The Star Spot

Lawrence Krauss joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss nothing, and how a universe can arise from it. Covering Krauss' earlier book "The Physics of Star Trek," the two discuss warp drives, time travel and transporters, and then reflect on the likelihood of a space exploration future anywhere like that of the Star Trek universe. Arguing that not only matter, space and time, but the laws of physics themselves, can all be ultimately explained, Krauss defends his assertion that the ultimate question "Why is there something rather than nothing" properly belongs to the realm of science, responding to critiques from philosophers and some in the religious communities. The conversation also focuses on quantum gravity, the anthropic principle, and what it means about our place in the universe that in the very long run, our universe seems to be heading back in the direction of nothingness.

Professor Lawrence Krauss is Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. He grew up in Toronto and studied at Carleton University, then received a PhD in physics at MIT. He served on President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign science policy committee, and has received awards from the American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers and the American Institute of Physics. He is the author of a number of books, including Hiding in the Mirror, Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science, The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe From Nothing: Why there is something rather than nothing.

Direct download: Ep20-LawrenceKrauss-FullEpisode.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Luis Lehner joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss his work in numerical relativity and his search for elusive gravity waves. Since they are not scattered by intervening objects but carrying pure information from their points of origin, gravity waves would be a revolutionary new way to study everything from the Big Bang to supermassive black holes. The two also discuss future missions to search for gravity waves, like the Laser Interferometry Space Antenna (LISA) and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO). Finally Lehner explains his theoretical work on strongly gravitating systems in higher compactified dimensions where exotic objects called "black strings" may connect string theory, quantum gravity and black holes.

Luis Lehner completed his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh and then held Postdoctoral Fellowships at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Briitsh Columbia. He is currently Professor at the University of Guelph and Associate Faculty at Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario. Lehner received the Nicholas Metropolis Award from the American Physical Society and a ellowship from the Sloan Foundation. He sits on the Editorial Board of the Journal Classical and Quantum Gravity, and he was named among the Top 40 Under 40 by the Baton Rouge Business Report. Lehner lives by advice his father once gave him, who said: "Anyone can get a university degree. It takes work and study for a few years, and then one ends up with a degree forever. But to a be a gentleman or a gentlewoman one must work on it forever."

 

Direct download: LuisLehner-CompleteEpisode.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00pm EST

The Star Spot is excited to announce a new development: video. Today’s episode of The Star Spot also features a special video edition to be posted on our recently launched YouTube channel, "TheStarSpotTV." There you can watch a video recording of our interview with today’s guest, Bob McDonald, as well as coverage of the 50 year anniversary celebration of the launch of Alouette 1, Canada’s first space satellite, the event at which Bob’s interview was conducted. We invite you to check out the video and subscribe to our new channel. Older episodes of our program will also be posted there in the near future.


Bob McDonald is Canada’s best known science journalist. A long standing fixture on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and host of CBC’s Quirks and Quarks which draws half a million listeners each week, Bob Mcdonald is the author of the book Measuring the earth with a stick: science as I've seen it, which was short listed for the chadian science writers association book award. He is the the recipient of a variety of awards for science communication, including the 2005 McNeil Medal for the public awareness of science from the royal society of canada and the 2001 michael smith award for science promotion from NSERC. The university drop out who wound up with 6 honorary doctoral degrees - and counting - sits down with Justin Trottier to discuss how unique opportunities have shaped his life, the value of story telling in selling science, and his experiences on the CBC.

Direct download: Episode18_-_Bob_McDonald.mp3
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Dr. Leo Meyer joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss his UCLA research group's discovery of S0-102, a star 11.5 light years from the supermassive black hole at the core of our galaxy. The closest star yet discovered to the galactic centre, S0-102 could provide a unique opportunity to test Einstein's General Theory of Relativity in an extreme environment. The two also cover the technological revolutions at the Keck telescope that have made this and related discoveries possible and what other surprises have been made and may yet be in store in the dynamic and volatile region at the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy.

About Leo Meyer

Dr. Leo Meyer is Assistant Researcher in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California Los Angeles. He obtained his PhD in physics from the university of cologne, Germany. He held a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the German Academic Exchange Service from 2008 to 2009 and a Graduate Fellowship of the Max-planck Society from 2005 to 2008. His research expertise lies in adaptive optics, general relativity, back holes and especially the Milky Way’s galactic centre.


