Episodes

Apr 10, 2011
Public mistrust of science.

ENCORE Public distrust of science is higher than at any time since the Enlightenment. New Yorker writer Michael Specter argues how our anti-science bias and our irrationalism about everything from genetically modified foods to climate change to childhood vaccines endangers our future.

And remember when… a look back at scientists who at first pooh-poohed plate tectonics... meteorites, and quantum physics. How the evidence turned them around.

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


Apr 03, 2011
What would E.T. do?

ENCORE Birds do it. Bees do it. But no one sings about how they do it. And frankly, not even Cole Porter can make bedroom behavior that involves decapitating your mate sound romantic. And what rhymes with “cannibalism?” But the animal world abounds with bizarre sexual behavior… and it’s all perfectly normal.

Find out how female spiders lure males to their doom… why dolphins are the friskiest of mammals… whether E.T. would have sex… and why sexual reproduction evolved in the first place.


Mar 13, 2011
Scientific firsts.

ENCORE Being first counts in science. Land that coveted spot and you’ll make history, whether it’s with the first steam engine or the discovery of our earliest human ancestor.

But what does “first” mean when technological invention so heavily builds on what’s come before... and evolution represents continuous change?

Find out how “publish or perish” made Darwin famous… why we’ll never find the first human fossil… and how powerful new telescopes are allowing us to see the earliest galaxies.

Plus, the chicken and egg battle it out in line.


Mar 06, 2011
What makes a super-achiever.

ENCORE From the double-helix to the expansion of the universe, great scientific discoveries reshape our understanding of who we are and how things work. But great discoveries require more than just a great mind. We tour brainy breakthroughs from Archimedes to Darwin, and find out what made their revolutionary insights possible.

Also, why you need more than a stratospheric I.Q. to be a super-achiever. And how the invention of reading re-directed the course of civilization and re-wired our brains in the process.


Feb 27, 2011
What’s in homeopathy.

The weaker the mixture, the stronger the potency. That paradox is a central tenet of homeopathy. More than 200 years old and developed long before germ theory, the practice is the fastest growing form of alternative medicine worldwide.

Proponents say its diluted remedies cure disease. Most scientists maintain there’s nothing in homeopathic solution but water. We’ll hear the arguments, and also the role placebos might be playing in the cure.

Plus, skeptic Phil Plait voyages to the edge of the solar system where a new planet has been discovered … maybe!


Feb 13, 2011
Planet hunting gone wild.

Earth may not be rare after all. New data from NASA’s Kepler mission suggests that the universe is chock-a-block with planets. More than a thousand new possible planets have just been found, and more than fifty of these might be suitable for life. Ready for cosmic company? We discuss the results of the Kepler mission in a roundtable with some of its top scientists.

Meanwhile, the Voyager spacecraft continues to be humanity’s point man in the race to interstellar space. Poised to leave our solar system, we reflect on the mission – including its on-board messages for aliens.


Jan 30, 2011
You guessed it.

You’re right: it’s a show about ESP. And, correct again: we’re excited about the publication of a paper that claims precognition exists. You’ve already divined what our paranormal investigator says about the paper, whether the statistics that it cites are significant, and what the editor-in-chief of a major scientific journal has to say on the tricky matter of publishing such a result at all.


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.