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Podcast Profile: NOVA Now

podcast imageTwitter: @novapbs
30 episodes
2020 to 2021
Average episode: 27 minutes
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Podcaster's summary: From the PBS science series NOVA, a biweekly podcast digging into the science behind the headlines. Alok Patel takes you behind the scenes with the people—scientists, engineers, technologists, mathematicians and more—working to understand our world. Now it's more critical than ever to distinguish fact from fiction and find science-based answers to the most pressing questions of our time. | | Subscribe, and learn more by visiting

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List Updated: 2024-Apr-14 06:46 UTC. Episodes: 30. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

2021-Dec-09 • 56 minutes
Bonus: From our friends at MASTERPIECE Studio
For 50 years, MASTERPIECE has been the home of the best British drama on American TV. Find out how it all started.
2021-Dec-02 • 33 minutes
The Big Bang: started from inflation, now we’re here
For tens of thousands of years, humans have pondered eternal questions like “How does our world even exist?” and “Where did we come from?” Now, more than ever, scientists are finding answers within the Big Bang theory. About 13.8 billion years ago, in a fraction of a fraction of a second, the universe expanded into being. The event, astronomers believe, was less of an explosion than a transformation of energy into matter: As this so-called inflation slowed, it gave way to matter, radiation, and all we know ...
2021-Nov-25 • 31 minutes
Black holes: to the event horizon and beyond
Black holes: they’re dense, elusive, light-absorbing pockets of spacetime that are critical to our understanding of the universe. But black holes are difficult to peer into, so there’s a lot scientists still don’t know. This leaves some room for science fiction to take over. Tall tales of galactic adventure may pair well with popcorn, but they also blur the lines between fact and fiction. To explore what humanity knows—and what we think we know—about black holes, Dr. Alok Patel and a theoretical cosmologist...
2021-Nov-18 • 31 minutes
The hitchhiker’s guide to exoplanets and alien life
If television shows and movies are any indication, we humans spend a lot of our time subconsciously preparing for UFOs carrying maleficent aliens to descend on Earth. But should we rush to create an intergalactic battle plan? In actuality, finding otherworldly life won’t be so easy (or, hopefully, so dangerous). Already, astronomers and other scientists are using a multitude of techniques to search for planets outside our solar system and any signs of life they carry. With 4,500 exoplanets identified out of...
2021-Nov-11 • 26 minutes
How to make a Milky Way: the ultimate galactic recipe
When our ancestors looked up into the night sky, they too saw a great, glimmering band of light splitting the darkness. In Southeast Asia, people called it “the Silver River.” In Southern Africa, “the Backbone of the Night.” And in the West, around 2,500 years ago, it earned the name “the Milky Way.” Across the globe, civilizations had theories of what the band of light was and why it was there. But only recently have humans had the tools to get the full picture. Today we know the Milky Way is our galaxy: t...
2021-Nov-04 • 27 minutes
Fusion: Can we recreate the renewable power of stars down on Earth?
The process that powers our sun was still a mystery about 100 years ago. Bit by bit, scientists have worked out that the fusion of hydrogen at a star’s core can generate enough power to keep it shining for billions of years. Now, armed with this knowledge, researchers around the world are trying to figure out if we can recreate that fusion process here on Earth. (And yes, trying to kickstart fusion—and then contain superheated plasmas that reach temperatures up to 100 million degrees Celsius—is just as hard...
2021-Oct-29 • 3 minutes
This is NOVA Now Universe Revealed
This is NOVA Now Universe Revealed, hosted by Alok Patel, a physician, science communicator, and somewhat of a space nerd. In this special 5-part podcast series, blast off with us to explore alien worlds, galaxies, stars, black holes, and the start of the universe itself, the Big Bang. NOVA Now Universe Revealed drops on Thursday, November 4th. This podcast has been made possible by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Produced by GBH and PRX.
2021-Oct-28 • 30 minutes
Would you eat insects to help the planet?
You may think of insects as creepy-crawly pests. But for at least 2 billion people on the planet, they’re a source of nourishment. Entomophagy, the practice of eating insects, has been around for thousands of years. But it isn’t a global practice today; cuisine in Europe and the U.S. tends to exclude insects. Could that change? The culinary case for insects is a compelling one—but it’s not the only one. A 2013 UN food and agriculture report proposed insect consumption as a possible solution to global food i...
2021-Oct-14 • 32 minutes
Cryptocurrency: the future of money in a digital world?
