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Big Picture Science

Big Picture Science has fun drawing surprising connections between the latest science and technology research to give you the Big Picture. Leading researchers, techies, and journalists join astronomer Seth Shostak and science journalist Molly Bentley each week to provide a smart and humorous take on emerging scientific research.

  • A century ago, British archaeologist Howard Carter opened the only surviving intact tomb from ancient Egypt. Inside was the mummy of the boy king Tutankhamun, together with “wonderful things” including a solid gold mask. Treasure from King Tut’s crypt has been viewed both in person and virtually by many people since. We ask what about Egyptian civilization so captivates us, thousands of years later. Also, how new technology from modern physics allows researchers to “X-Ray” the pyramids to find hidden chambers. Guests: Emma Bentley – Postgraduate student in Archeology and Ancient Worlds at the University of Edinburgh in the U.K. Sarah Parcak – Archaeologist and Egyptologist, University of Alabama, and author of “Archaeology From Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past.” Richard Kouzes – Physicist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Salima Ikram – Professor of Egyptology at The American University in Cairo and head of the Animal Mummy Project at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. *Originally aired December 12, 2022 Featuring music by Dewey Dellay and Jun Miyake You can get early access to ad-free versions of every episode by joining us on Patreon. Thanks for your support! Big Picture Science is part of the Airwave Media podcast network. Please contact advertising@airwavemedia.com to inquire about advertising on Big Picture Science. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • Lithium Valley
    The discovery of a massive amount of lithium under the Salton Sea could make the U.S. lithium independent. The metal is key for batteries in electric vehicles and solar panels. But the area is also a delicate ecosystem. We go to southern California to hear what hangs in the balance of the ballooning lithium industry, and also how we extract other crucial substances – such as sand, copper and iron– and turn them into semiconductors, circuitry and other products upon which the modern world depends. Guests: Ed Conway – economics and data editor of Sky News and columnist for the Times in London. He’s the author of “Material World, The Six Raw Materials that Shape Modern Civilization“. Frank Ruiz – Audubon California Salton Sea Program Director. Michael McKibben – Geologist, University of California, Riverside. Featuring music by Dewey Dellay and Jun Miyake You can get early access to ad-free versions of every episode by joining us on Patreon. Thanks for your support! Big Picture Science is part of the Airwave Media podcast network. Please contact advertising@airwavemedia.com to inquire about advertising on Big Picture Science. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • Whales are aliens on Earth; intelligent beings who have skills for complex problem-solving and their own language. Now in what’s being called a breakthrough, scientists have carried on an extended conversation with a humpback whale. They share the story of this remarkable encounter, their evidence that the creature understood them, and how the experiment informs our Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. After all, what good is it to make contact with ET if we can’t communicate? Guests: Brenda McCowan – Research behaviorist at the University of California Davis in the School of Veterinary Medicine who studies the ecological aspects of animal behavior and communication. Fred Sharpe – whale biologist and behavioral ecologist at Simon Fraser University and member of the Templeton Whale SETI Team. Laurance Doyle – astrophysicist and information theory researcher at the SETI Institute. Featuring music by Dewey Dellay and Jun Miyake You can get early access to ad-free versions of every episode by joining us on Patreon. Thanks for your support! Big Picture Science is part of the Airwave Media podcast network. Please contact advertising@airwavemedia.com to inquire about advertising on Big Picture Science. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • By one estimate the average American home has 300,000 objects. Yet our ancient ancestors had no more than what they could carry with them. How did we go from being self-sufficient primates to nonstop shoppers? We examine the evolutionary history of stuff through the lens of archeology beginning with the ancestor who first picked up a palm-sized rock and made it into a tool. Guest: Chip Colwell - archeologist and former Curator of Anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, editor-in-chief of the digital magazine Sapiens, and author of “So Much Stuff: How Humans Discovered Tools, Invented Meaning, and Made More of Everything.” Featuring music by Dewey Dellay and Jun Miyake You can get early access to ad-free versions of every episode by joining us on Patreon. Thanks for your support! Big Picture Science is part of the Airwave Media podcast network. Please contact advertising@airwavemedia.com to inquire about advertising on Big Picture Science. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • You are getting sleeeepy and open to suggestion. But is that how hypnotism works? And does it really open up a portal to the unconscious mind? Hypnotism can be an effective therapeutic tool, and some scientists suggest replacing opioids with hypnosis for pain relief. And yet, the performance aspect of hypnotism often seems at odds with the idea of it being an effective treatment. In our regular look at critical thinking, Skeptic Check, we ask what part of hypnotism is real and what is an illusion. Plus, we discuss how the swinging watch became hypnotism’s irksome trademark. Guests: David Spiegel – Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine Devin Terhune – Reader in the Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths University of London *Originally aired June 27, 2022 Featuring music by Dewey Dellay and Jun Miyake You can get early access to ad-free versions of every episode by joining us on Patreon. Thanks for your support! Big Picture Science is part of the Airwave Media podcast network. Please contact advertising@airwavemedia.com to inquire about advertising on Big Picture Science. