Modern physics isn’t for the faint of heart. From explorations of the mysterious dark matter that holds the galaxies together, the bizarre dark energy pulling the universe apart, and the attempts by scientists to recreate the Big Bang in a laboratory, contemporary physics is nothing if not extreme.
Are science and technology leading us to Elysian Fields of prosperity, happiness, and unblemished health? Or have two centuries of industrialization and materialism accomplished just the opposite; ripped us from the nurturing bosom of our pastoral past? Is our future bright, or will environmental degradation, genetic engineering, or nanotechnology cause mass disruption and destruction.
Join us for a lively discussion with experts who will consider whether the world is heading to Nirvana, or to a place that’s overheated and sulfurous.
The iconic Doomsday clock has been moved two minutes closer to midnight, symbolizing the growing international threat of nuclear disaster. Find out what led the directors at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to inch the hand closer to this ominous hour, and why – for the first time - they’ve included climate change in their forecast of imminent threats to humanity.
Without doubt, the five thousand-year old Egyptian pyramids are major feats of engineering. But pointy piles of rock are one thing; quite another is the engineering effort required to combat global warming. As Earth’s atmosphere continues to be filled with greenhouse emissions, some see geoengineering as the only path to a cooler planet. But are lofting sulphur into the air or launching a giant sunshade into orbit wise moves, or even ethical ones?
What is that strange light zipping across the sky at a speed that, well, no aircraft could match? Today, despite major achievements in our scientific understanding of the cosmos, there are still plenty of mysteries that perplex the public. Did aliens really make a navigation error over Roswell, New Mexico and plow into the desert? Are other extraterrestrials routinely abducting folks for unsavory experiments? Some people believe that aliens are not only cruising the skies, but nefarious federal operatives have the dead ones stacked up at top-secret Area 51.
Okay, so we’re not as hirsute and we don’t routinely brachiate through trees, but in what other ways are we different from chimpanzees? With a map of the chimp genome in hand, scientists are closer to answering that question. Join us for a trip to the primate house as we explore in what way the last 2% of DNA separates us from our swinging cousins. Primatologist Frans de Waal reminds us that we’re just as closely related to bonobos, the left-bank primates. And, lest you forget your marine heritage, discover which genes you share with… sea urchins.
America loves conspiracies. Many people think that JFK was the victim of a large-scale assassination plot. Others believe the U.S. military has hidden alien artifacts at some remote, desert locale. Now, recent polling results indicate that a substantial fraction of the public suspect that the calamity that befell the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 was at least partly due to a cabal of government and industry interests. An inside job, in other words.
We hold some basic truths about the universe to be – well, if not self-evident – than reassuringly consistent. Without them, the cosmos might be rhomboid-shaped, our bodies would suddenly fly apart, and we’d have to peel lead balloons off the ceiling. The laws of physics are not capricious, but seem to yearn for an inner beauty that scientists describe as symmetry. Nobel laureate Leon Lederman talks about why the universe is mostly symmetric, but not entirely, and an evolutionary psychologist explains that Fermi’s Paradox arises because the aliens are too busy playing Tomb Raider to get
Ten years ago, to much protest, John Horgan sounded the death knell of research with his book “The End Of Science.” He joins us for an update on this provocative thesis.
Also, it seems that reports on the death of science have been greatly exaggerated: we report the latest developments on the frontiers of neuroscience and string theory. Plus, from jet packs… to clone farms… to a slingshot to the moon; promises for the future that were made and broken. And, last and (admittedly) least: the SETI Institute Players.
Our planet is warming, and so far the change has been gradual. But could the climate shift abruptly? If so, what’s the trigger? Ice cores in Greenland may provide clues. These frozen time machines show that climate has radically changed in the past – and suggest possible reasons why. Could it happen in our lifetime?
Once again an archeological expedition has claimed evidence of Noah’s Ark on a snowy mountain, and once again, the evidence doesn’t hold water. So where is this famous couples-only cruise liner? Skeptical Sunday considers the logistical problems of putting samples of all animal life on 300 cubits of gopherwood, and why all attempts to find wreckage of this floating zoo have foundered. Also, count your lucky stars… is there any truth to astrology? Plus, Phil Plait on communicating with the dead (a one-way conversation), and our Hollywood Skeptic is lost at sea with a lot of anim
Believe it or not, it’s been 40 years since Star Trek first lifted off the launch pad, bringing TV audiences a positive vision of the 23rd century. But with four decades of hindsight, can we conclude that Gene Roddenberry’s space opera was important, or merely campy?
We look at the legacy of this popular show, talking to a Star Trek actor, scientists, writers, and even the occasional Klingon. What would the holodeck really be used for? And what about those flip-lid communicators… were they the inspiration for today’s cell phones?
From light-years to femtoseconds to 11-dimensional vibrating strings – our understanding of the universe is completely dependent on measurement. As any scientist will tell you, “to measure is to know.”
How safe is our future? With millions of rocks careening around the solar system, what are the chances of a major impact wiping out a city, a country, or all life on Earth?
We’ll talk to NASA scientists about how they’re hunting for asteroids that might slam into our world, and what they’ve found so far. Are there any signs of immediate danger? Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart tells us what sort of defense might deflect a rock that’s “incoming.” Finally, journalist William Burrows describes why he thinks NASA could be doing a lot more to safeguard Earth.
Poor Pluto – talk about losing your identity. This punk world was hailed in 1930 as the first planet found in the 20th century, only to be dismissed as a hunk of icy rock by the start of the 21st. Now, astronomers have changed their minds: Pluto and three other solar system bodies are official members of the planetary pantheon. But, for how long? We’ll hear the new definition of a planet as proposed at the International Astronomical Union meeting in Prague.