Big Picture Science – Geology is Destiny

by Gary Niederhoff on January 16, 2017

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Big Picture Science – Geology is Destiny

The record of the rocks is not just the history of Earth; it’s your history too. Geologists can learn about events going back billions of years that influenced – and even made possible – our present-day existence and shaped our society.

If the last Ice Age had been a bit warmer, the rivers and lakes of the Midwest would have been much farther north and the U.S. might still be a small country of 13 states. If some Mediterranean islands hadn’t twisted a bit, no roads would have led to Rome.

Geology is big history, and the story is on-going. Human activity is changing the planet too, and has introduced its own geologic era, the Anthropocene. Will Earthlings of a hundred million years from now dig up our plastic refuse and study it the way we study dinosaur bones?

Plus, the dodo had the bad luck to inhabit a small island and couldn’t adapt to human predators. But guess what? It wasn’t as dumb as you think.

Listen to individual segments here:
Part 1: Walter Alvarez / Rocks Remember
Part 2: Eugenia Gold / So Goes the Dodo
Part 3: David Grinspoon / Enter the Anthropocene

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Big Picture Science – No Face to Hide

by Gary Niederhoff on January 9, 2017

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Big Picture Science – No Face to Hide

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.

Find out how a computer analyzes the geometry of a face and why even identical twins don’t fool its discerning gaze. Proponents say that biometrics are powerful tools to stop crime, but the lack of regulation concerns privacy groups. Do you want to be identified – and your habits tracked – whenever you step outside?

Plus, astronomy meets forensics. How analyzing photos and paintings using weather records, sky charts, and phases of the moon help solve intriguing mysteries, including the history of an iconic V.J. Day photo.

Listen to individual segments here:
Part 1: Don Olson / Forensic Astronomy
Part 2: Marios Savvides / Facial Recognition Software
Part 3: Alvaro Bedoya / Recognizing Privacy

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Big Picture Science – The Light Stuff

January 2, 2017

Big Picture Science – The Light Stuff 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 […]

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Big Picture Science – The Fix Is In

December 26, 2016

Big Picture Science – The Fix Is In 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 […]

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Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: Fear Itself

December 19, 2016

Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: Fear Itself Shhh. Is someone coming? Okay, we’ll make this quick. There are a lot of scary things going on in the world. Naturally you’re fearful. But sometimes fear has a sister emotion: suspicion. A nagging worry about what’s really going on. You know, the stuff they aren’t telling […]

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Big Picture Science – Are Animals Really That Smart?

December 12, 2016

Big Picture Science – Are Animals Really That Smart? You own a cat, or is it vice versa? Family friendly felines have trained their owners to do their bidding. Thanks to a successful evolutionary adaptation, they rule your house. Find out how your cat has you wrapped around its paw. And it’s not the only […]

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Big Picture Science – Brain Dust

December 5, 2016

Big Picture Science – Brain Dust Know your brain? Think again. Driven by a hidden agenda, powered by an indecipherable web of neurons, and influenced by other brains, your grey matter is a black box. To “know thyself” may be a challenge, and free will nonexistent, but maybe more technology can shed light on the […]

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Big Picture Science – What Lies Beneath

November 28, 2016

Big Picture Science – What Lies Beneath 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 – […]

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Big Picture Science – Weather Vain

November 21, 2016

Big Picture Science – Weather Vain Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it. Not that they haven’t tried. History is replete with attempts to control the weather, but we’d settle for an accurate seven-day forecast. Find out how sophisticated technology might improve accuracy, including predicting the behavior of severe storms. […]

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Big Picture Science – Aliens – The Evidence

November 14, 2016

Big Picture Science: Aliens – The Evidence Once again the aliens have landed … in theaters. It’s no spoiler to say that the latest cinematic sci-fi, Arrival, involves extraterrestrials visiting Earth. But for some folks, the film’s premise is hardly shocking. They’re convinced that the aliens have already come. But is there any proof that […]

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