The internet revolutionized how we communicate and exchange information. Now, it’s causing the ways in which we invest and spend money to change, laying the foundation for cryptocurrency. How this digital currency functions—much like the inner workings of the internet itself—is invisible to most. But the ongoing explosion of interest and investment in cryptocurrency is undeniable. In September, El Salvador became the first country to accept Bitcoin as legal tender. Meanwhile, China announced a ban on all cr...
2021-Sep-30 • 32 minutes
Cannabis: Discovering its effects on the body and brain
The cannabis industry has flowered into a billion-dollar industry in the last decade. Now, cannabis is easier than ever to legally access for medical or recreational use in the majority of U.S. states. But does legalization mean that cannabis is actually safe to use? After all, cannabis is still federally classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, defined by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a substance with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” (Though the Senate’s ...
2021-Sep-16 • 20 minutes
The case of hurricanes and climate change
The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is half-way through and, like 2020, is expected to be another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season as estimated by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. As of September 14, 2021, there have been over a dozen named storms, including three major hurricanes, Grace, Ida, and Larry, that reached Category 3 status or higher. Climate computer models predict that rising ocean temperatures—warm water being fuel for hurricanes—impact storm activity; but does this mean that as our plan...
2021-Sep-02 • 35 minutes
Back to school during a pandemic: experts weigh in
With students returning to school during the ongoing pandemic, how can we keep them learning, thriving, and ultimately safe?
2021-Aug-19 • 22 minutes
Electric vehicles: infrastructural needs and environmental effects
Gasoline-powered passenger cars account for about 17% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Earlier this month, President Biden signed an executive order setting a goal that by 2030, half of all cars sold in the U.S. would be hybrid or electric. And major automakers have joined in support to make this a reality. But will a widespread switch to battery-powered cars ensure a cleaner future? And what does it take to make the shift from gas to electric? Dr. Alok Patel speaks with a leader in automobile battery de...
2021-Aug-05 • 28 minutes
Covid Vaccines & Variants: What will it take to get out of this pandemic?
With the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus, including Delta, COVID-19​​ continues to spread rapidly across much of the world. In most U.S. states, a surge in cases is reigniting conversations about the country’s response to the pandemic. Dr. Alok Patel speaks with a leading epidemiologist and a specialist in infectious diseases to gain perspective on pressing concerns, from vaccine effectiveness and boosters to vaccine hesitancy, misinformation, and inequity at a national and global scale.
2021-Jul-22 • 28 minutes
The science of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena
Ever spotted a strange object in the sky? According to a recent report released by the U.S. government, nearly 150 aerial objects observed between 2004 and 2021 remain unidentified—with the exception of one large deflated balloon. The sightings of these objects, once called UFOs and now referred to as Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), can have a number of reasonable explanations. Cloud formations, Venus shining brightly in the night sky, or the occasional recon aircraft or government-led missile test can...
2021-Jul-08 • 28 minutes
Using technology to cope with drought
As temperatures continue to rise this summer, the U.S. is experiencing increasingly worse drought conditions with more than 93% of land in seven Western states affected. Though this decades-long dry spell is concentrated in the Western part of the country, droughts have widespread consequences, affecting everything from our national food supply to water quality. With the help of hydrologists and innovators on the ground and in the lab, Dr. Alok Patel learns about the traditional ecological knowledge of th...
2021-Jun-24 • 30 minutes
The science of exercise—and getting back in the game
Hey folks, it’s been a minute. But now we’re back and breaking down the science behind the headlines. This week, we’re stretching it out and exploring the science of exercise and—after more than a year of unexpected interruption—getting back in the game. Dr. Alok Patel checks in with an expert in exercise physiology and an Olympic athlete, biomechanist, and chiropractor. Together, they talk about training under lockdown, what happens to the body and mind when taking time away from intense training, and how ...
2021-Jun-17 • 2 minutes
NOVA Now Returns!
The science behind the news
2021-Jan-21 • 27 minutes
Bonus! From our friends at AirSpace: Mask, Gloves, Soap, Scrubs
AirSpace from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is a podcast that helps you discover news, entertainment, and inspiration in the sky. In other words, we tell aspirational stories about defying gravity. Whether you’re an avid aviation geek, space cadet, or just somebody who loves great stories about smart topics, join hosts Emily, Matt, and Nick and spend a little time with your head in the clouds.
2020-Dec-31 • 26 minutes
The science of positive motivation for the New Year
2020 is finally over. After the coronavirus pandemic and everything else the year's thrown our way, it's time to dust ourselves off and get ready for 2021. To do that, we need positive motivation (neurologically, that’s how our brains prepare to get things done). First, we hear from a neuroscientist on the science of becoming and staying motivated. Then, we have a special auditory treat. All season, host Alok Patel has asked NOVA Now guests which songs motivate them to do their work, whether that’s running ...
