Blue Dot

Fridays at 10 a.m.

Blue Dot, named after Carl Sagan's famous speech about our place in the universe, features interviews with guests from all over the regional, national and worldwide scientific communities. Host Dave Schlom leads discussions about the issues science is helping us address with experts who shed light on climate change, space exploration, astronomy, technology and much more. Dave asks us to remember: from deep space, we all live on a pale, blue dot. 

For the 100th episode of Blue Dot we go volcanic! Dave interviews Erik Klemetti, Professor of Geosciences at Denison University in Ohio. Klemetti is an expert volcanologist who writes about volcanoes for the Discover Magazine blog Rocky Planet. We'll talk about the ongoing and unfolding saga of the Kilauea Volcano's eruptions on the big island of Hawaii. In the second half of the show, we visit with three California State University Chico students who are doing volcanology research as undergraduate students under the guidance of Professor of Geosciences at CSU Chico, Rachel Teasdale. Two of the students, Amy Robson and Angie Rodriguez, are researching the hydrothermal system at Lassen Volcanic National Park and Evan Davis is modeling a lava flow emplacement on Mars. Dave also talks to their mentor about the value of having undergraduate students do high level scientific research projects.

Dave talks to Alan Stern and David Grinspoon, coauthors of Chasing Pluto: Inside The Epic First Mission to Pluto. When Voyager 2 flew by Neptune in 1989, it closed out the golden age of solar system exploration. But it left one unexplored body: Pluto. Stern was part of a group of scientists known as "The Pluto Underground." For years the proposed, lobbied and planned for a robotic mission to what was then, "the ninth planet." The mission that would be eventually called New Horizons went through decades of starts and stops. The story of how this mission ultimately succeeded in July 2015 is a triumphant tale of perseverence.

In this episode Dave visits with Adam Weymouth, author of the new book Kings of The Yukon. In it, he describes taking an epic trip down the length of the Yukon River in a canoe. His purpose is to learn about the longest Chinook or "King" salmon run in the world. As Adam leaves the spawning grounds at the headwaters, the salmon are entering the mouth of the river from the Bering Sea 2000 miles away. Somewhere along the way, the powerful swimmers and the human paddler will meet. As he journeys through Canada and Alaska, Weymouth learns more about both the imperiled salmon and the people who depend upon the salmon for their livelihoods and sustenance. The arcane world of fishing regulations from both the Unites States in Canada often conflicts with the ancient practices of the native people as well as the commercial fisherman profiled in the story. Add in the impacts of environmental degradation and what ensues is a gripping story about one of the last great salmon runs on the planet.

In this episode we talk defense. Planetary defense. From one of the worst of all possible natural diasters, an asteroid impact. Dave talks to Lindley Johnson, NASA's "Planetary Defense Officer" from HQ in Washington, Paul Chodas (an expert on calculating asteroid orbits) and Physicist Megan Bruck Syal from the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in Pasadena. Johnson and Syal are involved in HAMMER ( Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response), a mission designed to actually deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. One thing that all of our guests mentioned: "This isn't like the movie Armageddon" and while we get that, we also felt the need for a little Aerosmith in the show, and you don't want to miss a thing...so listen and enjoy while contemplating the worst of all possible natural calamities.

In this episode of Blue Dot, Dave talks to Jennifer Strauss from the UC Berkeley Seismology Lab and Ken Hudnut from the United States Geological Survey. Both are deeply involved in the April 18, 2018 roll out of the "Haywired Scenario" a scientifically accurate modeling of a Magnitude 6.8 earthquake on the Hayward Fault. Our conversation revolves around the new technology called Shake Alert. Using seismic monitoring all over the state (especially in quake prone areas such as the Bay area and Southern California), scientists have developed a system to use the early arrival seismic waves, p-waves, to alert us to the imminent shaking that will follow in a matter of seconds. The early warning system can be used on computers and smart phones to let us know how long we have to brace for the hard shaking of a major earthquake. The system will also be used by transportation systems like BART and utility systems like PG&E to best safeguard our infrastructure when the next "Big One" inevitably hits somewhere in California.

