August 1, 2016 7:57 pm

Tuesday, Carolyn Porco Hosts StarTalk All-Stars with “Listening for Aliens”

Photo of StarTalk All-Stars host Carolyn Porco and co-host Chuck Nice in the StarTalk studio.

Last week, we kicked off our new series, StarTalk All-Stars, with an episode hosted by Bill Nye. (It’s a classic already: Bill Nye and Chuck Nice answer your Cosmic Queries about Climate Change! If you haven’t heard it yet, listen to Understanding Climate Change with Bill Nye here.)

Tomorrow night, 8/2/16, Carolyn Porco takes the driver’s seat for “Listening for Aliens.” She’s got Chuck Nice by her side as co-host, and skyping in for the episode is Dan Werthimer, Co-Founder and Chief Scientist of the SETI@home program and the Principal Investigator of the new Breakthrough Listen Initiative.

We’re all very excited about Carolyn’s premiere. She first appeared on StarTalk Radio as Neil’s one-on-one guest for Madame Saturn: A Conversation with Carolyn Porco Parts One and Two, and we’ve all been big fans ever since.

Except, of course, for anyone who was already a Carolyn Porco fan thanks to her many exploits and her unquenchable thirst to use science to answer the two biggest questions of existence: Where did we come from and are we alone? Not only did she work with Carl Sagan on the Voyager program, but Carolyn was one of those who suggested that Voyager look back and take the photo that was to change our sense of our place in the Cosmos: “The Pale Blue Dot.”

She went on to lead the Cassini Imaging Science Team, orchestrating “The Day the Earth Smiled” image, a “redo” of the Pale Blue Dot photo, by Cassini, but with a bit of an audience-participation twist that led to a planet-wide celebration of humanity’s exploration of our solar system and beyond.  And if that’s not impressive enough, Carolyn consulted with JJ Abrams on 2009’s Star Trek reboot, and it was she who gave JJ the idea to have the Enterprise rise up out of Titan’s atmosphere, arguably the most iconic image in the entire movie.

Speaking of movies, there’s rumored to be a little bit of Carolyn in the character of Ellie Arroway in Sagan’s movie Contact, too, about whose character Carolyn consulted for the movie, even though Carolyn has tweeted that Ellie is really “Carl Sagan in drag.”

Now, as you already know if you’ve heard her on StarTalk, or her famous TED talk, or anywhere else (you can find important Carolyn links and her bio here), Carolyn is a force to be reckoned with. And tomorrow’s episode is no different.

The show is all about the search for life in the rest of the universe, and it looks at both the existing SETI program and the new Breakthrough Listen Initiative, which is the most comprehensive search for extraterrestrial intelligence ever. When she and Dan begin discussing one of the most controversial issues being debated today, whether humanity should be broadcasting our existence to the galaxy at large, or whether that’s asking for trouble on a galactic scale, Carolyn stands her ground. (Not that my opinion matters, but I am solidly in Carolyn’s camp on this one.)

But my favorite part of the episode is what Carolyn says about the possibility of finding proof of a “second genesis” in our solar system, perhaps in the subsurface ocean of Enceladus. If life were to have evolved separately from life on Earth, then, as Carolyn says, “It means that life is no longer a bug, but a feature of the universe in which we live.”

And how cool would that be?

Join us for Carolyn’s premiere as a StarTalk All-Stars host tomorrow, Tuesday, August 2 at 7pm EDT, on iTunes Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Stitcher, TuneIn and right here on our website. (For now, all StarTalk All-Stars episodes will come through the same feeds you’re used to, so there’s no need to subscribe to anything new.)

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Jeffrey Simons

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