PRX tracks on Soundclound

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Earth, Desert Planet?
PRX

Zoe is in 8th grade. She’s a student in Mr. Andersen’s Earth science class at a public school in Brooklyn. Lately, she’s been concerned about the future of the planet. Specifically, Zoe has been learning about the phenomenon of planetary dehydration — and she wanted to ask Dr. Michelle Thaller what would happen if Earth lost its water. It’s part of a new Orbital Path project called “Telescope,” where Dr. Michelle Thaller fields astronomy questions from public school students. Michelle says dehydration isn’t anything we’ll have to worry about in our lifetimes. But in 200 million years — not all that long, in astronomical terms — our planet could resemble the desert world of Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” Orbital Path is produced by David Schulman. The program is edited by Andrea Mustain. Production oversight by John Barth and Genevieve Sponsler. Hosted by Dr. Michelle Thaller. The music heard in this episode is “Austin 1” by Manwomanchild. http://freemusicarchive.org/music/MANWOMANCHILD/Austin_1_single/

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Introducing...Telescope!
PRX

Instead of grappling with the big, cosmic questions that preoccupy adults, this week on Orbital Path we’re doing something different. We’re grappling with the big, cosmic questions that preoccupy kids. It’s part of a new project called “Telescope,” where Dr. Michelle Thaller takes on the really big questions in astronomy—from public school students. In this episode, Michelle fields questions from Mr. Andersen’s Earth Science class at MS 442, a public school in Brooklyn. Sarah Cole asks about creating artificial gravity on spacecraft. And Carter Nyhan wonders whether the stars guiding mariners ancient and modern, were, by the time their light reached the earth, completely kaput. Is the twinkling night sky actually a graveyard of dead stars? Orbital Path is produced by David Schulman. The program is edited by Andrea Mustain. Production oversight by John Barth and Genevieve Sponsler. Hosted by Dr. Michelle Thaller. Support for Orbital Path is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science, technology, and economic performance. For more about the show, visit orbital.prx.org Image credit: NASA image of the International Space Station, where gravity does, in fact, still apply.

Science
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Star Death Tango
PRX

On August 17, 2017, an alert went out. Gravitational wave detectors in Louisiana and Washington state had detected a disturbance from deep space. The effect was subtle — these detectors and a sister site in Italy measure disturbances smaller than a proton. But the evidence was dramatic. And the story they told was truly cataclysmic: A pair of neutron stars had spiraled to their deaths. That apocalyptic collision of two super-dense stars bent the very fabric of space time — just as Einstein had predicted. It sent Gamma rays out into deep space. It created an immense cloud of gaseous gold. And, 130 million years later, astronomers on earth witnessed the final 100 seconds of these two stars’ dance of death. It’s taught us where gold came from, and helped humans understand other intractable mysteries of the universe. In this episode of Orbital Path, Dr. Michelle Thaller speaks with two astronomers who watched this cosmic death tango from the best seats in the house. We’ll hear from Dr. Vicky Kalogera. She’s Director of CIERA — the Center of Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics at Northwestern University. Kalogera was a lead author on a journal article on the neutron star collision co-authored by close to 4,000 scientists. We’ll also hear from physicist Mike Landry. He’s Head of LIGO Hanford — one of the sites that, in collaboration with Italy’s VIRGO detector, measured the neutron stars’ characteristic gravitational waves. 
Orbital Path is produced by David Schulman. The program is edited by Andrea Mustain. Production oversight by John Barth and Genevieve Sponsler. Hosted by Dr. Michelle Thaller. Support for Orbital Path is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science, technology, and economic performance. More at sloan.org

 Image credit: CALTECH/NSF/LIGO Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet Audio chirp credit: LIGO/University of Oregon/Ben Farr For more about the show, visit orbital.prx.org

Science
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Ozone Disaster Redux
PRX

Scientists in 1985 discovered something that threatened the world we live in: The ozone layer had a hole in it. A big one. And this hole was growing very quickly. If it continued to grow, the consequences would be dire. Presented with the science, world leaders came up with an international agreement. The Montreal Protocol, as the treaty was called, may elicit shrugs today. But it staved off disaster for Earth. It was a remarkable success story, and our planet today would be a very different place if not for the Montreal Protocol and the so-called “blue sky” scientific research — research for curiosity’s sake — that led to the discovery of the rapid deterioration of the ozone layer, and its causes In this episode, we return to a program originally broadcast in January 2017 — one that is perhaps even more relevant today. Orbital Path is from PRX and produced by David Schulman. Justin O’Neill produced this episode. Orbital Path is edited by Andrea Mustain, with production oversight by John Barth and Genevieve Sponsler. Hosted by Dr. Michelle Thaller. Support for Orbital Path is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science, technology, and economic performance.

