Into The Impossible

A podcast about how we imagine, and how what we imagine shapes what we do. Each month, we'll bring you into a conversation between visionaries from the worlds of arts, sciences, humanities, engineering, and medicine on the nature of the imagination and how, through speculative culture, we collaborate to create the future, with interviews by Clarke Center leaders Brian Keating, Erik Viirre, Patrick Coleman and Stuart Volkow.

Part 1 of A Conversation with James Altucher on his philosophies, investing strategies and how comedy works.


James Altucher is an American hedge-fund manager, author, podcaster and entrepreneur who has founded or cofounded over 20 companies. He has published 20 books and he is a contributor to publications including The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and The Huffington Post.

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PBS Spacetime Presents: “Theory of Everything” Livestream Max Tegmark, James Beacham, Stephon Alexander


What are the Leading Theories of Everything? In this 90 minute summit with some of the world’s leading physicists, we’ll go beyond the hype into the heart and soul of physics. The search for a theory that finishes what Einstein began and ties together all the forces of the universe. Can that ever be achieved ? Will it be achieved? When? Is physics stuck in 1920? Join @matt_of_earth and @DrBrianKeating on @PBSSpaceTime with some of the world’s leading physicists. #TheoriesOfEverything https://www.pbsspacetime.com/events Part 2 with Lisa Randal, Sabine Hossenfelder, Lee Smolin and Eric Weinstein!

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Rapper & entrepreneur Zuby: A brief history of rhyme!


Rapper and entrepreneur Zuby shares his thoughtful brand of straight talk on this episode of INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE. Topics included whether an AI rapper will ever pass the “Turing Test”, his fitness book “Strong Advice,” his independently released albums, and his REAL TALK podcast. Zuby is a musician, author, podcaster, public speaker, fitness expert, and life coach. He studied computer science at Oxford.

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A conversation with Noam Chomsky: Linguistics, SETI, Cognitive Science, & Artificial Intelligence.


Noam Chomsky is one of the most influential and highly cited scholars of our time. He is a pioneer in the fields of linguistics and cognitive science. This episode of INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE covers those topics and delves into his thoughts on communicating with aliens, meditation, and free speech including his contribution to the “Harper’s Magazine letter”. Chomsky is a prolific author and known political activist. We avoided politics, as is the custom for my interviews. Our conversation also covers the Turing Test, neural nets, and artificial intelligence, including why he expects Elon Musk’s Neuralink project to fail.

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Adam Riess: A Nobel Mind on a Cosmic Quest


Nobel Prize-winning astronomer Adam Riess is my guest on this episode of INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE. Adam was an essential character in my book, Losing the Nobel Prize. Though at the top of his field, Riess is relentlessly passionate about perfecting his craft and he credits curiosity as the force that sustains his career. Riess and I discussed cosmological controversies including inflation, the Hubble tension, and primordial magnetic fields. We also discuss legacies, prize money, Albert Einstein's ability to transfix physicists and laypeople.

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Fadel Zeidan on the neuroscience of mindfulness, and his research on pain, anxiety and psilocybin.


Dr. Fadel Zeidan, PhD, is the Associate Director for Research at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness and Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology at UCSD. He and his laboratory have discovered the neural processes supporting mindfulness meditation and mindfulness-based pain relief. ​​https://www.zeidanlab.com/ https://medschool.ucsd.edu/som/fmph/r... Recently, he and his team have demonstrated that mindfulness meditation is mechanistically distinct from and more effective than placebo, distraction, and relaxation. His research is currently funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and has disseminated his findings through traditional media outreach (CNN ; NPR ; Time Magazine , CBS and others), Tedx and recently personally presented his work to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama in Mongolia. In his role at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness, Fadel will focus on expanding his research to focus on working with different patient populations and user-friendly approaches to promote the self-regulation of pain. Fadel is especially excited at examining ways to integrate mindfulness from the lab to the clinic and community. Dr. Fadel is also part of the The Psychedelics and Health Research Initiative (PHRI) at UC San Diego, under the auspices of the Clarke Center, that conducts novel basic and clinical research on the use of psychedelics for the treatment of pain and other health conditions.

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Janna Levin: Spots, Blues, and Madmen — revealing cosmic mysteries


Theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin is an-award winning author of both nonfiction and fiction. In her interview on the INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE podcast, she emphasizes the important role of creativity in science, and life in general. We discussed Levin’s research on the topology of the universe and black holes, including the Event Horizon Telescope. We also discuss her highly-anticipated upcoming book, “Black Hole Survival Guide.” She is also the Chair and Founding Director of the Science Studios at Pioneer Works, a nonprofit center blending science and art. Levin is the author of both fiction and nonfiction books, winning literary prizes and a Guggenheim Fellowship for science writing.

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The Many Worlds of Ann Druyan: Matriarch of the Cosmos


Ann Druyan has brought the universe to millions around the world. The wife of the late Carl Sagan, Ann is a renowned science communicator and producer/writer and co-creator of the upcoming series Cosmos: Possible Worlds. She is the author of the companion book of the same name. She is an Emmy and Peabody award-winning writer and producer. She co-created and wrote the 1980 TV series Cosmos with Carl Sagan, whom she later married. She also co-created, wrote, produced, and directed the follow up series, 2014’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and 2020’s Cosmos: Possible Worlds. She was also creative director for NASA’s Voyager Interstellar Message Project and her brain waves are part of the golden record that has traveled outside our solar system.

