Airplanes falling out of the sky! Lethal bird flu! Killer rocks from space! There's a lot that can do us in, and it would seem you have good reason to worry. Except that you're worried about the wrong things! Many of our fears are misplaced. It's more likely you'll die from food poisoning or falling out of bed than in an airplane crash. And, the odds that an asteroid impact will ruin your entire weekend? Oh, about a billion to one.
Every year, computing machines become more powerful, a fact that hasn't escaped the notice of anyone who occupies an office. Many experts now agree that within a few decades, your laptop will be smarter than you are. Not only that, but your computer will be in touch with its byte-busting brethren. When that happens, the machines will "wake up."
Is the public interested in science? The signs aren't encouraging. The Hubble Telescope teeters on the edge of breakdown, and the public's response is lukewarm. Science coverage in the media continues to shrink like cheap cotton... and science superstars on TV or in the movies are as rare as lanthanum.
As we consider why today's folk give science the big yawn, we'll talk to people whose job it is to bring lab findings to the public. Also, a new study traces to childhood our psychological aversion to science. Plus, Seth re-lives his childhood at the San Francisco Exploratorium.
He looks great in a fedora – we’ll give him that. But surviving a tumble over three 100-foot waterfalls… or toughing out an atomic blast by climbing into a refrigerator? We love Indy, but his exploits seem to be over the top when it comes to elementary physics. From hovercrafts to the quartz crania of aliens; find out what scientific concepts in the latest bullwhip adventure are more than a little nutty.
Plus, the real crystal skulls, and the man who discovered that two of the most famous are fakes. And some incentive to tackle that to-do list: the 2012 Mayan apocalypse.
Imagine if aging were a disease like measles, one that could be cured. Some scientists think it's possible and that we'll eventually halt - or at least slow - the march of time and extend lifespans into the triple digits and beyond. 100 could become the new 40, and 1000 the new 500! But that's a lot of years of filling out tax forms and showing up for dental hygiene appointments. Do we really want to live that long? If so, we should tap into the secret of longevity from Ming, a 400-year-old clam.
They can walk, roll, swim, and even dance to that funky music. Okay, so they're a little stiff on that one. But today's robots are not content to just sit and hum in a corner - they're movers and groovers, and not only on this planet. We'll go to the International Conference on Robotics and Automation and meet the latest in automatons - from aluminum chefs that whip up omelets to underwater machines that undulate like fish.
Also, the robot challenge - building autonomous robots to scour the Red Planet.
And, touchdown for the Phoenix Mars Lander.
Do you have some imagination? What about junk; got any of that? Thomas Edison said you need both to be an inventor. And Tom could speak with authority about switching on innovation's light bulb.
Find out who today's inventors are and which devices will be changing the way we live. Also, why leave it to the pros? The Maker Faire proves that tinkering in the garage is alive, well, and guaranteed to impress the neighbors.
We all struggle with our memories. This is as true for society as a whole as it is for an individual. In some cases, the effort to preserve cultural history is also a race against time. We'll hear how a cave in Norway is helping keep our seed heritage on ice. And, can you speak Tofa? Magat Ke? As languages disappear faster than the rain forest, one group is working hard to keep native voices heard.
We all have something we feel certain about; the Sun will rise, the sky is blue and dried egg is hard to remove from shag carpet. You may feel strongly about these things - even swear by them; but that doesn't make them true, only that your neurochemistry is in high gear.
We'll hear how chemicals in the brain conspire to produce certainty and why even death and taxes are not foregone conclusions. Also, Sam Harris on the biology of belief… Phil Plait on vacationing brains and our Hollywood skeptic raises an eye at sure-fire, tinseltown blockbusters.
Like your stomach subjected to repeated $1.99 buffets, the universe is ever-expanding. As it grows, it inexorably becomes more chaotic. We'll hear what drives this increase in entropy, and whether there can be meaning in a universe that will ultimately become no more than a dark soup of cold particles.
Do you find eating tiresome? Is taking time to chew taking too big a bite out of your productivity? Well, you can soon say goodbye to the burden of beefy burgers and chlorophyll-ridden lettuce - you'll be able to pop a pill for all your nutritional needs! As much as you may find this too much to swallow, what we call "food" is changing. Indeed, you might not recognize the dinner of the future if it landed on your plate today.
We've all descended from a common ancestor, but, as Homo sapiens, we no longer brachiate through trees and have long abandoned our stone tools for iPods. Evolution has shaped us into the big-brained, bipedal, text-messaging specimens we are today. But it didn't happened without a lot of pressure. We'll look at some of the forces that have driven human evolution - from the snake-phobia that sharpened our eyesight, to the anger-management that was a prerequisite for civilization.
Blah, blah, blah. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Yap, yap, yap. There's a lot of blather out there in the verbalsphere - you know what I'm saying? So you need to be crafty in order to be heard. We'll wax eloquent about those who succeed at getting their messages across... from a theory about how animals compete for bandwidth to the beautiful and sonorous language of whales.
Also, how to recognize a message from E.T. And, making the case for letting that library card lapse: the extinction of the written word.
"As I look into the crystal ball, I see... I see... I see James Randi, magician and skeptic extraordinaire. It's the self-same Randi who once exposed Uri Geller's trick for bending spoons. What does he say now that Geller has apparently admitted he is a magician, and not a silverware psychic after all?"
Also, the Amazing Randi's last chance for all mind readers, levitation experts and other masters of the paranormal: you have two years to prove your stuff before the $1,000,000 challenge ends.
Think you have it together? Then, you'll want to thank the four fundamental forces of nature. They hold the universe together, govern everything that happens, and generally make it what it is today. Discover their universal properties and how they're in action all around us. From the gravitational pull that with may cause an errant asteroid to wallop Mars, to the electromagnetic phenomena that make asteroid showers an impressive sight. Also, physicist Freeman Dyson makes the case for spacecraft propelled by nuclear bombs.
Some detectives don't look for fingerprints or interrogate suspects to unravel mysteries. Instead, they're dressed in white coats, and armed with DNA probes and star maps. These are the science detectives: researchers who have found innovative ways to use science to solve puzzles that no one else can.
It looked like no more than an oversized grapefruit with whiskers. So you wonder what all the fuss was about. But the small silver ball kicked into orbit by the Soviets in 1957 set off a decades-long space race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. That race resulted in major accomplishments during the fifty years since Sputnik's spunky spin, including landing humans on the moon.
The north and south poles are hot news right now, but for disturbing reasons. As the Earth's atmosphere warms, ice at high latitudes is melting at alarming rates. You're undoubtedly aware of this massive melt and even feeling anxiety about it. But, due to global-warming-news-fatigue, in which the relentless onslaught of climate statistics has frozen your brain like a Popsicle, you can't explain why it matters.
Meet the Atom. It's small, mostly empty, and held together by nature's strongest force. Without this nanoid nuclear bundle, you and I wouldn't be here. But the atom is not without its quarks. The uncontrolled splitting of atomic nuclei can vaporize civilization. When kept on a leash, this same mechanism can supply power enough to keep the world's light bulbs aglow indefinitely.