Time to Eat the Dogs

On Science, History, and Exploration

Archive for Expeditions

Episode 15: How We Got the Scientific Revolution Wrong


Potosí from a 17th century atlas engraving

In the late 1500s, the mines of Potosí –a mountain in southern Bolivia — produced 60% of the world’s silver. It was a place of great wealth and terrible suffering. It is also a place, Jorge Canizares-Esguerra argues, that challenges the very idea of the Scientific Revolution.


Jorge Canizares-Esguerra

Canizares-Esguerra discusses Potosí and how its peoples and technologies shaped 16th century science. He is the Alice Drysdale Sheffield Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. His work has been honored by awards from the American Historical Association and the History of Science Society. His book How to Write the History of the New World was cited as one of the best books of the year by the Economist, Independent, and the Times Literary Supplement.


Episode 14: The Egyptologist


Margaret Murray unwraps an Egyptian mummy in 1908

After Napoleon occupied Egypt, Europeans became obsessed with the ancient cultures of the Nile. In Britain, the center of Egyptology research was University College London (UCL). At the heart of the UCL program was the Egyptologist, Margaret Alice Murray. During this golden age of Egyptian Archaeology, Murray was training students, running the department, and publishing dozens of books. So why haven’t we heard of her?


Kate Sheppard

Historian Kate Sheppard discusses the life and work of Murray. Sheppard is an associate professor of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology. She is the author of The Life of Margaret Alice Murray: A Woman’s Work in Archaeology.

Episode 13: In Search of Brightest Africa


When President Trump talked of Africa as a continent of “shithole countries” where people lived in huts, he was drawing on a set of ideas made popular in the 19th century. “Darkest Africa” became a favorite trope of explorers like Henry Morton Stanley who promoted his books and lectures by pushing the idea of Africa as a dark place – a phrase that had all kinds of meanings – racial, intellectual, geographical.

Today I speak with Jeannette Eileen Jones, author of In Search of Brightest Africa, Reimagining the Dark Continent in American Culture, 1884-1936. Jones talks about the many different groups, from naturalists and conservationists to African American artists and intellectuals, who begin to recast Africa in the America imagination in the early 20th century. Jones is associate professor of history and ethnic studies at University of Nebraska Lincoln.


Listen on iTunes

Episode 12: Chasing Exoplanets


One of the things you hear about space exploration is that if humans aren’t involved — that is, being hurled into orbit– no one’s going to pay much attention. Robots are one thing, astronauts are another. There may be some truth to this. But I think exoplanets — planets that orbit stars outside our own solar system– are soon going to prove this maxim wrong. No one is traveling to extra-solar planets any time soon, (especially Kepler-10b, a planet so close to its sun that its surface is a glurping ocean of molten lava) but they are the coolest thing coming out space science these days – an ever expanding menagerie of the spherically weird and wonderful. Scientists have identified almost 4000 exoplanets so far and — with powerful new telescopes about to come on line — they’re just getting started. 

Today I speak with exoplanet scientist Hannah Wakeford, Giaconni Fellow at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Wakeford has also served as a NASA Postdoctoral Research Fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and as a Research Fellow at the University of Exeter. She is also a host of the podcast, Exocast, along with co-hosts (and exoplanet scientists) Hugh Osborn and Andrew Rushby.

Wakeford, Hannah 693

Hannah Wakeford

Listen on iTunes

Listen to Exocast

Episode 11: Monsters on the Map


“Blemmyae,” from Liber chronicarum (Die Schedelsche Weltchronik, Das Buch der Croniken und Geschichten von Hartmann Schedel), woodcut, 1493

Cannibals, headless men, and giants were common figures on Medieval and Renaissance maps. Historian Surekha Davies tells us why we need to take these figures seriously. Davies is the author of Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human: New Worlds, Maps and Monsters (Cambridge University Press, 2016) winner of the 2016 Morris D. Forkosch Prize (Journal of the History of Ideas) and the 2017 Roland H. Bainton Book Prize (Sixteenth Century Society and Conference).

download (1)

Surekha Davies

Listen on iTunes

Read about Surekha Davies’ work on her website

Episode 10: The Amazing Phytotron


Climatron, Missouri Botanical Garden

“Phytotron” is such a great name for something that is, when you look at it, a high-tech greenhouse. But don’t sell it short! The phytotron was not only at the center of post-war plant science, but also connected to the Cold War, commercial agriculture, and long-duration space flight. 


Today I speak with David Munns, professor of history at John Jay College, about his new book, Engineering the Environment: Phytotrons and the Quest for Climate Control in the Cold War, but we also talk about Matt Damon, shitting in space, and growing pot in your dorm room. 


Listen on iTunes

Check out David Munns’ website on The World of Trons

Episode 9: The History of UFOs

giphy (3)

Who knew that Harry Reid was so concerned about UFOs? As reported in Politico this week, he secured twenty million dollars in appropriations for the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP) in 2009. The program conducted pilot interviews and gathered flight recordings until 2011.

So here’s the question: why was the AATIP kept secret? National security? Or perhaps national embarrassment? Whatever one thinks about UFOs — are they natural phenomena, military aircraft, mass hysteria, or alien visitors? — we can agree that they are freighted with a lot of meaning. Everyone has an opinion. 


Greg Eghigian

How did this come to be? In 1946, Swedish and Finnish observers reported “ghost rockets” flying over Scandinavia. In the United States, they became known as “flying saucers.” This is the starting point for historian Greg Eghigian who discusses the science and culture of UFOs in the twentieth century. Eghigian is professor of history at Penn State University. He also holds the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Listen on iTunes

Read Eghigian’s essay, When Did Alien Sightings Turn into Alien Abductions?