Dave Schlom

Host, Blue Dot

Dave Schlom has taught the physical sciences at Corning Union High School since 1991. A lifelong amateur astronomer and astronomy educator, he has a passion for both the earth and the space sciences, which are the principal areas of focus for guests on Blue Dot. He started doing radio interviews on space and astronomy topics for local stations like KFM and KPAY in the 1980s and into the 90s, where he was a popular go-to guest for local radio personalities. He is also an expert on the history and geology of Lassen Volcanic National Park, where he has served as a volunteer for decades. Dave enjoys a quiet life at home with his partner in life, Cheryl, and their two dogs, Elvis and Pearl, at their Red Bluff residence.

On this episode of Blue Dot, Dave talks to Gleb Raygorodetsky about his new book "The Archipelago of Hope." In it, the National Geographic correspondent and scientist tells the stories of six indigenous peoples from around the world.

For the past two decades Raygorodetsky has lived with and documented people like the Skolt Sami of Finland, the Nenets and Altai of Russia, the Karen of Myanmar and the Tla-o-qui-aht of British Columbia. These peoples don't debate the existence of human-induced climate change. They have been living with its effects for decades. Pushed to the edge by industrial civilization and its effects on our climate, these resilient peoples have learned to work with the ecosystems of their ancient homelands rather than the extractive model of modern society.

What can we learn from these people that can help us to pass on a livable world to our children's children? That's the central question explored in "The Archipelago of Hope."

When the Cassini orbiter was sent plunging into Saturn on September 15, it was the end of a mission and the end of an era of solar system exploration. In this episode, Dave talks to two Cassini team members — one who has been with the mission since the beginning and another that is a relative newcomer.

On March 27, 1964, Alaska was rocked by the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America. It caused widespread damage, landslides and destructive tsunamis. It also helped to cement our current understanding of the most important idea in the Earth Sciences — the modern theory of plate tectonics.

On this episode of Blue Dot, Dave talks to Henry Fountain, the New York Times science writer who wrote about the Alaska disaster and its aftermath in The Great Quake: How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet

Fountain tells about his experience documenting the quakes victims and also its investigators from the United States Geological Survey, especially focusing on Henry Plafker. It was Plafker's painstaking field observations and conclusions that helped determine that the big temblor was caused by subduction — when an oceanic tectonic plate slides underneath a lighter continental plate. These are the most powerful earthquakes and tsunami generators on the planet — including the 2010 and 2015 Chilean quakes as well as the 2011 event in Japan. 

Dave talks to Emer Reynolds, the director of the new documentary The Farthest, which aired on PBS Nova this summer. It tells the epic story of the twin Voyager spacecraft.

Launched in 1977, the Voyagers were the designed to tour the outer solar system thanks to an alignment that happens once in every 175 years. Voyager 1 flew by Jupiter and Saturn and then was flung into the outer solar system above the plane of the planets becoming the fastest object ever made by humans. In 2012, it entered interstellar space becoming, literally, the farthest.

Voyager 2 went on to explore Uranus and Neptune before also heading out toward the stars. Both carry the famous Golden Record, containing music, greetings and images — a time capsule of life on Earth sent to the stars. The records and the spacecraft will last a billion years, far outlasting any other human artifact. In the film, Reynolds interviews nearly every surviving member of the teams that engineered the missions, did the science and made the record.

Dave interviews Rob Wesson, author of Darwin's First Theory. In it, the USGS Scientist Emeritus follows in Darwin's footsteps from England and Scotland to the Voyage of the Beagle around the world. Darwin is of course famous for his theory of evolution by natural selection, but he was actually hired on to be a geologist for HMS Beagle English gentleman to keep Captain Robert Fitzroy company. Darwin's observations of the geologic landscapes of South America in particular, especially his documenting of the 1835 earthquake there, lead him to a theory of uplift and subsidence that is tantalizingly close to our modern theory of plate tectonics. Wesson traveled in Darwin's footsteps and immersed himself in the experience while simultaneously looking for evidence of past earthquakes and tsunamis. He recounts Darwin's brilliance as an observer of the natural landscape and discusses the tragedy of the Chilean earthquake and tsunami of 2010 along with some amazing observations confirming what Fitzroy and Darwin observed nearly two centuries before.

We welcome Kate Fullam from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. She talks to Steven Jaret about his experience learning the fine art of communicating science at the Alda Center and then Dave has a conversation with Steven about his life as a planetary scientist and his interest in impact geology. Kate will be joining us on a regular basis as we interview folks who have gone through the Alda Center's training. One of these episodes, who knows, maybe Mr. Alda himself will pop by. Stay tuned!

On this episode of Blue Dot, Dave talks to Sarah Scoles, author of Making Contact: Jill Tarter and The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Jill is a pivotal and inspirational leader for women in scientific careers as well as being a pioneering leader for SETI. Her career and personal life served as one of the major influences for the character of Ellie Arroway, played by Jodie Foster in the 1997 scifi epic Contact based on the novel by the late Carl Sagan.

On this week's Blue Dot, Dave talks to retired NOAA climate scientist David Goodrich about his new book, "A Hole in the Wind: A Climate Scientist's Bicycle Journey Across the United States."

Goodrich had a rich and distinguished career working for the UN's Global Climate Observing system in Geneva. When he returned to the United States, he found the issue of climate science embroiled in politics.

He decided to combine his love of long-distance cycling with his interest in climate science to deliver talks across the country as he cycled from Delaware to Oregon in 2011.

Not one to pass up a once-in-a-lifetime event, especially one involving science, Dave Schlom, host of NSPR’s astronomy and science program Blue Dot, was in Kimberly, Oregon, on Monday to witness the total solar eclipse. Dave graciously agreed to provide some narration of the spectacle, which is interspersed with live safety warnings. 

Dave has a last preview of the Total Solar Eclipse on August 21 as he talks with his eclipse buddy, Tyler Nordgren. Dave and Tyler will be near John Day Fossil Beds National Monument for the big event. Nordgren is an astronomy professor at Redlands College in Southern California and the author of Sun Moon Earth: Solar Eclipses From Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets. When he was nine years old he was in Portland for the last total eclipse that touched America in 1979. Frightened by news reports about the dangers of looking at the eclipse, he hid indoors and missed the spectacle. He's been making up for it ever since, chasing eclipses around the world. Nordgren was one of the featured astronomers in the CuriosityStream documentary Eclipse Across America.