March 01, 2007

Dr. Edwin C. Krupp, Astronomer and Director of Griffith Observatory, 3-1-07


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Dr. Edwin C. Krupp is an astronomer and Director of Griffith Observatory, a position he has held since his appointment in 1974. He first joined the Griffith Observatory in 1970, working as a part-time Planetarium Lecturer, and upon completion of his graduate degree, was appointed Curator in 1972. He is now recognized internationally as an expert on ancient, prehistoric, and traditional astronomy, and has visited nearly 1800 ancient and prehistoric sites throughout the world, regularly leading field study tours to exotic locations that have astronomical and archaeological interest.

Dr. Krupp is the author and editor of several books on the celestial component of human belief systems, including In Search of Ancient Astronomies, Archaeoastronomy and the Roots of Science, and Echoes of the Ancient Skies. His fourth book for adults, Beyond the Blue Horizon – Myths and Legends of the Sun, Moon, Stars, and Planets, is a worldwide comparative study of celestial mythology. His most recent book for adults, Skywatchers, Shamans, & Kings: Astronomy and the Archaeology of Power, was published in 1997. He also writes astronomy books for children illustrated by Robin Rector Krupp, including The Comet and You, The Big Dipper and You, The Moon and You, and The Rainbow and You. Dr. Krupp has received four national prizes for his writing. He is a contributing editor for Sky & Telescope and writes a monthly column that emphasizes the cultural component of astronomy for this nationally distributed magazine.

Dr. Krupp has received numerous national awards for his work, including the 1989 Klumpke-Roberts Award from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for outstanding contributions to public understanding and appreciation of astronomy, the 1996 G. Bruce Blair Medal from the Western Amateur Astronomers for substantive contributions to amateur and public astronomy, and the 2002 Clifford W. Holmes Award.

Opened in 1935, Griffith Observatory is one of the best-known and most visited public observatories in the world. Operated by the City of Los Angeles’s Department of Recreation and Parks, the Observatory welcomed nearly 70 million visitors into the building prior to closing for renovation in January 2002. Construction on the renovation and expansion project began in October 2002. Griffith Observatory officially reopened to the public Friday, November 3, 2006, after finishing a $93-million facelift to renovate and expand the historic landmark.

Griffith Observatory’s unique architecture and setting, compelling programmatic offerings, and cinematic exposure have made it one of the most famous and visited landmarks in southern California. Tens of millions have come to walk the inside of the building, view the live planetarium shows, or simply gaze out toward the coast and the heavens. This cultural and scientific icon owes its existence to the dream of one man, Griffith Jenkins Griffith, and to the dedicated scientists and public servants who worked to fulfill his vision of making astronomy and observation accessible to all.

Posted by David Lemberg at 08:29 AM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

January 25, 2007

Dr. Virginia Trimble, Professor of Physics & Astronomy, University of California, Irvine, and Staff Member, Las Cumbres Observatory (Santa Barbara), 1-25-07


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Dr. Virginia Trimble is a native Californian and a graduate of Hollywood High School (1961), UCLA (B.A. in Physics & Astronomy 1964), Caltech (M.S. 1965, Ph.D. 1968 in astronomy), and Cambridge University (M.A. 1969).

Dr. Trimble’s current scientific interests include structure and evolution of stars, galaxies, and the universe, and of the communities of scientists who study them, incorporated, so far, in about 500 publications. She is Professor of Physics & Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine, and a staff member of Las Cumbres Observatory (Santa Barbara).

In recent years, Dr. Trimble has served in governance positions and on committees and boards of directors for the American Astronomical Society, the American Physical Society, the International Astronomical Union, the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, the Peter Gruber Foundation, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

The UCI physics department opened with the campus in 1965 with fewer than a dozen faculty, concentrated in three areas — particle physics, plasma physics, and condensed matter physics (then called solid state physics). A fourth concentration, in astrophysics, was intended from the beginning, although the first hire was in that area was not made until 1971 (Dr. Trimble), and the second in the mid 1980s (Dr. Gary Chanan).

Posted by David Lemberg at 11:42 AM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

January 10, 2007

Dr. Alex Vilenkin, Professor of Physics, and Director, Tufts Institute of Cosmology, Tufts University, 1-11-07


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Dr. Alex Vilenkin has been doing research in cosmology for more than 25 years and has introduced a number of novel ideas to the field. He has published over 170 research papers, a monograph on “cosmic defects”, and a popular book, Many Worlds in One: the Search for Other Universes. Dr. Vilenkin is best known for his theories of eternal cosmic inflation, creation of the universe from nothing, and for his ground-breaking work on cosmic strings. He has also studied the implications of the possible existence of multiple universes.

