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The surprising connections in science and technology that give you the Big Picture. Astronomer Seth Shostak and science journalist Molly Bentley are joined each week by leading researchers, techies, and journalists to provide a smart and humorous take on science. Our regular "Skeptic Check" episodes cast a critical eye on pseudoscience.
 
Planetary Radio brings you the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. We visit each week with the scientists, engineers, leaders, advocates and astronauts who are taking us across the final frontier. Regular features raise your space IQ while they put a smile on your face. Join host Mat Kaplan and Planetary Society colleagues including Bill Nye the Science Guy, Bruce Betts, and Emily Lakdawalla as they dive deep into the latest space news. The monthly Space Policy Edition takes ...
 
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show series
 
Birds have it going on. Many of these winged dinosaurs delight us with their song and brilliant plumage. Migratory birds travel thousands of miles in a display of endurance that would make an Olympic athlete gasp. We inquire about these daunting migrations and how birds can fly for days without rest. And what can we do to save disappearing species?…
 
In a surprise move, NASA chose SpaceX's Starship as the sole winner of its 3 billion-dollar human lunar lander development contract. Within days, Blue Origin and Dynetics filed official protests, forcing NASA to delay the award. Casey and Mat discuss how this selection, if it stands, is a smart move for a space agency that is serious about a true "…
 
It is always such fun to welcome back Andy Weir. The author of The Martian and Artemis has just published his most entertaining and inventive novel yet. Project Hail Mary gives an unlikely protagonist the job of saving humanity. Andy also shares his thoughts about the Mars helicopter Ingenuity, his hopes for NASA, and his low opinion of “the goldil…
 
Nothing lasts forever. Even the universe has several possible endings. Will there be a dramatic Big Rip or a Big Chill­–also known as the heat death of the universe–in trillions of years? Or will vacuum decay, which could theoretically happen at any moment, do us in? Perhaps the death of a tiny particle – the proton – will bring about the end. We c…
 
There is no Nobel prize for astronomy, so the Kyoto Prize for Astronomy and Astrophysics may be the highest international recognition an astronomer can receive. Princeton University professor of astronomy Jim Gunn is the most recent recipient. Jim recently joined Mat Kaplan for a deep conversation about the wonder and beauty of deep space, about th…
 
The Earth is not round. Technically, it’s an oblate spheroid. But for some people, the first statement is not even approximately correct. Flat Earthers believe that our planet resembles – not a slightly squashed grapefruit – but a thick pancake. A journalist who covered a Flat Earth convention describes the rationale behind this ever-more popular b…
 
We begin with a thrilling recap of the successful first flight of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter on Mars. Then we meet two researchers who have come up with a fascinating explanation for the first interstellar object discovered as it passed through our solar system. Rock out with Planetary Society chief scientist Bruce Betts as we discover the ‘80s ba…
 
Waste Not Why create more landfill? Perhaps you should resist the urge to toss those old sneakers, the broken ceiling fan, or last year’s smart phone. Instead, repurpose them! Global junk entrepreneurs are leading the way in turning trash to treasure, while right-to-repair advocates fight for legislation that would give you a decent shot at fixing …
 
Physicist and space pioneer Gerard K. O’Neil gathered a community of followers as he led planning for vast, magnificent human settlements in space. Guests Dylan Taylor, Will Henry and Ryan Stuit have produced an inspiring, feature-length tribute to O’Neill that stars space luminaries including Jeff Bezos, Frank White, Lori Garver, Rick Tumlinson, a…
 
We all get defensive sometimes. For some animals, evolution has provided a highly effective mechanism for saying “back off!”. A puncture by a pair of venom-filled fangs gets the point across nicely. But one animal’s poison may be another’s cure. Some dangerous critters churn out compounds that can be synthesized into life-saving drugs. Meet the spi…
 
Pilot Bob Crippen and Commander John Young became the first astronauts to fly a Space Shuttle into orbit on April 12, 1981. Crippen tells host Mat Kaplan about that mission and shares many more stories from his adventurous life. Mat was standing on the dry lake bed in the California desert when STS-1 returned to Earth. Planetary Society senior spac…
 
