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Season 2 | Episode 5

Space

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Horsehead nebula Horsehead nebula (s5By/flickr/CC-BY-2.0)

In the 60’s, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism.

We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are.

Guests:

Dr. Peter Diamandis, Ann Druyan, Timothy Ferris, Philip Glass, Brian Greene, Dario Robleto and Neil deGrasse Tyson

Looking Up

Star gazing, it’s hard not to feel small...and lonely. Maybe that’s why it’s so irresistible to look out into all that darkness and see our own reflection staring us back, like Narcissus gazing into the pool. On this episode of Radiolab, we reflect on our romance with, projections upon, and ...

Comments [18]

It's Not About You

And now an uglier, less twinkly side of the little stars. First up, aliens. Despite our endless fascination with them, Tim Ferris, author of Coming of Age in the Milky Way , will tell us how unlikely it is that we'll ever encounter life in the universe. There's ...

Comments [4]

Holding Moonbeams in Your Hand

How DO you hold a moonbeam in your hand? Finally we take a look at some people who are trying to reconcile the romantic and cynical perceptions of space by taking matters into their own hands. First, we'll hear about artist Dario Robleto's attempt to finish the lost Space ...

Comments [3]

Comments [43]

Cleo Anders

Beautiful song by a Canadian musician, inspired by Ann Druyan's interview in this episode...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTKqGycHGHs

Jan. 02 2014 12:18 PM
Andrew from Mississippi

So what happens when another race does hear the signals sent from the voyager. How will they know which way to look if the voyager is just shooting across space?

Sep. 16 2013 03:45 PM
Steve Hopkins from Pleasant Valley, NY

The point is, we've taken a baby step or two to get mobile, which is a good idea, no matter what shortsighted earth-firsters think. We're an expansionist life form, which will naturally fill up any finite environment and choke itself out of existence. We should try harder, get some people out there mucking about for real, and give our progeny a fighting future chance, despite (or partly because of) the fact that we slightly increase the chances of encountering something that could destroy/save us. If putting out a PR story that Voyager has left the building again every few years helps re-focus the addled public mind, then I'm all for it. All rationality aside, though, some of us might have already beaten Voyager out of here in one way or another. Here's a song about a dream I had. Some dreams, I suspect, have elements of genetic memory: https://soundcloud.com/biff-thuringer/moonman-1

Sep. 13 2013 01:20 PM
Corey Leamon from San Antonio, Texas

There was a time I also found it quite depressing to be a speck on a speck on a speck. Then I realized that the knowledge provided me with profound humanity. In my humility, I am the only caretaker of my life which happens to be a very improbable occurrence; I and nothing/no one else get to decide its meaning. To me, that is monumental.

Jul. 05 2013 09:42 PM
John Volck from Cincinnati, Oh

Love this show! I'm sorry to ask a FAQ, but what are the artists and titles of the music in this episode?
THanks!

Jul. 03 2013 06:26 PM
Christian Macintyre from Norwich

You gotta love those "You're only saying we can't do it by taday's standards, there was a time when we though we wouldn't fly, wouldn't fly to the moon, wouldn't travel over 100Mph, etc". The sad fact is that during all those times of people not expecting particular barriers to be broken, all those doubts existed in a different type of scientific era. We not have a far clearer picture of physics, of mass-speed-energy problems but more importantly, we also know some actual physical barriers which come from demonstrated knowledge, not only speculation and doubt. Today when we speak of boundaries to science, we are able to say it with a great deal more confidence and reliability than they did in times when we were still trying to convert lead into gold.

Having said that, I hope the science is proved wrong within my lifetime. :)

Jun. 28 2013 11:13 AM
Ken from Dallas

Fact Check. I got really excited when one of the experts said the the "ingredients" in the human body and the "ingredients" in the universe lined up one for one...all the way down the list. I was hoping to use that fact in an article I am writing. Truth is...they don't line up in order. It's a neat thought...but that's all it is. A quick google search revealed it is not true.

Jan. 07 2013 05:13 PM
Frank Nunez from New York

Wonderful program. One question. What is the theme by 15:25 at the end of the segment with Philip Glass. I have heard bits of it on PBS advertising (that spot when people from different PBS programs are contributing to tell a kid a fairy tale).

Jan. 03 2013 02:57 AM
Mark from St. Petersburg, FL

Your discussion on space and time and the expanding universe was mind-opening and interesting, of course.

