Science and technology are everywhere in our lives. This podcast takes a look not only at the science itself, but its role in society, how it affects our lives, and how it influences how we define ourselves as humans. Episodes also throw in a mix of culture, history, ethics, philosophy, religion, and the future! Hosted by Elizabeth Fernandez, an astronomer and science communicator. Let's spark some dialog!
Ep 91: Seeing Patterns, Seeing God: The Neuroscience of Belief - with guest Dr. Adam Weinberger
What similarities do the brains of religious people share? Do these similarities span differences in lifestyle, geography, culture, and religion? I am joined by Dr. Adam Weinberger, a neuroscientist and psychologist at Georgetown University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Ep 90: How Can We Find Life Within the Solar System?: with guest Dr. Niels Ligterink
Last month, scientists published word that an incredible discovery was made on Venus. They found what is called a “biomarker” in the clouds of Venus. Now, a biomarker is not life, but a chemical that may indicate life is present. In Venus’ case, this chemical is phosphine. It’s hard to explain why phosphine would exist in the atmosphere of Venus without life being present, especially in the quantities found. This exciting discovery has renewed the conversation – what if we find life within the Universe? Or life within the solar system?
If life was found on two worlds within our solar system, it may indicate that life arises easily. This means that life could be anywhere. Or everywhere.
Today on the podcast, I talk to Dr. Niels Ligterink. Niels is an Ambizione Fellow at the Space Research and Planetary Science Division of the University of Bern, Switzerland. He leads an international group of researchers to develop an instrument called ORIGIN – an instrument that can actually travel to different worlds and find chemicals that may indicate life exists there.
We take a tour of the solar system and ask – why are some places good to look for potential life while others, we’re pretty sure, are desolate? Could life be on Pluto? What does life need, and why does life start in the first place?
We talk about the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn and their underground oceans. How do we know that these oceans exist? Why might they be ideal places to find life? What kind of missions are planned to these moons, and how will they detect life there? And what do these underground oceans have in common with Earth’s own oceans?
Then we talk about Venus. What, exactly, did scientists find within the clouds? Does it mean there is really life on Venus?
What does all of this mean? If we found life in the solar system on two worlds (or more) it would indicate that perhaps, life starts more easily than we previously thought. And this could have implications across the Universe.
For patrons of the podcast, check out the photos and video of The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission that Niels provided. If you are not a patron and want to become one, you can join at Patreon.com/sparkdialog. Thank you all for your support!
Image Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute https://europa.nasa.gov/resources/29/europas-stunning-surface/
Some of the background music you here are clips from:
Between Worlds (Instrumental) by Aussens@iter (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/tobias_weber/56664 Ft: (Smiling Cynic)
Ep 89: Can Online Privacy Exist Today? - with guest Rob Shavell
Can online privacy exist today? What kind of ways does our personal data leak out when we are going about our buisness online, or even in person? I talk to Rob Shavell, co-founder of a privacy company called Abine
Why We Need Nature - with guest Dr. Peter Kahn
We all know that nature is good for us. We know to take care of the Earth, don’t pollute, be mindful of climate change. But how does being in nature affect us personally? How does it change our bodies and our minds, our biology, and our brains? Today I talk to Dr. Peter Kahn, a professor in the Department of Psychology and the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington. We talk about why nature is so good for us, and how much of nature we have lost – and we don’t even realize it.
Ep 87: Environmental Racism and Climate Change - with guest Dr. Gregory Simpson
Environmental racism - it's the term for the fact that communities of color are often hit harder by climate change or pollution than others. This happens both in our country and around the world. What can we do about it? Today, Dr. Gregory Simpson joins us. Gregory is a minister and has a doctorate in organic chemistry. He talks about the situation from Tuvalu to the US to his home of Jamaica, and how education is key in transforming the world.
Ep 86: The Science of Subjectivity: The World Your Brain Creates – with guest Dr. Jorge Morales
The world you see is not really the world that exists. Your eyes and your brain are working together to “lie” to you all the time. But, they don’t do this with some evil vendetta in mind. In reality, they do it to make sense of the enormous amount of information flowing in from the world around you. They have to make projections about what really exists. And sometimes, they get it wrong. Welcome to the science of subjectivity.
We can see this in all sorts of real world examples. Trying to catch that softball? Your brain is guessing where it’s going to go before it gets there. We also see it in optical illusions, where we are presented with proof that what our brain interprets is wrong.
Today, I’m talking to Dr. Jorge Morales. Jorge is a Provost’s Postdoctoral Researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Chaz Firestone’s Perception and Mind Lab. Jorge studies the science of subjectivity, using philosophy, psychology and neuroscience to understand the human mind—from how we see the world to how we become conscious of it. Do you need to be conscious to form a subjective opinion about the world? How do you even scientifically study subjectivity in the first place, when science is objective? We also explore optical illusions, all of the different ways our brain lies to us, and why we need subjectivity in the first place.
You can follow Jorge on Twitter @jorgemlg
For patrons of this podcast, check out the bonus content at Patreon.com. You’ll find some amazing optical illusions and videos that illustrate how your brain tricks you. You’ll also find a bonus mini-episode where Jorge talks about subjectivity in animals and if animals have “beliefs” about the world around them. If you are not a patron and want to become one, you can sign up at Patreon.com. Thank you for you support!
Some of the background music you here are clips from:
The Long Goodbye by John Pazdan (c) copyright 2008 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/flatwound/14476
ukeSounds by airtone (c) copyright 2011 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/airtone/32655
Mr. Wozzie by Robbero (c) copyright 2015 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/Robbero/51883
Customer ReviewsSee All
The Pope’s Astronomer episode #41
This episode was so interesting and thought provoking. The guest was so insightful and had me hanging on to his thoughts from the start. The host Elizabeth as always asked great questions. I look forward to the next episode every two weeks.
Accessible and fascinating!
No advanced degrees necessary to enjoy this great find for science fans. The topics are wide ranging and I walk away learning something new each time I listen. Elizabeth does a great job leading the conversation and making sure that the experts communicate in a way that's understandable and interesting for the audience.