a high-tech thought game that may be the harbinger of machine relationships to come.

Jan 01, 2012
How it came to be.

ENCORE What’s it all about? And we mean ALL. What makes up this vast sprawling cosmos? Why does it exist? Why do we exist? Why is there something rather than nothing? Ow, my head hurts!

For possible answers, we travel to the moment after the Big Bang and discover all that came into being in those few minutes after the great flash: time, space, matter, and light. Plus, the bizarre stuff that makes up the bulk of the universe: dark energy and dark matter.

Dec 25, 2011
Belief and fear.

ENCORE Wait! Before you step outside... is it Friday the 13th? Any black cats prowling around? Broken a mirror lately? Homo sapiens are a superstitious lot. Find out why our brains are wired for irrational belief. Plus, from the 2012-end-of-the-world prophesy to colliding planets - why some people believe the universe is out to get ‘em.

Also, Brains on Vacation takes on a challenge to relativity and our Hollywood skeptic has doubts about exorcism. It’s enough to make your head spin on Skeptic Check… but don’t take our word for it!

Dec 18, 2011
Tiny devices everywhere.

Have you lost your senses? You’ll find them everywhere you look. Sensors respond to external stimuli – light, sound, temperature and much else – to help us make sense (ha!) of our universe. And more are on their way. “Ubiquitous sensing” is the term that describes a world blanketed by tiny sensors: on bridges, in paint and medicine bottles, and even in our brains!

Discover where you’ll find sensors next. And, has the world’s largest detection device found the elusive particle that will help explain the universe? Where are you, Higgsy-wiggsy?

Dec 11, 2011
Viruses and you.

The term “bird flu” is a misnomer, scientists say, because almost all human influenza originates in our feathered friends. How it lands in you and spreads is another matter …

Hear what it takes for a virus to go global, from a virus hunter who plans to stop epidemics in their tiny DNA tracks with an innovative global surveillance system.

Also, why your genome is littered with fossil viruses of the past … the two largest viruses discovered so far, Mimi and Mega, square off … and, what it takes for ideas to “go viral.”

Dec 04, 2011
Escape from the lab.

Mom and apple pie. Computers and silicon. Martians and death rays. Some things just go together naturally. But how about science and politics? Science and religion? Science and fiction? These pairings are often unnatural and contentious … but they don’t have to be.

Discover how science can team up with other endeavors in productive, if surprising, symbiosis.

Meet a particle physicist, turned U.S. Congressman, who calls for more scientists on Capitol Hill. Also, a tour of the Golden Age of Islamic Science.

Nov 27, 2011
Questionable biology.

There’s no harm talking to your houseplant, but will your chatter really help it grow? We look at various biological claims, from whether plants feel pain to the ability of cats to predict earthquakes. Feline forecasters, anyone?

Also, when does understanding biology have important implications for health and policy? The arguments for and against genetically modified foods, and the danger of “pox parties” as a replacement for childhood vaccination.

Plus, the history and current state of scientific literacy in the United States. When did we stop trusting science?

Nov 20, 2011
Cyborgs are us.

ENCORE Wish you could ditch computers? There’s no escape button for that. Computers are not only a part of your daily grind, they may soon be a part of you. We’ll hear from the world’s first cyborg about why we should make nice in our arms race with machines.

Also, the secret behind the extraordinary breakthroughs that DARPA scientists are making – from building autonomous cars to wiring robotic surgeons.

Plus, making space for humans… and their bodily functions: the engineering tricks of toiletry. And, a carbon-based astronaut on the view of Earth from orbit.