Phil Plait – #Notpocalypse!

January 07, 2013

This is our first show of 2013, and notably, we’re still here.

A lot of people actually thought the world was going to end at the end of last year, which, presumably, means that now it’s rejoicing time.

And also reflection time. Time for reflection on all the things that people are capable of believing, as well as the things that might really lead to global catastrophe someday.

To help us in that process, we’ve invited back our expert on all things related to the world ending and not ending: Phil Plait.

He needs no introduction, except to say that he’s the Bad Astronomer. He’s the Bad Astronomer at Slate, on Twitter, and on every other platform you can imagine.

Phil Plait is an astronomer, lecturer, and author. After ten years working on Hubble Space Telescope data and six more working on astronomy education, he struck out on his own as a writer. His two books are Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing “Hoax” and Death from the Skies! These Are the Ways the Universe Will End.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Today’s show is brought to you by Audible. Please visit Audible podcast. Dot com slash point to get a free audio book download. This is Point of Inquiry from Monday, January 7th, 2013. 

Welcome to Point of inquiry. I’m Chris Mooney point of inquiry is the radio show and podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason, science and secular values in public affairs. And at the grassroots, if you haven’t yet, please follow us on Twitter at point of inquiry and also on Facebook at slash point of inquiry. So this is our first show of 2013 and noticeably we’re still here. A lot of people actually did think the world was going to end at the end of last year. So I guess it’s rejoicing time. It’s also reflection time. Time for reflection on all the things that people are capable of believing and also reflection on all the things that might really kill us all someday. And so to help in that process, we’ve invited back our expert on all things related to the world ending and not ending. Phil Plait, the guy who tracked the Apocalypse 2012 nonsense throughout 2012 and even earlier, he needs no introduction except to say that he is the bad astronomer. He’s the bad astronomer on Slate. He’s the bad astronomer on Twitter and on every other platform that you can imagine. And he is the author of two books, the book Bad Astronomy and also Death from the Skies The Science Behind the End of the World. 

Before we get to this week’s interview, I wanna remind you that this episode is sponsored by Audible Audible as the Internet’s leading provider of spoken audio, entertainment information and educational programing. Audible offers over 100000 titles as a point of inquiry listener. You can get a free audio book just by going to audible podcasts dot com slash point. In fact, you can get fill plates, book bad astronomy for free from audible just by going to that Web site, which is once again honorable podcast dot com slash point. 

Phil Plate. Welcome back to a point of inquiry. Thanks, Chris. It’s good to be back. It’s been a while. Yeah, it’s been a while. And most importantly, we are still live. You called this the not apocalypse. What did we learn from the not apocalypse? 

Well, depends on who we mean by we. What I’ve learned is people will take something seriously no matter how ridiculous it’s basis. And I don’t want to mock or denigrate in any way people who believed that the world was coming to an end. However, the basis of it really was pretty silly. The problem is, over time, that basis evolved and got spread around. And by the time a lot of people heard about it, they were taking it seriously when there was nothing to take seriously. And it’s very easy to do that. These things spread so fast and so convincingly, even though there was nothing to this. So, you know, one of the things I like to tell people is because on this, but especially on Twitter and Facebook and that sort of thing, is that it’s not the people who were fooled by this are dumb or necessarily gullible or anything like that. It’s just that it’s easy to get people to follow along with stuff like that. It’s just the way people are. So try not to mock them. Although I do kind of have some fun with the with the doomsday itself, but I think that helps it go down a little bit easier when people read about it. But, you know, it’s part of this was trying to get the word out to folks beforehand. So what I’ve learned is it doesn’t matter how much you debunk something, how efficiently you do it or whatever they were, still will be a big group of people that will believe it. And what I’m hoping they’ve learned is to be a little bit more critical next time. However, this ain’t our first doomsday crisis. So I suspect that the next one that comes along, we’ll be just as apocalyptic. He pushes to say none of it, but we’ll be believed by a lot of people anyway, because there’s just a lot of folks out there, too, to buy into this stuff. 

You know, so much about non apocalypses and also possible apocalypse, as are you, at the point where you can predict the next thing that people will freak out about wrongly. 

