Discovering bacteria on Mars would be big news. But nothing would scratch our alien itch like making contact with intelligent life. Hear why one man is impatient for the discovery, and also about the new tools that may speed up the “eureka” moment. One novel telescope may help us find E.T. at home, by detecting the heat of his cities.
Also, the father of modern SETI research and how decoding the squeals of dolphins could teach us how to communicate with aliens.Guests:
- Lee Billings – Journalist and author of Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars
- Olivier Guyon – Optical physicist, astronomer, University of Arizona and Suburu telescope; 2012 McArthur Genius award winner
- Jeff Kuhn – Physicist, Institute for Astronomy in Honolulu, Colossus Telescope
- Frank Drake – Astronomer, SETI Institute
- Denise Herzing – Behavioral biologist and research director of the Wild Dolphin Project
A piece of Mars: These sharp-tipped hills are dunes near the north pole of Mars. At the height of summer they’re lovely dark dunes, but because it’s just barely spring here they’re still covered in white frost (mostly CO2 ice, but a little water ice). Like penguins who huddle in the dark of the polar night, these dunes are waiting for the sun to return so they can wake up and start moving with the wind. (ESP_032895_2615, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)
Let there be light! Well, it’s easy to do: just flip a switch. But it took more than the invention of the light bulb to make that possible. It required new technology for the distribution of electricity. And that came, not so much from Thomas Edison, but from a Serbian genius named Nikola Tesla.
Hear his story plus ideas on what might be the breakthrough energy innovations of the future. Perhaps hydrogen-fueled cars, nuclear fusion electrical generators or even orbiting solar cells?
Plus, a reminder of cutting-edge technology back in Napoleon’s day: lighthouses.Guests:
- W. Bernard Carlson – Professor of science, technology and society, University of Virginia, and author of Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age
- Michael Dunne – Physicist, program director for laser fusion energy, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
- R. Tom Baker – Chemist, director of the Center for Catalysis Research and Innovation, University of Ottawa
- Paul Young – Radio engineer, director of Powersat Ltd.
- Theresa Levitt – Historian, University of Mississippi, and author of A Short Bright Flash: Augustin Fresnel and the Birth of the Modern Lighthouse
You can’t see it, but it’s there, whether an atom, a gravity wave, or the bottom of the ocean … but we have technology that allows us to detect what eludes our sight. When we do, whole worlds open up.
Without telescopes, asteroids become visible only three seconds before they slam into the Earth. Find out how we track them long before that happens. Also, could pulsars help us detect the gravity waves that Einstein’s theory predicts?
Plus, why string theory and parallel universes may remain just interesting ideas … the story of the woman who mapped the ocean floor … and why the disappearance of honeybees may change what you eat.Guests:
- David Morrison – NASA space scientist and Director of the Carl Sagan Center at the SETI Institute
- May Berenbaum – Entomologist, University of Illinois
- Scott Ransom – Astronomer, National Radio Astronomy Observatory
- Lee Smolin – Theoretical physicist, Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics, Canada, author of Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe
- Hali Felt – Author of Soundings: The Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor
Imagine: Your pint-sized pup is descended from a line of predatory wolves. We have purposefully bred a new species – dogs – to live in harmony with us. But interactions between species, known as co-evolution, happen all the time, even without deliberate intervention. And it’s frequently a boon to survival: Without the symbiotic relationship we have with bugs in our gut, one that’s evolved with time, we wouldn’t exist.
Discover the Bogart-and-Bacall-like relationships between bacteria and humans, and what we learn by seeing genes mutate in the lab, real time. Also, the dog-eat-dog debate about when canines were first domesticated, and how agriculture, hip-hop music, and technology can alter our DNA (eventually).