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Jim Simons: Life Lessons from the ‘World’s Smartest Billionaire'


Mathematician, code breaker, Professor, hedge fund pioneer, & philanthropist Jim Simons makes his first-ever podcast appearance on this episode of INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE with UC San Diego Professor Brian Keating. Learn about Chern-Simons theory, leadership lessons, hedge funds, and a dedication to serve the world through basic research from a master. It is truly a delight to share with you the more personal side of the man who’s been called The World’s Smartest Billionaire. In this interview, we discuss heroes, fatherhood, leadership and the art of math. He worked as a mathematician for the NSA and as a professor and department chair at Stony Brook University. Simons earned billions after founding the hedge fund firm Renaissance Technologies. He co-founded the Simons Foundation with his wife Marilyn in 1994 to advance scientific research. The foundation provided funding for the Simons Observatory, a telescope array being built in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile.

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Chase Purdy: BILLION DOLLAR BURGER! Will you eat lab-grown Meat? Into the Impossible Podcast Ep. 56


Chase Purdy’s book “Billion Dollar Burger: Inside Big Tech's Race for the Future of Food” is poised to become a bestseller. Learn about the edible space race as a meat-alternative you may never have heard of is developed by competing companies. Cell-cultured meat is different from plant protein masquerading as meat. It’s meat that doesn’t require killing the animal because it’s grown in a lab. In this interview with host Brian Keating, Purdy discusses everything from the ethics to the emotions behind the upcoming changes in the meat industry.

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Eric Weinstein Part 2: Parenting, Peak Prosperity, & Weinstein University


Part 2 of Brian Keating's conversation with Eric Weinstein on the INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE podcast pivots from faith & family to the course catalog at “Weinstein University” (fictional, for now!) which would combine scholarship with wonder. We also contemplate the notion of legacies, not just for our actual children, but for our ideological children as well.

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Episode#52: Stephon Alexander: The Jazz of Physics!


Physicist, jazz musician, & President of the National Society of Black Physicists, Stephon Alexander is this week’s guest on the INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE podcast. He discussed the foundations of the cosmos, his advice for balancing academic and creative pursuits, and his book “The Jazz of Physics.” Stephon Alexander is a physics professor at Brown University, which is where he earned his Ph.D. He is President of the National Society of Black Physicists and a National Geographic Explorer. He served as a scientific consultant on the 2018 movie A Wrinkle in Time.

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Episode#51: Sarah Frier : No Filter -- The Inside Story of Instagram.


Sarah Frier is a prolific technology reporter for Bloomberg. Her new book, “No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram,” is both a compelling account of Instagram’s history and a record of the social media platform’s impact on society. Professor Brian Keating’s interview with Frier covers a range of topics, including the inspiration to research and write the book, the role of augmented technology, and how social media will be changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Show notes and resources are available here: https://briankeating.com/blog.php

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Episode#50: Dr. Jud Brewer : Fear, Freedom, and his book The Craving Mind.


Dr. Jud Brewer is a mindfulness expert, using his background in addiction psychiatry to help people around the world. In this interview with Brian Keating, on INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE, Brewer talks about his book, “The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love - Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits.” Show notes and resources are available here: https://briankeating.com/blog.php 00:08:53 The effects of nature versus nurture on cravings. 00:17:04 Are some cultures resistant to psychotherapy and meditation? 00:26:16 How technology can enhance mindfulness. 00:37:04 How to help our kids develop good habits. 00:44:03 Incorporating artificial intelligence & human empathy in healthcare. 00:49:38 Anxiety is rampant in academia. What can be done? 01:04:45 Questions INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE asks authors. I've used Brewer’s teaching in my own life and work. Mindfulness practices can help achieve higher efficiency and happiness at work, and moderate stress of all varieties, including the anxiety that comes with a global pandemic. Jud Brewer, M.D. Ph.D. is the Director of Research and Innovation at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center, as well as an associate professor in psychiatry. His company MindSciences develops mindfulness apps, including Eat Right Now, Craving to Quit, Breathe, and Unwinding Anxiety.

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Episode#49: Eric Weinstein: Theories of Everything, Geometric Unity & Science’s Paths. Into the Impossible


Part 1 of Brian Keating's fascinating interview with mathematician & economist Eric Weinstein on the INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE Podcast. Topics include Eric's provocative new ideas on physics and science culture. Weinstein is a vocal critic of modern academic hierarchies and advocates for advances in scientific theory over an emphasis on experimental results. Keating’s own issues with what he calls the “academic Hunger Games” leads to a lively debate about funding, academic freedom, and theoretical vs experimental physics.

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Ep#47: Author, Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain discusses her films, book 24/6, and the human side of tech


This practice of turning off all screens for twenty-four hours each week, which she’s done for over a decade with her husband and kids (sixteen and ten), has completely changed their lives, giving them more time, productivity, connection, and presence. She and her family call it “Technology Shabbat”, which has become a worldwide movement. Learn more about it at https://www.24sixlife.com/ Drawn from the ancient ritual of Shabbat, living 24/6 can work for anyone from any background. With humor and wisdom, Shlain shares her story, offers lessons she has learned, and provides a blueprint for how to do it yourself. It has become even more important recently, in wake of the worldwide pandemic that has made so many of us reliant on screens for work, shopping, socializing, even exercise. COVID-19 has changed how we use the Web in some beneficial ways, but it has also made us even more dependent on screens for our every need. We are now spending almost all day online, and many of us are finding that it’s just too much. Turning off screens now feels like it provides double resilience for the soul. Having a much-needed boundary and separation -- a day unlike the others, a day dedicated to being present, reflecting, resting, and connecting with those around me -- helps us make sense of this unusual way we are living, where time seems to blur between days and between work and family and life. Because that’s what Shabbat is all about -- carving out time to appreciate and find joy in what’s right in front of you, and focus on what truly matters. As Heschel calls it, it’s creating a “Palace in Time.”

