Monday, September 28, 2015

Our new Patreon Support platform

We have added  a Patreon page for those listeners who want to help support this podcast with their spare change, similar to what we do for the Wow! Signal, except that this is a monthly - not per episode - pledge. Just to nag a bit, the best ways to support us are:

  • Help us spread the word with sharing episodes and reviews on popular aggregators such as iTunes.
  • Follow us on Twitter (we generally follow real people back), and retweet us from time to time. We retweet also.
  • Become a panelist. We want new panelists all the time. Come over to our G+ participant's community and knock on the door. We let almost everyone in, and new panelists have priority. Even if you can't be on a panel, you can contribute to the discussion of what topics we will cover that week.
  • The suggested monthly donation is $1 at Patreon. They make this easy for both of us. We don't want to be more than a little sliver of your charitable giving, though.  
  • Soon we'll have a Facebook page you can post on, and we already have a subreddit where we are happy to take listener comments, suggestions and critiques. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Episode 26 - What this podcast needs is more cowbell!

Recorded: 25 September 2015
Released: 26 September 2015
Duration: 107 minutes 24 seconds

download the .mp3 audio file

Host Paul Carr welcomes veteran panelists Buck Field, James Garrison, Mike Bohler, Ciro Villa and
Patrick Festa to talk about the first half year of the podcast, where it's been, what the highlights were, and where it's going. Of course, this spins completely out of control into unrelated topics, like how much we should respect conspiracy theorists.

Each of our 19 panelists is thanked individually, and there is a plea for volunteers to co-produce and occasionally host the show. If interested, please e-mail us unseenpodcast  - at - gee-mail or comment on the blog post.


All the Unseen Podcast Episodes
All the Unseen Panelists
More Cowbell!
Nick Nielsen's Grand Strategy blog
Our video promo featuring Collin


Host and Producer: Paul Carr
Panelists: Buck Field, Ciro Villa, James Garrison, Mike Bohler, Patrick Fests
Music: DJ Spooky
Promotional and Blog Assistance: Mateusz Macias
Happy Feet: Collin

The Unseen Podcast is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike license.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Episode 25 - Meet Me on the Far Side of the Moon

Recorded: 18 September 2015
Backlit Pluto Image
Released: 19 September 2015
Duration:87 minutes, 24 seconds

download the .mp3 audio file

Host Paul Carr welcomes Adam "Synergy" Smith, Nick Nielsen, Mateusz Macias, and James Garrison to the panel. The team talks about some recent developments in exoplanets science and the future of planet hunting. Some planets about M-dwarf stars may in fact be habitable. Would creatures evolving on the dark side of a habitable M-dwarf planet be able to develop technology? How long will itbe until we replace the artist's concepts with actual images of Earth-like exoworlds? Will telescopes on the lunar farside help?
In this episode we are trying a new protocol to keep from talking over each other. This led to one awkward pause at 37 minutes, but I think it was worth it. We'll keep refining this.

Erratum: This is not the Wow! Signal, but we hope to have some fresh content from the Wow!
Signal very soon to talk about.


ESA Scientist Ana Heras on the PLATO Mission 
S.A.G.A.Net astrobiologist Betul Kacar interviewed on the Wow! Signal
The WFIRST Mission

Nick Nielsen's version of events.


Host And Producer: Paul Carr
Panelists: Adam "Synergy" Smith, James Garrison, Nick Nielsen, Mateusz Macias
Music: DJ Spooky
Hardware: Shure, ART Pro, Behringer, Apple
Software: Reaper, Soundflower, LineIn, OS X Yosemite
Postprocessing: Auphonic
Hosting: Libsyn

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why this Podcast?

On September 25th, we will record Episode 26, looking back on the first six months of this podcast and towards its future. I wrote this post to put down my thoughts about just that, in terms of what drives me to produce it.

My experience of mission statements has been that of viscous ooze of liquid insincerity stiffened by a rehash of the tediously obvious. I have no interest in writing such a thing. However, I think it does do good to sit back and ask yourself from time to time “why am I doing this?”. After all, podcasting is not like parenting  - you can stop doing it whenever you want, and no one has any business being upset about it should you stop. Just as bands are better off breaking up after they have had their say, and not keep touring for forty years playing the same songs the same way, so podcasters who can not explain why they continue should admit this to themselves, and stop.

