NOVA Now From the PBS science series NOVA, a biweekly podcast digging into the science behind the headlines. Dr. 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.
NOVA Now

NOVA Now

From WGBH Radio

From the PBS science series NOVA, a biweekly podcast digging into the science behind the headlines. Dr. 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.

Most Recent Episodes

Bonus: From our friends at MASTERPIECE Studio

We wanted to share this first episode of a thrilling three-part documentary miniseries from our friends at MASTERPIECE: Making MASTERPIECE, which tells the whole story of how a scrappy group of public media producers in Boston created THE home for British drama on American TV. You can hear episodes of Making MASTERPIECE — including interviews with Hugh Bonneville, Lily Collins, Charles Dance, and many more — at pbs.org/masterpiece or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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 today. But more questions loom. To learn how scientists came up with the Big Bang theory, Dr. Alok Patel hears from a physicist and a cosmologist about the forces that shaped our early universe and the tools researchers use to peer back in time. And, he learns what scientists' understanding of the universe's origins can tell us about its ultimate end.

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 journey to Earth's closest black hole: the Milky Way's own Sagittarius A*, approximately 26,000 light-years away. (Don't worry; no scientists or science nerds were harmed in the making of this podcast.)

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 what could be hundreds of billions in our galaxy alone, one thing is becoming clear: If we find extraterrestrial life, it likely won't be anything like Hollywood has imagined. Hearing from two exoplanet experts about the diversity of planets and life in the Milky Way, Dr. Alok Patel learns that Earth is incredibly unique—and surprisingly mundane.

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: two spiral arms filled with more than 100 billion stars, all rotating around a supermassive black hole. And here on our little blue planet, we're in the middle of it all. Dr. Alok Patel speaks with two galaxy experts to find out how scientists have built the first high-resolution, three-dimensional map of the Milky Way—and what that map reveals about the formation and future of our galactic home.

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 as it sounds.) If scientists can pull it off, the payoff could be huge: A deep understanding of stellar physics could one day lead to a virtually unlimited supply of clean energy. To discover just how, Dr. Alok Patel hears from an astrophysicist and a fusion scientist.

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.

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 insecurity and a mitigator of climate change. Lately, efforts by scientists and entrepreneurs have pushed this agenda forward. To learn more about edible insects and what it might take for insects to take a more prominent place on people's plates, Dr. Alok Patel speaks with two entomologists and tours a Bay-Area based company specializing in protein-packed insect-based treats.

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 crypto trading and mining. So what exactly is cryptocurrency, and how risky is it to invest in it? Is the future of money heading in a digital direction? With help from innovators paving the way for the future of money in a digital world, Dr. Alok Patel learns what the hype is all about.

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 Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act proposes to end cannabis's federal prohibition.) But even under current restrictions, some researchers have interrogated assumptions about the addictive potential of cannabinoids, the chemical compounds of the cannabis plant, and investigated their therapeutic properties. With the help of leading cannabis researchers, host Dr. Alok Patel explores current studies to find out what science can tell us about the therapeutic potential, risks, and long-term effects of cannabis on your body and brain.