We celebrate our 50th episode with in-depth coverage of how we’re all going to die! After unraveling the Mayan prophecies about December 21, 2012, we turn our attention to the coming technological singularity and speculate about what a world ruled by super-computers and nanobots will look like. We check in with a NASA scientist to find out if Planet X is still on schedule to crash into the earth next month, and whether or not solar flares and geomagnetic pole shifts might make Apple’s new Maps app even more useless. In our Pro extension, we get real with some of the actual predictions coming from astrophysicists about the Big Bang, Big Bounce and Big Freeze, and we end with the heart-warming holiday message that we’re unlikely to be special and unique snowflakes after all.
We share some fascinating examples of how cultures from all over the world have looked to the sun, moon and stars for guidance in crafting meaningful liturgical calendars. Ali wishes everyone a Happy Diwali before delving into the mysteries of the Hindu lunisolar calendar, and Jeff ponders the lost zodiac of the ancient Celts and how the Coligny Calendar and the Gundestrup Cauldron can give us clues to how our ancestors might have seen the stars. In our Pro Extension, we bring you the stirring conclusion to the saga of the ages — and we find out why exactly everybody hates hipsters.
We try very hard not to talk about the election and its aftermath, instead exploring the fascinating subject of ethnoastronomy. We delve into some of the unique relationships human cultures have had with the stars throughout history, including a look at the Mescalero Apache and the Australian Aborigines. In our Pro Extension, we turn from astronomy to astrology for an in-depth analysis of President Obama’s birth chart and what it says about his presidency, and a brief look at how Pluto influences the attitudes of whole generations — that is, until the Mercury Retrograde gets the best of us and crashes our equipment!
We revel in stories of creepy critters, cyborgs, zombies and vampires (including the gut-wrenching vampire squid that lurks in the abyss)! We find out why scary music freaks us out, and for all of our listeners looking forward with mingled dread and excitement to NaNoWriMo, we explore how to transform fear into freedom and anxiety into creativity. During an extended music break this week, we feature OMNIA’s live performance of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous work, “The Raven” — we promise you’ll never think of this poem the same way again! — and we wrap up the free portion of this week’s episode with some listener feedback that might just explain why cat people really are a little bit nuts. In our Pro Extension, we share the bone-chilling stories passed among homeless children living in Miami who claim to have seen a demon stalking the streets, one so evil she is feared even by Satan himself: Bloody Mary.
We look at some of the weirdest things in our wild, wonderful world, from the singing fish of Seattle to the fractal cats of imaginary mathematical space. First we check out an African shrub with berries that sparkle like ornaments: how could a Christmas tree evolve in the wild? Then we explore the strangely fuzzy boundary between plants and animals: bugs that use sunlight to create energy, salamanders that use photosynthesis, and sea slugs that look and act remarkably like leaves. Our parade of weirdness continues with birds that are hooked on ant baths, triple-gendered singing toadfish, the ultrasonic songs of mice, LOLcats that improve productivity, Julia’s infinite mathematical cats, and — now it can be revealed! The astounding truth about dog people vs. cat people. Finally, in our Pro Extension, we check out a real-life Jedi master, the Buddha from Space, exotic exoplanets, and the stunning beauty of the world’s largest mirror.
We look at one of the grand cycles of nature: election season. We take the Keystone XL pipeline as our jumping-off place to examine the host of environmental issues facing the world, and ask which American presidential candidate might best tackle them. Then we pivot to the culture war, one of the engines driving the tremendous polarization in American politics: why have the culture battlegrounds started to shift? For answer we delve into Jonathon Haidt’s theory of larger patterns of morality across all human societies. Finally we look at essential issues that are being completely ignored in the presidential campaign, and ask: if American democracy won’t face these problems, is it broken? We consider some rather unconventional ideas about how to fix it. Then in the Pro Extension, we tackle the separation of church and state, and consider whether political movements are strengthened or weakened by mooring themselves to religious foundations.
We dig deep into how our exploration of ruins not only helps us foster a relationship with our ancestors, but also tells us a lot about ourselves and what we value in modern society. The study of ancient temples and burial sites teach us some deep lessons about the connection between sacred spaces, and our sense of sacred time — through the changing seasons of the year, the phases of the moon, and periods of abundance and plenty alternating with periods of drought, disaster and decline. We take a look at sacred sites of ages past and not-so-past, dabble in archeo-acoustics and share the story of modern-day megalithic mania. In our Pro Extension, we revisit the question of sacred ruins from a slightly different perspective, exploring the issue of desecration and destruction of holy temples, mosques and churches in modern society and how we cope with political conflict when it threatens the spaces that we hold most sacred.