Science and technology are everywhere in our lives. This podcast takes a look not only at the science itself, but its role in society, how it affects our lives, and how it influences how we define ourselves as humans. Episodes also throw in a mix of culture, history, ethics, philosophy, religion, and the future! Hosted by Elizabeth Fernandez, an astronomer and science communicator. Let’s spark some dialog!  How to subscribe to and rate the podcast.

To GM or not to GM: GMOs in a Changing World

Today we talk to Dr. Sarah Evanega from the Alliance for Science about the safety of GMO crops and how they view GMOs in the developing world.

Made In Space
I named my Roomba George.

From Rosie to RoboCop: Gender, Religion, and Robots

From Rosie to RoboCop, robots are reinforcing gender roles within society.  Robotic designers and even users see “female” or “male” robots very differently.  We talk to Dr. Jennifer Robertson, an expert on robotics and culture, about robots and sexism, religion, family, and culture.   

Keep on Moving, Stop Climate Change

Transportation is responsible for 23% of global emissions.  If we could make getting from point A to point B cleaner, it would go a long way in combatting climate change.  Today, we talk to Dr. Ryan Allard, a transportation specialist from Project Drawdown.  Project Drawdown is a no-profit organization focused on using existing technology to slow, and even reverse, climate change.

A mad dash from point A to point B
moral choices

Ice Cream and Nazis: The Origin of Moral Choices

If someone didn’t like the same ice cream flavor as you, chances are you wouldn’t stop being friends with them.  But you might if you found out that they were a Nazi sympathizer.  What we see as moral choices are fundamentally different than other preferences.  In today’s podcast with Dr. P. Kyle Stanford of UC Irvine, we discuss how they may have been a basis on which modern society was created.    

Let There be Light: First Stars and Cosmic Dawn

Billions of years ago, the first star was born, and the Universe would never be the same. But how do we know what these first stars were like?  How did the stars change the Universe to what we see today?  Today we are joined by Dr. Harish Vedantham to discuss how we can observe these first stars, the radio array LOFAR, and how hard it is to see back in time.

When was the last time you heard a pin drop?

Crowdsensing the Noise

Noise is everywhere in our lives.  Today we talk to Julia Buwaya, a mobile crowdsensing researcher, on how she utilizes smartphones to “crowdsense”, essentially having hundreds or thousands of people help her gather data to understand the noise in our lives.

The Geology of Us: The Anthropocene

Humans are affecting the Earth on a global scale, and this change will be remembered in the rocks. I talk to Dr. David Grinspoon on how humans are affecting the planet: from new minerals to a shift in the climate to our presence in space.  Humankind may be responsible for the planet entering a new geological time period: the Anthropocene. 

Made In Space
Do you want to live forever?

Can Science Help Us Live Forever?

Can science help us live forever? Can it provide a way to stop aging in its tracks? Perhaps the fountain of youth will be obtained within our lifetimes. Today we talk to Dr. Aubrey de Grey from the SENS Research Foundation on therapy that can keep us young and what a world without aging would look like.

Subglacial Lakes and Life on Frozen Moons

Subglacial lakes far beneath the Canadian ice are defying all expectations. We are joined by Anja Rutishauser of the University of Alberta, who discovered these lakes. They could be a terrestrial analog to the under-ice oceans of moons like Europa, and could help us to understand any potential life that exists there.

You're as cold as ice

Is there Bias in Machine Learning Algorithms?

Machine learning algorithms can make inferences about our habits. But can these algorithms be biased against certain people or groups of people? Where does this bias come from?  And how can we improve these algorithms? We are joined by Dr. Joshua Kroll from the University of California at Berkeley to discuss bias in machine learning algorithms in everything from your grocery store’s frequent buyer card to the Trump administration’s Extreme Vetting Initiative.

Space Junk, Trash on the Moon, and the Earth’s Copper Ring

Is there really a toothbrush orbiting the Earth? And does Earth really have a ring – made of copper? Dr. Lisa Ruth Rand joins us on the podcast today to talk about space junk, the Cold War, trash and the Moon landing, and how debris in space may outlive us all.

ET phone God

The Pope’s Astronomer

Today we talk to Brother Guy Consolmano, the Pope’s Astronomer, on meteorites and why, as humans, we are drawn to do pure science.  We discuss science and religion, find out if they really are at odds, and whether or not he would baptize an extraterrestrial. 

There’s More to Color than Meets the Eye

Is color just a physical property of objects? If it is, how would we explain why so many people got in arguments about the color of the infamous “dress”? It turns out, color is not just in the world – it’s also in our minds.  Today we talk to Dr. Mazviita Chirimuuta about how much our brains are involved in understanding the colorful world around us.

Made In Space
Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto

Can AI be Creative?