There are lots of possible reasons that people may start and continue a podcast, and they usually have little to do with the medium itself. Podcasts are undertaken to promote something or someone, to get a message out, to educate and inform, to sell advertiser’s products in exchange for entertainment, or just for fun. While I am not hostile to any of these motives, neither the Wow! Signal or the Unseen Podcast exist for any of these reasons. So, why then?  What is the purpose of the Unseen Podcast? Why do I pour more time than I have to spare, and a little money, and a fair bit of lost sleep into it?
The Wow! Signal began because I thought it could be the podcast that was missing - the one I wanted to hear that no one was doing. For a while, I thought that Seth Shostak’s podcast Are We Alone, complete with its ads for green lasers and telescope stores, was almost that, but he joined forces with the formidable Molly Bentley and went off in a different direction. At that point, I knew less than nothing about podcasting, but I had a deep intuitive sense of what I wanted the Wow! Signal to be, and how it would be different from any other podcast. The introduction to Episode 1 was my attempt to articulate that at the time:

I’m not a pessimist.  We uppity monkeys can, over time, puzzle through quite a lot, and adopt mind bending new concepts with a kind of rebellious joy.  We reject the limitations of being survival machines for our genes - limitations that constrain how we explore, but not whether we explore.  There is a great deal of confusion we can clear up, new knowledge we can hope to acquire, and best of all, I continue to hope for much better questions.  It won't be quick or easy.  Even the most tentative answers to "who's there?" will take generations to acquire.  All we can do is start; and persist, and be ready for when the universe comes knocking.  That is why we have named this podcast after a single transient event that MAY have been a faint hint that we’re not alone.  

Now, almost three years and nearly 30000 downloads later, the Wow! Signal is still not exactly the podcast I want to listen to, but it is starting to find its way, and I don’t think it has much competition.

The problem I had with the Wow! Signal is that, although great guests agreed to appear, and the listenership seemed healthy,  I was failing to build a community around that podcast. I wanted people to interact with me, the podcast, the subject matter, and each other. My efforts in this regard had been a failure, and I admitted to myself that I didn’t know how to go about it. The subreddit was a ghost town, and the Google Plus community for listeners was growing, but had very poor engagement. I had almost no response to calls for questions or comments. I even invited listeners to come on the show and speak their minds, and no one was interested. I desperately wanted the podcast to be more of a conversation within a community than a monologue with interviews.

I decided to try an experiment, and that was to spin off a podcast from the Wow! Signal that is as completely open as I know how to make it, and to get people directly involved by appearing on the podcast. It would be an unedited, unscripted (i.e. uncontrolled), hour or so with a panel of whoever wanted to participate, talking about whatever they found most interesting.  That was the genesis of the Unseen Podcast. I announced that the first episode would be April 3rd 2015, and I recruited physicist Ben Tippett to appear to give our discussion a little focus and direction. I recruited Marsha Barnhart, Ciro Villa and Nick Nielsen to appear as the first panel. It worked. Ben was terrific, and the panel and I asked most of our burning questions. I was encouraged.

This was all about starting the conversation within a community that I only imagined existed, and that we are still discovering and may still be forming. This is an active, controversial, civil, but spirited conversation about the human future, and where or when in that future we may meet with other technological beings who may be presently wondering about their future. We are, of course, getting a lot of things wrong, but if we approach these big subjects with the requisite humility, we can hope for and encourage progress, and to be wrong in far more productive ways as we go forward.

So, the Unseen Podcast is just one public voice of this conversation in which anyone can participate. We are not a soapbox, a classroom, or a crusade. Other people engage in science education far better than we can hope to do so, and we leave that to them with our blessing. We use science as a searchlight to illuminate a tiny corner of that immense darkness before us. We look here and there, and we have questions that stay with us night and day. We feel a powerful need to talk about these questions, and we can. Anyone can.