Science
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Fireside Physics: A Solstice on Saturn?
PRX

In this darkest season of the year, Dr. Michelle Thaller and NASA astronomer Andrew Booth curl up by the fire. Gazing into the embers, red wine in hand, they consider the meaning of the winter solstice — on other planets. Like Uranus, where parts of the planet go 42 earth years without seeing the sun. Or Mars, where winters are made colder by an orbit politely described as “eccentric.” Or Saturn — where winter’s chill is deepened by the shadow of the planet’s luminous rings.  Marshmallow, anyone? 
Orbital Path is produced by David Schulman. The program is edited by Andrea Mustain. Production oversight by John Barth and Genevieve Sponsler. Hosted by Dr. Michelle Thaller.

 For more about the show, visit orbital.prx.org Photo: NASA

Science
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From Another Star
PRX

NASA’S office of planetary defense isn’t worried about Klingons or Amoeboid Zingatularians.  They worry about asteroids and comets.  Like the one that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013. It was about 20 yards across. An asteroid 150 yards in diameter could take out a city. An even bigger one — as the dinosaurs reading this will attest — could change earth’s ecology, and lead to mass extinctions. Kelly Fast, program manager for NASA’s office of planetary defense, tells Dr. Michelle Thaller about an asteroid that watchers in Hawaii recently sighted:  a mysterious, massive, cigar-shaped object.  Millions of years into its journey, it was traveling faster than any spacecraft ever built by humans. It’s the first object ever known to visit our solar system that originated in the orbit of another star. Too fast to be trapped by our sun’s gravity, it’s now traveling a path that will take it back into deep, interstellar space. 

Orbital Path is produced by David Schulman. The program is edited by Andrea Mustain. Production oversight by John Barth and Genevieve Sponsler. Hosted by Dr. Michelle Thaller. 

For more about the show, visit orbital.prx.org

Science
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Winter's Night Sky
PRX

These days, astrophysicists like Dr. Michelle Thaller use instruments to probe the distant reaches of our galaxy, and far beyond. They use interferometry, the Hubble space telescope, and other technology impossible to imagine when the constellations of the winter sky were named. But, as the season changes and Orion returns to view, Michelle still finds plenty of wonder left for us to see — even with the naked eye — in the cold, clear air of a winter’s night. Orbital Path is produced by David Schulman (who returns this episode to answer Michelle’s questions about his recent alleged alien abduction). The program is edited by Andrea Mustain. Production oversight by John Barth and Genevieve Sponsler. Hosted by Michelle Thaller.

 More at: http://orbital.prx.org/

Science
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Aliens Again!
PRX

We've got some awkward news to share, folks: The producer of Orbital Path is claiming he’s been abducted by space aliens. So this week, we're dusting off the theremin and returning to one of our favorite early episodes — “Must Be Aliens.” Dr. Michelle Thaller talks with Phil Plait — AKA the "Bad Astronomer" — about the Kepler mission to find planets circling other stars ... and why we humans are so quick to ascribe the unknowns of the cosmos to aliens. In the two years since this episode was originally produced, however, the universe has not stood still. So Michelle has an update on the Kepler project — and a discovery that, once upon a time, had certain astronomers murmuring the "A" word. Orbital Path is produced by David Schulman and edited by Andrea Mustain. "Must be Aliens" episode produced by Lauren Ober. Production oversight by John Barth and Genevieve Sponsler. Hosted by Michelle Thaller.

