11/28/17 Show feat. Steven Gubser and Frans Pretorius on Black Holes and their “Little Book” of them

In this installment of These Vibes, Stevie speaks with Princeton University physics professors Steven Gubser and Frans Pretorius on their recently released Little Book of Black Holes (Princeton University Press, 2017). The discussion begins where the book ends, at the Epilogue, where the authors read their “Letter to Einstein.” From there we dive in to the definition and formation of black holes, and where they exist in our universe. Professors Gubser and Pretorius tell us about the experimental verification of these weird astrophysical things and answer listener questions like what would happen if a black hole entered our solar system? would we notice? Listen in and check out the book!

In the very beginning of the show, regular guest and science historian Ingrid Ockert joined us to review the stunning new documentary Jane (trailer), about the life and work of Jane Goodall, featuring much unseen footage from her younger years and research. For further reading she recommends Primates and Me, Jane.


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10/24/17 Show feat. Yoni Kahn on particle physics, phenomena, and going beyond our Standard Model

Featured image: Chandra X-ray Observatory Center via Wikimedia Commons

In this episode of These Vibes, Stevie welcomed Dr. Yoni Kahn in to the studio to discuss his work as a phenomenologist and theoretical particle physicist. He’s the kind of theorist that works closely with data, coming up with experiments to test new physical laws. Specifically, his focus is on the Standard Model of particle physics — our current best theory for all the fundamental particles in the universe. But, we know that there’s more to discover! In this interview, Yoni talks us through the history and details of the Standard Model, as well as hints of things beyond, like the search for dark matter.


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9/19/17 Show feat. Dave Seal, Mission Planner for Cassini Saturn Space Probe

In this episode of These Vibes, Stevie spoke with Dave Seal, a mission planner on the Cassini space probe which spent many years orbiting Saturn. Cassini operated its final maneuver, called the “Grand Finale,” and ended its observing by plunging in to Saturn just last Friday morning at 8am EST. It took a final image and took it’s last bits of data on Saturn’s atmosphere before being destroyed. Listen in to learn about the mission, its development, goals, and discoveries, and learn more about what it’s like to be a mission planner on a NASA space probe.
All that plus great music, and science news from microplastics in our seasalt to the new research on cancer cells.

Science News:


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12/13/16 Show feat. Thomas Macrina on Connectomes and Kasey Wagoner on the Equivalence Principle

Featured image is from Eyewire the connectome project run by Sebastian Seung at Princeton University.

Image in the Mixcloud embed above is from the Human Connectome Project at the University of Southern California.

This show is a little different. The plan was to have author and professor Patrick Phillips on for the first hour, alas there had to be a rescheduling at the last minute. Instead we will be interviewing Patrick Phillips on his book Blood at the Root at the end of next month (January 2017), so stay tuned.

Hour 1: Lots of music and some science news, including self-driving cars.
Hour 2: Thomas Macrina on machine learning, neuroscience, and mapping our brain – our connectome.
Hour 3: Kasey Wagoner, lecturer in physics at Princeton, on the bedrock scientific principle called the Equivalence Principle. In this discussion, Kasey tells us about the history, the principle’s importance, and current tests.


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3/8/16 Full show of chaos! Mostly music + discussion on Dark Matter

Featured image is from NASA. See below for explanation and credits.

It was a bit of a chaotic show in the studio. Just before start, we were told that our show would be interrupted a half hour in by basketball. Plans were thrown out and the drawing board went up. Blessedly, the sports only hijacked our live-stream. The day turned in to a beautiful show of music, with a great discussion on dark matter just before the end (around 1.5 hours in). The planned airing of an interview on exoplanets with astronomer and TED fellow Lucianne Walkowicz has been postponed.

The featured image for this post is from NASA. It’s the famed bullet cluster we mentioned so many times on the show! Two galaxies clusters collided, producing the image. Hot gas from normal matter colliding and interacting is in pink, and dark matter is in blue. You can see the dark matter just flew right past everything, maintaining its spherical shape.

