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.

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

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Gold Lab // National Climate Assessment

For our May 13th show we offer two features:
REVISED_GLS 2014 artwork_borderGold Lab Symposium (starts at 3:42): Biotech entrepreneur Larry Gold, a CU Boulder professor at the BioFrontiers Institute, talks with How On Earth’s Shelley Schlender about the annual Gold Lab Symposium, which will be held in Boulder May 16th and 17th.  This year’s theme is Embracing the Reptile Within: Head, Heart and Healthcare.  The event will focus on research and educational approaches that can potentially help improve the U.S. healthcare system.

NCA_2014U.S. Climate Change Report (starts at 11:50) The National Climate Assessment, a sobering new report on the science and impacts of climate change in the U.S., makes it starkly clear that human-induced climate change is already affecting all parts of the country. It is making water more scarce in some regions while bringing torrential rains elsewhere. It is making heat waves more common and severe, and it’s causing more severe and destructive wildfires. How On Earth co-host Susan Moran talks with two guests: Kristen Averyt, PhD, is a lead author of a chapter on Energy, Water and Land. She is associate director for Science at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at CU Boulder.  Dan Glick is a journalist who helped edit the report. His company, The Story Group, also produced a series of videos that highlight the report’s key findings and how climate change is affecting many people’s lives and livelihoods.

Hosts: Ted Burnham, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Ted Burnham
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Baseball Vision // Emerald Ash Borer

Today, April 29th, we offer two features:
baseball - sports-glasses (1)Baseball Vision (starts at 5:42): The major league baseball season is now in full “swing.” Fans may  take it for granted that these professional athletes are in top physical condition.  What’s less known is how important it is for baseball players to have perfect eyesight.  Batters in particular have some of the best vision in the world.  To find out how scientists know this, and study it, and even make it better, How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender last month headed down to spring training in Arizona.  There, she caught up with two of the nation’s top experts on the science of vision, and sports.

emerald ash borer, courtesy Encyclopedia of Life

emerald ash borer, courtesy Encyclopedia of Life

Emerald Ash Borer (starts at 11:21): It’s been called the most destructive looming pest blight to hit Colorado in ages. The perpetrator in question is the emerald ash borer, a small shimmery green beetle. It is believed to have hitchhiked to the U.S. and Canada on cargo ships, or airplanes, from its native Asia, in 2002. Since then it has wiped out  millions of ash trees in many states. Last September, the ash borer was first found in Colorado. Ash trees have had no time to develop resistance against the exotic invader.  And meanwhile, the ash borer has no predators here to keep it in check. Dr. Whitney Cranshaw, an entomologist at Colorado State University, talks with host Susan Moran about what we should know about the emerald ash borer.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Beringia // Dolphins & Climate Change // The Ogallala Road

Beringia_land_bridge-noaagovBeringia (start time 0:55). We present an excerpt of  Shelly Schlender’s  interview with University of Colorado scientist John Hoffecker, lead author of a recent paper in Science magazine about the Beringia land bridge and the people who lived there 25,000 years ago.  The full interview can be found here.

 

Dolphins & Climate Change (start time 4:40). Dr. Denise Herzing, the founder of the Wild Dolphin Project, has been building relationships with Atlantic Spotted Dolphins for 28 years. meet-dolphins2 Her quest to learn whether dolphins have language, and to learn that language, is notable for its longevity. But her relationship with them is remarkably respectful, too. We last spoke to Dr. Herzing in the spring of 2012, about her book Dolphin Diaries: My 25 Years With Spotted Dolphins in the Bahamas. We’re very glad that she’s with us again, to help us learn about how large marine mammals may be responding in unusual ways to changes in the oceans.

the-ogallala-road-coverThe Ogallala Road (start time 15:15).  We often hear about how the Colorado River is running dry. The Western  states that rely on its flowing water are struggling to reckon with how its depleting reservoirs will satiate growing  populations. You’ve probably seen images of the white “bathrub rings” at Lake Powell and Lake Mead that expose the water line rings of years ago.  But there’s an equally dramatic and dangerous drop in an invisible source of water. That’s the Ogallala Aquifer – an underground basin of groundwater that spans eight states on the High Plains, including Colorado. Nearly one third of irrigated cropland in the country stretches over the aquifer. And the Ogallala yields about a third  of the ground water that’s used for irrigation in the U.S.  The story of the Ogallala’s depletion is a very personal one for author Julene Bair. She lives in Longmont, but years ago she learned that the family farm in Kansas that she inherited had been a big part of the problem. Julene has written about her journey, including her desire to make the farm part of the solution. Julene joins us on the show to talk about her new book  The Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning.

