Episode 89 - So long, and thanks for all the fish


So long, and thanks for all the fish. Yes, dear listeners, I have decided that its time for the podcast to come to an end. Fear not, the 88 episodes plus extras will remain online and be archived. I’ll also post a link for you to download all the shows in one batch if you want to save and share them. I will also be keeping the website online for as long as I can, and I intend to continue to share my thoughts and essays in blog form. The thinking and writing is both more fun and easier for me than the rest of what goes into a podcast, so I will not be going away entirely. I really wanted to make it to 100 shows, but if there’s anything I’ve learned in my almost 42 years, I know when my heart’s not in it and I should step away. It would be a disservice to you dear listeners to slog on for the sake of a three digit number.

In part, I need a break. Mostly from social media, but in general as well. I want to be away from organized anything. No groups larger than two. I am not nearly as strong as many of the people I admire, and I am very sensitive to the hate and vitriol and plain stupidity so present now everywhere online. I know it’s not all that way, but I am worn down and those messages penetrate what little mental armor I have left. I’ve always been sensitive to the mood and feelings of my surroundings, so really, Twitter is a bad place for me, even if I try to shut out the noise. And I cannot express enough my admiration to the people who’ve done this kind of thing for many more years than I have.

When I started this podcast I had several goals in mind. For one, I wanted to learn more about the fascinating topics of science and futurism that I’ve always been interested in, but only knew at mostly a surface level. I also wanted to try, in my own small way, to foster more long-term thinking. And, I wanted to offer something with a hopeful and engaged tone to offset some of the junk and bad news we seem to always be surrounded with.

I want to thank the many people I was able to interview for the podcast. They brought their experience and expertise to you, and all of them were excited and hopeful for the future. Especially Astronaut Abby. It would be a thrill to bring back the show for one episode when she finally lands on Mars. It was a pleasure to talk to so many people on such a variety of topics. From bitcoin to generation ships, nanotech to farming, you heard it here. A special thanks to author AC Hachem. My first interview on the show, and a recurring guest, AC brought some fun to an otherwise serious show.

The world is always in transition, but as I’ve spoken about before, it seems we are on the edge of something different. I think we are already in a phase of our civilization where the rate of change is outpacing our ability to deal with it. As Alvin Toffler surmised over 40 years ago, more and more of us are dealing with future shock. Because of this change and complexity some people are lashing out. I do hope though that we are able to push through to the other side of these problems, rather than circle back to a more comfortable but less equal, less fair, and less progressive future. It wasn’t so long ago that imagining walking on another planet was fiction or madness. As our civilization crests each hill to see what’s on the other side, I believe we could be about ready to step into something truly remarkable. If we can avoid self destruction.

Oddly, even though I tried to present hopeful messages, and so many of the people I had the privilege to interview offered hope, I hold none for myself. I still thrill at the possibilities of the future, and on my good days people like Astronaut Abby, Dr. Kevin Folta, Holly Griffith, and AC Hachem show me that one can find purpose and joy in helping humanity take the many small steps necessary to achieve the future we dream of. But somehow I was born depressed, and in addition to dealing from time to time with actual depression, I also tend to view the world from a hope for the best-expect the worst viewpoint. Don’t let any of my attitude rub off on you. I really think I will spend some time contemplating why I’ve come to the end of the show run and feel this way, exactly the opposite of that particular goal. But, if I have inspired you to look hopefully to the future, and been able to offer you resources and people to watch for in this quest, then I have succeeded and that is good enough for me.

While I’m gone, there are some sources of info and entertainment you should check out. There will be links in the show notes.
Nanofleche.com (AC) for your sci-fi pop culture needs
The Skeptic’s Guide To The Universe
The Geologic Podcast
The Long Now foundation - seminars, web talks, podcasts
Planetary Radio podcast
Talking Biotech
50 things that made the modern world
Review The Future

And there are also many sci-fi audio podcasts for thought provoking entertainment like Clarksworld Magazine, Escape Pod, and Starship Sofa. There are also many websites and publications out there like the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Science mag), Longnow Foundation, Futurism, Singularity Hub, and foundations named for visionaries like Gene Roddenberry and Arthur C. Clarke.

I didn’t list any history resources, but I think in your quest to keep learning, studying history is essential, and often overlooked. The books, podcasts, and websites are out there. While dreaming of the future, be sure you don’t neglect the past. It is quite possible that lessons from that past can inform your path forward. As the very least it might prevent you from unnecessarily reinventing the wheel.

Thanks to Skeptoid, AstronomyCast, The Geologic Podcast, and the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. These 4 were probably the first podcasts I ever listened to and they have been an inspiration in my desire to produce my own podcast. I also now have an even greater appreciation for what it takes to produce a podcast, especially with these shows running now over 500 episodes.