The Earth’s surface is dappled with more than a thousand volcanoes. They mark the edges of tectonic plates, spewing hot gas and ash, and boiling over with lava. We can detect the warning signs of an eruption, but why is it still so hard to predict? Meet a few currently active hot heads: Mauna Loa, Nyiragongo, Fagradalsfjall, and Soufrière – and fin…
 
Bill Nelson, former Senator from Florida, congressional astronaut, and father of the Space Launch System, will likely be NASA's next administrator. Casey Dreier and Mat Kaplan also discuss The Planetary Society's global Day of Action, which saw hundreds of Society members meet with elected officials in Washington D.C., along with the news that the …
 
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) team has just announced more than 2,200 new exoplanet candidates. Natalia Guerrero of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology manages these discoveries and still finds time to write plays, collaborate on musical performances and host radio shows that dig into the deeper meaning of our expanding uni…
 
Can self-deception be useful? During the pandemic, it has been fashionable to say that we’re “following the science,” and that our behavior is determined by verifiable facts. We are, after all, self-declared rational beings, and that’s clearly useful in guiding our reaction to a pandemic. It’s true that fear and suspicion have caused some to make c…
 
Deputy project scientists Katie Stack Morgan and Ken Williford are living on Mars time and living for Mars. We get an update from them on the work of the Mars 2020 rover. Perseverance is already accomplishing terrific science after just 5 weeks on the Red Planet. Katie and Ken also tell us what’s ahead, including launch of Mars helicopter Ingenuity…
 
Back off, you Neanderthal! It sounds as if you’ve just been dissed, but maybe you should take it as a compliment. Contrary to common cliches, our Pleistocene relatives were clever, curious, and technologically inventive. Find out how our assessment of Neanderthals has undergone a radical rethinking, and hear about the influence they have as they li…
 
Hayabusa2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda and his team learned a lot from Hayabusa1, Japan’s troubled-though-successful mission that returned a sample from asteroid Itokawa. Now they are celebrating the recovery of a much larger sample from a different world: asteroid Ryugu. Dr. Tsuda joins Mat Kaplan for a fascinating, exclusive conversation about th…
 
They were pioneers in their fields, yet their names are scarcely known – because they didn’t have a Y chromosome. We examine the accomplishments of two women who pioneered code breaking and astronomy during the early years of the twentieth century and did so in the face of social opprobrium and a frequently hostile work environment. Henrietta Leavi…
 
Troy Hudson and a brilliant international team created a device that would hammer its way below the surface of Mars. Mars had other ideas. The Jet Propulsion Lab engineer and scientist returns to tell us the heroic tale of the InSight lander’s Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, also known as the mole. Stay with us for a tour of the current …
 
The world is a colorful place, and human eyes have evolved to take it in – from vermillion red to bright tangerine to cobalt blue. But when we do, are you and I seeing the same thing? Find out why color perception is a trick of the brain, and why you and I may not see the same shade of green. Or blue. Or red. Also, platypuses and the growing club o…
 
The SpaceX of today reuses rockets and launches people into space. But 15 years ago, the future of the company was in doubt as its Falcon 1 rocket repeatedly failed to reach orbit. Eric Berger, Senior Space Editor at Ars Technica, joins the show to discuss his new book, Liftoff, which chronicles these early, formative years of the company in which …
 
Cleaning up water pollution, inventing inexpensive ventilators for hospitals, turning waste plastic into sidewalks, and making baby formula more nutritious—these and thousands of other innovations have come directly from research and development for space exploration. NASA technology transfer program executive Daniel Lockney takes us on a tour of S…
 
Eclectic Company We present a grab bag of our favorite recent science stories – from how to stop aging to the mechanics of cooking pasta. Also, in accord with our eclectic theme – the growing problem of space junk. Guests: Anthony Wyss-Coray – Professor of neuroscience at Stanford University Oliver O’Reilly – Professor of mechanical engineering, Un…
 