2020-Dec-17 • 27 minutes
How the future of satellites might affect life on Earth
In 2020, the world celebrated two decades of continuous human presence aboard the International Space Station (ISS). As an orbiting laboratory that has provided astronauts with a view of Earth from outer space, the ISS may not seem very similar to other space innovations like CubeSats and NASA/USGS’s Landsat. But all of these devices are satellites: objects orbiting objects larger than themselves. Satellites can be natural (like the moon and planets, including Earth) or human-made (like the ISS). Joined by ...
2020-Dec-03 • 27 minutes
Covid vaccines are coming: What’s inside, and how and when you’ll get one
Pending FDA approval, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines could reach the first wave of Americans in a matter of weeks. Manufacturers of leading vaccine candidates are releasing promising results from clinical trials, revealing that some experimental vaccines, including those from Pfizer and Moderna, are more than 90% effective against the coronavirus. But vaccine development alone will not end the pandemic; getting the distribution right is key. Host Alok Patel speaks with two immunization experts about t...
2020-Nov-19 • 31 minutes
The future of food
Chew on this: Thanksgiving is around the corner and November is Native American Heritage Month. In honor of celebrating nature’s bounty, Host Alok Patel considers the past, present, and future of food. He digs into the world of food science with the resident science guy at America’s Test Kitchen, speaks with an Indigenous community cook, educator, and community organizer about food sovereignty and equitable food systems, and checks in with a scientist who is genetically engineering plants to photosynthesize...
2020-Nov-02 • 21 minutes
The statistical science behind polling
With so much uncertainty on the eve of the U.S. presidential election, one place we look for clarity is in the numbers. Pollsters learned valuable lessons from the 2016 election results that they’ve applied in the current election cycle to try to yield more accurate predictions. Host Alok Patel interviews a pollster and a statistician, delving into a brief history of political polling in the U.S, what went wrong in 2016, and how statistical concepts like data weighting and margin of error make all the diffe...
2020-Oct-22 • 31 minutes
The science of fear
In a year that’s felt like a never-ending horror movie, some might actually find relief in watching thrillers on-screen this Halloween. But why is it that some people love all things spooky on screen while others can only watch through parted fingers? What makes horror films so scary yet so alluring? And does our fascination with horror media actually help us cope with the horrors of real life? Host Alok Patel zeros in on the science of fear, enlisting the expert guidance of a horror researcher, a neurosci...
2020-Oct-08 • 29 minutes
Science in the courtroom
With confirmation hearings set to begin for Judge Amy Coney Barrett to join the Supreme Court, we ask the question that senators probably won’t: Do judges also need to be scientists? Science may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the U.S. court system, but everything from criminal cases’ forensic evidence to intellectual property disputes involve it. Host Alok Patel goes straight to the source for answers, speaking with a sitting federal judge and a lawyer who has worked on many Supr...
2020-Sep-24 • 31 minutes
Rising health risks from West Coast wildfires
It's wildfire season—and something about this year is especially sinister. West Coasters experienced days of hazy orange skies in early September as a result of the burning wildfires. As COVID-19 still looms, threatening our respiratory systems, now too does the smoke in the air. What is this smoke made of, and how does breathing it in affect our lungs and bodies? To find out, Host Alok Patel speaks with an atmospheric scientist, a pulmonologist, and a pair of veteran engineers who are experts in effective ...
2020-Sep-10 • 28 minutes
Many agree that we need a fast, accurate, and easy COVID-19 test—yet none of the commonly used diagnostic technologies have been able to meet that need. Enter CRISPR, a gene-editing tool that can also be used to identify viruses. Host Alok Patel follows the story of the two scientists who first discovered this potential for battling the coronavirus, and the biotech company that hopes to use it to revolutionize modern diagnostics.
2020-Aug-27 • 28 minutes
The hidden science of mail-in voting
With a presidential election rapidly approaching and no indication that the COVID-19 pandemic is going anywhere, a record number of people will likely vote by mail. But what happens when we send that ballot off in the mail? And how do we make sure it gets counted? With the help of a former FBI agent-turned-forensic document examiner and a ballot tracking software insider, host Alok Patel follows the journey of a mail-in ballot from your kitchen counter to the election office.
2020-Aug-13 • 2 minutes
Welcome to NOVA Now
The science behind the news.