Episodes

Air Datesort ascending Title
Oct 19, 2015
Smiley Virus
Smiley Virus
Biological bits we like.
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ENCORE  For many, the word virus is a synonym for disease – diseases of humans, plants, and even computers. Ebola is an example: a virus with a big and terrifying reputation. And yet the vast majority of viruses are not only friendly, they are essential for life.

Find out how viruses make plant life in Yellowstone’s hottest environments possible, and fear your spinach salad no longer: a scientist recruits viruses to defeat E. coli bacteria.

Oct 12, 2015
Space for Everyone
Space for Everyone
Is the final frontier finally opening up?
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ENCORE Is space the place for you? With a hefty amount of moolah, a trip there and back can be all yours. But when the price comes down, traffic into space may make the L.A. freeway look like a back-country lane.

Space is more accessible than it once was, from the development of private commercial flights … to a radical new telescope that makes everyone an astronomer … to mining asteroids for their metals and water to keep humanity humming for a long time.

Plus, move over Russia and America: Why the next words you hear from space may be in Mandarin.

Oct 05, 2015
Martian Madness
Martian Madness
How to survive on a hostile, alien world.
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 It’s the starkly beautiful setting for the new film “The Martian,” and – just in time – NASA has announced that the Red Planet is more than a little damp, with liquid water occasionally oozing over its surface.  But Mars remains hostile terrain.  Mark Watney, the astronaut portrayed by Matt Damon, struggles to survive there. If he has a hard time, what chance does anyone else have?

Sep 28, 2015
Skeptic Check: What, We Worry?
Skeptic Check: What, We Worry?
Scientific hand-wringing.
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ENCORE  We all have worries. But as trained observers, scientists learn things that can affect us all. So what troubles them, should also trouble us. From viral pandemics to the limits of empirical knowledge, find out what science scenarios give researchers insomnia.

But also, we discover which scary scenarios that preoccupy the public don’t worry the scientists at all. Despite the rumors, you needn’t fear that the Large Hadron Collider will produce black holes that could swallow the Earth.

Sep 21, 2015
No Face to Hide
No Face to Hide
Facial recognition technology is here.
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Face it – your mug is not entirely yours.  It’s routinely uploaded to social media pages and captured on CCTV cameras with – and without – your consent.  Sophisticated facial recognition technology can identify you and even make links to your personal data.  There are few places where you’re safe from scrutiny.  

Sep 14, 2015
Stranded
Stranded
It’s still possible.
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ENCORE Imagine not knowing where you are – and no one else knowing either. Today, that’s pretty unlikely. Digital devices pinpoint our location within a few feet, so it’s hard to get lost anymore. But we can still get stranded.

A reporter onboard an Antarctic ship that was stuck for weeks in sea ice describes his experience, and contrasts that with a stranding a hundred years prior in which explorers ate their dogs to survive.

Sep 07, 2015
The Pest of Us
The Pest of Us
Our buggy future.
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ENCORE Picture a cockroach skittering across your kitchen. Eeww! Now imagine it served as an entrée at your local restaurant. There’s good reason these diminutive arthropods give us the willies – but they may also be the key to protein-rich meals of the future. Get ready for cricket casserole, as our relationship to bugs is about to change.

Also, share in one man’s panic attack when he is swarmed by grasshoppers. And the evolutionary reason insects revolt us, but also why the cicada’s buzz and the beetle’s click may have inspired humans to make music.

Aug 31, 2015
What Lies Beneath
What Lies Beneath
The marvels and menace of the sea.
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What you can’t see may astound you.  The largest unexplored region of Earth is the ocean.  Beneath its churning surface, oceanographers have recently discovered the largest volcano in the world – perhaps in the solar system.

Find out what is known – and yet to be discovered – about the marine life of the abyss, and how a fish called the bristlemouth has grabbed the crown for “most numerous vertebrate on Earth” from the chicken.

Plus, the menace of America’s Cascadia fault, which has the potential to unleash a devastating magnitude 9 earthquake. 

Aug 24, 2015
The Light Stuff
The Light Stuff
An illuminating show.
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The light bulb needs changing.  Edison’s incandescent bulb, virtually unaltered for more than a century, is now being eclipsed by the LED.  The creative applications for these small and efficient devices are endless: on tape, on wallpaper, even in contact lenses.  They will set the world aglow.  But is a brighter world a better one?

Aug 17, 2015
Skeptic Seth
Skeptic Check: Skeptic Seth
A day of critical thinking.
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Are you skeptical?  Sure, you raise an eyebrow when some Nigerian prince asks for your bank numbers, or when a breakfast cereal claims that it will turn your kid into a professional athlete overnight.

