Thomas Levenson on “The Hunt for Vulcan”
It was believed for decades that our Solar System had an extra planet, closer to the Sun than Mercury: the planet Vulcan. The planet doesn’t exist, of course, but it took quite a while to figure that out. Why is that? What does this episode say about science and how it works? Is this a laughable mistake or a blunder in the history of science, or was science doing its job?
Today we’ll be speaking with Thomas Levenson, whose new book, ‘The Hunt for Vulcan: . . . And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe‘, addresses these questions while telling the compelling story of the “discovery” of a false planet.
Thomas Levenson is a professor at MIT and head of its science writing program. He is the author of several books, including ‘Einstein in Berlin’ and ‘Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist.’ He has also made ten feature-length documentaries (including a two-hour Nova program on Einstein) for which he has won numerous awards.
Fund Drive Special: How We Got to Now – Steven Johnson
In How We Got to Now: Six Innovations that Made the Modern World, science author and media theorist Steven Johnson examines key scientific innovations which not only created the modern world as we know it, but that without, we’d probably be a very different species at this point. How did these innovations come about? What were the historical determinants which allowed some to invent entirely new technologies, and what was the relationship between advances in science as a research endeavor to know the world around us, and these inventions.
For this special 2-hour Fund-Drive program, we will speak to Steven Johnson about his book, a 6-part PBS television series based on his book, and will be offering both the book and video as thank-you’s for donating to WBAI-NY to both keep the station on the air, and keep ETFF a part of the important line-up of programing you won’t ever find on corporate radio or any corporate media
Johnson is the author of eight books on the intersection of science, technology, and personal experience. He has also co-created three influential web sites: the pioneering online magazine FEED, the Webby Award-winning community site, Plastic.com, and most recently the hyperlocal media site outside.in. A contributing editor to Wired, he writes regularly for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, and many other periodicals. Johnson also serves on the advisory boards of a number of Internet-related companies, including Medium, Atavist, Meetup.com, Betaworks, and Patch.com.
Theoretical cosmologist, Sean Carroll
On today’s ETFF, Sean Carroll will discuss with us the nature of time and space, and some of the newest ideas in modern theoretical cosmology and physics. He will also discuss time travel, the god hypothesis, and the origins of the universe.
Carroll works at Caltech in Pasadena, California. He does research on theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, gravitation, and quantum mechanics as well as work on dark matter and dark energy, modified gravity, topological defects, extra dimensions, and violations of fundamental symmetries. Carroll has written a couple of popular-level books: ‘From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time‘, and ‘The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World.’
Theoretical Physicist, Brian Greene
Our guest this week is Brian Greene, a string theorist and theoretical physicist with a lengthy resume. Known as a science popularizer, he is the author of four books including ‘The Fabric of the Cosmos’ and ‘The Elegant Universe’, both of which became PBS specials that he hosted. He is co-founder and current Board Chairman of the World Science Festival, co-founder of the new and free online series of science courses at World Science U.com and a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University. We will be discussing his work and how best to communicate science to the general public.
Science, Science Fiction, and the Future of Humanity w/ Christopher L. Bennett
Advances in technology have already allowed us to achieve remarkable things, from the internet to space travel to medical technology, all of which would likely have been considered “miracles” only a few centuries ago.
In many works of Science Fiction, and in Star Trek in particular, the future is depicted as one in which this trend continues; working together, we cooperatively solve our social problems and expand into deep space, achieving things that would seem incredible even today. In the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, even God was seemingly afraid of what humans can achieve together. Seeing them building a tower to heaven itself, He foiled the humans by complicating communications by making them all speak different languages. Besides being a rather silly explanation for the origins of language, this was a similar tactic as when God demanded the first humans not to eat from the tree of knowledge and remain ignorant subservient to Him.
Philosophically speaking, should we continue to build that tower and conquer the heavens? Or should we be doomed to ‘speak different languages’ and proceed no farther into the universe?