Plus, why some of the fastest humans in history have hailed from one small area of a small Caribbean island. Is there a gene for that?Guests:
- Greger Larsen – Evolutionary biologist, department of archaeology, Durham University
- Peter Richerson – Professor emeritus, University of California, Davis, department of Environmental Science and Policy, author of Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution
- Dave van Ditmarsch – Biologist, post-doctoral researcher, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
- David Epstein – Senior writer, Sports Illustrated, author of The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance
You’re hungry, and you have some leftovers from last week or packaged food that’s past the sell-by date, right in front of you, and you want to eat it right now! What do you do? If your’re me then, you’ll follows these steps. You can even do this without your reading glasses.
1) Examine the container. Is it bulging? Is that really a bulge or just that someone dropped it on the floor and dented it? I mean, botulism is really rare. Chances are its just a dent.
2) If air goes in when you open, OK. If air comes out, very not OK.
3) Stick your nose almost into the food and smell very carefully. With practice, you can spot “something wrong” with 99% accuracy. Getting this practice will include some trial and error, but its a good skill to have. Anything that smells like Acetone is probably not OK.
3) Taste it. If you don’t notice any “special flavors”, then eat it.
4) The sell-by date is more of a guideline than a rule.
Following these rules, I haven’t had food poisoning since college, besides at wedding receptions.
Trick: Try to eat food that is already spoiled, say cheese. Think about it, cheese can’t spoil b/c it is already been cultured with special bacteria instead of the “wild” kind. Think about how long that cream sits in a body-temperature “breeding environment” just like the rice you left on the stove last night with the heat on low low. If you eat the rice, you can experience projectile vomiting (don’t try this twice). Cheese is just the same. Or don’t think about it…
Your pre-spoiled options include yogurt, chocolate, salami, sourdough bread, kimchi, natto and beer. For more. Anyway, these foods last forever, because they can’t get any more spoiled than they already are.
(^_^), don’t take me seriously, although I am serious.
ENCORE The Day After. 2001. Prometheus. There are sci-fi films a’plenty … but how much science is in the fiction? We take the fact checkers to Hollywood to investigate the science behind everything from space travel to human cloning.
Plus, guess what sci-fi film is the most scientifically accurate (hint: we’ve already mentioned it). Also, why messing with medical facts on film can be dangerous … and the inside scoop from a writer of one of television’s most successful sci-fi franchises.
And, a robot who surpasses even Tinseltown’s lively imagination: a humanoid that may become a surrogate you.Guests:
- David Kirby – Senior lecturer in science communication studies at the University of Manchester in the U.K. and author of Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists, and Cinema
- Lucas Kavner – Reporter, Huffington Post, author of a piece on the rise of robot surrogates
- Wayne Grody – Medical geneticist, director of the DNA diagnostic Laboratory, UCLA Medical Center
- Andre Bormanis – Television writer and science consultant for Star Trek
First released July 30, 2012.
If you need a break today, you should read this poem by G. Landis published recently in the Starship Century Book. Truly inspiring!
Across the Dark, the Pioneers
Geoffrey A. Landis
The ships first sent across the dark ocean,
pebbles flung into the universe vast,
rocket-propelled, a flash of motion
past Jupiter, Saturn, the Kuiper cloud:
they glide outward to the stars
now silent, dead, pitted by dust
a voyage of a hundred thousand years:
the Voyagers and Pioneers.
The next probes sent out across the dark
the swiftest ships yet made by man
ion-engined craft, faster by far
with nuclear reactors making power
speed past the planets, and brave the dark
and distant silence between the stars;
and dwindling in their rear-view mirrors:
the Earth, the sun, and Pioneers.
The light-sail probes soon follow on
huge sails that dive down toward the sun
and outward thrust by just the force of light.
They need no fuel to challenge the sea of the night.
The mirrors reflect the dwindling sun
pass past all planets, one by one
they see reflected in their vast mirrors
the silent coasting Pioneers.
And faster sails, faster far,
pushed not by light from our feeble star
but focused beams of laser light;
or pushed by microwaves in flight
pass the ion-engine ships.
prior sails reflecting now but dark
“They’ll leave behind in their rear-view mirrors
Earth, the sun, and Pioneers.