But what do you really know about the benefits of organic milk?  Or the power of whitening ingredients in your toothpaste?  How credible is what you read on Twitter?

Today, information overwhelms us, and the need to keep our skeptical wits about us has never been greater.  We follow Seth around as he faces the daily onslaught of hype and hokum.

Aug 10, 2015
Solar System Vacation
Solar System Vacation
Get away from it all.
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Ever gone bungee jumping on Venus?  Of course not.  No one has.  However your great-great-great grandchildren might find themselves packing for the cloudy planet … or for another locale in our cosmic backyard.  That’s what we picture as we accelerate our imagination to escape velocity and beyond – and tour vacation spots that are out of this world.

Aug 03, 2015
The Fix is In
The Fix is In
The science of self-repair.
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The moon jellyfish has remarkable approach to self-repair.  If it loses a limb, it rearranges its remaining body parts to once again become radially symmetric.  Humans can’t do that, but a new approach that combines biology with nanotechnology could give our immune systems a boost.  Would you drink a beaker of nanobots if they could help you fight cancer?

Also, materials science gets into self-healing with a novel concrete that fixes its own cracks. 

Jul 27, 2015
Skeptic Check: Are You Sure You're Sure?
Skeptic Check: Are You Sure You're Sure?
Our ignorance about our own ignorance.
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ENCORE  Nuclear fission powers the Sun. Or is it fusion? At any rate, helium is burned in the process, of that you are certain. After all, you read that article on astronomy last week*.

You know what you know. But you probably don’t know what you don’t know. Few of us do. Scientists say we’re spectacularly incompetent at recognizing our own incompetency, and that sometimes leads to trouble.

Jul 20, 2015
Moral's Law
Moral's Law
Are we becoming better behaved?
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“If it bleeds, it leads” is the tried and true tenet of news.  Indeed, headlines are often no more than a long list of moral atrocities.  Yet one man argues that we’re living in the most civilized era in history.  And he credits this to scientific thought and reason.  

Hang on!  Our executive function isn’t enough to promote ethical behavior, says a psychologist.  The real fuel behind our drive to be good?  Anger, compassion, pride: your emotions!

Jul 13, 2015
Forget to Remember
Forget to Remember
Digital and biological storage.
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ENCORE  You must not remember this. Indeed, it may be key to having a healthy brain. Our gray matter evolved to forget things; otherwise we’d have the images of every face we saw on the subway rattling around our head all day long. Yet we’re building computers with the capacity to remember everything. Everything! And we might one day hook these devices to our brains.

Jul 06, 2015
New Horizons spacecraft
Dogged Pursuit of Pluto
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Pluto is ready for its close up – but the near encounter during this historic flyby will last less than three minutes. Be ready for the action with our special New Horizons episode!

Jun 28, 2015
What the Hack
Are you protected?
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ENCORE A computer virus that bombards you with pop-up ads is one thing. A computer virus that shuts down a city’s electric grid is another. Welcome to the new generation of cybercrime. Discover what it will take to protect our power, communication and transportation systems as scientists try to stay ahead of hackers in an ever-escalating game of cat and mouse.

Jun 21, 2015
Skeptic Check: Evolutionary Arms Race
Shape-shifting bacteria and viruses
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ENCORE It's hard to imagine the twists and turns of evolution that gave rise to Homo Sapiens. After all, it required geologic time, and the existence of many long-gone species that were once close relatives. That may be one reason why – according to a recent poll – one-third of all Americans reject the theory of evolution. They prefer to believe that humans and other living organisms have existed in their current form since the beginning of time.

Jun 14, 2015
It's All Relative
How Einstein changed our understanding of Nature.
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A century ago, Albert Einstein rewrote our understanding of physics with his Theory of General Relativity. Our intuitive ideas about space, time, mass, and gravity turned out to be wrong.

Find out how this masterwork changed our understanding of how the universe works and why you can thank Einstein whenever you turn on your GPS.

Also, high-profile experiments looking for gravitational waves and for black holes will put the theories of the German genius to the test – will they pass?

Jun 07, 2015
And To Space We Return
From stardust to colonies.
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Earth may be the cradle of life, but our bodies are filled with materials cooked up billions of years ago in the scorching centers of stars. As Carl Sagan said, “We are all stardust.” We came from space, and some say it is to space we will return.

Discover an astronomer’s quest to track down remains of these ancient chemical kitchens. Plus, a scientist who says that it’s in our DNA to explore – and not just the nearby worlds of the solar system, but perhaps far beyond.