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Fiction Science

Fiction Science

By Alan Boyle

Cosmic Log's podcast from the place where science and technology intersect with science fiction and popular culture, hosted by science writer Alan Boyle. To dig into the Fiction Science archives - including classic chats with science-fiction masters Ted Chiang and Kim Stanley Robinson, climate scientist Michael Mann and physicist Michio Kaku - become a paid subscriber for less than a dollar a month: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/fiction-science/subscribe
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Michael Mann on 'The New Climate War'

Fiction ScienceJan 11, 2021

Can AI become conscious?

Can AI become conscious?

Veteran science writer George Musser addresses the connections between artificial intelligence, quantum physics and the quest to understand the nature of consciousness in a new book, "Putting Ourselves Back in the Equation."

Nov 26, 202355:52
What's wrong with a city on Mars?

What's wrong with a city on Mars?

Zach Weinersmith, co-author of "A City on Mars," explains why humanity isn't ready to have people settle down and raise a family on Mars or in any other off-Earth locale.

Nov 06, 202339:34
Why women scientists missed out on fame

Why women scientists missed out on fame

Quantum physicist Shohini Ghose, author of "Her Space, Her Time," throws a spotlight on more than a dozen women physicists and astronomers who didn't get the recognition they deserved.

Oct 24, 202329:35
'The Creator' gets an AI reality check

'The Creator' gets an AI reality check

How much real-world AI research is reflected in "The Creator," Hollywood's latest cinematic tale about the rise of the machines? We turn to a panel of experts on artificial intelligence and its portrayal at the movies for an in-depth reality check.

Sep 29, 202337:06
John Scalzi sizes up billionaires and supervillains

John Scalzi sizes up billionaires and supervillains

John Scalzi talks about his latest satirical science-fiction novel, "Starter Villain," and the parallels to the antics of real-world tech billionaires.

Sep 20, 202339:06
Searching for alien worlds and life

Searching for alien worlds and life

Astronomer Chris Impey, author of the book "Worlds Without End," discusses the study of planets beyond our solar system, the search for alien life, and the long-term prospects for humanity's progress on the final frontier.

Jul 28, 202334:00
Indiana Jones vs. actual archaeologists

Indiana Jones vs. actual archaeologists

Archaeologists Chris Begley and Brittany Brown discuss how times have changed since the fictional heyday of Indiana Jones when it comes to the technologies - and people skills - that they rely on.

Jun 28, 202358:47
Celebrating 'the original X-File' ... in Seattle?

Celebrating 'the original X-File' ... in Seattle?

Steve Edmiston, a Seattle lawyer and film writer, fills us in on the Maury Island Incident - a UFO sighting that marked the first mention of the mysterious Men in Black and has now inspired a celebration called the Men in Black Birthday Bash.

Jun 21, 202339:18
The roots of the spaceflight revolution

The roots of the spaceflight revolution

Jeffrey Manber, one of the pioneers on the frontier of space commercialization, talks about his effort to document the rise of private-sector spaceflight in a series of books he calls "From the Earth to Mars."

Jun 15, 202352:57
Get a reality check on space startups

Get a reality check on space startups

Ashlee Vance, the author of "When the Heavens Went On Sale," talks about the romance, the risk and the ridiculousness surrounding four space ventures that were created in the wake of Elon Musk's SpaceX success.

May 08, 202335:03
Michio Kaku explains quantum computing

Michio Kaku explains quantum computing

Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, the author of a new book titled "Quantum Supremacy" explains how quantum computing works and why it could revolutionize energy, medicine and virtually everything everywhere.

Apr 26, 202334:55
Meet the woman who's updating the 007 saga

Meet the woman who's updating the 007 saga

Kim Sherwood talks about writing "Double or Nothing," a James Bond novel that includes 21st-century technologies including quantum computers and climate geoengineering — but leaves out James Bond.

Apr 10, 202334:01
'Critical Mass' charts the space frontier

'Critical Mass' charts the space frontier

Science-fiction author Daniel Suarez talks about his latest novel, "Critical Mass," which picks up on the vision for space development laid out by physicist Gerard K. O'Neill and the billionaire he inspired, Jeff Bezos.

Mar 07, 202346:32
Reality check on 'Quantumania'

Reality check on 'Quantumania'

Quantum physicist Chris Ferrie, author of the book "Quantum Bullsh*t," separates the reality from the B.S. in sci-fi tales including "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania."

Feb 16, 202336:12
Annalee Newitz on 'The Terraformers' and future cities

Annalee Newitz on 'The Terraformers' and future cities

Annalee Newitz talks about "The Terraformers," a sci-fi novel that explores the parallels between an imagined future where corporations reshape planets and an all-too-real present where today's cities are sorely in need of reshaping.

Jan 31, 202343:13
Sci-fi tale takes on consciousness and the cosmos

Sci-fi tale takes on consciousness and the cosmos

Biologist Robert Lanza and science-fiction writer Nancy Kress talk about "Observer," a novel that delves into Lanza's view that consciousness creates the universe as we know it.