That’s a good one. I, I predicted this one a long time ago, but that wasn’t too hard. I mean, this has been around for a long time. I did predict a couple of specific claims, a couple of specific things about the 2012 not pocalypse because of my experience with a couple of apocalypses before, but predicting the next one is tough given experience. It’ll be something religious, you know, end times or it’ll be something astronomical that will be nearby. Asteroid passing is certainly the next big one will be twenty two questions in the next one, but a big one will be in twenty twenty nine when an asteroid named Tip-offs passes very close to the earth. Hopefully we’ll be able to get the word out for that and let people know it’s going to miss us. Absolutely. 100 percent for sure. In twenty, twenty nine. But I still think there will be lots of breathless over the top people pulling their hair out. YouTube videos saying it’s going to connect with us electrically, magnetically, psychically and flip the earth over something like that, because we’ve seen this before. 

But that’s like a real object. I mean, what’s what’s crazy about the you know, the 2012 thing was that it wasn’t like a you know, a comet suddenly started getting close to us or anything like that. Right. I mean, there was nothing out there. 

That’s that’s pretty close to being right on the money, basically. Yeah. Office is a real asteroid. It was discovered in 2004. It’s going to pass very close to the earth in twenty, twenty nine. And by very close, I mean missing is by tens of thousands of kilometers. Not far at all. But it’s definitely going to miss. We know its orbit that well. So it’s a real thing. And you know, we can talk about that a little bit later because there is some extremely small chance it’ll hit us in 2036. But, you know, you’d be about as statistically likely to win the lottery as that thing hitting us. But in this case, the December 21st, 2012 doomsday scenario was based on nonsense from the beginning and then extrapolated from there into complete and utter baloney. And then people started trying to connect things to it. So, you know, it’s based on the Mayan calendar. And then they started making up stuff about the Maya culture and then it became doomsday. And then how could the Maya have known that it was doomsday? So maybe it was maybe it was the sun flaring. Maybe it wasn’t a. Planets. Maybe it was this. Maybe it was that as though you start reaching for stuff and if you pick any random day, the year of any year, you’ll find something that’s kind of kinda sorta maybe a little close. And they were able to find a few things here. But none of it had any teeth. So, you know, no asteroid impact, no giant solar flares, no black hole going to fling the Earth out of the sun’s orbit. Nothing like that. But by making these claims and there are people out there making these claims very soberly, I could name names. It’s not hard to find them. They sound serious. They sound like experts and authorities. And they add on these crazy late night radio shows and Web sites and they’re convincing sounding. And so people who don’t know the science and don’t know how to go about figuring this stuff out because it’s not that easy. They get scared. And to be honest. Look, look, look. On the Web, there’s just a ton of doomsday sites out there about this. And it’s hard to find the sites like mine or a handful of others that show why this stuff is wrong. They don’t rank highly in Google compared to some of these apocalyptic doomsday sites. So it’s difficult to spread the word sometimes have people. 

Is there been any constructive learning that’s happening? Maybe people at least learn more about Mayan culture? I don’t know. 

I’m trying to think of anything that might be positive or does it help us? Does it help with defend? You know, they actually defend the planet by at least putting, you know, threats from outside a little on the radar. 

If only if only that were true. Certainly the Maya have done fairly well from this, although from what I’ve read, they’re kind of sick of it. Visitors to the Yucatan, for example, to teach an ISA, which is a Maya city, which was at the height of its hour, around 900 A.D. And nobody really knows what happened, what exactly collapsed the Maya civilization, because they collapsed. They collapsed all the way. 

And then these ruins weren’t found until Möbius, just as aliens fill aliens would be awesome, man. Would that be cool if we found out it was aliens? Because that means, you know, aliens. Hello. That would make me very happy. 