Science
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Time and Space in the Kingdom of Bhutan
PRX

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan avidly guards its traditional culture. Bhutan is a nation that — instead of looking to GDP or debt ratios — measures success by an index of “Gross National Happiness.” In this episode of Orbital Path, Dr. Michelle Thaller describes her recent adventures in Bhutan — including a climb to a Buddhist monastery perched on the face of a cliff. In that rarefied air, Michelle was confronted by a fascinating link between the thinking of contemporary astrophysicists and old-school Bhutanese monks: a challenging concept of Time. 
Orbital Path is produced by David Schulman and edited by Andrea Mustain. Production oversight by John Barth and Genevieve Sponsler. Hosted by Michelle Thaller.

For more about the show, visit orbital.prx.org

Science
1,586
The 11 Dimensions of Brian Greene
PRX

We live our lives in three dimensions. But we also walk those three dimensions along a fourth dimension: time.

 Our world makes sense thanks to mathematics. Math lets us count our livestock, it lets us navigate our journeys. Mathematics has also proved an uncanny, stunningly accurate guide to what Brian Greene calls “the dark corners of reality.” 

But what happens when math takes us far, far beyond what we — as humans — are equipped to perceive with our senses?  What does it mean when mathematics tells us, in no uncertain terms, that the world exists not in three, not in four — but in no fewer than eleven dimensions?

 In this episode of Orbital Path, Brian Greene, director of Columbia’s Center for Theoretical Physics and a celebrated explainer of how our universe operates, sits down to talk with Dr. Michelle Thaller. Together they dig into the question of how we — as three-dimensional creatures — can come to terms with all those extra dimensions all around us.  
Orbital Path is produced by David Schulman and edited by Andrea Mustain. Production oversight by John Barth and Genevieve Sponsler. Hosted by Michelle Thaller.

 For more about the show, visit orbital.prx.org

 More at briangreene.org

Science
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Minisode 5: Scary Math
PRX

In a scary time, in a scary world, in a scary universe, NASA astronomer Andrew Booth says one of the things that frightens him most is math. Specifically, the unshaken power of mathematics to describe the universe. That’s because, beyond the comforting world of Newtonian physics, math gets mind-bendingly weird. So from the relative safety of their backyard hot tub, Dr. Michelle Thaller and Booth (who happen to be married) try to sort out what it really means to live not in just three dimensions, but in eleven — as mathematics now tells us we do. Join us in the hot tub as we turn on the jets, get wet, and weird...and just a little freaked out. Orbital Path is produced by David Schulman and edited by Andrea Mustain. Production oversight by John Barth and Genevieve Sponsler. Hosted by Michelle Thaller. For more about the show, visit orbital.prx.org Photo: To see Michelle and Andrew in hot tub, please use fifth dimension.

Science
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Episode 22: Journey to the Sun
PRX

Remember the myth of Icarus? He and his dad were trying to escape from prison. Locked up on the Greek island of Crete, they made wings out of  beeswax and bird feathers. They soared to freedom — but Icarus got cocky, flew too close to the sun, and fell into the sea.  A few thousand years later, NASA is ready to do the job right. The Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to fly in 2018. The spacecraft has a giant heat shield, tested to withstand 2,500-degree temperatures. For something so basic to all of our lives — and fundamental to the science of astronomy — the sun remains surprisingly mysterious. To learn more, Michelle meets up with Nicky Viall, a NASA heliophysicist working on the mission. She describes how direct measurements of the sun’s super-hot plasma, and solar wind, may dramatically enhance our understanding of the star at the center of our lives.

 Orbital Path is produced by David Schulman and edited by Andrea Mustain. Production oversight by John Barth and Genevieve Sponsler. Hosted by Michelle Thaller.

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Minisode 4: Hot Tub Physics!
PRX

After a full day in a clean suit, there’s nothing like a dip in the hot tub. NASA astronomer Andrew Booth spends his days working with lasers, developing some of the word’s most advanced telescopes. When he gets home from work, he loves to pour a glass of wine and slip into the hot tub. And ponder some of the weirder aspects of astrophysics. Orbital Path host Dr. Michelle Thaller (who happens to be married to Booth) rather avidly shares this enthusiasm. For Orbital Path’s first adventure in Hot Tub Physics, the topic is: The weirdness of light. And something called interferometry. And telescopes that don’t work unless a single particle of light can be two places at exactly the same time. Which raises the question: Are we living in a parallel universe? Join us in the hot tub as we get wet and weird (the water’s just fine)! Orbital Path is produced by David Schulman and edited by Andrea Mustain. Production oversight by John Barth and Genevieve Sponsler. Hosted by Michelle Thaller. For more about the show, visit orbital.prx.org

