Apr 19, 2009
From Fossils to ET Signals

For nearly four billion years, life has been swimming and shuffling across our planet. But how can we deduce what it was like? You don’t need Sherlock Holmes to track the clues of life that came before – call on an anthropologist or biologist. From fossils to alien radio signals, find out how to interpret the clues that living organisms leave behind, and hear adventure stories in the evolution of life on Earth.

Also, the discovery of a dino-eating crocodile and the tale of scientist/explorer/polymath Idaho Brown.

Apr 12, 2009
Keeping ourselves in the dark.

Europe is a country. Six justices sit on the Supreme Court. The Vietnamese attacked Pearl Harbor. If ignorance is bliss, this is one happy-go-lucky country. The average American's grasp of history, current events, and geography is so poor, according to one journalist, we've become a nation of dunces, seriously undermining our own future.

Keeping ourselves in the dark.

Mar 29, 2009
Communicating with the aliens.

Ever try talking to an alien? In the movies, they always speak perfect English. But what if we really made contact? Could we just whip out a universal translator - or even a babelfish - to understand one another?

Let's say we do learn to communicate: what to say, what to say? We'll hear the protocol for just how to reply to ET. And, from Klingon to Esperanto: the recipe for creating a language from scratch.

Plus, get ready to babble with your Blackberry: how computers are learning to recognize - and respond - to human speech.

Mar 22, 2009
Do Numbers Count?

Pick a number, any number. Got it? Good. Is it a lucky or unlucky? Is it a code that gives you a clue to the future? A lot of people assign all sorts of magical significance to numbers. From Friday the 13th to lucky number 7 – we’ll find out whether the idea of digits of destiny adds up. Plus, 666 and 616: find out what famous figures these figures code for.

Learn the numbers that do have significance in math and nature: how a honey bee’s lineage is an example of the Fibonacci series.

Mar 08, 2009
Fighting the decline.

Forgot your own birthday? Misplaced your Shih Tzu? Did you put the milk in your backpack and the iPod in the fridge? Age may bring wisdom but - alas - not a boost in RAM. But there's hope - scientists are discovering that the brain is more malleable than thought. We'll hear about the science of neuroplasticity and what you can do to slow that cerebellum slide. Ever been to a brain gym?

>p>Plus, why the brains of London cabbies are bigger than those of your average commuter.

Feb 15, 2009
Astrobiologists discuss cosmic life.

How did the first cells make the scene? Could there be critters on some newly discovered planets? And what happens if we ever encounter weird life? These may not be the sort of questions you hear being bandied about in your local coffee shop, but they were hot topics at the AbSciCon conference held recently in Santa Clara, California, and sponsored by the SETI Institute.

Feb 08, 2009
Our prediction addiction.

We all want to peek into the future and find out what fate has in store: Will I get that raise? Is love around the corner? What’s the winning combo in Las Vegas? Some people claim the ability to see events before they occur. Find out how accurate their prognostications are.

Plus, how the job market drove the granddaddy of “I told you so” – Nostradamus – into the business of soothsaying.

Jan 18, 2009
Releasing the inner you.

Maybe Dr. Doolittle was on to something; animals are smarter than we think. Birds, apes, and dolphins are all clever problem solvers with a rich vocabularly and - in some cases - self-awareness. Find out what you can learn from our furry, finned and feathered friends. Also, why you are so much an animal yourself, all the way down to the bare bones.

Plus, enter the locked vaults that hold extinct and newly-discovered animal species. And why B-movie critters steal the show.

Jan 11, 2009
Astronomy is looking up.

A loud radio hiss is coming from the cosmos. Is it the swan song of the first giant stars of the universe?

Find out from stargazers attending the American Astronomical Society meeting in California... the brightest flash in the universe illuminates how a galaxy grows up... a planet hunter closes in on Earth-size prey.

Also, find out how to spy on the universe from the comfort of your living room. Plus, the four-century-old history of the telescope... and Galileo didn't invent it!

It's the kick off to the International Year of Astronomy - so scope it out!

Jan 04, 2009
Everything you always wanted to know.

We all know how sex begins: a dimly-lit room, a come-hither smile, and a surfeit of parasol-shaded cocktails. But long before all that, the gentle currents of the ancient sea floor set the mood. It was there, 570 million years ago, that two ropy sea creatures found each other and changed the course of evolution.

Hear how sex began and where it's headed: if you think your love life is mechanical now, just wait until you're cozying up to titanium skin and the latest emotion software.

