16. Planets, Moons, Magnets – with Alain Plattner


Science: A Candle In The Dark
Episode 16: Planets, Moons, Magnets
Airdate: 26 April 2016
Host: Dr. Madhusudan Katti
Guest: Dr. Alain Plattner, Dept of Earth and Environmental Sciences, CSU, Fresno.

Summary: This month, we look at planets and moons from a different perspective – a magnetic view, if you will. Dr. Alain Plattner, a magnetic geographer of sorts, who uses measurements made by satellites orbiting planetary bodies to map the magnetic fields generated by the planet or moon, shares insights from his research with host Madhusudan Katti. He also gamely subjects himself to a new segment of semi-rapid-fire questions at the end, including some queries from a high school student. This may become a recurring segment!

For more information about the Café and announcements about upcoming events, please visit our website, or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Planets, Moons, Magnets – May the 4th


“That’s no moon…” seems like a good way to invite you to a Café Scientifique event on May the 4th this year!

But wait… that actually is a moon! It is Mimas, one of Saturn’s moons. We don’t know much about it other than its uncanny resemblance to the infamous Death Star of Star Wars fame. We won’t be talking about the Death Star, or even much about Mimas this Star Wars Day, but our Café will feature a presentation about planets and moons and their magnetic fields, starting closer to our home.

Earth has a magnetic field that mostly looks like a bar magnet with its magnetic north pole close to the geographic north pole and its south pole close to the geographic south pole. We take advantage of this magnetic field on a daily basis when we use a compass like the one built into our mobile phones when we try to find where North is. But our planet also has a magnetic field that comes from Earth’s outer-most layer, the crust. This crustal magnetic field helped us understand fundamental processes on our planet like plate tectonics. Within the last decades, we have been discovering that other planets within our inner solar system and even our Moon also have crustal magnetic fields. The scientific challenge is now to make sense of these crustal magnetic fields to understand the other planets’ and our Moon’s history and internal structure.

catskillszoom2Our guide on this magnetic planetary journey will be Dr. Alain Plattner, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Fresno State. He will be speaking a bit more about his research on the local airwaves, on KFCF 88.1FM in Fresno, at 3:30PM on Tue, 26 April 2016, during the next episode of our show “Science: A Candle In The Dark.” Tune in to 88.1FM (or its online stream) if you can for the live broadcast of his conversation with host Dr. Madhusudan Katti, or catch it later on the podcast.

And next week, May the 4th, be with us at Peeve’s Pub for a pint of brew, perchance some food from their new resident chef, and a conversation about planets, moons, and magnets.

Speaker: Dr. Alain Plattner, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, California State University, Fresno.

When: Wednesday, 4 May 2016, 7:00 PM

Where: Peeve’s Public House
, 1243 Fulton Mall, Fresno, CA 93721.

Contact: 559-278-2460 (cafe inquiries) / 559-573-5735 (Pub’s number).

Here’s the full poster for this event – please feel free to download, print, and/or share with your friends and family:

15. Evolution and Ecology of Bird Diversity


Science: A Candle In The Dark
Episode 15: Evolution and Ecology of Bird Diversity
Airdate: 22 March 2016
Host: Dr. Madhusudan Katti
Guest: Dr. Christopher Trisos, Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)

Transcript: Hello and welcome to “Science: A Candle In The Dark”- our monthly conversation about the wonders of science and how it illuminates our path in this astonishing universe. In association with the Central Valley Café Scientifique, we strive to make science a part of our public discourse, especially here in California’s Central Valley. 

I’m your host, Dr. Madhusudan Katti, from the Biology Department at Fresno State.

March is a month of madness, they say, from the madness of hares running around crazily in the English countryside on a surge of hormones, to the contests of sporting teams and their fans rooting for them in the annual March Madness of college basketball in America. If you’re the nerdy non-sporting type, like me, however, you might want to follow a different kind of March Madness competition with a science and nature flavor. 

I’m talking about March Mammal Madness, the new springtime competition created by anthropologist Dr. Katie Hinde four years ago. You may remember Dr. Hinde from our round table on Darwin Day when she was one of the panelists. Mammal March Madness pits a wonderful variety of mammal species, mostly real, but also some imaginary ones, against each other in brackets I’m told mirror the NCAA basketball version. The species are chosen by a team of biologists who use actual biological information about the mammals in a complex algorithm to determine the head-to-head winners. All the action takes place on Twitter, on weekday evenings and you can follow along using the hashtag 2016MMM. I believe we have just had the sweet sixteen round and are now down to 8 mammals, and you can join in to find out who is left standing as the champion by the end of the month. For more information, go to mammalssuck.blogspot.com or #2016MMM on Twitter.

Interview: My guest today is Dr. Christopher Trisos, a postdoctoral scholar at the Socio Environmental Synthesis Center in Annapolis Maryland. Dr. Trisos hails from South Africa where he got his undergraduate degrees in botany, ecology, and economics. He then moved to Oxford University in the UK as a Rhodes Scholar, and did his Ph.D. research on the evolutionary ecology of birds. Specifically, he used approaches from both evolutionary biology and ecology to test the importance of habitat type, dispersal, interspecific competition and speciation on patterns of species coexistence in South American birds. That will be the subject of his upcoming presentation at Peeve’s Pub next month when he is visiting Fresno and will speak at the Central Valley Café Scientifique. I should also mention that Chris and I have been collaborating over the past year, leveraging his expertise in analyzing the distribution of bird species diversity using evolutionary and ecological approaches to understand how urbanization and cities influence when and where we find birds now.

Outro: And that’s our show for today.“Science: A Candle In The Dark” will be back on Tuesday, April 26th. The Central Valley Café Scientifique will meet at Peeve’s Pub on Wed, April 6th, where you can join our guest today to learn more about why and where the diversity of birds are in Peru.

This show is produced by Madhusudan Katti and Vic Bedoian, and the theme music was composed by Scott Hatfield. 

With that, so long, listeners, and until next month, happy sciencing, because, remember: science is a verb!

For more information about the Café and announcements about upcoming events, please visit our website, or find us on Facebook and Twitter.