In this Halloween episode, we talk with Dr. Adam Frank, an astrophysicst/astrobiologist at the University of Rochester, about his recent book: The Little Book of Aliens. We hear some of the stories and learn about the science of life “out there” – astrobiology – and the past, present, and future search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
Host/Producer/Engineer: Joel Parker Executive Producer: Susan Moran Headline contributors: Shelley Schlender, Beth Bennett
Sometimes when we are having personal or health problems, it helps to get an outside perspective: talk to other friends who have experienced similar problems and how they dealt with them, and other friends about how they avoided those problems. Talk to experts. Then using all that input, we try to make the best choice to solve the problems and to live a long and happy life. This is perhaps the situation we find ourselves in now with the health of our environment and the long-term viability of the human race. So where to we look for that “outside perspective” and expert help? The answer may be: look to other planets and talk to those who study them. This is the approach astrobiologist Dr. David Grinspoon takes in his new book: “Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future”. Dr. Grinspoon is a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado, and in 2013 he was appointed the inaugural Chair of Astrobiology at the Library of Congress. We had a chance to talk with Dr. Grinspoon about how he compares Earth’s story to those of other planets, and how our present moment is not only one of peril, but also great potential, especially when viewed from a 10,000-year perspective.
We talk with astronomer Travis Metcalfe about finding the oldest known planetary system in the Galaxy, and what it means about the formation of planets, the possibilities of extraterrestrial life, and how does one actually find planets around other stars? Headlines include switches in the man-made biological organisms that could possibly be used for bioterrorism, and the finding that chronic malaria infection in migrant great reed warblers damages telomeres, shortening life in both the adult bird and its offspring.
Hosts: Joel Parker and Beth Bennett Producer: Beth Bennett Engineer Beth Bennett with help from Kendra Kruger Additional Contributions: Jane Palmer, Shelly Schlender Executive Producer: Kendra Krueger
Living Planet Report (starts at 5:50): The environmental organization World Wildlife Fund just released its science-based biennial Living Planet Report. It doesn’t paint a rosy picture overall; WWF shows that, for instance, wildlife populations across the globe are roughly half the size they were 40 years ago. And although rich countries show a 10 percent increase in biodiversity, lower-income countries are suffering a drop of nearly 60 percent. The report also ranks the ecological footprints of 152 nations, and warns that the world is living beyond its means. But there are bright spots in the report, too. Even in the absence of national legislation and international treaties, some cities in the U.S., including Boulder, and around the world are making progress toward sustainability and greenhouse gas reductions. Co-host Susan Moran interviews Keya Chatterjee, director of WWF’s renewable energy and footprint outreach program.
Finding Exoplanet Water (starts at 18:15): For the first time, scientists have detected water vapor on a cold exoplanet the size of Neptune. Previously, it had only been possible to measure the atmospheres of larger, Jupiter-sized exoplanets, but these findings from the Hubble and Spitzer Telescopes bring scientists a significant step closer to studying the atmosphere of Earth-sized planets orbiting other stars. Understanding the atmosphere of exoplanets may tell us more about their evolution and formation – Eliza Kempton, assistant professor of physics at Grinnell College in Iowa, explains in this report from Roland Pease of the BBC’s Science In Action.
Executive Producer: Joel Parker Producer: Ted Burnham Co-Hosts: Susan Moran, Ted Burnham Engineer: Ted Burnham Headlines: Beth Bennett, Jane Palmer
Our two features for this week’s show: Susan Moran interviewed Joel Smith, principal at Stratus Consulting in Boulder, who has been helping the city adapt to climate change—in particular, by smartly managing its water supply; and Tom Yulsman interviewed John Troeltzsch, the Kepler mission program manager for Boulder-based Ball Aerospace, which built one of the key instruments for the mission, as well as the spacecraft itself.