On Planets, Poetry, and Patent Law with Oliver Strimpel
In this episode of And The Next Thing You Know, I talk with the creator and host of the podcast Geology Bites, Oliver Strimpel.
If you’re curious about what drives plate tectonics, or about the composition of rocks and the amazing amount of information they contain about Earth’s prehistoric climates, if you’ve ever wondered what shapes a mountain ridge, or a canyon, Geology Bites is a podcast for the geoscience informed and the just curious alike!
In the episode, we talk about the path Oliver has taken from his childhood in India, marveling in the Himalayas, to his PhD work in astrophysics studying galaxy clusters, to his curation work at the Science Museum in London, to his move to the United States in the 1980s to direct the Computer Museum in Boston. Oliver’s career path then took a turn to patent law, and we talk about how the language of patents is kind of like poetry, and helps with podcast editing, as it turns out. Through it all, Oliver is driven by genuine curiosity and joy in learning about how the cosmos works, and the ingenuity humans use to understand it.
Find Oliver’s podcast Geology Bites at geologybites.com or in your podcast app.
Left: Oliver Strimpel in the field. Courtesy of Oliver and Harriet Strimpel
A note on the timing of this episode and some corrections: At the beginning of the episode, Oliver says he started his podcast “last July” and that really means July of 2020, because it was already July of 2021 when we sat down together to talk. Later on, Oliver mentions that he’s about to publish episode number 37, which was his conversation with guest, Steve D’Hondt, about 100-million-year-old bacterial colonies living in the abyssal clay at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
That episode of Geology Bites was also posted back in July of 2021. Geology Bites is soon to break 60 episodes. I am posting this episode of And The Next Thing You Know several months after Oliver and I sat down to talk, so the time registry between our conversation and this episode are out of sync. My apologies for the continuity confusion.
One more correction, also at the beginning of the episode, Oliver guesses that Nanga Parbat is about the “fifth or sixth” highest peak in the world; it is in fact, the ninth highest peak.
Clockwise from top: diagram of the Walk-Through Computer at the Computer Museum in Boston, 1990; An image of the surface of Mars sent to Earth by Mariner 4 in 1965 (click this photo for a fascinating description of the rendering of this image); a photo collage of the Walk-Through Computer in Boston, with Oliver Strimpel posing in front of the keyboard and monitor, 1990. All photos courtesy of Oliver Strimpel.
Mike Searle on Geology Bites (Oliver’s first guest, mentioned in the episode)
Nanga Parbat – the 9th highest mountain on Earth at more than 8,100 m/26,600 ft
The Science Museum, London
Dan McKenzie on Geology Bites (Oliver mentions this episode and Dan’s experiments with rocks on Venus)
A wonderfully 1990 educational video about how computers work, featuring the Walk-Through Computer at the Computer Museum in Boston
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab – a dazzling collection of information about scores of missions to every planet in the solar system
Smart Machines exhibit about robotics and Artificial Intelligence (this link opens a PDF newsletter from The Computer Museum archive)
Illustrator David Macaulay
Poets Oliver mentioned
Geology Bites episode with Steve D’Hondt on ancient bacterial colonies
Geology Bites episode with Katie Stack Morgan on the Mars Rover and the geology of Mars
Jezero Crater on Mars
The Drake Equation
The search for life on…
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