This composite image shows the galaxy cluster 1E 0657-56, also known as the “bullet cluster.” This cluster was formed after the collision of two large clusters of galaxies, the most energetic event known in the universe since the Big Bang. Hot gas detected by Chandra in X-rays is seen as two pink clumps in the image and contains most of the “normal,” or baryonic, matter in the two clusters. The bullet-shaped clump on the right is the hot gas from one cluster, which passed through the hot gas from the other larger cluster during the collision. An optical image from Magellan and the Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxies in orange and white. The blue areas in this image show where astronomers find most of the mass in the clusters. The concentration of mass is determined using the effect of so-called gravitational lensing, where light from the distant objects is distorted by intervening matter. Most of the matter in the clusters (blue) is clearly separate from the normal matter (pink), giving direct evidence that nearly all of the matter in the clusters is dark. The animation below shows an artist’s representation of the huge collision in the bullet cluster. Hot gas, containing most of the normal matter in the cluster, is shown in red and dark matter is in blue. During the collision the hot gas in each cluster is slowed and distorted by a drag force, similar to air resistance. In contrast, the dark matter is not slowed by the impact, because it does not interact directly with itself or the gas except through gravity, and separates from the normal matter.

The above quote was taken from this informative NASA site. For more information, here’s the link to the press release of the bullet cluster image in 2006.

In the last half hour of the show Brian and I, and our friend and fellow DJ Tristan, spoke about dark matter for a while. Honestly, the wikipedia page for dark matter is great if you’re looking for more information on the topic.

Photo credit where credit is due: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/M.Markevitch et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI; Magellan/U.Arizona/D.Clowe et al.; Lensing Map: NASA/STScI; ESO WFI; Magellan/U.Arizona/D.Clowe et al.


Playlist:

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Check out the band, Gulps! They’re a new, totally rockin’ local New Jersey band that’s playing a lot of shows.

2/9/16 Show. The science of art conservation with Dr. Lora Angelova + a short piece on gravitational waves.

 

Featured image is an artist’s conception of gravitational waves from a binary system. From LIGO.org.

Image with the recording is of the inside of the Tate Britain museum in London.
Dr. Lora Angelova in her old lab at UCL (University College London)
Dr. Lora Angelova at her old office at the University College London.

The main portion of this show is an interview with Dr. Lora Angelova – a chemist and researcher at the Tate Britain in London, England. What this means is, she uses chemistry, material sciences, physics, art history – and whatever else she needs – all towards the effort of conserving art. Currently, her research focuses on developing methods of surface cleaning artworks. Throughout our interview she takes us through some of the work involved to keep a piece of art in a state as close to its original as possible, and how much of an effort that takes. It’s truly a labor of love.

In the interview we discussed her work with NanoRestART, and micro-emulsions. Lora explained micelles, and that lead us to how soap works. Then we spoke a little on the surface of our cells – as it’s a similar concept.

From sustainablescientist.net
From sustainablescientist.net.

 

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Simplified cell-membrane. See how it’s a double layer of the micelle?

Additionally, here’s a great YouTube video Brian suggests. The video discusses this lipid structure and how it can calm the waves in a lake.

After the interview, I spoke for a while about gravitational waves. Here’s approximately what I said on them:

If I were a betting woman, I’d say that you’re about to hear a lot in the news about these entities called “gravitational waves.” That is, if you keep up with science and tech news.

On Thursday, the LIGO experiment is having a press conference. BUT it’s been rumored for months that they might have seen something in their instrument. LIGO stands for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory. And what they search for is, you guessed it, gravitational waves.

From general relativity we know that gravity – the force that makes apples fall and keeps us here on Earth, and maintains the Earth orbiting the Sun – isn’t like the other forces. The other three forces: the electromagnetic, strong, and weak forces – all operate via particle interactions. So if two objects are attracted or repelled due to the electromagnetic space_warp_GRforce, this comes about because of particle exchange. But when two objects are gravitationally attracted to each other, this comes about due to the fact that massive objects actually warp the spacetime around them. Like when you sit on your bed with lots of stuff on it and everything falls in to you. Alternatively, think of a rubber sheet pulled taught with a bowling ball set on it. The bowling ball warps the sheet, causing any marbles

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Einstein ring image taken by the Hubble Telescope.

you throw on to the sheet to fall in to the ball. This is how gravity works.

