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Mars / Life of Philip K. Dick

Date Saturday - December 8, 2018
Host Jimmy Church
Guests Robert ZubrinTessa Dick

NASA's InSight lander touched down on Mars last week and NASA's OSIRIS-REx probe made it to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu on Monday. In the first hour, Robert Zubrin, president of Pioneer Astronautics and the Mars Society, joined guest host Jimmy Church (email) to discuss the latest news about Mars and the possibility of one day living there. Previous missions have detected methane on Mars, Zubrin reported, noting only two causes, either biological or geothermal. In any case, this means there is some warmth on the cold planet. He estimated microbial life likely flourished a few billion years ago there, but disappeared as the atmosphere slowly eroded away.

Zubrin believes the Red Planet can be terraformed into an habitable place for humanity. "If we created a new atmosphere on Mars, it would last hundreds of millions of years before the solar wind eroded it away," he suggested. He outlined the process involving the production of artificial greenhouse gases (perfluoroethane) which would cause CO2 outgassing and raise the temperatures there by 60°C. Temps in the tropical regions would be above freezing and glaciers beneath the Martian soil would melt to liquid water, he explained. Zubrin blamed the lack of progress toward getting a manned mission to Mars on partisan politics, funding issues, and the stagnation of the human spaceflight program. Private entrepreneurial space companies, such as SpaceX, will likely lead the way, he added.

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? began as a novel by an obscure science fiction author who lived in poverty for most of his life. Philip K. Dick's dark vision of the future became widely known after the film adaptation, Blade Runner, was released in 1982. Sadly he died before the film was shown in theaters. Since then, Dick's work has reached a large audience and more adaptations of his works have been produced. In the latter half of the program, Tessa B. Dick, wife of Philip K. Dick, spoke about the life and work of her late husband. She recalled when the two first got together Dick was renting a room in a two bedroom apartment and not writing at all. He had completed Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, and eventually wrote A Scanner Darkly to fulfill a contract with Doubleday, she explained, noting he only received a $500-$600 advance for his novels.

"There was a time when all we had was a can of chunky chicken soup and some stale crackers that the neighbor gave us," Tess recalled. She commented on the resurgence of his work via streaming television shows, The Man in the High Castle and Electric Dreams, pointing out his estate still receives fairly little from his work. According to Tess, Dick viewed his writing as realism, not science fiction, because most of what happened to his characters happened to him or people he knew. She shared some bizarre encounters Dick had with Men in Black, as well as holographic beings claiming to be humans who had traveled back in time to prevent their catastrophic future. Tess admitted to witnessing some of these encounters. She revealed the one movie the best captures Dick's ideas, though it is not directly based on his works, is The Matrix.

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