Episodes

Jan 23, 2011
Science discoveries to be.

We all hear about research discoveries, but what about what scientists don’t find? Tune in for a round-up of eureka moments that have yet to come, such as the hunt for the dark energy of the universe and the search for the elusive elementary particle responsible for the mass of objects.

Also, we miss the woolly mammoth so much, scientists plan to clone the hairy beast and bring the extinct animal back.

Plus, why the missing link is no longer missing, what extrasolar planets have now been found, and – NASA money for science: where’d it go?


Jan 16, 2011
Our Sun, the star.

It’s the star of our solar system, but much about the Sun is still mysterious. Find out what a new NASA mission to our favorite fireball might discover about its super-hot outer regions.

Also, why the most common stars in the galaxy don’t shine thanks to nuclear energy as our Sun does. And, recreating Sol’s energy source on Earth at the National Ignition Facility.

Plus, an ex-Star Wars animator and photographer on how to film an atomic blast.


Jan 02, 2011
Better life through computation.

ENCORE The march of computer technology continues. But as silicon chips and search engines become faster and more productive – can the same be said for us?

The creator of Wolfram Alpha describes how his new “computational knowledge engine” is changing – and improving - how we process information. Meanwhile, suffering from data and distraction burnout? Find out what extremes some folks take to stop their search engines.


Dec 26, 2010
Who knows what we'll find?

ENCORE It's always an adventure to go digging in Seth’s storage locker – who knows what we’ll find …

In this imposing pile of paraphernalia, tucked between boxes of socket wrenches and old 45s, we stumble upon the hunt for extrasolar planets, the evidence for water on moons of the solar system, theories of language, a controversial hypothesis for the peopling of the Americas, and a new dinosaur fossil.


Dec 19, 2010
Are cell phones injurious to your health?

Every ten microseconds, someone places a cell phone call. These portable gadgets are ubiquitous, and increasingly a take-for-granted part of everyday life.

But could cell phones be dangerous? Could holding a microwave transmitter up to your head for hours each day substantially increase the risk of cancer?

We investigate some of the latest thinking on the danger of cell phones, and also explain that everyone – even you – is a radio transmitter.

It’s Skeptic Check on Are We Alone. And we’ve got your number.


Dec 12, 2010
Math: The language of Science.

The language of science is mathematics. As incredible as it seems, the universe seems to run according to laws we can write down on chalkboards.

But it’s not just lab-coated researchers who wield the tool of math: Madison Avenue knows that if they tell you that a shampoo is 32 percent better, you’re likely to buy it.

Also, how scientists of the early twentieth century were forced to invent entirely new mathematical paradigms to describe the cosmos on big scales and small – the theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics.


Nov 28, 2010
Earth rumblings.

ENCORE We think of major geologic events as taking place a long time ago – but the Earth is just as active as it ever was. We’re a planet in motion. Discover why earthquakes might be increasing worldwide… descend into daring cave exploration… and take a trip to Hawaii where new volcanoes are gurgling up right now.

Plus – the supervolcano under Yellowstone Park... when might it erupt again?


Oct 24, 2010
Detecting life from afar.

If a tree fell on another planet, would we be able to detect it? Not quite yet – but we might be able to tell if the planet was habitable. A living-planet is the promise of newly-discovered Gliese 581g. But does the planet exist at all?

Discover how we learn a planet’s geology and chemistry from afar. Also, what we learn about a civilization from what it discards, beginning with our own sloppy habits.

Plus, the hunt for derelict alien spaceships… and a man who sketches alien creatures for a living - based on real science.


Oct 17, 2010
Astronomy and big telescopes

ENCORE From Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the view of the cosmos is spectacular. Giant black holes, distant galaxies, and extrasolar planets have all been uncovered by the massive telescopes that perch on this volcanic cone.

Join the astronomers who use the Keck Telescopes to peer at objects so far away, their light started out before Earth was born.

Also discover how the new Thirty Meter Telescope will dwarf even the massive glass eyes now in place, and why some of the world’s most important astronomical discoveries are being made in the Aloha State.


Oct 10, 2010
The human legacy: Part II

ENCORE Humans have not gone unnoticed on this planet. We’ve left our mark with technology, agriculture, architecture, and a growing carbon footprint. But where is this trajectory headed?

In the second of a two-part series: what we’ll lose and what will last in 1000 years or more.

Discover what the planet might look like to geologists of the far-off-future… the stubborn longevity of plastic and radioactive waste... human civilization in space… and postcards from the galactic edge; crafting interstellar messages to E.T.


