The Star Spot

Feature Guest: Paul Delaney

Ever consider moving to Mars? The Star Spot recently did. Along with the University of Toronto Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, we recently co-hosted a panel event exploring one of the most fascinating questions in which science meets science fiction. Can we terraform Mars to make it habitable? And if we can, should we?

We were joined by a 5 member panel of experts, representing a wide range of backgrounds in order to approach the issue from all angles: physics, astronomy, philosophy, ethics, commerce and politics.

Now, over the next 4 episodes I’ll be joined at The Star Spot by each of our guests from that event.

We start with the science. For the debate over terraforming Mars depends in large part on the attributes of the red planet, on whether it harbours life, and on what technologies are possible to make the planet suitable for a human settlement and even civilization. To set the scene and to share his position in this great debate today we're joined at The Star Spot by planetary science Professor Paul Delaney.

The Star Spot is Now on the Radio!

The The Star Spot podcast is now The Star Spot podcast and radio show. That’s right. Your favourite astronomy program is now travelling through space, specifically the 1280AM frequency. Our broadcaster, CJRU The Scope at Ryerson, is now available on the radio dial, which means you can join us at The Star Spot at 1280AM every Sunday 8PM and Tuesday 6PM Eastern Time.

Current in Space

Scientists are getting closer to discovering what dark matter is made of... by ruling out one more possible candidate, explains Anuj. Then Dave announces Kepler has suddenly doubled the number of confirmed exoplanets in our galaxy. And with new research into the overview effect, Tony wonders if the life changing experience enjoyed by astronauts can be brought down to Earth.

About Our Guest

Paul Delaney is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at York University. He received his undergraduate degree from the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, and his graduate degree in astronomy from the University of Victoria in Canada. Professor Delaney oversees the York University campus observatory and its public outreach programs, and he appears regularly on York Universe, one of The Star Spot’s affiliated podcasts.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_101_-_Terraforming_Mars_Paul_Delaney.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Celebrating 100 Episodes with you at The Star Spot!

Thank you for joining here at The Star Spot for our special 100th episode. I want to take a moment to thank the 100 absolutely stellar guests that have joined us on the show over the last 4 years. You have educated and inspired people of all ages with your insight and enthusiasm. Thank you to our listeners for helping us grow our production and for your thoughtful suggestions and terrific online discussion. And of course, a very special thank you to the amazing team of volunteers who make our project possible. It has been a great experience working with each of you and I look forward to what the next 4 years will bring.

 

Feature Guest: Feryal Özel

As we speak astronomers are busy building the world’s biggest telescope. And when it becomes operational one year from now the globe-spanning Event Horizon Telescope will be aimed at the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy, taking the first ever portrait of this hungry beast lying at the very core of the Milky Way. To help us understand how studying the shadow of supermassive black holes will provide the most rigorous test yet in our understanding of gravity, today we’re joined at The Star Spot by The Event Horizon Telescope’s Professor Feryal Özel

The Star Spot is Now on the Radio!

The The Star Spot podcast is now The Star Spot podcast and radio show. That’s right. Your favourite astronomy program is now travelling through space, specifically the 1280AM frequency. Our broadcaster, CJRU The Scope at Ryerson, is now available on the radio dial, which means you can join us at The Star Spot at 1280AM every Sunday 8PM and Tuesday 6PM Eastern Time.

Current in Space

Science fiction fans are familiar with a cloaking device that hides alien ships from an enemy. Now Tony explains how a real life cloaking device could help us hide our entire civilization from prying eyes. And Anuj wonders if Saturn's moons may be younger than we thought - and what that means for our exploration of the solar system. 


About Our Guest

Feryal Özel is Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Arizona. She received her Masters from the Niels Borh Institute and her PhD from Harvard University, before working as a NASA Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. Her research focuses on neutron stars and black holes, and the relationship of black holes and galaxies in the early universe. Professor Özel is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the Science Academy of Turkey.

 

 

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_100_-_The_Monster_at_the_Centre_of_the_Galaxy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Ingrid Stairs

In February scientists announced the first ever discovery of gravitational waves, tiny distortions in the fabric of space-time predicted by Einstein exactly 100 years ago. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, made the historic detection by studying two colliding black holes, but singularities aren’t the only source of gravitational waves.