Far be it from me to suppose that I am smarter than Robert Krulwich, but I was disappointed in hearing you say that the likelihood of us discovering other civilized life in the universe is highly unlikely. I understand the math and scope of your reasoning, but you’re using a 21st century perspective that is limited to today’s knowledge.

If you could reach back in time and talk to Christopher Columbus and tell him that it would one day be possible to travel from the Old World to the New World in a matter of hours, he would have said, “That’s ridículo”. And if you attempted to describe computer technology, space travel and the Internet machine, he would have found that “muy increíble”.

It IS possible to travel to any part of the known and unknown universe. The secret lies in being in two places at once. I don’t know how it’s done, but God does it all the time. We need to figure out how He does it.

Dec. 31 2012 03:56 PM
Russ

to answer minnesota's question, it was Dario Robleto, I too enjoyed that segment.

Dec. 31 2012 08:54 AM
John D. Laskowski from Carsonville, PA

I have a question. In this episode ( Space Episode) I have heard ( for the second time in two days on NPR) the annoyance of one narrator making comments while having to faintly hear another voice in the background which is then potted up to listenable volume when that person is brought into the script. What idiot thought this up as a way to "announce" the fact that the next voice is about to be heard? That extrainious background noise is truly that - noise. It is distracting, unnecessary, and makes the otherwise splendid program less effective.PLEASE discontinue this practice. It is a distraction for intelligent people who want to hear your program straightforward without that nonsensical annoyance.

Dec. 30 2012 05:11 PM
Charles Bassi

Does anyone know who perdforms that insipid little song with the lyrics, "How do you do everybody...How do you doodle loodle loo..." etc etc. It appeals to my sense of absurdity...

Dec. 30 2012 04:09 PM
Minnesota from Minnesota

What was the name of the artist with the tomato seeds?

Dec. 30 2012 11:41 AM
Jessie Henshaw from Way Uptown

You think you've begun to scratch the surface of how small our conception of the universe is??? (that being the extrapolation you've been tracing, of how insignificant each of our conceptions of the universe has proven before)

You have not even begun to scratch the surface, because beneath the surface is "inner space" which equals or surpasses "outer space" in vastness, where every unit of organization you can find, like "a cell". A cell exists from the VIEW OF THE PARTS, as a *complete universe* unto itself beyond which the parts have no knowledge, and about which outsiders (ahem... "like us") are utterly unaware of as well.

What that means is that the problem of "how big is the universe" is a trick question. We've been asking "how big is the known universe", i.e. "how big is what we know", and we've now just proven that inner space makes the known universe a cell of internal relationships, knowable only from the perspective of its observers... "us".

There are other questions, but we still have to answer that one, to move to the next level of the gift we find all around and within us. It seems that in order to make the next steps, humans would need to recognize that we are still seeing the universe as centered on our own minds.

http://synapse9.com/signals to talk about the signals, messages in a bottle, that float by from other universes, as a way out of the trap... fyi

Dec. 29 2012 06:54 PM
Jennifer from So Cal

Loving this episode. Is there a place where I can find a list of all the music clips (particularly the world/ethnic music) during the short Philip Glass segment? They were wonderful and I would like to get them all! iTunes links, maybe??

Dec. 29 2012 06:23 PM
Todd McAllister from Vancouver, WA

This belief that significance is only determined by size and duration is one of the notable eccentricities of astrophysicists. We philosophers know it is a necessary but not sufficient condition for significance- that is to say, for anything to be something significant it must have at least some size and some duration but also other qualities. Keep on looking up.

Dec. 29 2012 03:46 PM
Doug B. from NYC

I came onto the broadcast late and was wondering the name and composer of the lovely ambient music under the last transmission from the moonwalk at the end of the program. Does anyone know?

Thanks!

Dec. 29 2012 01:22 PM
Stephen Grover from 10032

The cliche that humans always put themselves at the centre of the universe, here regurgitated by Director of the Ball in the Box, ignores the fact that in the medieval worldview, the centre of the universe was where Hell was situated: thus the centre was the lowest rather than the highest place, and humans lived in the next to lowest place, the surface of the earth.

Dec. 29 2012 12:42 PM
Evan Yost from Ventura, CA

How dare you claim those that endeavored without the media we have today were unfortunate. The technology wasn't around...both space and media. Complete asshole.

