Spaceport Earth

Spaceport Earth by Joe Pappalargo

Spaceport Earth. This week on How on Earth, we speak with Joe Pappalardo about his book “Spaceport Earth”. With the successes of Space-X and Blue Origin, private and commercial spaceflight is a fast growing business. Pappalardo talks with us about this new space industry and the advances and setbacks that have been faced. In particular, Pappalardo shares his knowledge about the spaceports, new and old, that are part of the new space endeavours. We also talk about how these new launch opportunities provide new ways to support the scientific exploration of both Earth and space.

Hosts: Alejandro Soto, Joel Parker
Producer: Alejandro Soto
Engineers: Joel Parker
Contributers: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Living Planet Report // Finding Exoplanet Water

WWF_LivingPlanetLiving 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

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Colorado’s Science Fair Stars // Rosetta Comet Mission

Colorado’s Science Fair Stars (starts at 3:18)

Students celebrate their countries of origin at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Credit: Intel Brasil (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Students celebrate their countries of origin at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Credit: Intel Brasil (CC)

As the end of the school year approaches for high school students, it’s a good time to celebrate the achievements and passion of students in Colorado who have excelled in science, technology, math and engineering (STEM). Two of them — Hope Weinstein, a senior at Fairview High in Boulder, and Michael Brady, a senior at Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village — were finalists at a renowned global competition last week. It’s the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which is a program of Society for Science & the Public.
Hope and Michael talk with co-host Susan Moran about their research and their message to other students.

Rosetta Comet Mission (starts at 15:16)

Artist’s impression of the Rosetta orbiter deploying the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA–C. Carreau/ATG medialab
Artist’s impression of the Rosetta orbiter deploying the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA–C. Carreau/ATG medialab

When he’s not busy volunteering with How On Earth, Joel Parker is an astronomer with the Southwest Research Institute — and that’s the hat he has on today as our in-studio guest. He joins us to talk about the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission, which will tag along with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it swings nearer to the sun later this summer.

Joel is the Deputy Lead Investigator for ALICE, the ultraviolet spectrometer aboard the spacecraft. He’s also the featured presenter at Cafe Scientifique tomorrow night. So think of this conversation as a preview of what you might hear if you join him tomorrow at Brooklyn’s down in Denver. Joel will give a very informal talk starting at 6:30 pm, and will try to answer all your tough questions about comets, Rosetta, or anything else. CafeSci is free and open to the public.

Producer: Ted Burnham
Co-Hosts: Ted Burnham, Susan Moran
Engineer: Ted Burnham

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NASA Visit // IPCC Report

wg2coverEarth Day gives us plenty of reason to reflect on the state of the planet and the impact we humans have had on it. This week’s show featured Dr. Linda Mearns, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, who is among hundreds of scientists who produced the latest report on global climate change. She’s a lead author of a chapter on regional climate change in the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She also co-authored previous IPCC assessments – in 1995, 2001, and 2007. Dr. Mearns talks with How On Earth host Susan Moran about the science and implications of the IPCC report, including what it means for Colorado and the broader U.S. West.

Unfortunately, due to a technical glitch at the station, the recording of that live interview was lost. But we still have audio from our second feature.

NASA chief Charles Bolden meets with CU students on Friday, April 18, 2014. Photo: University of Colorado
NASA chief Charles Bolden meets with CU students on April 18, 2014. Photo: University of Colorado

Charles Bolden, the top administrator at NASA, was here in Boulder last week, touring the classrooms and facilities that earn the University of Colorado more space agency dollars than any other public university in the nation. We’ll hear what he has to say about CU’s role in the space program — past, present and future.

We’ve also recreated the Earth Day tribute that opened the show. These days it’s more like Earth Week, and it’s not too late to catch some of the planet-happy celebrations going on in the Boulder area this weekend. Listen for details.

Co-hosts: Ted Burnham, Susan Moran
Producer and Engineer: Ted Burnham

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Plants in Space // Relativity

Former undergraduate researcher Elizabeth Lombardi talks with Professor Barbara Demmig-Adams in the greenhouse on the roof of the Ramaley building at the University of Colorado Boulder. (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

Plants in Space (start time 04:36) What would you miss if you were to spend an extended time in space—driving a car? Going to the movies? Hiking? Playing with your dog? Gravity, maybe? Or maybe something as simple as eating good, nutritious vegetables. How On Earth’s Beth Bartel speaks with University of Colorado undergraduate researcher Lizzy Lombardi about harvesting healthier veggies for our astronauts. Or, as we like to think about it, plants in space.

What Is Relativity? An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter by Jeffrey Bennett Relativity (start time 13:30) Albert Einstein published his special theory of relativity in 1905 and his general theory in 1915. Special relativity revealed bizarre and powerful ideas, including the famous equation E=mc2, but the basic theory hinges on a single realization: all observers, no matter how fast they are moving, always measure the same speed of light in space. A decade later, general relativity, the result of Einstein’s “happiest thought” that “the gravitation field has only a relative existence” unseated Newton’s law of gravitation. General relativity has passed every observation trial—so far. Relativity is important in everyday experience, for example enabling the incredible accuracy of the Global Positioning System, but the theory, especially the general form, can be a tough mathematical challenge. Boulder astrophysicist Dr. Jeffrey Bennett’s just-published book, What Is Relativity? An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter, gently straightens the curved spacetime. Join Jeff and host Jim Pullen live in the studio to learn why ‘black holes don’t suck’!


