Are we alone in the universe?

How did life begin on Earth? Curiously, scientists often search for the answer on other planets or moons in our solar system. After all, if we want to see whether our theories are right, we need to find another example of life somewhere. The search has taken us to some strange places seemingly frozen in time that give us hints to what Earth looked like billions of years ago when life first appeared in the geologic record: places like Mars that show evidence of fossil oceans, and places like Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, that show evidence of liquid water oceans containing organic molecules hidden under an icy crust. NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay has been a member of missions that sent spacecraft to these and other places in search of that elusive other example of life in the universe. He recently sat down with producer Miles Traer to discuss the best current theories for the origin of life on Earth, why Antarctica is a lot like one of Saturn’s moons, the challenges of collecting data from other planets, and the reasons we’re captivated by the question, “Are we alone in the universe?”

THIS EPISODE WAS PRODUCED BY LESLIE CHANG, MIKE OSBORNE, AND MILES TRAER.

Sounds of Space

When we think of space, we typically think of beautiful images taken by powerful telescopes and interplanetary rovers. We think of the rings around Saturn; the giant red spot on Jupiter; or Martian rover selfies. But what does the surface of Mars sound like? What haunting melody should we expect from our Sun? And what do these sounds teach us about our cosmic neighborhood? On today’s episode, producer Miles Traer takes us on an audio tour of the solar system, with a rich library of sounds recorded and converted from satellite and rover data. So put on a pair of headphones and join us for a voyage of exploration and discovery as we explore the sounds of space.

THIS EPISODE WAS PRODUCED BY LESLIE CHANG, MIKE OSBORNE, AND MILES TRAER.

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The Soundtracker

Image adapted from Randy Storey

Listen up, because you never know when a sound will change your life.  Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton tells us the story of how he became “The Soundtracker,” an unorthodox career choice that has led him around the planet three times in pursuit of the last pristine soundscapes. Journey along with Hempton from tropical jungles to the frozen North as he records the music from the solar-powered jukebox that is Earth.

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)

The Urban Equation

As cities continue to grow, scientists are trying to define the “Urban Equation” – a mathematical expression that defines not just a group of buildings, but a complex network of physical and social interactions.  Why?  Because our cities control previously elusive aspects of human evolution.  To understand our cities is to understand us.  In this episode, Luis Bettencourt and Tyler Nordgren discuss various elements of the urban equation.  We see how complex networks give rise to creativity; how to break an urban metropolis down into a series of mathematical symbols; and how our cities are dramatically affecting a cultural connection reaching back nearly 400 years.


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This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin Macleod (Tracks used: Finding Movement and Perspectives.  License available here)

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