But it could have an economic collapse. It could have been overextending of resources. It was a you know, it’s a fairly big city. They were they were farming the land around them. It could’ve been a drought or something. We don’t know. But one thing we do know is that they did not write anything about their own civilizations collapse. So the idea that they could predict the entire world’s collapse another thousand years later is, you know, let me a little bit silly. And in fact, they know it. Just as a side note, nothing in their writing talks about a doomsday on December 21st, 2012. They never talk about that. It’s the end of one of their many calendar cycles, just like we have days, weeks, months, years, decades, etc.. They did, too. And this happen to be the end of one of their big cycles. But they didn’t say the world was coming to an end, and that was totally made up by people later, like about 20 years ago in the nineteen eighties. So one thing we’ve learned here is, is that people have gotten more interested in the Maya culture. Hopefully they’re getting it from reputable sources. I mean, I’ve read books about them. I went to Wikipedia, read some very interesting articles and heard talks by people about it. And it’s you know, it’s a fascinating culture. These these folks had advanced architecture. They were excellent astronomers of agricultural agriculturally. They were pretty good to be able to support a thriving city. But they didn’t have technology. They didn’t have telescopes or anything like that. So we know a little bit more than they did. Now, of course, but it’s still you know, they’re pretty cool. And so I’m hoping that at the very least, there was sort of a boom in people looking into their culture. And like I said, there was a lot of travel going to the Yucatan, which is where the my empire was. So one can hope that the Maya who are still around and there are lots of them, you know, descendants from all these folks were able to benefit from this at least a little bit. 

I want to remind listeners that Phil Plate’s latest book, Death from the Skies, is available through our Web site Point of inquiry dot org. 

Now, let’s talk about it. Actual real threats. You seem to think that we are up for the challenge. If there is any anything coming at us, I mean it near Earth object. 

We are almost up on challenge. We’re certainly up to the challenge, I should say that potentially. But if we were to disk or an asteroid on its way to hit the earth right now, that would be that would be interesting. 

We would be put off by Washington budget there anyway. Go ahead. 

You can imagine trying to Hamara 11th hour compromise on how to push an asteroid off an earth earthbound trajectory. Oh, my God. We that there are lots of ways you can wipe out civilization on our planet astronomically, I should say most of them. And I mean way most of them are so rare that they haven’t even happened once in the lifetime of our solar system. And that would be things like a black hole passing near the Earth, a rogue planet from another star, stuff like that, super rare things. There are two things that can happen that are much more common. And if we don’t do anything about them, actually will occur. And one of them is the basically collapse of our power grid from a big solar flare or and or an impact from an asteroid or a comet. We know that the sun can flare very strongly didn’t 1859. It’s when, in fact, solar storms were first discovered. And that was the most powerful storm that’s ever been recorded. If something like that were to happen today, we could be in trouble and we can talk about that. There are easy ways to fix that. Asteroid impacts are a little bit more complicated because you discover them. You have to you have to find them first. Then you have to figure out what their orbits are like when they’re going to hit and then what you can do about them. And there’s difficulties at each step. Now, let me say, you know, the people in the audience are probably watched Armageddon. I’m sorry if you have a deep impact and a ton of other movies. Right. And there’s a giggle factor with this. But in fact, asteroids hit the earth. They wiped out the dinosaurs 65 or so million years ago, something small, roughly 30 meters across, you know, the size of maybe somebodies backyard hit in Arizona 50000 years ago and left a huge crater out there and meteor crater, Arizona. And one actually exploded over eastern Russia in nineteen. Oh, wait. The Tongue Gasca event. And that was roughly a 20 megaton blast. So that could happen at any time. That’s a small chunk of rock that’s hard to detect. So these things happen and we need to do something about it. And step one is finding them, you know, building telescopes and finding them. And we’re actually working on that. So that’s cool. Step two is saying, oh, here’s here’s one that’s going to hit us in 30 years, 20 years, 50 years, whatever. What do we do? And that’s where things get interesting. 

We’ll talk a little further about that, because I know that there’s people who actually they seem to have the science figured out for what would successfully work there. 

