Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest interviewer and Strategist at Cubaka, speaks with David Grinspoon, PhD., Astrobiologist, Senior Scientist at the Planetary Institute and award-winning author.


Amanda Christensen Comments:

This June, NASA selected the DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble-gases, Chemistry and Imaging +) mission as part of its Discovery program — the first spacecraft to enter the Venus atmosphere since NASA’s Pioneer Venus in 1978 and USSR’s Vega in 1985. DAVINCI+ may reveal whether Earth’s sister planet looked more like Earth’s twin planet in a distant, possibly hospitable past with oceans and continents. Samples taken from Venus’ atmosphere will not only be used to learn more about our sister planet, but could also help us to better understand climate change here on Earth.

While the DAVINCI+ probe won’t be launching until 2029, there’s plenty to be done in the meantime in relation to climate change, and to discuss both of these topics, I had the pleasure of speaking with David Grinspoon, astrobiologist, award-winning science communicator, and award-winning author.

David’s advice for combatting climate change? It’s time to “human up.”

David Grinspoon, Senior Scientist at The Planetary Institute. Credit: David Grinspoon.

David Grinspoon

David Grinspoon is a Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and Adjunct Professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Science at the University of Colorado. His research focuses on climate evolution on Earth-like planets and potential conditions for life elsewhere in the universe. He is involved with several interplanetary spacecraft missions for NASA, the European Space Agency and the Japanese Space Agency.

In 2013 he was appointed as the inaugural Chair of Astrobiology at the U.S. Library of Congress where he studied the human impact on Earth systems and organised a public symposium on the Longevity of Human Civilisation.

He is the author and editor of several books, including Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life which won the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Nonfiction, and Earth In Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future. He has been recipient of the Carl Sagan Medal for Public Communication of Planetary Science by the American Astronomical Society, and has been honored with the title “Alpha Geek” by Wired Magazine

On This Episode We Will Hear from David About:

David’s background; his involvement in NASA’s DAVINCI+ mission to Venus; what we can learn from Venus to increase our understanding of climate change on Earth; the importance of global governance in combatting climate change, and the need to “human up”, David’s call to action to tackle the geological damage humans have created thus far.

David Grinspoon ideaXme interview

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation: [00:00:00] Welcome to another episode of ideaXme. I’m Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation. I’m also a strategist at social media agency Cubaka.

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation: [00:00:14] Today, we have the pleasure of being joined by David Grinspoon, who is an astrobiologist who studies the possible conditions for life on other planets. He’s a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and adjunct professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Science at the University of Colorado. David, thank you so much for joining us today.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:00:34] Thank you very much for having me.

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation: [00:00:36] I would love if you could explain, in your own worlds, or in your own words rather, who you are and what our audience really needs to know about you.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:00:45] Well, I like that ‘in your own worlds,’ because that is sort of who I am as I’m interested in worlds, not just this one, at least in the sense of planets, because my career has been spent in various aspects of planetary exploration. I’m trained as a planetary scientist, which is really the field that came out of the beginning of the space age when we started sending spacecraft to other planets in the 1960s and 1970s, which is when I grew up. So, I was sort of enthralled by the first ever spacecraft to Mars and the first ever lander on Venus and the first spacecraft out to the outer solar system. All this was happening when I was a kid and I was caught up in it.

David Grinspoon trained by the first generation that built spacecrafts

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:01:41] I followed that interest to my career as a planetary scientist, which was a new field then because these investigations were new. I was sort of trained by the people that were the first generation that had built these first spacecrafts. I sort of feel like I’m attempting to follow in their footsteps. Then out of that, this new field that we call astrobiology has also grown, which is the study of possible life elsewhere in the universe, so I apply planetary science to that. In other words, what can we learn about the other environments in our solar system? And now, with all these planets we’re discovering outside our solar system, we have clues as to their possible suitability for life.

David Grinspoon, author Earth In Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future. Credit: David Grinspoon.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:02:28] That’s very tightly coupled with new investigations of the life on Earth and the history of life on Earth to try to understand what life’s universals might be and what its limits and its needs might be. So, that’s why in astrobiology we study other environments and we study the biology on Earth to try to figure out where there might be life in the universe.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:02:50] In broad strokes, that’s what I do. Of course, I could bore you with more specifics, but that’s astrobiology. That’s the arc that I’ve followed in my career.

