Episodes

Apr 11, 2007
More from Roswell.

In 1947, aliens intent on visiting our planet are said to have crashed into the New Mexico desert near Roswell. According to several witnesses, the U.S. military not only recovered the saucer debris (together with some dead, extraterrestrial passengers), but secreted away the evidence. There are also claims that the crumpled alien technology was reverse-engineered, providing us with hi-tech products we otherwise wouldn’t have.


Apr 11, 2007
60 years later - what really happened?

In 1947, aliens intent on visiting our planet are said to have crashed into the New Mexico desert near Roswell. According to several witnesses, the U.S. military not only recovered the saucer debris (together with some dead, extraterrestrial passengers), but secreted away the evidence. There are also claims that the crumpled alien technology was reverse-engineered, providing us with hi-tech products we otherwise wouldn’t have.


Mar 28, 2007
The Allen Telescope Array takes shape.

Although SETI experiments have not yet picked up a signal from another world, there’s plenty of optimism among the scientists looking for ET’s pings. That’s because new telescopes, both radio and optical, will soon greatly speed up our cosmic reconnaissance. As example, the Allen Telescope Array, scheduled to begin observing this summer, will eventually accelerate the search by hundreds of times.


Mar 21, 2007
The search for the beginnings of life.

The origin of life on Earth is a mystery—there are no fossils of the earliest life forms.

But, fast-forward a few hundred million years, and—voila—we see traces of life, from microbes to—zip ahead another billion years—creatures with six legs, a tail and a thorax. But how did these early life forms develop?


Mar 14, 2007
Considering consciousness.

You think, therefore… what? We can’t be sure of much when it comes to consciousness. Not only do scientists not agree on what consciousness is – they don’t agree on whether they ever will be able to agree! What if you’re not you, but a self-aware supercomputer? Could you tell the difference? Is consciousness an emergent phase transition? What does that even mean? Grab the aspirin and help us explore these questions, together with a little help from A.I. expert Marvin Minsky.


Feb 13, 2007
Superstition under scrutiny.

Resume in hand, new suit pressed and buttoned – you’re all set for that job interview.  But before sitting down, you rub your lucky quarter – just to be sure.   People often fall back on superstitious habit when the pressure’s on.  But can we really nudge fate by wearing our favorite shirts and avoiding ebony cats? 

Also, speaking of high stakes – how to ward off vampires and why Vlad the Impaler was not the inspiration for the original Type O gourmet.  Also: how carnival freaks stay in show business…Brains on Vacation… and a reality check from Hollywood. 


Feb 06, 2007
Cosmological physics.

Modern physics isn’t for the faint of heart.  From explorations of the mysterious dark matter that holds the galaxies together, the bizarre dark energy pulling the universe apart, and the attempts by scientists to recreate the Big Bang in a laboratory, contemporary physics is nothing if not extreme.


Jan 30, 2007
Are we too dependent on technology?

Are science and technology leading us to Elysian Fields of prosperity, happiness, and unblemished health?  Or have two centuries of industrialization and materialism accomplished just the opposite; ripped us from the nurturing bosom of our pastoral past?  Is our future bright, or will environmental degradation, genetic engineering, or nanotechnology cause mass disruption and destruction.

Join us for a lively discussion with experts who will consider whether the world is heading to Nirvana, or to a place that’s overheated and sulfurous. 


Jan 23, 2007
What might be coming.

The iconic Doomsday clock has been moved two minutes closer to midnight, symbolizing the growing international threat of nuclear disaster. Find out what led the directors at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to inch the hand closer to this ominous hour, and why – for the first time - they’ve included climate change in their forecast of imminent threats to humanity.


Jan 16, 2007
Engineering feats of the future.

Without doubt, the five thousand-year old Egyptian pyramids are major feats of engineering.  But pointy piles of rock are one thing; quite another is the engineering effort required to combat global warming.  As Earth’s atmosphere continues to be filled with greenhouse emissions, some see geoengineering as the only path to a cooler planet.  But are lofting sulphur into the air or launching a giant sunshade into orbit wise moves, or even ethical ones? 


Dec 19, 2006
Scientific mysteries.

What is that strange light zipping across the sky at a speed that, well, no aircraft could match?  Today, despite major achievements in our scientific understanding of the cosmos, there are still plenty of mysteries that perplex the public.  Did aliens really make a navigation error over Roswell, New Mexico and plow into the desert?  Are other extraterrestrials routinely abducting folks for unsavory experiments?  Some people believe that aliens are not only cruising the skies, but nefarious federal operatives have the dead ones stacked up at top-secret Area 51.


Dec 12, 2006
Our primate genetic heritage.

 Okay, so we’re not as hirsute and we don’t routinely brachiate through trees, but in what other ways are we different from chimpanzees?  With a map of the chimp genome in hand, scientists are closer to answering that question.  Join us for a trip to the primate house as we explore in what way the last 2% of DNA separates us from our swinging cousins. Primatologist Frans de Waal reminds us that we’re just as closely related to bonobos, the left-bank primates.  And, lest you forget your marine heritage, discover which genes you share with… sea urchins.

Guests:


Nov 28, 2006
Conspiracy theories.

America loves conspiracies.  Many people think that JFK was the victim of a large-scale assassination plot.  Others believe the U.S. military has hidden alien artifacts at some remote, desert locale.  Now, recent polling results indicate that a substantial fraction of the public suspect that the calamity that befell the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 was at least partly due to a cabal of government and industry interests.  An inside job, in other words.


Nov 21, 2006
Cosmic consistencies.

We hold some basic truths about the universe to be – well, if not self-evident – than reassuringly consistent.  Without them, the cosmos might be rhomboid-shaped, our bodies would suddenly fly apart, and we’d have to peel lead balloons off the ceiling.  The laws of physics are not capricious, but seem to yearn for an inner beauty that scientists describe as symmetry.  Nobel laureate Leon Lederman talks about why the universe is mostly symmetric, but not entirely, and an evolutionary psychologist explains that Fermi’s Paradox arises because the aliens are too busy playing Tomb Raider to get


Oct 31, 2006
Is the end near?

Ten years ago, to much protest, John Horgan sounded the death knell of research with his book “The End Of Science.”  He joins us for an update on this provocative thesis.

Also, it seems that reports on the death of science have been greatly exaggerated: we report the latest developments on the frontiers of neuroscience and string theory.  Plus, from jet packs… to clone farms… to a slingshot to the moon; promises for the future that were made and broken.  And, last and (admittedly) least: the SETI Institute Players.

Guests:


Oct 24, 2006
Is catastrophic climate change in our future?

Our planet is warming, and so far the change has been gradual.  But could the climate shift abruptly?  If so, what’s the trigger?   Ice cores in Greenland may provide clues.  These frozen time machines show that climate has radically changed in the past – and suggest possible reasons why.  Could it happen in our lifetime?


Oct 17, 2006
Noah's ark discovered?

Once again an archeological expedition has claimed evidence of Noah’s Ark on a snowy mountain, and once again, the evidence doesn’t hold water.  So where is this famous couples-only cruise liner?  Skeptical Sunday considers the logistical problems of putting samples of all animal life on 300 cubits of gopherwood, and why all attempts to find wreckage of this floating zoo have foundered.  Also, count your lucky stars… is there any truth to astrology?  Plus, Phil Plait on communicating with the dead (a one-way conversation), and our Hollywood Skeptic is lost at sea with a lot of anim


Oct 03, 2006
Rethinking neanderthals.