Episode 58: The Mandate of Heaven: Ancient Chinese Astronomy, with David Pankenier

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

Feature Guest: David Pankenier

david

The scholar of Chinese science Joseph Needham wrote that “astronomy was a science of cardinal importance for the chinese since it arose naturally out of that cosmic religion, that sense of the unity and even ethical solidarity of the universe.” To help me understand how the mandate of heaven and astrological portents led to the rise and fall of ancient dynasties, and ruled the life and death of the average Chinese, Professor David Pankenier joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

 

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Current in Space

Benjamin shares the fascinating discovery of the largest gas tail ever found, a trail of gas spanning between galaxies and consisting of more matter than the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies combined!

About our Guest

David Pankenier is a Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at Lehigh University. He has degrees in Chinese and Asian languages, as well as three years of private study in Chinese classics in Taiwan. His interests are in archaeology, astrology, cosmology and ideology, with an expertise in the role of the celestial in ancient China. He researches the connection between astromical phenoma and pivotal political and military events in ancient China. Pankenier has published two volumes of translations of many hundreds of ancient Chinese astronomical observations. He has written about ancient Chinese cosmology and released a new book in october 2013, Astrology and Cosmology in Early China: Conforming Earth to Heaven.

Links

David Pankenier webpage at Lehigh University

Personal History

Astrology and Cosmology in Early China: Conforming Earth to Heaven

How to Listen to the Show

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If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

 

Episode 57: Exoplanets: A Retrospective Survey and the Road Ahead, with Paul Delaney

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

Feature Guest: Paul Delaney

pauldelaneyThe next time you look up at the night sky, struck dizzy by the sheer number of stars shining down on you, here’s something to consider. On average each star host at least one planet. That’s the accumulated result of our exoplanet hunting efforts to date. To help us explore the implications of this profound discovery and to make sense of our zoo of exoplanets, from Super Earths to Hot Jupiters and everything in between, Professor Paul Delaney joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

We’ve focused much attention on exoplanet discoveries. Today we step back and provide some perspective. Professor Delaney takes us from the earliest planet hunting pioneers all the way to the latest technological developments that are pushing the distance of our planetary discoveries, reducing the size of the objects we are able to detect, and leading us on to the next frontier: exoplanet atmospheres.

Professor Delaney explains his surprise at the ubiquity of so-called “rogue planets” and shares his touching story of becoming an astronomer despite living with albinism. Though in his own words he does not have a good relationship with the sun, he has fostered a great one with the stars, and he works to share his infectious enthusiasm with the world.

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Current in Space

Dave shares the discovery of an exoplanet found near the all important “frost line,” the first time we’ve found a planet with a history potentially similar to that of Jupiter. Benjamin describes how the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope may search the atmosphere of exoplanets for signs of life – including long self-destructed life! Closer to home, Anuj tells of a new spacecraft being sent to sample an asteroid for organics. And Denise wonders if the next space race will be far more crowded than the last one.

About our Guest

Paul Delaney is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at York University. He received his undergraduate degree from the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, and his graduate degree in astronomy from the University of Victoria in Canada. Professor Delaney oversees the York University campus observatory and its public outreach programs, and he appears regularly on York Universe, one of The Star Spot’s affiliated podcasts.

Links

Video: Paul Delaney – Star Man: At the 2011 Albinism Fellowship of Australia conference in Melbourne (October 9, 2011), Paul Delaney gave this video presentation explaining how he became a professor of astronomy despite the visual problems associated with albinism.

Video: The Promise of New Worlds: The Kepler Mission, featuring Professor Paul Delaney (Presentation at the Centre for Inquiry)

‘What a spectacular view': Moon landing happened 45 years ago Sunday (The Ottawa Citizen)

How to Listen to the Show

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The Star Spot is also broadcast on The Scope at Ryerson. The show airs every Tuesday and Sunday at 6:00PM Eastern Time. Listen live here

If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

 

Episode 56: The Art of Astrononomy, with Robin Kingsburgh

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

Feature Guest: Robin Kingsburgh

robinAlbert Einstein once said “After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are always artists as well.” To help us understand the dynamic between the arts and the science of astronomy, today Robin Kingsburgh joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

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Current in Space

Some like it hot. But what happens when it gets a little too hot? For those who like to work those tans, Benjamin warns you to beware. Scientists have discovered the highest UV index ever, though not near any beaches you’d probably be travelling to this summer.