The Mars 2020 rover is on Mars. We have collected the most thrilling moments from the landing and the revelations that followed, including the first sounds recorded on the Red Planet. Bill Nye congratulates the entire Perseverance team and explains why this audacious mission is so important. Then Bruce Betts and Mat Kaplan welcome special guests as…
 
Okay you animals, line up: stoned sloths, playful pandas, baleful bovines, and vile vultures. We’ve got you guys pegged, thanks to central casting. Or do we? Our often simplistic view of animals ignores their remarkable adaptive abilities. Stumbly sloths are in fact remarkably agile and a vulture’s tricks for thermoregulation can’t be found in an o…
 
The Planetary Society’s Planetfest ’21 celebrated Mars and the newest visitors to the Red Planet. Mat Kaplan shares some of his Planetfest conversation with Andy Weir, author of The Martian. We also sit down with the leader of the United Arab Emirates’ Hope mission that entered Mars orbit a few days ago. Planetary Society contributing editor Andrew…
 
“Diversity or die” could be your new health mantra. Don’t boost your immune system, cultivate it! Like a garden, your body’s defenses benefit from species diversity. Find out why multiple strains of microbes, engaged in a delicate ballet with your T-cells, join internal fungi in combatting disease. Plus, global ecosystems also depend on the diversi…
 
Mars has commanded our attention and stimulated our imaginations for millenia. Now, as 3 more spacecraft arrive, we talk with author Marc Hartzman about his new book that documents the fascination and fancy generated by the Red Planet. Planetary Society Chief Advocate Casey Dreier gives us a taste of the Society’s recommendations for the Biden admi…
 
Earth invades Mars in February. In a historic trifecta for space exploration, spacecraft of three countries will arrive at Mars, and for two of those it will be their first time at the Red Planet. We talk to the science lead for the Emirates Mars Mission, a NASA engineer piloting the first helicopter on Mars, and a British space expert – all to lea…
 
Matt Hourihan is perhaps the world's most knowledgeable expert in how the U.S. government funds basic science and development activities. He joins the show to talk about the big picture of where the money goes, how the focus has changed over time, and the consequences of budget cuts to critical science investments. Discover more here: https://www.p…
 
Astronomer Linda Schweizer spent countless hours interviewing the explorers who revolutionized astronomy through observations made at California’s Palomar Observatory. She tells their fascinating stories and shares their science in her new book Cosmic Odyssey: How Intrepid Astronomers at Palomar Observatory Changed our View of the Universe. Attenti…
 
Maybe you don’t remember the days of the earliest coal-fired stoves. They changed domestic life, and that changed society. We take you back to that era, and to millennia prior when iron was first smelt, and even earlier, when axe-handles were first fashioned from wood, as we explore how three essential materials profoundly transformed society. We w…
 
Could the first object shown to have originated outside our solar system be a light sail built by an alien civilization? That’s the very controversial hypothesis put forward by distinguished Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb in his new book Extraterrestrial. The book is about much more than ‘Oumuamua, and so is Avi’s conversation with Mat Kaplan. Bil…
 
One of the many shocking aspects of the Capitol attack was that it revealed how thoroughly the nation had cleaved into alternate realities. How did we get to this point? How did misinformation come to create beliefs embraced by millions? In this episode, experts in social media, cults, and the history of science join us for a discussion about how t…
 
The 2020 Mars Rover will reach the Red Planet on February 18th after many months in the relative quiet of space. It will then undergo a true trial by fire as it descends to the surface. Jet Propulsion Lab systems engineer and his colleagues hope it will arrive as successfully as its sister Curiosity did in 2012. He tells host Mat Kaplan what to exp…
 
Do you have a hard-to-answer question? The Summit, Sierra, Trinity, Frontier, and Aurora supercomputers are built to tackle it. Summit tops the petaflop heap – at least for now. But Frontier and Aurora are catching up as they take aim at a new performance benchmark called exascale. So why do we need all this processing power? From climate modeling …
 