And, in our sky, we can see gravity do this due to its effect on light. Light always takes the shortest path through spacetime, so if spacetime curves due to some massive object, then the light will curve. This effect creates these fascinating images on the sky called Einstein rings – these are absolutely gorgeous and dramatic and totally incredible. You can see one of these to the right of this page, but google for images. There’s many.

So what’s a gravitational wave? Well, if gravity is curvature of spacetime, then a gravitational_wavesgravitational wave is an oscillation in spacetime. Think of it like a stretching and compressing of a small bit of space – first vertically stretched and horizontally compressed, then horizontally stretched and vertically compressed, and again and again, back and forth – but that stretching and compressing action is traveling, at the speed of light, away from its source.

The LIGO instrument uses this property – and lasers – to try to measure gravitational waves. Essentially, they have VERY very precise lasers aimed across a distance, and if this light from the laser is stretched or compressed just a little tiny bit, then LIGO will pick it up. And if that stretching and compressing has the right signature, then it could be a gravitational wave.

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From LIGO at Caltech website.

A good next question is, where does the gravitational wave come from? What’s the source? Well, a gravitational wave is theorized to radiate out from just about any massive, moving source. So this could be, for example, two neutron stars spinning around each other at fantastic speeds, colliding black holes. Or you, driving in your car.

A key thing to note is that gravity is SO MUCH weaker than any of the other forces. This is why a magnet that you hold in your hand could attract a paperclip via the electromagnetic force, but could never really attract anything gravitationally. If you’re in to numbers, gravity is about 30 orders of magnitude – that’s a 10 with 30 zeros after it – weaker than the electromagnetic force.

And this is why LIGO is looking to observe gravitational waves from two neutron stars spinning around each other at fantastic speeds, but isn’t worried about picking up the waves from you driving in your car. And this is also why it’s so hard – and why it’s never been done before. But LIGO has been diligent…and there have been rumors of discovery for weeks now. So…watch this space.

And just so you know – gravitational waves have never been directly observed before, but

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Figure showing how gravitational waves radiate from a binary pulsar system, like the Hulse-Taylor system. From http://resources.edb.gov.hk

it’s on very very strong theoretical footing. First off, they come out of General Relativity, which has been tested time and time again. And second, they have been measured indirectly.

Here’s what we’ve seen. As a system – like binary neutron stars or black holes – radiate gravitational waves, they lose energy… this will cause the objects to spiral in towards each other and eventually collide. And this has been observed! Cue the Hulse-Taylor pulsar.

In the Hulse-Taylor system a…

…decrease of the orbital period [was observed] as the two stars spiral together. Although the measured shift is only 40 seconds over 30 years, it has been very accurately measured and agrees precisely with the predictions from Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. The observation is regarded as indirect proof of the existence of gravitational waves. Indeed, the Hulse-Tayor pulsar is deemed so significant that in 1993 its discoverers were awarded the Nobel prize for their work.

(Quoted from Cardiff University website.)

So, we are pretty sure they exist. And if we are able to observe gravitational waves directly from sources like black holes and dark matter, that would be totally revolutionary for astrophysics! It would show us the universe us in a whole, brand new way.

And with that, we’re all pretty pumped to hear what LIGO has to say on Thursday. And sometime soon I’ll try to get someone from the collaboration in here to talk about it.


Playlist:

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12/24/15 Show feat. Lucianne Walkowicz on Exoplanets and Alien Megastructures

af6bbdfdd36307c7cb26702fd0da799d8bd7f505_800x600Happy Christmas, listeners! In this rockin’ show Lucianne Walkowicz called in to WPRB from the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, where she works on NASA’s Kepler Mission as well as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (a telescope currently being built down in Chile). In this interview we focus on the Kepler mission’s search for exoplanets – these are planets outside of our solar system. We discuss questions such as: What makes a planet habitable? How does a star’s properties influence the planet’s habitability? How does Kepler go about finding these planets when they’re so much smaller and dimmer than their accompanying star? How could we know if there is life on these planets? And much more!