Jan 09, 202334:13
Avatars in science fiction and fact

Avatars in science fiction and fact

In honor of the release of "Avatar: The Way of Water," we talk with the technical adviser for the $10 million Avatar XPRIZE, plus one of the winning teams, about the parallels between the movie's sci-fi avatars and real-life robotic avatars.

Dec 15, 202234:12
How William Gibson's 'Peripheral' made the leap to video

How William Gibson's 'Peripheral' made the leap to video

Scott B. Smith, the co-creator of Amazon Prime Video's version of "The Peripheral," talks about the challenge of turning William Gibson's cyberpunk sci-fi novel into a streaming series.

Oct 20, 202223:50
The science and fiction of octopus intelligence

The science and fiction of octopus intelligence

Ray Nayler, author of the sci-fi novel "The Mountain in the Sea," and neuroscientist Dominic Sivitilli discuss how looking into the mind of an octopus can provide insights into the nature of artificial intelligence and alien intelligence.

Oct 04, 202250:18
Flying saucer ambitions rise to next level

Flying saucer ambitions rise to next level

Stephen Tibbitts, the co-founder and CEO of Zeva Aero, talks about his company's plans to create a flying machine that looks like a cross between a helicopter and a UFO.

Sep 09, 202226:40
The master of alternate history rewrites the '70s

The master of alternate history rewrites the '70s

Science-fiction author Harry Turtledove delves into "Three MIles Down," his novel about Watergate, a real-life spy thriller ... and don't forget the aliens!

Jul 22, 202220:33
How Star Trek changed the world, and vice versa

How Star Trek changed the world, and vice versa

Ryan Britt, the author of "Phasers on Stun," discusses how the Star Trek saga influenced the course of science fiction and space exploration - including the roles of space billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.

Jul 03, 202201:02:36
'Maurice on Mars': A black comedy on the Red Planet

'Maurice on Mars': A black comedy on the Red Planet

Comedian Tim Barnes, the creator of a new Comedy Central animated series called "Maurice on Mars," discusses his show about a struggling barista on the Red Planet and touches upon the controversies surrounding race and science fiction.

Jun 13, 202234:07
Futurist lays out utopian vision for 2084

Futurist lays out utopian vision for 2084

Michael Rogers, a futurist who advises startups and Fortune 500 companies, uses a sci-fi novel titled "Email From the Future" to point to technologies and trends that could solve the climate crisis and end wealth inequality.

May 21, 202238:04
Brian Greene explains the multiverse

Brian Greene explains the multiverse

Brian Greene, a theoretical physicist at Columbia University, delves into the physics of parallel universes - a plot point featured in a Marvel superhero movie titled "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness."

May 06, 202236:53
Sci-fi with the flavor of Bangladesh

Sci-fi with the flavor of Bangladesh

Bangladeshi author Saad Z. Hossain talks about the mythical and modern influences that go into his science fiction tales - including his latest novel, "Kundo Wakes Up," which works the godly powers of AI agents and djinns into the plot. 

Mar 26, 202230:19
How realistic is it to leave Earth behind?

How realistic is it to leave Earth behind?

German filmmaker Rudolph Herzog talks about "Last Exit: Space" - a quirky documentary that focuses on space settlement efforts (and features his father, Werner Herzog, as narrator).

Mar 10, 202223:13
Mika McKinnon on the science of 'Moonfall'

Mika McKinnon on the science of 'Moonfall'

Geophysicist Mika McKinnon talks about her efforts to add a smidgen of scientific plausibility to "Moonfall," a big-budget disaster movie about the moon falling out of orbit and wreaking havoc on Earth.

Feb 01, 202217:18
Fear the fungus in 'Unfamiliar Garden'

Fear the fungus in 'Unfamiliar Garden'

Benjamin Percy, author of "The Unfamiliar Garden," talks about his Seattle-centric, science-centric update of the classic "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" plotline - plus, how writing for comic books made him a better novelist.

Jan 18, 202231:28
'Don't Look Up': A comedy about cosmic threats

'Don't Look Up': A comedy about cosmic threats

Amy Mainzer, the science adviser for "Don't Look Up," talks about the real-life astronomy behind the movie's fictional killer comet. 

Dec 06, 202129:20
Cat Rambo explains how to launch a space opera

Cat Rambo explains how to launch a space opera

Award-winning science-fiction writer Cat Rambo talks about their new novel, "You Sexy Thing," a tale about space pirates, a sentient starship and gourmet mercenaries that's been called a cross between "Farscape" and "The Great British Baking Show."

Nov 11, 202121:28
Neal Stephenson on the metaverse and the climate crisis

Neal Stephenson on the metaverse and the climate crisis

Science-fiction writer Neal Stephenson discusses his new climate-change thriller, "Termination Shock," and the status of the metaverse - a concept he came up with nearly 30 years ago.

