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Episode 15 – Airships for the Future

airship image

Image from Paper.

The cast of the Technically Speaking Podcast join us to talk with  about the future of super rad airships for scientific use similar to satellites! We also talk about a company planning a new method for extracting Lithium from geothermal vents, to meet the needs of the Tesla Giga-Factory.


3:00 Our guests today are Jacob and Joe from the Technically Speaking podcast! Check out their show if you like technology, engineering, or other rad stuff.

4:15 Our first story is about AIRSHIPS! The Keck Institute for Space Studies has released a report titled “Airships: A New Horizon for Science” a FREE paper published on the arXiv   where they explain the scientific merit of using rigid airships for scientific applications, and potentially to replace satellites.   There are also articles about this on motherboard.vice and in the MIT Technology Review.

5:50 what is an airship?

8:00 The Hydrogen vs Helium debate

14:10 the ISIS project (canceled) had neat “suction cup” tethers to keep the airship down on the ground.

16:00 the scientific applications the Keck Institute found as useful were Earth sciences such as atmospheric and environmental monitoring, and for planetary/astronomical sciences a telescope could be mounted with “Hubble comparable imaging”.

21:00 Jacob brings up how well airships would work for something similar to Google’s Project Loon

24:33  CORRECTION: Scott Kelly is going to be on the ISS for a year, NOT Mark Kelly.

30:00 we start on the engineering problems for building airships. Including the Hydrogen vs helium debate!

32:50 Joe points out that even though hydrogen is a dangerous gas, jet fuel is pretty dangerous too!

36:50 basically everyone would love to take an airship cruise

48:15 chase leaves early to go to dinner, but Joe and Jacob aren’t scared to talk about something outside their areas of expertise! (especially if it’s related to Elon Musk haha)

50:15 We start in on a story about a company, Simbol, that is trying to produce much more Lithium for batteries , specifically to meet the needs of the planned Tesla “Giga-battery factory”

55:15 the Tesla giga-factory’s object is to combine as much manufacturing as possible under one factory, but its the opposite with a lot of political things (like defense contracting) where things are built in a ridiculous number of factories.

61:05 How we produce lithium today (harvested from brine in salt flat areas)

63:00 The earth should run entirely out of Lithium around the year 2100!!!

64:00 it is VERY important to recycle your lithium batteries, because we are very close to running out completely!!!

65:00 THIS website says that lithium is 100% recyclable, but recycling it is just not economically feasible right now.   Someone should start a company storing all the lithium batteries for about 20 years until it becomes economically feasible to recycle.  Then you can donate an idea fee to our podcasts!.

76:20 Thanks to our guests today! If you need another link to Jacob and Joe’s Technically Speaking podcast, its available at

79:00 You can find them on twitter at @techspeakpod


We’ve changed our intro music to be something a little less obtrusive, you can buy the song or the album at the link below.  Thanks to Crying for letting us use their song.

Links to purchase the music used in this week’s episode:
Intro:  Luv Rulez (Original version of ES)Crying (Return to Olde World)
Goodbye Enemy Airship – Do Make Say Think
Outro:  Dreams are Maps – The Wild (Dreams are Maps)

As always, the LASER Podcast is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license.

The cast of the Technically Speaking Podcast

Posted in Chase, Engineering, podcast.

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Episode 14 – Filters and Photodetectors

Image from Paper

Image from Paper

On Episode 14 of LASER we discuss using tree branches as water filters, a new type of super-thin room temperature infrared light detector that uses graphene, and the $1 Origami Microscope.

4:05 The article in Popular Mechanics titled “A simple tree branch can become a backyard water filter”  and the FREE paper in PLOS One “Water Filtration Using Plant Xylem”

5:50  The idea is to help the developing world by testing a cheap water filter that only requires a tree branch and a tube

9:00 its really great when high school students get involved with university research projects and end up publishing papers! If you’re in high school you should talk to a university professor about helping out with a research project a couple of days after class.  Even if you don’t plan to study science! (why would you not plan to study science?!)

12:00 Alex joins the group for the discussion!  Unfortunately he hasn’t read any of the papers…

23:15 from we are talking about “infrared imaging may be coming to contact lens near you”   and the article “Graphene photodetectors with ultra-broadband and high responsivity at room temperature”

24:30 the article is fine, but I don’t like the headline, and I think that the author of the paper  somewhat misrepresented their results to the press.

25:45 a typical infrared detector is this Superconducting Edge Detector (or Transition Edge Bolometer)

27:00 Alex asks a good question about the superconducting principle behind how a transition edge sensor works.

35:40 Alex thinks his eyes are bizarre

38:42  the story is found in the MIT Technology Review and is “The $1 Origami Microscope”

41:00 there was a TEDx talk about this a few years ago, when it was a $0.50 cent microscope! Since that time, it costs more because they have developed methods for brightfield and darkfield imaging, and that required a few additional parts.

45:40 We talk about roll-to-roll processing and calendaring of green ceramics.  These are manufacturing techniques for many materials.

48:05 Cameron said you can’t re-crystallize Al2O3 from amorphous to crystalline forms, but that is WRONG!