Hosts: Jim Pullen, Susan Moran
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Jim Pullen
Additional contributions:  Shelley Schlender

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2013 Was a Good Year, in Science!

The team considers noteworthy science on the last day of 2013. What’s worth mentioning? Too many people, too much carbon, and way too much fun in astronomy!

AlanWeisman_Countdown.shrunkBiology and Health (start time 00:56). This year marked the passing of long-time Boulder resident, Al Bartlett. Bartlett was one of the world’s most eloquent voices calling for population control. He will be missed. One of the champions picking up the torch is New York Times bestselling author, Alan Weisman. Weisman offers exciting solutions to population growth in Countdown:  Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth.

How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender reports that this is a hard book to read, because it’s long, and thorough, and urgency of the need for population reduction worldwide is often not a happy topic. She admits that sometimes, she even switched to a detective novel before reading more of Countdown. But she kept at it because Countdown provides some exciting solutions to population growth. One of the most compelling is to provide women with education and access to birth control. It turns out these two offerings are often a key to women deciding, voluntarily, to limit their families to two children, and sometimes, fewer.

Co-host Shelley Schlender hosts this interview with Weisman about perhaps the greatest problem facing humanity–too many people.

 

The late Professor John Mainstone cared for the pitch drop experiment. (University of Queensland, Australia, School of Mathematics and Physics)

The late Professor John Mainstone cared for the pitch drop experiment. (University of Queensland, Australia)

Physics and Astronomy (start time 08:56). Co-host Jim Pullen couldn’t decide on the best physics and astronomy story of 2013, so he dipped into the rich happenings of the year, taken from all over the world: superbolides skipping over Russia, bitumen dripping in Ireland, Voyager 1 long-ranging somewhere in the galaxy, and Icecube spying far-flung neutrinos down at the bottom of the world (and beyond). We’ll learn that the news of 2013 owes much to 2012, 1977, 1944 and even 1927. And that leaves WIMPS, dark matter, LUX, two-dimensional graphene, trapped quantum states, quantum computers, and so much more for 2014!

 

 

Flood crumpled truck in Jamestown Canyon, Colorado (photo courtesy Jim Pullen)

Flood crumpled truck in Jamestown Canyon, Colorado (photo courtesy Jim Pullen)

Environment (start time 16:44). What a year it’s been! We shot past 400 ppm of CO2 in the ever-warming blanket of air skinned over the planet. And disasters! Mighty and perilous Super Typhoon Haiyan, with the fastest winds ever recorded, crashed into the Philipines in November. More locally, in September here on the Northern Front Range, a flood of historic proportion. Co-hosts Susan Moran and Tom Yulsman look at the perils of 2013 and portents.

 

 

Happy 2014 to you, our KGNU and How On Earth family!

Hosts: Shelley Schlender, Jim Pullen, Susan Moran
Producer: Jim Pullen
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel

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Flood Winners & Losers // 100 Year Starship Symposium

Feature 1 - Flood Winners & Losers : Last month’s deluge cut canyons, real and felt, through many of our lives, but nature helps us remember that floods can build too. In this feature, How on Earth’s Jim Pullen speaks with Boulder’s wetland and riparian ecologist Marianne Giolitto about flood “winners and losers”.   Marianne watches over 45,000 acres of the city’s open space and mountain parks wetlands and riparian habitats. Jim and the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks are working together on a series of radio vignettes; the first two are “Monitoring Bats” and “Great Storms and Chautauqua.”

Feature 2 - 100 Year Starship Symposium : Back in June we had a feature about a project called the 100 Year Star Ship.  During that show we talked with Alires Almon, a member of the project, about the challenges and vision of creating a long-duration mission to send humans to another star.  A few weeks ago in Houston, the project held their annual symposium; this year’s theme was titled: “Pathway to the Stars, Footprints on Earth.”  Ms. Almon is back with us today to talk about the symposium and what new ideas were discussed.

And as we mentioned in today’s headlines,  you can learn more about shale oil and gas boom and bust by listening to Jim Pullen’s hour-long talk with expert Deborah Rogers on KGNU’s “It’s the Economy.”

