The Cosmic Controversy Podcast
Episode 19 — The Trouble With Mercury:  Our Solar System’s Bizarre Innermost Planet

Episode 19 — The Trouble With Mercury: Our Solar System’s Bizarre Innermost Planet

October 8, 2020

Guest Catherine Johnson, a planetary geophysicist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, discusses this bizarre little world; the innermost planet in our solar system.  A planet that’s so close to our Sun that its surface temperatures can hit 800 F.  But surprisingly, its poles harbor enough water ice to completely bury a major metropolis.  Some have even argued that Mercury may have once been habitable.  Where it formed still remains a mystery, but it does have a tiny magnetic field, a very oversized iron core, and one of the largest impact basins in the solar system.  A European mission is currently en route to orbit the planet in 2025. 

Episode 18 — The Heyday of Flying by the Stars

Episode 18 — The Heyday of Flying by the Stars

October 3, 2020

Retired commercial pilot, crash investigator, and aviation attorney Gary LaPook joins me to discuss the development and practice of celestial air navigation in passenger aircraft; how it worked; why it was replaced; where it could go wrong, and why celestial air navigation is still vital to our national security. 

Episode 17 — How We All Got Here — Galaxy Evolution over Cosmic Time

Episode 17 — How We All Got Here — Galaxy Evolution over Cosmic Time

September 25, 2020

For anyone who’s ever wondered how our own star happened to be caught up in the midst of a grand spiral beauty like our Milky Way, this episode should at least provide some clues.  It’s a big cosmological subject and of course, we just skim the surface but for those curious as to how galaxies formed after the Big Bang to become home to oh so many stars, this podcast episode should be of interest.  This week’s guest, Francesca Rizzo, a doctoral candidate at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, discusses the current state of how galaxies formed and developed over cosmic time.

Episode 16 — Deciphering Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), arguably the most bizarre radio emissions ever detected.

Episode 16 — Deciphering Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), arguably the most bizarre radio emissions ever detected.

September 18, 2020

Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) have hogged the headlines for the last decade or so; prompting many news organizations to question whether they are produced by far-flung alien civilizations in the midst of some sort of bizarre intergalactic transport mechanism.  The truth however is likely much more mundane; they could be flashes from Hawking’s storied evaporating black holes or colliding neutron stars or something we have simply failed to imagine.  But in this podcast episode, Duncan Lorimer, their co-discoverer, at West Virginia University (WVU) in Morgantown, gives us the straight scoop on what they most likely are and aren’t.  Great episode!

Episode 15 — Amelia Earhart Disappearance Is Likely Very Close To Being Solved

Episode 15 — Amelia Earhart Disappearance Is Likely Very Close To Being Solved

September 11, 2020

Amelia Earhart, arguably the most famous woman in the world at the time of her 1937 disappearance, was on a second attempt to fly around the world when something went horribly wrong.  However, what actually happened to the famed aviator and her navigator Fred Noonan may finally be close to being solved.  Or so says Chasing Earhart Project Director Chris Williamson in this fascinating episode in which we cover all the viable theories surrounding the Earhart mystery.

Episode 14 — Does the Dwarf Planet Ceres Harbor Life?

Episode 14 — Does the Dwarf Planet Ceres Harbor Life?

September 4, 2020

This week's guest is NASA Dawn project scientist Julie Castillo-Rogez who led the hugely successful robotic mission on the first in-depth look at the asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres.  Castillo talks about why there's a growing consensus that Ceres may have long had habitable subsurface conditions and why we need a sample return mission to launch in 2033.  We also discuss Mars' moons of Deimos and Phobos and the first interstellar asteroid, Oumuamua.

Episode 13 — Why Future Space-Based Arrays Of Optical Telescopes Will Likely Be 3-D Printed In Orbit

Episode 13 — Why Future Space-Based Arrays Of Optical Telescopes Will Likely Be 3-D Printed In Orbit

August 28, 2020

Lowell Observatory astronomer Gerard van Belle, Chief Scientist at the Navy Precision Optical Interferometer (NPOI) in Flagstaff. Arizona talks about the possibility of arrays of space telescopes that are 3-D printed after launch.  We also discuss the history of optical interferometry; why such interlinked telescopes are the key to America’s future in astronomy and why Arizona skies remain as vital today as they were a century ago. 

Episode 12 — Understanding Potential Alien Technosignatures

Episode 12 — Understanding Potential Alien Technosignatures

August 20, 2020

This week’s guest is Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester in New York, who has received the first-ever NASA grant to begin cataloging potential alien techno-signatures in a non-radio spectrum.  The hunt for potential alien technology is one of the sexiest topics in astrophysics at the moment and Frank doesn’t disappoint.  We cover everything from how we might find such technology in our own solar system to super-advanced civilizations that might harness supermassive black holes for cosmic scale supercomputers.

Episode 11 — Betelgeuse Dimming Mystery Might Be Solved, Says Edward Guinan

Episode 11 — Betelgeuse Dimming Mystery Might Be Solved, Says Edward Guinan

August 14, 2020

In a stroke of serendipity during a wide-ranging podcast interview, Villanova University astronomer Edward Guinan explains the paper behind today's news flap about the red supergiant star's inexplicable dimming. The most recent explanation is that dust generated from cooling plasma spewed forth from the massive star's interior caused Betelgeuse to appear more dim than usual.  While Guinan acknowledges this scenario is a possibility, he remains skeptical.  Please listen to this candid and entertaining episode!

Episode 10 — Why Mars Remains So Misunderstood

Episode 10 — Why Mars Remains So Misunderstood

August 7, 2020

Three spacecraft are currently en route to Mars, but none will visit the poles.  Yet Mars’ poles drive much of the Martian climate.  And their understanding is key to deciphering what might have been happening on the Red planet some 3.5 billion years ago when it had lakes, deltas, rivers, and perhaps even transient oceans.  I’m very pleased to welcome planetary scientist Isaac B. Smith of York University in Toronto --- an expert on Mars polar science and exploration --- to discuss the need for a Martian polar lander as well as a broader look at Mars science.

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