BBC ONE (TV): The Sky At Night – Bases On The Moon – a 1963 interview with Arthur C. Clarke

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The Sky At NightThe Sky At Night is a monthly documentary television programme on astronomy produced by the BBC. The show has had the same presenter, Sir Patrick Moore, from its first airing on 24 April 1957. This is the longest-running programme, with the same host, in television history. I discovered it only recently, via torrent, and have become utterly smitten with its sciencey goodness. Here’s the latest broadcast, actually a repeat from 1963 with Arthur C. Clarke!

Here’s the official description:

Many of the early Sky at Night programmes were destroyed or lost from the BBC library. Recently this early and very rare programme from 1963 with Arthur C Clarke, was discovered in an African TV station. Patrick and Arthur were both members of the British Interplanetary Society and here they discuss bases on the Moon and Mars. Arthur C Clarke made very few interviews, so this really is a broadcasting gem- once lost, but now found.

The programme is also available via |TORRENT|.

[Thanks African TV station!]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Scientific American – 60-Second Science – Moon Not Made of Cheese

SFFaudio Online Audio

Scientific American  - 60-Second ScienceEvery once in a while I have an surreal conversation. The conversation usually begins when a person says something I misunderstand. They claim something and then proceed to tell me about it. I assume that the person in question’s claim is a claim about the universe (I assume that because that’s the place I’m trying to understand). When the surreality begins is when it turns out that they are actually talking about is a part of the world – I guess that’s their perception of it.

The other day I had one when a friend of mine suggested I read a book called Fringe-ology. He described it as “a good book.”

Was he right? Is Fringe-ology a good book? The title sounded frighteningly unfruitful to me.

The question I then asked myself was: “Must I read it to form my own judgement?”

It was highly rated on (five stars and twenty five reviews). Did that fact make it “a good book?”

The book’s subtitle, How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable-And Couldn’t, didn’t make me want to read it either. Science, as I understand it, isn’t about “explaining away” anything (unless you are speaking metaphorically, which the practice of science certainly doesn’t embrace). And the “unexplainable” is a term that shows some seriously misguided thinking about reality (based on my reading of science history). Perhaps that was just marketing though.

Upon closer examination there is something else that makes me question Fringe-ology being a “good book” – there is a bent spoon on the book’s cover.

That is not a good sign.

To try to convince me to read Fringe-ology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable-And Couldn’t my friend said this:

“[the author Steven Volk is a] Hard-nosed news reporter who looks honestly at this stuff. And find he can’t disprove much of it.”

I suggested that no matter how hard one’s proboscis, the act of setting out to disprove something wasn’t science.

My friend then went on to talk about the reams of sworn eyewitness testimony to the existence of UFOs. And that they would be admissible as evidence in a court of law.

I then suggested that “reality is not determined by a judicial process.”

It was at about this point that I twigged to some sort of incommensurability in our communications. I was talking about the world, as discovered by the practice of science, and my friend was talking about some other way of seeing the world (that I think is demonstrably false – but perhaps enjoyable or something).

In the end I may have to accept my friend’s judgement about my character. He said I was a “closed” person. He may be right. I will not read horoscopes, I will not accept sworn eyewitness testimony for paranormal claims, and I don’t expect to be reading Fringe-ology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable-And Couldn’t any time soon – at least not without some more compelling reasons than I’ve been given.

There’s another way to put all of the above.

My friend was talking about institutional facts and I was talking about brute facts. He thinks the inexplicable exists, whereas I suggest that a book about the inexplicable is going to be zero pages long.

Which brings me to this extraordinarily boring (but presumably useful to my friend) story from Scientific American’s 60-Second Science podcast: “Moon Not Made of Cheese” – which takes a very pragmatic approach to debunking shitty ideas.


Podcast feed:

Posted by Jesse Willis

New Releases: Martin, Mezrich, Dick, Poe, Stark, Block, and Aaronovitch

New Releases

Hey! Got a couple a weeks to kill this Summer? Narrator Roy Dotrice returns to the series that nobody can stop waiting for…

RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO - A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. MartinA Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Five)
By George R.R. Martin; Read by Roy Dotrice
38 CDs – Approx. 49 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: July 12, 2011
ISBN: 9780739375976
Sample |MP3|
In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance—beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has thousands of enemies, and many have set out to find her. As they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind. Fleeing from Westeros with a price on his head, Tyrion Lannister, too, is making his way to Daenerys. But his newest allies in this quest are not the rag-tag band they seem, and at their heart lies one who could undo Daenerys’s claim to Westeros forever. Meanwhile, to the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone—a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, will face his greatest challenge. For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice. From all corners, bitter conflicts reignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all.