Dave shares the mystery of the magic island, a structure that appeared and disappeared within a matter of days on the seas of Titan.

And Benjamin on the fascinating field of archaeoastronomy in which we learn about ancient civilizations down here on Earth by studying the sky the ancients would have seen up above.

About our Guest

Robin Kingsburgh received her PhD in astronomy from her studies of stars and planetary nebulae. A renaissance woman, she now teaches in the faculty of arts and sciences at the Ontario College of Art and Design and in the division of natural sciences at york university. She combines her love of art and science by introducing astronomy subjects to artists and through her own work curating exhibits like Occam’s Razor: art, science and aesthethics, currently on public display.

Links

Robin Kingsburgh’s Website

Ontario College of Art and Design Faculty Page

Occam’s Razor: Art, Science and Aesthetics Exhibit

Video: Royal Canadian Institute Lecture
Look for “When Art Meets Science: Broadening Horizons through Interdisciplinary Practice – A Discussion @ Toronto”

How to Listen to the Show

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The Star Spot is also broadcast on The Scope at Ryerson. The show airs every Tuesday and Sunday at 6:00PM Eastern Time. Listen live here

If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

 

Episode 55: Where Have All The Anti-Matter Gone?, with Scott Menary

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Feature Guest: Scott Menary

PENTAX ImageAre there anti-matter galaxies out there in space? Will we ever be able to make anti-atoms of heavy elements? How do you trap something that is detroyed immediately upon contact? And of course, will anti-matter become an energy source for space exploration propulsion systems a la Star Trek?

Professor Scott Menary joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss his work studying the properties of anti-matter, the relationship between anti-matter and anti-gravity, and his attempts to answer one fundamental question: where did all the anti-matter go?

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Current in Space

Benjamin brings us a whiff of space, helping us add the sense of smell to our repertoire of data on alien worlds.

About our Guest

Scott Menary is professor of physics at York university. He works on the ALPHA experiment at CERN to produce and trap antihydrogen atoms in order to study their properties. He has also worked at Fermilab studying neutrino oscillation physics and charm quarks. He is also a recipient of the Polanyi Prize in honour of the 1986 nobel prize winner John Charles Polanyi.

Links

Video: Angels & Demons: The Science Revealed (York University talk)

Confinement of antihydrogen for 1,000 seconds (Scholarly article in Nature Physics)

York University faculty page

How to Listen to the Show

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The Star Spot is also broadcast on The Scope at Ryerson. The show airs every Tuesday and Sunday at 6:00PM Eastern Time. Listen live here

If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

Episode 54: The Astronomy of Shakespeare, with Dan Falk

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

Feature Guest: Dan Falk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAstronomy meets Shakespeare? An unlikely pair you might imagine, but “There are more things in heaven and earth, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. Today on this special audio and video edition of the show we’re joined by Dan Falk at The Star Spot at the Toronto book launch of his new Science of Shakespeare.

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The special video edition of this interview, featuring a live recording from the book launch, is available on our YouTube Channel, TheStarSpotTV, and in the video below. The Star Spot’s YouTube channel features special additional media from our program, as well as re-released YouTube versions of our regular episodes. Please subscribe here.

Current in Space

Surfs Up on Titan? Benjamin revisits a previous report purporting to show a lack of waves on the ocean’s of Saturn’s moon. Moving on to another gas giant, Arjun wonders if the Great Red Spot is about to lose its greatness.