Nov 06, 202134:54
Christof Koch on the mysteries of consciousness

Christof Koch on the mysteries of consciousness

Allen Institute neuroscientist Christof Koch talks about his quest to understand the nature of consciousness, his magic mushroom experience and his role in the documentary film "Aware: Glimpses of Consciousness."

Oct 31, 202134:34
Fact and fiction in the billionaire space race

Fact and fiction in the billionaire space race

Jeffrey Kluger, editor at large for Time magazine and author of the sci-fi novel "Holdout," talks about the fact and the fiction surrounding commercial spaceflight and NASA exploration.

Jul 26, 202133:54
Octavia E. Butler's classic sci-fi reborn as graphic novel

Octavia E. Butler's classic sci-fi reborn as graphic novel

Damian Duffy and John Jennings talk about how they transformed Octavia E. Butler's prescient science-fiction tale, "Parable of the Sower," into a graphic novel.

Jul 17, 202135:52
The meaning of life, death ... and black holes

The meaning of life, death ... and black holes

Radio astronomer Heino Falcke, one of the leaders of the Event Horizon Telescope project, discusses how the first image of a black hole's shadow was captured - and why it's so intriguing.

Jun 06, 202125:41
Outer space gets stripped down in 'Voyagers'

Outer space gets stripped down in 'Voyagers'

Veteran production designer Scott Chambliss says he took a page from SpaceX's playbook when he created the look of the multi-generational spaceship for the movie "Voyagers."

Apr 08, 202119:03
Why Michio Kaku believes the God Equation will be our salvation

Why Michio Kaku believes the God Equation will be our salvation

Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku talks about his latest book, "The God Equation," and explains how we might be able to use the theory of everything to escape the eventual death of our own universe.

Apr 06, 202136:44
Bonus: Talking fiction with Nathaniel Rich

Bonus: Talking fiction with Nathaniel Rich

Nathaniel Rich, author of "Second Nature," "Losing Earth" and the sci-fi novel "Odds Against Tomorrow," discusses the state of contemporary fiction with Fiction Science co-hosts Dominica Phetteplace and Alan Boyle.

Mar 30, 202117:24
Are we killing nature, or creating a 'Second Nature'?

Are we killing nature, or creating a 'Second Nature'?

Nathaniel Rich, the author of "Second Nature: Scenes From a World Remade," lays out his vision of a post-natural world.

Mar 30, 202132:11
Is 'Machinehood' in our future?

Is 'Machinehood' in our future?

In her debut novel, "Machinehood," S.B. Divya foresees a future where we merge with the machines through AI, nanotech pills and robotic implants. Would she want to be part of that future? Get the answer in this episode of Fiction Science, co-hosted by Alan Boyle and Dominica Phetteplace.

Feb 28, 202132:22
Annalee Newitz on 'Four Lost Cities'

Annalee Newitz on 'Four Lost Cities'

Science journalist/author Annalee Newitz discusses her new book, "Four Lost Cities," and the evolution of past and present urban centers with Fiction Science hosts Alan Boyle and Dominica Phetteplace.

Feb 05, 202134:42
Michael Mann on 'The New Climate War'

Michael Mann on 'The New Climate War'

Penn State climatologist Michael Mann, the outspoken author of "The New Climate War," talks about what Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and the rest of us can do to help the world avert the coming climate catastrophe.

Jan 11, 202137:07
'Greenland' spotlights cosmic doom

'Greenland' spotlights cosmic doom

A new movie titled "Greenland" calls attention to potential threats from comets and asteroids. Visual effects supervisor Marc Massicotte and Danica Remy, president of the B612 Foundation, discuss the science behind the spectacle.

Dec 18, 202030:09
Sci-fi master Ted Chiang on AI, time travel and more

Sci-fi master Ted Chiang on AI, time travel and more

Science-fiction author Ted Chiang delves into thought experiments on artificial intelligence and time travel - and talks about how his involvement in the movie "Arrival" changed his life.

Nov 08, 202039:04
Kim Stanley Robinson on 'Ministry for the Future'

Kim Stanley Robinson on 'Ministry for the Future'

Science-fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson talks about his latest novel, "The Ministry for the Future," and the climate science behind it.

Oct 29, 202045:39
'Cyber Republic' and democracy's future

'Cyber Republic' and democracy's future

George Zarkadakis, author of "Cyber Republic," discusses ways to reinvent democracy with Fiction Science hosts Alan Boyle and Dominica Phetteplace.

Oct 12, 202034:18
How the stars gave birth to 'The Human Cosmos'

How the stars gave birth to 'The Human Cosmos'

Jo Marchant, author of "The Human Cosmos," talks about the growing disconnect between humanity and the heavens - and how to fix it.

Sep 19, 202024:11
Twin Peaks star Kyle MacLachlan talks about Tesla

Twin Peaks star Kyle MacLachlan talks about Tesla

Kyle MacLachlan looks back at "Dune" and "Twin Peaks," discusses his portrayal of Thomas Edison in "Tesla" and reveals which present-day tech titan intrigues him the most. Hosted by Cosmic Log's Alan Boyle.

Aug 17, 202022:53