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.
Maybe no one can hear you scream in space, but there's plenty of news coming from the realms beyond Earth. And like human antennas, we're here to pick it up, and send it down the wires to you. We'll enlighten you on missions to both the nearby cosmos - the weird worlds of the outer solar system - and distant space: the efforts to search the deep depths of the universe for exploding stars, dark galaxies and... signs of intelligent life.
You can try to get far from the madding crowd. But it's a futile exercise. Wherever you go, you're a traveling trillion-ring circus of bacteria. In fact, you have more microbes on you and in you than you do human cells (and bathing won't help.) So come meet your closest neighbors, as scientists launch the mapping of the human microbiome.
The worse case scenario has played out. It's a few years from now, and Earth has suffered a major catastrophe - be it an asteroid impact, a nuclear holocaust or merely a global pandemic. Doomsday has arrived. In Part II of our two-part series, you'll find out how the planet - and its mantle of remaining life - carries on. So humans are gone: what next?
Also, why mass extinctions are helpful to evolution, and if a few people do survive Armegeddon, how do they begin to put human culture back together?
Here's an important health tip: cell phones fry your brain. Oh, wait. Cell phones are safe. But red wine is bad for you. Except in moderation, in which case it's good. Also, magnets cure arthritis, coffee causes heart attacks, and rhino horn is an aphrodisiac (but only for rhinos).
Sorting through the medical zeitgeist is enough to have you reaching for the aspirin, which, last we heard, is still used to treat headaches.
It's always a surprise to go digging in Seth's basement - who knows what we'll find! In this forage, tucked between boxes of old radio tubes and an electric banana, we stumble upon a rare view of Uranus's rings... a preview of the Aurigid meteor shower... claims that we're living in a computer simulation... and a ticket stub to the movie "Invasion."
Also, who's that in the back yard with a funny looking instrument? Science writer Timothy Ferris comes in from the dark.
It's a traffic jam in northern Florida these days - as a bevy of NASA spacecraft queue up for launch. We'll get the lowdown of what's going up; from missions to land near the poles of Mars and dig into its cold, crusty surface... to an investigation of the origins of the solar system by paying a house call on a couple of asteroids... and the first teacher to blast into space since Space Shuttle Challenger's fateful flight.
This tomb near Jerusalem was discovered 20 years ago, but now a controversial film reasserts the claim that it contains the remains of Jesus and his family. We hear from the director of The Lost Tomb of Jesus who presents both statistical and DNA evidence, as well as from a biblical scholar.
Also, so your grilled cheese sandwich looks like Elvis, does that mean that messages are encoded in your lunch, or could this simply be a consequence of our hard-wired ability, as a social species, to be adept at facial recognition?