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Sasha Sagan: Cosmic Rituals — INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE Episode 46


Sasha Sagan’s stirring debut book, “For Small Creatures Such As We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World,” is the topic of this week’s episode of INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE. Sagan is the daughter of late astronomer/author Carl Sagan and writer/producer Ann Druyan. Sagan discusses her own upbringing and how becoming a mother inspired her to research rituals from around the world and throughout history. Her interview with Dr. Brian Keating also touches on her secular upbringing and the intersection of science and religion. Sasha Sagan studied literature at NYU and has worked as a producer, filmmaker, and editor. Her essays, many about the lessons she learned from her parents, have been published in literary magazines.

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Peter Diamandis: Episode 45 of Into the Impossible


Peter Diamandis is a remarkable entrepreneur, and futurist, best known as the Founder & Executive Chairman of XPRIZE Foundation. His new book, written with Steven Kotler, is “The Future is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives.” Already a bestseller, it is both timely and important. In this discussion with Brian Keating, Diamandis shares his vision for technological and educational advances over the next decade and how COVID-19 has accelerated the timeline.

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Galileo & the Science Deniers Into the Impossible Ep. 44: Mario Livio


Mario Livio is a renowned astrophysicist & best-selling author. His new book “Galileo and the Science Deniers” is the gripping first biography of Galileo Galilei written by an astronomer. In this discussion with Dr. Brian Keating, Livio recounts Galileo’s prolific life of discovery, each step building a stronger case for the theory of Earth’s orbit around the sun. Even under house arrest, Galileo continued his experiments and even wrote and published a book in the last few years of his life. Livio’s book encourages a “Believe in Science!” attitude. In this time of turmoil when it comes to the science of climate change and a pandemic, denial can be deadly.

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Episode 43: Sarah Scoles, Journalist and Author of “They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers”


Science journalist and author Sarah Scoles talks about her new book “They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers”, a study of UFO culture and its critics. What makes people believe intelligent alien life has visited the Earth? Fresh off this week’s news that the Pentagon has declassified and released three videos of UFOs (or UAPs Unidentified Aerial Phenomena as the government prefers to call them), Scoles talks about why some people are more prone to believe than others.

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Episode 42: Brian Keating & Dave Rubin — DON'T BURN THIS BOOK: using free speech to avoid a Sci Fi dystopia


Brian Keating interviews Dave Rubin (The Rubin Report) on the most interesting issues of the day: free speech and expression, classical liberalism, lessons from Jordan Peterson, and the imperative of tolerance. More about Dave Rubin: https://daverubin.com/ Find Dave on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/RubinReport Get Dave's book: Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason: https://amzn.to/2KCurtT Dave’s background as a stand-up comedian, degree in political science, and willingness to listen without fighting has uniquely positioned him to tackle big ideas and uncomfortable truths with thought leaders from both sides of the aisle. His show The Rubin Report aims to create civil discourse with people we both agree and disagree with, and host a dialogue with others whose ideas are judged before being given the chance to be presented in an honest way. Dave is currently taping season 5 of his talk show, speaking around the world with Dr. Jordan Peterson on the “12 Rules for Life Tour,” and performing stand up comedy in cities around the U.S. Dave's book "Don’t Burn This Book", is the definitive account of our current political upheaval and your guide to surviving it. The Rubin Report is the largest talk show about free speech and big ideas. Whether it’s the debate surrounding religion and atheism, foreign policy issues like immigration and terrorism, or big ideas like the role of government, Dave Rubin goes one on one with thought leaders, authors and comedians in ‘The Sit Down,’ has honest conversations and moderates opposing voices in ‘The Panel,’ and shares his own unfiltered thoughts in ‘Direct Message.’

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Episode 41: Stephen Wolfram, Founder & CEO of Wolfram Research, Computing the Cosmos


Stephen Wolfram, Founder & CEO of Wolfram Research, Creator of Mathematica, Wolfram Alpha, Author of A New Kind of Science, discusses computational science, his new Project to Find a Fundamental Theory of Physics, and more. Over the course of 4 decades, Stephen Wolfram has pioneered the development & application of computational thinking. He has been responsible for many discoveries, inventions & innovations in science, technology, and business. In this wide-ranging interview with Brian Keating @DrBrianKeating , Wolfram discusses his decades in-the-making Wolfram Physics Project, his career, his philosophy & approach to science, his hoped-for legacy, and questions from the audience including whether mathematical beauty matter at all, or is it just falsifiability?

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Episode 40: Greg Zuckerman, author of THE MAN WHO SOLVED THE MARKET: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution


Brian Keating, Director of the Simons Observatory, interviews Greg Zuckerman, author of the bestselling biography of Jim Simons, “The Man Who Solved The Market”. Portfolio/Penguin has published Greg Zuckerman’s latest book, THE MAN WHO SOLVED THE MARKET: How Jim Simons Launched The Quant Revolution. This book, the culmination of two challenging years of research, is the story of how Simons, a secretive mathematician and code breaker, set out to conquer financial markets, overcoming a series of imposing obstacles to become the greatest moneymaker in modern finance. Recruiting colorful and enigmatic mathematicians and scientists, Simons embraced algorithms and computer models while Mark Zuckerberg was still in grade school, launching a quantitative revolution that has shaken Wall Street. With their winnings, Simons, his colleague Robert Mercer, and others at Renaissance Technologies have upended the worlds of education, science and politics.

