This week's show

DNA: Nature's Hard Drive
Sep 17, 2018

DNA: Nature's Hard Drive
What surprises are in storage?

(Repeat) The biotech tool CRISPR lets us do more than shuffle genes.  Researchers have embedded an animated GIF into a living organism’s DNA, proving that the molecule is a great repository for information.  This has encouraged speculation that DNA could be used by aliens to send messages. 

Meanwhile, nature has seized on this powerful storage system in surprising ways.  Scientists have learned that the 98% of our genome – once dismissed as “junk” – contains valuable genetic treasure. Find out what project ENCODE is learning about the “dark genome.”

Plus, how viruses became the original stealth coders, inserting their DNA into ancient bacteria and eventually leading to the development of CRISPR technology.  Discover the potential of this powerful tool, from curing disease to making pig organs transplant-friendly, and the possible dark side of quick-and-easy gene editing.  


  • Paul Davies - Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University

  • Yin Shen - Assistant professor, Department of Neurology, Institute for Human Genetics, University of California , San Francisco, member of ENCODE team 

  • Sam Sternberg - Assistant professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University, and co-author of “A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution”  

  • Hank Greely - Director, Center for Law and the Biosciences; Chair of the Steering Committee of the Center for Biomedical Ethics; and Director, Stanford Program in Neuroscience and Society

Descripción en español

Originally aired November 6, 2017

Angles of a Hack
Sep 10, 2018
Angles of a Hack
Meet the modern hackers.

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(repeat) Changed your computer password recently?  We all try to stay one step ahead of the hackers, but the fear factor is increasing.  The risks can range from stolen social security numbers to sabotaging a national power grid. 

Plan of a Hack
Sep 03, 2018
Plan of a Hack
Meet the original hackers.

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(Repeat)  Long before cyber criminals were stealing ATM passwords, phone phreaks were tapping into the telephone system. Their motivation was not monetary, but the thrill of defeating a complex, invisible network. Today “hacking” can apply to cyberwarfare, biological tinkering, or even geoengineering.

Aug 27, 2018
New Water Worlds
Will we rise to the challenge of a rising sea level?

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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 water threatens to drown our cities, can we learn do it again.

Too Big to Prove
Aug 20, 2018
Too Big To Prove
Gravitational waves, string theory, and modern physics

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(Repeat) Celebrations are in order for the physicists who won the 2017 Nobel Prize, for the detection of gravitational waves.