Then fusion probes, massive and fast
with exhaust bright as a thousand suns
flickering diamonds in the sky
dwindle in the darkness as they fly
past sail ships already on the way
past the laser craft launched after
and far away, left in the rear
the Earth, the sun, and Pioneers.
And we wait at home, listening intent
for messages from the probes we’ve sent
signals nearly too faint for us to hear
attenuated by transit across light years
the first to reach a distant sun
that tells of wondrous worlds unknown,
the glory reflected in distant mirrors
the voyage begun with Pioneers.
And so we fly, through centuries
faster and farther across the emptiness;
we send out probes, our robot selves
On voyages of decades across the darkness
and dream one day humans too will go
the ultimate voyage, which has no end.
Behind us, in our rear-view mirrors
we’ll see the sun, and Pioneers”
Excerpt From: Davies, Paul. “Starship Century.” Microwave Sciences. iBooks.The book is available here http://www.starshipcentury.com/purchase/
This material is protected by copyright but I have permission to re-print the poem in my blog from both the author as well as the publisher (Jim Benford). Thanks!
A piece of Mars: In the center are two dark dunes, racing one another to jump over hurdles formed of older, now inactive dunes (or maybe those bright things are ripples, we still don’t know for sure). The dune in the lead has been slowed by this barrier, but it is starting to crawl over it, one sand grain at a time. The dune in second place is still well-formed but will likely struggle once it runs into its own hurdle. Perhaps 20 years from now. (PSP_001756_1995, NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)
ENCORE Let there be light. Otherwise we couldn’t watch a sunset or YouTube. Yet what your eye sees is but a narrow band in the electromagnetic spectrum. Shorten those light waves and you get invisible gamma radiation. Lengthen them and tune into a radio broadcast.
Discover what’s revealed about our universe as you travel along the electromagnetic spectrum. There’s the long of it: an ambitious goal to construct the world’s largest radio telescope array … and the short: a telescope that images high-energy gamma rays from black holes.
Also, the structure of the universe as seen through X-ray eyes and a physicist sings the praises of infrared light. Literally.
And, while gravity waves are not in the electromagnetic club, these ripples in spacetime could explain some of the biggest mysteries of the cosmos. But first, we have to catch them!Guests:
- Anil Ananthaswamy – Journalist and consultant for New Scientist in London
- Harvey Tananbaum – Director of the Chandra X-Ray Center, located in Cambridge Massachusetts at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
- David Reitze – Executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), California Institute of Technology
- Albert Lazzarini – Deputy director, LIGO, California Institute of Technology
- Alan Marscher – Professor of astronomy at Boston University
First released March 19, 2012
A piece of Mars: These C and S-shaped things were once dunes that marched across the scene (from upper left to lower right), formed from sand deposited by the wind. Then that sand somehow became cemented, locking the dunes in place. But the wind didn’t stop — it continued to blow from the same direction, eroding grooves and flutes into the cemented dunes. (ESP_017741_1745, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)
Hi ho, hi ho … it’s out with work we go! As you relax this holiday weekend, step into our labor-atory and imagine a world with no work allowed. Soft robots help us with tasks at home and at the office, while driverless cars allow us to catch ZZZZs in the front seat.
Plus, the Internet of Everything interconnects all your devices, from your toaster to your roaster to … you. So there’s no need to ever get off the couch. But is a machine-ruled world a true utopia?
And, the invention that got us into our 24/7 rat race: Edison’s electric light.Guests:
- Barry Trimmer – Professor of biology, neuroscience, and biomedical engineering at Tufts University, and editor-in-chief, Soft Robotics
- Red Whittaker – Roboticist at Carnegie Mellon University
- Ernest Freeberg – Historian, University of Tennessee, and author of The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America
- Rob Chandhok – Computer scientist, president of Qualcomm Interactive Platforms
- Andre Bormanis – Television writer, producer, screenwriter and science advisor to Star Trek and Cosmos