This is not your normal episode of the Space Policy Edition, but these are not normal times. The centuries-old U.S. tradition of the peaceful transfer of power ended on 6 January 2021, as a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol building during the certification of the electoral college vote, leaving 5 dead. Hours later, more than one hundred membe…
 
Composer Amanda Lee Falkenberg has created The Moons Symphony. You’ll hear excerpts from each of its 7 movements. They are inspired by and evoke 7 of our solar system’s smaller, unique worlds. Joining Amanda are her advisors and friends, artist and International Space Station astronaut Nicole Stott and Cassini mission project scientist Linda Spilke…
 
Psychics may not be able to predict the future or sense your thoughts. Nonetheless, they rake in hundreds of millions of dollars every year. But the harm from pseudoscience can go far beyond your wallet – especially when it promotes unscientific treatments for serious disease. Find out what alarming discovery led one naturopath to quit her practice…
 
It is many times larger than any previous solar sail, and it will pave the way for even bigger spacecraft propelled by light. Solar Cruiser principal investigator Les Johnson tells us about his latest project and looks to humanity crossing the gulfs of interstellar space. Stellaris: People of the Stars is a collection of science fact and fiction co…
 
The stone heads on Easter Island are an enduring mystery: why were they built and why were they abandoned and destroyed? The old ideas about cultural collapse are yielding to new ones based on careful investigation on the ground - but also from above. What surprising explanations have we found and are we off base to think that ancient societies suc…
 
Chief Scientist Bruce Betts, Editorial Director Jason Davis, Chief Advocate and Senior Space Policy Advisor Casey Dreier, and Communications Strategy and Canadian Space Policy Advisor Kate Howells join host Mat Kaplan for our annual look back at the closing year’s accomplishments in space exploration. They also predict 2021’s biggest events on the …
 
The reign of Le Grand K has come to an end. After 130 years, this hunk of metal sitting in a Parisian vault will no longer define the kilogram. The new kilogram mass will be defined by Planck’s constant, joining three other units for redefinition by fundamental constants. But as we measure with increasing precision – from cesium atomic clocks to gr…
 
Engineer and astronaut Stephanie Wilson was a toddler when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin visited the Moon. She may someday almost literally walk in their footsteps. Stephanie is one of 18 astronauts--9 women and 9 men--chosen for the Artemis Team. We also welcome back Cassini-Huygens project scientist Linda Spilker for another update on the discov…
 
The stress of the holidays can make you want to hide under the covers with a warm cup of cocoa. From gift buying to family gatherings, the holidays can feel like being inside a pressure cooker. But don’t despair! Science can help make the holidays a little brighter, from some gift-giving tips from our animal friends to embracing pessimism before a …
 
Mike Hecht is in charge of the MOXIE experiment on NASA’s Perseverance rover, arriving on Mars in February. The tiny device will test our ability to turn the Red Planet’s plentiful carbon dioxide into oxygen. Someday a scaled-up version may make the oxidizer that will get astronauts back to Earth. Mike also helps lead the groundbreaking Event Horiz…
 
Small bodies will hit the big time next year; a sample return from asteroid Bennu and the launch of both the DART and Lucy missions could unravel puzzles about the formation of the solar system, as well teach us how to deflect any asteroids headed our way. Meanwhile, the Juno mission to Jupiter has shown us its hard-to-study poles, where swirling g…
 
Carl Sagan was first in the job. Now it has been handed to Caltech planetary scientist Bethany Ehlmann. We’ll talk with the Planetary Society’s new president about her Moon mission and more. Society CEO Bill Nye and president emeritus Jim Bell also join in. Then we welcome back China space program expert Andrew Jones for an update on the nation’s l…
 
Magic mushrooms – or psilocybin - may be associated with tripping hippies and Woodstock, but they are now being studied as new treatments for depression and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Is this Age of Aquarius medicine or something that could really work? Plus, the centuries-long use of psychedelics by indigenous peoples, and a disc…
 
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