A lot of different ideas. And we don’t know if any of them work. One hundred percent for sure, because they’ve never been tested on paper. They look great. Part of the problem is that the key to this whole thing is how much lead time you have, for example, in twenty, twenty nine. This asteroid of poppies, which was discovered in 2004. In twenty twenty nine, twenty five years after it was discovered it will pass extremely close to the Earth. Now the Earth has gravity and it’s going to bend the orbit of this asteroid. And it turns out that the amount of bending, the amount that the path of this thing will change when it passes. The Earth is extremely sensitive to how close it gets. And literally a change in a few hundred meters, not far leaner, less than less than a kilometer, less than a mile can mean the difference between this thing coming around and hitting us seven years later or not. So if it passes the region of space called the keyhole, it will swing around and seven years later it will hit us. And we don’t know its orbit definitively enough right now to know that it will miss the keyhole or not. So it’s entirely possible. And I’m gonna be careful here. It’s possible in twenty, twenty nine. We know it will miss. But it’s possible it’ll pass through the keyhole and seven years later it’ll hit us. Now we do know statistically its orbit fairly well, such that we know that the odds of it passing through the keyhole are about one in a million. So the odds of it hitting us in twenty thirty six or one in a million. Very low. But it’s an excellent lesson in how these things work. And what’s been found is that there are other asteroids that do a similar thing. There’s this one called 2011, a five there. They’re named after the year they’re discovered and a bunch of other things. So they get this sort of alphabet soup of names. But age five is another one that’s going to pass the earth relatively close, not as close as office, but then it could swing around and hit us in twenty fifty or twenty forty. I don’t rember the exact date. It’s a little ambiguous right now. That one’s on an interesting orbit. It’s the odds of that one hitting us right now as we speak are not insignificant. You know, it’s not like one in a million. It’s like one in thousands or one and hundreds. There is a chance. And you’d say we say, well, we have 50 years to do something and answers. Well, maybe not. It’s on a funny orbit and getting there and doing something about it may prove to be tough. So it’s the kind of thing we have to start looking at right away. We need a lot of lead time to know which of the different ideas to implement will work the best. 

I get, you know, viajes editorialize, I guess I do feel that if something like this was clearly on our radar, we would handle it better than global warming. You know what? Where the threat is the threat of global warming. 

It won’t obliterate the planet, but it’s going to make it unrecognizable to us. And it’s just creeps up on you. So insensibly that people don’t react. But when something’s bearing down on you, I think in it, I think that people will react completely, like psychologically so different. 

That’s true. And also, now that you bring that up, I haven’t really thought about comparing an asteroid impact to global warming. That’s a pretty interesting analogy. The other difference besides the fact that, you know, people can look up with a telescope and see this and the fact that it’s like a bullet headed toward you is that it’s hard to imagine any sort of ideological stance against it unless there’s a, you know, a hack or an ideological voting block of some small scurrying mammal that wants this thing to hit so that 60 million years from now they can be the dominant intelligence on the planet. But, you know, the far right, the far left, whatever. I it’s hard to imagine some sort of voting bloc saying, no, we know we’re gonna we’re gonna pretend this doesn’t exist, although there you know, there’s always going to be the conspiracy theorists who say that NASA is lying about this sort of thing. But that’s nonsense because any asteroid that’s found like this, oh, I shouldn’t say any, but but a lot of them that would be found like this will be visible to many telescopes across the planet that are not NASA controlled. There are lots of other space agency’s, lots of other astronomical agencies on the planet. So it’s it’s it’s you know, this is a conspiracy of astronomers and that doesn’t work. The only thing we get together to do besides science is drink. I have a hard time believing a bunch of astronomers can get together and perpetrate a hoax like that. So hopefully, if something like this happens, it’ll be a lot easier to to gather our forces and do something about it. 

What are your views on? You know, if you think about 2012, the year wrapped of, you know, it seemed like there was a lot of amazing space news. I mean, you know, I think we saw real strides forward. 

And just to give one example of private space entrepreneurship. You know, what do you think? 

I mean, it’s sometime in your lifetime you think you’re going to actually go and SpaceX is a private traveler. 

