Blue Dot

Fridays at 10 a.m.

Blue Dot, named after Carl Sagan's famous speech about our place in the universe, features interviews with guests from all over the regional, national and worldwide scientific communities. Host Dave Schlom leads discussions about the issues science is helping us address with experts who shed light on climate change, space exploration, astronomy, technology and much more. Dave asks us to remember: from deep space, we all live on a pale, blue dot. 


This week, we look at the ice sheets of Antarctica. Like so much of the world's ice, a lot of it is melting away and shrinking. But there are certain places in Antarctica that the ice is actually increasing. How? Why? Better ask a scientist.  

Or how about three? Son Nghiem, Eric Larour and Ala Khazendar give us the scoop on how scientists gather this crucial data, and what it's telling them about our changing climate.



The Dawn spacecraft is pretty cool (we've thought so for a long time). Using its ion propulsion system, it's studied Vesta and now Ceres, the two largest objects in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. The craft and its Earthbound crew are this year's winners of the Collier Trophy, awarded for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America. 

Blue Dot 20: The Sierra Snowpack

Jul 7, 2016
Nicholas Turland, Creative Commons

This week on Blue Dot, we look at how we measure the amount of snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.  We hear from Steve Margulis, a hydrology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Michael Durand, a professor at Ohio State University. They both help give us the numbers that tell how much water (we think) is in the Sierra Snowpack, how much meltwater we'll have to use as a state, and how long it will take the snowpack to recover from drought.

Blue Dot 19: Juno And Jupiter

Jun 30, 2016

In Greco-Roman mythology, Juno was Jupiter's wife (and sister... hmm). Jupiter would shroud his behaviors in clouds, but Juno could part them and see what Jupiter was up to. Launched five years ago, NASA's Juno spacecraft will be lifting the veil on Jupiter when it enters Jovian orbit on the Fourth of July. 

The craft, the fastest thing ever built by humans, will gather data on the gas giant's magnetosphere, its gravity and its very composition. This data could help provide insight on many of the exoplanets we've so far discovered, as a great number of them appear compositionally similar to Jupiter. 

National Weather Service

Is it summer already? Just like we did in the spring, we talk with National Weather Service meteorologists Tom Dang and Bill Rasch. Tom and Bill talk about forecasting in the hot North State summer, where the hottest of the hot spots are, how we cool down, and what we may have to look forward to in terms in La Niña. 

Blue Dot 17: Cascadia Rising

Jun 16, 2016

Another Big One is coming. This one won't be in Southern California though — it's in the Pacific Northwest. The Cascadia Subduction Zone is off the Pacific coast, and pressure has been building for a very long time. When the fault slips and the megathrust earthquake happens, it will create a massive tsunami and many powerful aftershocks. 

We'll hear again from Ken Hudnut from the US Geological Survey, this time about what will happen with this quake hits. We also speak with Kristin Ludwig, a staff scientist at the USGS, about the Cascadia Rising interagency exercises that just happened to test the preparedness of reactive agencies. 

Sean Carroll is an educator, scientist and writer. His previous books include "The Particle at the End of the Universe" and "From Eternity to Here," and his latest is "The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself." He teaches in the physics department at the California Institute of Technology. 

"The Big Picture" touches on the vastness — and smallness — of the universe, and how humanity can find meaning and goodness in an incomprehensibly vast cosmos.  

Blue Dot 15: The San Andreas Fault

Jun 2, 2016
Michael R. Perry / Creative Commons

The San Andreas Fault system, and the looming threat of “The Big One,” has captivated people since its discovery in 1895. It’s inspired a big-budget disaster movie, but the disaster — an inevitable large-scale earthquake — will be bigger-budget than anything Hollywood can dream up. On this episode of Blue Dot, we hear from three experts on San Andreas who will weigh in on what will happen when the Big One comes, how the fault system works, and what we can do to minimize the impacts. 

Haley Bercot / National Park Service

Scott Gediman is a ranger and spokesman for Yosemite National Park. We got the chance to speak with him during our spring membership drive, and it was so good we recut it for a proper airing! We also close the episode with a conversation with Azeen Ghorayshi, a science writer who is now working for the news arm of Internet Media behemoth BuzzFeed. She tells us about the power of science journalism and why she turned away from working in a laboratory. 

Blue Dot 13: Astronaut Abby

Apr 28, 2016
Abigail Harrison

Abigail Harrison has always wanted to be an astronaut, and hopes to be the first person on Mars. The 18-year-old is a freshman at Wellesley College, and she shares her optimism and audacity through her nonprofit The Mars Generation. Whether or non she wears a NASA uniform one day, she is an inspiration to us all to work hard and dream big.