Sunday, September 29, 2019

Episode 39 - Sofia Sheik and The Nine Axes

Released: 29 September 2019
Duration: 49 minutes, 52 seconds

Download the .mp3 audio file

Download Sofia's paper here:

A conversation with SETI researcher Sofia Sheikh about how we The 9 axesshould evaluate technosignature search strategies. We cover three examples of technosignature searches and their relative advantages.

Sofia Sheikh is a third-year graduate student at the Pennsylvania State University working with Dr. Jason Wright. She did her undergraduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, where she became involved with the Breakthrough Listen Initiative. Her work incorporates both theoretical approaches to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and observational radio searches for technosignatures. She intends to be the first woman to complete a SETI PhD thesis.


The Nine Axes of Merit
Sofia Sheik's Twitter Page
Andrew Siemion on SETI at the SKA
Breakthrough Listen
The Truth about Alien Megastructures
Sonar Calling GJ273B


Host and Producer: Paul Carr
Announcer: Erin Carr
Music: DJ Spooky, Erika Lloyd, Jason Robinson
Hardware: Shure, Audio Technica, Pro Art, Behringer, Focusrite, Apple.
Software: Skype, Loopback, Reaper, Auphonic Desktop
Hosting: Libsyn

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Plotting the Boyajian's Star Light Curves - it's all on GitHub (and reddit)

I've been plotting the light curves for Boyajian's Star since we first had any significant data from AAVSO. Back then (2015, early 2016) we were seeing a downward trend, but had no idea that the trend would level off and a series of weird dips would begin in 2017. After that - some the color bands have shown a slight brightening trend, and others have looked quite flat on average. The fact that we are seeing different trends in different colors tells us something about the nature of Where The Flux is hidden, although I have yet to see a model that explains everything.
Boyajian's Star as observed by AAVSO and ASAS-SN in V and R bands. The dashed vertical lines are dips.
Right now, the TESS space telescope is observing a patch of the sky that includes Boyajian's Star. We should have those high-cadence data in a month or two, and I will of course be naively plotting it and puzzling over it.

If you would like to see the data I plot or the R scripts I plot it with, please feel free to go over the GitHub:

On GitHub I have all the data I've accumulated in the data folder, so you don't have to go look for it. I keep it up to date as best I can. I use R to plot and fit the data because R is free, robust, and pretty easy to script. As always, there is more than one way to do it. I will consider accepting pull requests, BTW.

Over on reddit, we try to keep everyone up to date on what the light curve is up to. The subreddits to look on are KIC8462852 and KIC8462852_Analysis. As we discussed on our last Burst, there is an ongoing project initiated by Tabby to track the long term trend in the star as function of color using a steady cadence of data from Las Cumbres. You can still get involved with that if your are interested.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Burst 31 Beyond the SETI Paradigm

Released: 6 February 2019
Duration: 16 Minutes, 51 Seconds

Download the .mp3 audio file

Avi Loeb
Abraham Loeb and Shmuel Bialy kicked up a kerfuffle when they wrote a paper suggesting that one possible explanation for ‘Oumuamua was that it could be an artificial object, in other words, an alien spacecraft—specifically, a lightsail. The two have been praised for their boldness and condemned for their recklessness, but little has been said concerning the possibility of detecting a lightsail as a technosignature in comparison to detecting a “conventional” technosignature such as the radio and laser beacons that SETI searches for. When we look out into the universe for signs of intelligence, if there are technosignatures to be seen, what technologies ought we to expect to be the most common?  


Stagnant Supercivilizations and Interstellar Travel
Could Solar Radiation Pressure Explain ‘Oumuamua’s Peculiar Acceleration?” Bialy and Loeb
 Predictably, online media go nuts over ‘Oumuamua and Harvard scientists; “Scientists are perfectly happy to publish an outlandish idea.” by Eric Berger
Breakthrough Starshot
lightsail (Wikipedia)
The Interstellar Age: The Story of the NASA Men and Women Who Flew the Forty-Year Voyager Mission by Jim Bell
NASA Voyager 2 Could Be Nearing Interstellar Space
The Great Filter—Are We Almost Past It? by Robin Hanson
SETI as a Process of Elimination


Written and Presented by: Nick Nielsen
Postproduction: Paul Carr
Music: DJ Spooky

This podcast episode is released under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike license

Friday, November 30, 2018

Come join our chat on Discord

I might show up on Discord almost any time, but especially late at night on the East Coast of the US (UTC - 5 hours), and am all for voice chat as well. There is a special channel for Patreon supporters, where I will deliver the early scoop and thoughts on podcast plans.

The purpose is a space for informal discussion of the kinds of topics we talk about on the podcast and the future plans and guests of the podcast. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

I owe you an update, I know.

This podcast, as you know, is tightly linked to a blog, and since I have been neglecting the blog unjustly, I have also been neglecting the podcast. You are entirely justified in ascribing this to flaws in my character. I can probably think of a dozen excuses, but I can understand why you would not be interested. Truth is, I am just a terrible procrastinator.

I started this podcast almost 6 years ago, and I still think it has something unique to offer.

I will correct this, I promise. I really enjoyed the cycle of reading, poking around through data, writing, speaking, and interviewing. I will get back to this.