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Episode 39: A Conversation with Physicist and Science Fiction Author David Brin


A Conversation with Physicist and Science Fiction Author David Brin about his work and his recent post: More repercussions in a plague year... and some long term (excerpted here) : And yes, some foresee all this accelerating the exodus of the uber-rich, abandoning us to simmer in festering cities and suburbs. Connecticut, Wyoming and New Zealand have seen such influx. Certainly there is a “prepper” wing of oligarchy that’s bought up whole mountain ranges in Patagonia, Siberia and under the sea. I portrayed that mind set in The Postmanand in Earth and in Existence. Of course the smarter half of the zillionaire caste wants no part of such insanity. Nor will such preparations avail the selfishness-fetishists an iota, even if the fit truly hits the shan. There are five reasons why this masturbatory survivalist fantasy is utter proof of mental defectiveness. Finally Smart Sovereignty: - Whether this Minsky Moment triggers revitalization and waves of new-creative solutions by an empowered citizenry... or one of Marx's purportedly "inevitable" stages of spiral into revolution... may depend on to what extent we revive civic goodwill and use new technologies to enhance logical, fact-centered. pragmatic civil discourse. Recall that earlier communication techs -- e.g. the printing press, radio and loudspeakers -- all led first to polemical horror shows that made things much worse... before folks sussed the new media and learned to parse truth from populist lies, making things much, much better. That natural progression took decades, though. Time we simply do not have.

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Episode 38: Giving the Devil His Due: a conversation with Michael Shermer & Brian Keating


Brian Keating Interviews Skeptic Magazine publisher and author of "Giving The Devil His Due" Michael Shermer. Get Michael Shermer's Books here: GIVING THE DEVIL HIS DUE HEAVENS ON EARTH THE MORAL ARC: Find Show Notes and Links here Dr. Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the host of the Science Salon Podcast, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University where he teaches Skepticism 101. For 18 years he was a monthly columnist for Scientific American. He is the author of New York Times bestsellers Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain, Why Darwin Matters, The Science of Good and Evil, The Moral Arc, and Heavens on Earth. His new book is Giving the Devil His Due: Reflections of a Scientific Humanist. Follow Michael on Twitter: https://twitter.com/michaelshermer and Brian Keating here: https://twitter.com/drbriankeating Michael regularly contributes opinion editorials, essays, and reviews to: the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Science, Nature, and other publications. He wrote 214 consecutive monthly columns for Scientific American. He appeared on such shows as The Colbert Report, 20/20, Dateline, Charlie Rose, Oprah, and Larry King Live (but, proudly, never Jerry Springer!). He has been interviewed in countless documentaries aired on PBS, A&E, Discovery, The History Channel, The Science Channel, and The Learning Channel. Dr. Shermer was the co-host and co-producer of the 13-hour Family Channel television series, Exploring the Unknown. His two TED talks, seen by millions, were voted in the top 100. Dr. Shermer received his B.A. in psychology from Pepperdine University, M.A. in experimental psychology from California State University, Fullerton, and his Ph.D. in the history of science from Claremont Graduate University. He has been a college professor since 1979, also teaching at Occidental College, Glendale College, and Claremont Graduate University, where he taught a transdisciplinary course for Ph.D. students on Evolution, Economics, and the Brain.

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Episode 37: The Physics of Krav Maga with author and physics Professor John Eric Goff


Krav Maga ("contact combat" in Hebrew) is a hard-hitting and efficient form of self-defense that was popularized by Israeli soldiers. Stressing practical, real-world fighting and a philosophy of self-defense, its popularity has grown worldwide over the past few decades. In The Physics of Krav Maga, John Eric Goff, a physicist, best-selling author, and martial arts practitioner, explains the science behind dozens of Krav Maga moves, from headlocks to hammer fists. Focusing on Warrior Krav Maga, a fighting style that combines the key elements of Krav Maga with kickboxing, wrestling, karate, and other fighting specialties, this equation-free, conceptual introduction is aimed at martial arts practitioners interested in refining their fighting technique and all fans of the fascinating moment when sports meet science. With step-by-step descriptions and detailed photos of each critical motion, Goff takes a scientific look at everything from punch speed to power output and reaction time. Armed with this book, readers will understand the physics behind each move.

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Episode 36: Brian Keating interviews Professor Elena Aprile about the search for dark matter and her life in science


Elena Aprile is UCSD’s Margaret Burbidge Visiting Professor at UC San Diego and Professor of Physics at Columbia University. She is the founder and spokesperson of the XENON Dark Matter Experiment. Aprile is well known for her work with noble liquid detectors and for her contributions to particle astrophysics in the search for dark matter. Professor Aprile appears in the documentary CHASING EINSTEIN about the search for dark matter. Could Einstein have been wrong about the true nature of gravity? Does his general theory of relativity and the Standard Model need an update? Unprecedented advances in experimental particle physics, astronomy and cosmology are uncovering mysteries of cosmic consequence. Among the most challenging is the realization that 80% of the universe consists of something unknown that exerts galactic forces pulling the universe apart. The search for Dark Matter extends from the worlds most powerful particle accelerators to the most sensitive telescopes, to deep under the earth. Nobel worthy discoveries await. Scientists at UC San Diego are at the epicenter of the search for Dark Matter leading efforts to build the next generation of instruments and experiments to uncover its secrets.

