My friends at SETI’s Big Picture Science podcast – what used to be called the Are We Alone radio show – want to put together a live show for the October 27 Bay Area Science Festival, a huge public gathering of folks where they can learn about science. They plan on holding a lively panel of astronomers, climate scientists, and other experts about the facts behind doomsday theories (such as they are).
But they need help to raise the funds to do this. They need $4000, so they started a Kickstarter fund to help. They’re almost there – as I write this they’re only $600 away, with a couple of days left to go – though of course with more funds they can do more.
This is being done by my good friends SETI astronomer Seth Shostak and science journalist Molly Bentley, and I support them. In fact, I’ve done many a segment of the Big Picture Science podcast: Seth and I do a roughly once per month interview called Brains on Vacation (see Related Posts below). So I know this show does good work, and the live show will be really fun, entertaining, and of course educational. In a good way!
Go check out their Kickstarter and beam them some cash if you can. Thanks!
Every month (or so), astronomer Seth Shostak rings me up and we talk about some topic relevant to skepticism for his radio show, "Are We Alone". This month, we talked FTL neutrinos. That is, the latest news in the faster-than-light neutrinos saga.
If you want the background info, you can find it in the Related Posts section below.
- Unconfirmed rumor: FTL neutrinos may be due to a faulty GPS connection
- New experiment neither proves nor refutes FTL neutrinos
- Followup: FTL neutrinos explained? Not so fast, folks.
- Faster-than-light travel discovered? Slow down, folks
Every month or so I sit down (virtually) with my buddy Seth Shostak, and we record a short interview for Skeptic Check, part of the Big Picture Science podcast/radio show. Seth’s on the road right now, so they’ve put a "Beast of Skeptic Check" online, featuring some of Seth’s favorite segments. You can also just hear the part I’m in (talking Moon Hoax) on the Big Picture Science blog.
- Big Picture Science: climate change denial on Fox News
- Are We Alone, Little Ice Age edition
- Are we headed for a new ice age?
- The Sun may be headed for a little quiet time
- Are We Alone Skeptic Check: Tyche, or not Tyche
- Are We Alone of DEATH
Every month or so I do a skeptical segment with astronomer Seth Shostak called "Brains on Vacation" for the SETI radio show/podcast "Big Picture Science" (what used to be called "Are We Alone?"). This month’s episode, Plotting Along, is about conspiracy theories and is now online. You can listen to it there, or download the file directly.
This time, I talked about the climate change denier Joe Bastardi’s bizarre take on global warming that recently aired on Fox News — you can read all about what he said on sites like Scientific American and Media Matters. Basically, Bastardi denies humans have anything to do with climate change, and has a history of saying things that, um, turn out not to be entirely accurate when it comes to basic science.
In this case, Bastardi tried to invoke the First Law of Thermodynamics to show humans don’t cause global warming, a truly weird thing to do since the First Law actually supports the idea that pumping CO2 into the air makes it heat up. Without carbon dioxide, the energy from the Sun would hit the Earth, with some being absorbed and some radiating away. Energy is neither created nor destroyed, just balanced. However, carbon dioxide traps some of that heat, warming us up*. It’s not that new energy is being created someplace, it’s just that more of the Sun’s heat stays trapped here on Earth instead of being radiated away. That energy cannot just go away or be destroyed, so we warm up.
The First Law is safe. Phew!
Not content with just physics, Bastardi then moved on to chemistry: this time, Le Chatelier’s Principle. Read More
Every month or so I go on SETI’s "Are We Alone" radio show/podcast with Seth Shostak, and we discuss some weird scientifically distorted news item in a segment we call "Skeptic Check". The latest one is now online, where Seth and I talk about the recent news about the Sun’s potentially weakening magnetic field, and some folks who have leapt to the conclusion that we’re facing a new ice age because of it.
Here’s an article I wrote about this topic, and here’s the direct link to the show. [UPDATE: I just found out the AWA blog has links to the various show segments as stand-alone audio files, so here's the link to mine.]
The conclusion? Spoiler alert: don’t stock up on portable heaters just yet.
This week’s episode of the SETI radio program "Are We Alone" is up, complete with my semi-regular contribution to the segment "Skeptic Check". The show’s theme is apocalyptic scenarios real and imagined, so astronomer Seth Shostak and I talk about various forms of both. Supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, slamming into molecular clouds, the death of the Universe, and of course the Mayan 2012 end times-o-rama.
If aliens call, who will listen?
For the past couple of decades it’s been astronomers and engineers at SETI, the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence. But a desperate lack of funds has forced them to mothball their Allen Telescope Array, a group of 42 radio dishes in northern California.
The budget crisis has hit nearly everyone, and with states nearing bankruptcy it’s no surprise that a lot of science is getting curtailed. But SETI represents something noble and good about science, something we do both because of its deep philosophical ramifications and also simply for the joy of finding things out. So it hurts a little bit more to hear this.
SETI astronomer Seth Shostak gives the rundown on the situation. And there’s a little bit of salt in the wound because SETI was just ramping up to start investigating the exoplanets recently found by the Kepler mission as well. For the first time in human history we’re finding systems outside our own where habitable planets may exist. I think it’s worth giving them a listen.
But that won’t happen for a while at least. The array costs about $2.5 million per year to run, and that money simply isn’t coming in; there are several funding agencies — including the eponymous Paul Allen — but as the SETI press release puts it:
In an April 22, 2011 email (PDF) to Allen Telescope Array stakeholder level donors, SETI Institute CEO Tom Pierson described in detail the recent decision by U.C. Berkeley, our partner in the Array, to reduce operations of the Hat Creek Radio Observatory (and thus the Allen Telescope Array) to a hibernation state effective this month. NSF University Radio Observatory funding to Berkeley for HCRO operations has been reduced to approximately one-tenth of its former level and, concurrently, growing State of California budget shortfalls have severely reduced the amount of state funds available for support of the HCRO site.
Knowing my readers, some of you will want to help. SETI has a donation page. I talked with Seth yesterday and he told me "every little bit helps".
And hey, if you happen to know a millionaire who happens to be able to look a little bit beyond the next day or two of market fluctuations, you know where to send them.
Every now and again I chat with astronomer Seth Shostak about some astronomical skullduggery as part of the SETI radio show "Are We Alone". The segment is called Skeptic Check, and the latest is now online, where Seth and I apply a little kryptonite to the idea of the "supermoon" causing earthquakes.
You can also hear Joe Nickell talking Bigfoot, and other scientists discussing the Mozart Effect and magic. It’s a good show… but as we say, don’t take our word on it. Go hear it for yourself!
The newest edition of the SETI radio show "Are We Alone" is up, and in the segment called Skeptic Check astronomer Seth Shostak and I poke fun at the latest silliness about Betelgeuse and the Mayan doomsday. The rest of the show is, as usual, really good and fun to listen to (all about ESP — but you knew that already), so head over there and give it a download. But do it before December 21, 2012.
Or wait until afterwards. It’ll still be around, as will the Earth.
The podcast "Are We Alone" is a great weekly ‘cast from the SETI Institute, and this week’s episode has Seth Shostak and me discussing the nonsense about Iraq using bomb-detecting dowsing rods (here’s a direct download of the MP3). These magic wands do not work, and their use has allowed cars loaded with bombs through checkpoints in the Middle East. This is a direct example of how magical, antiscientific thinking can do real harm, resulting in dangerous situations and even deaths… hundreds of them.