Big Picture Science – Math’s Paths

by Gary Niederhoff on 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 robots and an argument for radically overhauling math class. The end point of these common factors is acute show that’s as fun as eating Pi.

Listen to individual segments here:
Part 1: Eugenia Cheng / Baking Pi
Part 2: Shankar Venkataramani / Squishy Robots
Part 3: Steve Strogatz / Compelling Calculus
Part 4: Daniel Finkel / Love for Math

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Big Picture Science – DNA is Not Destiny

by Gary Niederhoff on July 8, 2019


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 – Nailing the Moon Landing

July 1, 2019

Big Picture Science – Nailing the Moon Landing Neil, Buzz, and Michael made it look effortless, but the moon landing was neither easy nor inevitable. Soon after President Kennedy publicly stated the goal of sending Americans to the moon, NASA confessed that the chances of success were only about 50/50. But on July 20, 1969, […]

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Big Picture Science – Animals Like Us

June 24, 2019

Big Picture Science – Animals Like Us Laughing rats, sorrowful elephants, joyful chimpanzees. The more carefully we observe, and the more we learn about animals, the closer their emotional lives appear to resemble our own. Most would agree that we should minimize the physical suffering of animals, but should we give equal consideration to their […]

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Big Picture Science – You’ve Got Whale

June 17, 2019

Big Picture Science – You’ve Got Whale SMS isn’t the original instant messaging system. Plants can send chemical warnings through their leaves in a fraction of a second. And while we love being in the messaging loop – frenetically refreshing our browsers – we miss out on important conversations that no Twitter feed or inbox […]

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Big Picture Science – It’s Habitable Forming

June 10, 2019

Big Picture Science – It’s Habitable Forming There’s evidence for a subsurface lake on Mars, and scientists are excitedly using the “h” word. Could the Red Planet be habitable, not billions of years ago, but today? While we wait – impatiently – for a confirmation of this result, we review the recipe for habitable alien […]

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Big Picture Science – Creature Discomforts

June 3, 2019

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 – Skeptic Check: Worrier Mentality

May 27, 2019

Big Picture Science – Worrier Mentality Poisonous snakes, lightning strikes, a rogue rock from space. There are plenty of scary things to fret about, but are we burning adrenaline on the right ones? Stepping into the bathtub is more dangerous than flying from a statistical point of view, but no one signs up for “fear […]

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Big Picture Science – New Water Worlds

May 20, 2019

Big Picture Science – New Water Worlds The seas are rising. It’s no longer a rarity to see kayakers paddling through downtown Miami. By century’s end, the oceans could be anywhere from 2 to 6 feet higher, threatening millions of people and property. But humans once knew how to adapt to rising waters. As high […]

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Big Picture Science – Is Life Inevitable?

May 13, 2019

Big Picture Science – Is Life Inevitable? A new theory about life’s origins updates Darwin’s warm little pond. Scientists say they’ve created the building blocks of biology in steaming hot springs. Meanwhile, we visit a NASA lab where scientists simulate deep-sea vent chemistry to produce the type of environment that might spawn life. Which site […]

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