Third Pod from the Sun show

Third Pod from the Sun

Summary: Welcome to the American Geophysical Union's podcast about the scientists and methods behind the science. These are stories you won't read in a manuscript or hear in a lecture.

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  • Artist: American Geophysical Union
  • Copyright: Copyright 2018 Third Pod from the Sun


 Deep Sea Drilling with Dawn | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

The ocean floor stores a vast amount of information about Earth and its history. Volcanic rocks that make up most of the seafloor tell scientists about the composition of Earth’s interior, and the sediments lying on top of those rocks document what conditions were like when they were laid down millions of years ago. Scientists access this record of Earth’s past by drilling and extracting cores – long cylindrical samples – of the layers of rock and sediment. To do this, researchers spend weeks aboard a scientific drillship, anchored in place, braving the harsh conditions of the sea. Early in her career, oceanographer Dawn Wright (, Chief Scientist at the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), spent several years as a marine technician aboard the drillship JOIDES Resolution, supporting ocean drilling operations all over the world. In this episode, listen to Dawn describe her experiences during the months she spent anchored in the freezing Weddell Sea off the coast of Antarctica and hear how support ships have to “lasso” icebergs to keep them from damaging the drillship while it’s anchored. Ahoy, matey!  

 Tracking Adorable Chainsaws | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

Northern fur seals spend more than half their lives at sea. But every summer, they congregate on the rocky, charcoal-colored beaches of Alaska’s Pribilof Islands to mate and give birth to tiny, black-furred pups. Researchers take advantage of the seals’ short time on land to learn more about them and try to understand why their populations have been declining since the mid-1970s. Part of this research involves attaching GPS trackers to the seals’ bodies so satellites can monitor their movements from afar. But it’s not easy walking into a fur seal breeding colony full of aggressive, 500-pound males – not to mention getting close enough to attach a satellite tag. In this episode, Noel Pelland and Jeremy Sterling, researchers at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center ( in Seattle, describe what it’s like to work with these beautiful yet unpredictable creatures. Listen to Jeremy recount his experience crawling into a fur seal rookery full of cuddly pups with razor-sharp teeth and hear Noel describe what the satellite tags tell us about fur seal migrations. Find out how modern science is confirming what native Alaskans have known for centuries about seal migrations and learn what it’s like to watch male fur seals battle for territory with nothing more than a plywood box for protection. Read more about tagging seals in the Pribilofs in this blog series ( from NOAA and learn more about how winds influence seal pup migration in this press release ( from AGU. And watch this video ( from NOAA to learn more about fur seals and their migrations.

 Bonus Clip: The Sounds of the Sun | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

Check out this clip that didn't make it into our recent episode, Inside the Boiling Center of the Solar System (, with Dan Seaton (, about what the sun actually sounds like!    

 Inside the Boiling Center of the Solar System | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

At the heart of our solar system is an enormous, churning ball of hot plasma. The Sun blows a stream of charged particles over our planet, creating the solar wind. Sometimes the Sun flares bursts of x-rays, or burps bursts of charged particles, which can sweep over Earth and potentially create havoc for power grids, satellites, and GPS networks. There is weather in space, and it has more consequences for civilization than you might think. Solar physicist Dan Seaton ( studies the Sun at the University of Colorado in Boulder and NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (, where he is working to understand the Sun’s atmosphere and predict when events on the Sun will affect the near-Earth environment. In this episode, Dan explains how space weather and space weather prediction ( is analogous to Earth weather—and how it is not—and how what happens on the Sun can affect us here on Earth. Read a new paper by Dan and his colleagues about how solar flares disrupted radio communications during the September 2017 Atlantic hurricane relief effort (

 Bonus Clip: Scientists of the Corn | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

Check out this clip that didn't make it into our recent episode, The Dark Sound of the Moon, with Trae Winter about balloons, astronauts. and aliens!  

 The Dark Sound of the Moon | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

  On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse swept across the continental United States from Oregon to South Carolina. Millions of people stood looking up at the sky, their mouths agape, as the Sun’s disk was completely covered by the Moon. For many people, the experience of day turning into night and back into day, and the sight of the Sun’s corona streaming out behind the dark circle of the Moon, is a picture they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. But what about people who are visually impaired? How did they experience this celestial event? In this episode, Henry “Trae” Winter III, a solar astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, describes how he and his colleagues designed a new way for people who are blind and visually impaired to experience the 2017 total solar eclipse and his work to design and build tools that make astronomy and astrophysics more accessible to everyone, including people who are blind and visually impaired. Learn more about the app Trae and his colleagues created for the 2017 solar eclipse at (  

 From Landfills to Martian Hills | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

Building instruments to search for the building blocks of life in the rocks of Mars is no small feat. These gadgets must endure spaceflight, landing on the Martian surface, intense radiation, wild swings in temperature, uneven surfaces and then beam data collected millions of kilometers away back to expectant researchers on Earth. In this episode, NASA geochemist Jennifer Stern ( gives an insider's view of the ups and downs of testing and deploying one of these instruments - a mass spectrometer used on the Mars Curiosity Rover. Listen to Jennifer describe testing this instrument in some of the harshest environments on Earth, including the Atacama Desert in Chile and Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago near North Pole. Jennifer's path to NASA was an adventurous one that found her sampling methane in Florida landfills as a doctoral student, braving anoxic caves in Mexico, and a hazing ritual that included singing death metal songs in Norway.

