The Cosmic Controversy Podcast
Episode 58 — How The Unsung ‘Moon Buggy’ Saved The Final Three Apollo Missions

Episode 58 — How The Unsung ‘Moon Buggy’ Saved The Final Three Apollo Missions

July 9, 2021

Guest Earl Swift, a former reporter for The Virginian-Pilot and New York Times bestselling author of “Chesapeake Requiem” discusses his brand-new book “Across the Airless Wilds---the Lunar Rover and the Triumph of the Final Moon Landings,” just out from William Morrow.  Swift talks candidly about how NASA’s Apollo Lunar Moon Rover transformed the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions and argues that these last six moon-walking astronauts don’t get enough credit as bona fide explorers. 

Episode 57 — Why Our Earth Is Still One Of A Kind

Episode 57 — Why Our Earth Is Still One Of A Kind

July 2, 2021

University of Washington paleontologist Peter Ward, co-author of the famed non-fiction title, “Rare Earth:  Why Complex Life Is Uncommon In The Universe" is my guest.  He and University of Washington astronomer Donald Brownlee’s controversial book was published two decades ago, but even in this age of astrobiological plenty, remains as prescient as ever.

Episode 56 — The Case For Antimatter Propulsion

Episode 56 — The Case For Antimatter Propulsion

June 26, 2021

Guest Gerald Jackson, former Fermilab physicist and advanced propulsion entrepreneur chats about his plans for an Antimatter Propulsion interstellar robotic probe.  First stop would be Proxima Centauri.  In a wide-ranging interview, Jackson talks about the politics and pitfalls of advance propulsion research. Too many people seem to think antimatter is something that is still science fiction.  It’s not.  It’s as real as the chair you’re sitting on.

Episode 55 — How Ford’s Tri-Motor Airplane Helped Create The Airline Industry of Today.

Episode 55 — How Ford’s Tri-Motor Airplane Helped Create The Airline Industry of Today.

June 18, 2021

Matt Anderson, the John and Horace Dodge Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, speaks candidly about the early days of The Ford Motor Company and its foray into aviation via its revolutionary Tri-Motor airplane.  Although the Ford Tri-Motor was in production for less than a decade, its influence spawned much of what we take for granted about today’s passenger airline industry.  Lots of interesting tidbits make for a lively episode.

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.

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