Here to tell us how pulsars, the lighthouses of the galaxy, can be used to study gravitational waves and help us understand the forces of our universe, today we’re joined at The Star Spot by pulsar authority Ingrid Stairs

The Star Spot is Now on the Radio!

The The Star Spot podcast is now The Star Spot podcast and radio show. That’s right. Your favourite astronomy program is now travelling through space, specifically the 1280AM frequency. Our broadcaster, CJRU The Scope at Ryerson, is now available on the radio dial, which means you can join us at The Star Spot at 1280AM every Sunday 8PM and Tuesday 6PM Eastern Time.

Current in Space

We know the late heavy bombardment period was critical to the eventual emergence of life on Earth. But since Earth wasn't the only planet that went through such an ordeal, Anuj explains what that implies for life in the solar system. And Dave shares new evidence of the effect of ancient supernova explosions on our planet.

About Our Guest

Ingrid Stairs is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of British Columbia. She received her doctoral degree from Princeton university before undertaking her postdoctral fellowship at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK. Professor Stairs received the NSERC University FAculty Award as well as Princeton’s Joseph Henry Award. She is a world authority on pulsars, the energetic remnants of massive dead stars.


Feature Guest: Brian Trent

Here’s the ultimate challenge for science fiction. How do you describe the appearance and behaviour of an intelligent alien species when we have no example to go on but us? How can we ever know our portrayal is truly alien and not a projection of our own expectations, hopes and fears? Or has the job of science fiction all along been to hold up a mirror to ourselves? Today we're joined at The Star Spot by Brian Trent, an award-winning science fiction author who manages to blend shockingly unfamiliar alien beings within stories of profound humanity.

Today’s episode of The Star Spot is the third in a three part series featuring interviews with the keynote speakers at the 13th annual Expanding Canada’s Frontier’s symposium, this year on the topic Astronomyths: Science or Fiction?, looking at cosmology and alien life, hosted at the University of Toronto this past January.

The Star Spot is Now on the Radio!

The The Star Spot podcast is now The Star Spot podcast and radio show. That’s right. Your favourite astronomy program is now travelling through space, specifically the 1280AM frequency. Our broadcaster, CJRU The Scope at Ryerson, is now available on the radio dial, which means you can join us at The Star Spot at 1280AM every Sunday 8PM and Tuesday 6PM Eastern Time.

Current in Space

Did the Large Hadron Collider just discover a new heavy particle beyond the Standard Model of particular physics? Anuj reports. Then Dave explains how astronomers captured for the first time the very beginning of a supernova explosion. And Tony reveals how space rocks arriving on Earth from before the formation of the solar system show chemicals produced in long dead stars.   

About Our Guest

Brian Trent is a journalist and science-fiction writer. His work appears regularly in major publications like AE - The Canadian Science Fiction Review, ANALOG, Fantasy & Science Fiction, COSMOS, Nature, Galaxy’s Edge and Daily Science Fiction.  In 2013 his story “War Hero” was a winner in the Writers of the Future Contest. His most recently published Novel, Rahotep, came out in December.

Brian Trent describes himself as “a futurist with an interest in the past.” He studies how technology has affected our world in order to speculate on where we are headed. His  writings on artificial intelligence, longevity research and the search for life in the universe, among other topics, lead him towards a picture of what the future looks like for our society and our species. His ideas have appeared in UTNE, The Humanist, Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld and other publications. 


Feature Guest: Lynn Rothschild

Are we alone in the universe? Think about it. Whatever the answer, it is one of the most profound and enduring questions humans have ever asked. The fact that we are on the cusp of being able to answer it is incredible. But the challenge is still immense, for we’re not even sure exactly how to define life.

And yet there’s no one better equipped to tackle this mystery then an astrobiologist who is presenting working to recreate life in the lab. Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by senior NASA astrobiology Professor Lynn Rothschild who will update us on our search for life in space and our new efforts to build synthetic biology here on Earth.

Today’s episode of The Star Spot is the second in a three part series featuring interviews with the keynote speakers at the 13th annual Expanding Canada’s Frontier’s symposium, this year on the topic Astronomyths: Science or Fiction?, looking at cosmology and alien life, hosted at the University of Toronto this past January. In our next episode we will speak with Brian Trent, award-winning science fiction author and futurist.

