Rank #1: Looking Virtual Reality In The Eye
Episode 2.06: The immersive, 3D environments of virtual reality aren’t science fiction any more, and they aren’t just for video games. In this episode Wade visits “The Enemy,” a groundbreaking VR exhibit about the psychology of war. The creation of photojournalist Karim Ben Khelifa, it introduces visitors to hyper-realistic avatars based on six real fighters from Israel, El Salvador, and the Congo. It offers a vivid reminder that all conflict is grounded, to some extent, in stereotypes and misperceptions. It also demonstrates that VR has arrived as a powerful new storytelling medium. But could that power be misused for mischief? Music in this episode is by Graham Gordon Ramsay, Titlecard Music, Javier Saurez, and Lee Rosevere. Logo photo by Karim Ben Khelifa. For more information visit http://www.soonishpodcast.org.
Rank #2: Hacking Time
Episode 1.08: Why do "productivity" tools like email, to-do lists, and calendars make so many of us feel miserable and overburdened? Why hasn't anyone come up with a better way for us to manage our diverse commitments and our chronic information overload? This episode of Soonish looks at our personal futures and the tools we use to manage them. We talk with folks who are pursuing new technologies for keeping our lives organized. We look at the kludge-y but often brilliant productivity solutions people have hacked together for themselves. And we ask whether, in some way, we’re all missing the real point. Maybe in the rush to be productive, we’ve forgotten how to prioritize the things that truly make us happy. Music in this episode is by Graham Gordon Ramsay and Lee Rosevere. For more information about all the people and ideas in this episode, go to https://www.soonishpodcast.org/episodes/2017/5/11/108-hacking-time To become a supporter of Soonish, please visit http://www.patreon.com/soonish
Rank #3: Sci-Fi That Takes Science Seriously
The golden era of “hard” science fiction that respects the rules of actual science lasted from the 1940s to the 1960s. In the 1970s, demand for hard sci-fi fell off a cliff, with a big push from the first Star Wars movie in 1977. But for the last year and a half, Soonish host Wade Roush has been part of a project to revive this underappreciated genre. This week’s episode is all about Twelve Tomorrows, the new short-story anthology Wade edited for MIT Technology Review and the MIT Press. The episode outlines the book’s mission and origin story. And four of the eleven authors who contributed stories to the book weight in on the differences between hard science fiction, fantasy, and other sci-fi sub-genres.
Soonish listeners can get 30% off the book's list price by calling 1-800-405-1619 or writing to firstname.lastname@example.org and using the discount code SOONISH30. And now through July 31, listeners who become new Soonish patrons at Patreon at the $5 per episode level or above will get a free autographed copy of the book! To sign up go to patreon.com/soonish.
The full video of the Twelve Tomorrows launch event, including readings by Elizabeth Bear, Lisa Huang, and Ken Liu is at https://www.soonishpodcast.org/extras/2018/6/21/video-meet-three-of-the-twelve-tomorrows-authors
Music in this episode by Graham Gordon Ramsay and Titlecard Music. Full episode details: https://www.soonishpodcast.org/episodes/2018/6/18/208-sci-fi-that-takes-science-seriously
Rank #4: Making Music with Machines
We can’t predict what kind of music people will want to make or hear in the future. But based on the sounds coming out of today's studios and clubs, it's a good bet that the tunes of tomorrow will be heavily mediated by digital technology.
This week’s show asks how software has changed the way composers and performers make music, and how our tools for creating music will evolve in the near future. You’ll meet people using technology on different scales to create scores for film, television, and podcasts, classical canons, and electronic dance music. And you’ll learn about a project at Google to build “generative music” software that can jam alongside human performers.
We’ve come a long way from the days of analog music engineering. More people than ever have access to advanced music-creation tools—but to make the best use of them, we’ll always need to bring our own creativity to the table.
Guests include composers Joel Roston, Andrew Willis, and Rudi Seitz, EDM producer and DJ Biyeun Buczyk, music educator David Day, and Google senior research scientist Douglas Eck.
The Soonish theme is by Graham Gordon Ramsay. Original score composed by Joel Roston and produced by Titlecard Music & Sound. Guest music from Rudi Seitz and Biyeun Buczyk aka DJ Beyun. For full episode details and music credits visit http://www.soonishpodcast.org
Rank #5: The Track Not Taken
The Meigs Elevated Railway—one of the world’s first monorail systems—looked like something out of a Jules Verne novel. But it was very real. In this week’s episode, hear how nineteenth-century Bostonians missed their chance to build a steam punk utopia.
The monorail system was the brainchild of Joe Meigs, a Civil War veteran and tinkerer who had political and financial backing from Massachusetts governor Benjamin Butler. Meigs envisioned a system that would soar above the streetcar traffic clogging Boston’s streets. Beginning in 1884, thousands of people boarded his distinctive cylindrical train cars for 20-mph rides around a test track in East Cambridge, MA. The system was a technical success, and eventually Meigs obtained a charter to build miles of monorail track around Boston. But a fateful attack one winter night in 1887 dashed his hopes—and proved that the best technology isn’t always the one that wins widespread adoption.
Featured voice: Charles Gustine, producer, Iconography
To browse an extensive gallery of images of the Meigs monorail, check out our show notes.
A full episode transcript is available in the Extras section of the Soonish website.
Related episode: Soonish 1.02, Monorails: Trains of Tomorrow?
