Rank #1: 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 email@example.com 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 #2: When Minds and Machines Converge
Can thought-power control the world outside our heads? Thanks to new brain-machine interface technology, the answer is yes. But the real question is whether it can it help us control the world inside our heads. In the Season 3 opener of Soonish we meet Ariel Garten, co-founder of Interaxon, a Canadian startup that’s one of the first to offer a consumer neurofeedback device. Interaxon’s Muse headband reads brainwaves to help people with the sometimes vexing task of meditation. It points toward an era when may be able to control our brain states and share our thoughts directly with our computers, and with each other. And there are startling implications—not just for our capabilities as humans, but also for our privacy and individuality.
0:33 Meditating by the Lake
3:06 Introducing Muse and Interaxon’s Ariel Garten
4:24 Interaxon Goes to the Winter Olympics
8:22 Measuring Brainwaves with EEG
11:36 An Introduction to Meditation, with Sam Langer
14:51 Using Muse to Strengthen the Muscle of Attention
17:02 The Consciousness Club Tries Muse
18:12 A Controlled Study of Muse
18:59 Thinking Through Brain-Machine Interfaces
22:18 The Coming Wave of Neural Interfaces, with Mary Lou Jepsen
25:09 The Center for Responsible Brainwave Technologies
26:28 Extending Our Agency
27:37 End Credits and Announcements
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Rank #3: Back To The Futurists With Tamar Avishai
Episode 2.04 is a special crossover show featuring Tamar Avishai's The Lonely Palette, one of the founding shows in our new podcast collective, Hub & Spoke. In this episode Tamar focuses on Italian Futurism, a pre-World War I art movement fueled by a heady mix of diesel and testosterone. The Futurists consciously aimed to use painting, sculpture, and photography to celebrate speed, power, industry, and all of the exhilarating ways technology was changing the world. What they couldn't represent—because it hadn't happened yet—was the ruin and destruction technology would bring to Europe as soon as the war began. After the war, artists developed more ambivalent and nuanced ways of representing technological change, but Futurism still stands out as art's first bold embrace of modernity. Theme music by Graham Gordon Ramsay. Additional music by Javier Suarez / Betterwithmusic.com. For more details on this episode, visit soonishpodcast.org and thelonelypalette.com. Soonish is a proud member of Hub & Spoke, a Boston-based collective of smart, idea-driven podcasts. Check out all of our shows at hubspokeaudio.org.
Rank #4: 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 #5: 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 #6: 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 #7: Can Technology Save Museums?
Episode 1.03: Museum attendance declined steeply in the first decade of this century, according to a survey by the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA found that audiences were being siphoned away by the Internet, television, and other distractions. So, technology can be seen as a threat to museums—but maybe it's also a tool they can use to re-engage with the public. In this episode of Soonish, we visit museums in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Boston to see how some curators and educators are leaning on software, mobile devices, and digital media to get visitors excited about art. The Soonish theme is by Graham Gordon Ramsay. Additional music by Philipp Weigl and Kai Engel.
Rank #8: 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
Rank #9: 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 #10: Astropreneurs
Episode 1.07: More than 500 people have flown in space since Yuri Gagarin’s historic ride in 1961—and virtually every one of them has been a military officer or government employee. But now that’s changing. Jeff Bezos’s rocket company Blue Origin aims to begin commercial passenger flights to space in 2018, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX has announced plans to send two private citizens around the moon, also in 2018. Meanwhile, here on Earth, there’s a boom in space-related innovation and investment, not just at big aerospace companies but at dozens of smaller startups. This week on Soonish, we look at the new era of space entrepreneurship (#newspace for short) and ask who’s founding space startups, what progress these companies are making in areas like microsatellites and propulsion, and how new technology is giving enthusiasts around the world more ways to get involved in space exploration. The Soonish theme is by Graham Gordon Ramsay. Additional music this week by Podington Bear. For more information on this episode, visit https://www.soonishpodcast.org/episodes/2017/4/20/107-astropreneurs