Can AI be creative? Today we talk with Dr. Maya Ackerman about AI creativity in the form of songwriting, and even listen to a song composed with artificial intelligence!

What Happens Next Will Blow Your Mind! Using Natural Language Processing to Find Fake News, Satire, and Clickbait

Have you ever been deceived by fake news? Couldn’t resist that click-bait? With more and more news sources, it sometimes becomes hard to tell the truth from the lies. Today we are joined by Dr. Victoria Rubin and her group, who discuss using Natural Language Processing to detect various types of deceptive news.

Who can you trust?
Can anybody tell me who I am?

The Philosophy of the Self: From Spirituality to Neuroscience

What is the self?  Is the self an entity, or is it a process, continually being created?  In today’s podcast, Dr. Evan Thompson joins me to discuss how two very different schools of thought – neuroscience and Eastern spirituality – grapple with the concept of the self.

Getting a Second Chance: Space Ethics, Mining, and Colonization

Do we deserve a second chance on a new planet?  How can we explore the stars, but maintain the integrity of space?  Space ethics is a new field that many are beginning to consider.  Today on the podcast, I am joined with Dr. Tony Milligan, author of Nobody Owns the Moon – the Ethics of Space Exploitation, to discuss everything from space mining to colonization.

Lend a Hand!

Lending a Hand – a Prosthetic Hand

Not too long ago, Edie Steinhoff had a really bad day. In a household accident, she lost all of the fingers on her hand. But her university community rallied around her to engineer her a new hand. The team, led by Dr. David Grow of New Mexico Tech, work with Edie to design a prosthetic that works for her. It’s not often that you can see how your research immediately benefits those around you!

Zombees! A Halloween Episode

This is the story of the day ZomBees were discovered in San Francisco. No, not the type that eat brains. We’re talking about zombees – honeybees that have their bodies hijacked by parasites and are eaten from within. This is a very real threat to honeybees today in North America, and could affect our entire agricultural system. We talk to Dr. John Hafernik about zombees and the citizen science project ZomBee Watch.

Made In Space
Future of Food

From Steak to Insects – The Future of Food

What does the future of food hold in store for us?  Are our current eating practices sustainable, or will a growing population paired with transportation issues force us to rethink how we eat?  Today we talk to Max Elder from the Food Futures Lab about the future of food – everything from the evolution of our protein sources to GMOs to lab-grown meat.

Humanitarian and Privacy Concerns with AI

AI and machine learning have become an increasingly prevalent part of our society.  Companies use them to take snippets of information about you and to learn about your life, and even to make inferences about what you might do and what you believe.  Today we talk to Dr. Rumman Chowdhury about the humanitarian and privacy concerns that result from the use of AI.

Privacy Concerns
Women in Science

Women in Science

What was it like for women in the sciences at the beginning of the 20th century? Today we discuss one woman in particular – Ruby Payne-Scott. Ruby was a brilliant radio astrophysicist who also fought for equal rights for women in the workforce, and her career was shaped by WWII, her marriage, and when she had children. Today we are joined by Dr. Miller Goss, a radio astronomer, who wrote a book about Ruby’s life. We discuss what it was like for women 1oo years ago, and how far we have come.

The Solar Eclipse – Awe, Wonder, and Science

What is it like to see a total solar eclipse? It’s hard to describe, but I hope that this podcast, with the cheers of pure joy from the people who saw it, might give you a little taste.  We also talk about what science was done during the eclipse, from watching the oceans to watching the climate.

total eclipse

Teaching Science with Animals and Travel

In this special podcast episode, I am teaming up with Dr. Meenakshi Prabhune.  We interview each other about our work in science and science communication.  In this podcast, I talk to her about how she uses animals and travel to communicate heavier topics in science, like biophysics and genetics.  She then interviews me about this podcast series.  Both of these interviews appear in Signal to Noise Magazine.

Autism Therapy and Zen

Autism has not always been well understood in the medical community. In fact, sometimes it was so poorly understood that people with autism suffered from misdiagnosis. Yet, these brave people fought their way in a world that constantly demanded they be normal. In today’s podcast I talk to Anlor Davin, author of Being Seen, about her journey with autism, autism therapy, and about finding a balance of her own life through Zen meditation.

Made In Space

A Slice of Life

Food in space leaves a lot to be desired. But if we want to have a sustained presence in space, this will have to change. Today I’m joined with Sebastian Marcu and Neil Jaschinski of a company called Bake In Space, seeking not only to make bread safe to eat in space, but to actually bake it there as well! What challenges do they have to overcome? Find out!

The Ethics of Augmented Reality and Our Future

Augmented Reality – It could be games like Pokémon Go.  It could also mean talking to an old friend a world away, but it looks like they are siting in the chair besides you. It’s exciting, but what ethical and privacy issues come along with augmented reality?  Today we talk to Liv Erickson, a software engineer at High Fidelity who works on VR and AR, about the implications of augmented reality.

Augmented Reality

Sustainability – The Bigger Picture

When we think of sustainability, we often think of making a better world for our children. In today's podcast, hopefully you will be encouraged to look at the even bigger picture. We are joined by Dr. Oliver Putz, a member of a sustainability think tank, to discuss how climate change and the ecological crisis are affecting plants, animals, and people a world away from us, and how, by thinking globally, we can find deeper meaning.

Robots That Eat Trash and the Entrepreneurs Who Build Them

What do you do when landfills are full of recyclables and prone to fires? Design a robot of course! Today we talk to the young entrepreneur Jaidev Shah, who designed robots that can go into the landfills of India. These robots search and collect recyclables and can locate landfill fires before they become too large. His robots promise to help those who currently live in and around the landfills have better lives.
Time to take out the trash!
Let's make Uncle Ben proud

CRISPR – With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

With great power comes great responsibility. The gene editing technology CRISPR-Cas9 has tremendous promise, from creating a malaria-proof mosquito to making our crops more pest-resistant. It can even be used on humans. But when we edit the genome, are we playing with fire? Here to talk with us about the ethics (and promise) of CRISPR is Dr. Leila Jamal, a bioethicists who is intimately aware of the ethical conundrums of CRISPR.

Your Body in Space

Your body is a delicate machine, and space is a harsh environment. Today we talk to Dr. Ronke Olabisi, a biomedical engineer, about the challenges that the human body has to withstand in space and ways to overcome them. These advances will make space safer for astronauts, and can make life on Earth healthier as well!

Made In Space

The Energy Future of America – from Renewable Energy to Carbon-Negative Technology

It's time to reimagine the carbon cycle. It's time to rethink where we get our energy from. Renewable energy not only keeps our environment cleaner, but can also be cheaper in the long-run. And new carbon-negative technologies can create energy and generate products, all when removing carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere. Today we talk to Dr. David Babson, a technology manager in the US Department of Energy, about steps to combat the global energy crisis and climate change.

Educational Hotspots for Children of the Developing World

Can children in the developing world, in areas where internet is scarce or nonexistent, have access to educational materials on the web? Today we talk to Dr. Laura Hosman, who has traveled around the world to places like Senegal or Tonga. She is working to bring these children a web-like educational experience through a small ruggedized computer called a SolarSPELL.
Internet browsing has never been this easy
Monks and Einstein, the story of an unique friendship

The Dalai Lama, Tibetan Monks, and Science

Many Tibetan monks are not familiar with modern math and science, despite the Dalai Lama’s love of the subjects. To remedy this, the program Science for Monks was born - a program that helps Tibetan monks learn astronomy, physics, math, and biology. Today, we are joined by one of the teachers of this program - astronomer Dr. Chris Impey. He talks to us about his experience, what he taught the monks, and what they taught him in return.

Volcanoes – Making Your Planet Habitable for 4.6 Billion Years

What does it take to make a planet habitable? Of course, distance to the star is perhaps the most important variable that controls the planet’s temperature and allows liquid water to exist. But what about conditions on the planet itself? Today we talk to Dr. Ramses Ramirez about how things like volcanism and tectonic activity helps a planet develop and maintain an atmosphere to keep it warm, and how the habitable zone might be bigger than we previously thought.

World Upon World, Universe Upon Universe

Is our Universe all that there is? Is it possible that there are actually more universes than there are atoms in the observable Universe? Such an idea - the concept of the multiverse, is hard, if not impossible, to prove, but is supported by scientific theories like inflation and mathematical theories like string theory. Today we are joined with Dr. Jerry Cleaver, who talks about what the multiverse is and the philosophical puzzles that it produces.

The Robotic Moral Code

There are now instances when robots, machines, and artificial intelligence will need an ethical framework. From self-driving cars to autonomous weapons systems to robots in healthcare, machines will be called upon to make ethical decisions. But how do we even begin to describe morality in lines of code and mathematics that a robot can understand? Today we talk to Dr. Don Howard, a philosopher who speculates about a robotic moral code.

Made In Space

Create Your Own Brain

Why are some habits so hard to break? How much control do we have over our own brains? Today we talk to Dr. Alan Weissenbacher, a neuroscientist who drew his inspiration from his work with recovering addicts. By understanding how pathways in the brain form, we have insights into addictions, bad (and good) habits, and how we can build better brains.

Climate Change, Religion, and Ethics – A Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspective

Climate change is often viewed as a political problem. But in reality, it is a scientific issue, and perhaps equally as important, it is a moral and spiritual issue. How are religious communities responding? Today we are talking to three people involved in various religious environmental organizations, each representing a different faith community.

The Star of Bethlehem – A Real Event?

Was the Star of Bethlehem a real event? If so, was it a comet, a supernova, an alignment of planets, or something else? In today's podcast, we are joined by Dr. Peter Barthel, a professor in astrophysics and the co-editor of “The Star of Bethlehem and the Magi” for a discussion where we explore some of the latest understanding and analysis surrounding the star of Bethlehem.

Space: East and West

From space programs to technology, culture affects many aspects of our lives. Today we talk to Dr. Susmita Mohanty, an entrepreneur who has started businesses on three continents and was voted one of Financial Times 25 Indians to Watch in 2012. Intimately familiar with the space programs in a range of countries, we discuss how cultural underpinnings affect something as large as the space program of an entire country.
India's space program

Dress to OS

You don’t always think of fashion and science together. But why not? Our clothes can get very close and personal to us, more so than most other things in our everyday lives. Adding a flair of technology can allow our clothes to monitor our well being, protect our bodies in new ways, and be quite a fashion statement. Today, our guest is Anouk Wipprecht, a fashion-tech designer who combines robotics, engineering, machine learning, and fashion in her futuristic dresses. After listening to the podcast, check out her designs at her website.

Made In Space

Going to space is always a risky business. If you forget something or if something breaks, you may be days, months, or even years away from receiving a spare part. This risk could be life threatening. But all that is about to change. Today, we talk to Brad Kohlenberg from a company called Made In Space. This company is seeking to revolutionize the space industry by moving 3D printing in space, giving astronauts the opportunity to print any part they may need, making space safer, and eventually, accessible to many more. Seriously, this is the future, and it’s awesome. Also, check out the video!

Made In Space

The International Space Station and I: The World from Above

There are humans living and working in space as we speak. It’s a fact we often forget. This inspired today’s guest, Liam Kennedy, to invent a computer called the ISS Above (, which connects people on Earth with those in space, and serves as a reminder of humanity’s potential. Liam talks about his invention, the plight of an inventor, and what it’s like to live on the International Space Station. Today’s podcast also features a surprise visit from a computer!

Galactic Cannibalism

It’s a galaxy-eat-galaxy Universe out there. Today we’re talking about how big galaxies eat little galaxies, and looking at the fabulous arcs of stars stripped and tossed across the dark sky. Our guest today is Dr. Robyn Sanderson, who looks at these tidal tails, and uses them to understand everything from galactic formation to dark matter.

The Future Universe – Teeming with Life?

Why haven’t we found life on other planets yet? Perhaps it’s because we are some of the first life to develop in the Universe. I talk to Dr. Avi Loeb, chair of the astronomy department at Harvard, about the possibility that life may be much more common in the distant future around small, dim, and colder stars. Can we find life around these dim stars now? The search is on!

Hello Jupiter! It’s Juno.

Jupiter is a mystery, but that’s about to change. The spacecraft Juno has traveled billions of miles across the void of space to pay Jupiter a visit, and will finally begin to shed some light on this unique planet, letting us peer beneath the clouds, see what lies behind that Great Red Spot, and even answer the question - what is the core of Jupiter made of? But it’s a perilous journey, and Juno had to be built to withstand it. I paid NASA/JPL a visit on the evening of the 4th of July, 2016, when Juno was set to enter into orbit around Jupiter.

The Dolphin Whisperer

Are humans the only species that use language? Perhaps not. Today we talk to Jeremy Karnowski from the University of California at San Diego, who talks about how dolphins communicate, how they can call to each other by name, and even answering the question – do dolphins gossip?

Traveling to the Stars on the Wind of a Laser

Ever dream of traveling to the stars? This dream may not be as far away as you think. Today we talk to Dr. Philip Lubin, who tells us about a radical new idea to get to the stars, recently funded by the Breakthrough Foundation.

An Explosion from Across the Universe

Gamma ray bursts are some of the most powerful explosions we know of, ones that we can literally see from across the Universe. But they are extremely short - lasting only a few milliseconds to a few minutes. What could cause such an explosion? Today, Dr. Rodolfo Barniol Duran, a theoretical astrophysicist at Purdue, talks to us about what we know about these mysterious explosions.

Astronomy… With A Canon!

Dr. Dylan Spaulding, a project scientist at UC Davis in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science, talks about how he creates high velocity impacts in the lab, and what this can tell us about planet formation.

Climate Science from the Bottom of the World

Dr. Shasta Marrero, from the University of Edinburgh School of GeoSciences, talks about her visit to Antarctica, and what the ice shelf can tell us about global temperatures.
Photo by Shasta Marrero, Patriot Hills, Ellsworth Mountains, Antarctica (Jan 2014).