The Grand Theatre at Salt Lake Community College provided the venue for National Public Radio’s (NPR) live broadcast of Science Friday on April 19.
Science Friday is a weekly national radio show hosted by science correspondent and journalist Ira Flatow. The show includes guest panelists who give their expertise on scientific topics ranging from space and technology to biology and physics.
Friday’s live national broadcast was preempted due to continuous coverage of the search for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect. The taped broadcast will be aired this Friday, April 26 from noon to 1 p.m. on KUER 90.1 and can then be heard on the Science Friday website and on iTunes.
“I was thrilled when I heard [Science Friday] was coming to The Grand,” said SLCC student Raina Dalby, who attended the event. “It’s really important that we shine a light on what Salt Lake Community College has to offer, specifically on south campus. The Grand Theatre is this hidden gem of South Salt Lake.”
Science Friday occasionally travels around the country doing live broadcasts
They receive several requests and invitations to do remotes but accept only a few of them each year. This is the second time they have come to Utah.
“If you’re into old stuff, Utah is a great place to be in,” said Flatow during the broadcast. “I don’t mean Antiques Roadshow vintage kind of stuff, I mean really old stuff. Think Jurassic Park and older. The climate and geology of Utah makes this state a fantastic finding-fossils place.”
The first panelists on the show were experts of paleontology and spoke on how Utah is a prime place for finding fossils due to its barren landscape and geology.
The speakers included Brian Switek, author of “My Beloved Brontosaurus,” Randall Irmis, curator of paleontology at the Utah Natural History Museum and Brooks Britt, associate professor of Geological Sciences at Brigham Young University.
A life size skull of the Utahceratops, a new dinosaur species recently found in southern Utah that is approximately 70 million years old, sat between Flatow and his guests. There was also a skull of Utah’s State fossil, the Allosaurus, and a cast of a six-foot-long Apatosaurus femur bone that laid at the foreground of the stage in front of the panelists.
During the broadcast, microphones were set up around the theater to allow audience members to ask questions of the panelists
Several grade school-aged kids, as well as dinosaur enthusiasts, asked questions, one of which was about difference between Steven Spielberg’s dinosaurs and the behavior of actual dinosaurs.
“If ever you do an impression of a Velociraptor, people mostly put their wrist down, with palms facing down, but dinosaurs weren’t slappers. They were clappers with [their] hands together,” said Switek, as the audience applauded. “So if you take anything away from this today, remember that dinosaurs are clappers and not slappers.”
During the second half hour of the show the topic shifted from Jurassic age to space age and how the geology in Utah can help scientists study Mars.
Marjorie Chan, professor of Geology at the University of Utah, answered questions from Flatow and the audience about what the comparisons are from Utah to Mars. Charles Killian of Mars Society spoke about the Desert Mars Station near Hanksville that is simulating what it would be like to live and work on Mars.
“We try to simulate as much as possible what it would be like, in terms of the human interactions and the physical interactions that are required, to do the kind of human exploration that the Mars Society would very much like to see happen in the not too distant future,” said Killian when asked what the Desert Mars Station simulations consist of.
In the last hour, guest panelists presented information on the biology of the Great Salt Lake and the James Webb Space Telescope.
Bonnie Baxter, director of the Great Salt Lake Institute, spoke about the microbiology of the Great Salt Lake and how its saltiness exceeds that of the ocean.
“The ocean is about 3.4 percent sodium chloride all around the earth,” said Baxter. “The south arm of the Great Salt Lake is about 11 to 12 percent salt right now. The north arm, where I do most of my studies, is between 25 and 30 percent salt. So, close to 10 times saltier than the ocean.”
Stacy Palen, associate professor of astrophysics at Weber State University, and Bob Hellekson, ATK program manager, spoke about the massive space telescope being built in Utah that is to exceed that of the Hubble telescope in size and viewing capabilities.
“James Webb [telescope] is optimized in the infrared instead of the visible,” said Palen. “It will be able to see things that Hubble Space Telescope was not necessarily designed [to do] as its primary mission. For example, James Webb is going to go after the first stars in the earliest galaxies ever to form in the universe.”
A question and answer session immediately followed the broadcast. Flatow and his staff answered questions about the show and shared stories of the 22 years that Science Friday has been broadcasting.
“I’m thinking about the subject matter and how I can make it as palatable and interesting and as personal as possible,” said Flatow when asked how he prepares for a show. “The ‘aha’ moments that we try to create and bring out is what really makes it a memorable program.”