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • With planets and moons, it’s what’s inside that counts. If we want to understand surface features, like volcanoes, or their history, such as how the planet formed or whether it’s suitable for life, we study their interiors. Astronomer Sabine Stanley takes us on a journey to the centers of Venus, Saturn’s large moon Titan, Jupiter’s moon Io, and of course Earth, to help us understand how they, and the solar system, came to be. Guest: Sabine Stanley - Planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University and the author of What’s Hidden Inside Planets. Featuring music by Dewey Dellay and Jun Miyake You can get early access to ad-free versions of every episode by joining us on Patreon. Thanks for your support! Big Picture Science is part of the Airwave Media podcast network. Please contact advertising@airwavemedia.com to inquire about advertising on Big Picture Science. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • Worried that AI will replace you? It may not seem like the Hollywood writers’ strike has anything in common with the Luddite rebellion in England in 1811, but they are surprisingly similar. Today we use the term “Luddite” dismissively to describe a technophobe, but the original Luddites – cloth workers – organized and fought Industrial Revolution automation and the factory bosses who were replacing humans with cotton spinning machines and steam powered looms. Find out what our age of AI can learn from textile workers of 200 years ago about keeping humans in the loop. Guest: Brian Merchant - Los Angeles Times tech columnist and author of “Blood in the Machine: The Origins of the Rebellion Against Big Tech” Featuring music by Dewey Dellay and Jun Miyake Big Picture Science is part of the Airwave Media podcast network. Please contact advertising@airwavemedia.com to inquire about advertising on Big Picture Science. You can get early access to ad-free versions of every episode by joining us on Patreon. Thanks for your support! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • By one estimate we spend a fifth of our lives watching movies or TV. In fact, we consume entertainment almost as habitually as we eat or sleep, activities that receive scientific scrutiny and study. So why not consider the effects that watching movies and TV have on our minds and bodies too? When we do, we find that they are not mere escapism. A data scientist reveals why we are what we watch, and how scientists and filmmakers work, often with competing agendas, to create sci-fi entertainment. Guest: Walt Hickey - journalist, data scientist, and author of “You Are What You Watch: How Movies and TV Affect Everything” Featuring music by Dewey Dellay and Jun Miyake Big Picture Science is part of the Airwave Media podcast network. Please contact advertising@airwavemedia.com to inquire about advertising on Big Picture Science. You can get early access to ad-free versions of every episode by joining us on Patreon. Thanks for your support! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • We present a grab bag of our favorite recent science stories – from how to stop aging to the mechanics of cooking pasta. Also, in accord with our eclectic theme – the growing problem of space junk. Guests: Anthony Wyss-Coray – Professor of neuroscience at Stanford University Oliver O’Reilly – Professor of mechanical engineering, University of California Berkeley. Moriba Jah – Professor of aerospace and engineering mechanics, University of Texas Originally aired March 1, 2021 Featuring music by Dewey Dellay and Jun Miyake Big Picture Science is part of the Airwave Media podcast network. Please contact advertising@airwavemedia.com to inquire about advertising on Big Picture Science. You can get early access to ad-free versions of every episode by joining us on Patreon. Thanks for your support! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  • Maybe you don’t remember the days of the earliest coal-fired stoves. They changed domestic life, and that changed society. We take you back to that era, and to millennia prior when iron was first smelt, and even earlier, when axe-handles were first fashioned from wood, as we explore how three essential materials profoundly transformed society. We were once excited about coal’s promise to provide cheap energy, and how iron would lead to indestructible bridges, ships, and buildings. But they also caused some unintended problems: destruction of forests, greenhouse gases and corrosion. Did we foresee where the use of wood, coal, and iron would lead? What lessons do they offer for our future? Guests: Jonathan Waldman – Author of Rust: The Longest War. Ruth Goodman – Historian of British social customs, presenter of a number of BBC television series, including Tudor Monastery Farm, and the author of The Domestic Revolution: How the Introduction of Coal into Victorian Homes Changed Everything. Roland Ennos – Professor of biological sciences at the University of Hull and author of The Age of Wood: Our Most Useful Material and the Construction of Civilization. **Originally aired February 1, 2021 Featuring music by Dewey Dellay and Jun Miyake Big Picture Science is part of the Airwave Media podcast network. Please contact advertising@airwavemedia.com to inquire about advertising on Big Picture Science. You can get early access to ad-free versions of every episode by joining us on Patreon. Thanks for your support! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices