This week’s episode focuses on the life and times of Nicolaus Copernicus, the famed Renaissance Polish astronomer who proposed the heliocentric model of the Universe. The details of this model were presented in his magnum opus, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, which Copernicus had published in 1543 when he was on his deathbed. While Copernicus is a household name and the basics of his model are well-known, the story of how he came to his grand realization is less well-known.
The heliocentric model was inspired by thousands of years of observations and calculations by astronomers. These included several pre-Socratic Greek texts lost to Europeans (but preserved by Muslim scholars) and scholars from West Asia, Iran, India, and Al-Andalus (Spain before the Reconquista). These sources contradicted the prevailing models of Aristotle and Ptolemy, both of whom were considered canon in Europe and Eurasia.
By synthesizing these observations with his own calculations, Copernicus showed how Earth and the other planets orbited the Sun, how the Moon orbited Earth, and how Earth rotated. In short, he synthesized and crystallized one of the most profound scientific discoveries ever made, one that was thousands of years in the making. And in so doing, he forever revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos and our place in it.
In fact, his observation that the Sun was NOT at the center of the Universe began a long process where humans began to realize that neither they nor Earth were unique in the cosmos. As Sagan put it: “One of the distinctions and triumphs of the advance of science has been the deprovincialization of our worldview.” Because of Copernicus’s role in this, the scientific axiom that states that humanity is NOT in a special or privileged position to view the cosmos is known as the Copernican Principle.
This week’s guest was astrophysicist, science communicator, and author Ethan Siegel. Ethan has been a professor of astrophysics at multiple universities, a senior contributor to Forbes magazine (ever heard of it?), and their chief science writer. He is also the producer of Starts with a Bang, a podcast and column where he talks about the Big Bang and other big questions related to cosmology.
His books include Trekology, which explores the technical aspects of the famous Star Trek franchise; Beyond the Galaxy, an examination of humanity’s growing awareness of the Universe; and the upcoming Encyclopaedia Cosmologica, a richly-illustrated and plainly-explained origin story about the cosmos.
During our chat, we got into multiple topics, including the greatest mysteries facing astronomers and cosmologists today, the James Webb naming controversy, and what makes astrophysics and science communication so exciting! Take a listen and be sure to check out Ethan’s podcast, articles, and websites.
For this week’s episode, I spoke with Mclee Kerolle, a veteran space lawyer and the Mentorship Coordinator with the Space Court Foundation (SCF). In the course of our chat, we discuss the SCF’s education and outreach programs and how they are focused on mentoring the next generation of space lawyers (with an emphasis on greater inclusion and diversity). We also got into the evolving field of space law and its importance in the current age of human spaceflight.
If I could summarize the episode and everything we spoke of in two bullet points, they would be:
The new space age is defined by growing cooperation and access, and it is important to promote and amplify the voices of those unsung heroes worldwide that are helping make it happen
A legal framework needs to be established TODAY so that we don’t a “Wild West” situation in space tomorrow
We also got into the SCF’s various programs that teach about existing space law and encourage people to think about the kinds of laws that need to be put in place before we being mining asteroids, establishing settlements on the Moon and Mars, conducting space tourism, and create habitats that allow for a permanent human presence in space. Check it out below!
In this episode, my guest was none other than famed author, science communicator, and fellow Universe Today writer/editor Nancy Atkinson! We talk about her books Incredible Stories from Space, where she provides a behind-the-scene look at the people who make NASA’s robotic missions happen. And there’s her more recent book, Eight Years to the Moon: The History of the Apollo Missions, where she tells the untold stories and acknowledges the unsung heroes of the Apollo Program!
That’s correct, the third episode of Stories from Space has just aired – the subject, Indigenous Astronomy! Highlights include revitalization and recognition efforts and how Indigenous leaders and advocates are raising awareness of ancient traditions. Hat’s off to Cree astronomer William Buck for lighting the fire in my mind that led to this episode! And a shout out to the Siksika Blackfoot and Ininewuk Cree Nations, their partners at Rothney Astrophysical Observatory, and Native Skywatchers for their ongoing education and outreach efforts!
This news has been a few months in the making, but with the final preparations underway, I feel like it’s time to announce it! In a few weeks, I will be launching my podcast series – Stories from Space – with the Intersection Of Technology, Cybersecurity, And Society Podcast (ITSP), a highly-respected channel that hosts multiple shows. Each of these is dedicated to exploring the past, the present, and the future of humanity’s relationship with technology and the profound effects it can have on our society.
Good news! Not long ago, I took part in a podcast with Liam Ginty – the man who created Voices From L5. This program deals with the subject of space exploration and colonization, and he decided to do a podcast all about terraforming. After coming across my series on the subject over at Universe Today, he contacted me, and we got to talking. By the time we were done, we had created an episode dedicated to the subject.
The episode is about 45 minutes long, and covers such issues as terraforming vs. space habitats, the ethics of terraforming, the challenges and benefits, and whether or not such a thing is likely to happen. If you’ve got some time, and don’t mind hearing my voice (I am still not comfortable hearing it), then check it out.