Me? No. No. I get I get sick on like a backyard swing and an eye for a TV show. I flew in an F-16 and I was a miserable rat for the rest of the day. I felt like I was going to throw up not just what I but everything my ancestors have ever eaten. It was the worst thing ever. So me go into space. No, somebody’s going to space. Yes. And in fact, we will see people going into space very soon in the next few years. And I mean the next few years, if not, you know, by the end of 2013. There are already private agencies gearing up for this. Virgin Galactic has is testing a rocket plane right now that will go up above the 100 kilometer, the 62 mile limit above the earth’s surface, which is considered space officially. If you get above that line, you are an astronaut. And people were already paid to Winogrand a ticket to do that. Another company called Golden Spike is is relying on technology that’s not yet here, but very close to be able to put people on the moon. And you can get tickets for that for only one hundred fifty million dollars a seat. Yay! 

But there are lots of these high prices will come down. These prices will come down. Well, going to the moon. You know, if that come down to one hundred million, I’d be surprised. 

That’s always going to be pretty expensive until a long time from now. But just just going suborbital up and down doesn’t take a lot of energy. So that’s going to be very cheap. I mean that in by, you know, a couple of years, that’ll be 20 grand. You’ll be able to do that. Going into orbit is takes a lot more energy. So it takes bigger rockets and that becomes more expensive. But there are lots of companies who are looking to do it. Space X 80 8-K, Boeing, Sierra Nevada. You can look all these guys up there, they’re planning on doing this and selling tickets for it, as well as most of them are going to support NASA and the other space agencies. You can you know, governments can buy these tickets, but people will, too. And, you know, it’s not just that. It’s Planetary Resources, this company that wants to mine asteroids. They’ve got a business plan, which makes sense to me. Golden spike as well. And not only that, but but coming back to asteroids, I didn’t actually talk about mitigation techniques, but there’s a group called the B six Twelve Foundation, which is a a private foundation that wants to prevent asteroid impacts. They are taking private donations from wealthy people, although also from anybody who wants to donate small amounts. But they are planning on building a satellite called Sentinel, which they will launch into an orbit which puts it roughly in the same orbit as Venus, sort of be closer to the Sun than the Earth. And it will survey the sky looking for near Earth asteroids. And it’s it’s going to do a pretty decent job. And that’s a private foundation that wants to do this. And NASA is looking at this as well. They’ve got a camera called Neoh Cam, a satellite that will also launch into a near Earth orbit that will do the same thing. And between these two guys, they’ll be looking for asteroids, one privately funded, one publicly funded. And it’s a beautiful example of how government and private industry can work together to the benefit of both. And really and honestly, as cheesy as it sounds to the benefit of all mankind, they’re talking about saving the world for real. 

It’s great. And I want I’m always intrigued by the asteroid mining thing. 

You say the business plan is serious. Just help us connect a couple of the dots for those of us who don’t think in these terms ever. How far out are they going and how are they getting back? 

I mean, this is all you think these things are all feasibly planned for. 

