April 24, 2017 9:07 pm

Bill Nye and Co. Serve Up Citizen Science and Space Innovations from SF Sketchfest 2017

If it’s January, you can find the StarTalk Live! crew in the city on the bay for SF Sketchfest. Ever since 2014, Bill Nye and comic co-host Eugene Mirman have put on a memorable show from SF Sketchfest, and our fourth year at the festival was no exception.

Bill and Eugene were joined by citizen scientist and space activist Ariel Waldman, SF Sketchfest co-founder Janet Varney, and comedian Claudia O’Doherty to discuss human space exploration and some of the formerly fringe ideas that are in development right now. Ariel currently serves on the council at NASA Innovative Advance Concepts, a department which oversees the development of projects based on science-fiction.

Heather Archuletta's photo of StarTalk Live! at SF Sketchfest 2017 – Left to right, Janet Varney, Ariel Waldman, Bill Nye, Eugene Mirman and Claudia O’Doherty.

StarTalk Live! at SF Sketchfest 2017 – Left to right, Janet Varney, Ariel Waldman, Bill Nye, Eugene Mirman and Claudia O’Doherty. Credit: Heather Archuletta.

My favorite part of the episode was the discussion about all the projects NIAC is currently nurturing and developing. Because a lot of the ideas are science-fiction based, some of the stuff doesn’t seem possible, or frankly, worth the time or effort. However, for every project that Ariel was asked to explain, she confidently gave all the reasons why each project might lead to great advancements in the future.

I was constantly surprised how I would first think a project was ridiculous, and by the end of her explanation, I would catch myself thinking, “Wow…that seems like a pretty good idea after all.”

I won’t ruin the surprise by telling you about most of the projects now. However, I will say the Orbiting Rainbows project, which involves “space glitter” and lasers, seemed a little out there to me, but what ground-breaking idea wasn’t during its inception?

Apart from the developments at NIAC, you’ll hear discussion on traveling to Mars, the most common reasons why people want to go to there, and why finding life on the red planet would certainly change the world. You’ll also hear Ariel talk about “hacking space exploration” – an attempt to make space exploration available for everyone.

Bill gives an update on the Planetary Society’s launch of LightSail 2, and explains the unbelievable amount of power the Falcon Heavy rocket will have.

All that, plus, Bill and the gang discuss Breakthrough Starshot and its mission to Alpha Centauri. And this is only Part One!

Want to hack into space? Then please join us tomorrow night for StarTalk Live! from SF Sketchfest 2017 (Part 1) at 7pm EDT right here on our website, as well as on ourAll-Stars channels on iTunes PodcastsGoogle Play MusicSoundCloudStitcher, and TuneIn. And if you’re an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Ian Mullen

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