Extended Classic: The Salt of the Earth (Part 1)

Credit: Richie Chan/iStock.
  • Free Audio
  • Ad-Free Audio

This episode is audio-only

About This Episode

Now extended with 12 minutes of Neil and Bill Nye in the Cosmic Crib talking about Ivan the Gorilla, how bees fly, and writing his book, “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation.”

Scientifically speaking, table salt is simply sodium + chloride. But historically, salt has had a major impact on human culture and society. Neil interviews Mark Kurlansky, author of Salt: A World History, to find out how the marriage of these two elements on the periodic table has periodically seasoned the flow of human events. Find out why salt was critical for the entire food trade in preindustrial society, and why you couldn’t have an international economy without it. Also joining us is Peter Whiteley, curator of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, to discuss the importance of salt to the Native American tribes of the desert southwest, from the earliest records of salt trading 3-4,000 years ago to the Hopi salt pilgrimage to the Zuni salt lake that continues to this day. Explore the symbolic value of salt – including how it was even used for curing zombies in Haiti. You’ll also hear about the role of salt in the American Civil War and Queen Elizabeth I’s warning about French sea salt. Discover the differences between sea salt and rock salt and how they’re made, and the role of salt domes in the development of geology and the oil industry. Co-host Eugene Mirman adds some salty commentary to our show that examines the explosive properties of what has proven to be one of the most important minerals on our planet.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Extended Classic: The Salt of the Earth (Part 1), as well as Neil’s extended interview with Mark Kurlansky here.

In This Episode

Get the most out of StarTalk!

Ad-Free Audio Downloads
Ad-Free Video Episodes
Stickers & Mugs
Live Streams with Neil
Priority Cosmic Queries
Early-Access Videos
Learn the Meaning of Life
...and much more

Related Episodes

Episode Topics