Dec 28, 2008
In defense of the smart-set.

There are two kinds of people: those who are unstylish, socially inept, yet academically gifted, and those who tease them. Being a nerd is rough; it's no fun to sit alone in the cafeteria or be forced to dine on beach sandwiches. But revenge is sweet: the world depends more than ever on the witty and gifted to keep it technologically and scientifically turning. So who gets the last laugh? Just ask Bill Gates. Then again, have attitudes towards eggheads really matured? Just ask Al Gore.

Dec 21, 2008
Can the two get along?

Leonardo da Vinci is considered a genius for combining art and science. But how usual is this for us mere mortals? Can science and art sucessfully inform each other?

We'll hear how the insights of French writer Marcel Proust anticipated modern neuroscience. Also, a debate over the evolutionary function of art. Does it have survival value? We meet a robot whose painting talents have garnered it a job in one of America's top museums. And, hear - or don't hear - why some of our relatives don't monkey around with music.

Dec 14, 2008
Why We Believe.

Half of all Americans believe in ghosts - despite any compelling evidence of their existence. Find out why we believe in what we can't see, and why loneliness may increase our chances of a poltergeist experience. Hear the tale of the Toys R Us ghost, and scope out the latest in haunted real estate.

Also, why our Hollywood skeptic is tired of wild ghost chases and Phil Plait speaks out on lapses in critical thinking. This week: vaccination and autism.


It's Skeptical Sunday... but don't take our word for it!

Nov 30, 2008
Spore and SETI

"Spore" is the ultimate game of life. Play it wisely and you can evolve from a single-celled organism, swimming in salt water, to an intelligent being rocketing through the galaxy. It's survival of the cleverest - are you game?

Join us as we attend the "Spore" launch party. Hear how the game's primary author, Will Wright (of "SimCity" fame) simulated the arc of evolution; whether complex life is inevitable; and how SETI scientists inspired one of the most anticipated video games in history.

Nov 23, 2008
When one society meets another.

From human settlers to alien visitors - when one society meets another, the results can be messy.

The Jamestown settlement may have kicked off the colonization of the New World. But, you'll hear how it also left an indelible mark on its ecosystem and the human landscape. Plus, why the Galapagos Islands haven't been the same since their most celebrated visitor set foot on their rocky shores more than a century ago.

Nov 16, 2008
How advertising persuades.

Smoking is good for you! Doctors want you to light up! Discover how cigarette companies of the 1950s manipulated the media to peddle their tobacco - and why not much has changed since then. Also, what goes on in our brain when we buy; the results of a global neuroscience study.

Plus, our Hollywood Skeptic tests the purifying claims of Kinoki pads and Brains on Vacation debunks Carl Sagan ufology.

Oct 26, 2008
Martian invasion?

It's been 70 years since malevolent Martians landed in Grover's Mill, New Jersey. Orson Welles described the dramatic events as they unfolded on CBS's Mercury Theater On The Air. Some listeners were so frightened, they became hysterical and fled their homes.

We revisit the famous radio adaptation of H.G. Well's novel and examine its cultural legacy. Also, what do modern invasion movies say about today's public fears?

Plus, the religious response to an alien invasion... how to protect Earth from Martian microbes... and, what Percival Lowell thought he saw on Mars.

Oct 12, 2008
A tour of the senses.

Don't worry if you've lost your senses - we've found them. Find out why we've evolved taste, sight, hearing, touch, and smell the way we have, and why we don't sense our world through antennae or echolocation. Discover what part of the tongue recognizes anchovies and why cats can't taste candy. And, in need of some virtual surgery? Visit the robotics lab where computers are wired with the sense of touch.

Sep 28, 2008
Breaking down the numbers.

When it comes to contacting ET, SETI scientists do the math. They've been filling in values for the Drake Equation ever since 1961. That's when Frank Drake proposed his simple formula for estimating the number of communicating civilizations in the galaxy. It's one equation that everyone can understand.

We'll talk about the current best estimates for the terms in Drake's famous formulation - from the number of Earth-size planets to the life expectancy of advanced civilizations. Also, with all this number crunching, why haven't we yet heard from ET?

Sep 21, 2008
Firing up the Large Hadron Collider.

What happens when particles collide? The answer may tell us the dark secrets of the cosmos. At least, that's the hope for the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest particle accelerator. When it fires up this summer, colliding protons may produce the elusive Higgs Boson - the so-called God particle - and reveal the building blocks of the universe.