Direct download: Ep17-LeoMeyer.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00pm EST

On today’s episode Dr. Ralf Gellert, principal investigator of the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectromer, or APXS, one of the primary instruments on the Mars Curiosity rover, joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss how his instrument is currently assisting in the search for signs of Martian habitability. Dr. Gellert compares Curiosity to its predecessors, especially the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity on which he continues to work. He describes how Curiosity's ten instruments together contribute to the mission goals, ponders whether we'll ever know for sure if Mars was, or was not, habitable, and shares his hope that the next step in Martian exploration would be a sample return mission. Gellert gives a feel for the complexity and scale of planetary exploration missions, describing how government, research institutions and private industry collaborate, and how Curiosity has become and international project.

In Current in Space we report on the discovery of super-luminous supernovae out at edge of the observable universe, and provide an update on Voyager 1 and its mission to a different edge - that of our own solar system.

About Ralf Gellert

Dr. Ralf Gellert is a German-born physicist who in 2005 became an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Guelph in Canada. He previously worked as a research scientist at the University of Mainz and the Max-Plank Institute for Chemistry, also in Mainz, Germany. After leading the successful proposal to NASA, he became the principal investigator of the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer, or APXS instrument, one of the primary instruments currently on board NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover. The APXS is designed to analyze the elements of a Marsian sample through alpha particle and X-ray bombardment.

Direct download: Ep16-Ralf_Gellert.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

In today's episode Professor John Percy, a professional astronomer with a passion for making astronomy and space exploration engaging, joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

Dr. Percy discusses his many educational astronomy activities, from hosting public events, to creating courses and resources for teachers, to finding creative cultural opportunities for outreach such as his work with the Toronto Tafelmusic baroque orchestra on their Galileo composition.

Starting their conversation on Dr. Percy's primary academic interest in variable stars, the two cover the challenges of developing relevant and engaging astronomy curriculum, the role of public science institutions in contributing to the vitality of city life, and how Dr. Percy ended up having an asteroid named after him.

About John Percy

Dr. John Percy is professor emeritus of astronomy at the University of Toronto. He is past president of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, the Royal Canadian Institute, and as honorary president of the science teachers’ association of ontario and vice-chair of the board of trustees of the ontario science centre.

Among a variety of awards and distinctions, Dr. percy won the 1997Royal Canadian Institute's Sandford Fleming Medal for contributions to public awareness and appreciation of science and technology and the 1999 Jack Bell Award for leadership in science education. He is a fellow of the american association for the advancement of science.

But perhaps his most long lasting recognition came with the naming of his own asteroid. He joins us here at the Star Spot to discuss that honour, and his insights bringing the world of astronomy and space exploration alive to students and learners of all ages.

Direct download: Ep15-JohnPercy-Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00pm EST

Our guest today is Professor Wendy J. Taylor who joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss the Large Hadron Collider, the search for the Higgs Boson and dark matter, and how the new field of astro particle physics may prove that discoveries at the smallest scale can have cosmological implications.

In Current in Space, we present start S0-102 whose superclose orbit to the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy presents a unique opportunity to test Einstein. Then we comment on the Canadian Space Agency's hope for a renewed deal to fly astronauts with NASA's new Orion program in exchange for next generation space robotics, and finally turn to an update on Mars Curiosity and planned activities with its own robitic arm.

About Wendy J. Taylor

Wendy J. Taylor is Associate Professor of Physics at York University and Canada Research Chair in Experimental Particle Physics. She is a member of the university’s High Energy Physics Group as well as its ATLAS group.  ATLAS is a key experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Her research at the Fermilab particle collider showing differences in the production of matter and anti-matter in high-energy collisions is shedding light on the imbalance in matter and anti-matter in the early universe. Professor Taylor is a member of the American Physical Society and the Canadian Institute of Particle Physics.

