June 21, 2014 10:30 am

Explore the Impact of Humanity on Planet Earth with Dr. FunkySpoon this Sunday

Satellite image of Earth, credit NASA

Credit: NASA

Is humanity a virus that has spread across the face of the Earth?

That’s just one of the Cosmic Queries that co-host Chuck Nice throws at guest host planetary scientist and astrobiologist Dr. David Grinspoon in this Sunday’s episode of StarTalk Radio.

And they don’t get any less serious. For example, “Which human activity is most likely to destroy us?”

One theme runs through the entire show: solving problems, not surrendering to them.

A fan asks if we could use magma in subduction zones to get rid of the floating plastic that makes up the massive Pacific Garbage Patch.

Another asks if one answer to reducing solar radiation could be by putting some form of shields in orbit, like in “Ringworld.”

Another theme that just keeps popping up this episode: unintended consequences.

Consequences like increased earthquake activity in areas where there’s fracking going on. (Although, as David explains, those earthquakes may actually have an upside to them.)

Unintended consequences are everywhere as David and Chuck discuss fossil fuels, the Industrial Revolution, the morality of nuclear power, the role of technology in causing and solving our problems, climate change and alternative energy sources.

In fact, it’s the subject of energy sources that was one of the most interesting moments in the show, and brings us back to that question, “Is humanity a virus?”

Dr. FunkySpoon stands up for humanity by comparing us to cyanobacteria, which evolved photosynthesis 2.2 billion years ago, thereby flooding the atmosphere with oxygen and causing an environmental catastrophe that wiped out most existing life. “We’re not the first species to come along and in the quest for an energy source screw up the planet.” The difference, as David puts it, is that we’re now aware of our role on the Earth and we can take steps to change our behavior. Or, as Chuck and David put it, we may be slime, but we’re smart slime.

Listen to Cosmic Queries: Human Impact on Earth with guest host Dr. FunkySpoon this Sunday, June 22 at 7:00 PM ET on our website and on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, TuneIn and more.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!

–Jeffrey Simons

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