Born in the former Soviet Union, Dr. Vilenkin got his undergraduate degree in 1971, but was denied employment requiring any level of education, because he was blacklisted by the KGB. He was drafted in the army and then worked some menial jobs, including a night guard in a zoo, living below poverty level and doing physics research in his spare time. He immigrated to the US in 1976 and got his Ph.D. from SUNY Buffalo the following year. After spending another year as a post-doc at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, he joined the faculty of Tufts University where he is currently a Professor of Physics. Dr. Vilenkin also serves as Director of the Tufts Institute of Cosmology.

Posted by David Lemberg at 04:14 PM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

December 14, 2006

Dr. Howard Perko, CTL|Thompson Northern Colorado Division Manager, 12-15-06


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Dr. Howard Perko has more than 12 years of professional experience and holds B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Civil Engineering with Geotechnical/Foundation Engineering specialization. He is a licensed professional engineer in 12 states and his project experience includes earth dams, slope stability, excavation shoring, earth retention, underpinning, dewatering systems and foundations. Dr. Perko is an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and Deep Foundations Institute among other organizations and has authored more than 25 technical publications on topics including earth anchors, helix piers, soil shear strength, underground corrosion, deep foundations and expansive soils.

Dr. Perko was employed as a Project Engineer with CTL|Thompson from 1994 to 1998 before enrolling in the doctoral program at Colorado State University. As part of his graduate and postgraduate work, he assisted the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a planetary soil scientist on the design of soil anchors, dust mitigation systems, soil and ice drills, and soil sampling devices. He subsequently started several companies including SECURE Foundations, LLC and SECURE Engineering Denver, LLC, which focus on structural engineering with particular emphasis in foundations and retaining walls.

In 2005, CTL|Thompson and the two SECURE companies joined forces to create a stronger and more diversified team. Dr. Perko re-joined the CTL|Thompson team in 2005 as the Northern Colorado Division Manager. In Dr. Perko’s current role, his duties include managing the Fort Collins CTL|Thompson office and the SECURE companies, developing new clients, serving existing clients, reviewing reports, directing engineering investigations, and supervising engineering designs.

Posted by David Lemberg at 01:31 PM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

December 07, 2006

Tim Taylor, Mission Operations Controller, Southern Research Institute, and Dr. Martin Ross, Program Manager, NASA WB-57F Ascent Video Experiment (WAVE) project, Aerospace Corporation, 12-8-06


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Prior to joining Southern Research Institute, Tim Taylor was a consultant for a number of technology interests including NASA, British Aerospace, and the Department of Defense. He was previously a venture capitalist for HMC Corporation, a division of Harbert Management Corporation. Earlier in his career, he worked with the NASA space program at Cape Canaveral–Kennedy Space Center and the Marshall Space Flight Center, where his primary functions were to help transition from the Apollo program to the space shuttle program, and provide pre-flight and in-flight engineering and technical support for several space shuttle missions/payloads. He has been involved in the development of many products and processes ranging from material science, coatings and surgical devices, and holds 14 patents himself.

Dr. Martin N. Ross is currently the Program Manager for the NASA WB-57F Ascent Video Experiment (WAVE) project at the Aerospace Corporation. Dr. Ross has over 30 years experience in aerospace, including planetary physics, aerospace engineering, NASA program management, and university level teaching. He has worked at the Aerospace Corporation for almost 20 years. Prior to joining Aerospace Corporation, Dr. Ross was at the Loral Space Systems, spacecraft control system design analysis. Before that he was a planetary physics research assistant at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Dr. Ross earned a Bachelor's degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan and a Master's degree in Planetary and Space Physics from the University of California at Los Angeles. Dr. Ross continued on to receive his Space Physics Doctorate from the University of California at Los Angeles and has authored over 25 peer-reviewed publications. He is actively involved with numerous professional societies, including the American Geophysical Union and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Southern Research Institute is a not-for-profit organization that conducts basic and applied research in the areas of preclinical drug discovery and drug development, advanced engineering, environmental and energy production. To date, Southern Research has discovered six FDA-approved cancer drugs and discovered four additional drugs that are currently in clinical trials.

