In the first half, Head of Telescope Operations at the Arecibo Observatory, Angel Vazquez, talked about the radio telescope's history and what happened when it collapsed on the morning of December 1. He also shared some of the important discoveries made there. Inaugurated in 1963, Arecibo was a huge radio telescope dish and employed a planetary radar system, making the operation unique, he explained. The telescope's Puerto Rico location was chosen because they needed to position it on a large natural sinkhole. The first cable that snapped (which weighed 20,000 lbs) occurred on August 10, 2020, and broke a couple of panels on the dish, he recounted, which put stress on the other cables. On November 6, one of the main cables broke, and there was no way to stabilize it without endangering human life. The owners, the National Science Foundation (NSF), decided to decommission the telescope at that point, and less than a month later, there was a complete collapse.
It will cost around $350-400 million to bring the telescope back to its former level of operation, Vazquez estimated. However, the NSF doesn't have that kind of money, he reported, so funding would have to come from a congressional appropriation or a wealthy donor. He recalled some of the highlights of Arecibo's discoveries, including a binary pulsar system, and the very first exoplanet. A radio telescope, he noted, doesn't depend on light from a lens but rather can listen to signals from millions and millions of light-years away. He reminisced about some of the astronomers associated with the telescope over the years, including Frank Drake, Jill Tartar (whom Jodie Foster's character in "Contact" was based on), and Seth Shostak of SETI. Vazquez also spoke about his longstanding interest in Ham radio, and how his broadcasts on it were particularly helpful to others when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in 2017.
Author, organizer, and public affairs professional, Michael Jawer worked on indoor environmental issues. In the course of his work with those affected by sick buildings, his investigations opened his eyes to the mix of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual influences that predispose certain people to be highly sensitive. In the latter half, he discussed how emotions and sensitivities can trigger unusual states, including déjà vu, past-life recall, synesthesia, and extreme empathy. One of his findings when working with people who suffered from sick building syndrome was that they're more likely to have paranormal perceptions, such as seeing apparitions. The late parapsychologist William Roll mentioned to him that back in the 19th century, mediums were called "sensitives," which led Jawer to explore this topic and conduct a related survey in the esteemed Journal of Psychical Research.
Synesthesia, which is the experience of overlapping senses, such as feeling color or smelling sound, is more common among sensitive individuals and artists, and mirror sensing (when people strongly feel others' pain) may be a form of this, he suggested. There are well-documented cases of children up to the age of six who experience past life recall or another person's memories, which are often traumatic or involve violent deaths. These memories carry intense emotional residue, and because this energy may be stuck, perhaps they are transmitted to the children as a form or release, he hypothesized. We are driven by emotions more than we realize, Jawer added, and they seem to be the common denominator in anomalous perceptions.