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Episode 35: SETI and Beyond: A discussion with Brian Keating, Paul Davies, Jim Benford and Mat Kaplan


This discussion describes a strategy of looking for ETI artifacts. It proposes both passive and active observations by optical and radio listening, radar imaging and launching probes. We might even broadcast to them. But what if we find nothing there? That would be a profound result: suggesting that, perhaps, no ET intelligence has yet come to look at Earth, on that other hand, perhaps other civilizations are simply not as curious as we are or are better at concealing their activities than we are. Such speculation forms the basis of this lively conversation between astrophysicist and associate director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, Dr Brian Keating (https://www.youtube.com/DrBrianKeating), Prof. Paul Davies, Dr. James Benford and Mat Kaplan (Planetary Society).

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Episode 34: Brian Keating interviews Sir Roger Penrose: The Emperor’s New Mind -- Consciousness & Computers


Books mentioned in this episode: The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness Sir Roger Penrose OM FRS (born 8 August 1931) is an English mathematical physicist, mathematician and philosopher of science. He is Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics in the University of Oxford, an emeritus fellow of Wadham College, Oxford and an honorary fellow of St John's College, Cambridge. Penrose has made contributions to the mathematical physics of general relativity and cosmology. He has received several prizes and awards, including the 1988 Wolf Prize for physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking for the Penrose–Hawking singularity theorems. Penrose sat down with Professor Brian Keating to discuss artificial intelligence, consciousness, cosmology, and the many fascinating developments in physics since the publication of The Emperor’s New Mind in 1989. Previous talks at UC San Diego: Conformal Cyclic Cosmology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt1WH_SkazQ&t=2284s New Theory of Dark Matter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlSMME-Cl5g Physics and Fantasy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaIdJMxP6bA Hawking Points in the CMB: https://youtu.be/gfYBfjVt08k

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Episode 33: UC San Diego Alumni discuss their careers & Quantum Design Inc. with Brian Keating


Dr. Stefano Spagna, PhD. and Ivy Lum Fipps, MS are both alumni of UC San Diego Physics. Dr. Spagna is Chief Technology Officer and Mrs. Fipps is Final Test Engineer specializing in dilution refrigerators. Since its inception in 1982, Quantum Design International (a privately held corporation) has developed and manufactured automated temperature and magnetic field testing platforms for materials characterization. These systems offer a variety of measurement capabilities and are in widespread use in the fields of physics, chemistry, biotechnology, materials science, nanotechnology, and quantum information research. Building on its expertise in the global marketing and distribution of its own scientific instruments, Quantum Design International (QDI) eventually broadened its scope to distribute quality scientific instruments from other manufacturers through an international network of wholly-owned subsidiaries in every major technological center around the world.

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Episode 32: Brian Keating Interviews Richard Panek about The Trouble With Gravity


Richard Panek is most recently the author of The Trouble with Gravity: Solving the Mystery Beneath Our Feet, published in July 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. His previous book, The 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality, received the Science Communication Award from the American Institute of Physics. He is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Antarctic Artists & Writers grant from the National Science Foundation, and a Fellowship in Nonfiction Literature from the New York Foundation for the Arts. His own books have been translated into sixteen languages, while his collaboration with Temple Grandin, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum, was a New York Times best-seller and the recipient of the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Nonfiction Book of 2013. He also co-wrote the giant-format 3D museum movie ROBOTS [[CUT: 3D]], a National Geographic production. He has been a monthly columnist for Natural History magazine and a regular contributor to The New York Times. Two of his previous books also cover the history of science for non-specialist readers, Seeing and Believing: How the Telescope Opened Our Eyes and Minds to the Heavens (Viking, 1998), and The Invisible Century: Einstein, Freud and the Search for Hidden Universes (Viking, 2004). Education MFA in Fiction, University of Iowa BS in Journalism, Northwestern University

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Episode 31: UC San Diego Alumnus, Nanome.ai Co-Founder & CEO Steve McCloskey interviewed by Stuart Volkow


Steve McCloskey is an Alumni from the first class of Nanoengineering at the University of California, San Diego. Steve’s work is focused on emerging technologies applied to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). During his time at UC San Diego Steve worked directly with the founding Chair of the Nanoengineering Department, Ken Vecchio helping set the foundation for the Nanoengineering Materials Research Center and developing thermodynamic processing methods for Iron-based Superelastic alloys. After graduating from UCSD he founded Nanome Inc to build Virtual Reality solutions for Scientists and Engineers working at the nanoscale, specifically protein engineering and small molecule drug development. Steve is also a founder of the Matryx blockchain platform which provides a secure framework for collaborative design and development for STEM. Nanome is transforming how we interact with and understand science, creating a virtual world where users can experiment, design and learn at the nanoscale. We’re building an open platform to solve age-old problems of collaboration, incentivization and siloed information – creating a world with open access to science & technology.

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Episode 29: Brian Keating Interviews Jim Gates about Proving Einstein Right, supersymmetry and other mysteries


Jim Gates is the Ford Foundation Professor of Physics, and the Director of The Brown University Theoretical Physics Center. He is a 2013 recipient of the National Medal of Science He was a Distinguished University Professor, University System of Maryland Regents Professor, John S. Toll Professor of Physics, and Director of the Center for String and Particle Theory. Gates is well known for his pioneering work in supersymmetry and supergravity, and his 1977 doctoral dissertation on supersymmetry earned him a prominent place in the early development of the field, as did the 1984 book he co-authored, Superspace, or One thousand and one lessons in supersymmetry, which is widely considered the first comprehensive book on the subject. His study of string theory and supersymmetry has recently led Gates to develop an interest in what are called adinkras. Adinkra symbols are graphical representations of supersymmetric algebras named after symbols created by the Asante people. Adinkras may help us understand the structure of the universe, although Gates cautions, “most of the time when we make up ideas, they’re wrong. However, when we get it right, it’s amazing.” Gates is also a pioneer in another respect, having been the first African American to hold an endowed chair in physics at a major U.S. research university. He comes to Brown with a mission to increase the participation of historically underrepresented groups in the sciences. Gates is a former scientific advisor to President Barack Obama, Gates is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as the board of trustees of Society for Science & the Public, and one of the USA Science and Engineering Festival's “Nifty Fifty.”

