Phil Plait - Death from the Skies

July 16, 2010

Host: Chris Mooney

Our guest this week needs no introduction for those in the skeptical and secular world. After all, he has a frakkin' asteroid named after him.

He’s Phil Plait—science blogger extraordinaire for Discover Blogs, where he authors “Bad Astronomy.” Recently, Plait joined Point of Inquiry for a wide ranging conversation about standing eggs on end, Apollo moon landing deniers, wacky yet endearing Hollywood bad science, something called “spaghettification," ... and the end of the world.

Phil Plait is a skeptic and an astronomer, and former president of the James Randi Educational Foundation. He lectures widely across the country and is the author of two books, most recently Death from the Skies: These Are the Ways the World Will End.

Books Mentioned in This Episode:


Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Bad Astronomy

Related Episodes

Tim Farley - What’s the Harm?
June 11, 2010

Comments from the CFI Forums

If you would like to leave a comment about this episode of Point of Inquiry please visit the related thread on the CFI discussion forums

Hooray!! Now tell us again, why the moon landing is not a hoax?? :) (Just kidding!) I just found out that the name of the color of the universe has been dubbed cosmic latte! Can you share any thoughts about current multiverse theories?

Posted on Jul 16, 2010 at 2:19pm by asanta Comment #1

One of the best books in the skeptical or popular science literature, IMO, along with his equally good Bad Astronomy. Excellent!

Posted on Jul 16, 2010 at 3:55pm by dougsmith Comment #2

One of the best books period. Too bad we never got the chance to ask questions. I have about 10^92 of them…  :-) Can’t wait to listen to the interview.

Posted on Jul 16, 2010 at 6:18pm by George Comment #3

You’ll enjoy the interview, George. I just listened to it. Phil’s sense of humor came through quite well, and Chris did a good job. Very enjoyable podcast.

Posted on Jul 16, 2010 at 6:33pm by DarronS Comment #4

George,
I could go back to letting the forums ask questions. But last time I tried it, nobody did so….
chris

Posted on Jul 17, 2010 at 5:34am by CMooney Comment #5

George,
I could go back to letting the forums ask questions. But last time I tried it, nobody did so….
chris

Chris, I think some interviews are more conducive to questions than others.  :)
Some I have no questions for, some subjects I don’t know enough about to ask pertinent questions, and sometimes someone just beats me to the punch! :cheese:
I can’t wait to listen to this one!

Posted on Jul 17, 2010 at 10:04am by asanta Comment #6

George,
I could go back to letting the forums ask questions. But last time I tried it, nobody did so….
chris

I was surprised that while you were on the topic of aliens, you didn’t dig more into Hawking’s warning this spring and the recent discussion on the topic
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-hawking-aliens-20100508,0,757774.story

The argument is that an advanced civilization might just get rid of civilization in this solar system in the 1,000-10,000 years before we could be a threat (sort of a George W. Bush civilization of mass destruction argument with a pre-emptive strike).

Phil Plait even got into this in his blog—the aliens might just send robots to do the dirty work—
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/04/26/in-which-i-disagree-with-stephen-hawking/

This would have been a nice opportunity to advertise the interview on both your blog and Plait’s and invite questions from both places including this forum.

In general you do a great job in reading the book and asking questions—a more open question would be, what other ideas have surfaced since the 2008 book—Plait probably knows other angles as well..

available for $6.00 or less from Amazon..
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61ISFu1bbqL._SL110_.jpg

The hard science fiction book “The Killing Star” by Charles Pellegrino and George Zebrowksi gives a detailed account without the HG Wells happy ending.
http://www.amazon.com/Killing-Star-Charles-Pellegrino/dp/0688139892

Posted on Jul 17, 2010 at 12:28pm by Jackson Comment #7

George,
I could go back to letting the forums ask questions. But last time I tried it, nobody did so….
chris

Last time you haven’t had Phil Plait on your show.  ;-) But nor to worry, Chris, I understand.

Posted on Jul 17, 2010 at 1:36pm by George Comment #8

Comment 61/160 in the Phil Plait link also mentioned the Forge of God by Greg Bear, another good hard science fiction book on the same topic (except it has a sequel Anvil of Stars where Earth remnants fight back).  The Killing Star just ends….

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/04/26/in-which-i-disagree-with-stephen-hawking/

Posted on Jul 17, 2010 at 2:07pm by Jackson Comment #9

George,

I get it. I don’t think every guest can cause quite the ripple that Phil does, because sometimes I’m picking them because they are experts in an *issue* I want to cover, or I’ve heard them speak and just immediately thought, that person would be a great guest (even if they’re not as famous in the science blogosphere as Phil). But I will be aware of this, and try to get the forums reengaged.

chris

Posted on Jul 19, 2010 at 7:09am by CMooney Comment #10

Thanks for the consideration Chris. BTW, it was a great interview!

Posted on Jul 19, 2010 at 11:21am by asanta Comment #11

Thanks for the consideration Chris. BTW, it was a great interview!

I enjoyed it as well.

Although I do have one quibble. There were a couple of times where your voice trailed off and I couldn’t hear what you said. Then I would hear Phil laugh, so you must have said something. :) Granted, I was listening via ear buds while driving my car, so it’s certainly reasonable that ambient noise was part of the problem.

Anyone else notice anything with the volume?

Take care,

Derek

Posted on Jul 19, 2010 at 2:17pm by harry canyon Comment #12

Now I’ll have to listen again, darn…. ;-)

Posted on Jul 19, 2010 at 2:28pm by asanta Comment #13

I had no problem hearing Chris. I listened to the podcast in my home office, where I have a 225 wpc amplifier driving three-way speakers that sit less than five feet from me. Some people consider that overkill for a 10x13 foot room.

Posted on Jul 19, 2010 at 2:32pm by DarronS Comment #14

I had no problem hearing Chris. I listened to the podcast in my home office, where I have a 225 wpc amplifier driving three-way speakers that sit less than five feet from me. Some people consider that overkill for a 10x13 foot room.

:lol:  :-P %-P

Posted on Jul 19, 2010 at 3:29pm by asanta Comment #15

I had no problem hearing Chris. I listened to the podcast in my home office, where I have a 225 wpc amplifier driving three-way speakers that sit less than five feet from me. Some people consider that overkill for a 10x13 foot room.

But does it go to 11? ;)

Take care,

Derek

Posted on Jul 19, 2010 at 4:21pm by harry canyon Comment #16

I don’t know. My ears give up at about 2.5.

Posted on Jul 19, 2010 at 4:24pm by DarronS Comment #17

But does it go to 11?

Why not just make 10 that much louder?

Posted on Jul 19, 2010 at 4:27pm by Dead Monky Comment #18

It’s a Spinal Tap reference… As Emily Litella (Gilda Radner character) would say: “Nevermind.” :)

Take care,

Derek

Posted on Jul 19, 2010 at 4:30pm by harry canyon Comment #19

I caught it.

And where’s my Stonehenge monument?  The dwarfs are getting impatient.

Posted on Jul 19, 2010 at 4:32pm by Dead Monky Comment #20

I caught it.

And where’s my Stonehenge monument?  The dwarfs are getting impatient.

Then my memories of the movie are spotty at best…  :red:

Take care,

Derek

Posted on Jul 19, 2010 at 4:50pm by harry canyon Comment #21

Nevermind.  I am now caught in one of my stage props and the roadies are trying to pry me out.  I am continuing to play, however.

Posted on Jul 19, 2010 at 5:15pm by Dead Monky Comment #22