Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Today I found out about a podcast called Astronomy Cast, a podcast devoted to explaining astronomical concepts and news to anyone, even absolute beginners. Also for those learning English as an L2 most episodes even have a transcript, making it even easier to understand.
Thus far there are 182 episodes in total, and doing a quick look over the list here are some episodes that I would recommend:
In search of other worlds - from 2006 but explains well how extrasolar planets are found
How amateurs can contribute to astronomy - perhaps the most important subject of all, as it explains how an average person can begin making meaningful contributions to astronomy starting from just a few thousand dollars ($5000 or so). Not all that expensive when you think about how much it costs to do hard science in other areas, and also how unfriendly they can be to amateurs in comparison. It would be nice to have the leaders of all the smallest countries in the world listen to a podcast like this too, since even the tiniest of countries can make a contribution here with very low cost and a lot of educational benefits as well for the populace as a whole.
Planet X - a good episode about the edge of the Solar System.
Interstellar travel - what it would take to be able to travel from one star to another. Without any massive breakthroughs in propulsive technology I don't think interstellar travel will be an issue for a long time, simply because better telescopes are all we need in the beginning to know more about all the planets we are now discovering. Compare the cost of a single interstellar mission like Project Longshot (trillions? Impossible to estimate cost for something like this at the moment) and the return it brings (detailed knowledge about a single solar system about 50 years after launch) to the cost of building a new telescope (even the proposed Overwhelmingly Large Telescope only works out to $2 billion) and the return from that (less detailed knowledge but the return is immediate, and can observe not just one but billions of stars).
Finally, the Albedo episode looks to be a good one too.