Episodes

Sep 30, 2012
Mass hysteria in Le Roy, N.Y.

Stuttering speech and facial tics are among the strange symptoms that swept through a New York high school. Discover what’s behind the odd outbreak, and why one sociologist sees parallels to Salem, Massachusetts 300 years ago.

Also, an update on the cellphone cancer debate, and why one congressman wants warning labels on all new phones.

Plus, the ultimate cleanse: giving up on food to survive on light and air. We investigate the claims of Breatharians.

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


Sep 23, 2012
SETI number crunching, curing disease, and knowing everything about yourself.

It’s all in the numbers. The trick is, finding what you’re looking for. But that’s the name of the game with big data. We have a giga-gigabyte of information, and combing through it will lead to new cures for disease, new discoveries about the cosmos, or clues to our social and economic behavior.

But is big data Big Brother? You leave a little bit of yourself behind with each mouse click. Discover how surveillance and privacy issues bubble out of the mix, as the terabytes keep flowing in.


Sep 16, 2012
I feel your vibe.

ENCORE “I feel your vibe!” Well, that describes a number of fabled locales that claim to pulse with mysterious energy – perhaps prompting books to fly across the room or airplanes to vanish into thin air. But what’s the science behind it?

We examine spots marked with an X, for “extraordinary” – from a haunted house to the Bermuda Triangle – to sort out natural from supernatural phenomena.

Plus, what causes the aurora borealis… a haywire Russian space probe… and just what the heck is an “energy vortex,” anyway?


Sep 09, 2012
Our mirror in the lab

Before you chase it with a broom, consider this – without the rat, we might miss critical insights into the nature of stress, cancer … and even love. These furry, red-eyed rodents have a unique role in medical research – and a ubiquitous companion to our urban lives.

Discover the origins of the albino laboratory rat … what rat laughter sounds like, and why these four-legged fur balls don’t fall victim to the pressure of the rat race … but we do.


Sep 02, 2012
To need air is human.

To need air is human. Our lungs thank us for each breath we take. But air is more than a transporter of O2. It shapes our weather, keeps birds aloft and moves spores from here to there. A cubic foot of air is anything but “empty” (hot dog grease particles, anyone?).

The same goes for space (minus the hot dog grease). It’s a happening place. Discover why interstellar space is more than a whole lot o’ nothing; and what happens when the Voyager spacecraft leaves our solar system. Plus, catch a skydiver in action!


Aug 26, 2012
A credulity potpourri.

ENCORE If Bigfoot walks through a forest and no one sees him, does he exist? It’s the job of paranormal investigator Joe Nickell to find out! Discover whether eyewitness accounts are reliable when it comes to tracking down the hirsute big guy and other monsters.

Also, on the subject of “seeing is believing”: how magic fools the brain.

Plus, in our potpourri show: can music boost brain power? A new study says listening to music makes brains happy. Does this support the dubious “Mozart Effect,” that claims listening to Wolfie’s compositions boosts IQ?


Aug 19, 2012
Meet your computer overlords.

ENCORE When the IBM computer, Watson, snatched the “Jeopardy” title from its human competition, that raised the question of just how smart are machines? Could artificial intelligence ever beat humans at their own game… of being human?

Hear why an A.I. expert says it’s time to make peace with your P.C.; the machines are coming. Also, why technology is already self-evolving, and presenting its own demands. Find out what technology wants.


Aug 12, 2012
We dig the Red Planet.

We dig the Red Planet! And so does Curiosity. After a successful landing, and a round of high-fives at NASA, the latest rover to land on Mars is on the move, shovel in mechanical hand.

Discover how the Mars Science Laboratory will hunt for the building blocks of life, and just what the heck a lipid is. Plus, how to distinguish Martians from Earthlings, and the tricks Mars has played on us in the past (canals, anyone?).

Also, want to visit Mars firsthand? We can point you to the sign-up sheet for a manned mission. The catch: the ticket is one-way.


Aug 05, 2012
Meet the alternatives.

ENCORE You know the joke about the car and the snail. Look at that escargot? Well, snails may be the only thing not powering the automobiles of the future. Trees, grass, algae, even the garbage you toss on the sidewalk has potential for conversion into biofuel. What is America’s next top model fuel? Join us on a tour of the contenders.

Meet a man who’s mad about miscanthus … an astrobiologist’s attraction to algae... and the blueprint for building your own biofuel bugs.


Jul 22, 2012
In praise of extreme averageness.