Hosts: Joel Parker, Shelley Schlender
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel
Additional Contributions: Jim Pullen

Due to technical problems, this show was not recored to the archive.  We apologize that this post does not have an audio podcast of the entire show, but below we do have the audio file of the pre-recorded interview of the “Flood Winners and Losers” :

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Boulder Science Festival // Insect Chorus Songs

Headlines:  CU Scientists explore ways to combat methicillin-resistant staff infections; Yale survey indicates Coloradans concerned about climate change; Denver and Boulder Cafe Sci’s begin for fall; Farewell to Population scientist, Al Bartlett.

Boulder Science Festival (starts at 5:58) Many people in Boulder are familiar with the large number of local science groups and institutes, so what better place to celebrate and learn about science?  That is exactly what our next two guests plan to do: create the Boulder Science Festival, which will be held October 12-13 at the Millennium Harvest House hotel.  In the studio today we have Marcella Setter, the Director of the Boulder Science Festival, and an experienced administrator who loves organizing events that get the public excited about science. As the Director of Science Getaways, Marcella plans group trips for science enthusiasts who want to add some learning and discovery to their vacations.  Joining Marcella here in the studio is her husband, Phil Plait, an astronomer, author, and writer of the Bad Astronomy Blog for Slate.com. An internationally-acclaimed speaker, Dr. Plait has appeared on numerous television science documentaries and is a self-proclaimed “science evangelizer”.

Insect Chorus Songs (starts at 14:58) You’ve heard it. It’s the sound of summer – or rather, the looming end of summer. The chorus of crickets, cicadas and who knows what else outside that is now in prime time.  As an ode to summer, we thought we’d bring in a cicada and other insect specialist to share with us who the heck these critters are, and what’s their role in biodiversity. Maybe he’ll even tell us how we can eat them – like billions of people around the world do with delight. Brian Stucky is a doctoral student in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Noise Pollution

Population impacted by aircraft noise greater than 55 dB day–night noise level in 2005 (from “Development of an income-based hedonic monetization model for the assessment of aviation-related noise impacts” by Q. He, MIT Master’s thesis) [click on image to see large version]

Noise Pollution (starts at 6:15) –  How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender talks with research scientist Larry Finegold about noise pollution and about a workshop being held today in Denver about Noise Management in Communities and Natural Areas.  Dr. Finegold has authored or contributed to over 80 publications on noise including the US National Academy of Engineering report, “Technology for a Quieter America,” the World Health Organization report, “Burden of Disease from Environmental Noise,” and the article “Community Annoyance and Sleep Disturbance: Updated Criteria for Assessing the Impacts of General Transportation Noise on People.”

Host / Producer / Engineer: Joel Parker
Additional Contributions: Susan Moran
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Kepler’s Prospects // Oncofertility

For the August 20 How On Earth show we offer two features:

Kepler spacecraft

Kepler Spacecraft’s Uncertain Future: (start time 5:48) Are we alone in the cosmos? Are there other planets out there, and could some of them support life?  Or, is Earth somehow unique in its ability to support life?  The Kepler mission was designed to start addressing that question by searching for planets around other stars.  Since its launch in March 2009, the Kepler spacecraft has discovered many diverse candidate planets around other stars, but recently the spacecraft has run into some technical problems.  Dr. Steve Howell from NASA’s Ames Research Center talks with co-host Joel Parker about Kepler’s past, present and future.

Laxmi Kondapalli, courtesy of CU Cancer Center.

Cancer’s Impact on Fertility: (start time 14:52) It’s tough enough to receive a cancer diagnosis. For many patients, an added insult is that chemotherapy treatments can render them infertile.  However, there are many options for cancer patients who want to have children, or more children – both men and women. A key problem has been that many of them aren’t educated by oncologists about their fertility options and they jump right into drug treatments. Dr. Laxmi Kondapalli, an assistant professor of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Colorado Denver and head of the CU Cancer Center’s Oncofertility Program, talks with co-host Susan Moran about the medical science of take cancer therapies and the latest in fertility-preservation options.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Additional Contributions: Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Everything died under a broiling sky

Extinction at the K-Pg boundary

Illustration courtesy NASA/JPL

CU professor Doug Robertson and a multidisciplinary team  argue afresh that a global firestorm swept the planet in the hours after a mountain-sized asteroid vaporized above the Yucatan, 66 million years ago. When the blown-out rock missiled back to earth, Robertson says the atmosphere became so hot the whole world burned. Almost every organism above ground and in the air perished. We talk to Dr. Robertson about that terrible day and how some species reemerged. His team just published their research in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences.

Host: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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