And in the new releases in non-fiction department comes a story that that sounds like fiction…

RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO - Sex On The Moon by Ben MezrichSex On The Moon
By Ben Mezrich; Read by Casey Affleck
7 CDs – Approx. 8 Hours 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: July 2011
ISBN: 9780307750761
Sample |MP3|
Thad Roberts, a fellow in NASA’s prestigious Neutral Bouyancy Laboratory, had an idea. A romantic, albeit crazy, idea. He wanted to give his girlfriend the moon. Literally. Somehow he convinced his girlfriend, also a NASA fellow, and another female accomplice, to break into an impregnable laboratory at NASA’s headquarters and help him steal the most precious objects in the world: the moon rocks. To get to the lunar vault, Thad and his accomplices would have to go through the high-security entrance of Building 31, the most protected structure at the Johnson Space Center, wind their way past a half dozen additional checkpoints until they came to an electronically-locked steel door with cipher security codes, monitored by a camera-lined hallway. And then there was the safe where the moon rocks were stored. Labeled “Trash,” this vault was something out of a Swiss Bank, three-feet-thick, made out of steel, and with an enormous combination wheel that took at least two people to turn. Against all odds, the team made a clean get-away (at 5 mph no less, the compound’s inflexible speed limit). But what does one do with an item so valuable that it’s illegal even to own. And was Thad Roberts — undeniably gifted, picked for one of the most competitive scientific posts imaginable, a potential astronaut — really what he seemed. From the author of the New York Times bestselling Accidental Billionaires comes this strange but true story of genius, love, and duplicity, centered around an Ocean’s Eleven style heist that reads like a Hollywood thrill-ride.

Never before available as an audiobook? How, exactly, did we miss this?

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Radio Free Albemuth by Philip K. DickRadio Free Albemuth
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Tom Weiner
6 CDs – Approx. 6.8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: November 2009
ISBN: 9781433291647
Philip K. Dick’s impassioned final novel is a wild and visionary alternate history of the United States. It is 1969, and a paranoid president has convulsed America in a vicious war against imaginary internal enemies. As the country slides into fascism, a struggling science fiction writer named Philip K. Dick is trying to keep from becoming one of that war’s casualties. Meanwhile, Dick’s best friend, a record executive named Nicholas Brady, is receiving transmissions from a God-like extraterrestrial intelligence, which he dubs Valis, who apparently wants him to overthrow the president. Agonizingly suspenseful, darkly hilarious, and filled with enough conspiracy theories to thrill the most hardened paranoid, Radio Free Albemuth is proof of Dick’s stature as our century’s greatest science-fiction writer.

Cory Doctorow had good things to say about this new collection of Edgar Allan Poe tales.

AUDIO GO - Poe's Detectives by Edgar Allan PoePoe’s Detective: The Dupin Stories
By Edgar Allan Poe; Read by Bronson Pinchot
4 CDs – Approx. [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Go / BBC Audiobooks America
Published: March 15, 2011
ISBN: 9781609981624
Edgar Allan Poe is the undisputed originator of the Detective story. His brilliant, imaginative sleuth C. Auguste Dupin set the stage for eccentric, logic wielding investigators like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. This audio collection of Poe’s three Dupin stories also includes one non-Dupin detective tale, Thou Art the Man. It features celebrity narrator Bronson Pinchot. The story titles are: “The Murders in the Rue Morgue“; “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt“; “The Purloined Letter“; and “Thou Art the Man.”

The first of a batch of new Richard Stark audiobook releases…

AUDIO GO - The Hunter by Richard StarkThe Hunter (Book 1 in the Parker series)
By Richard Stark; Read by John Chancer
5 CDs – Approx. 5 Hours 1 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Go / BBC Audiobooks America
Published: January 18, 2011
ISBN: 9781609981068
You probably haven’t noticed them. But they’ve noticed you. They notice everything. That’s their job. Sitting quietly in a nondescript car outside a bank making note of the tellers’ work habits. Lagging a few car lengths behind the Brinks truck on its daily rounds. Surreptitiously jiggling the handle of an unmarked service door at the racetrack. They’re heisters. They’re pros, and Parker is far and away the best of them. In The Hunter, the first volume in the series, Parker roars into New York City, seeking revenge on the woman who betrayed him and on the man who took his money, stealing and scamming his way to redemption.

Long out of print in audio, back in print in time for the latest novel, and totally missing from the publisher’s website…

AUDIOGO -The Sins Of The Fathers by Lawrence BlockThe Sins Of The Fathers (Book 1 in the Matthew Scudder series)
By Lawrence Block; Read by Alan Sklar
4 CDs – Approx. 5 Hours 2 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Go
Published: March 8, 2011
ISBN: 9781609982683
The pretty young prostitute is dead. Her alleged murderer–a minister’s son–hanged himself in his jail cell. The case is closed. But the dead girl’s father has come to Matthew Scudder for answers, sending the unlicensed private investigator in search of terrible truths about a life that was lived and lost in a sordid world of perversion and pleasures.The hooker was young, pretty…and dead, butchered in a Greenwich Village apartment. The prime suspect, a minister’s son, was also dead, the victim of a jailhouse suicide. The case is closed, as far as the NYPD is concerned. Now the murdered prostitute’s father wants it opened again–that’s where Matthew Scudder comes in. But this assignment carries the unmistakable stench of sleaze and perversion, luring Scudder into a sordid world of phony religion and murderous lust where children must die for their parents’ most unspeakable sins.