It’s hard. It’s it’s hard to say exactly if this will work or not, but the steps that the company wants to take makes sense to me. The idea of mining asteroids has been around forever. Science fiction writers have been writing about this for decades, but it kind of relies on easy access to space and just going to an asteroid. You got to realize asteroids. They have rock. They have frozen water. So ice on them. And not just water ice, but carbon dioxide, ice, methane, ammonia, ice, a lot of different kinds of things. Them maybe beneath the surface and metals and metals that are very useful. And this is the kind of stuff that’s very expensive to launch from the surface of the earth. But if you are already out in space, getting to an asteroid is a lot easier and cheaper. And if you can mind them for the materials you need, it’s a lot easier than lifting them. Earth. The problem is mining it. You know, you can’t just launch a robotic mining factory, it’s gonna land on one of these things and start plugging and chugging away this thing and creating everything you need. So the idea of just launching something like that to an asteroid is going to cost you like a trillion dollars or something insane like that. So when people talk about asteroid money, that’s sort of what I’ve been thinking. And so when when I heard this announcement that, you know, we’re gonna go mine asteroids, I thought, well, these guys are nuts. And then I read who they had involved. And it’s like all of these millionaire and billionaires. And these people don’t invest their money on lakhs. And some of them, like, you know, you’re Diamandis and the guys who founded Google and everything. These are smart investors. So I immediately took them a little more seriously. And then when I read their plan, I went, Oh. So the first idea is to launch very lightweight, I mean, very lightweight small telescopes that will map the earth, take pictures of the earth, take pictures of the sky and that sort of thing. And then they can sell their data to governments. And it turns out, you know, that’s that’ll work. Actually, governments need real time imaging of the earth. There’s disaster relief, urban growth, forest fires. There’s all kinds of reasons to want to buy data like that. If it’s good and real time after that, they will take that money and and invest it on satellites that have a little rocket motors on them. And it’s actually not hard once you’re in orbit to go out to asteroids. So these asteroids passed by the Earth, you just have to give your probe a little kick and then it’ll fly by one of these guys. Then you can start selling that to scientists who have grants to pay for that sort of thing. Then you can develop landers and those landers will land there and then return samples. And so, you know, step by step and then there’s kind of a big leap from that to going there to mind them. But they have lots of plans for that as well. And then what they do is they mined the water out of these things. They they can break it down into hydrogen and oxygen, which can be turned into breathable air and fuel. Then they put these things into little storage tanks and put them in orbit around the Earth or around the Sun or whatever. And then NASA buys access to these things. So if you want to have a deep space mission or, you know, some sort of crude mission crude like, you know, with a crew onboard, not crude, like bunch people swearing and spitting on board, then you need to be able to get that stuff out in space and it’ll be a lot cheaper than lifting it off from Earth. So it kinda, you know, it kind of holds together. It makes sense to me. 

Well, listening to all this, I just can’t help thinking this is my number one thought. I’m thinking these people who actually believed in the Mayan 2012 apocalypse, you know, among other things. 

Boy, are they missing out, you know, boy, are they missing out on what they could be paying attention to. 

That’s always been true. You know, that’s why I wrote Death from the Sky. I was so sick of debunking ridiculous doomsday theories at that point. I’d written my first book, Bad Astronomy, about debunking myths and misconceptions that came out around 2002. And in the intervening years, 2003, 2005, there were just a host of doomsday scenarios. I got so tired of debunking them, saying, you know, there’s like real stuff out there that’s actually really cool. And, you know, I can I can write about this and talk about real astronomy, like solar flares, asteroid impacts, that sort of thing. But in the meantime, you know, these are the ways the world really will end. And so somebody’s talking about asteroids connecting with the earth electrically and nonsense like that. 

It’s like you’re making up all this stuff. But the real stuff is way cooler. You really should be looking at this because it’s far more interesting and it has the added benefit of being real. 

I wanna remind our listeners again that, well, you just heard of a plates fill up. His latest book, Death in the Skies is available through our website point of inquiry dot org. 

Go over there and pick up your copy. So, Phil, just wrap it up for 2013. Here we are. What is going to what do you expect to see an actual real science in astronomy or in real, you know, developments in space? Coming up in the next year, I mean, we’re gonna find more exo planets. What’s what’s what’s on the cutting edge exo planets is what I would say. 

There’s a lot of stuff going on. It’s always it’s always hard to predict where we’ll be sometime in the future. But we know we’re building bigger telescopes and we know we’re using better techniques. And nothing, I think, in astronomy has benefited more from this than finding planets around other stars. We’ve got, you know, eight or nine planets, depending on whether you like Pluto or not, orbiting the sun. But it was only back in the early 1990s when we started discovering planets around other stars. And if you if you look at the numbers we’ve discovered, it’s just ramping up more and more and more of these these discoveries are accelerating. And in the past couple of years, the techniques have developed to the point where we’re finding really difficult. It’s there. They’re very faint signals and very few of these are being discovered by looking at the star and seeing the planet, planets are really faint. But as they orbit the star, they may periodically pass directly in front of the star and block a little bit of its light. That’s a very successful way of finding them. There are other methods. I won’t go into details. You can find that information online easily enough. But the point is, we’re getting better at this and we’re getting better at finding planets that are lower mass. I mean, most of the ones we’re finding are supermassive planets like Jupiter or bigger. But we’re starting to find planets are looking more like Earth and we’re finding them in these places where at that distance from their star liquid water could exist. And we don’t know if these planets have thick atmospheres or they’re solid or what. But if they’re you know, if they’re in the right place, at least to have the right temperature, potentially, that means maybe there could be some sort of habitable surface on this thing. And if we discover a lot of these things, statistically speaking, you know, some of here, some of them are gonna be like Earth. So, you know, this year it wouldn’t surprise me at all in 2013 if somebody makes the big announcement. We have discovered a planet the size and mass of Earth orbiting a sun like star at the right distance to have liquid water on the surface. And then it’ll be probably a little while later, a few more years before we can do things like try to figure out if it actually does have oxygen in its atmosphere or water vapor or those sorts of things. That’s very tough to do. But we’re smart. We’re clever. We’ll figure that out. So in all these discoveries, I think that’s where we’re gonna see the most progress over the next few years. 

