Conference on World Affairs Special with SETI’s Seth Shostak

One of the SETI Institute’s telescopes in the Allen array. (2007 photo courtesy of Colby Gutierrez-Kraybill and used under a Creative Commons license.)

Welcome to a special episode of How On Earth with Dr. Seth Shostak, the Senior Astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute. We’ve been listening for their tell-tale signal for 50 years with no luck, but Seth says that he’ll bet a cup of coffee we’ll hear from them in the next few decades. We explore what might happen if we find these brainy aliens or if we don’t find them at all. It’s part of the Conference on World Affairs.

Host: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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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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The Universe Within // De-Extinction

The Universe Within (starts at 4:40) Within each and every one of us is the history of life on this planet, the planet itself and the entire universe.  This is the theme of a new book “The Universe Within.”  The author, Neil Shubin, is a professor of Paleontology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago.  Starting with what physically constitutes a human being and what makes a human life possible, Shubin surveys many domains of science to find out what we can learn about what’s out there from what’s inside of us.   It’s a fantastically broad scope, bringing together the common history of Rocks, Planets and People.  As professor Shubin explains to How On Earth’s Chip Grandits, it is the very concept of this common history that binds all of these topics, which are normally found scattered throughout disparate domains of science and academia.

Image by Jonathan S. Blair, National Geographic

De-Extinction (starts at 14:15) You may think that when a species dies, it’s gone forever.  But with enough motivation, scientists might be able to return some species to life.  Popular science writer Carl Zimmer has written about “de-extinction” in the cover story of April’s issue of National Geographic magazine. So, is the movie Jurassic Park a good primer on de-extinction?

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

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Tom’s River // Making Primitive Fire

Tom’s River (starts at 5:03) Susan Moran interviews Dan Fagin, author of the new book Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation.  You’ve likely heard of the chemical contamination of Love Canal at Niagara Falls, in the mid-1970s. And the leukemia cluster linked to water pollution in Woburn, Massachusetts,in the mid-80s — made famous by the book Civil Action. But you may not have heard of another cancer cluster –- also linked to industrial chemicals – this one in the small town of Toms River, N.J. Fagin’s book about Tom’s River is far more than a gripping investigation of one town’s struggle; it is a cautionary and illuminating tale about the complexities of finding a causal, not just associative, link between pollution and cancer. And it is a story for anyone concerned about whether the air they breathe, and the water they drink is in jeopardy.

 

2013-03-26 Making Fire on KGNU’s How on Earth Science Show from Shelley Schlender on Vimeo.

Making Primitive Fire (starts at 15:40) Roger Wendell interviews Michael and Lorritta Slayton, who are longtime practitioners of primitive fire making and survival skills. Teaching at rendezvous, schools, and outdoors shows Michael and Lorritta have delighted thousands with their “Backup to the Bic”  demonstrations – how to create a lifesaving fire during an emergency when matches and high-tech lighters won’t do the trick.  Primitive fire making focuses on very old, but tried and true ways of making fire. Today, Michael “Big Smoke” and Lorritta “Flint Woman” Slayton will teach us about Bow Drill Fire Sticks and the flint-and-steel methods for creating fire – assuring us that what we learn from the past will make us wiser for the future.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Roger Wendell
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Neil Shubin -The Universe Within

In this spring pledge drive show, How on Earth’s Chip Grandits talks with Neil Shubin, author of the new book, The Universe Within:  Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets and People.  We offer this book to listeners to who call KGNU to pledge their support and bring you more programs like this.  Additionally, we have thank you gifts for listeners who pledge that include, Facing the Wave, Pandora’s Lunchbox, The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, and The Fat Switch.  These are all books we’ve featured, along with authors interviewed, thanks to the efforts of your all-volunteer science show team, How on Earth.  You can pledge securely on line to support this show and others at kgnu.org.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker, Chip Grandits
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Facing the Wave // Pandora’s Lunchbox

Facing the Wave (starts at 04:50) Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that rocked and partially devoured the northeastern coast of Japan. Although prone to earthquakes, the Tōhoku event hit a magnitude of 9.0, tying it for fourth largest earthquake on record according to the United States Geological Survey—a magnitude greater than scientists thought possible for this region.

Last month, co-host Beth Bartel spoke with author Gretel Ehrlich about her recently published book “Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami.” When asked about her motivation to write this book, Ehrlich, a long-time traveler to Japan, said simply that she went to see the effects of the wave because she had to. (Go to our extended interview for more about how the disaster spurred activism in Japan.)

Pandora’s Lunchbox (starts at 14:38) Did you ever think how long that energy bar you ate while skiing recently would last in tact beyond the expiration date? Or that bag of Oreo cookies  you devoured last night? Melanie Warner, a local journalist and former staff writer at the New York Times, started thinking about it so much that she began experimenting with leaving some processed foods out way beyond their expiration date. What she found was shocking, and led her to explore deeply into the “processed food industrial complex.” The result is a new book called “Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal.” Co-host Susan Moran interviews Warner about the creators and health impacts of many iconic foods in the American diet.

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

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Facing the Wave – extended interview with Gretel Ehrlich

This is an extended version of the interview we broadcast on March 12, 2013, featuring author Gretel Ehrlich discussing the aftermath of the March 11, 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

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We Are the Martians

Orion spacecraft docked to a Mars Transfer Vehicle (NASA)

(Start time 5:15) “The Men of Earth came to Mars. They came because they were afraid or unafraid, because they were happy or unhappy, because they felt like Pilgrims or did not feel like Pilgrims. There was a reason for each man. They were leaving bad wives or bad towns; they were coming to find something or leave something or get something, to dig up something or bury something or leave something alone. They were coming with small dreams or large dreams or none at all…it was not unusual that the first men were few. The numbers grew steadily in proportion to the census of Earth Men already on Mars. There was comfort in numbers. But the first Lonely Ones had to stand by themselves…”

That’s from Ray Bradbury’s great 1950 collection of short stories, The Martian Chronicles. Today, there are plans being made to send people to Mars, a fraughtful trip of a hundred and a half million kilometers and more than a year, each way. To learn whether we will be the Martians, we chat with Brian Enke. Brian is a Senior Research Analyst at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, a member of The Mars Society, and the author of the 2005 science fiction novel about Mars, Shadows of Medusa.

Hosts: Jim Pullen, Shelley Schlender
Producer: Jim Pullen
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Parallel Universes

The concept of a parallel universe, a universe remarkably like our own but with some subtle difference, has been the staple of science fiction stories for years.  But it is an idea that is seriously discussed in real science starting many decades ago when physicists wrestled with the weird implications of Quantum Mechanics, and recently has appeared in many other guises in other areas of physics. One of the leading scientists in studying these ideas and explaining the mind-bending concepts to non-experts is Professor Brian Greene.  Dr. Greene is professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University and co-founder and director of the Institute for Strings, Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics.  He has written the books The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos, both of which were adapted into mini-series on NOVA, and his most recent book is The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos.  We talk with him about the different concepts in modern day physics that point to the possibilities of parallel universes, what they may be like, and what observations and measurements may be able to prove or disprove their existence. (you can hear the extended interview with Dr. Greene)

Hosts: Joel Parker, Jim Pullen
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Parallel Universes – extended interview with Brian Greene

This is an extended version of the interview we broadcast on February 26, 2013, featuring Professor Brian Greene discussing the concepts of Parallel Universes.

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How On Earth is produced by a small group of volunteers at the studios of KGNU, an independent community radio station in the Boulder-Denver metro area. KGNU is supported by the generosity and efforts of community members like you. Visit kgnu.org to learn more.

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