We will get out of this conversation what we put into it. That is why I am doing what I can to support it, but of course, I will need a great deal of help. If everything depends primarily on me - my efforts, my ideas, my words - that is a certain failure. 

I hope we can begin by growing our listener community from hundreds to thousands, and to have them engage with us. We will look for a high degree of engagement with listeners in online forums. I will look for broader panel participation, with some new people and one or two veterans on each panel. I want more women and young people on the panels. I want several different people to try their hands at hosting, and maybe one or two to try co-producing. We’ve had stellar guests so far, and I want more of them, every 3 or 4 episodes. I want to see lively and creative engagement with topic threads by a wide section of the community. I’m not going to ask anyone for money, but time and energy, yes, I will ask.

The ideal panelist on the Unseen Podcast is someone who knows what they don’t know, and finds what they don’t know most fascinating. Come on, that’s you, isn’t it? Want to join in?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Episode 24 - Define Panspermia

Recorded: 11 September 2015
Released: 12 September 2015
Duration: 114 minutes, 36 seconds

download the .mp3 audio file

Host Paul Carr welcomes Patrick Festa, Buck Field, James Garrison, and Adam "Synergy" Smith for
a discussion of the latest ideas of panspermia, or how life might migrate between planets or even between stars. The latest paper by Lin and Loeb is brought up. The discussion morphs into one about the history and philosophy of science and then back to panspermia.

Erratum: HIV is actually a Lentivirus, which is an RNA virus that carries with it the enzymes necessary to make DNA in the host cell.


Lin and Loeb: Statistical Signatures of Panspermia in Exoplanet Surveys

The Europa Report
Moving the Goalposts Defined
Interview with Nora Noffke on Martian Microbial Mats
Interview with Astrobiologist David Grinspoon
Red Rain
DNA Viruses
Are Viruses Alive?
Did Gilbert Levin Discover Evidence for Life on Mars?

The Wow! Signal


Host and Producer: Paul Carr
Panel: Patrick Festa, Buck Field, James Garrison, and Adam "Synergy" Smith
Music: DJ Spooky

Monday, September 7, 2015

Episode 23 - Reforming Science

Recorded: 7 September 2015
Released: 7 September 2015
Duration: 73 minutes

download the .mp3 audio file

Host Paul Carr welcomes panelists Gita Jaisinghani, Lacerant Plainer, Adam "Synergy" Smith, and Nick Nielsen. The subject is the soul searching now going on within science about reproducibility, the publication of negative results, and flaws in the peer review system. A recent study in Science on the reproducibility of results in psychology triggered our discussion about how science can converge faster onto reliable confirmation of falsification of hypotheses. Can the public trust science?

Erratum: Panelist Nick Nielsen is from the United States, although this is a majority non-US panel.


How Shoddy Medical Research Can Harm Us All
Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science
Bleak Verdict on Validity of Psychology Experiments
Challenges in Irreproducible Research
Dan Mirman - Reproducibility Project: a front row seat
Nature Methods: Enhancing Reproducibility
Publication Bias
All Trials
Nature: Registered clinical trials make positive findings vanish
Science Exchange


Host and Producer: Paul Carr
Panelists: Gita Jaisinghani, Nick Nielsen, Lacerant Plainer, and Adam Smith
Music: DJ Spooky

Friday, September 4, 2015

Episode 22 - Report from Starship Congress

Recorded: 4 September 2015
Released: 5 September 2015
Duration: 86 minutes, 4 seconds

download the .mp3 audio file

Rachel Armstrong
Host Paul Carr is joined by the panel, including Nick Nielsen and Mike Mongo who report after a
long day at Starship Congress. Mike has his friends Rachel Armstrong and Andreas Tziolas with him, and we talk about interstellar flight, what it means, and how we think it might be possible.


Episode 21 - Mars One and Its Critics
Starship Congress 2015

For and Against Method

The Cosmic Neutrino Background


Host and Producer: Paul Carr
Panel: Mike Bohler, Buck Field, James Garrison, Mike Mongo, Nick Nielsen, Adam "Synergy" Smith
Spontaneous Special Guests: Rachel Armstrong, Andreas Tziolas
Music: DJ Spooky