Monday, December 21, 2009

A Very Special 'Are We Alone'

A massive black hole lies at the center of our galaxy, a monster hunkered down in the Milky Way’s innermost sanctum. Here, the bizarre laws of General Relativity take over, as the physics we know break down. And our spaceship is headed straight for it.

Join us on a special dramatized 26,000 light-year adventure to the Galaxy’s hulking heart of darkness. We explore a cosmos held together by gravity – discover why it’s not really a force – and try to avoid getting too close to a black hole, the ultimate expression of gravity.

This program is part of the traveling exhibit: “Black Holes, Space Warps and Time Twists,” a production of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Find out more at:

Seth Shostak - himself
Molly Bentley - herself, Dr. Barsky
Doug Vakoch - News Anchor
Roland Pease - Dr. Childschwartz
Lilia Roman - SOPHIA
Roe DeVasto - Ship Computer
Patrick Porter - Dr. G
Gary Niederhoff - DAN, Albert Einstein, Dr. Dutch

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Master of Camouflage

This week's show about the evolution of intelligence features a segment on the ability of cuttlefish to change the colors and patterns of their skin to match their surroundings. As Roger Hanlon, senior scientist at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, describes in "Feather Knows Best", this helpful adaptation has been honed to the point that the cuttlefish can undergo this transformation in the blink of an eye. In the video above, a cuttlefish floats just above the ocean floor, its color ranging from purple to yellow. At about 27 seconds in, it suddenly takes on the colors and pattern of the ocean floor, and if you didn't see it happen, you'd probably swim right by without seeing the animal at all. At least, that's what it hopes.


At the end of this week's show, Molly asks Seth what NASA stands for, and Seth incorrectly replies, "National Air and Space Administration". The correct answer, of course, is National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Also acceptable: Never Ask Seth Anything.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Vaccines take a shot

Our Skeptic Check program that includes an interview with Pediatritian Paul Offit about the safety of vaccines went out just last night and has already generated responses in our email inbox and on Facebook. In general, people feel that vaccines are safe and important - but there is a lingering mistrust of the industry behind them. Below is a letter from one listener and the response from Paul Offit. You can hear the show at: Vaccines: Give 'Em Your Best Shot.

Dear AWA,
I want you to know how much I enjoy the show you folks put together every week. I was pleased that you took on the vaccine controversy. There have been people in my life who believed the autism canard and I found it impossible to reason with them. I'm writing because I think you came up short in your discussion of why these attitudes exist...

Paul Offit's reply:
While I certainly agree that pharmaceutical companies have acted aggressively, unethically and even illegally (witness the recent Pfizer settlement) regarding the sale and promotion of drugs, I just don't see where this applies to vaccines...