We delved in to some mysteries found by the Kepler mission, including KIC 8462852, aka “Tabby’s Star.” In late October, news stories about this anomalous star went viral as speculation swirled about what it could be. One of the theories stated that the star’s weird signature could be evidence of an advanced alien civilization. In this interview, Lucianne tells us why. (To listen to the interview – just the interview without the rest of the music, etc. of the rest of the show – click here.)

Towards the end of the show I played a short interview with particle physicist Stephane Cooperstein on recent findings out of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland – and what they could mean. More information here. In the interview we mention the plot below.cwrui2owiaat7o52b

 

Extra resources:

Lucianne’s rad punk band, DITCH CLUB, just released a new EP! Listen here:



Show playlist:

Artist Song Album Label
Wanda Jackson, The Cramps Funnel of Love Heart Trouble CMH Records
Intro (2:35)
Gang of Four Ether Entertainment Warner Brothers
The Wyrms War Machine At Wizard Island Negative Fun Records
Car Seat Headrest Oh! Starving Teens of Style Matador
Jeff Rosenstock You, in weird cities We cool? Side one dummy records
Lucianne Walkowicz, Part I Exoplanets, Stars, and Alien Megastructures N/A
Nana Grizol Galaxies Ruth Orange Twin Records
Dismemberment Plan What do you want me to say? What do you want me to say? b/w since you died DeSoto Records
Pochoclo Las Trillizas de Oro ¡Chicas! Spanish Female Singers Vol.2 1963-78 VAMPISOUL
Lucianne Walkowicz, Part II Exoplanets, Stars, and Alien Megastructures N/A
Ditch Club King of Cups EP ditchclub.bandcamp.com
Ditch Club Reality Check EP ditchclub.bandcamp.com
Worriers Yes All Cops Imaginary Life Don Giovanni
The Fall My New House This Nation’s Saving Grace Beggars Banquet Records
Interview with Stephane Cooperstein New Results from the Large Hadron Collider N/A
Old Town School of Folk Music Twist and Shout Songs For Wiggleworms Old Town School
Joanna Gruesome Wussy Void Weird Sister Slumberland
Blonde Redhead Cat on Tin Roof Barragán Blonde Redhead

 

12/10/15 Show Discussing Big Science with Guest Co-Host Brian Kraus, Plasma Physicist

(Featured image above is of the Very Large Array telescopes. Image from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.)

In this show Brian and I discuss what’s called “Big Science.” What we mean when we use that descriptor, and some of the amazing examples across the science fields including satellites to undersea observatories to particle colliders and fusion reactors. We also discuss some of the overwhelming obstacles to big science — from funding to choosing a project a whole field agrees on to getting thousands of scientists across the world to collaborate smoothly. There are positive and less so examples of these, and we mention several. Additionally, we dig a little bit in to how we got here. How big science projects became necessary, when they weren’t just decades prior.

And interweaved with all of that is, as always, music.

Discussion begins at about 3 minutes in.

(Cover image of the recording is from the ALICE experiment (one of the four detectors at interaction points in the Large Hadron Collider) at CERN.)

Some mentions during the show:


Playlist below:

Artist Song Album Label
The Tuts Christmas is in the air Have Faith with Kate Nash This Christmas 10p Records
Intro (3:00)
Mourn Otitis Mourn Captured tracks
Sally ford and the sound outside They told me Untamed Beast Partisan Records
Courtney Barnett Shivers Blue Series Third man records
Dark Dark Dark In your dreams Wild go Supply and Demand
Mic break 1 Big science
Chastity Belt Seattle Party No Regrets Help yourself
Shopping No show Why Choose fat cat
Grimes SCREAM (feat. Aristophanes) Art Angels 4AD records
Skating Polly Ugly Fuzz Steilacoom Chap Stereo
Mic break 2 Big science
Dan Aurebach The Prowl Keep it hid V2 Records
MOTO Gagging on the Edge of Love Ampeg Stud / Motoerectus Motopac
Beat Happening Indian Summer Indian Summer 7″ Domino
Wreckless Eric Whole Wide World Greatest Stiffs Stiff Records
Mic break 3 Big science
Wolf Eyes T.O.D.D. I am a problem: mind in pieces Third man records

 

10/1/2015 Radio Show + Interview with Princeton Plasma Physicist Brian Kraus

Music and interview with Princeton plasma physics doctoral student Brian Kraus. We talked about what is a plasma, the difference between fusion and fission, why fusion energy is so much cleaner than fission (what’s done in nuclear reactors), but also so much harder. We talked about the fusion reactor being built in France – ITER – as well as other things you can do with plasmas, like propelling satellites and space ships!