NASA’s DAVINCI+ mission

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation: [00:03:01] Perfect. Fast forward to very recently, you got some very exciting news regarding the DAVINCI+ mission approved by NASA. Could you tell us a bit about that?

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:03:13] Yeah, so one of my fascinations, really for my entire sentient life, I think, but certainly for my entire career, has been the planet Venus, because it’s the closest planet to Earth and in some ways it’s the most Earth like planet. It’s like a twin to Earth, but it’s a twin that’s gone down a very different path where it’s incredibly hot and hostile to life like us on the surface. Yet it seems to have a shared a similar past to Earth. That divergence, what happened to Venus and what that tells us about how planets like Earth can evolve, has always fascinated me.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:03:49] I’ve been part of a community that’s been trying to fly new missions to Venus for years, decades even. But competing with Mars and other places has made it hard to get new missions to Venus. Partly because Venus is a very hard place to explore and needs special technology because the conditions are so harsh. But we did get really great news recently, which is that actually NASA just selected two new Venus missions, which for those of us in the community is like Christmas because we’ve been trying for so long to get even one and then all of a sudden, NASA says we have two new Venus missions.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:04:25] One of them is a probe that I’m very closely connected with called DAVINCI which is going to be an entry probe where we enter into the clouds and the upper atmosphere and come down on a parachute and then investigate the clouds and the atmosphere on the way down and then actually descend to the surface and photograph for the first time, through aerial photography, this mountainous region on the way down. And that’s it, a spacecraft dies when it hits the surface. It’s a short-lived mission, but I think it’s going to be very rich in terms of new information that will address some of our deep questions about Venus.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:04:33] At the same time, NASA also selected this other mission. We were in competition with them to try to get a mission but now that we’re both going, we’re like, hey, we’re partners. It’s really kind of awesome! That mission is called VERITAS and it’s very much complementary. It doesn’t enter into the atmosphere. It’s an orbiter and it uses a remote sensing radar and infrared to map out some very interesting and mysterious characteristics of the planet and try to see if there’s active geology and active volcanism and so forth. So, that global detailed mapping from VERITAS combined with the really highly detailed trace of investigating the atmosphere and then photographing the surface in one place with DAVINCI should give us, in combination, a really enhanced global view of Venus and hopefully address some of the questions that we’ve just been driving ourselves crazy trying to address without the right data for decades.

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation: [00:06:12] Definitely. That’s really interesting and exciting that you do get to have that kind of crossover and leverage each other’s research. In that case, it’s no longer a question of who gets the pick of Venus.

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation: [00:06:25] How will you precisely, maybe not to a granular level, how will you be measuring and exploring the atmosphere there? Are there sensors on the outside of the probe? What’s the kind of practice behind that?

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:06:39] Yeah, so there’s a small number of instruments that the spacecraft carries down with it. What’s exciting is that we’ve had entry probes to Venus before but that was a long time ago. The last American entry probe was in 1979, a lifetime ago, literally. And the last spacecraft by anyone from Earth was a Russian balloon that went in 1985 and that’s it as far as the instruments that were sent into the atmosphere, it’s been a long time. What’s marvellous is that since then, as you can imagine, the technology has come a long way in terms of miniaturization, in terms of more sophisticated scientific instrumentation. This is going to be the first time we’ve sent any 21st century scientific instruments into the atmosphere of Venus.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:07:35] We have a suite of really powerful instruments. One of them is called a mass spectrometer and the mass spectrometer basically enables us to take in a small sample of the atmosphere and it has the ability to tease apart what the molecules are. It literally pulls apart the molecules and analyses their molecular mass into a very high degree of molecular weight that is of each molecule. That will give us an ingredients list of what precisely is in the atmosphere. We have some major questions about the evolution and origin of Venus that just that precise ingredients list will immediately make much clearer.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:08:06] Then there’s another instrument called a tuneable laser spectrometer, we call it the TLS. This one is really cool, it’s got a tiny, very powerful laser and a little chamber with really highly reflective mirrors where the light bounces back and forth, zillions of times. It simulates a really long path length in the atmosphere by that back and forth which allows us, with this laser, to precisely focus on some frequencies of light that we know certain molecules absorb at. Because of that simulated long path length on the power of the laser, it means you can find very, very minor traces of certain atmospheric ingredients and measure their abundances incredibly precisely. So, there are certain constituents of the atmosphere, certain sulphur molecules, that we know are important chemically but we don’t have a handle on how much there really is there. And the TLS will really help us nail down the abundances of some specific molecules that we know are very important to the story of what’s happening on Venus.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:09:33] Then, of course, we measure the temperature and the pressure very precisely on the way down. It’s almost like getting the weather report for that day and that time on Venus. Then, we have a camera system, which is pointed down and it only works when you get close to the surface because the atmosphere is so thick on Venus, almost 100 times thicker than Earth. When you get about 10 kilometres from the surface, from there on the way down, we’ll get better and better approach imagery of this mountainous region of Venus. To me, that’s just going to be so enticing when we get close enough for the haze to clear in that last part of the descent and we get to see for the first time what those mountains really look like from above.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:10:23] In addition, it won’t only take visual images, but it will take infrared spectra of that surface area, which will give us clues as to the minerals and other things that are going on in that region.