Let the games begin! The mad dash to the phone … the sudden spring out of bed … the frantic juggling of car keys, grocery bags and a cell phone! Olympic athletes may have remarkable speed and strength, but it’s easy praise the extraordinary. Here’s to the extreme averageness of the rest of us. From beer bellies to aching backs, we’re all winners in the Darwinian Olympics just by virtue of being here.


Jul 01, 2012
The disappearing machine.

ENCORE Think small to solve big problems. That, in a nutshell, is the promise of nanotechnology. In this barely visible world, batteries charge 100 times faster and drugs go straight to their targets in the body. Discover some of these nano breakthroughs and how what you can’t see can help you…

…or hurt you? What if tiny machines turn out to be nothing but trouble? We’ll look at the health and safety risks of nanotech.

Plus, scaling up in science fiction: why a Godzilla-sized insect is fun, but just doesn’t fly.


Jun 24, 2012
Science roundup.

Expect the unexpected when we go digging in Seth’s storm shelter – who knows what we’ll find! In this cramped never-never land, tucked between piles of dehydrated food packets and old civil defense helmets, we stumble (but don’t step) upon marauding ants … a mission to Pluto…. “evidence” of a spaceship crash … the Apollo astronaut who shot the “Earth Rise” photograph … and Jonah Lehrer meditating on creativity.

Tune in, find out and, help move this box of canned soup, will you?


Jun 17, 2012
You are what you eat.

You are what you eat. But what does that mean if your food is genetically engineered? And the chances are good that it has been engineered if you munch down on corn or soybean. The prospect of eating GM food makes some folks afraid, but is their fear warranted?

Discover what experts say about the safety of genetically engineered foods … whether the technology delivers on the promised increase in yield … and the argument for and against labeling.


Jun 03, 2012
Inventions, inventors, and innovations.

ENCORE It’s the perennial dream: build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door. We go to San Jose’s famed Tech Museum to learn what it takes to turn a good idea into a grand success.

Remember the Super Soaker squirt gun? Hear how its inventor is now changing the rules for solar energy.

Where do good ideas come from? A Eureka moment in the bathtub? We’ll find out that it doesn’t happen so quickly – or easily.

And finally, the life cycle of society-changing technologies, from the birth of radio to the future of the Internet.


May 27, 2012
Venus across our sun

On June 5, our sister planet Venus will slowly slide across the face of the sun. This will be the last transit of Venus until 2117, so there’s no subsequent chance to observe this celestial spectacular for anyone alive today.

Join us for a special episode devoted to this rare event. Two centuries ago, nations were locked in a race to be the first to measure the Venus transit. From the first observation by the “father” of British astronomy to Captain Cook’s Tahitian expedition in the 18th century, meet the pioneers who were trying to nail down the scale of the cosmos


May 20, 2012
Planetary protection

We are all Martians … or could be, if, billions of years ago, Red Plant microbes fell to Earth and eventually evolved to us. Okay, that one’s a big “if.” But microbes can survive space travel. Meet the NASA officer whose task is to keep Earth, Mars - and the entire solar system –safe from hitchhiking bacteria.

And, even if we’re not Martians (darn!), did life once thrive on the Red Planet ... and does it still today?

Plus, why meteorites may be happy habitats for life.


May 13, 2012
Order is overrated.

ENCORE Random is as random does… makes sense doesn’t even that anyway in tune hear to randomness how lives rules.

Brain chaos the drives, restoration role of help insight ecology may into randomness the, numbers sense of make statistics can’t why we or, ants not seem of erratic behavior why the may but is.


Apr 22, 2012
Move with the times.

ENCORE The times are a’changing – rising temperatures, growing population, and new technology coming at us faster than a greased cheetah.

So how will humans respond? Find out about future farming in the city – your vegetables might be grown in downtown, hi-rise greenhouses. Also, a population expert tells us how our planet can cope with billions more people, and the man who invented the term ‘cyberspace’ describes what the future might hold for the techno-savvy.


Apr 15, 2012
Silicon only, please.

ENCORE You are one-of-a-kind, unique, indispensible… oh, wait, never mind! It seems that computer over there can do what you do … faster and with greater accuracy.

Yes, it’s silicon vs. carbon as intelligent, interactive machines out-perform humans in tasks beyond data-crunching. We’re not only building our successors, we’re developing emotional relationships with them. Find out why humans are hard-wired to be attached to androids.


Apr 08, 2012
It’s okay to cry.

So you weep at sappy commercials and give drivers the bird. Have no regrets: emotion is what makes us human! Discover the survival value in feeling disgust … why humans are terrible liars … and how despair fuels creativity.

Also, mis-firing emotions and the emotional consequences of facial paralysis. And why E.T. will need to feel fear and joy to survive.