Big Picture Science – Thinking About Thinking

by Gary Niederhoff on February 20, 2017

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Big Picture Science – Thinking About Thinking

Congratulations, you have a big brain. Evolution was good to Homo sapiens. But make some room on the dais. Research shows that other animals, such as crows, may not look smart, but can solve complex problems.

Meanwhile human engineers are busily developing cogitating machines. Intelligent entities abound – but are they all capable of actual thought?

Hear how crows fashion tools from new materials and can recognize you by sight. Also, how an IBM computer may one day outthink the engineers who designed it.

Plus, scientists who simulated a rat brain in a computer, neuron-by-neuron, look ahead to modeling the human brain. And, what brain disorders teach us about the brain and our sense of self.

Listen to individual segments here:
Part 1: John Marzluff / Crow Cognition
Part 2: Idan Segev / The Human Brain Project
Part 3: Jeff Welser / Cognitive Computing
Part 4: Anil Ananthaswamy / Brain Disorders

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Big Picture Science – Going All To Species

by Gary Niederhoff on February 13, 2017

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Big Picture Science – Going All To Species

Meet your new relatives. The fossilized bones of Homo naledi are unique for their sheer number, but they may also be fill a special slot in our ancestry: the first of our genus Homo. Sporting modern hands and feet but only a tiny brain, this creature may link us and our ape-like ancestors.

Some anthropologists hail the discovery as that of a new hominid species. Not all their colleagues agree. Find out what’s at stake in the debate.

Also, the scientist who helped retrieve the fossils describes her perilous crawl through a cave with only ten inches of elbow room. And a radical theory about what these old bones might mean: could they be from a burial two million years ago?

Listen to individual segments here:
Part 1: Marina Elliott / Cave Crawl
Part 2: Carol Ward / Our African Origins
Part 3: John Hawks / Homo Naledi
Part 4: Tim White / Specious Species

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Big Picture Science – Quantum: Why We Want ‘Em

February 6, 2017

Big Picture Science – Quantum: Why We Want ‘Em Einstein thought that quantum mechanics might be the end of physics, and most scientists felt sure it would never be useful. Today, everything from cell phones to LED lighting is completely dependent on the weird behavior described by quantum mechanics. But the story continues. Quantum computers […]

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Big Picture Science – DIY Spaceflight

January 30, 2017

Big Picture Science – DIY Spaceflight For a half-century, space has been the playground of large, government agencies. While everyone could dream of becoming an astronaut, few could actually do so. Things have changed. We hear how a geeky son of immigrant parents incentivized the ground-breaking launch of SpaceShipOne, and spawned the commercial rocket industry. […]

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Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: Amelia Earhart

January 23, 2017

Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: Amelia Earhart She’s among the most famous missing persons in history. On the eightieth anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, mystery still shrouds her fate. What happened during the last leg of her round-the-world trek? Theories abound. Perhaps she ran out of fuel, and plunged into the ocean … or […]

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Big Picture Science – Geology is Destiny

January 16, 2017

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 […]

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Big Picture Science – No Face to Hide

January 9, 2017

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 […]

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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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