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. 

Tyler Nordgren is a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Redlands, but he's also an artist. He's perhaps best known for his work on a series of WPA poster-influenced public service science pieces. He was also part of the team who designed the MarsDials, which were used on Mars to calibrate the cameras mounted on the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers.

Dr. Nordgren is a staunch advocate of the dark night sky, and he explains why we should consider it an endangered resource. He also, like our host Dave Schlom, loves the National Parks.  

Blue Dot 11: 100 Years Of National Parks

Apr 14, 2016
Jonathan Miske / Creative Commons

This years marks the centennial of the National Park Service. This week on Blue Dot, we speak with some of the kind folks who work to keep some of our nearby national parks pristine and available to the public. Karen Haner is Chief of Interpretation and Education at Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Craig Ackerman is superintendent at Crater Lake National Park

Blue Dot 10: How's The Weather?

Apr 7, 2016

The weather: it's the ultimate ice-breaker. That's probably because it impacts us all, all the time. But what about the people who have to not only divine what's going to happen in our atmosphere (a pretty chaotic place, it turns out), but who have to then disseminate that to us everyday folk? And what if they're wrong? To to get a human perspective on this, we spoke with National Weather Service meteorologists Tom Dang and Bill Rasch, based out of Sacramento. We also spent some time with friend of Blue Dot Rob Elvington, a meteorologist from KRCR-TV in Redding.    

Nathan Stauffer

This week on Blue Dot, we celebrate the upcoming Major League Baseball season by speaking with a few true experts on the science of the game. First, Alan Nathan tells us about the physics of baseball — like why do certain pitches break, what happens when the bat hits the ball, and why hits down the foul line always arc toward foul territory. Then it's Lee Jones, the longtime KNBR engineer who brings us San Francisco Giants baseball on the radio. He'll tell us about what goes into creating that audio image, as well as which Giants rival has the best stadium with regard to capturing sound.

Blue Dot 08: Return To The Moon

Mar 24, 2016

This week on Blue Dot, we talk to Dr. Jennifer Heldmann about the surface, water, and rocket fuel on the moon, and how it might become a staging area to send humans to Mars. We hear from Dr. Pamela Clark about the versatile tiny satellites we’re sending to space — in particular, the ones that will go study the moon.

We also talk with Frank Sinatra biographer James Kaplan about a song that has a very Lunar history. 

Blue Dot 07: Engineers Who Get It Done

Mar 17, 2016
Chris Gunn / NASA

Engineers figure out how to implement cool science — things like shooting a rocket to the moon, deploying the sky crane maneuver, sending probes all over the solar system, building space telescopes and much more. On Blue Dot today, we hear from Riley Duren, principal engineer and chief systems engineer for the Earth Science Directorate at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, about some of the projects he's been a part of and the issues and challenges that arise making that stuff exist, and making it work.

We also check in with Adam Steltzner, the NASA engineer who figured out how to get the Mars Curiosity Rover safely on the surface of Mars. 

Blue Dot 06: Exploring Mars

Mar 10, 2016

Today on Blue Dot, we talk with three scientists who play an integral role in the exploration of the Red Planet. Adam Steltzner, a rock star of a NASA engineer, leads the rovers from space to the Martian surface. Ashwin Vasavada is the project scientist for the Curiosity team, which means he coordinates all kinds of brilliant people to facilitate the actual scientific goals of the rover. We also talk to Mike Seibert, a software engineer who drives the rover from Earth (pretty good gig, huh?)

Blue Dot 05: Physics Girl

Mar 3, 2016
UC San Diego

MIT grad, former astronomy researcher and Hawaii native Dianna Cowern also carries another mantle: Physics Girl. Her YouTube channel answers science questions in a fun, engaging way, and she's recently began creating content for PBS Digital Studios. 

We talk with Dianna about fighting through school struggles, being part of the YouTube renaissance, and what it's like to have "Girl" in your title. 

Blue Dot 04: El Niño 2016

Feb 25, 2016

  What exactly is El Niño and what does it have to do with the warming planet? How can the Jason satellites help us understand all that? What is Josh Willis's favorite movie? For all that and much more, we talked with Josh Willis, an oceanographer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 


Scientists have detected what may be remembered as the biggest discovery in our lifetimes: gravitational waves. The minute but unequivocal readings are further confirmation of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, and serve to deepen our scientific knowledge of the way the universe ticks.