Past Shows

June 11, 2007
Religion and Science: Deity Meets Data

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DietyData
In the - often contentious - debate between religion and science these days, we step back from the boxing ring long enough to see how Stephen J. Gould's two magisteria might inform each other.

A physicist makes the scientific case for no God - a NASA scientist says gazing at Saturn's rings is a religious experience - Adam meets Dino in Kentucky's new Creation Museum - and anthropologist Lewis Wolpert explains why the emergence of religion is inevitable.

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May 28, 2007
Sigh. It's Science

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Sigh. Science
Is the public interested in science? The signs aren't encouraging. The Hubble Telescope teeters on the edge of breakdown, and the public's response is lukewarm. Science coverage in the media continues to shrink like cheap cotton... and science superstars on TV or in the movies are as rare as lanthanum.

As we consider why today's folk give science the big yawn, we'll talk to people whose job it is to bring lab findings to the public. Also, a new study traces to childhood our psychological aversion to science. Plus, Seth re-lives his childhood at the San Francisco Exploratorium.

BONUS: sing along with Seth! Click here for the lyrics to "The Maunderer".

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May 14, 2007
First Contact!

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From human settlers to alien visitors - when one society meets another, the results can be messy.

The Jamestown settlement may have kicked off the colonization of the New World. But, you'll hear how it also left an indelible mark on its ecosystem and the human landscape. Plus, why the Galapagos Islands haven't been the same since their most celebrated visitor set foot on their rocky shores more than a century ago.

Also: how a spider led the re-population of Krakatau after a devastating volcanic eruption... the "raining" threat of alien microbes... and one man's emergency plan for when Mars attacks.

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May 7, 2007
Our Celestial Bodies, Ourselves

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Celestial Bodies
It’s a planet Goldilocks would relish.  Scientists are calling Gliese 581C “just right” for supporting life.  The newly-discovered planet is not too hot, not too cold…which means it could harbor liquid water.  Have astronomers found Earth’s twin?  We’ll hear how scientists draw on their understanding of our own Earthly body to shed light on planets beyond our solar system.  They’ve even deduced the color of extra-terrestrial trees (it’s enough to make you see red!).

Also, the contributions of amateur astronomers and the unexpected tragedy that gave rise to modern astronomy.

Guests

 

April 30 , 2007
A Special Skeptical Sunday: Road Trip to Roswell Part II

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In 1947, aliens intent on visiting our planet are said to have crashed into the New Mexico desert near Roswell. According to several witnesses, the U.S. military not only recovered the saucer debris (together with some dead, extraterrestrial passengers), but secreted away the evidence. There are also claims that the crumpled alien technology was reverse-engineered, providing us with hi-tech products we otherwise wouldn’t have.

Could it be true? Most scientists have a one-word reaction to Roswell: “Phooey!” They point to a perfectly reasonable and historically supported non-extraterrestrial explanation for the debris recovered in New Mexico.

In this special Skeptical Sunday report, Seth and Molly travel to Roswell to check out the fabled city which, even after sixty years, is still best known for this putative interstellar fender-bender.

The UFO Museum

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April 12, 2007
A Special Skeptical Sunday:
Road Trip to Roswell Part I

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Seth & Molly on the roadIn 1947, aliens intent on visiting our planet are said to have crashed into the New Mexico desert near Roswell. According to several witnesses, the U.S. military not only recovered the saucer debris (together with some dead, extraterrestrial passengers), but secreted away the evidence. There are also claims that the crumpled alien technology was reverse-engineered, providing us with hi-tech products we otherwise wouldn’t have.

Could it be true? Most scientists have a one-word reaction to Roswell: “Phooey!” They point to a perfectly reasonable and historically supported non-extraterrestrial explanation for the debris recovered in New Mexico.

In this special Skeptical Sunday report, Seth and Molly travel to Roswell to check out the fabled city which, even after sixty years, is still best known for this putative interstellar fender-bender.
Also, the alien invasion that’s underway: how exotic plant and animal species are threatening ecosystems nationwide.

Guests
  • Thomas Stohlgren - Ecologist, National Institute of Invasive Species Science, U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Stan Friedman - Nuclear physicist
  • Dennis Verstynen - Staff member at the National Atomic Musuem in Albuquerque and a retired U.S. history teacher
  • John Taschner - Retired from the U.S. Air Force and a former health physicist from Los Alamos National Laboratory


    March 29, 2007
    Array of Hope

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    Allen Telescope ArrayAlthough SETI experiments have not yet picked up a signal from another world, there’s plenty of optimism among the scientists looking for ET’s pings. That’s because new telescopes, both radio and optical, will soon greatly speed up our cosmic reconnaissance. As example, the Allen Telescope Array, scheduled to begin observing this summer, will eventually accelerate the search by hundreds of times.

    Join us as we talk to SETI glitterati Frank Drake and Jill Tarter about their life-long efforts to find extraterrestrials. We’ll also chat about the new Harvard optical SETI telescope, how we might converse with aliens, and join in a debate about, well, whether SETI is worth the effort.

    Guests


    March 22, 2007
    Early Life

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    Early LifeThe origin of life on Earth is a mystery - there are no fossils of the earliest life forms. But, fast-forward a few hundred million years, and - voila! - we see traces of life, from microbes to - zip ahead another billion years - creatures with six legs, a tail, and a thorax. But how did these early life forms develop?

    Join us for a journey to Mexico where pools of microbes could tell us about life’s earliest moments. Also, the turning point in the history of animals on Earth: the Cambrian explosion. Finally, he may not be a mad scientist, but we’ll meet a chemist who is trying to reproduce early life in the lab.

    Early Life in Mexico 1Early Life in Mexico 2
    Looking for early life in Mexico - Click for larger images

    Guests:

    • Valeria Souza - microbial evolutionary ecologist at the Institute of Ecology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico
    • Janet Siefert - theoretical biologist (what is that?) at Rice University
    • David Hollander - bio-geochemist at the University of South Florida
    • Mya Breitbart - marine microbiologist at the University of South Florida
    • James Elser - biologist at Arizona State University
    • Michael Travisano - microbial ecologist at the University of Minnesota
    • Max Bernstein - chemist at NASA Ames Research Center
    • Bruce Lieberman - geologist at the University of Kansas
    • Bertha Shostak
    • Charles Bentley - glaciologist at the University of Wisconsin - Madison

    March 15, 2007
    That Thinking Feeling

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    You think, therefore… what?   We can’t be sure of much when it comes to consciousness.  Not only do scientists not agree on what consciousness is – they don’t agree on whether they ever will be able to agree!  What if you’re not you, but a self-aware supercomputer?  Could you tell the difference?  Is consciousness an emergent phase transition?  What does that even mean?  Grab the aspirin and help us explore these questions, together with a little help from A.I. expert Marvin Minsky.  

    Also, put down that can of Raid!  He may be small and repulsive, but that cockroach in your pantry just might be contemplating its own existence.  (Okay, now blast ‘m).

    Guests:


    February 28, 2007
    DNA: The Nucleotide Is Turning

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    A, C, G and T – you can thank these four nucleotides for your auburn hair, lack of hand-eye coordination, and sparkling wit.   The procession of these base pairs accounts for all human diversity, and as we crack its code, we’re changing our understanding of what it means to be human. 

    From tracing the evolution of Homo sapiens to the modern – and contested - debate over creating a national DNA database, find out how a tiny double helix is turning the nucleotide of science.   Also, radiated microbial DNA that stitches itself back together… Seth and Molly extract DNA from a banana…. and swing your partner in the DNA hoe down!

    Guests:

    • Nicholas Wade – Science writer, New York Times
    • Erin Murphy – Assistant professor of law, University of California - Berkeley
    • Frederick Bieber – Medical geneticist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and associate professor at Harvard Medical School
    • Karla Heidelberg – Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, University of Southern California

    February 14, 2007
    Skeptical Sunday: When the Stakes Are High
    Vampires, Freaks, and Superstition  

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    Resume in hand, new suit pressed and buttoned – you’re all set for that job interview.   But before sitting down, you rub your lucky quarter – just to be sure.    People often fall back on superstitious habit when the pressure’s on.   But can we really nudge fate by wearing our favorite shirts and avoiding ebony cats? 

    Speaking of high stakes – how to ward off vampires and why Vlad the Impaler was not the inspiration for the original Type O gourmet.   Also: how carnival freaks stay in show business…Brains on Vacation… and a reality check from Hollywood. 

    It’s Skeptical Sunday… but don’t take our word for it!

    Guests:

    February 7, 2007
    Extreme Physics

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    Modern physics isn’t for the faint of heart.  From explorations of the mysterious dark matter that holds the galaxies together, the bizarre dark energy pulling the universe apart, and the attempts by scientists to recreate the Big Bang in a laboratory, contemporary physics is nothing if not extreme. We’ll investigate the latest on all these fronts, and find out what we’re learning about a universe that’s stranger than we could have imagined.  Also, cosmologist Paul Davies on what physics may reveal about the meaning of life.  And, the SETI Institute Players go to extremes!

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    January 31, 2007
    Technology: Hero or Horror?

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    Are science and technology leading us to Elysian Fields of prosperity, happiness, and unblemished health?  Or have two centuries of industrialization and materialism accomplished just the opposite - ripping us from the nurturing bosom of our pastoral past?  Is our future bright, or will environmental degradation, genetic engineering, or nanotechnology cause mass disruption and destruction?

    Join us for a lively discussion with experts who will consider whether the world is heading to Nirvana, or to a place that's overheated and sulphurous.

    Guests:


    January 24, 2007
    Doomsday: the Early Hours
    This is part one of a two-part series.

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    The iconic Doomsday clock has been moved two minutes closer to midnight, symbolizing the growing international threat of nuclear disaster.  Find out what led the directors at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to inch the hand closer to this ominous hour, and why – for the first time - they’ve included climate change in their forecast of imminent threats to humanity.

    From asteroids to wandering black holes to gamma-ray bursts – the cosmic catastrophes that lurk outside our world.  Plus, your chance to design a mission to stop a killer asteroid… some of the nuttier end-of-world prophesies… and, how Hollywood blockbusters get contemporary doomsday scenarios wrong.

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    January 17, 2007
    Engineers Gone Wild

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    Without doubt, the five thousand-year old Egyptian pyramids are major feats of engineering.   But pointy piles of rock are one thing; quite another is the engineering effort required to combat global warming.  As Earth’s atmosphere continues to be filled with greenhouse emissions, some see geoengineering as the only path to a cooler planet.  But are lofting sulphur into the air or launching a giant sunshade into orbit wise moves, or even ethical ones? 

    Also, from cloning to space elevators – why today’s science fiction may be tomorrow’s science fact.  And, would you like to give your love life a boost?  And if so, are you willing to be launched 62 miles straight up for it?  Discover the challenges – technical and otherwise – of sex in space.

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    January 10, 2007
    From Microbes to Mensa: What Life is Out There?

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    As scientists discover ever more extrasolar planets whizzing around stars and high-tech orbiters beam back evidence of water on alien moons, the idea that the universe is a life-friendly place is more promising than ever.   But are those other-Earthly creatures a colony of scuttling microbes or a society of brainy technophiles - or both? 

    On the tiny front, we report on the recent discovery of life’s chemical building blocks on Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Comet Wild 2.  And scaling up: Seth debates Rare Earth author Peter Ward before a live audience about whether intelligent beings could exist elsewhere in the universe.

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