Links to purchase the music used in this week’s episode:
Intro:  Open – Crying (Get Olde)
Picture of a Tree That Doesn’t Look Okay – The World Is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die
Amoeba – The Adolescents
Outro:  Dreams are Maps – The Wild (Dreams are Maps)

Posted in Alex, Emily, podcast.

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Episode 13 – Microgravity

ASU Dust Devild Logo

Logo for the ASU Dust Devils experiment

This week is all about Microgravity! Chase and Cameron interview some members of the ASU Dust Devils Experiment about their plans to take dust into microgravity and learn more about how planets are formed! Then we talk about ISS experiments for fighting fires in space and on the ISS, and finally cooling atoms down to the lowest temperatures ever achieved to learn about and perform experiments for quantum mechanics.

3:40 We apologize for the low audio quality of the interview, we’ll make sure to set up more carefully next time so it doesn’t sound like everyone is talking out of a can. Hopefully you’re still able to understand and listen, because the interview is really great!

4:15 starting the interview with Jack Lightholder and Liz Dyer of the ASU Dust Devils Microgravity Experiment which will take place early next month.  Its funded by NASA and the Microgravity University 

5:30 They want to take multiple dust samples up into microgravity and see how these particles clump together to create a clump that might eventually form into a protoplanet or planet.

7:46  Jack explains how the plane (owned/operated by Zero-G corporation ) creates microgravity environments by flying up and then down, so its almost like skydiving inside an airplane.

8:00 used both by scientists for experiments, and photo shoots for models , tickets for these micro-gravity flights are available commercially to just about anyone who is willing to pay up.

9:30  They tried this experiment two years ago, but a bump motor caused a problem that interfered with getting any results.  The problem was fixed, so everything should hopefully go smoothly this time!

10:30  they get about 40 seconds of microgravity each time, and they expect to need at least 16 seconds to get usable data.

12:00 they expect that triboelectric and static charge transfer interactions are the effects that will cause these particles to clump.

13:30 Liz talks about her research outside of this project, analyzing images of Mars’ surface and learning about dust storms.

16:55 Cameron drops his notebook on the floor and makes a lot of noise…

17:00 The real application of this information is to fill in the gaps in models of planet formation and dust interactions.

21:00 how can people get involved in this kind of cool research?  One good way is to join a SEDS chapter (or ASU’s local SEDS chapter)

22:30 an important part of this program is the community outreach component.

24:43  Check out their Indie Gogo campaign going on to help them get the last bit of travel and equipment funding.  They are almost to their goal, and the campaign ends on Tuesday, March 18. You can even get one of the go-pro cameras they will use in the experiment!

28:00 We try to start off our second topic, and listen carefully to the story we introduce, because… its the wrong one!

29:05 chase realizes we’re reading the WRONG STORY! but we’ll stick with it.  Here are the links to the article, and to NASA’s website about the BASS experiment.

31:30  please excuse Cameron’s bad analogy…

32:20 Fire is really dangerous on spaceships… Apollo 1 had a fire in the cockpit during a launch training before it even launched, that sadly killed all three astronauts inside.

35:41 some materials that are flame retardant on earth can actually burn faster in space because of the difference in gravity.

41:55 the NASA Cold Atom Lab (for real this time) plans to cool Rb and Na atoms down to “the coldest temperatures in the universe.”

45:45 by cooling down an atomic gas of these elements to temperatures near 1 picoKelvin, they will form a Bose-Einstein Condensate which allows us to observe quantum mechanical effects on a macroscopic scale.

47:00 The point of the experiment is to create these Bose-Einstein Condensates, and perform experiments so we can observe and learn more about quantum mechanical effects.

52:05 we finish the story and start in on an impromptu motivational speech about getting involved in science. You don’t need a degree in science or engineering, but it certainly helps.  And even if you can’t devote your career to something scientific, there are lots of citizen science opportunities available.

54:00 you should check out the Sci Fund Challenge  to help support scientific research in a crowd-funded format.  And if you want to get involved with space, check out SEDS.

60:11 we finally sign off.



Links to purchase the music used in this week’s episode:
Intro:  Open – Crying (Get Olde)
Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty
Hot N Cold – Katy Perry
Outro:  Dreams are Maps – The Wild (Dreams are Maps)


As always, LASER Podcast is released under a Creative Commons, Attribution, Share-Alike license, so feel free to copy it, send it to people, or do whatever you like with the file, but anything you do has to link back to us and must be released under a similar license.

Posted in Chase, Interviews, podcast, Space.

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LASER Podcast Flyer

We’ve created a flier with tear-off tabs and a QR code for spreading the word about our podcast! Throw these up on college campuses, coffeeshops, laundromats, hackerspaces, libraries, we don’t care! Tell us what you did with them and we’ll give you a short out in the next show.

Attached is the PDF, feel free to edit it any way you like. If you want any of the graphics in svg or the flyer in ms word format, send us an email and we’ll send it to you for modification.

Download The Flyer in PDF Format HERE.


Posted in Uncategorized.