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation: [00:10:37] Now, that’s fascinating, that’ll be really exciting once you get those first images through.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:10:42] It’s going to launch in 2029, which, depending on the time scales you’re used to, may sound like, oh, that’s far away. But for us, it’s so soon because we’ve been trying for so long to do this. The time frame gives us time to really build the thing correctly and carry out the simulations and models and studies to make sure that when we launch that spacecraft, we maximize our chances for success.

Learning from Venus to combat climate change on Earth

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation: [00:11:13] Definitely. Now, bringing it a bit closer home to Earth. Is there anything that you’re hoping to learn from Venus’s atmosphere that is either potentially something that you might consider Earth is however many years away from becoming. Is there anything that we could learn to work on retroactively to try and combat climate change, for instance? Is there any crossover there that could help inform the planet we currently live on?

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:11:41] Yes. Great question. I’m glad you brought the conversation there, because for me, one of the fascinations in general with what we call comparative climatology is how we can enrich our knowledge of planets in general by studying multiple examples. Just as you wouldn’t really have a deep knowledge of human beings if you lived your whole life alone in a closet. You learn from interacting with others and with planets, there’s only so much about our own planet Earth we can learn just by studying Earth. By having the examples and the life stories of other planets and seeing how we can test our theories of climate and tectonics and other things we learn about Earth. If they’re good theories, we should be able to expand them and have them work on other planets and when they don’t, we often realize the limitations of our thinking that change how we think about Earth. That is comparative planetology in general.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:12:38] Then with Venus in particular, it’s so similar in so many ways, it’s almost exactly the same size as the Earth and from what we can tell, it seems as though the two planets started out being very similar. Venus probably did have oceans when it was young, but lost them to what we call a runaway greenhouse. We still very much want to test that idea which is a major driver for the DAVINCI mission, to test that divergence. Did Venus have oceans? We think we can find the evidence for that in the chemicals, in the atmosphere, in the minerals, on the surface, which would be different if Venus had never been wet. Then, how long ago was that divergence? It could have been primordial billions of years ago but some of us now think that Venus could have retained its oceans until the last billion years, so for most of its history. It may have been much more like Earth. That tells us in general the possibilities for Earth-like planets and how they evolve and, absolutely, it tells us about Earth’s future.