Dec. 28 2012 01:03 AM
ralph

Loved this episode. Just don't forget about the relentless transformations of technology and knowledge when you think about space travel and the future. One of the hosts talked about global warming thousands of years from now and the "poof" of civilizations. Haha, doubtful. Can any of us even wrap our heads around life in the future?.

Sep. 28 2012 10:10 PM
Wes from Chicago, IL

Fascinating episode! Every time I think about the Voyager crafts floating through space, I think about how crazy it would be if and when an advanced civilization intercepts the craft. How amazing would that be to receive?

Sep. 10 2012 02:39 PM
Takashi Nakamura from Tokyo

The music in the first part of this program is the third movement(Sanctus) of Requiem composed by Gabriel Fauré.

Sep. 10 2012 06:58 AM

I would also like to know the titles and artists who composed the lovely music in this episode

Sep. 07 2012 05:01 PM
kp_dooty from Vienna, VA

I don't buy the theory that we don't want to go to space because of Challenger and Columbia, i.e., because we are afraid of making sacrifices. I think we have become so accustomed to instant gratification that we no longer want to invest the time to learn or build anything, especially if it takes years of study and long hours. More funding to NASA is not the answer: using NASA's feats of engineering (strictly speaking, it's not science that put man in space) as a means of inspiring more kids to go into science -- without fixing the underlying deficiencies in our education system -- is an expensive proposition. We need to acknowledge science in our lives and conscientiously use more science in our thought process, and stop being proud of our illiteracy in math, laws of physics, and anything that requires logical reasoning.

Aug. 27 2012 06:06 PM
2ndlaws

OK, not to belabor the point, but to put this in terms so that you may be able to understand how egregious the opening Albireo segment is (because you are so clearly a music fan) : it was analogous to going to a concert, telling me it was in the Rose Bowl when it was actually in your neighbor’s living room, and then trying to convey the beauty of the music by describing the seat cushions. I just think you can do better than that. Done venting.

Aug. 27 2012 06:05 PM
2ndlaws

As a long time devoted fan of beautiful Albireo (and a regular RadioLab podcast listener) I have to say: Sweet jeebers, Mr. Abumrad, but you butchered, and I mean absolutely butchered, the opening Albireo segment: its distance (~ 400 light years); the source of its beauty (a binary system that can be resolved with a telescope to reveal a dramatic color contrast in the components due to wide temperature differences and all the cosmic implications of that) which you never even mentioned; your "shiny object" fascination with a laser pointer that is immaterial to the beauty of Albireo. Yuk. YUK! Thumbs way, way, way down.

Aug. 27 2012 05:12 PM
David DeMallie

anyone know: what's the music that plays in the background in the first part of the program "Space"? i love it.

Aug. 25 2012 10:06 PM
colkoo

around 9:16ish there is a major gap in the story "I hear this wonderful voice on the other line and he say....." Cut to "I get back to the hotel room and I find this message and he says annie called"--- It is killing me! what did I miss!

Thanks

Aug. 25 2012 05:21 PM
Jeff Post from Wisconsin

I think there is a an odd cut at 9:18. Ann Druyan is telling the story of how she and Carl Sagen fell in love. And the story goes from leaving a voice mail for Carl, to being engaged. Kind of a Large leap. Wondering of the podcast is corrupted?

Aug. 24 2012 09:39 AM
matt p

Does anyone happen to know the origin of the music that comes in around 17 minutes and continues through until 18 minutes?

Aug. 22 2012 01:15 PM
A Farkas

A beautiful [film] meditation on the Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan story, by the talented filmmaker Penny Lane:
http://vimeo.com/13087961

There are few things I think are as well composed and moving as an hour of Radiolab, but Lane definitely hits her mark.

Aug. 21 2012 10:39 AM
Sloppy Boggins from Toronto

There is a bit of confusion around the 26 min mark where the definition of "the Universe" is concerned. The way Jad describes it he is saying that everything beyond space is the universe hence the lack of center. But I've never encountered such a definition. As I understand it the universe is the totality of the space we are in. So when people talk of "multi-verses" they refer to other spaces in the great unknown in which our space exists.
The other assumption of which i too have always had is that outside of what we call "space" may have no space (could be like a solid) and that could be true but I think we are clinging to the old name we have given it "space" and therefore assume that it is a bubble punched into something. A something we have no idea of. It's a nice theory to work with but is just a theory. There is nothing to suggest that it isn't like a balloon but that the interior and exterior are different.
The one thing we do know is that the exterior is different enough to allow for the acceleration of the expansion of the universe. Science keeps going on about dark energy but if I create an explosion deep underwater versus an explosion in space there will be a drastic difference in the shock wave that is similar to our universe. Rather than the energy within it is the surrounding forces that have more to do with the expansion.