So are we going to or is it already happening? It’s happening to me as I do this interview. Are we reawakening to the wonder of space? You know, I mean, 60s, early 70s, that was like the coolest thing. Everyone was enraptured by it. And then somehow, you know, NASA seemed to stop doing things quite as exciting. People got on. We and the love of space was somehow transposed into science for like decades all my life, basically, you know, and it sounds like real space is coming back. 

What do you think? 

That is my hope. Well, yeah. That sentence that. It’s hard to say. People are really excited about this. But, you know, most the people I contact are online. And so they tend to be birds of a feather. So a lot of the folks that I hear from are people who are space aficionados. And I have to be careful not to get too excited about the public reaction based on the folks I contact. On the other hand, when you look at something like Curiosity landing on Mars and how many millions of people were glued to their computer screens watching this, some real time people were crowded around the Jumbotron in Times Square to watch it live in New York City. That was fantastic. So there is a lot of excitement about this, I think. And the pictures coming back. Who doesn’t love a Hubble picture? Who doesn’t love? I’m looking literally right now at a gorgeous picture of Saturn return from the Cassini spacecraft. It’s been orbiting Saturn for eight years now, and it’s still just devastating the stuff it returns. Gorgeous pictures. People love that. The idea that anybody can go to space if they have the money, if they have the means, is very exciting to a lot of people. And sure. You know, to undergrads, a lot of cash. But that price will come down. There will be scientists. There will be a lot more people going into space over the next five to 10 years. And we’re going to see a lot more launches. And I think that is that’s getting people fired up. And so I I’m hoping that that is the case with the private industry injecting excitement into this. We will see a renaissance of a love for space that we haven’t seen since, you know, nineteen sixty nine. That would be awesome. 

And maybe maybe some of those people who thought the world was going to end and didn’t. 

Maybe they’ll catch a sort of healthier kind of fascination. 

I would hope so, because I’ll tell you, a lot of those folks are kids who don’t know. No. They they’ve they’ve lived their lives under the space shuttle. Let’s just go into low earth orbit. And they’ve they’ve lived their whole lives getting the information from the Web where it’s much harder to tell real information from false. So if there’s an audience out there that really needs this message of hope and wonder and science and reality, it’s the under 20 crowd. And if they can if they can get charged up from this man oh, man, that’s that’s my life’s goal will fill. 

I know you’re already reaching quite a lot of them. So I want to thank you for everything that you do and for being with us again on point of inquiry. 

Well, thanks, Chris. I appreciate that. My pleasure. 

Thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry to join the discussion about today’s show, you can visit us at point of inquiry dot org. You can also send questions and comments to feedback at point of inquiry dot org. You can follow us on Twitter at point of inquiry and leave your comments on Facebook at slash point of inquiry. Just a reminder, by the way, don’t forget to go to point of inquiry dot org and check out the top 10 Science and Reason Books of 2012 by point of inquiry guests from last year. That, too, is on our Web site. The views expressed on point of inquiry aren’t necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor of its affiliated organizations. 

One of enquirers produced by Atomizing and AMR’s New York. And our music is composed by Emmy Award winning Michael Waylan. Today’s intro featured Debbie Goddard. I’m your host Chris Mooney. 

Chris Mooney