The Secret of the Jungle Gym

The jungle gym (or if you’re in the UK, the climbing frame) might seem like little more than a fun diversion for children. But the jungle gym was actually once seen as a portal to the unseen fourth dimension. Once you hear its astonishing backstory, you will never look at the playground the same way again.

Utopia: As Seen on TV

From Disneyland’s Monsanto House of the Future, to Apple’s famous 1984 commercial, science fiction and advertising have had a rich history together. It turns out that using fiction to sell reality is a pretty profitable idea. But behind the curtain, this seemingly innocuous partnership has a much more intriguing, and sinister, story than you might think.

How much can utopia possibly cost? Let’s dig in even deeper and find out what else science fiction has on offer.

All of the clips mentioned in today’s episode will be posted at

The Holographic Billboard

It seems inevitable that advertisements will play a starring role in the future. Our most futuristic-looking spaces (think New York’s Times Square or Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing) are those populated with enormous, LED billboard ads. In this day and age, ad agencies certainly have access to some impressive technology. But one day, even these enshrined corporate monuments will appear primitive. The Advertisement of the Future is coming. It is more effective and more convincing. Its products are more tantalizing and more addictive. There will be no escape.

Science fiction has long chronicled how advertisements might evolve in an advanced technological landscape. How corporate control might come to threaten the very foundation of government. Today on the show, we explore a few of these visions, many of which have already come to pass.

[This is part one of a series on science fiction and advertising.]

Rick and Morty: Science Fiction Gets Schwifty

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Since 2013, the Adult Swim animated sitcom “Rick and Morty” has been garnering obsessive fans and critical acclaim. But what exactly makes the show so great? And what makes this dark show so funny? Today, we’ll seek to answer those questions, and many more.

More importantly, we’ll be delving into what makes the show both an effective satire of where science fiction has been, and a bellwether of where good science fiction may be heading.

Got thoughts on today’s episode or suggestions for new ones? You can get in touch via our Facebook page or

Red Pill, Blue Pill

If you’ve ever questioned the very nature of reality, you’re not alone. As it turns out, humans have been trying to disprove or escape reality for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. But if this world isn’t real, would we even recognize what is?

Many novels, films, and TV shows have wrangled with the question of what is real: The Matrix, The Truman Show, and The OA, to name just a few. To explore these examples and many more from throughout history, Novum welcomes Yogesh Raut to the program.

Yogesh Raut is a PhD candidate in social psychology at New Mexico State University, with degrees in psychology and Cinematic Arts from USC, NYU, and Stanford University. He is also a renowned quizbowl champion. You can find out more about Yogesh at

It’s a Full “Moon” Party

Get ready for a roundtable discussion on one of 2009’s hottest sci-fi films: Duncan Jones’s “Moon.” Starring Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, the film confronts serious topics such as sentience, exploitation, and non-human rights with reverence and humor. Here, we attempt to do the same.

The roundtable includes Ari Brin, Christopher McIntyre, Samuel James Knight, and Nico Nauta.

Warning: this episode contains the occasional curse word and too many Sams for comfortable listening.

“The Logs” by David Brin

Ari reads a short story by David Brin. “The Logs” stars a young Russian girl who comes to terms with her life on an asteroid work camp. Brin’s style mixes moments of levity with themes of perseverance and struggle. We are faced with the question: is any possible future just a recapitulation of the past? And how can we use those lessons gleaned from the past to endure?

What I Read in 2016

2016 was the year that I really began my science fiction journey, and I’m taking a survey of my most memorable science fiction moments from the last year. Today’s episode is an overview of five impactful books I read in 2016. I discuss authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Silverberg, and Cordwainer Smith. Welcome to the new year!

Asimov vs. The Robotic Uprising

If you’re fearful of the coming robot apocalypse, you’re not alone. Science fiction writers for two centuries have been trying to figure out what humanity’s place in the world will be when the robots have risen. You and I, right now, are in the midst of that rise. Robots are on their way to becoming stronger, smarter, and sexier than we could ever hope to be. Are we, as, humans, destined for oblivion? One SF writer has made the shocking claim that, actually, the robot uprising might not be all that bad.