And finally, Ben Aaronovitch has noted that audiobook version of Moon Over London, the follow up to Rivers Of London, “will be available for download from the 21st of July.” It’ll be up on Audible with Kobna Holdbrook-Smith reprising the narrating duties. Though I should note that the first book is not available, bizarrely, in all regions.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Radio Drama Revival: Moon Graffiti

SFFaudio Online Audio

Radio Drama RevivalRadio Drama Revival‘s Episode #221 features a short, but very moving, audio dramatization called Moon Graffiti. It depicts what might have happened one clear summer night in July, 1969. It is followed by an interview with Jonathan Mitchell, its producer.


“That’s one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.” We all know the quote, the triumphant story. It seems written in stone. But Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong came within inches of tragedy when they landed Apollo 11. Moon Graffiti imagines what it might have sounded like if things had gone a little differently. Based on a contingency speech written by William Safire for Richard Nixon titled “In the Event of Moon Disaster.”

Produced by Jonathan Mitchell
Edited by Hillary Frank

Matt Evans as Neil Armstrong
Ed Herbstman as Buzz Aldrin
John Ottavino as Richard Nixon

Posted by Jesse Willis

A conversation between Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley

SFFaudio Online Audio has a wonderful 90 minute English language conversation between two famous German rocket scientists!

Check it out |MP3|

A historic conversation between German rocket scientists Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley. Highlights include the development of the German rocket programs during WWII, and the space program in the 1950’s. Recorded June 9th and 23rd, 1959, in New York City and Redstone Arsenal, Huntstville, Alabama.

Indeed hearing Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley talk is very cool.

Ley and von Braun talk about:
old school days in Germany, Hermann Oberth‘s influential book Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (“By Rocket Into Interplanetary Space“), Fritz Lang movie Woman In The Moon, rocketry and rockets from the V-2 to the Saturn rocket family, geosynchronous satellites, the Mercury project, space stations, weather satellites, the Van Allen radiation belt, the role of humans in space, sending men around the Moon, the logistics of photographing and visiting Venus and Mars, space probes, a “semi-philosophical question about Man’s rights in space”, theological objections (and blessings), the compatibility between religion and science, Blaise Pascal, extraterrestrial life, vegetation on Mars, smart aliens, Arthur C. Clarke’s first law.

As you can see it is very historic!

Wernher von Braun (left) and Willy Ley (right)

I won’t say much more about the fascinating Wernher von Braun as I recently posted a biographical radio dramatization about him. But I will point out that Willy Ley is pretty damn amazing. Ley was an avid reader of Science Fiction, contributed science articles to Astounding Stories and Galaxy Magazine and was a member of the Trap Door Spiders – there is a wonderful Wikipedia entry about him to explore HERE.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Lightspeed Magazine: More Than The Sum Of His Parts by Joe Haldeman

SFFaudio Online Audio

Lightspeed MagazineWow! It’s hard to beat the combination of great writer and great narrator in a first person perspective tale. That’s exactly what More Than The Sum Of His Parts by Joe Haldeman is: Amazingly written SF delivered by an amazingly talented narrator.

Lightspeed Magazine has it, in its latest issue, and as a podcast. Playboy magazine heralded it as:

“a fictional saga of bionic experimentation.”

I call it a powerful and sympathetic story about a horribly injured steel-worker who gets rebuilt as a cyborg. If you give it a listen I think you’ll be just as riveted to your earphones as I was to mine. It’s comparable, in power, pattern and in quality, to Ted Chiang‘s transcendent masterpiece Understand. Now, if the question is whether it’s better than Understand – I think it’s not – but, that it’s up there, competing in the marketplace of ultra-interestingness isn’t in question! Judge for yourself, More Than The Sum Of His Parts is an absolutely unmissable podcast Science Fiction tale, read by a pro. Seriously now, how can you possibly not download this?

LIGHSTPEED MAGAZINE - August 2010More Than The Sum Of His Parts
By Joe Haldeman; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
1 |MP3| – Approx. 49 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Lightspeed Magazine
Podcast: August 23, 2010
Set in 2058, Doctor Wilson Cheetham, was a quality control engineer in a high orbital aluminum smelter until he was horribly injured in a catastrophic vaporized aluminum accident. His face, throat, mouth, ears, sinuses, eyes, genitals, one arm and one leg have been totally and completely burned away. Amazingly, he’s survived and is being rebuilt by his employers. First published in the May 1985 issue of Playboy magazine.

Posted by Jesse Willis