New Yorker article on the fusion reactor, ITER. (In the show I mention an Atlantic article, however I was unable to find it. This one also looks good!)

Artist Song Album Label
The Modern Lovers Astral Plane The Modern Lovers Sanctuary Records Group
Jawbreaker Reunion Laughing Alone Eating A Salad Lutheran sisterhood gun club Miscreant Records
Screaming Females Angelo’s Song Baby Teeth Don Giovanni
Young Fathers Nest White Men are black men too Big Dada
QUARTERBACKS Not in Luv Quarterbacks Team Love Records
Shopping For your money Consumer Complaints Fat Cat Records
Talking with Brian Kraus
Ava Luna PRPL Electric Balloon Western Vinyl
Charanjit Singh Raga Bhairav Synthesizing – Ten ragas to a disco beat Saregama
Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell Ain’t No Mountain high enough United Motown Records
Tinariwen Arawan Amassakoul WEDGE S.A.R.L.
Man Man Pink Wonton On Oni Pond Anti, Inc
Talking with Brian Kraus
Hop Along Sister Cities Painted Shut Saddle Creek
Jeff Buckley The Sky is a landfill Sketches from My sweetheart the drunk NA
Sarah Jarosz Shankill Butchers Song up in her head sugar hill
Talking with Brian Kraus
Royksopp Vision One Junior Parlaphone

Radio Show, Aired 9/17/2015

This is my first show at my new time slot: 2-4am on Thursday mornings. I played about a half hour of tunes, then the first 15 minutes of my interview on quasicrystals with Princeton Professor Paul Steinhardt.

Artist Song Album Label
Nina Simone Everyone’s Gone to the Moon The Essential Nina Simone RCA Records
NOFX The Brews Punk in Drublic Epitaph
Modern Lovers Astral Plane The Modern Lovers Sanctuary Records Group
Young Fathers Liberated White Men are Black Men too Big Dada
Potty Mouth Cherry Picking Potty Mouth ep Planet Whatever
Lila Downs, Juanes La Patria Madrina Balas y Chocolat Sony
Worriers Glutton for Distance Imaginary Life Don Giovanni
Ratatat cream on chrome magnifique xl recordings
<Break>
Paul Steinhardt Interview Quasicrystals
<Break>
Reviver Bukowski Versificator Exigent Records
Fitz of Depression Everybody and their dog Kill Rock Stars Kill Rock Stars
Los Cojolites El Conejo Frida (Original Motion Picture) Deutsche Grammophon
Blind Willie Johnson John The Revelator Dark Was the Night Sony
<Break>
Chelsea Wolfe Survive Abyss Sargent House
Flesh World Your love is like a house The wild animals in my life Iron Lung
Beirut Nantes Flying Cup Club EMI Music Publishing
Bully Sharktooth Feels Like Columbia Records
Bitter Bloom Don’t Know Enough Demo https://soundcloud.com/bitterbloom
<Break>
Guantuanamo Baywatch Too Late Darling…it’s too late Suicide Squeeze
Shirelles Dedicated to the One I Love The Very Best of Shirelles United Artists
Colleen Green Things that are bad for me, part 1 I want to grow up Hardly Art
Unknown Oaxaca Band Unknown (I recorded this at a bar) N/A
Daniel Bachman Leaving Istanbul (4am) Jesus I’m a Sinner Tomkins Square
Desaparecidos Von Maur Massacre Payola Epitaph
Off with their heads 1612 Havenhurst From the bottom No Idea Records
Beach Slang Punk or Lust Who would ever want something so broken? Dead Broke Rekerds
<Break>
Palehound Healthier Folk Dry Food Exploding in Sound Records
Makeshift Shelters (This Song is Definitely Not about a Boy) Something So Personal Broken World Media
John Darnielle + The Mountain Goats Choked Out Beat the Champ Merge