2.05 A Space Shuttle Isn't Cool. You Know What's Cool? A Space Elevator (Soonish on Soonish)


This special episode of Soonish, the podcast, is all about Soonish, the book.

The centerpiece of this week's show is my interview with the husband-and-wife team of Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith. She's a parasitologist at Rice University, and he's the creator of the renowned Web comic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

In October, Penguin Press released the Weinersmith's book Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything. It's a thorough, thoughtful, humorous, critical, but loving look at 10 important science and engineering trends that are either under-covered or frequently misrepresented in the mainstream media. Sooner or later, these technologies will change the way we get to space, generate energy, arrange the built environment, treat disease, interact with computers, and interpret the world around us.

I love the book. And not just because of the awesome, forward-looking title! It's also extremely informative and up-to-date. And thanks to the witty writing and Zach's comics, it's consistently funny, which is something that sci/tech books rarely achieve.

Kelly, Zach, and I had a long, fascinating, wide-ranging conversation that veered from the specific technologies covered in the book, like CRISPR and space elevators, to the pitfalls of futurology and the role of humor in science communication. We might have talked even longer, but we were rudely interrupted by the Cambridge Fire Department (listen all the way to the end...).

As a special bonus, the episode concludes with a recording of a personal story about the Space Shuttle Atlantis. I performed the story live on December 9 as part of a storytelling masterclass showcase at the PRX Podcast Garage.

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Mentioned In This Episode

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything, by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith

Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures, by Carl Zimmer

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Zach Weinersmith's daily Web comic

Aaron Wolfe, writer and master storyteller


Elsewhere at Hub & Spoke

This week check out Ministry of Ideas Episode 6, 21st Century Citizenship, and The Lonely Palette Episode 24, Meditations on Mark Rothko.



Soonish theme by Graham Gordon Ramsay

Hope from the album Soundtrack by Tim Beek

Playing from the album Various by Tim Beek

Ad Music: Traffic from the album Sunlight by Javier Suarez

Waiting Device from the album Electronic by Tim Beek

I'm in Space by the album Ambient by Tim Beek


Our Sponsors

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Soonish is also supported by Kent Rasmussen Winery. Since 1986, Rasmussen has been famous for their purely poetic Pinot Noir, grown in the cool mists of the Carneros region of Napa Valley. And under the companion Ramsay label they offer superior-quality North Coast Pinot Noir, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay at a wonderful price. Ask for Rasmussen and Ramsay wines at fine restaurants and stores in 29 states. For more information, visit kentrasmussenwinery.com.

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