David Grinspoon, astrobiologist. Credit: David Grinspoon.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:13:38] If Venus did suffer a runaway greenhouse effect in the past, that is probably closely mirroring Earth’s fate in the future. Because the sun is getting warmer as it ages, very slowly. That affects planets closer to it, like Venus, first, where there’s too much radiation and the planet can’t hold on to its oceans. That will, we believe, be Earth’s fate long in the future through inevitable climate change. Also, speaking of climate change, there are important lessons that we can gain from this investigation of Venus that can help us with our current problem, our current crisis of human caused climate change on Earth. Our climate models that we use for this very important task of trying to predict the future climate on Earth when we change the carbon dioxide and so forth, they depend on certain assumptions and certain best guesses at how atmospheres change when you change the gas composition of that atmosphere.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:14:44] What’s marvellous is when you have the opportunity to test that model on an atmosphere that has changed already and, on a place, what was once Earth-like that now has so much more carbon dioxide, like Venus. In a way, it’s an extreme, extreme case of the climate change that’s happening on Earth now. It’s not like, we’re about to turn Earth into Venus, that’s not the lesson here. We may be nudging Earth a little bit closer down that long path to being like Venus which in itself is alarming. But it’s more that by studying the climate of Venus and how the radiation is affected by the atmospheric gases and studying how the clouds affect radiation and so forth, gives us more data to validate and test and improve our models here on Earth.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:15:32] There aren’t very many sources for that kind of data in the universe that are so close at hand like Venus where we can just send a spacecraft to. In that sense, it’s sort of a treasure of information about how climate works on planets. A lot of that detail is directly applicable to doing a better job of predicting climate change on Earth.

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation: [00:15:59] Definitely. Speaking of predicting climate change on Earth, there is a pretty alarming report from the IPCC on climate change, detailing the next three or four decades looking into the future. This kind of circles back around to one of the big reasons why we were really keen to get you on ideaXme is that you believe in a human solution and the human side to combating climate change. Could you tell us a little bit about how you apply that and how it goes beyond the kind of quick fix solution of we’ll just plant more trees.

The Anthropocene

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:16:36] So one outgrowth of my interest in comparative climatology has been an attempt to study Earth history from a planetological perspective. In other words, look at the deep time changes of Earth and try to map that into changes in phases of planetary processes. That led me to a study of what we call the Anthropocene, the human age on Earth. This scary but profound and hopefully useful notion is that we’ve actually entered a new geological age in Earth’s history that is marked by a new geological force, which is humans changing the planet. I actually wrote a book called Earth in Human Hands, which was an attempt to study this notion of the Anthropocene from the perspective of a comparative planetologist, someone that is used to looking at planets from the outside in, looking at other planets. What happens if we try to apply that lens to Earth and the deep time view, what’s really happening on Earth now from a planetological perspective.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:17:45] One perspective that I gained from that, one of my conclusions was that what’s really unusual about the Anthropocene is that we now have a new geological force that is aware of its own existence. We’re not the first species to change the earth radically, even dangerously for other species, that’s been done where life comes along and evolves in some way and changes the atmosphere and causes a mass extinction. We’re not the first species to do that, but we’re the first ones to have science and knowledge of Earth history and some ability to model the future and go, oh, we’re changing the planet, look at us. Maybe this isn’t a good idea or maybe we should do it in a conscious way. So, that perspective has led me to some ideas that I’ve tried to write about regarding how we approach climate change.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:18:43] One part of it is that there tends to be this idea of some concern about climate and environmentalism in general that’s laced with a kind of anti human message that says we’re so horrible, we’re destroying the planet, the Earth would be so much better off without us. I think that’s sort of wrong and not helpful, it’s a defeatist view. My view from my study of our history and our planet’s history is that we’re actually sort of naive and kind of ignorant and I see us of more like a child realizing that we have to learn not to soil our pen. From that view, you look at the Anthropocene as just beginning. We’re just at the beginning stage of learning how to deal with the fact that we’re a planet changing force.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:19:44] The goal should not be for us to stop being a planet changing force. I think that’s impossible unless we do wipe out most of the human race, which I’m not in favour of. We need to feed ourselves. I don’t think we’re going to stop changing the planet, but what we can do is gain consciousness of our role in the planet and find a way to integrate in a constructive way with the planet. You mentioned planting trees, from my point of view, planting trees is important and it’s a kind of geoengineering. People talk about geoengineering like it’s bad and we shouldn’t try to mess with the Earth. But in fact, anything that we do to try to alter our role on the planet, which should be us trying to consciously alter the planet rather than unconsciously vandalize it, as we’ve been doing, is a form of geoengineering.

