Headlines: Inheritance of mitochondrial DNA. Coffee and Parkinson’s disease. Sending your name and a message to the New Horizons spacecraft. Winds on Mars. Water on Asteroids.
Feature: Titan (starts at 8:55) The solar system has so many different worlds that come in all shapes and sizes and histories, from boiling hot Mercury and Venus to icy Pluto and the Kuiper belt. Such extreme alien worlds are exciting, but perhaps the places that catch our imaginations the most are the ones that are more familar – perhaps with the hope of humans one day visiting there and even living there. So we think of places that have atmospheres and have – or once had – liquid water. But then there are those places that live in what you might call “the uncanny valley” between familiar and alien, and perhaps Saturn’s moon Titan fits into that category, with an atmosphere (but not one that you would want to breathe) and lakes (but not ones you would want to swim in).
With graduation season is upon us, or in many cases in the rearview mirror, today’s edition of How on Earth is the second of a two-part “Graduation Special”. Our guests in the studio today are scientists who recently graduated with – or soon will receive – their Ph.D. They talk about their thesis research, their grad school experiences, and what they have planned next.
Abby Koss – CU Boulder, Chemistry and Biochemistry Topic: New Insights into Fossil Fuel Volatile Organic Compound Emissions and Chemistry using H3O+ and NO+ Chemical Ionization Mass Spectrometry
With graduation season is upon us, or in many cases in the rearview mirror, today’s edition of How on Earth is the first of a two-part “Graduation Special”. Our guests in the studio today are scientists who recently graduated with – or soon will receive – their Ph.D. They talk about their thesis research, their grad school experiences, and what they have planned next.
David Horvath – Colorado School of Mines, Department of Geophysics
Topic: Planetary Hydrology: Implications for the Past Martian Climate and Present Titan Lake Hydrology Using Numerical Models of the Hydrologic Cycles on Titan and Mars
This week, Alejandro speaks with Leonard David, a space journalist who has written a new book Mars – Our Future on the Red Planet. In his book he discusses the plans of both NASA and private companies to send humans to the red planet. The book is a companion to a six-part television series from executive producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, and which premiered on the National Geographic Channel last month. Hosts:: Alejandro Soto and Beth Bennett Producer: Beth Bennett Engineer: Beth Bennett Additional Contributions: Susan Moran Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Listen to the show:
Buzz Aldrin’s Vision for Space Exploration (starts at 6:14) Dr. Buzz Aldrin advocates that the United States should not enter a space-race to the moon against the Chinese, or a race to Mars against the Russians, but rather show leadership by cooperating with the major space-faring nations to systematically step across the great void to the Red Planet. This is his personal Unified Space Vision. He is also working toward an independent council, a United Strategic Space Enterprise, that would advise American citizens about the nation’s space policy. USSE experts would draw on a deep knowledge of America’s previous successes and failures to present a unified plan of exploration, science, development, commerce, and security within a national foreign policy context. Buzz shared these visions with How On Earth’s Jim Pullen. Here’s an excerpt from his hour-long discussion with Jim. Stay tuned for the rest of his discussion, in which he shares little-known insights into why Apollo 11, not Apollo 12, was first to land humans on the moon, and never-before-shared honors for Neil Armstrong and Pete Conrad.
The Bees Needs (starts at 16:04) Colorado is home to over nine-hundred species of wild bees. Most of these solitary creatures nest in the ground, but others nest in the hollow stalks of plants, and about one hundred and fifty species nest in holes in wood. How are these bees doing? Are pesticides striking them down, like their honeybee cousins? How will they respond to changes in climate? CU scientists Dr. Alex Rose and Dr. Virginia Scott have embarked on a journey of discovery, and they’ve invited ordinary people to help. It’s the Bees Needs, a citizen-science project. How On Earther Jim Pullen is a part of that citizen-science team, and he invited Virgina and Alex to see what’s happening at the bustling bee block nest outside our studio.
Hosts: Jim Pullen and Susan Moran Producer: Jim Pullen Additional Contributions: Joel Parker and Shelley Schlender Engineer: Jim Pullen Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Feature #1 (start time 5:36): Cancer drugs are much more targeted than they were many years ago. But researchers are still trying to find a way to deliver drugs much more precisely to cancer cells, partly to avoid damaging, sometimes lethal, side effects. A huge obstacle has been getting nucleic acids to cross the membrane of cancer cells. A new study has brought researchers closer to crossing this big hurdle. Dr. Tom Anchordoquy, a lead author of the study, speaks with co-host Susan Moran about the study and what it means for cancer patients and researchers. Dr. Anchordoquy is an investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center in Denver and a professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Feature #2 (start time 15:02): Being an astronaut is a risky job, but perhaps one of the less-known risks is the high levels of radiation beyond the relatively protective cocoon of Earth’s magnetic field. This will be a particularly important problem to address for long-duration deep-space flight such as going to Mars. Until recently there have not been a lot of measurements available of the interplanetary radiation field for the types of radiation that could affect humans. But on the Curiosity rover of the Mars Science Laboratory, there is a radiation detector designed to make those important measurements. The instrument team recently published their initial results. Dr. Don Hassler, Science Program Director at Southwest Research Institute’s Boulder office and the Principal Investigator for the Radiation Assessment Detector on the Mars Curiosity rover, talks with co-host Joel Parker about the results.
Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Joel Parker Executive Producer: Joel Parker
(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
Curiosity’s RAD (start time 7:14). To design a successful manned mission to Mars, we’ll have to know a lot about the radiation environment between the Earth and Mars and on the planet’s surface. The Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) instrument on Curiosity is designed to make those measurements. We talk with Southwest Research Institute’s Dr. Donald Hassler, the RAD instrument Principle Investigator, about RAD’s purpose, how the instrument works, and the joys and scary moments that come with working on Mars.
Planetary science budget (start time: 15:49). Despite the successes of the Mars missions and voyages to our other planetary neighbors, the White House decided that NASA’s planetary science budget should be drawn down. The hit would be substantial, a twenty percent reduction from 2012. 300 million dollars would be removed from a baseline one and a half billion dollars. We ask Dr. Alan Stern, who has served as the chief of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, about why the planetary science budget should be restored.
Hosts: Jim Pullen and Shelley Schlender Producer: Jim Pullen Engineer: Shelley Schlender Executive Producer: Susan Moran
On this week’s How On Earth, we’re joined by the University of Colorado’s Bruce Jakosky, principle investigator on the MAVEN satellite mission that will investigate Mars’ upper atmosphere. NASA granted final approval to MAVEN last fall, and the spacecraft is scheduled to launch in 2013. Also, Ted Burnham speaks with Carol Finn, incoming president of the American Geophysical Union, about the need for scientists to communicate better with the public.
Hosts: Joel Parker, Ted Burnham Producer: Shelley Schlender