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Episode 30: Brian Keating interviews Sean Carroll about his book Something Deeply Hidden & Many Worlds


Sean M. Carroll is a Research Professor of Physics at CalTech. He is a theorist who thinks about the fundamental laws of nature, especially as they connect to cosmology. His research involves theoretical physics and astrophysics, especially cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. He has worked on questions involving dark matter and dark energy, modified gravity, violations of Lorentz invariance, extra dimensions, topological defects, cosmic microwave background anisotropies, causality violation, black holes, and the cosmological constant problem. Currently, most of his attention is focused on the origin of the universe and the arrow of time, including the roles of inflation, baby universes, and quantum gravity.

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Episode 28: Dan Hooper discusses his book At The Edge of Time


Professor Hooper focuses on the interface between particle physics and cosmology. Particle physics explores the fundamental nature of energy and matter, while cosmology is the science of the universe itself, including its composition, history and evolution. Some of the areas of this field he has worked on include dark matter, supersymmetry, high-energy neutrinos, extra dimensions and ultra-high energy cosmic rays.

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Epidsode 27: Innovator Series - Additive Rocket Corporation


Stuart Volkow interviews two of the founders of The Additive Rocket Corporation (ARC), CSO Riley Weekes and CTO Kyle Adriany. ARC was started at UC San Deigo and utilizes state of the art metal additive manufacturing techniques coupled with advanced design and test processes to create thrust chambers for the space market. The company's revolutionary methods allow for the design and production of specifically tailored and mission specific propulsion solutions. Since its beginning, ARC has been dedicated to pushing the boundaries of rocket propulsion technologies. All members of the ARC team are driven with a passion to create the next generation of rocket technology and distribute its benefits throughout the industry. Through rigorous engineering and testing, products from ARC are certified at the highest levels of reliability, safety, and performance. ARC's use of additive manufacturing allows the company to create solutions to even the most challenging mission parameters. By working as a development partner alongside customers, ARC is positioned to deliver specialized solutions, meeting the customers’ exact needs. The byproduct of this philosophy is a customer experience that is unique in the space industry. Together with our customers and partners in industry, ARC aims to create brighter futures on Earth and beyond.

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Episode 26: The Origins of Life and the Work of Primo Levi


Primo Levi was deeply interested in the fascinating mystery of the Origin of Life. In particular, in his essay “Asymmetry and Life” he deals with the questions related to the Origin of Homochirality. Which are the prebiotical processes that, starting from a symmetric world, established a living world dominated by asymmetric biomolecules, such as L-amino acids and D-sugars? Would life be possible with the mirror image of these biomolecules? In this short interview, starting from Primo Levi’s writings, we will go through some answers that modern chemists are giving to the questions raised by Primo Levi.

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Episode 25: A Discussion of Quantum Theory and the book "What Is Real?" by Adam Becker


This podcast is about the book, "What Is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics". The conversation was part of the "Into the Impossible" podcast at the UC San Diego Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, featuring a discussion between Professor Chip Sebens (UCSD Philosophy), Dr. Andrew Friedman (UCSD Physics), and the book's author, Adam Becker.

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Episode 24: Julian Guthrie Discusses Alpha Girls


Co-Director of the Clarke Center Professor Brian Keating interviews bestselling author Julian Gurthrie about her latest book Alpha Girls. The stories of 4 women who achieved prominence in the male-dominated world of Silicon Valley venture capital. How did these women do it? What makes them so successful? Julian also reveals how she's written and published 4 successful non-fiction books over the past 8 years.

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Episode 23 - Matthew Stanley & Einstein's War


How history can shape science, and how science can change the tide of history? NYU Professor Matthew Stanley is our guest, here to discuss about his latest book: Einstein's War: How Relativity Triumphed Amid the Vicious Nationalism of World War I . Brian Keating, associate director of the Clarke Center and professor of physics at UC San Diego, talked to Professor Stanley about his interest in the history of science and the relationship between science and society. We learn about Einstein's first failed attempt at proving his theories with a disastrous expedition at the outbreak of WW I in 1914, and Arthur Eddington's 1919 solar eclipse experiment that made Einstein famous around the world.

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Episode 22 - Journalist & Author Annalee Newitz


How does Annalee approach world-building? I'm using the same skillsets for world-building in science fiction works like AUTONOMOUS and in journalism covering cutting edge science and technology. I want my science fiction to be as accurate as possible. The boundary is if I can make things plausible. Educated guesses about the future come from history. My approach to science fiction is to set stories at the edge of the present. Annalee discusses her books: Autonomous, Scatter Adapt, and Remeber: How Humans Will Face Mass Extinction, and her latest, The Future of Another Timeline about how people from the future seek to alter the past. She also discusses the abuse of graduate students in academia and how it shows up Autonomous.

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Episode 21: Beyond 10,000 Hours


On this episode, we explore physics, education, and what it takes to train imaginative scientists with Carl Wieman, Nobel Prize winning physicist with joint appointments as Professor of Physics and Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University. Dr. Wieman is interviewed by Brian Keating, UC San Diego Professor of Physics, Director of the Simons Observatory, and Associate Director of the Clarke Center.

