podcast (en) – omega tau

podcast (en) – omega tau


science and engineering in your headphones


204 – Earth Observation at Planet Labs  

Planet Labs is building small, inexpensive satellites, mostly from consumer-style components, for large-scale, continuous earth observation purposes. As a silicon valley startup, they pride themselves in doing things differently than then "big aerospace companies". In this episode, I am talking with Ignacio Zuleta and Creon Levit about small satellites, satellite constellations, phones, optics and earth observation.

202 – Aviation Incident Reporting at CHIRP  

As we have mentioned before on omega tau, aviation prides itself on a pervasive safety-culture that leads to a low accident rate. An important building block of this culture are incident reporting systems, where members of the community can confidentially report issues, risks or incidents, which are then followed up on, with the goal to resolve them. CHIRP is the organisation that handles this task in the UK. In this episode we talk to Ian Dugmore, the Chief Executive of CHIRP about the general idea, and about a few (typical) incidents reported to CHIRP.

200 – Port Towage and Tugs  

In this 200th episode of omega tau we cover a topic that has been on our list for a long time: harbour tugs. We start out with a conversation with Lex van der Schaaf, the COO of Port Towage Amsterdam, who gives us a general introduction to port towage. Markus then joins Arno, Jan and Andrey on their tug Thetis for a day of towing in the port of Amsterdam. In the last conversation, Markus speaks with Baldo Dielen about the design of modern tugs, using the EDDY tug as a representative example.

199 – Mass Spectrometers  

Mass spectrometers are devices for measuring the mass-to-charge ratio of molecules and ions. They use many different measurement principles and are used in various areas of science. Our guest Alexander Makarov works as a Director Global Research for Thermo Fisher's Life Sciences Division and has invented the Orbitrap principle used widely in modern mass spectrometers. We talk about mass spectrometry in general, the different measurement principles, engineering challenges, the invention of the Orbitrap, use cases for mass spectrometers and the different machines sold by Thermo Fisher.

198 – Ship Salvage  

When ships have an engine casualty, run aground or have a fire on board they need to be salvaged or their wreck removed. Specialised companies, like Ardent, focus on salvaging ships or removing wrecks. These tasks are sometimes challenging from an engineering perspective, and always interesting from the business side. In this episode we talk with Ardent's Bram Sperling, a senior salvage master, about both these aspects of salvage and wreck removal operations.

197 – The European XFEL  

The European XFEL is an x-ray free electron laser currently being built in Hamburg. In this episode we talk with Joachim Schulz about the project itself, the design and construction of the laser and the experiment hall, as well as about some of the science that is expected to be done with XFEL once it is finished.

196 – Lasers  

In this episode we cover the fundamentals of lasers with our guest, Fabian Reichert, who works at the Center for Free Electron Lasers at DESY in Hamburg. We cover various ways of how laser beams are produced and what distinguishes lasers from other light sources. We also cover a few application areas of lasers as well as techniques for pulsing lasers.

195 – Flying the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft  

The tail numbers NASA 911 and NASA 905 were used for the two Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, converted Boeing 747s that carried the shuttle between the landing sites and the launch complex at Kennedy Space Center. Our guest in this episode is Ace Beall who flew the SCAs for several years. We talk about operations, modifications on the airplane, the flight characteristics with and without the shuttle as well as some anecdotes from Ace's time on the SCA.

Das Jahr The Year 2015  

This episode is German and English. Forward to the second chapter (or to 59:50) to get to the English part. Dies ist kein Interview, sondern ein Rückblick auf 2015. Nora und Markus besprechen was gut lief und was nicht so gut lief, bedanken und bei ein paar Leuten, besprechen einige Ergebnisse der Hörerumfrage und blicken kurz auf das kommende Jahr. This is not a regular interview show. Instead, it is a review of 2015. Nora and Markus look at what went well and what did not, thank a few people, discuss some results of the recent listener survey and briefly talk about the coming year.

191 – String Theory  

String Theory is currently one of the most important theories in fundamental physics, with applications to a variety of subfields including black holes and cosmology, nuclear physics others. This episode is an introduction to the core ideas of the field, as well as to some of its applications. Our guest is Alexander Westphal of Germany's particle physics lab DESY. He does a wonderful job of introducing the very abstract topic in a way that could be understood by non-physicists, at least to some degree.

190 – SOFIA Part 2, The Flights  

SOFIA is an airborne observatory, a Boeing 747SP modified to carry a 2.7m infrared telescope in the back of the fuselage. In late October 2015, I had the opportunity to fly on SOFIA during science missions 248 and 249. This episode captures these two flights. The episode is a mix between interviews with scientists and aircrew, recordings from the intercom system and some narration by me. The list of guests can be seen on the episode page - it is too long for the abstract.

