Storyblocks image of wine barrels stacked in a wine cellar for a StarTalk Cosmic Queries episode about fermentation.
Storyblocks image of wine barrels stacked in a wine cellar for a StarTalk Cosmic Queries episode about fermentation.

Cosmic Queries – Fermentation

Photo Credit: Storyblocks.
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About This Episode

All you have to do is let it sit and watch the science happen. On this episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice are answering fan-submitted Cosmic Queries with Arielle Johnson, PhD, science officer on Good Eats, food writer, and formerly the in-house R&D scientist at Noma, ranked the world’s best restaurant in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014. 

What is fermentation? You’ve heard of fermenting wine, beer, and cabbage, but how does it work? Arielle tells us how fermented foods made their way into our diets. You’ll learn how sugar plays a big part in the fermentation process. What’s the difference between fermented vs. pickled? 

Why doesn’t fermented food make you sick? Why can we eat moldy cheese and not eat moldy bread? We investigate the popularity of kombucha. You’ll learn how kombucha is made. We explore some of the health benefits of kombucha and if there’s any substance behind the claims. You’ll learn if NASA has ever dabbled in fermentation aboard the International Space Station. 

How common is fermentation in the wild? Do other mammals eat fermented fruits or vegetables? We also investigate why vinegar works as a natural preservative. Discover more about the importance of “water activity.” You’ll hear about mulled wine and rice wine. Lastly, we dive into sourdough bread, we ponder whether algae are the food of the future, and we ask Arielle if you can use fermentation to invent new foods. 

Thanks to our Patrons Ryan Bariteau, Dan Snider, Shelia Hutson, Sonya Loeffler, Vishu Kamble, Dusty Switala, Daniel E Puig, Dan McGowan, Sullivan S Paulson, and Nigel Adams for supporting us this week.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

About the prints that flank Neil in this video:

“Black Swan” & “White Swan” limited edition serigraph prints by Coast Salish artist Jane Kwatleematt Marston. For more information about this artist and her work, visit Inuit Gallery of Vancouver.

In This Episode

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