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Episode 20 - The Second Kind of Impossible


THE SECOND KIND OF IMPOSSIBLE: The Extraordinary Quest for a New Form of Matter is the exciting, first-hand story of how Paul Steinhardt, the award-winning physicist and Albert Einstein Professor in Science at Princeton University, predicted a new type of matter – the quasicrystal – shattering centuries-old laws of physics. Steinhardt’s quest to prove the natural existence of quasicrystals takes him on a globe-hopping scientific journey from Princeton to Italy to the remote mountains of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. In a “suspenseful true-life thriller of science investigation and discovery” (Publishers Weekly), readers are taken along for the ride as Steinhardt challenges commonly held assumptions about settled science, refuting skeptics and disproving their notions of impossibility along the way. Steinhardt’s search to prove the existence of this rare crystal structure began in the early 1980s, when he first proposed the existence of “quasicrystals.” While studying abstract tile patterns, Steinhardt and his graduate student discovered a scientific loophole in one of the most well-established laws of science and, exploiting that, realized it was possible to create new forms of matter. In this podcast, co-associate director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, Professor Brian Keating, and Professor Paul Steinhardt explore a wide range of ideas from the discovery of new forms of matter to string theory and the sociology of science. Enjoy!

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Episode 19 - Nature Has More Imagination


In a ranging conversation, associate director Brian Keating interviews the preeminent scientist and thinker Freeman Dyson, discussing his career in science and letters, the role of creativity and subversiveness, the perils of prizes, and how nature always shows more imagination than we do.



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Episode 18 - Internet of All Kinds of Things


How is the internet changing our humanity, and what can we do about it? We explore these questions and more with Antonio Garcia Martinez (author of Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley) and Douglas Rushkoff (author most recently of Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus and host of the fantastic podcast Team Human).


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Episode 17: Graphic Science


On May 8th, the Clarke Center will host an evening of Graphic Science: Comics Engage the Cosmos. In advance of that, associate director Brian Keating chatted with Jorge Cham, creator of PHD Comics, and Daniel Whiteson, physicist at UC Irvine, about their new book We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe, a witty, creative look at the biggest open questions in cosmology.


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Episode 16: Alien Contact: Part 2


We’re continuing our conversation from episode 14 about alien contact by focusing on language barriers: barriers betweens humans and aliens, humans and animals, and, in what some consider the most alien encounter of all, between scientists and artists. With acclaimed science fiction writer Ted Chiang, dolphin researcher Christine Johnson, and visual artist Lisa Korpos.


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Remembering Stephen Hawking


In 2007, Erik Viirre, Associate Director of the Clarke Center, was fortunate to share a unique experience with the great Stephen Hawking: taking him into zero gravity. He shares his remembrance of the intellectual giant with Brian Keating here, in honor of Hawking's passing on March 14, 2018.



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Episode 15: Dark Matter


We’re going to get pretty dark today... by exploring dark matter, with one of the foremost theorists in physics: Sir Roger Penrose. Dr. Penrose visited the Clarke Center this past January to deliver a talk titled “New Cosmological View of Dark Matter. We wanted to share this talk with you today, and for those of you who are able, check the video version on our Youtube channel (find via imagination.ucsd.edu) to see Penrose's rightly famous for his hand-drawn illustrations on overhead transparencies, which are beautifully illuminating.

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Episode 14: Alien Contact


We're digging in the vaults to explore ideas of alien contact, with Jill Tarter (SETI Institute) and Jeff VanderMeer (bestselling author of the Southern Reach trilogy). We'll talk about the Drake Equation, the faulty math of the film Contact, manifest destiny, whether we're alone, flawed assumptions about the concept of intelligence, what fiction can do to help us think about the very alien-ness of alien contact, and how it may be happening all around us.

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Episode 13: Life on the Moon


It’s the end of 2017, but we’ll spend this episode living, imaginatively, in the 2080s, on the first lunar city, called Artemis. Artemis is the invention of Andy Weir, the author of The Martian and another of the great science fiction writers to have come through UC San Diego. We welcomed him back to campus earlier this month, and we have the live conversation to share with you today.


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Episode 12: Speculative CubeSats


How can CubeSats—the small, standardized satellites paving the way for the democratization of space—change our sense of the possible? We dive into two projects: the Planetary Society's Lightsail 2, with Director of Science and Technology Bruce Betts, and with MacArthur Genius grant-awardee Trevor Paglen, we discuss Orbital Reflector, the first satellite to be launched purely as an artistic gesture.


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Bonus: Andy Weir (author of The Martian and Artemis)


We have a mid-month bonus episode with Andy Weir, author of the novel The Martian, so memorably adapted in the film starring Matt Damon, and the new book Artemis, which launches today! Our own Brian Keating, author of the forthcoming Losing the Nobel Prize, sat down with Andy to discuss lunar colonization, his approach to world- and character-building, and what he would do if he was in charge of the future of space exploration. Andy will be speaking at the Clarke Center on December 7th (see imagination.ucsd.edu for more details).

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Episode 11: Stranger Things (While Podcasting); or On Fear and Imagination


In honor of Halloween, we're exploring the relationship between fear and imagination. First, a story about when the production of this very podcast was visited by a demon from the Upside Down (maybe?). Then, a conversation with Christopher Collins, author of Paleopoetics: The Evolution of the Preliterate Imagination, on the auditory and visual imagination, the evolution of language, and how human culture has spent so much time telling itself scary stories.

