Blue Dot

Dave has a last preview of the Total Solar Eclipse on August 21 as he talks with his eclipse buddy, Tyler Nordgren. Dave and Tyler will be near John Day Fossil Beds National Monument for the big event. Nordgren is an astronomy professor at Redlands College in Southern California and the author of Sun Moon Earth: Solar Eclipses From Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets. When he was nine years old he was in Portland for the last total eclipse that touched America in 1979. Frightened by news reports about the dangers of looking at the eclipse, he hid indoors and missed the spectacle. He's been making up for it ever since, chasing eclipses around the world. Nordgren was one of the featured astronomers in the CuriosityStream documentary Eclipse Across America.

Dave talks to Ranger Kevin Sweeney from Lassen Volcanic National Park. After the 9/11 attacks, he found himself in need of natural solace and went to Joshua Tree National park in Southern California. A business major at the time, Kevin decided to change his career and life path, volunteered for the Peace Corps and then set out to become a National Park Service Ranger. He's been at Lassen Volcanic National Park and knows the backcountry in all four seasons. He also started up the Dark Sky Festival that takes place around the time of the Perseid Meteor Shower every August.

In this installment of Blue Dot, Dave talks to Matt Golombek from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Matt has been involved in the site selection for every American rover on Mars. On July 4, 1997, the Mars Pathfinder mission landed on the Red Planet and deployed the tiny Sojourner Rover. Since that time, for the past twenty years, there has always been American rovers on Mars from Sojourner to Spirit and Opportunity and now Curiosity. Learn about this amazing proof of concept mission -- Pathfinder was the first lander to utilize landing air bags -- and the amazing career of Matt Golombek exploring the red planet!

In this episode, Dave talks to filmmaker Mark Bender. His documentary, Eclipse Across America, was produced for and is airing on CuriosityStream. Mark is a veteran eclipse chaser and documentary filmmaker. The film, in four parts, traces the path of the eclipse across the United States and features some of the most scenic and interesting spots that will be in or very near the path of totality.

As we count down to the big event, the Eclipse Across America on August 21, Dave talks to two people preparing for a logistical challenge to say the least. One million visitors are expected to come to Oregon to be in the 65 mile wide path of the eclipse. Shelley Hall is the Superintendent for John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. It's remote location and limited infrastructure (there is no camping in the park unit) make for a particularly challenging opportunity for park staff and visitors alike. Shelly explains how the park is preparing for a large influx of visitors and shares her concerns and aspirations for the event. Then we chat with Dave Thompson from the Oregon Department of Transportation about their messaging campaign designed to keep people safe and traffic moving. Bottom line? It won't be easy -- especially if large numbers of people try to get to the eclipse path late and leave early.

Josh Willis has business cards that his wife made for him. His job title? "Idiot Leftist Scientist." Dave finds out why in this fun and fascinating interview with Willis, who was honored by President Obama with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2009. A NASA/JPL Oceanographer and climate scientist, Josh uses comedy and improvisational skills honed in theater classes and at workshops from the Second City Comedy group to help him bridge the gap with people who are skeptical of climate science. Find out about OMG -- it's not what you think...as well as the adventures of Dick Dangerfield and Guy Scientist (with half hearted apologies to Garrison Keillor) in this light hearted look at a heavy subject -- climate change.

In this episode, Dave talks to Dr. Gordon Telepun. An Alabama plastic surgeon, Gordon's other passion is chasing eclipses. Based on his experiences with eclipse photography in Africa, Gordon saw the need to develop an eclipse timing device and did it himself. Now he has taken that concept and turned it into an app for both iPhones and Android devices. It lets you know when significant events are going to happen from wherever you are along the eclipse path using GPS. It is designed to help rather than distract you -- you rarely have to do anything with the phone other than wake it up. Then Gordon's voice let's you know what to look for and when! But better than the app itself is Gordon's infectious enthusiasm about the Great American Eclipse coming on August 21.

  

In this week's episode, Dave talks with Kate Fullam, the communications director for The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. It's a completely unscripted and natural conversation about her work at the center in general and The Flame Challenge in particular. The Flame Challenge is designed for scientists to create a four-minute video or write a short essay on a theme. This year's was "What is Energy?" What makes the contest so unique is that the contestants have to be scientists and they have to make their content accessible to an 11-year-old. And guest what? Eleven-year-olds also judge the contest!

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Dave talks to Dave Hill, emeritus scientist for the United States Geological Survey and Margaret Mangan, director of the California Volcano Observatory. They talk about the history of volcanic unrest at Long Valley Caldera near Mammoth Lakes in the eastern Sierra Nevada. A series of earthquakes in the late '70s and 1980, coupled with the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens in May of 1980, led USGS scientists to issue volcanic hazard warnings. When picked up by the LA Times, the story caused social and political challenges for the scientists and community members. To this day, the Caldera remains a region of geologic activity.

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.

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