Tag Archives: Radio Documentaries

The Voyager twins: weak signals and discovery from the depths of space

Artist’s concept of Voyager I (Source: NASA)

Yesterday, while listening to the BBC World Service, I heard this fascinating documentary focusing on the Voyager I and II spacecraft. It absolutely blows my mind that both of these spacecraft have been operating for 40 years and continue to send signals back to Earth. Talk about weak signal DX!

Note that you will have to visit the BBC World Service website to listen to the documentary via their media player.

(Source: BBC World Service)

Voyager 1 and 2: Still operating after 40 years in the depths of space. Voyager 1 is currently some 20 billion kilometres from Earth travelling at 15.5 kilometres a second. It takes 19 hours for a signal from the spacecraft’s 20 watt transmitter to reach home. Voyager 2 is 17 billion kilometres away and will soon leave the Solar System.

Launched in 1977, the twin spacecrafts have explored the giant planets and their strange moons, investigated the boundary of the Solar System and changed how we see our place in the Universe. The probes even carry a message for aliens in the form of a golden record.

Retired NASA astronaut Ron Garan meets many of the original team still working on the mission, nursing the twin spacecraft through their final years.

Click here to listen to the documentary via the BBC World Service website.

Elettra: The story of Guglielmo Marconi through his daughter Princess Elettra Marconi

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, William Lee, who notes that the radio documentary Elettra is now available to rent (A$5.10) or download via Vimeo. Note that this program has geographic restrictions and may be limited to streaming in Australia:

ELETTRA from Ronin Films on Vimeo.

Encouraged by her friendship with Australian broadcaster, Ben Starr, the Princess opens her home and her heart to recall and relive her family’s saga.

Her own story is counter-pointed by her memories of her father and all he achieved. As a girl, Elettra watched her father create magic. For her, the use of radio technology to save the?lives of the Titanic survivors and to track down criminals was just part of her father’s wizardry. He had started a revolution. Wireless became the most fabulous invention of the 19th century: the public thought it was miraculous, and leading scientists of the day could not understand how it worked.

Elettra inherited the Marconi empire when she was seven years old. Having spent her life travelling the world to promote her father’s legacy, the Princess now plans to turn her crumbling family palace in Bologna into a radiant academy for the arts and science.
From the gardens of enchanted villas, to the corridors of the Vatican, we peek into the cracks of a new “Dolce Vita”, where nothing is quite what it seems.

For all her joyful enthusiasm, the Princess has found little support for her plan in Italy’s dysfunctional ministries and is searching far beyond. Can she make her dream come true?

Click here to view the trailer on Vimeo.

Garth Mullins: “The Coming Zombie Apocalypse”

Garth-MullinsGarth Mullins is an SWL and a radio geek–he’s also a Sociologist and radio producer.

Garth’s latest radio doc, “The Coming Zombie Apocalypse” was recently featured on the CBC program Ideas with Paul Kennedy.

While the documentary doesn’t focus on shortwave radio, Garth did give a nod to shortwave at the end (well played).

Listen to “The Coming Zombie Apocalypse” via the embedded player below, or via the CBC website:

Be sure to check out Garth’s website: http://www.garthmullins.com/ and his previous radio documentary “End of the Dial.”

National Radio Quiet Zone featured in BBC Radio 4 series

GreenBankTelescope

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, David Freeborough, who shares this brilliant, in-depth radio documentary featured on the BBC News and BBC Radio 4.

This BBC News Magazine article introduces the documentary:

“Anyone driving west from Washington DC towards the Allegheny Mountains will arrive before long in a vast area without mobile phone signals. This is the National Radio Quiet Zone – 13,000 square miles (34,000 sq km) of radio silence. What is it for and how long will it survive?

As we drive into the Allegheny Mountains the car radio fades to static. I glance at my mobile phone but the signal has disappeared.

Ahead of us a dazzling white saucer looms above the wooded terrain of West Virginia, getting bigger and bigger with every mile. It’s the planet’s largest land-based movable object – the Robert C Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) – 2.3 acres in surface area, and taller than the Statue of Liberty.

But it needs electrical peace and quiet to do its job.”

[Continue reading…]

The story continues on the BBC News site, but I would encourage you to listen to the five part radio documentary series on BBC Radio 4 first. Green Bank, WV, is certainly one part of the planet where a shortwave radio listener would be quite happy: residents have virtually no radio interference or obnoxious electrical noises that plague the rest of the modern world.

telescopes-1911The radio documentary can be streamed on the Radio 4 website.  I’ve included links to each episode below. As far as I can tell, there are no expiration dates on the Radio 4 streams:

My wife and I have camped near the NROA site in Green Bank–it’s a beautiful part of the world. I’m certainly long overdue to return!

Again, David, many thanks for sharing this!

WNYC features Leeds Radio

(Source: WNYC)

Now it’s 1952 all over again,” Richard Matthews said with satisfaction, after buffing a small black radio knob to a shiny gleam. “It’s beautiful.”

For those who tinker like it’s 1959, Leed’s Radio is Candyland. This 2,500 square foot warehouse is literally jam packed with an inventory of between three to five million parts, including vacuum tubes, transformers, coils, knobs, switches, light bulbs and just about anything requisite for a radio made before 1965. Some of the stock dates back to 1919, a few years before the original Leeds opened on Manhattan’s Radio Row in 1923.

But with the exception of the hulking 1940s-era Radio Free Europe machine in Matthews’ office, you won’t find a completely assembled radio here. Leeds is a store for people who like to build and tinker with antique technology, not for those who want to purchase pristine relics.

Listen to the full show at the WNYC website and browse Leeds Radio’s website.