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Episode 10: Pictures, Pastries, and the Matter of the Universe


Physics is cool—and sometimes very hard to understand. Today we talk to Duncan Haldane, winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize, about quantum topology and why the Nobel committee brought a bagel, a pretzel, and a bun to the award ceremony to explain his ideas. And with the inimitable Sir Roger Penrose, we explore the visual imagination as it relates to science, the work of artist M.C. Escher, and what it has to do with Penrose's cosmological theory of the universe.

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Episode 9: Artificial Imagination


We kick off Season 2 of Into the Impossible by diving into the world of artificial imagination. As the artificial intelligence dream comes closer to AI reality, are the doomsday stories about AI correct—or will AI augment human imagination in unexpected and powerful ways? We speak with Kenric McDowell, the Director of Google's Artists and Machine Intelligence group, about generative AIs, Deep Dream, neural nets, AlphaGo and Deep Blue, artists working with machine learning, and what the technological enhancement of human imagination may, ultimately, look like.

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Episode 8: Fantastica, with George R.R. Martin and Kim Stanley Robinson


Science fiction and fantasy have gone from the sidelines to the mainstream. We bring you a live conversation between two of the field's living legends, George R.R. Martin (“A Song of Ice and Fire,” adapted for television as Game of Thrones, the Wild Card series) and Kim Stanley Robinson (New York 2140, the Mars trilogy), discussing their careers, the history of fantastic literature, and how it shapes our imagination. They came to the Clarke Center in support of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop (clarion.ucsd.edu), the premiere training and proving ground for emerging writers, which the Clarke Center organizes each summer with the Clarion Foundation.

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Episode 7: New Spaces


We’re looking at new spaces in space, speaking with Drs. Yvonne Cagle (astronaut and physician) and Adam Burgasser (astrophysicist). We talk about why we send humans into space, the discovery of potentially habitable worlds at TRAPPIST-1 and how we imagine them, the role of interstellar art, the evolution of human physiology in zero-g, why the scariest thing about being an astronaut might be finding yourself on stage at the Oscars with Dr. Katherine Johnson, subject of the film Hidden Figures, and how important it is that we remain vigilant in our embrace of diversity across disciplines.

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Episode 6: Designing the Future


How do you design the future? Today we talk with cyberpunk founder and design theorist Bruce Sterling and feminist/activist writer Jasmina Tešanović about speculative design, design fictions, open source hardware, the maker movement, and the soft robots of our domestic future. Plus we go behind the scenes of the creation of a design fiction by Bruce, Jasmina, Sheldon Brown, and the Clarke Center—a video installation called My Elegant Robot Freedom.

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Bonus #1: Entanglements with Rae Armantrout


In advance of our upcoming event Entanglements: Rae Armantrout and the Poetry of Physics, we have a bonus episode: a conversation between the inimitable poet Rae Armantrout and Clarke Center cosmologist Brian Keating. Enjoy! And join us April 13, 2016 at UC San Diego for a evening with Rae, Brian, the writer Brandon Som, and the critic Amelia Glaser in conversation on how Rae's poems mix the personal with the scientific and speculative, the process of interdisciplinary creativity, and what her poetic engagement with physics can teach those working in the physical sciences.

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Episode 5: Limits of Understanding


On this episode, we’re touching up against the outer limits of cosmology, and through that bringing up questions of limits on the imagination, the role of theology, and the end (and ends) of the universe. First, we’ll hear Paul Steinhardt on developing the inflationary model of the universe—and then casting that model aside in favor of the radically different cyclic model that replaces the Big Bang with a neverending series of Big Bounces. Then David Brin, science fiction author and futurist, shares his perspective on understanding religion, enabling discussion, and how nice it would be if we were all reborn in computronium as the universe collapses in on itself.

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Episode 4: How to Make a Spaceship


How do you jumpstart the private spaceflight industry? Passion, commitment, bold risk-taking, some inspiration from Charles Lindbergh, and a little luck. On today's show, we hear from Peter Diamandis, whose XPRIZE Foundation launched the competition that gave us the first private manned spaceflight—and paved the way for Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and his own Planetary Resources, among others—along with the prize-winning pilot, Brian Binnie, and the writer Julian Guthrie, who chronicled their stories along with those of the other teams from around the world inspired by this unprecedented challenge. Also on this episode: convincing Arthur C. Clarke to buy your college friends dinner and a nearly disastrous incident with a mother-in-law and a cup of coffee.

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Episode 3: The Hard Problem


Today is an unusual and very special episode of Into the Impossible. In winter of 2015, the Clarke Center produced a collaborative project with the performance artist Marina Abramović and the science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson. The multi-day workshop cultivated a series of interactions between a story that Stan was writing about a multi-generational spaceship heading to another star, and the performance art gestures of Marina’s that are a journey into our inner self. We improvised readings and performance actions to find the ways in which these seemingly diametric experiences touched on the common idea of how we extend our sense of time and space from the moment to the eternal. Out of this, we created an installation with multiple audio tracks, which was then further developed for the Venice Biennale. We also made a short film, which you can find a link to on the podcast webpage, and the audio tracks were mixed and choreographed by Adam Tinkle into the podcast we are featuring today: The Hard Problem: An Audio Voyage, by Kim Stanley Robinson, Adam Tinkle, Marina Abramović and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination.

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Episode 2: Becoming a Galactic Wonder


We’re looking at wonder and imagination today, through the plays of Herbert Siguenza (playwright, actor, and director; founding member of Culture Clash) that take us from Pablo Picasso in 1957 to a post-apocalyptic California, and the art (and green thumb) of Jon Lomberg (astronomical artist), who worked with Carl Sagan on the original Cosmos and has created a garden that can help us imagine our place in the universe. Both ask, as Herbert does in the persona of Picasso himself, “How can we make the world worthy of its children?”

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