A new InterPlanetary interview series from the Santa Fe Institute takes a page from the Strugatsky brothers' classic Soviet sci-fi novel, Roadside Picnic, to discuss a variety of transformative alien artifacts.
Thirteen years ago, an alien civilization visited our planet, and left behind myriad, mysterious materials in their crash sites. These areas, Zones, behave very strangely, but the interplanetary items they contain could change the trajectory of our technological advancement. What appears as a hoop might actually be a perpetual-motion machine. What appears as a slime might alter space-time.
Spend too much time in the Zone and your genes might mutate, your bones might dissolve, your body might be ground into meat. If you’re lucky enough to make it out alive, you’ll likely be imprisoned. But a successful trip in and out of the Zone could alter human history. Do you dare? And for what?
Hosted by Caitlin McShea.
#014 with Natalie Elliot
This week we bring Natalie Elliot into the Zone to discuss how art relates to science in the wake of a truly significant paradigm shift, and how Shakespeare grappled with such shifts throughout his career, and across many if not most of his plays. We speak a bit about Stalker, detecting lifeforms out in the universe, and speculate on how life emerged from lifelessness here on Earth, and elsewhere. Perhaps a clue lies in Natalie’s Alien artifact.
Natalie is a tutor at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, where she teaches cross-disciplinary courses in classics, history of science, mathematics, literature, philosophy, and music. She is a story teller, a science writer, a frequent contributor to SFI’s parallax newsletter, short-story fiction writer and novelist. She is specifically interested in the intersection of literature and science, as we in the InterPlanetary project are, and she co-authors the Atlantis Dispatch series with me.
#013 with Linda Sheehan
This week, we enter the strange, somewhat seemingly autonomous Zone with Linda Sheehan, Executive Director of Environment Now. Prior to her work at Environment Now, she was the co-founder and Executive Director of Earth Law Center, Senior Council for the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation, and an independent consultant to California State agencies and national non-profits.
She’s worked over 20 years in the arena of “Rights of Nature,” so we discuss that work and its impact on Earth, Earthlings and future space-farers before we hear about Linda’s perspective-altering alien object.
#012 with Katherine Collins
This week, our guest Stalker is Katherine Collins. Katherine is the Head of Sustainable Investing for Putnam Investments, She’s the founder of Honeybee Capital, and she serves on the Santa Fe Institute's board of Trustees. Well, actually, she was just elected Chair of our Board of Trustees, which we’re all thrilled about!
We spend some time talking about sustainable investments, how to approach decisions around sustainability, expanding time scales, wisdom versus intelligence, and of course her chosen object.
#011 with Van Savage
Van Savage is a professor in the UCLA Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, as well as Computational Medicine. He is also External Faculty of the Santa Fe Institute, and he serves on our science steering committee. His work covers a broad range of interests. He researches metabolic scaling, consumer-resource interactions, rates of evolution, effects of global warming on diverse ecosystems, tumor growth, and sleep. He heads up the sleep topical track for the James S. McDonnell Foundation- funded "Complex Time" research theme at SFI. This conversation focuses on that sleep work first, then pivots to the alien artifacts (plural!) that Van would hope to discover in the Zone.
#010 with Michael Lachmann
This week Alien Crash Site invites Evolutionary Biologist, and SFI Professor Michael Lachmann into the Zone to seek out a feeling device. We discuss the work he's done in the past year on strategic approaches to COVID, interdisciplinary science in general, his opinions on the origins of life, Roadside Picnic, Stalker, Solaris and understanding how aliens feel.
#009 with Tony Eagan
This week, SFI Research Fellow Tony Eagan enters the Zone in pursuit of an object that might not change human technology, but rather the ways in which we might consider our extraterrestrial comrades. Tony's research focuses on Aesthetics and Epistemology, and this conversation runs the gamut between myth, hope, fate and determinism, art, and what art resolves for the artist. We also talk at length about Roadside Picnic and Stalker, the two works that most influence and inspire this series.
An uncommon and beautiful show
Alien Crash Site is unlike other podcasts out there. The premise and the conversations are spacious and wonderful.
The guests are inspiring and Caitlin McShea leads each conversation brilliantly. Few podcast interviewers out there possess a wider knowledge base and none access theirs with as much skill. Every episode is challenging, expansive, and enjoyable.
One of the best kept secrets in the podcasting scene, if you aren’t listening yet, it’s time to start.