Big Picture Science – Spacecraft Elegy

by Gary Niederhoff on April 24, 2017

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Big Picture Science – Spacecraft Elegy
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Exploration: It’s exciting, it’s novel, and you can’t always count on a round-trip ticket. You can boldly go, but you might not come back. That’s no showstopper for robotic explorers, though. Spacecraft go everywhere.

While humans have traveled no farther than the moon, our mechanical proxies are climbing a mountain on Mars, visiting an ice ball far beyond Pluto, plunging through the rings of Saturn, and landing on a comet. Oh, and did we mention they’re also bringing rock and roll to the denizens of deep space, in case they wish to listen.

We consider some of the most daring explorers since the 16th century – made of metal and plastic – venturing to places where no one else could go. What have they done, what are they doing, and at what point do they declare “mission accomplished” and head for that great spacecraft graveyard in the sky?

Listen to individual segments here:
Part 1: Matt Tiscareno / Cassini’s Conclusion
Part 2: Jonathan Amos / Rosetta and Philae
Part 3: Mark Showalter / Newer Horizons
Part 4: Ashwin Vasavada / Curiosity’s Climb

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Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: Glutenous Maximus

by Gary Niederhoff on April 17, 2017

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Big Picture Science – Glutenous Maximus
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Eat dark chocolate. Don’t drink coffee. Go gluten-free. If you ask people for diet advice, you’ll get a dozen different stories. Ideas about what’s good for us sprout up faster than alfalfa plants (which are still healthy … we think). How can you tell if the latest is fact or fad?

We’ll help you decide, and show you how to think skeptically about popular trends. One example: a study showing that gluten-free diets didn’t ease digestive problems in athletes. Also, medical researchers test whether wearable devices succeed in getting us off the couch and a nutritionist explains how things got so confusing.

Plus, why part of our confusion may be language. Find out why one cook says that no foods are “healthy,” not even kale.

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

Listen to individual segments here:
Part 1: Healthier Alternatives
Part 2: Dana Lis / Gluten Free
Part 3: Michael Ruhlman / Healthy Food
Part 4: Beth Skwarecki / Nutrition Studies
Part 5: Mitesh Patel / Fitness Trackers

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Big Picture Science – Your Brain’s Reins

April 10, 2017

Big Picture Science – Your Brain’s Reins You are your brain. But what happens when your brain changes for the worse – either by physical injury or experience? Are you still responsible for your actions? We hear how the case of a New York man charged with murder was one of the first to introduce […]

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Big Picture Science – Winging It

April 3, 2017

Big Picture Science – Winging It Ask anyone what extraordinary powers they’d love to have, and you’re sure to hear “be able to fly.” We’ve kind of scratched that itch with airplanes. But have we gone as far as we can go, or are better flying machines in our future? And whatever happened to our […]

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Big Picture Science – Shell on Earth

March 27, 2017

Big Picture Science – Shell on Earth We all may retreat to our protective shells, but evolution has perfected the calcite variety to give some critters permanent defense against predators. So why did squids and octopuses lose their shells? Find out what these cephalopods gained by giving up the shell game. Plus why Chesapeake Bay […]

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Big Picture Science – Born Legacy

March 20, 2017

Big Picture Science – Born Legacy We know how the stars shine, but how do you make a star? We take an all-night ride on a high-flying jet – an airborne NASA observatory called SOFIA – to watch astronomers investigate how a star is born. You can hear the entire segment of Emma’s SOFIA adventure […]

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Big Picture Science – What Have You Got To Move

March 13, 2017

Big Picture Science – What Have You Got To Move Whether they swim, slither, jump, or fly, animal locomotion is more than just an urge to roam: it’s necessary for survival. Evolution has come up with ingenious schemes to get from here to there. Hear how backbones evolved as a consequence of fish needing to […]

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Big Picture Science – Cosmic Conundra

March 6, 2017

Big Picture Science – Cosmic Conundra Admit it – the universe is cool, but weird. Just when you think you’ve tallied up all the peculiar phenomena that the cosmos has to offer – it throws more at you. We examine some of the recent perplexing finds. Could massive asteroid impacts be as predictable as phases […]

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Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: Not So Sweet

February 27, 2017

Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: Not So Sweet Obesity, diabetes, heart disease … maybe even Alzheimer’s. Could these modern scourges have a common denominator? Some people believe they do: sugar. But is this accusation warranted? We talk with a journalist who has spent two decades reporting on nutrition science, and while he says there’s […]

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Big Picture Science – Thinking About Thinking

February 20, 2017

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 – […]

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