The Cosmic Controversy Podcast
Episode 54 — What Nearby Stellar Open Clusters Are Still Teaching Us

Episode 54 — What Nearby Stellar Open Clusters Are Still Teaching Us

June 11, 2021

Marc Pinsonneault, a professor of astronomy at The Ohio State University in Columbus, and an expert on stellar open clusters, chats about some of the most famous star clusters in the sky, including the beautiful, blue Seven Sisters of The Pleiades; the Hyades star cluster and the Beehive star cluster.  We also cover what such clusters teach us about our own Sun and the evolution of stars in general.

Episode 53 — John Glenn, JFK and the Cold War’s New Frontier

Episode 53 — John Glenn, JFK and the Cold War’s New Frontier

June 4, 2021

Historian and former Clinton presidential speechwriter Jeff Shesol chats about his new book, “Mercury Rising: John Glenn, John Kennedy and the New Battleground of the Cold War” just out from W.W. Norton.  Shesol makes the case that the Cold War and the Space Race were inextricably intertwined in ways that are rarely appreciated in most conventional histories of the subjects.  Shesol gives us a great inside look into this mostly-forgotten early era.

Episode 52 — The Unexpected Origins of Life’s Genetic Code

Episode 52 — The Unexpected Origins of Life’s Genetic Code

May 28, 2021

Guest Ben K.D. Pearce, a Ph.D student in astrophysics and astrobiology at McMaster University in Toronto, and an expert on the origins of life’s building blocks here on Earth.  We discuss the idea that all the genetic components from which life emerged were incredibly readily available biogenically very early in Earth’s evolution.  As early as 4.5 billion years ago.  Pearce is part of a group making great strides in learning how this all may have happened in Earth’s very ancient warm little ponds. 

Episode 51 — Our Sun’s Ultimate Endgame

Episode 51 — Our Sun’s Ultimate Endgame

May 22, 2021

Villanova University astrophysicist Edward Sion, an expert on stellar white dwarfs chats about our Sun’s own endgame and planet Earth’s ultimate future which may end in cinders.   We also discuss the possibility of finding remnant solar systems around these hyperdense stellar cores. 

Episode 50 — How Humans Can Use Bioengineering To Move Off-World

Episode 50 — How Humans Can Use Bioengineering To Move Off-World

May 14, 2021

Geneticist Christopher Mason chats about his new book, “The Next 500 Years:  Engineering Life to Reach New Worlds” from MIT Press.  We discuss both the nuts and bolts and the philosophy driving our expansion offworld.  Mason’s goal is to preserve our species by expanding to an Earth 2.0 in order to avoid our star’s own Red Giant endgame.

Episode 49 — The Dangerous Downside of Airliner Automation

Episode 49 — The Dangerous Downside of Airliner Automation

May 7, 2021

Guest commercial pilot and author Jack Hersch talks about his 2020 book, “The Dangers of Automation in Airliners:  Accidents Waiting to Happen.”  It’s both a fascinating and harrowing read but prompts questions and nagging issues that the aviation industry needs to continue to address.

Episode 48 — Mapping Laniakea, Our Home Supercluster Of Galaxies

Episode 48 — Mapping Laniakea, Our Home Supercluster Of Galaxies

May 1, 2021

World-renowned, University of Hawaii cosmologist Brent Tully on 50 years of mapping the nearby universe which includes our own home supercluster ‘Laniakea.’  Tully candidly assesses the state of cosmography, the science of making 3-D maps of the nearby universe and speculates on when astronomers will finally map the cosmos in its entirety. 

Episode 47 — How Palomar Observatory Changed Almost Everything We Knew About Astronomy

Episode 47 — How Palomar Observatory Changed Almost Everything We Knew About Astronomy

April 24, 2021

Astronomer and author Linda Schweizer talks about her comprehensive new history of Palomar Observatory --- “Cosmic Odyssey:  How Intrepid Astronomers At Palomar Observatory Changed Our View of the Universe” from MIT Press.  We focus on Palomar’s early 20th century construction and history.  Schweizer is an expert on every aspect of the observatory; its history, and its many astronomical discoveries. 

Episode 46 – Harvard Geologist Andy Knoll Sums Up The Grand Sweep Of Earth’s History

Episode 46 – Harvard Geologist Andy Knoll Sums Up The Grand Sweep Of Earth’s History

April 16, 2021

Harvard University geologist Andrew H. Knoll takes on the grand sweep of Earth’s formation and evolution in his new book “A Brief History of Earth: Four Billion Years in Eight Chapters.  He succinctly describes Earth from its cosmological beginnings in a molecular cloud on through to the present day.  It’s a fine line between the vacuum of space and the planet on which we walk.

Episode 45 — The Incredible Story of Flying Tiger Flight 923’s North Atlantic Ditching

Episode 45 — The Incredible Story of Flying Tiger Flight 923’s North Atlantic Ditching

April 8, 2021

Author Eric Lindner talks about his forthcoming book, “Tiger in the Sea:  The Ditching of Flying Tiger 923 and the Desperate Struggle for Survival.”  The September 23, 1962 Flying Tiger Line passenger charter Lockheed Super Constellation aircraft en route from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey to Frankfurt, Germany lost three of its four engines to fire some 500 miles off the west coast of Ireland.  This largely forgotten episode in aviation history hastened the end of propeller-driven transport aircraft.

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