Big Wave Dave talks surfing! Featuring a conversation between San Francisco Chronicle sportswriter Bruce Jenkins and retired NASA Oceanographer Bill Patzert, we dive deep under the swells of the world of big waves with an emphasis on Mavericks -- the biggest surf wave on the west coast located in Half Moon Bay. The conversation wraps up reminiscing about Bruce Brown's The Endless Summer and a campaign for surfer license plates as a tribute to the classic film. Mark Sponsler rides big waves like Mavericks and has a website called Stormsurf that forecasts wave conditions for surfers -- he shares his insights on waves -- what makes the perfect surfing wave? We also talk to Surfer Magazine staff photographer Frank Quirarte who takes his camera into the big break at Mavericks on a personal water craft and rescues surfers trapped in the cauldron of whitewater. Finally, a bonus segment listening to surf guitar and surf music with music historian and guitar collector John Biscuti.

On this episode Dave is joined by co-host Kate Fullam as they interview Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix: How Nature makes us Happier, Healthier and more Creative. The second half of the show features an in depth look at Naturebridge at Yosemite, a program that connects young people to nature on its grandest stage. Dave talks to Kristina Rylands, former Naturebridge participant who is now the head of the program. Nolan Ford visits with Ana Bachman from the McConnell Foundation, which funds high school students from Northern California to attend Naturebridge. Finally, Dave visits with a former student, Nicole Curiel, who attended the Yosemite program in 2016.

Before the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, the signature temblor in the Bay Area occurred on October 21, 1868. That rupture of a major fault, 150 years ago has drawn the attention of scientists concerned that a magnitude 6.5+ quake is due for the densely populated East Bay. Dave is joined by USGS Geophysicist Ken Hudnut as they interview two leading experts on the Hayward Fault: David Schwartz and Tom Brocher. It's a fascinating and frightening discussion of the "ticking seismic time bomb" beneath the East Bay.

In this episode we revisit two authors we interviewed in 2017. Jeff Goodell is the author of The Water Will Come, a sobering look at what lies ahead as the world's oceans expand and rise due to climate change. A contributing editor to Rolling Stone, the New York based writer was inspired to write the book in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the East Coast with flooding in 2012, previewing what is certainly going to be a major and ongoing slow motion disaster in the near future. Goodell visits Miami Beach where the effects of sea level rise are already becoming a problem. Perhaps the most alarming chapter is about the U.S. Naval base at Norfolk one of the nation's most important defense installations that is likely to be abandoned in the next couple of decades. On a personal note, Dave also learned to his amazement that Goodell's mother is close friends with his neighbor, proving the adage that it is indeed, a small world, and one destined for major coastal changes no matter what actions we take to combat global warming in the near future.

In the second half of the show, Dave revisits his interview with Kathryn Miles, author of Quakeland: On The Road to America's Next Devastating Earthquake. Her book opens with a look at the tragic events following the Hebgen Lake earthquake of 1959 and takes readers on a a story that is part science and part travelogue as she journey's around the country investigating what scientists know, and more alarmingly don't know, about the ground beneath our feet. Miles travels into the bowels of the Earth in deep mines and the Hoover Dam in her search to understand how a devastating earthquake could have cataclysmic effects on the economy and infrastructure of the U.S. And not just in the seismically active west, but also on the east coast and midwest.

 

Sea level rise and eclipse phenomena highlight this episode. First Dave talks to NASA Oceanographer Josh Willis about two new studies. The first reports that sea level rise isn't increasing at a linear rate -- it is accelerating. The second study demonstrates how much our understanding of ice melt from Antarctica's glaciers has advanced in just the past few years. Then we revisit The Great American Eclipse of 2017 with Dr. Gordon Telepun. A plastic surgeon from Alabama, Telepun created the smart phone app Solar Eclipse Timer. His YouTube channel by the same name (as the app) features detailed explanations of the varied and amazing phenomena associated with total solar eclipses.

 

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