Episode 61: Molecules: Where Chemistry Meets Astronomy, with Jan Cami

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

Feature Guest: Jan Cami

cami_300-115x150Did you know that buckyballs, complex soccer-ball shaped molecules formed from 60 carbon atoms, were recently discovered deep in interstellar space. Or that the centre of the Milky Way galaxies tastes like raspberries and smells like rum? And what about recently discovered WEIRDOS? Atoms and molecules may be small, but they can tell us lot about the very large, from the temperature of stars to the evolution of galaxies to the startling locations where life might be found. For more on the chemistry of the universe, today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Jan Cami

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Current in Space

Think interesting geological events only happen on Earth? Anuj shares groundbreaking new evidence of subduction occurring on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

About our Guest

Jan Cami is professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Western Ontario. His research is in molecular spectroscopy, dust mineralogy and diffuse interstellar bands. Cami has worked as a research scientist with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI and is deeply involved in astronomy outreach

Links

Jan Cami Faculty Page

Space Buckyballs (SETI Talk)

Buckyballs detected in space (CBC)

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 60: Building the Cities of our Universe, with Pauline Barmby

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

Feature Guest: Pauline Barmby

barmby
Just like the cities of our world, galaxies are the busy and over-crowded population centres where so much of the action takes place in our universe. The study of globular clusters and starburst galaxies are providing new insights into the how these cities of the cosmos were built. To share with us new discoveries from the Spitzer space telescope, including gossip about the weird behaviour of our next door metropolis, the Andromeda Galaxy, today I’m joined at the star spot by Pauline Barmby.

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Current in Space

If the American can’t get back to the moon Earth does have other options. Denise shares excitement over Chinese plans for a lunar sample return mission

About our Guest

Pauline Barmby is an observational astrophysicist and associate professor in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Western Ontario. She worked at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the Canada France hawaii telescope and is a member of the instrument team for IRAC, the InfraRed Array Camera on the Spitze Space Telescope. In her spare time Dr. Barmby gives public talks clarifying misconceptions about astronomy.  She is a science fiction enthusiast and enjoys listening to podcasts, perhaps including the star spot.

Links

UWO Researchers: World Isn’t Ending This Month (CHRW 94.9FM)
Andromeda Adrift in Sea of Dust in New NASA Image (NASA Mission News)
NASA Spitzer Space Telescope

How to Listen to the Show

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Subscribe for free with itunes
Use feedburner in your browserThe 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 59: Brown Dwarfs: Super Planet or Failed Star?, with Stanimir Metchev

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

Feature Guest: Stanimir Metchev

metchev_115x150Brown dwarfs: giant planets or failed stars? The debate rages on with comparable intensity to the surprisingly violent storms seen to roil these fascinating bodies. To help settle the debate, and for cutting edge discoveries of brown dwarfs and their startling behaviour, Stanimir Metchev joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

If a brown dwarf is neither a planet exactly nor a star exactly, what is it exactly? What keeps it from collapsing? And since they aren’t necessarily brown, what’s in the name? Metchev and Trottier then discuss the weird and surprising behaviour of brown dwarfs, the ubiquity of their massive storms and their role in helping us study the clouds of extrasolar planets,

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Current in Space

Benjamin brings us a ray of sunshine, announcing a breakthrough in the level of efficiency of new transparent solar panels. And super storms are all the rage on today’s episode of The Star Spot as Denise shares discoveries of violent turbulence on the ice giant Uranus.

About our Guest

Stanimir Metchev is Canada Research Chair in Extrasolar Planets and Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Western Ontario. He studies the atmospheres of exoplanets and brown dwarfs, and the formation and evolution of planets. He is principal investigator of brown dwarf research with NASA’s spitzer space telescope.

Links

Faculty Page at University of Western Ontario

Stormy Stars? NASA’s Spitzer Probes Weather on Brown Dwarfs (JPL News)

Stanimir Metchev and team find evidence of great storms on brown dwarfs

Brown Dwarfs Racked By Planet-Sized Storms Of Molten Iron (Popular Science)

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

Sharing my fascination with the cosmos: The Star Spot partners with Rexdale Summer of Innovation Camp

Over the last couple of years we have had some remarkable accomplishments here at The Star Spot. We’ve interviewed leading scientists, we’ve covered major conferences, we’ve formed meaningful partnerships and we’ve had the pleasure of interacting with our audience directly at many wonderful events.

This month I had another unique opportunity. As a sign of the growth and maturity of our program, The Star Spot came to the attention of the Rexdale Summer of Innovation Camp, a project of the Rexdale Community Hub. The camp is the brainchild of Amra Munawar, a dedicated community activist and a champion of youth education. Working with major sponsors United Way and IBM, she pioneered the idea of a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) focused summer camp for students in the Rexdale neighborhoods. Rexdale is one of Toronto’s priority neighborhoods, having been identified as a vulnerable community due to higher rates of school drop out  and other metrics. As with so much the answer is education.

On two separate Monday mornings in August I was invited in to lead a 2-hour session on astronomy and space exploration before groups of grade 9 and 10 students. My goal was to give the students some new Canadian role models to emulate by showcasing actual Canadians contributing to the adventure of space. This was easy to do since I have had the pleasure of interviewing several great Canadian leaders in this area: Paul Delaney, Sarah Seager, Bob McDonald, Ralf Gellert, to name a few. But I also wanted to demonstrate how a youth might consider contributing to astronomy and space exploration through both typical and unusual channels. My co-host Denise Fong’s interview with artist Catherine Hazin made for an ideal example.

My first go at this was a good learning experience. It turned out when attempting to wake students up with the early bird Monday morning presentation, best to lead in with engaging icebreakers. On my second attempt I shortened the interview excerpts, but opened with some good old fashioned space trivia followed by a clip of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s overview of the scale of the universe from the first episode of Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey. That got them hooked.

The experience at Rexdale reminded me of my camp counsellor days, where you aim to be simultaneously entertaining and insightful. Ultimately the goal is less the transfer of particular bits of information and more the desire to leave youngsters with a fascination for a new area of exploration and a thirst for a lifelong adventure of learning and engagement.

The mere report that at least a few of the students were heard considering careers in astronomy and space was enough to tell me I had done my job.

- Justin

 

 

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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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 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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Subscribe for free with itunes
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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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Subscribe for free with itunes
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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

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

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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Subscribe for free with itunes
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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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Subscribe for free with itunes
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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