David Grinspoon, Senior Scientist at The Planetary Institute. Credit: David Grinspoon.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:20:31] Even when we plant trees and change our agricultural practices, those are forms of geoengineering. I regard them as more benign than the more brute force activities of squirting some stuff into the stratosphere and trying to alter the reflectivity of the Earth people. When people say geoengineering, they’re often thinking about that. To me, that would be sort of a desperate last resort, because there’s all kinds of possible unintended consequences. So, I’m very wary of those brute force let’s just change the reflectivity of the Earth by blasting stuff into the air kinds of geoengineering solutions. I think it’s fine to research them because the more research we do in all kinds of climate problems, there’s unintended positive consequences that come out of the research. We learn things about the atmosphere that can help us. But I think we have to see ourselves as kind of planetary engineers, as apprentice planetary engineers. We’re young and naive and still learning.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:21:34] Some things are fairly obvious, we have to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible and the good news is we’re doing that. The bad news is we’re doing it far too slowly and there’s going to be damage from that. There’s already is damage. We know we have to accelerate that. Then beyond that, we have to really look at all kinds of other aspects of how we interact with the planet in terms of land use and how do we affect the reflectivity of the planet, not in these sort of naive brute force things of injecting aerosols into the stratosphere, but even our land use, what can we do to change our cities and change our agriculture and so forth so that it doesn’t have a warming effect? You can change the reflectivity of a city just by using different materials. So, there’s all kinds of different scales on which, once we see ourselves in this role of trying to integrate more constructively with the natural systems of Earth and find this balance and be that self-aware geologic force and use that to our advantage, then I see there’s all kinds of constructive solutions that we can we can apply, but we have to sort of own up.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:22:50] We have to human up to the fact that we are planet changers and that’s sort of frightening and it’s a huge responsibility because we don’t really know how to do it. That’s the situation we find ourselves in and I think we have to proceed from that acknowledgement.

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation: [00:23:06] Yeah, definitely. We need to take on that accountability that we’ve been given or rather, we’ve taken this power to change the planet as both a blessing and a curse. Up until now, it’s kind of only been a curse and it’s about time to put some action into play to make it more of a blessing.

COP26 conference on climate change

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation: [00:23:23] On that similar note, with the upcoming U.N. climate change conference, COP26, are there any key actions that you’re hoping will come out of that? Is there anything that you think would definitely be the biggest benefit and the biggest combat to climate change?

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:23:41] Well, there’s so many levels to that because I’ve been talking about some of these individual physical modifications that can be taken in different places. When you talk about these big international meetings, there are really important aspects which, as a planetary scientist, I’m not an expert in economics, but I’ve also come to try to learn something about it because I see that when we’re talking about these global solutions to global problems. It’s not just a matter of scientists like me saying here’s a way to alter the reflectivity of the Earth or here’s something we’ve learned about radiation. It involves economic and political systems. I think that this perspective that I’ve gained and that I try to communicate about of Earth as a total planet, needs to infuse those meetings. As much as anything, global governance is important. I’m not saying, we need a world government like in some sort of a science fictional sense, I mean, maybe sometime in the future we will have a world government.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:24:58] However, I think what we need more urgently and more realistically is global governance and we already have some aspects of that in place, I think, more than a lot of people realize. Economics does sort of unite the world, even in countries that vastly disagree on a lot of things, there’s still this sort of agreed value of money and system of exchange that does embrace the whole world. I think that from that can come some practices involving how we think about carbon and trading and taxing and acknowledging that there’s no sense in having a global economy if it’s not integrated with the basic need of global well-being and global survival. I do see that there’s clearly a growing acknowledgement of that amongst the powerful players in the world, both corporate and national. They are having these meetings where everyone shows up. Even governments that we may have vast disagreements with. China, for instance, they’re so huge, if they’re not included in a solution then there isn’t a solution. They obviously are taking global climate change very seriously. Not quickly enough, but they’re phasing out coal. They’re talking about phasing out coal. They’re actually doing some things that indicate that eventually they will phase out coal and they’re moving forward on all kinds of alternative energy and so forth.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:26:50] So, when I think of what COP26 needs to do most, it’s fairly obvious some of these things we talk about, alternative energy and so forth. But I think there needs to be the establishment of an international regime and agreement for political and economic tools to hasten this change. There is a change that’s occurring. When we look 100 years into the future, when I look 100 years into the future, it seems to be obvious that the world would be completely post fossil fuels by then. We’ll look back on this time and we’ll say it was foolish that we took so long to get off that stuff because look at the damage we did. We’ll be in the process of repairing that damage. It’ll be a little bit like the way we think of whale oil now. We used to power some of our lamps and so forth, with whale oil. We don’t do that anymore because we realized at some point it was doing a lot of damage. Fortunately, we did not wipe out all the whales, but we did too much damage. Now we think, we did that for too long, wouldn’t it have been great if we phased it out sooner. I think fossil fuels will come to be seen the same way.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:28:03] So, when I see these international actions happening now and I think about that historical time scale, it’s a matter of just hastening changes that are already occurring.