Science
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Episode 21: First Light
PRX

There was a time before planets and suns. A time before oxygen. You could say there was time, even, before what we think of as light. Back in 1989, the Big Bang theory was still in question. But that year, a NASA team led by cosmologist John Mather launched a mission to probe the earliest moments of the universe. Mather won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE). This work dramatically confirmed the Big Bang theory — and, as part of it, Mather and his team took a picture of the very first light escaping into our universe. In this episode, Dr. Thaller visits Mather to talk about these discoveries, which transformed scientific understanding of the universe. We also hear about Mather’s current project: an orbiting space telescope twice the size of the Hubble. It promises to capture the first light of galaxies and stars, and even distant planets not unlike our own. Orbital Path is produced by David Schulman and edited by Andrea Mustain. Production oversight by John Barth and Genevieve Sponsler. Hosted by Michelle Thaller. For more about the show, visit orbital.prx.org

Science
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Episode 20: Holy Sheet!
PRX

NASA is relying on hi-tech lasers — and some vintage U.S. Navy hand-me-downs — to learn about the polar regions of a remarkable, watery planet. It's located in the Orion spur of our galaxy. NASA scientists have detected mountain ranges completely under ice. But the remaining mysteries of the ice here are profound, and what the science tells us could have dramatic impact on human life. In this episode, Dr. Thaller visits with two key members of NASA's IceBridge mission — Christy Hansen, Airborne Sciences Manager at the Goddard Space Flight Center, and Joe MacGregor, Deputy Project Scientist for Operation IceBridge. Full disclosure: audio in this episode includes a noisy old turbo-prop, and melting icebergs recorded here on earth. Orbital Path is produced by David Schulman and edited by Andrea Mustain. Production oversight by John Barth and Genevieve Sponsler. Hosted by Michelle Thaller.

Science
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Mini-sode 3: Dr. Thaller Helps You Prep for The Eclipse
PRX

The big one is coming! That is, the total solar eclipse of Aug. 21. Dr. Thaller shares her wisdom on how best to view the eclipse and its larger implications for science.

Science
1,425
Mini-sode 2: What up, Jupiter?
PRX

Recently, we’ve started to get the first images back from Juno, which is on a mission to Jupiter. Host Dr. Michelle Thaller walks us through the results so far and how you can participate in what Juno discovers next. Learn more about the Orbital Path podcast at orbital.prx.org.

Science
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Episode 19: We Are Stardust
PRX

Dr. Michelle Thaller visits the NASA lab that discovered that meteorites contain some of the very same chemical elements that we contain. Then, Michelle talks to a Vatican planetary scientist about how science and religion can meet on the topic of life beyond Earth. Learn more about the Orbital Path podcast at orbital.prx.org.

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Episode 18: Cassini Countdown
PRX

When the Cassini spacecraft blasted into space on October 15, 1997, even the most optimistic scientists would have had a hard time predicting the mission’s success. Dr. Michelle Thaller speaks with the Cassini mission’s Project Scientist Linda Spilker, as well as Julie Webster, a longtime Cassini engineer and a manager for spacecraft operations. One of Cassini’s biggest legacies will be how she gave a much clearer picture of Saturn’s 62 moons, including two worlds that scientists now think could potentially host life. Nearly twenty years later, Cassini will crash-land into Saturn’s atmosphere this September, ending a rich chapter in exploration and discovery of our own solar system. Learn more about Orbital Path at orbital.prx.org and subscribe to the podcast wherever you listen to them!

Science
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Episode 17: Making (Gravitational) Waves
PRX

Nearly 100 years after Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves — huge undulations in the fabric of space-time itself — in 2015, detectors here on Earth finally picked up the signal of these massive disturbances. Dr. Michelle Thaller pulls apart the power and mystery of gravitational waves, and talks with Dr. Janna Levin, theoretical astrophysicist and author of the book, Black Hole Blues and Other Songs From Outer Space. Learn more about the podcast Orbital Path with Michelle Thaller at orbital.prx.org.

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