The Star Spot Hits the Airwaves!

Coming soon, your favourite astronomy program will be travelling through space… well through the airwaves at least. The Star Spot, broadcast on CJRU, The Scope at Ryerson, will be on the air at 1280AM on the radio dial starting in April. You’ll be able to catch the latest episode every Sunday at 8PM and Tuesday at 6PM Eastern Time. Visithttp://www.thescopeatryerson.ca/ to learn more about our partner radio station.

Current in Space

Anuj asks how today's stromatolites can tell us about the habitability of the ancient Earth. And Tony bring news of cutting edge technology that promises advances in the imaging of planets beyond our solar system. 

About Our Guest

Professor Lynn J. Rothschild is senior scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center and Adjunct Professor at Brown University and the University of California Santa Cruz.

Professor Rothschild is a world authority in the field of astrobiology. She founded and ran the first three Astrobiology Science Conferences, was the founding co-editor of the International Journal of Astrobiology, and is the former director of the Astrobiology Strategic Analysis and Support Office for NASA.

A well-rounded astrobiologist, Dr. Rothschild works on various models for the origin of life, studies the interaction of environment on biology, explores life in extreme environments and looks for signs of life on other worlds.

Recently she has been pioneering the new field of synthetic biology. Her award-winning iGem team is investigating the use of synthetic biology to accomplish space exploration missions, including the future human settlement of Mars.

Professor Rothschild has received the Isaac Asimov Award from the American Humanist Association and the Horace Mann Award from Brown University. She is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, The California Academy of Sciences and the Explorer’s Club.


Feature Guest: Fred Adams

Could the very first moments of our universe hold the secret to the eventual emergence of life billions of years later? And can life exist in the unimaginably far future, or does the life of the universe effectively die? From the deep past to the infinite future, today we're joined at The Star Spot by Professor Fred Adams to discuss the intersection of cosmology and life.

The Star Spot Hits the Airwaves!

Coming soon, your favourite astronomy program will be travelling through space… well through the airwaves at least. The Star Spot, broadcast on CJRU, The Scope at Ryerson, will be on the air at 1280AM on the radio dial starting in April. You’ll be able to catch the latest episode every Sunday at 8PM and Tuesday at 6PM Eastern Time. Visit http://www.thescopeatryerson.ca/ to learn more about our partner radio station.

Thinking of moving to Mars?

Then you better attend the upcoming panel discussion, March 16th at the University of Toronto. The event will feature six amazing panelists from the fields of physics, astronomy, philosophy, commerce, environmental science, planetary protection and political science, all brought together to explore the possibilities and implications of Martian settlement. Come join me as I moderate this exciting and unique debate, and meet up with members of The Star Spot and the U of T Astronomy and Space Exploration Society

About Our Guest

Today’s episode of The Star Spot is the first in a three part series featuring interviews with the keynote speakers at the 13th annual Expanding Canada’s Frontier’s symposium, this year on the topic Astronomyths: Science or Fiction?, looking at cosmology and alien life, hosted at the University of Toronto this past January. In our subsequent two episodes we will speak with Professor Lynn Rothschild, senior scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, and then Brian Trent, award-winning science fiction author and futurist.

Today I’m excited to be joined by Professor Fred Adams. Professor Adams served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics before joining the Physics Department at the University of Michigan, where he is now Full Professor. Professor Adams has won many awards, including the the Helen B. Warner Prize from the American Astronomical Society, the Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation, and the Excellence in Education Award from the University of Michigan. In 2014, we was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Professor Adams has an interest in how things form, whether we’re talking the formation of stars, of planetary systems or of the universe itself. Recently he has turned his focus to how things end, with cosmological work that is considering the long term evolution and fate of our universe.   Professor Adams is an author of several astronomy books for the public, including The Five Ages of the Universe: Inside the Physics of Eternity and Origins of Existence: How Life Emerged in the Universe.


Feature Guest: Gil Holder

Have you heard of the Great Attractor or the Great Wall? The universe evolved from a hot dense not quite perfectly uniform state to now contain galaxies in sheet-like structures separated by huge voids. These clusters and superclusters of galaxies make up the largest scale structure in the observable universe. How exactly did they emerge, what role does dark matter and dark energy play in the evolution of structure and just where is our universe headed? To help us answer those questions today we’re joined at The Star Spot by cosmologist Gil Holder.

