Blue Dot

Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. and Fridays at 6:30 p.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. 

You know the story of Icarus – the unfortunate fellow who flew too close to the Sun on wings made of wax? Well NASA is planning to send a much more robust probe into the very atmosphere of the Sun. How do you protect a  spacecraft from such an extreme environment? And what do we hope to learn about our star? Find out on this episode when we are joined by Dr. Nicky Fox from The Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. She is the Project Scientist for The Parker Solar Probe, scheduled for launch in 2018.

Dave talks to Time Magazine's Science Editor Jeffrey Kluger about his new book, Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon. His previous book, Apollo 13 was co-written with Jim Lovell, who was an astronaut on both missions. Apollo 8 takes place during the dramatic events of 1968 against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy and riots at the Democratic Connvention in Chicago. After the traumatic events of that turbulent year, the first mission to the Moon comes with a television transmission from lunar orbit on Christmas Eve. As one citizen wrote in a telegram to the crew, "You saved 1968."

Kevin Scanlon

Today on Blue Dot, we talk with Rico Gagliano, cohost of The Dinner Party Download, about the show’s upcoming hourlong podcast and live event at Lassen Volcanic National Park called “Look Up and Listen.” Both the audio program and the in-person listening party are designed to encourage you to go outside and reacquaint yourself with the natural world.

Dave asks Rico about the origins of The Dinner Party Download and gets the 411 on the guest lineup and the get-back-to-nature theme of the “Look Up and Listen” program. Dave also answers Rico's questions about why Lassen Volcanic National Park is such a special place. It's a lighthearted conversation about the wonders of nature and why we need to connect more deeply with them in our hectic, technology-driven lives.

It’s been several months since we last talked about the astronomical event of the year and maybe even our lifetimes – The Great American Total Solar Eclipse is coming on August 21, 2017. You don’t want to miss it – but neither will anyone else – we talk to Mr. Eclipse Fred Espenak.

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Dave talks to film makers Michael Barnett and Michael Mahaffie about their new Netflix documentary The Mars GenerationTheir film traces the past and future of the United States Space Program by following a group of young people attending Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Many of them have attended Space Camp numerous times and are using their experiences to try and set themselves up to be a part of future missions to Mars from astronauts to flight directors, engineers and software designers. How did the United States go from the most powerful space faring nation on Earth in the late 1960s to a country that can't even get its own astronauts to the International Space Station without hitching a ride with the Russians? The young Americans in this inspiring film want to change that equation.

Plans are on the drawing table at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to explore the hottest scientific target in the solar system — Jupiter's icy moon Europa. Recent findings indicate that it has all the ingredients needed to support life — oceans of liquid water, heat coming from deep within the world and the basic organic chemistry of life. We talk to Andrew Shapiro about missions to explore Europa as well as other fascinating new technologies that are on the cutting edge of astronomy and space exploration. It's a look into the future, and promises to amaze and fascinate. Plus Dave and Nolan give their take on the new Netflix Series Bill Nye Saves The World and the National Geographic Channel's Genius — a fascinating look at the life of Albert Einstein starring Geoffrey Rush.

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The search for life beyond Earth is one of the driving forces behind NASA’s exploration of the solar system. Two moons of the outer solar system have been the targets of intense scrutiny as well as plans for future missions – Jupiter’s giant moon Europa and Saturn’s tiny satellite Enceladus both have subsurface oceans of liquid water. In 2005, the Cassini orbiter discovered geyser plumes erupting from Enceladus’ south polar region and recent Hubble Space Telescope observations have indicated that the same type of activity is occurring on Europa. The Cassini orbiter is entering the final months of its mission and just this past week, imaged yet another dramatic picture of the pale blue dot – Earth, set between Saturn’s rings. Joining us to talk about the exciting new discoveries and the end of the mission is Cassini Deputy Project Scientist Scott Edgington.

You know what ear worms are right? Those catchy tunes that get stuck in your head. Well the ones that get to me have not just a musical hook, they also have a scientific one. And I totally love to sing them in the shower. Join me. No not in the shower – but in my chat with the creator of Acapella Science on YouTube – Tim Blais.

Scientists are concerned and for good reason. Scientific evidence for things like climate change and vaccinations is increasingly being questioned and undermined. Governmental science agencies like the EPA are having their budgets cut and missions changed as Washington adapts to a new administration under Donald Trump. Scientists around the country and the world will be marching for the values of the scientific method – reasoning from evidence to uncover the truth.

How do we think? How do we solve problems and why do we sometimes struggle with finding answers to logical questions? It’s all about our brains, and neuroscience is one of the most daunting topics of any that I can think of. Thankfully, we have a guest who can help demystify how we interact with the world with our brains – she’s the creative force behind one of YouTube’s hottest science channels – Braincraft – meet one of my favorite Aussie science communicators – Vanessa Hill. 

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