Southern Research conducts basic and applied research for both public and private organizations. Clients include the National Institute of Health, the U.S. Departments of Justice, Defense and Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and NASA. Southern Research works with major commercial clients in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, automotive, energy and manufacturing sectors.

The Aerospace Corporation was created in 1960 because Congress recognized the need for an independent organization, free from conflict of interest, to oversee space and missile programs for the United States Air Force. Aerospace is a nonprofit company that operates a federally funded research and development center for the Air Force and also works with other government agencies and commercial firms. Aerospace dedicated engineers and scientists work independently and objectively to ensure continued access to, and operations in space for the U.S. military and for civil and commercial organizations working in the national interest.

Aerospace participates in every facet of design, development, and operation of national-security space systems, including systems engineering, analysis and development; acquisition support; launch certification; anomaly resolution; new technology application for existing and next-generation space systems; and research and testing at state-of-the-art laboratories staffed by some of the leading scientists in the world. As a trusted agent to the U.S. military for more than 40 years, The Aerospace Corporation has provided broad program support and problem-specific solutions across the full spectrum of national security and space.

Posted by David Lemberg at 01:37 PM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

November 17, 2006

Dr. Andrew Fraknoi, Chair, Astronomy Program, Foothill College, 11-17-06


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Dr. Andrew Fraknoi is the Chair of the Astronomy Program at Foothill College near San Francisco, where he teaches popular courses on introductory astronomy and “physics for poets” (attended by over 900 students each year.) He has given more than 400 public lectures on such topics as: “Is There Worthwhile Real Estate (and Could There Be Real Estate Agents) on Other Worlds?,” and “Why Falling into a Black Hole is a Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience.”

For 14 years, Dr. Fraknoi served as the Executive Director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, an international scientific and educational organization founded in 1889. He was also editor of its popular level magazine, Mercury, and founded its newsletter for teachers, The Universe in the Classroom. He also founded Project ASTRO, a program that brings professional and amateur astronomers into 4th – 9th grade classrooms for ongoing partnerships with local teachers (now in 13 regional sites around the U.S.).

A prolific author, Dr. Fraknoi has edited two collections of science articles and science fiction stories for Bantam Books, and is the lead author of Voyages through the Universe (Brooks-Cole/Thomson), which has become one of the leading introductory astronomy textbooks in the world. He is also editor of a two-volume teaching guide called The Universe at Your Fingertips, which is filled with astronomy activities and teaching resources for instructors in grades 4–12. With Sidney Wolff, he is co-editor of a new on-line journal/magazine about space science education, called Astronomy Education Review, published with the support of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories and NASA.

Dr. Fraknoi serves on the Board of Trustees of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, a scientific and educational organization involved in identifying possible signals from civilizations around other stars. He served on the Astronomy Education Board of the American Astronomical Society and is a Fellow of the California Academy of Science.

Educated at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Fraknoi has taught astronomy and physics at San Francisco State University, the City College of San Francisco, Canada College, and several campuses of the University of California Extension Division.

In 1994, he received the Annenberg Foundation Prize of the American Astronomical Society (the highest honor in the field of astronomy education), as well as the Klumpke-Roberts Prize of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (given for a lifetime of contributions to popularizing astronomy.) He was the first recipient of the Carl Sagan Prize, given to a San Francisco Bay Area scientist whose activities in public education have been especially noteworthy.

Asteroid 4859 has been named Asteroid Fraknoi by the International Astronomical Union to honor his work in sharing the excitement of modern astronomy with students, teachers, and the public.

Posted by David Lemberg at 01:01 PM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

July 22, 2006

Dr. Chris De Pree, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy, and Director, Bradley Observatory, Agnes Scott College, 7-19-06


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Dr. Chris De Pree received his B.S. in Physics at Duke University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research is focused on radio frequency observations of star-forming regions, and most of his observational data comes from the Very Large Array (VLA) located in Socorro, NM.

Dr. De Pree teaches at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA where he is Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy and Department chair. His activities during the semester include teaching, research, public outreach, and popular science writing.

Agnes Scott College, founded in 1889, is an independent, national liberal arts college for women. Located in Atlanta, GA, Agnes Scott College has an endowment of $274.7 million, ranked second among women's colleges, eighth among national liberal arts colleges, and 29th overall in endowment per FTE student. U.S. News & World Report's 2006 rankings place Agnes Scott seventh among nationally ranked women's colleges, best in the South, and among the best values in the country, ranking 22 for "Great Deals at Great Schools".