Current in Space

With the building of the James Webb Space Telescope coming along quickly, Anuj explains how the successor to Hubble will open a new window on the universe? And following the recent 40th anniversary of the Apollo 1 disaster, Tony reflect on three major tragedies in the history of space exploration and reflects on why it’s still worth the risk. Finally Dave reports on the groundbreaking discovery of gravitational waves via one of the most powerful phenomena in the universe: binary black hole mergers. 

About Our Guest

Gil Holder is Canada Research Chair in Cosmological Astrophysics at McGill University and a Scholar at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Dr. Holder received his PhD from the University of Chicago and was a Keck Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study from 2001 to 2004. His research focuses on unique methods of studying structure formation in the universe.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_95_-_Galaxy_Clusters.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Don Lincoln

Humanoid... grey in colour… almond shaped eyes. You all know exactly what I’m describing, but have you ever wondered just how the public’s perception of aliens came to be? Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Professor Don Lincoln, renowned particle physicist and author of Alien Universe: Extraterrestrial Life in Our Minds and in the Cosmos. Does our conversation and beliefs about aliens tell us more about us than them, and how might first contact with an alien intelligence change everything.

Current in Space

Star Trek-like alien interactions might be possible after all... if you live at the centre of a globular cluster. Then, we look at a conspiracy theory that's no longer so out there, because Planet X is back, with a vengeance. And gardening arrives at the ISS, meaning astronauts may eventually enjoy the fruits of their labour. Extremophiles are also heading to the space station, as we test their habitability in Mars-like conditions.

About Our Guest

Don Lincoln is a senior physicist at Fermilab, America’s flagship particle physics laboratory, and adjunct Professor of Physics at the University of Notre Dame. He is co-discover of the top quark and was part of the team that discovered the Higgs boson in 2012. Professor Lincoln is the author of several public science books, including Understanding the Universe: From Quarks to the Cosmos, The Large Hadron Collider: The Extraordinary Story of the Higgs Boson and Other Things That Will Blow Your Mind and Alien Universe: Extraterrestrials in our Minds and in the Cosmos.

 

 


Feature Guest: Les Johnson

In our last conversation, Pekka Janhunen, inventor of the electric solar sail, joined Denise at The Star Spot to explain the science and engineering behind this advanced spacecraft propulsion technology. Now as we dive into Part 2, it’s time to ask, just how far into deep space will the electric sail take us and will it truly open up a path to the stars? To answer those questions, today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Les Johnson, Deputy Manager for NASA’s Advanced Concepts Office.

Current in Space

Death from above. If an object from outer space is going to kill you, Tony tells you which one it's likely to be. And did you know some stars are in a big hurry? Anuj explains the newly discovered phenomenon of runaway stars. 

About Our Guest

Les Johnson is Deputy Manager for NASA’s Advanced Concepts Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He is co-investigator of NASA’s Heliopause Electrostatic Rapid Transit System (HERTS), an electric-solar-sail study and development project. Johnson is also a science fiction author whose latest novel, Rescue Mode, describes the first human mission to Mars.


Feature Guest: Pekka Janhunen

The electric solar wind sail, or electric sail for short, is an advanced spacecraft propulsion technology that just might revolutionize space travel, making deep-space exploration at high speeds a reality. Or not. To help us separate fact from fiction today our guest host Denise Fong is joined at the star spot by Dr. Pekka Janhunen, the inventor of the electric sail.

Current in Space

Everyone knows Apollo 11 was the first spaceflight to land humans on the moon. But as Anuj helps us celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8, we remember why this mission changed everything. Kicking yourself for having missed that recent supernova explosion? Not to worry. Dave explains how some events in the cosmos get re-played over and over again. And can Mars look forward to its very own ring system? Tony explains.

About Our Guest

Dr. Pekka Janhunen is a space researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute. He received his PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Helsinki in 1994. Since then Dr. Janhunen has focused his research in various areas of planetary science. He is best known for his 2006 invention of the Electric Solar Wind Sail. This innovation took place at the Kumpula Space Centre, a collaboration between the Finnish Meteorological Institute,the Department of Physics of the University of Helsinki and the School of Electrical Engineering of Aalto University.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_92_-_The_Electric_Solar_Sail.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT