Time to Eat the Dogs

On Science, History, and Exploration

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).

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Surekha Davies

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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. 


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Check out David Munns’ website on The World of Trons

Episode 9: The History of UFOs

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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.

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

Episode 8: Can You See the Ice?


Ipiirvik of Cumberland Sound

In the 1800s, explorers and whalers returned home from the Arctic described a cold, desolate world, one that could swallow up expeditions without leaving a trace. But this did not describe the Arctic of the Inuit, who called this world their home.

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Karen Routledge

Today Karen Routledge tells the story of Baffin Island’s Inuit community as they came into contact with western whalers and explorers in the nineteenth century. Routledge is a historian for Parks Canada. She works and travels in the parks of Nunavut. Her new book, Can You See the Ice (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming), tells the story of the Inuit of Cumberland Sound. Even though the Inuit worked closely with outsiders, their views of the Arctic world, of the meaning of home, even time itself, remained far apart.


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Episode 7: California is Burning


California is in the middle of its worst fire season ever. 1.2 million acres have burned so far with no end in sight. Now, with flames threatening Los Angeles, 200,000 people have been told to evacuate.

Michael Kodas returns to Time to Eat the Dogs to give an update on the fires raging across Southern California. When we spoke two weeks ago, Kodas described the Napa Valley fires as wildfires that were transitioning into urban firestorms. Now this dangerous type of fire approaches Los Angeles, the second largest city in America.

Listen to Kodas’s earlier interview

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Episode 6: NASA in the Age of Trump


Rep. Jim Bridenstine

In September President Trump nominated Jim Bridenstine – a three term Congressman from Oklahoma– to lead NASA. Bridenstine’s been a champion of space exploration in Congress. But his nomination has run into some trouble. Bridenstine is a big supporter of human space exploration. Its not clear, though, how much he supports NASA’s scientific missions, especially those focused on climate change.


Dan Vergano

Discussing Bridenstine’s nomination and other issues confronting NASA is Dan Vergano, science reporter for BuzzFeed. Vergano has reported on science for National Geographic and USA Today. In 2008 he was named a Neiman Fellow at Harvard University.

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Coming Tuesday: NASA in the Age of Trump


photo credit: The Atlantic

President Trump’s nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine to be the new NASA Administrator has been controversial. How would Bridenstine, a climate change skeptic, prioritize earth science research at NASA? BuzzFeed science reporter Dan Vergano breaks it down along with other NASA-related issues in the Time to Eat the Dogs podcast, out on Tuesday.

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For more on Bridenstine’s positions, read Will Thomas’s analysis at the American Institute of Physics.