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1:58 The Unknown Railway
2:49 Monorail Fanboy
3:37 225 Bridge Street
5:42 Readings from The Meigs Railway
6:42 Untangling the Streetcar System
8:32 Light and Air
10:10 Who Was Joe Meigs?
11:42 One Little Problem
12:18 Building the Demonstration Track
13:09 Four Wheel Drive
14:20 Sausage on a Stick
15:58 Two Ways of Moving People
16:37 Foul Play
18:05 A Stubborn Guy
20:01 Parallel Universe
21:49 How We Choose the Future
22:22 End Credits and Announcement
Soonish is a proud founding member of Hub & Spoke, a collective of smart, idea-driven nonfiction podcasts. Learn more at hubspokeaudio.org.
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Rank #6: Meat Without The Moo
Episode 1.05: We meet people working to promote a range of alternatives to meat from livestock--including a cricket farmer, a researcher studying ways to grow meat from muscle cells in the laboratory, and a startup founder commercializing jackfruit, a huge fruit from India with a meat-like texture. The logic behind their work is simple. In the coming decades, as the human population expands toward 10 billion people by 2050, we'll probably have to figure out how to replace a lot of the meat we currently get from pigs, chickens, cattle, and fish with other forms of protein. That's partly because we’re already running out of the land and water needed to raise more livestock. But on top of that, a big chunk of all greenhouse-gas emissions comes raising animals. So finding protein sources that don’t depend on traditional livestock agriculture is both an economic necessity and, possibly, a way to slow global warming. The Soonish theme is by Graham Gordon Ramsay. Additional music in this episode by Podington Bear and Lee Rosevere. For more information on this episode visit http://www.soonishpodcast.org/episodes/2017/3/8/105-meat-without-the-moo
Rank #7: Monorails: Trains Of Tomorrow?
Episode 1.02: Monorails first captured the public imagination as the "trains of the future" here in the U.S., thanks to projects like the Disneyland monorail (1959) and the Seattle World's Fair monorail (1962). But today, it seems that new monorail systems are being built everywhere except America. Monorails have key advantages over competing forms of mass transit, such as buses, subways, and light rail—so what happened to the prospects for the technology in the U.S.? For the answer, Soonish went straight to the president of the Monorail Society, a 7,000-strong group with members around the world. And we traveled to Seattle to talk to the people who built—and who still run—the Seattle Center Monorail, and who tried to get a much larger monorail project off the ground in the early 2000s. The Soonish theme is by Graham Gordon Ramsay. Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions and Grant Fikes.
Rank #8: A Space Shuttle Isn't Cool. You Know What's Cool? A Space Elevator (Soonish on Soonish)
Episode 2.05 of Soonish, the podcast, is all about Soonish, the book! Host Wade Roush interviews Kelly and Zach Weinersmith, the husband-and-wife team behind the new book Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything. Kelly Weinersmith is a parasitologist at Rice University and co-host of the podcast Science…Sort of, and Zach Weinersmith is the creator of the wildly popular Web comic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Their book is a funny, fast-paced, loving-but-skeptical look at coming engineering advances that could transform domains like space travel, robotics, and medicine. The episode also features a story about Space Shuttle Atlantis, performed live by Wade at a December 9 storytelling showcase event in Boston. Music in this episode is by Graham Ramsay and Tim Beek. For more information visit http://www.soonishpodcast.org.
Rank #9: A Tale Of Two Bridges
Episode 1.09: When Boston’s elegant Longfellow Bridge opened in 1907, it was innovative example of classical European bridge architecture adapted for a busy American city. But over the next century, officials allowed the bridge to rust to the point of near-collapse. And recently, a futuristic new cable-stay bridge, the Zakim Bridge, was built across the Charles River just a mile downstream, displacing the Longfellow as an icon of the city and proving that Bostonians still have a taste for modernity. Now the Longfellow Bridge is being painstakingly restored and recreated, down to the last rivet. But for the price of fixing it, the state could have built at least two Zakim-scale bridges in its place. This week Soonish asks: Why go to all that trouble? When should we preserve the parts of our urban environments that connect us to the past? When should we boldly remodel our cities to support growth and innovation in the future? And how can we balance the two impulses? The Soonish theme is by Graham Gordon Ramsay. Additional music by Tim Beek, timbeek.com. More information about this episode at www.soonishpodcast.org. To support Soonish, please go to patreon.com/soonish.
Rank #10: Future Factories, With Workers Built In
Episode 1.04: Six million manufacturing jobs have disappeared in the U.S. since 2000, and you've probably heard economists and politicians say "those jobs aren't coming back." But that view isn't quite right. It doesn’t account for a cultural and technological revolution sweeping the United States—one that promises to redefine manufacturing, make it drastically more accessible, and create a ladder to new kinds of jobs for unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled workers alike. In this episode of Soonish, we visit TechShop, a maker space where craftspeople are using high-tech tools to come up with new products. We talk with a business strategist at the Xerox-owned Palo Alto Research Center, where programmers are inventing design software that can help people get their ideas to market faster. We tour 99Degrees, a company in an old Massachusetts mill town where one entrepreneur is creating a path to skilled high-tech employment for manual garment workers. And we meet Bill Taylor, an 88-year-old mechanical genius in Belmont, MA, who has an elaborate workshop in his basement and decades of perspective on the changing manufacturing scene in the U.S. The Soonish theme is by Graham Gordon Ramsay. Additional music by Lee Rosevere. For more background on this episode visit http://www.soonishpodcast.org/episodes/2017/2/22/104-future-factories-with-workers-built-in