About our Guest

Dan Falk is an award winning science journalist and broadcaster. He’s been published very broadly, including in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Cosmos magazine, and New Scientist, and has contributed to CBC and TV Ontario science programming. Dan Falk is also the author of three books, including In Search of Time: Journeys Along a Curious Dimension, Universe on a T-Shirt: The Quest for the Theory of Everything, and the newly released Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright’s Universe

Links

Dan’s website
Galileo’s “Falling Bodies” Experiment Re-created in Pisa (YouTube Video)
In Search of Time (YouTube Video)

How to Listen to the Show

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If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

Episode 53: Stump the Astronomer! at International Astronomy Day 2014

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

ddoInternational Astronomy Day 2014 occurred on Saturday, May 10. The Star Spot celebrated at the David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill, Ontario, which boasts the largest telescope in Canada. The Dunlap Observatory was once the second largest telescope in the world, second only to the Hooker Telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory, famously used by Edwin Hubble to discover the expanding Universe. The Dunlap is now used purely for educational and outreach purposes and is maintained by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Toronto Centre, one of The Star Spot’s affiliated organizations.

On this episode of The Star Spot we bring you highlights from our event, Stump the Astronomer, held as part of International Astronomy Day 2014 at the Dunlap Observatory.

How big is space?  Is string theory the end of physics? Will an elevator ever take us into space? what happens if a regular matter black hole comes into contact with an anti-matter black hole? And most critical of all, was our astronomer stumped?

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Current in Space

Ben introduces us to the sun’s potential first known sibling, a star that is now thought to have formed in the same nursery, or nebulae, as our own. Then Anuj explores the search for hidden ancient impact craters on Earth and what they tell us about the history of our planet – and the evolution of life. And back to Ben for continued breaking news coming from the study of gravitational distortions of the early universe.

About our Guest

img3_me_at_scopeWe were very fortunate to put on the spot at The Star Spot our resident amateur astronomer Ed Hitchcock, also known as SciTeacherEd on Twitter. Ed Hitchcock is an evolutionary biologist, high school science teacher and volunteer telescope operator at the Dunlap Observatory. He blogs about science education at teachscience.net and amateur astronomy at BudgetAstronomer.ca. He describes himself as a life long science geek.

 

Links

Follow SciTeacherEd

www.TeachScience.net

www.BudgetAstronomer.ca

How to Listen to the Show

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The Star Spot is also broadcast on The Scope at Ryerson. The show airs every Tuesday and Sunday at 6:00PM Eastern Time. Listen live here

If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

Episode 52: Neutrino Geophysics: Journey to the Centre of the Earth

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

Feature Guest: Norman Sleep

normansleepHave you ever wondered what the massive internal hot core of the Earth has to do with space? Enter the world of neutrino geophysics. It might sound technical, but in probing the nature of the mysterious centre of the earth scientists are getting closer to determining the habitability of other planets in space. Co-host Denise Fong opens the program as Professor Norman Sleep joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

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Current in Space

Dave reports on the next stepping stone in our search for Earth’s twin, the discovery of the first habitable Earth-sized planet within the habitable zone of its star. Anuj asks if the Martian atmosphere was ever a biosphere, citing studies of the chemical composition of Martian rocks found on Earth that are telling us about changes in the Martian atmosphere over time. And finally The Star Spot’s poet-in-residence Benjamin shares a paean to recent geological work that contributes to our understanding of the Red Planet.

About our Guest

Norman H. Sleep is a professor of geophysics at Stanford University. He has collaborated with NASA on topics related to life on the ancient Earth and on other planets. Dr. Sleep studies how the insides of planets work and he was a member of a committee to advise NASA on planetary habitability. He has made ​​major contributions to problems of plate tectonics and many other areas of geology and planetary sciences. Sleep has won numerous awards and hounours around the world, including the 2008 Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society of London. He is also the author, with Kazuya Fujita, of the book, Principles of Geophysics.

Links

Standford School of Earth Sciences Page

Principles of Geophysics (Amazon)

Scientists Reconstruct Ancient Impact That Dwarfs Dinosaurs Extinction Blast

‘Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey’ — “The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth” (Preview & Background)

How to Listen to the Show

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If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

Episode 51: Quasar Storms of the Early Universe, with Sarah Gallagher

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

Feature Guest: Sarah Gallagher

sarahgallagherQuasars are among the most energetic and mysterious phenomena of the ancient universe. Spiralling gas is heated to such extremes that the neighbourhood around the quasar glows brighter than the entire surrounding galaxy. In the process, quasars generate dust grains, winds and storms of unimaginable violence. To help us understand the growing pains of the young universe, today Sarah Gallagher joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

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About our Guest

Sarah Gallagher is assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the university of western ontario. She completed a  Spitzer postdoctoral fellowship in 2006 based on her studies of quasar winds. Since her PhD work she has specialized in X-ray studies of these active supermassive black holes at the centres of distant and ancient galaxies. Gallagher has worked at Penn State, MIT, and UCLA and at NASA observatories Spitzer and Chandra. A well rounded individual, Gallagher has coached soccer and has an interest in art history.