Science fiction author Christopher L. Bennett addresses some of these issues in his novels, Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel, which directly references the Tower of Babel story, and more recently, Only Superhuman, which deals with future technology granting us real superhuman powers. Bennett is an accomplished sci-fi novelist, having also written a number novels based on Marvel’s superhero universe as well as Star Trek. He will discuss with ETFF science fiction, technology, the future of humanity!
Physics Nobel Prize recipient, Dr. John Mather
This Saturday our guest is Dr. John Mather, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics for his precision measurement of the cosmic microwave background radiation, which further solidified the Big Bang theory. He is now a senior astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and senior project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope. Dr. Mather discusses his work, life, and the development of new technology that is certain to once again inform and enlighten scientists and the public on our fascinating and mysterious universe.
Lawrence M. Krauss on “The Unbelievers”
Where did the universe come from? Is an intelligent creator necessary to have set the Big Bang in motion? Theoretical physicist & cosmologist Lawrence Krauss doesn’t think so, and neither says the scientific evidence.
Krauss laid out that evidence last year in his book, “A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing”, demonstrating that it’s at least possible for a universe to arise spontaneously out of nothing. He’s also been giving talks and participating in debates, promoting science and unbelief, and this year he features with Richard Dawkins in a new documentary film called “The Unbelievers”, in which they travel the country promoting unbelief.
Krauss returns to the show to discuss science, religion, the universe from nothing, and why it’s important to talk about and debate these things. He will also discuss his new film, and much more. Krauss is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist who is a professor of physics at Arizona State University, where he also serves as Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration and director of the Origins Project. He is most well known for his contributions to cosmology, as he was one of the first physicists to suggest that most of the mass and energy of the universe resides in empty space, an idea now widely known as dark energy.
Climate Change, Revisited w/ Bill McKibben
Our guest this week is Bill McKibben, a widely recognized leading environmental author, journalist and activist. Mr. McKibben’s many books include New York Times Bestsellers The End of Nature and Earth, as well as Deep Economy, The Age of Missing Information, and his new book coming out this Tuesday, Sept 17th, Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist. He is also the founder of the grassroots climate campaign, 350.org. We will discuss his upcoming book, his history and experience in the climate change movement, and the steps human beings must take in order to preserve our very existence.
Science Denial in the 21st Century w/ Darryl Cunningham
Climate change and evolution are both crucially important scientific theories and both have been fully accepted by the scientific community. Why then is there so much doubt and controversy about both among the general public? When the first human being stepped onto the moon, that step was seen across the world on TV and has been verified many times by many sources. Why then are so many convinced it was nothing but a conspiracy?
Science, the scientific process, has proved itself again and again in more ways than can be counted. It has saved lives, enabled communication in ways never before thought possible, and given us an amazing understanding of the universe around us. So why is there so much doubt and denial of science?
We will discuss these issues and more with British cartoonist Darryl Cunningham, a respected science writer and author of the book How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial, in which Cunningham tackles a variety of science denial issues in comic book form. Cunningham has also written other graphic books, including Psychiatric Tales. He was the keynote speaker at the Graphic Medicine Conference in Leeds, England in 2011.
William Gardner on Handling Truth
Why is truth such a hard thing to handle? Why do different people assert different things to be true, with equal certainty? Dr. William Gardner discusses four kinds of truths, which he calls Rhetorica, Mystica, Logica, and Empirica… and why they don’t always get along.
Also, why is it important to distinguish one kind from another, and – most importantly – how can someone living in today’s sea of information navigate the riptides of truths? And does it matter to the way we see the universe and the human condition if we never get to the truth?
We will discuss these questions with Dr. William M. Gardner, author of Handling Truth: Navigating the Riptides of Rhetoric, Religion, Reason, and Research. Gardner received a Ph.D. in General Experimental Psychology from the University of Alabama; he spent a year studying language at the University of Wisconsin, and occasionally during his teaching career took courses in philosophy. His research topics included animal behavior, comparative learning, personality, childcare institutions, and academic honesty.