Hosts: Beth Bartel and Jim Pullen
Producer: Beth Bartel
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Jim Pullen
Additional contributions: Jane Palmer

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The Accelerating Expansion of The Universe // Pine Bark Beetles

The Accelerating Expansion of The Universe (start at 5:11).   Have you ever had the feeling that things are moving faster and faster these days?  Well, maybe it’s not your imagination.  Proof that the universe is not just expanding but is accelerating garnered a Nobel Prize last year.   To help explain what’s going on, we talk to Dr. Adam Riess, a professor of physics and astronomy at the Johns Hopkins University and is a scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.   When he was a research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1996 to 1999, Dr. Riess and his colleagues conducted the research that was to win him a share of the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics.  The citation for the prize stated it was: “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae.”  In today’s show, Dr. Riess translates what that means and the implications about the ultimate fate of the universe.

Pine Bark Beetle - photo by Jeff Mitton

Pine Bark Beetles (start at 19:22).  The tree-killing pine bark beetles used to breed once a year.  Warming annual temperatures now allow them to breed twice, resulting in 60 times more offspring.  Hungry, tree-eating offspring.  University of Colorado biologists Jeff Mitton and Scott Ferrenberg have just published their findings that the doubled-up breeding season explains why the recent pinebark beetle epidemic has killed so many trees.  And it’s not over yet.  How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender talks with the scientists about which trees are the most vulnerable to pinebark beetles.  You also can hear the extended version of that interview.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Beth Bartel
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Headline Contributor: Susan Moran
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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20th Anniversary Science Show

Bucky Ball 1991 “Molecule of the Year”

We celebrate 20 years of How on Earth, featuring the 1st ever KGNU science show, 20 years ago, including Bucky Balls, Electromagnetic Radiation and Cows, Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble, and along the way, we give updates on current science issues, including Tom McKinnon talking about applications for Bucky Balls (Fullerenes) today, a conversation with CU Electrical Engineer Frank Barnes, who is one of the world’s most sought-after experts on EMFs,  Southwest Research Institute Astrophysicist Joel Parker gives an update on space telescopes, and CU Science Journalism professor Tom Yulsman talks about an issue NOT on the radar 20 years ago — global climate change.  We also share information about tonight’s Denver Cafe Sci, with Brian Hynek, about “Mars:  Are We Alone?”  Special thanks to How on Earth original producers Sam Fuqua and Jeff Orrey for being here as part of the show.

Co-hosts: Joel Parker and Susan Moran
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Executive producer: Shelley Schlender

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Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth


We hear about a book called Logicomix, featuring Christos Papidimitriou, who is one of the world’s leaders on computational complexity theory, and what happens when he consents to be interviewed by two 10-year olds.  And in the headlines, we delve into a new report published in the January issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine that indicates exercise helps kids do better in school.  We fly to the moon with two GRAIL spacecraft, which stands for “Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory.”  And we invite you to sign up for the free, “Mini Med-The Clinical Years,” being offered at the CU Medical Center.

Nora and Lee

Hosts: Joel Parker, Susan Moran
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineers: Tom McKinnon, Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Pluto’s Moons // Wildlife Preservation

(credit: NASA, ESA, M. Showalter, Z. Levay)”]Pluto and its moons [click to enlarge] (credit: NASA, ESA, M. Showalter, Z. Levay)Feature #1:
Last month, astronomers working on the Hubble Space Telescope announced the discovery of another, fourth moon around Pluto; this moon is so small that it could fit easily inside Boulder County (a pretty tricky thing to find at a distance of three and a half billion miles). The researchers who found the new moon were making observations in support of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which is en route to fly by and study Pluto in 2015, and continue onward to explore the mysterious region beyond Pluto’s orbit known as the Kuiper Belt. How On Earth’s Ted Burnham recently met with Alan Stern, principal investigator on New Horizons, to talk about what the discovery means for that mission. [An extended version of the interview also is available.]

Harvey Locke  in Jasper National Park, Canada.  Jasper is part of the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor (Photo credit: Marie-eve Marchand)
Harvey Locke in Jasper National Park, Canada. Jasper is part of the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor (Photo credit: Marie-eve Marchand)

Feature #2:
The significant loss of species on Earth is primarily due to human destruction of habitats, forests and other wild nature, to make room for new development and agriculture. Climate change is also accelerating the rate of species extinction. Among the efforts worldwide to protect wilderness and nature so wild animals can survive is a Boulder-based nonprofit called The WILD Foundation. Harvey Locke is the organization’s vice president for conservation strategy and he helped launch the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) several years ago and oversees a global campaign called Nature Needs Half. Y2Y’s goal is to create a continuous 2,000-mile corridor for wildlife from Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. to the Yukon in Northern Canada. Harvey joins us in the studio to talk about that campaign and the science behind wildlife preservation targets.

Co-hosts: Susan Moran and Joel Parker
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Show Producer: Joel Parker


Extended interview with Alan Stern

On today’s show we featured an interview with Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, who is principal investigator on NASA’s New Horizons mission. He told us about a fourth, tiny moon orbiting Pluto—found last month by his team during observations in support of New Horizons, which will arrive at Pluto in 2015. Here’s an extended version of that interview.