 Bonus Clip: Newspaper is the New Duct Tape | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

Check out this clip that didn't make it into our recent episode, The Secret Lives of Tide Gauge Operators, with Stefan Talke about some correspondence he found on how operators treated their equipment.

 The Secret Lives of Tide Gauge Operators | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

In the 1800s and early 1900s, dozens of men stationed at harbors around the United States would record water levels and send them to a central office in Washington, D.C. where they were used by engineers building the country’s infrastructure. Along with these readings, the tide gauge operators also sent letters detailing their lives at these outposts and the difficulties they faced, from extreme weather to personal dramas.   Stefan Talke (, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Portland State University, uncovered these letters as he and his colleagues combed through archives and libraries for tide gauge data to reconstruct to reconstruct mean sea level, tidal processes, and extreme events in cities like New York and Boston. In this episode, hear about the hidden lives of tide gauge operators and how Talke and his colleagues are using the information they find to understand how cities will be affected by rising sea levels due to climate change.    

 Bonus Clip: Wildlife of Svalbard | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

Check out this clip that didn't make it into our recent episode, Journey to the Center of the Ice, with glaciologist Kiya Riverman (, about her close encounters with animals of the far north.    

 Journey to the Center of the Ice | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

From the outside, glaciers appear to be solid masses of unmoving ice. But meltwater flowing from the surface down to the glacier bed carves canyons, gorges and even caves into the dense sheets of ice. Over time, the fissures form labyrinthine tunnels that open into vast ice caverns few people have ever seen. University of Oregon glaciologist Kiya Riverman ( is one of a handful of researchers who ventures into this frozen world of glacier ice caves. What started as a hobby exploring limestone caves in Pennsylvania has become an area of scientific exploration for Kiya, who makes hand-drawn maps of these cave systems and tracks how they change over time. In this episode, listen to Kiya describe what it’s like to rappel down a frozen waterfall, crawl through tiny ice passages and do science 1840s-style. Read more about Kiya’s work ( on and watch a video ( of her exploring an ice cave in Svalbard on AGU’s YouTube channel.

 Alvin and the Ocean Deep | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

  The ocean floor is a deep, dark, cold, scary place filled with terrifying creatures and scorching fissures where boiling magma emerges from Earth’s crust. So what’s it like to be a scientist whose job it is to study these dangerous things up close and personal? In this episode, Adam Soule of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution describes his experiences descending to the seafloor in the human-occupied submersible Alvin. Listen to Adam describe the painstaking work of documenting every sea creature he observes on the ocean floor and the sense of awe he feels when he goes somewhere no human has been before. Finally, find out how scientists perform basic bodily functions while crammed inside a sub the size of a minivan. Learn more about Alvin and ocean bottom research on the Woods Hole website ( and watch videos of Alvin’s dives on the Woods Hole YouTube page. (    

 Chasing Narwhals, Unicorns of the Sea | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

University of Washington biologist Kristin Laidre ( travels to the Arctic to study animals many of us have only seen in pictures. She has successfully tracked down the elusive narwhal and been up close and personal with a polar bear seeking to understand how the loss of sea ice and the effects of climate change are altering Arctic ecosystems. In this episode, Kristin talks about what it is like to study these creatures, including the first time she saw a narwhal, what polar bear fur actually feels like and how climate change is impacting these animals.   Read more about Kristin’s research in a press release ( from the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting ( 

 Science at a Glacier’s Edge | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

In southeast Alaska, a team of scientists faced boat-blocking icebergs, calving-induced tidal waves, and cold, dreary days. All in the name of science. Using a hogde-podge of instruments ranging from radar to drone boats named Rosie and Casey, these scientists set out to brave the seas to understand a glacier. In this episode, listen to oceanographer David Sutherland describe his experiences at Le Conte glacier, the southernmost tidewater glacier in the northern hemisphere. Sutherland and his team are trying to figure out what processes underwater affect how fast the glacier melts—their research in Alaska will help scientists studying glaciers from around the world. Read more about David's research ( on  

 Parking Lot Lava | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

In a parking lot behind the Comstock Art Facility at Syracuse University, geologist Jeff Karson and sculptor Bob Wysocki cook up something almost unimaginable – homemade lava. Using a gas furnace the size of a small truck, the two professors melt gravel typically used for roadbeds into hot molten rock that they pour onto sand to recreate natural lava flows seen in places like Hawaii, Iceland and Italy. In this episode, listen to Bob and Jeff describe their eight-year lava-making journey, from googling “how to buy basalt” to pouring hot lava into the cavity of a frozen chicken. Learn what Jeff has discovered about the dynamics of volcanic eruptions and hear how Bob has turned pouring lava into an artistic performance. And finally, find out what happens when a scientist and an artist team up to create something truly unique and spectacular. Watch a video of the duo’s lava pours ( on the AGU YouTube channel and read more about their story ( on


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