Episode 16, Series 2 – Space monkeys and threatening corals

Hello everyone,

As promised, I’m back with a couple of short podcasts, straight from the ICHSTM that took place here in Manchester!

In the first one, I had the pleasure of speaking to Jordan Bimm, a PhD student from York University in Toronto, Canada. At the congress he completely grabbed my attention with a wonderfully entertaining and insightful presentation about the use of animals in space medicine in America during the cold war years. In his paper he examined the case of two monkeys, Able and Baker, who were the first non-human primates to survive a space flight in 1959. What happened to them when they accomplished their mission? Who were they before and what became of them afterwards? I don’t want to give too much away because Jordan is such a great narrator and I think you should let him tell you the incredible story of the space monkeys Able and Baker.

Baker, who rode a Jupiter IRBM into space and back in 1959

Baker, who rode a Jupiter IRBM into space and back in 1959

For the second short interview I met up with Dr. Alistair Sponsel, who gave a really interesting talk about… corals! I was sitting somewhat bored in a small seminar room, when Alistair walked to the front and read out loud the name of his paper: “from threatening to threatened: coral reefs as objects of scientific study“. I instantly woke up from my post-lunch drowsiness and gave him my full attention. Why? First of all, because I like coral reefs. I mean, who doesn’t (apart from, as I later discovered, the hundreds of sailors who would get stranded or die on wrecked ships in the middle of the ocean)? Second, how could corals possibly be a threat to anyone (apart from, again, the above mentioned sailors…)? Which part of a delicately beautiful coral, which sits like a jewel beneath the ocean’s surface, could possibly be so scary? Well, it turns out people were scared of coral reefs for quite a long time, with some scientists in the late 18th century believing they could grow very quickly, create obstacles for the navigation of ships or even form brand new continents out of nowhere, like rock hard gigantic sea monsters! Listen on to find out more about corals’ dark past…

(Oh yes, it turns out that coral reefs are still causing shipwrecks nowadays, as this somewhat clumsy USS ship can show you…)

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2 comments on “Episode 16, Series 2 – Space monkeys and threatening corals

  1. Pingback: YFile » The space monkey housewife: York paper examines NASA’s first ‘celebrity’ primates

  2. Pingback: The space monkey housewife: York paper examines NASA’s first ‘celebrity’ primates | Institute for Science and Technology Studies

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