Posted by David Lemberg at 09:10 AM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

April 27, 2006

Dr. Michael Zolensky, Co-investigator, Stardust Discovery Mission, NASA Johnson Space Center, 4/26/06


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Dr. Michael E. Zolensky is Co-investigator of the Stardust Discovery Mission, the Associate Curator for Interplanetary Dust and hardware returned from space, and a member of the science team of the MUSES-C asteroid sample return mission, at NASA Johnson Space Center (Houston, TX).

Dr. Zolensky has led or participated in successful meteorite recovery expeditions in Antarctica, Chile, Namibia, and the U.S. He has worked on the development of techniques for the characterization of meteoroid and space debris impact features on spacecraft. He led the effort to characterize the impact record of the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF). Dr. Zolensky works now on development of new techniques for the analysis of nanogram-sized extraterrestrial samples, especially as applied to the early formation of solids in the solar nebula and the detailed characterization of the chemical weathering record of asteroids. He is also leading efforts to locate and characterize aqueous fluid inclusions in meteorites, the first direct samples of water found off the Earth.

Dr. Zolensky serves on the Cosmic Dust Working Group and as a member of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Subcommittee. He is a fellow of the Meteoritical Society and the Mineralogical Society of America. Dr. Zolensky has received NASA’s Group Achievement Awards for leading the LDEF Meteoroid and Debris Investigation Team and development of the Stardust Discovery Mission, and the National Science Foundation Antarctic Service Medal. He has more than 400 publications, and is the namesake of minor planet 6030/Zolensky.

Posted by David Lemberg at 09:00 AM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

November 29, 2005

Dr. John Charles, Deputy Chief Scientist for Bioastronautics, Space Life Sciences Directorate, NASA Johnson Space Center, 10/19/05


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Dr. John B. Charles is the Deputy Chief Scientist for Bioastronautics in the Space Life Sciences Directorate at NASA’s Johnson Space Center near Houston, TX. He plays a leading role in Bioastronautics activities preparing for human exploration of space beyond low Earth orbit. Dr. Charles's research into the cardiovascular effects of space flight involved him as the principal investigator on experiments that flew on Space Shuttle flights and on the Russian space station Mir. He was the NASA Mission Scientist for the STS-107 multidisciplinary mission on the Shuttle Orbiter Columbia in January 2003.

Most recently, Dr. Charles was the NASA lead for the Bioastronautics Roadmap project, a blueprint for human risk reduction through focused research and technology, benefiting crews on the International Space Station as well as on missions to the Moon and beyond. He has published over 45 scientific articles, and received several scientific and performance awards including NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal and the “Silver Snoopy” astronaut recognition award.

Posted by David Lemberg at 01:12 PM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

October 23, 2005

Dr. Edward Lu, NASA Astronaut, 10/19/05


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Dr. Edward Lu has flown as a mission specialist on STS-84 in 1997, mission specialist and payload commander on STS-106 in 2000, and flight engineer on Soyuz TMA-2, and served as NASA ISS Science Officer and flight engineer on ISS Expedition-7 in 2003. A veteran of three space missions, Dr. Lu has logged over 206 days in space, and an EVA (spacewalk) totaling 6 hours and 14 minutes.

Since obtaining his Ph.D. in applied physics from Stanford University in 1989, Dr. Edward Tsang Lu has been a research physicist working in the fields of solar physics and astrophysics. He was a visiting scientist at the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, CO, from 1989 until 1992, the final year holding a joint appointment with the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics at the University of Colorado. From 1992 until 1995, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Astronomy in Honolulu, HI. Dr. Lu has developed a number of new theoretical advances, which have provided for the first time a basic understanding of the underlying physics of solar flares. He has published articles on a wide range of topics including solar flares, cosmology, solar oscillations, statistical mechanics, and plasma physics.

Posted by David Lemberg at 11:42 AM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

October 15, 2005

Patrick J. Carr, ITT's Deep Space Network Operations and Maintenance Contract Program Manager, 9/7/05


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Patrick J. Carr is responsible for providing operations and maintenance support for the Deep Space Network, which supports JPL-NASA critical space exploration missions. The Deep Space Network's international system of antennas communicates with interplanetary spacecraft missions, such as Cassini and Mars Spirit. The network also collects information from Voyager 1, launched in 1977 and the most distant man-made object in space.