189 – SOFIA Part 1, Basics  

SOFIA is an airborne observatory, a Boeing 747SP modified to carry a 2.7m infrared telescope in the back of the fuselage. In the context of the preparation for my SOFIA flights, I visited the DSI in Stuttgart several times during this summer to record interviews with various DSI people about SOFIA. This episode covers these interviews, plus a recording of the visit of the instrument labs in Palmdale. The guests and topics are Alfred Krabbe, Head of the DSI, on the history and some of the science; Thomas Keilig, CEO of DSI, on the airplane and the modifications; Christian Fischer, Project Engineer of FIFI-LS, on the instrument and some of the science; Dörte Mehlert, Education and Public Outreach, on education and the flying teachers programme; and Zaheer Ali, head of the science and mission operations laboratory, on that lab.

185 – Nuclear Test Monitoring and the CTBT  

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is an international treaty, still being ratified, that bans all nuclear tests. An important ingredient to the test is monitoring, whether nuclear tests will be performed nonetheless. To this end, the CTBT Preparatory Commission has established a world-spanning monitoring system that relies on seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound and radionuclide monitoring. In this episode, our guest is Randy Bell who runs the international data center and is thus responsible for running the monitoring network and evaluating the collected data.

184 – Societal Complexity and Collapse  

Joseph Tainter, our guest in this episode, is an anthropologist and historian. In 1988 he wrote a book called The Collapse of Complex Societies in which he argues that societies inevitably increase their inherent complexity, and, if and when the complexity becomes too "expensive" (diminishing returns), a society will collapse. In this episode, Joe explains his rationale and provides historic examples for collapse. We then discuss his theory relative today's world, concluding with a not alltogether positive outlook.

183 – Aerobatics and Red Bull Air Racing  

Matt Hall is a pilot at the Red Bull Air Race and a professional aerobatics/air show pilot, and in this episode we talk about both. We start out with how Matt got into flying through gliders and ultralights. We then discuss competition aerobatics and air show flying, and the difference between the two. We continue with air racing and take a look at his MXS-R airplane, which, at the time of recording, was at the DG factory in Bruchsal, where we met for the recording. We conclude the episode with a brief discussion of his military flying, which included the F-18 for the RAAF and the F-15E on exchange with the USAF.

181 – Why Megaprojects Fail (and what to do about it)  

Megaprojects can be identified by their size -- in the Billions -- and also by the fact that most of them are considered a failure in terms of cost overrun, delay or the benefit delivered. Why do over 90% of such projects fail? Professor Bent Flyvbjerg of the Said Business School at Oxford University has spent his career finding out. Together with his teams he has collected lots of data about successful and unsuccessful megaprojects, and has also developed tools to help such projects increase the likelihood of success. In this episode, Bent gives us an insight into his important research.

176 – The Gemini Programme  

The Gemini programme of the mid-sixties is relatively unknown, even though it was an important stepping stone in the Apollo moon programme: Gemini is where NASA learned to fly in space. In this episode we cover Gemini with our two guests David Woods (who has been on the show talking about Apollo) and David Harland. Together they wrote a book on Gemini that serves as the rough outline of this conversation. We talk about the Gemini spacecraft itself, the launch vehicles, some of the achievements and learnings of the programme as well as some of the specifics of some of the missions.

175 – Disordered Systems  

In this episode we talk with Peter Sollich of King's College, London about disordered systems, statistical mechanics and complexity. In particular, we discuss the difference between quenched and annealing disorder, the relation to entropy, complexity and chaos, the formalisms used to tackle such systems as well as a whole lot of examples from physics and other sciences.

174 – Stem Cells  

Stem cells are an important part of today's medical practice, and their importance will grow in the future based on research conducted today. One of the researchers in Derrick Rossi of Harvard and the Boston Children's Hospital. In the episode we introduce the different kinds of stem cells and their role in the body and in medical treatments. We then discuss some clinical use cases as well as current research (in general and in Derrick's group).

172 – Chasing Bears with the Phantom  

In this episode we talk to former RAF pilot Nick Anderson about his time flying the F-4 Phantom II in the cold war. We start out by describing the Phantom itself, the specific of the British Phantoms, and how it flew from a pilot's perspective. We then discuss flying in the cold war and walk through a typical intercept mission. We close with a Nick's personal perspective on the time and his flying, as well as with a quick view on the recent intercepts of Russian bombers in Europe. Nick has also kindly provided us with captioned images, which you can if you click through to the episode page.

Video player is in betaClose