The Star Spot

Feature Guest: Zachary Fejes

Imagine a starship that could take us out into the galaxy. Meet Icarus Interstellar, a nonprofit foundation working to achieve interstellar travel by the year 2100. Is this science fiction? That’s what I’ll ask Zachary Fejes. His team is tasked with preparing a map that will take us to the stars, and he joins Justin Trottier here at The Star Spot.

Current in Space

We know supernova are among the most destructive and violent events our universe is capable of producing. Now Tony tells us why they may have played a creative role in Earth history. Then Dave shares news of the first exoplanet discovered, alive and well, in a triple star system.

About Our Guest

Zachary Fejes is Project Lead for Project Voyager at Icarus Interstellar, a research and development project to create next generation space exploration mission planning and simulation software. If you’re like to join his team, which draws heavily from student volunteers, connect with him on twitter @zachfejes. He is a recent electrical engineering graduate from the University of Toronto.

 

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_105_Zachary_Fejes.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Feature Guest: Chuck Black

Ever consider moving to Mars? The Star Spot did. Along with the University of Toronto Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, we co-hosted a panel event exploring one of the most fascinating questions in which science meets science fiction. The great terraforming Mars debate. 

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

Now over the course of 4 episodes I’m being joined at The Star Spot by each of our guests from that event.

We covered the science of Mars with planetary scientist Paul Delaney. We then turned questions of Martian and Earthling biology with Dr. Olathe MacIntyre. Finally, switching gears, we asked NASA’s planetary protection officer John Rummel if we should terraform a lifeless world.

These have been weighty discussions so in this fourth and final interview with journalist Chuck Black of Canadian Aerospace News we’re going to have a little fun. We’re going to dream of our loftiest vision of a Martian colony and we’re going to ask, if we do opt for colonization, how would we choose who to send as ambassadors of our species.

Current in Space

 

About Our Guest

Chuck Black is a journalist, technology advocate, public speaker and activist. He edits and contributes articles to the Commercial Space blog, the Canadian Aerospace News, and the Space Conference News. He also organizes and produces events focused on the commercialization of space- derived technologies which bring together industry experts for detailed in-person discussions, collaboration and networking on a wide variety of topics for various groups.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_104.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Feature Guest: John Rummel

Ever consider moving to Mars? The Star Spot did. Along with the University of Toronto Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, we co-hosted a panel event exploring one of the most fascinating questions in which science meets science fiction. The great terraforming Mars debate.

We were joined by a 5 member panel of experts, representing a wide range of backgrounds. We approached the issue from all angles: physics, astronomy, philosophy, ethics, commerce and politics. Now over the course of 4 episodes I’m being joined at The Star Spot by each of our guests from that event. We covered the science of Mars with planetary scientist Paul Delaney. We then turned questions of Martian and Earthling biology with Dr. Olathe MacIntyre.

Now it’s time to switch gears. Even if we could make Mars habitable, we must confront the equally profound question, should we do it? If Mars already habours life, even just microbes, does that make terraforming off limits? If Mars has dormant life, should we reawaken it? And do humans have an imperative to spread life to the barren worlds of our solar system and beyond?

To tackle these biggest of questions today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Professor John Rummel of NASA’s Planetary Protection Subcommittee.

Current in Space

What’s the best way to study the largest volcano in the solar system? Anuj explains. And while every major galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its centre, have you ever wondered just where do they come from? Tony sheds some light.

About Our Guest

John Rummel is a Senior Scientist with the SETI Institute and a Visiting Scholar at McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law. A retired Professor of Biology at East Carolina University, he has been a member of the NASA Advisory Council’s Planetary Protection Subcommittee. He previously worked at NASA Headquarters, as Senior Scientist for Astrobiology and Exobiology Program Manager. Rummel is Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has received the Life Sciences Award from the International Academy of Astronautics. He received his PhD in community ecology and evolution from Stanford University.

 

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_103.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Feature Guest: Olathe MacIntyre

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 course of 4 episodes we're joined at The Star Spot by each of our guests from that event.

We started, appropriately, with the red planet itself. In our last episode planetary scientist Paul Delaney updated us with the most current understanding of the characteristics of Mars pertinent to the planet’s suitability for life.

Today we look at the biology, turning the focus on us, that is, the biota of Earth. We’ll be asking what we need to change about Mars to make it friendlier to our kind of life? What techniques are available toward that end? And could Earth life itself play a key role in transforming the red planet?

Current in Space

Did you know dung beetles use the Milky Way galaxy for navigation. Don't believe us? Anuj will explain how it works. Then Tony shares how supermassive black holes may unlock the secrets of distant galaxies. 

About Our Guest

Dr. Olathe MacIntyre received a B.Sc. in Biology at Dalhousie University.  After working as an Onboard Marine Biologist in Alaska, she completed her M.Sc. in Space Science at the International Space University in France, and co-authored “Visysphere Mars: Terraforming Meets Engineered Life Adaption.” She received an internship at the world-class Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility at the University of Guelph, where she earned a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences. Her thesis explored the implications of hypobaric conditions for plant-microbe interactions in a Lunar or Martian greenhouse. She followed with a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph. She is currently with Science North, a science education centre, working to inspire the next generation of scientists through the wonders of space exploration.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_102.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

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 EST

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 EST

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.