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Encore Presentation
January 3, 2007
To Boldly Go: Star Trek's Legacy

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January 11, 2007


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

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.

Chris McKay, Research Scientist at NASA Ames Research Center
Scott Sanford, Research Astrophyicist at NASA Ames Research Center and a co-investigator on the Stardust Mission
Rocco Mancinelli, Microbe expert, SETI Institute/NAI
Peter Ward, Paleontologist, University of Washington and co-author of Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe

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Encore Presentation
December 27, 2006
The End of Science: A New Beginning

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December 20, 2006
Skeptical Sunday: Exploring the Unexplained

What is that strange light zipping across the sky at a speed that, well, no aircraft could match?  Today, despite major achievements in our scientific understanding of the cosmos, there are still plenty of mysteries that perplex the public.  Did aliens really make a navigation error over Roswell, New Mexico and plow into the desert?  Are other extraterrestrials routinely abducting folks for unsavory experiments?  Some people believe that aliens are not only cruising the skies, but nefarious federal operatives have the dead ones stacked up at top-secret Area 51.

Join us as we explore these and other strange stories with Time Magazine writer and researcher Matthew Fenton, along with our expert on all things suspect, Phil Plait.  It’s a Skeptical Sunday, but don’t take our word for it.

Matthew Fenton
- Researcher and writer for the new book Exploring the Unexplained
Phil Plait - Astronomer and author of the book and website

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December 13, 2006
That Last 2%

Okay, so we’re not as hirsute and we don’t routinely brachiate through trees, but in what other ways are we different from chimpanzees?   With a map of the chimp genome in hand, scientists are closer to answering that question.  Join us for a trip to the primate house as we explore in what way the last 2% of DNA separates us from our swinging cousins.

Primatologist Frans de Waal reminds us that we’re just as closely related to bonobos, the left-bank primates.  And, lest you forget your marine heritage, discover which genes you share with… sea urchins.

Click here larger versions of 
Tallulah & Maggie  Molly, Maggie, Seth, & Rachel  
Molly, Rachel, & Seth  Tallulah & Maggie

Frans de Waal – professor of primate behavior at Emory University, and author of Our Inner Ape
Eric Davidson – molecular biologist, California Institute of Technology
George Weinstock – co-director of the Human Genome Sequencing Center in Houston
Erica Sodergren – sea urchin project leader at the Human Genome Sequencing Center in Houston
Brian Hare – primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Katherine Pollard – professor of statistics at the University of California, Davis
Rachel SimpsonSan Francisco Zoo Animal
Care Keeper

For more information, visit:
The United Nations Environment Programme/ Great Apes Survival Project 
Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Central

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Encore Presentation
December 6, 2006
Neanderthals Return

They were among the first Europeans, but long before they could tour the Louvre, the evolutionary highway reached a dead end.    Neanderthals have been extinct for 30,000 years, but their DNA is still with us.  Find out how an ambitious project to sequence it may yield new clues about our hirsute ice-age cousins.   Also, ready to visit Neanderthal Park?  A bio-ethicist weighs in on the moral implications of bringing the species back. Plus, the case for singing cavemen, and could modern humans have Homo neanderthalensis blood?  The case for Pleistoncene commingling.

Svante Paabo, geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany
Ronald M. Green, Director of the Ethics Institute at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire
Steven Mithen, professor of archaeology at the University of Reading and author of  The Singing Neanderthals: the Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body
Daniel Levitin, professor of psychology and neurology at  McGill University and the author of  This is Your Brain on Music; the Science of a Human Obsession
Trent Holliday, anthropologist at Tulane University

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 November 29, 2006
Skeptical Sunday: 9/11 Conspiracy

America loves conspiracies. Many people think that JFK was the victim of a large-scale assassination plot. Others believe the U.S. military has hidden alien artifacts at some remote, desert locale. Now, recent polling results indicate that a substantial fraction of the public suspect that the calamity that befell the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 was at least partly due to a cabal of government and industry interests. An inside job, in other words.

We hear the arguments from the author of a web site claiming government involvement in 9/11, and from several experts about how plausible this conspiratorial view might be, and why unconventional theories are so quickly embraced. Also, Phil Plait gives the low-down on one of the most looney of conspiracy theories: the claim that astronauts never set foot on the moon.

It’s Skeptical Sunday, but don’t take our word for it.

Michael Berger, spokesperson for the organization
James Bennett, author of web blog “screw loose change
Najib Abboud, Associate Principal at Weidlinger Associates, New York
Nicholas Lemann, Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, New York
Mark Fenster, Associate Professor of Law a the University of Florida, and author of Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture
Phil Plait, astronomer and author of the book and website

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November 22, 2006
It's Elemental

We hold some basic truths about the universe to be – well, if not self-evident – than reassuringly consistent.  Without them, the cosmos might be rhomboid-shaped, our bodies would suddenly fly apart, and we’d have to peel lead balloons off the ceiling.  The laws of physics are not capricious, but seem to yearn for an inner beauty that scientists describe as symmetry.  Nobel laureate Leon Lederman talks about why the universe is mostly symmetric, but not entirely, and an evolutionary psychologist explains that Fermi’s Paradox arises because the aliens are too busy playing Tomb Raider to get in touch.  Also, making the basics transparent: can we make an invisibility cloak?

Leon Lederman, Physicst, Director Emeritus of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
Geoffrey Miller, Evolutionary Psychologist at the University of New Mexico
David R. Smith, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Duke University

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Encore Presentation
November 15, 2006
Rubble Trouble

How safe is our future?  With millions of rocks careening around the solar system, what are the chances of a major impact wiping out a city, a country, or all life on Earth?

We’ll talk to NASA scientists about how they’re hunting for asteroids that might slam into our world, and what they’ve found so far.  Are there any signs of immediate danger?  Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart tells us what sort of defense might deflect a rock that’s “incoming.”  Finally, journalist William Burrows describes why he thinks NASA could be doing a lot more to safeguard Earth.

Also, an update on the latest decision regarding the planetary status of Pluto and its diminutive brethren.

David Morrison, astrobiologist at NASA’s Astrobiology Institute
William E. Burrows, Professor of Journalism at New York University, and author of The Survival Imperative: Using Space to Protect Earth
Ray Bamberry
, astronomer and participant in JPL’s Near Earth Asteroid Tracking project (NEAT).
Dale Cruikshank, Planetary Scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center
Rusty Schweickart, Apollo 9 astronaut, and Chairman of the B612 Foundation

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Encore Presentation

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November 8, 2006
Skeptical Sunday: Sleight of Hand

If an 800 lb. gorilla lumbers onto to a basketball court and nobody sees it, is it really there?  Yes, says psychologist and magician Richard Wiseman, but he knows why you failed to spot it.  Find out how we train ourselves to miss the obvious.  Also, our Hollywood skeptic falls for the illusion of easy money in Vegas, we keep our eye on I.D., Phil Plait takes brains on vacation and, the results are in on DNA tests of Bigfoot’s fur.  It’s Skeptical Sunday… but don’t take our word for it.

Richard Wiseman - psychologist at the University at Hertfordshire, magician and author of The Luck Factor  
David Coltman - Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Alberta 
Phil Plait - astronomer and author of the website 
Jim Underdown - Center for Inquiry – West and member of CSICOP
Gordy Slack -San Francisco Bay Area science reporter, including writing for

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Hosted by

Dr. Seth Shostak
SETI Institute
Senior Astronomer

Read his recent articles

Seth's latest book is
Cosmic Company

Executive Producer

Molly Bentley


Clara Moskowitz

Skeptical Sunday programs are made possible by a generous grant from the Trimberger Family Foundation.

Original music by
Bruce Lebovitz

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