Big Picture Science – Air Apparent

by Gary Niederhoff on October 22, 2018


Big Picture Science – Air Apparent

Whether you yawn, gasp, sniff, snore, or sigh, you’re availing yourself of our very special atmosphere. It’s easy to take this invisible chemical cocktail for granted, but it’s not only essential to your existence: it unites you and every other lifeform on the planet, dead or alive. The next breath you take likely includes molecules exhaled by Julius Caesar or Eleanor Roosevelt.

And for some animals, air is an information superhighway. Dogs navigate with their noses. Their sniffing snouts help them to identify their owners, detect trace amounts of drugs, and even sense some diseases. Find out what a dog’s nose knows, and why no amount of bathing and dousing in perfume can mask your personal smelliness.

Plus, why your own schnoz is key to not only enjoying a fine Bordeaux, but to survival of our species.

Listen to individual segments here:
Part 1: Sam Kean / Discovering Air
Part 2: Molly and the Chocolate Olfactory
Part 3: Alexandra Horowitz / Dog Sense
Part 4: Rachel Herz / Scent Sense

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Big Picture Science – DNA is Not Destiny

by Gary Niederhoff on October 15, 2018


Big Picture Science – DNA is Not Destiny

Heredity was once thought to be straightforward. Genes were passed in an immutable path from parents to you, and you were stuck – or blessed – with what you got. DNA didn’t change.

But now we know that’s not true. Epigenetic factors, such as your environment and your lifestyle, control how your genes are expressed. Meanwhile, the powerful tool CRISPR allows us to tinker with the genes themselves. DNA is no longer destiny.

Hear the results from the NASA twin study and what happened to astronaut Scott Kelly’s DNA after a year on the International Space Station. Plus, whether there’s evidence that epigenetic changes can be passed down. And, if we can wipe out deadly malaria by engineering the mosquito genome for sterility, should we do it?

Listen to individual segments here:
Part 1: Mark Kelly and Christopher Mason / DNA in Space
Part 2: Carl Zimmer / Space Epigenetics
Part 3: Nicole Gladish / DNA Methylation
Part 4: Michael Snyder / Epigenetic Influence
Part 5: Carl Zimmer / Altering DNA

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Big Picture Science – Creature Discomforts

October 8, 2018

Big Picture Science – Creature Discomforts Okay you animals, line up: stoned sloths, playful pandas, baleful bovines, and vile vultures. We’ve got you guys pegged, thanks to central casting. Or do we? Our often simplistic view of animals ignores their remarkable adaptive abilities. Stumbly sloths are in fact remarkably agile and a vulture’s tricks for […]

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Big Picture Science – Wonder Women

October 1, 2018

Big Picture Science – Wonder Women We’re hearing about harassment of, and barriers to, women seeking careers in politics and entertainment. But what about science? Science is supposed to be uniquely merit-based and objective. And yet the data say otherwise. A new study reveals widespread harassment of women of color in space science. We look […]

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BiPiSci – Wonder Women: Antonia Franco / SACNAS

October 1, 2018

Big Picture Science / SACNAS click to listen (trt 7:09) Click above to listen to Part 4 of Wonder Women, featuring Antonia Franco, Executive Director of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).

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BiPiSci – Wonder Women: Angela Saini / Inferior Memo

October 1, 2018

Big Picture Science / Inferior Memo click to listen (trt 10:17) Click above to listen to Part 2 of Wonder Women, featuring Angela Saini, journalist and author of “Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong”, discussing the various logical shortcomings of Google guy’s misguided memo.

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Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself

September 24, 2018

Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: Heal Thyself Do we still need doctors? There are umpteen alternative sources of medical advice, including endless and heartfelt health tips from people without medical degrees. Frankly, self-diagnosis with a health app is easier and cheaper than a trip to a clinic. Since we’re urged to be our own […]

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Big Picture Science – DNA: Nature’s Hard Drive

September 17, 2018

Big Picture Science – DNA: Nature’s Hard Drive The biotech tool CRISPR lets us do more than shuffle genes. Researchers have embedded an animated GIF into a living organism’s DNA, proving that the molecule is a great repository for information. This has encouraged speculation that DNA could be used by aliens to send messages. Meanwhile, […]

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Big Picture Science – Angles of a Hack

September 10, 2018

Big Picture Science – Angles of a Hack Changed your computer password recently? We all try to stay one step ahead of the hackers, but the fear factor is increasing. The risks can range from stolen social security numbers to sabotaging a national power grid. Sixty years ago, when hacking meant nosing around the telephone […]

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Big Picture Science – Plan of a Hack

September 3, 2018

Big Picture Science – Plan of a Hack Long before cyber criminals were stealing ATM passwords, phone phreaks were tapping into the telephone system. Their motivation was not monetary, but the thrill of defeating a complex, invisible network. Today “hacking” can apply to cyberwarfare, biological tinkering, or even geoengineering. Often it has negative connotations, but […]

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