Episodes

Dec 09, 2007
Space post-Sputnik.

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.


Nov 18, 2007
A visit to the polar regions.

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.


Oct 28, 2007
The secrets of the atom.

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.


Oct 14, 2007
Exploring the universe.

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.


Oct 07, 2007
The teeming world of microbes.

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.


Sep 09, 2007
A look at the planet after the fateful hour.

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?


Sep 02, 2007
Sorting out sound medical science from snake oil.

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.


Aug 26, 2007
Meteors, amateur telescopes, rings and things: a potpourri of the latest science.

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.


Jul 29, 2007
A look at what’s lined up for launch at NASA.

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.


Jul 15, 2007
Weighing the evidence of a controversial archeological find.

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?


May 06, 2007
Discovery of the Goldilocks planet.
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 06, 2007
Cosmological physics.