Direct download: Ep14-WendyTaylor-Complete.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00pm EST

Appropriate to Episode #13, given the superstitious associations of that particular number, our guest today, Guy P. Harrison, is a debunker of superstitions and paranormal beliefs of all stripes. He joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss his newest book 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True. After an introduction to skepticism, why it's vitally important and how it differs from simply cynicism or denial, the two focus down on a variety of exciting specific beliefs: ancient aliens, modern UFOs, abductions, astrology, and the moon landing hoax. Harrison explains what convinced him to give up his belief that ancient aliens visited the Earth. He explains what we can learn about psychology and culture by looking seriously at alien abduction experiences. He confronts the most effective arguments of the moon landing hoax community and finally explains why we shouldn't take our newspaper horoscopes too seriously.

In Current in Space we comment on discussions from the 100 Year Starship initiative which seeks to prepare for interstellar travel within a century. At a recent symposium everything from new possibilities for warp drives to a debate about whether religion should accompany humanity was on the table. Finally, we provide an update on the status of  the B612 Foundation's Sentinel mission, a sun-orbiting telescope that will increase our ability to track dangerous asteroids on potential collision courses with Earth.
About Guy P. Harrison
Guy P. Harrison graduated with a history and anthropology degree from the university of southern florida. He is an award winning writer, journalist and photographer. Harrison is the author of a number of books, including Race and Reality: What Everyone Should Know about Our Biological Diversity, 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God, and his newest book, 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True, described as a skeptical grand tour of extraordinary claims such as ESP, ghosts, psyhics, hoemopathic medicine, bigfoot and more. His primary interest is to promote science and skeptical inquiry.
Direct download: Ep13-GuyPHarrison-Final2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00pm EST

Our guest today is Patrick Hall who joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss one of the most energetic, myserious and ancient of phenomana in our universe: quasars. Hall shares his insights into the role quasars played in the evolution of the cosmos and galaxy formation, the mechanisms and physics of their behaviour, and the rare occurence of double quasars. He also describes the eventual fate of our Milky Way Galaxy to merge with Andromeda and produce quasars of our own. Finally, they focus on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and explore the tremendous opportunities afforded researchers by the growing scale and scope of large sky surveys.

In Current in Space we introduce a cryptic new start-up company Uwingu seeking to fundraising and raise public engagement in space exploration, comment on the enduring fascination with the concept of a space elevator, and pay tribute to one of the greatest explorers of our time - Neil Armstrong.

About Patrick Hall

Patrick Hall received his PhD in astronomy from the University of Arizona, worked at Princeton University as its Observatory Research Associate and is currently associate professor at York University. He is an expert in quasars and active galactic nuclei. He’s received a number of National Science and Engineering Research Council grants as well as the ontario early research award for studies on disks of matter orbiting supermassive black holes. Hall participates in analyzing data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a project that, among many many other things, resulted in the discovery of an asteroid that now bears his name Pathall.

Direct download: Ep12-TheStarSpot-PatHall.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00pm EST

Our guest today is Neil Rowlands who joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss the engineering and science of the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2018. The two cover the exciting objects and phenomena JWST will study, explore why the JWST is a vast improvement over Hubble, and discuss how a project of this magnitude is organized and managed. Dr. Rowlands also shares insights from working in the private sector while under contract to a government agency, before concluding with the current status and upcoming milestones for this exciting project.

In Current in Space we ask whether space and time might not be fundamental after all but rather emerged at the Big Bang. We then detail some of the astronauts who have moved into the political world including first Canadian in space Marc Garneau, now likely to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. Finally, we give tribute to a little world recently demoted to dwarf planet status.


About Neil Rowlands

Neil Rowlands Neil obtained his B.Sc (Engineering Physics) from the University of Alberta and his Ph.D. (Astronomy) from Cornell University. At Cornell, he participated in the construction and use of infrared instrumentation for the Kuiper Airborne Observatory and the 5m Hale telescope at Mt. Palomar.   

He held NSERC post-doctoral fellowships at the Canada Centre for remote sensing and another  at the Université de Montréal working with an infrared camera for the Canada France Hawaii Telescope.

In 1995 he joined CAL Corporation now called COM DEV, as an electro-optical engineer, developing space-borne scientific instrumentation for the space physics, atmospheric sciences and astronomy communities.  He is currently a Staff Scientist at COM DEV.  He has been working on the Canadian contribution to the James webb space telescope or JWST since 1997 on an instrument on the Fine Guidance Sensor/and near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph or NIRISS  system

Direct download: Ep11-NeilRowlands.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00pm EST