Oct 03, 2010
The human legacy, part I.

ENCORE Humans have not gone unnoticed on this planet. We’ve left our mark with technology, agriculture, architecture, and a growing carbon footprint. But where is this trajectory headed?

In the first of a two-part series: what will be lost and what will still be around 100 years from now? James Lovelock says a hotter planet will prompt mass migrations. And Cary Fowler urges us to save our seeds – the health of future farms may depend on it.

Plus, from antibiotics to sewage systems: why human ingenuity ultimately saves the day.


Sep 25, 2010
Moon myths.

ENCORE Watch out, the moon is full… of intrigue. Our lovely satellite is blamed for all sorts of Earth-bound mischief – from robberies to shape-shifting to general nutty behavior. It’s also the setting for more than one loony tale. In this hour, as NASA spacecraft return to the moon, a look at the mythology it inspires.

Discover the true correlation between crime and a full moon… the 1835 reports of unicorns and man-bats living on moon… and, our favorite hair-raising howler: the werewolf! Also, why some still insist the Apollo moon landing is a hoax.


Sep 19, 2010
Moving with the times.

ENCORE Are humans unique or do we just do some things a little better than other species? In the second of our two-part series – how our ability to adapt has shaped our evolution.

Find out how throwing a burger on the grill has transformed our species… the 1% genetic difference that separate us from chimps… why we’re poorly adapted and stressed out … and why human evolution is not only on the move, but picking up the pace.


Sep 12, 2010
Our mingling species.

Are humans unique or do we just do some things a little better than other species? In the first of our two-part series on the nature of humanity: how the influence of others has shaped our evolution.

Find out how baby talk gave root to human language and why social isolation can make us sick. Plus, the joke’s on us – new research says we’re not the only laughing species: meet your giggling gorilla cousins.

And, what a writer’s visit to a chimp retirement center revealed about human discomfort with our animal ancestry.


Aug 29, 2010
Do animals – or even plants – use language?

ENCORE There’s no escape from the chattering classes – they talk, squawk, squeal and sing all around us. Every animal communicates in some form – it’s essential for survival. They’ve evolved to understand each other … but do we understand them?

Find out what’s coded in humpback whale song and whether human-cetacean dialogue is possible… how information theory reveals communication patterns within the animal kingdom… how plants call out to animals to protect them… and why only humans evolved language.


Aug 08, 2010
Customized mediciine.

ENCORE Medicine’s back.. and this time it’s personal. Get ready to have your genome read… your brain scanned… and undergo a chemical analysis so detailed, it’ll reveal the Twinkie you had for lunch. Everyone’s different, and reading those differences at the level of the gene may provide a more accurate profile of health and how to treat disease. But are you ready to know what’s wrong with you?

Discover the future of personalized medicine with biologist Craig Venter, as well as a man who turned his body over to the new science. Learn what his tests revealed.


Jul 18, 2010
Why we die.

ENCORE We could choose not to pay income tax and suffer the consequences. But we can’t avoid death. The biological functions of all organisms eventually cease. But why should this be? Find out why animals die and meet one creature that is biologically immortal.

Plus, a trip to the Body Farm where decaying bodies help science…how we might cheat the Big Sleep with drugs… why Mexican cemeteries look like villages… and a doctor’s fight against one of the world’s deadliest diseases.


Jul 11, 2010
Dubious prescriptions

ENCORE A new herbal supplements is on the shelf, and it claims to improve memory. Should you take it? It’s not easy to sort through the firehose of health and nutrition advice that comes at us daily. Find out how to get healthy about health advice, plus hear the story of Bernarr Macfadden, the eccentric who kicked off America’s fitness craze; he believed that eating less was good for you, but he didn’t believe germ theory.


Jun 27, 2010
Can One Person Make a Difference?

The recipe for being a scientist was easy in the old days… just be born into a rich family, have an interest in nature and plenty of time to indulge yourself. But are the days of gentlemen scientists over? Maybe not.

We go to the Maker Faire and check out how small-scale projects have big-scale ambitions.

Also, how everyday experience often tells us something profound about the universe.


Jun 06, 2010
What will we find?

ENCORE It’s always a surprise to go digging in Seth’s garage – who knows what we’ll find! In this impressive heap of paraphernalia, tucked between boxes of old radio tubes and hydraulic jacks, we stumble upon the secrets to our galaxy’s central black hole… witness the dance of the PhD theses… uncover the genome of milk (while moo-ving boxes) and … hey? Who’s that crunching numbers in the corner? It’s astrophysicist Mario Livio addressing the mathematical mysteries of universe.