ITT's Systems Division makes sure the antennas at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California are calibrated and positioned correctly to collect information from deep-space craft. The antennas at Goldstone range in diameter from 85 feet to 230 feet. Signals received from Cassini can be as weak as a billionth of a milliwatt, more than 20 billion times less than the power required for a digital watch.

Mr. Carr has over 33 years experience in the Aerospace and Defense industry, including assignments at the Pentagon and key U.S. satellite command and control, early warning, ICBM, and launch facilities around the United States.

Posted by David Lemberg at 12:24 PM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

August 17, 2005

Professor John C. Zarnecki, Principal Investigator, Huygens Surface Science Package, 7/27/05


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Since 1990, Professor John C. Zarnecki has been Principal Investigator on the Huygens mission, part of the ESA/NASA mission to the Saturnian system and Saturn’s largest moon Titan. On 14 January 2005, Huygens touched down on the surface of Titan, by far the most distant landing ever achieved. Prof. Zarnecki’s Surface Science Package produced over 3.5 hours of data in Titan’s atmosphere and surface, currently under analysis.

Professor Zarnecki did his undergraduate studies in Physics at the University of Cambridge, England (1968-1971) before undertaking Ph.D. research in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at University College London. He continued to work at UCL in the field of X-ray astronomy, developing instrumentation for sounding rocket and satellite payloads as well as analyzing flight data, specializing in the emission of x-rays from supernova remnants. He then moved to British Aerospace in Bristol to take responsibility for the low light level TV system, part of the Faint Object Camera, one of the five scientific instruments on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This was only recently de-commissioned after becoming the longest operating camera in space.

Professor Zarnecki then moved to the University of Kent in 1981 as the Project Manager for the highly successful Dust Impact Detection System which flew on ESA’s Giotto spacecraft to within a few hundred kilometers of the nucleus of Halley’s Comet in 1986. He spent 19 years at the University of Kent, becoming a Reader in Space Sciences. Subsequently he moved to the Open University with several colleagues from Kent to form the UK’s largest research group in Planetary Sciences.

Professor Zarnecki is involved in a variety of national and international advisory bodies in the field of Space Research, and is also active in the field of the public understanding of science.

Posted by David Lemberg at 06:45 PM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

August 11, 2005

Michael Laine, President and Founder, LiftPort, Inc., 7/20/05



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Michael Laine is president and founder of LiftPort Inc., a privately held “C” corporation, headquartered in Bremerton, WA, focusing on the development of commerce in space. LiftPort’s mission is simple: to build a complete space transportation infrastructure with a focus on the space elevator. Toward that goal, the team at LiftPort Group is partnering with universities, research labs, and private businesses to develop the necessary technologies and capabilities. The subject of research for more than a century, the space elevator is a unique way to ferry cargo and people into space. Recent advances in technology, most notably the development of carbon nanotube composites, now appear to make building a space elevator feasible. Initial research reports on building the space elevator that draw upon these discoveries have now been completed. As proposed in these reports, the space elevator will consist of a carbon nanotube composite ribbon stretching some 62,000 miles from earth to space. The elevator will be anchored to an offshore sea platform near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, and to a small counterweight in space. Mechanical lifters (robotic elevator cars) will move up and down the ribbon, carrying such items as satellites, solar power systems, and eventually people into space. LiftPort's plan is to take the concept from the research laboratory to commercial development.

Posted by David Lemberg at 04:58 PM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index

July 19, 2005

Rex Ridenoure, CEO and Co-Founder, Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation, June 22, 2005

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For the first 20 years of his career while working at Hughes, Lockheed, and the Caltech/NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Rex Ridenoure made significant technical contributions as a spacecraft systems engineer, space-mission engineer, and system architect on more than a dozen pioneering space projects and studies such as Viking (Mars), shuttle-launched communications satellites such as HS-371 and LEASAT projects, the Hubble Space Telecope, Voyager 2 (Neptune), Lunar Observer, Pluto Fast Flyby, Mercury Dual Orbiter, Deep Space 1, and SURFSat. Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation provides systems for accessing and experiencing space and other extreme environments. The firm's popular RocketCam(TM) product family is the world's leading brand of onboard video and imaging systems for use with rockets and spacecraft for providing compelling onboard situational awareness and unique space-themed content.

Posted by David Lemberg at 08:36 PM Return to Science and Society Podcasts Main Index