Links

Sarah Gallagher Western Webpage

Western News In Profile

Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Spitzer Space Telescope

How to Listen to the Show

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If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

Episode 50: Mapping Our Galactic Neighborhood: Dark Matter, Galactic Collisions & Our Local Sheet

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

The Star Spot Celebrates Episode 50 

highlights

Today marks the 50th time I’ve welcomed you and our guests to the The Star Spot. It is also our two year anniversary. I wanted to thank each member of our great team of volunteers for getting us this far. We’ve had some amazing guests on the show. We hunted extraterrestrials with Jill Tarter and we built a universe from nothing with Lawrence Krauss. We explored saturn with Carolyn Porco and we chased comets with David Levy. We contemplated humanity’s future on Mars with Chris McKay and we searched for signs of life beyond the solar system with Sara Seager. We’ve talked with some truly fascinating people: astronomers, physicists, engineers, planetary scientists, philosophers, entrepreneurs, educators, historians, artists, activists, authors, journalists, and even a space travel agent! But the best has yet to come. So thank you for continuing to join us here at The Star Spot.

Feature Guest: Marshall McCall

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Today we’re joined by Marshall McCall for a special interview originally held in front of a live audience at an event hosted by the University of Toronto Astronomy and Space Exploration Society. A video excerpt from the event, featuring Professor McCall demonstrating the evolution of a galaxy, can be watched below

MarshallMcCallIn front of a live audience, Professor McCall joins Justin Trottier for a wide ranging discussion on all things galaxies. McCall tells how he wound up as a gardener at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, briefly the largest telescope on Earth, and then off to the opposite corner of the world working at observatories in Australia. A debate with the audience ensues over northern versus southern skies.

The two then discuss whether our galaxy is unique, the importance of dwarf galaxies, and get controversial exploring alternative theories of gravity. McCall explains the role of dark matter in giving rise to the superstructure we see as cosmic webs of sheets, filaments and voids. If dark matter dominated our past, the Andromeda galaxy will dominate our future when, in 3 billion years, we collide.

DSC00134The conversation concludes with a focus on McCall’s recent research on our mysterious local sheet of galaxies. Out to 20 million light years galaxies surrounding the Milky Way appear to lie on a surprisingly flat sheet. McCall describes this puzzling structure, which he dubbed the “council of giants,” and how work with his graduate student George Conidis is leading to startling revelations that suggest our neck of the woods might have some special qualities after all.

Current in Space

What effect does microgravity have on an astronaut’s internal organs? Ben gets to the heart of the matter. Then Anuj introduces us to an object called a Centaur which lives like an asteroid, behaves like a comet and has rings like a gas giant. And finally Dave shares the startling announcement  of an equally puzzling new addition to our family, a dwarf planet in the inner Oort Cloud and the possibility that its discovery could point to a super-Earth far out beyond Pluto.

About our Guest

DSC00136Marshall McCall is Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at York University. After graduating with degrees from the University of Victoria and the University of Texas at Austin, McCall spent two years observing southern skies at Mt. Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories in Australia. His research interests focus on the structure, evolution and formation of galaxies and galaxy aggregates. He was involved in recent discoveries of two hitherto unknown galaxies in the neighborhood of the milky way, research that is providing a new understanding of the puzzling arrangement of galaxies around our own.

Links

York University Faculty Page

York U astronomer maps out Earth’s place in the universe among ‘Council of Giants’ (Media release)

Council of Giants (YouTube video)

How Giant Galaxies Bind The Milky Way’s Neighborhood With Gravity: Universe Today

Where The Milky Way Stands In The ‘Council Of Giants’

George Conidis interviewed by York Universe on research investigating the local group of galaxies, the local sheet, and finding analogues of those out in the Universe

How to Listen to the Show

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If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com