Apr. 12 2012 03:46 PM
Cary Groneveldt from New York City

The likelihood of anyone reading this is the same as The Golden Record's, but I thought I'd do it anyway -- so moved am I by the relevant material.  

I just got finished watching "Cosmos" for the first time & have ow been picking up ancilliary stuff here & there on the InterNet. 
I wanted to know more about The Golden Record. 
Hard to believe while it's cold & gray outside, I'm just lounging on my couch, buying Carl & Ann's book "Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors", while looking at TGR's wiki that has an external link for "RadioLab", a search of which for DRUYAN bought me here & as I'm typing this downloading the RL interview, all on my iPad 2 .... 

The InterNet roxorz!  lol

Feb. 02 2012 03:29 PM
sciencegeek

if the universe is big that means that there should be many intelligent civilizations sending many Voyagers. this means that it may be likely that one of those Voyagers will end of on one of those civilizations.

Jan. 17 2012 02:56 PM
Hieu from Richmond, VA

I wish they framed the discussion at 34:00 differently. Science isn't about whether or not we're important. Things we can't detect should represent endless possibility, not our own deficiency.

Jan. 04 2012 09:23 PM

Indeed, one of my personal faves!

Dec. 05 2011 10:32 PM
Jen from California

Hi Omar! I'm almost 29 - and I was so young at the time (4) that I don't remember it. I think I was obsessed with Rainbow Brite at the time... I assume that's why it was included - I'd never heard it. For years I thought I remembered it - and in college realized that what I remembered was not the actual event, but a 5 yr memorial/remembrance thing at my elementary school! I didn't watch the news at 4 OR 9, so how was I to know?

Jun. 03 2011 11:14 PM
Robert

The Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan story inspired this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTKqGycHGHs

May. 04 2011 12:32 PM
Aidan

The rest of the time capsules are here: http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blog/2007/nov/20/space-capsules/

Apr. 06 2011 10:24 PM
Ralph Palasek from Arlington, Virginia

Hydrogen; Oxygen; Carbon; Nitrogen: the Universe is in us? Not even a sound-bite about Dark Matter being inside us too? Keep inside almost everyone's Comfort Zone--and never approach the thresh hold of wonder or mystery. Ironically, such frivolous "explorations" as yours make great entertainment for young minds on holiday weekends; but actually DO keep us at the Center of the Universe--only without having to acknowledge the dangerous responsibilities that come with having our Front-Row-Center seat. Yet it's precisely here where Carl Sagan's "Hope for a Pale Blue Dot" comes to mind....

Nov. 27 2010 02:03 PM
Mathieu Roberts from Norwalk, CT

On the Space Episode, there was talk of additional concepts for the Voyager Record that was posted on the website site. But I can't find them. Was it only posted during the week of the broadcast.

Your help would be most appreciated.

Thanks,

Mathieu R

Nov. 10 2010 08:28 AM
Omar Garcia from Seattle

I was a little dissapointed with the choice to replay the Challenger explosion transmissions in this episode.

I can usually deal with most of the "graphic" stuff on the show (including surgically inserting electrodes into iguana brains or smothering cowbirds with your bare hands), but I thought the drawn-out launch countdown that then painfully continued into the explosion was a bit gratuitous.

I understand that the intent was to have the listener somehow feel the full effect of the accident and how it changed America's attitude towards the space program. I am just not sure that that's what is accomplished. It shocked me for a moment and I had to rewind the show to hear what I missed while I was thinking about my disappointment.

In my opinion, it might have been more powerful to have just had silence while the listener ran the event through their mind or to have cut out of the recording just before the explosion into sound. It just seemed obvious and cold.

I LOVE the show and I will post 3 positive comments to balance this one out. Thanks again!

Oct. 11 2010 12:26 AM
J Gabriel from ELA

my years of thought finally have some answers,,,

Oct. 04 2010 01:31 AM

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