Astronomy Through the Ages

640px-Tycho-Brahe-Mural-Quadrant

Tycho Brahe’s observatory at Uranienborg (Wikimedia Commons)

Astronomy Through the Ages (starts at 4:10): If I ask you to close your eyes and imagine an astronomer, what do you see? Maybe you think of a lone figure hunched all night over the eyepiece of a telescope in a big, domed observatory. Maybe you think of Jodie Foster, as Ellie Arroway in the movie Contact, wearing headphones to listen in on cosmic radio waves at Arecibo.

My mind always wanders back to a woodcut of Tycho Brahe’s 16th-century observatory, filled with intricate equipment for making naked-eye observations of the night sky.

But do any of these ingenious images actually resemble the life of an astronomer today? And how are new technologies and “big data” changing the way we study stars today and in years to come?

To discuss those questions, we’re joined in our Boulder studio by Dr. John Bally, a professor of astronomy at the University of Colorado, and Dr. Seth Hornstein, director of the Sommers-Bausch Observatory on the CU campus.

Hosts: Shelley Schlender, Ted Burnham
Producer: Ted Burnham
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Additional Contributions: Jane Palmer
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Caffeine and Athletics

caffeinatedCaffeine and Athletics (starts at 4:35): Chances are you’ve already had a cup of coffee this morning or, if you are like me, it was a cup of tea. Or maybe, if you are truly hedonistic, you started the day with a bar of chocolate. Either way, if any of these options are part of your daily routine you’d be one of the 90 percent of people in this country that regularly consumes caffeine, America’s drug of choice.

In this week’s show we talk to Murray Carpenter, author of the book Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts and Hooks Us. Although he covers the history and culture of caffeine in his book, he is specifically going to be talking about the science of caffeine and how this powerful drug affects our cognition and physical health. In particular, for all you runners, cyclists and swimmers out there – there maybe a few of you in Boulder – he’s going to discuss how the right dose of caffeine can help an athlete’s performance. Apparently, for you runners who can run a 40-minute 10K without caffeine, ingesting the drug can help knock 72 seconds off your time. That would put you at least 100 places higher in the Bolder Boulder.

Hosts: Jane Palmer and Ted Burnham
Producers: Jane Palmer and Ted Burnham
Engineer: Ted Burnham
Additional Contributions: Beth Bennett
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Hacking Happiness

Hacking HappinessYou drive to Starbucks with your cell phone in your pocket, go online, read your favorite newspaper, share an interesting book review on Facebook and then go and order the bestseller from Amazon. It’s only 9:00am, but you’ve already left a data trail—a big one—on your whereabouts, your taste, your friends, and your financial habits.

In his new book, Hacking Happiness: Why Your Personal Data Counts and How Tracking It Can Change the World, John C. Havens talks about how megacorporations hoard these details and use them for their own monetary gain. But, Havens argues it doesn’t have to be like that. Using emerging technologies, we can reclaim control over our information and use it, not to boost company sales, but to improve our own happiness.

Hosts: Ted Burnham and Jane Palmer
Producers: Jane Palmer and Beth Bartel
Engineer: Ted Burnham
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Quantum Computers

P1020271Quantum Computers [starts at 7:05] Dr. David Wineland has worked at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, for 38 years. In 2012, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with France’s Dr. Serge Haroche for “ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems”.  Dr. Wineland and his colleagues use electromagnetic fields to trap individual ions for long periods of time, and lasers to place the ions in quantum superposition states. Superposition is like being both here and there at the same time.

Superposition, if taken literally (as many physicists believe it should, although some disagree), results in some very strange behaviors, like in a thought experiment designed by Erwin Schrodinger. Schrodinger’s thought experiment describes how a cat in a box can both dead and alive at the same time.  Dr. Wineland talks with How On Earth’s Jim Pullen about the connection between his work and Schrodinger’s famous cat. He says quantum computers are in the news.

In a two part series in early 2013, Jim Pullen also interviewed Dr. Wineland on the occasion of the award of his Nobel Prize (on the physics and the human side of winning the Nobel Prize). 

Host, Engineer, Producer: Joel Parker
Additional contributions: Jim Pullen, Jane Palmer, Beth Bartel, Kendra Krueger

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