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation: [00:28:13] I feel the same. I feel like in probably 50, which would be the very earliest, or so years’ time I can imagine people looking back on this as almost the dark ages in terms of sustainability and energy management.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:28:27] Absolutely and when I say 100 years, I’m not saying we have 100 years to wait. I’m saying if I think of that time scale, it just seems very clear to me that we will be way past it and that will give us a perspective on this time. We’ll think, well, that was pretty dumb, that we were so slow to make that change because we could have saved ourselves a lot of pain if we had done it more quickly.

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation: [00:28:45] Exactly. We’re in this weird position where normally the case is hindsight is 20/20, but we have a bit more foresight and just need to make the changes now.

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation: [00:28:55] One final question for you. You speak a lot about the humanity side of things which is also something that we’re very fond of here in terms of rich connections and how the power of human-to-human interactions can change everything for an individual, for a government, for the world. With that in mind, is there anyone in your life from either growing up or from your life currently that you would really like to thank or anyone that’s really impacted who you are? And if you hadn’t met this person, you could be a potentially completely different David Grinspoon.

Carl Sagan and David Grinspoon

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:29:33] A lot of people in my field would tell you that they were greatly influenced by Carl Sagan, and I had the good fortune of knowing Carl very well growing up. He was actually a family friend, a really close friend to with my father. So, I grew up calling him Uncle Carl. He was very influential in my life and I don’t know if I would be a space scientist if I hadn’t encountered him at an early age or who knows, it’s hard to play these ‘what if’ games. But he certainly really inspired me.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:30:16] Then I had the good fortune when I was older and had gone to grad school and got my Ph.D. to be able to actually work with him and collaborate with him on some studies on the early Earth climate. So, I got to know him both professionally and personally. He had a combination of probing curiosity about the universe and a strong humanitarian desire to both apply that knowledge to solving some of the big problems that humanity faces and a desire and willingness to communicate that to the public at a time when scientists were not as encouraged to communicate with the general public. Now there’s all this science communication. It’s like everybody wants to be part of SciComm as scientists, which is great. It’s in the DNA of science now. But at that time, Carl got a lot of grief for going on TV and talking to the general masses. It was like, well, if you’re a serious scientist, you’re not going on TV to talk to the general public, you should just be talking to other scientists. So, he broke ground in that very important area of bringing science to the masses as well.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:31:32] For all those reasons, I’m very grateful for his presence on Earth and influence.

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation: [00:31:38] Definitely. I have very fond memories of watching Carl Sagan growing up as well. So, I’m quite jealous that you got to know him personally.

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest contributor and researcher on deep fakes, AI and media misinformation: [00:31:48] It’s been absolutely fantastic speaking with you, David, and it’s been a really enlightening talk and good to know that the world doesn’t need to feel doom and gloom when it comes to climate change and can instead take a bit more of an empowered approach. I really want to thank you for your time today and for joining ideaXme and ultimately, moving the human story forward. So, thank you very much.

David Grinspoon, Astrobiologist: [00:32:13] Well, thanks a lot. I’ve enjoyed the conversation.

Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest interviewer and strategist at Cubaka.
Amanda Christensen, ideaXme guest interviewer and strategist at Cubaka.

Credits: Amanda Christensen interview video, text, and audio.

If you liked this interview, be sure to check out our interview on Living on Mars!

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ideaXme is a global podcast, creator series and mentor programme. Our mission: Move the human story forward!™ ideaXme Ltd.



ideaXme: Move the human story forward!™

For all those who love big ideas and great stories. #movethehumanstoryforward #science #futurism #quantumai #technology #spaceexploration #climatechange