The final thing on my mind before I sign off is this: I am officially declaring public support for the secession of the West coast from the rest of the United States. This is another thought that developed for me that took me by surprise, and I fully admit it runs contrary to my desire for hopeful messages and bridge building.

Of course I have no idea how this might happen. There is no legal way to even try to make this happen, not at least within our current constitutional structure. But over the course of the podcast and over the past few years of politics in this country I now believe that some differences are intractable and we are wasting time trying to find middle ground where there is none. There is a streak of rampant anti-science and anti-intellectual thinking in this country. This isn’t really new, but we have come to the point where this lack of logic and reason has taken over the government, and the infection comes from both the right and the left. We’ve had laws, in some cases for over 150 years, and yet we have not changed our culture. And lest you think I’m seeking out some liberal hippy utopia, think again. I wish for a rational state, with policies based on reason and logic, and with a genuine acceptance for scientific consensus, not just acceptance of the things you already wish to be true. In many cases I disagree with both the right and the left. Science is not perfect, but it is always refining, growing, adapting, and I think the mindset of a scientist offers the best way forward in the long run.

On the left, the side I’m politically closer to, get your heads screwed on straight. Whatever you “feel” is true does not make it true. If you accept climate change, you must accept that vaccines are effective and that GMOs are safe. Stop blundering about looking for easy and perfect answers for everything and stop falling for every single bullcrap scam that comes along. Raw water? BS that might kill you. Salt lamps? BS that emits a pleasant glow and nothing more. Chocolate is the octave of the sun! Stop, my head is going to explode! This is one of my biggest concerns should the West coast ever actually secede. This part of the country is also ground zero for all the non-scientific woo in the world. At best you waste your money. At worst you might die, or harm someone else unnecessarily.

On the right, I am calling out evangelical Christians. I’ve generally stayed away from religion on the show, but not now. There is a large group of people in this country who will do anything to enact a theocracy based on the Old Testament. They do not follow the teachings of Jesus. They seem narrowly focused on hating the LGBTQ community and would like nothing more than to return to a time when white men controlled everything and women shut up and made babies. It’s really very backwards and despicable. I’m also calling out conservatives who claim some sort of libertarian attitude. Maybe in a perfect world libertarianism could work. But our country is too large for such an “everyone for themselves” approach. Yes, one could certainly argue that corporations run our government already, but in a libertarian world the power would go not to the states and local governments, but wholly to those corporations, because for at least several decades now we have had a government driven by money, not by voters. Pollution does not stop at state borders. The economy is global whether you like it or not. Imperfect as it is, we need a strong central government. Conservative political parties have also become a haven for racists and neo-Nazis. This should be very concerning to everyone. It’s beyond time for these attitudes to die out.

And on whatever side people like flat earthers and chemtrail believers think they are, stop it. I can’t take any more. You are an extreme example of people beyond desperate for easy answers who want to blame someone else for whatever your problem is, and your groups are also often infected with bigots and racists. There aren’t any easy answers, life is complicated, and it’s time for humanity to grow up. I would like to think there is a way to include everyone, to reach everyone, but my cynical side says some people should just be left behind.

I don’t know if these regressive attitudes are fading away, and the internet is just amplifying the fewer and fewer people who still think blacks should go back to Africa or gays should be put to death. I hope these ideas are not spreading anew. I do know in many of the measurable ways, the world is actually getting better. The statistics will show you this, but it’s hard to see when you’re living in it day to day. The constant barrage of news and information might make you think otherwise, but things are actually getting better in measurable ways. However I am an introvert, and fairly sensitive to the noise around me. This world, especially the United States, has no place for introverts. The internet is deafening noise machine and I have to get away for a while.

Thank you for listening, thank you for your support. Do check on the blog or twitter from time to time, I intend to keep writing. Be better today than you were yesterday, and be better tomorrow than you were today.

Episode 87 - Plant Genetics with Dr. Kevin Folta

This week Dr. Folta returns to the show to talk plant genetics, fear mongering, and putting worry into proper context.
Also, the Clock of the Long Now is officially under construction

The Clock Of The Long Now

Dr. Kevin Folta


Follow Dr Folta's work and commentary online:
Illumination Blog
Talking Biotech Podcast

Episode 85 - Interview with Dr. Emily Monosson

This week I interview Dr. Emily Monosson about her book Natural Defense: Enlisting Bugs and Germs to Protect Our Food and Health, and we talk about academia, changes in our society currently underway, and motherhood in the scientific world. 
Also, Robocoffee, and searching for technomarkers around distant planets. Oh, and some guy launched a car into space. 

Robot barista in Japan
Searching for technosignatures from distant planets

Dr. Monosson's Blog
Dr. Monosson's Books

Episode 84 - When I Grow Up...

This week I offer an essay on my career choices, wonder why I didn't become a scientist, and offer advice on finding your ideal work.

Also, Darmok and Jalad, at Tanagra


Episode 83 - Bioquark

This week I had a long chat with Ira Pastor, CEO of Bioquark. We talked about their research into new treatments for disease, the importance of a good scientific process, and the challenge of translation, getting from the petri dish to mice to people. Also, a lesson the importance of looking back to past research.


Episode 81 - A.C. Hachem and a 2017 movie wrap up

This week I talk to author A.C. Hachem again. We geek out about movies, wax philosophical on the importance of science, and get the scoop on A.C.'s next novel.

Visit A.C. Hachem online
Read the movie post


Episode 74 - All News Show #7

Catching up on the latest and greatest including growing rice in saltwater, algorithms for acoustics, and the NASA twin study. 

Science makes people reach selflessly for truth and objectivity; it teaches people to accept reality, with wonder and admiration, not to mention the deep awe and joy that the natural order of things brings to the true scientist. - Lise Meitner

(Elbphilharminie - Iwan Baan)

This weeks news items

Growing rice in saltwater
New Concert Hall with algorithm designed tiles
Earthquake correlation study
Extrasolar object
New telescope
NASA twin study

Episode 66 - All News Show #3

This week I've got a bunch of cool short news bits I've been saving up, it's time to catch up. Cassini, Voyager, Mars, Universal Basic Income, Robot artists, and more


Sources for this week's show:

Dogmatic thinking study https://scienmag.com/studies-help-understand-why-some-people-are-so-sure-theyre-right/

Future food shortages

Demand for concrete is killing rivers (need material science research, I have previously covered concrete making methods with less impact)

Scotland to begin a UBI test

Robot mural artist

Voyager’s 40
th https://nasa.tumblr.com/post/164871712984/voyager-the-spacecraft

Peggy Whitson

NASA announces accelerated time table for Mars sample return mission

Cleaning up space debris

Two stars in the far future of our solar system

Cassini at the end of it’s mission

Episode 60 - Making Contact

This week, further contemplation about life in the universe, and what would happen if we made contact. 
Also, synthetic food and NASA deep space station plans. 

Synthetic food
Deep space stations for NASA

Making Contact



Episode 58 - In Defense of Science

This week I essay, rant, and ramble about science, politics, civilization, and our long-term needs.
Also, Juno images, New nuclear fuel, and NASA budgets.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt)

Nuclear Fuel
Juno Images

Essay - In Defense of Science

No Links, just go do something positive.


Episode 49 - Longevity pt 3

This week we continue with longevity research. We examine some critiques against it, and consider what it will mean for society if more and more people live longer.

Also, vertical farming in Shanghai, the ISS 200th spacewalk, and wandering black holes.

Shanghai vertical farming

ISS 200th spacewalk

Wandering black holes

Criticisms and Implications of Longevity research

(Martin Lisec)

Links for further reading

Episode 48 - Longevity pt 2

More on longevity this week, with a peek into the worlds of Aubrey de Grey, Craig Venter, and Google's Calico.

Also, the DNA of neurons, and the growing role of big data in the search for extraterrestrial life.


The DNA of Neurons

Conference on the search for life in the universe

The who and what of longevity research

Aubrey_de_Grey-Bruce Klein and Susan Fonseca-Klein
(Aubrey de Grey by Bruce Klein and Susan Fonseca-Klein)

Some links on the who and the what


Special Edition - March For Science

I went to the local March for Science today in Eugene. The starting point was on the U of O campus, and there was a great turnout. There was also a good diversity in the crowd. I took my portable mic for my phone and talked to a few people, from students and teachers, to astronomers and parents. Science is for everyone, not just lab techs. Listen to the show for my interviews, and keep your eyes and ears open for more about what you can do in the future. Advocacy doesn't get done with one march, it's a sustained effort that will carry us through.







Episode 43 - Pollution Solutions

This week we go over a few of the ways people are tackling air pollution and excess carbon. Making ink from soot, making diamonds from CO2, and more.

Also, mammal cells turned into computer circuits, and NASA's Cassini probe final mission.

Mammal cell biocomputers
Cassini's Final Mission

Pollution Solutions

(Air Ink)

Links to various pollutions and CO2 control technologies


Episode 42 - CRISPR and gene editing

This week we dive into the world of CRISPR-Cas9 and gene editing with a hopefully easy to understand overview of the basics. What is CRISPR, what can and might it do, what are the concerns and roadblocks.

Also, new nano metal techniques for improving hardness, and the Air Force X37 sets a record.

Nano Metal


Air Force X37

(Air Force)

CRISPR-Cas9 and Gene Editing


This is probably the best video for an understandable explanation of CRISPR


Episode 33 - Themes for 2017 - Understanding Science - Consensus

This week I offer an overview of scientific consensus - what it is, and why we should accept it.

And in the news: Vantablack, and mud on Mars


(Surrey NanoSystems)

Mud on Mars


Scientific Consensus

(Randal Monroe/XKCD)