Big Picture Science – Rip Van Winkle Worm

by Gary Niederhoff on September 16, 2019


Big Picture Science – Rip Van Winkle Worm

Your shower pipes are alive. So are your sinks, books, and floorboards. New studies of our homes are revealing just what species live there – in the thousands, from bacteria to flies to millipedes. Meanwhile, life keeps surprising us by popping up in other unexpected places: the deep biosphere houses the majority of the world’s bacteria and the Arctic tundra has kept worms frozen – but alive – for 40,000 years.

We embrace the multitude of life living on us, in us, and – as it turns out – in every possible ecological niche. Most of it is harmless, some is beneficial, and it’s all testament to the amazing diversity and adaptability of life. In addition, the hardiest organisms suggest where we might find life beyond Earth.

Listen to individual segments here:
Part 1: Rob Dunn / Shower Head Ecosystem
Part 2: Lynn Rothschild / Zombie Worms
Part 3: Karen Lloyd / Deep Carbon Observatory
Part 4: Rob Dunn / Your Household Zoo

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Big Picture Science – For Good Measure

by Gary Niederhoff on September 9, 2019


Big Picture Science – For Good Measure

The reign of Le Grand K has come to an end. After 130 years, this hunk of metal sitting in a Parisian vault will no longer define the kilogram. The new kilogram mass will be defined by Planck’s constant, joining three other units for redefinition by fundamental constants. But as we measure with increasing precision – from cesium atomic clocks to gravitational wave detectors able to measure spacetime distortions to 1/1000th the width of a proton – is something fundamental lost along the way? Meanwhile, the BiPiSci team accepts the banana-measurement challenge.

Listen to individual segments here:
Part 1: The Banana Challenge
Part 2: Jon Pratt / The Old Kilogram
Part 3: Wolfgang Ketterle / The New Kilogram
Part 4: Simon Winchester / The Price of Precision

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Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: Data Bias

September 2, 2019

Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: Data Bias Sexist snow plowing? Data that guide everything from snow removal schedules to heart research often fail to consider gender. In these cases, “reference man” stands in for “average human.” Human bias also infects artificial intelligence, with speech recognition triggered only by male voices and facial recognition that […]

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Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: Brain Gain

August 26, 2019

Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: Brain Gain Looking to boost your brainpower? Luckily, there are products promising to help. Smart drugs, neurofeedback exercises, and brain-training video games all promise to improve your gray matter’s performance. But it’s uncertain whether these products really work. Regulatory agencies have come down hard on some popular brain training […]

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Big Picture Science – True Grit

August 19, 2019

Big Picture Science – True Grit Without sand, engineering would be stuck in the Middle Ages. Wooden houses would line mud-packed streets, and Silicon Valley would be, well, just a valley. Sand is the building material of modern cities, and we use more of this resource than any other except water and air. Now we’re […]

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Big Picture Science – Granting Immunity

August 12, 2019

Big Picture Science – Granting Immunity “Diversity or die” could be your new health mantra. Don’t boost your immune system, cultivate it! Like a garden, your body’s defenses benefit from species diversity. Find out why multiple strains of microbes, engaged in a delicate ballet with your T-cells, join internal fungi in combatting disease. Plus, global […]

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Big Picture Science – Sci-Fi From the Future

August 5, 2019

Big Picture Science – Sci-Fi From the Future Are you ready to defer all your personal decision-making to machines? Polls show that most Americans are uneasy about the unchecked growth of artificial intelligence. The possible misuse of genetic engineering also makes us anxious. We all have a stake in the responsible development of science and […]

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BiPiSci – Skeptic Check: Flat Earth

July 29, 2019

Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: Flat Earthclick to listen! The Earth is not round. Technically, it’s an oblate spheroid. But for some people, the first statement is not even approximately correct. Flat Earthers believe that our planet resembles – not a slightly squashed grapefruit – but a thick pancake. A journalist who covered a […]

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Big Picture Science – Let’s Stick Together

July 22, 2019

Big Picture Science – Let’s Stick Together Crowded subway driving you crazy? Sick of the marathon-length grocery store line? Wish you had a hovercraft to float over traffic? If you are itching to hightail it to an isolated cabin in the woods, remember, we evolved to be together. Humans are not only social, we’re driven […]

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Big Picture Science – Math’s Paths

July 15, 2019

Big Picture Science – Math’s Paths If you bake, you can appreciate math’s transformative properties. Admiring the stackable potato chip is to admire a hyperbolic sheet. Find out why there’s no need to fear math – you just need to think outside the cuboid. Also, how nature’s geometric shapes inspire the next generation of squishy […]

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