In the first half, senior astronomer at SETI, Seth Shostak, discussed what is known about the mysterious radio signals or bursts from space which were detected recently. He also reported on the mystery surrounding the sudden closure of the Sunspot Solar Observatory in New Mexico on September 6th. There was a great deal of secrecy around the circumstances, and speculation that something deadly was spotted on the sun, as well as other theories. When the Observatory re-opened on the 17th, it was revealed that it was a security matter-- possibly someone had been threatening the facility or an employee that worked there.
The recent spate of Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) were discovered using artificial intelligence at UC-Berkeley's "Breakthrough Listen" program, and one in particular was narrowed down to a small galaxy a vast distance away-- some three billion light years! "Whatever is producing this Fast Radio Burst," he said, "has got to be really powerful" or it just happens to be aimed exactly in our direction. Since the burst is repeating, it's not likely to be a collision. Shostak doesn't believe the signals are alien in origin because they are found all over the sky. Rather, he suspects they may be a natural phenomenon akin to pulsars or quasars.
In the latter half, biologist and author Rupert Sheldrake talked about how science helps validate seven practices on which many religions are built, and are part of our common human heritage: meditation, gratitude, connecting with nature, relating to plants, rituals, singing and chanting, and pilgrimage and holy places. Research has shown that those with a religious or spiritual practice are healthier and happier than those who do not have one, and meditation offers concrete benefits for health and well-being, he cited. Interestingly, singing or chanting together, he believes, can create a physiological resonance between people, and reduce stress.
Spending time in nature and with plants or gardening also has been found to be a stress reducer. Speaking about the profundity of near-death-experiences (NDEs), he compared them to "rites of passage" or vision quests in other cultures. Sheldrake proposed that John the Baptist may have been inducing NDEs by drowning as he immersed people in the River Jordan, just long enough but not too long. Those who were baptized would have felt that they had died and been born again, he suggested.