Lieutenant Colonel Ken Peterson flew the B-52H Stratofortress and the B-1B Lancer bombers during some of the most tense moments of the Cold War. Today we talk about his experience while on alert, ready to take flight with terrifyingly powerful weapons in tow. We also cover the time Ken briefed the Air Force’s Scientific Advisory Board which recommended the B-1 program to President Reagan.
Aside from flying one of the fastest bombers in the world, Ken is full of stories about crossing paths with legendary historical figures, like General James Doolittle, who led the first strike on the Japanese homeland after the Pearl Harbor attack in World War II, or Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the moon.
Ken's picture with Neil Armstrong: https://nickrroberts.com/posts/b1_b52.html
Buzz One Four Documentary: https://www.amazon.com/Buzz-One-Four-David-Woodhouse/dp/B0795BZ3F3
Music: “Get Tough” by TrackTribe
Nic Bertagnolli is an itinerant data scientist who lives almost full-time from his van with his partner, Laura McNerney, a previous guest of this show. He’s also mathematician, tinkerer, and, though he may not admit it, a futurist and philosopher. Outside of this, Nic enjoys mountain biking, rock climbing, and mountaineering. He’s worked for the likes of 3M, a series of startups, and even Verily, a health research company in Alphabet, as he travels the world with little more than a laptop on his mission for adventure and high accuracy, precision, and recall.
I speak to him today about the state of machine learning and his areas of research. We also discuss the evolving relationship between humans and machines, potential futures, and how to keep current in one of the most dynamic domains of human knowledge.
Jeremy Howard's Fast AI class: https://www.fast.ai/about/
The Morning Paper with Adrian Colyer: https://blog.acolyer.org/
Music: "Morpho Diana" by the Rachel K. Collier
Father’s Day was just a couple weeks ago and to show my appreciation to my dad, I made him read a book with me. It’s called Return with Honor and it’s by Captain Scott O’Grady, U.S. Air Force retired. The reason I chose this story in particular is because his and my father’s histories overlap somewhat. They were contemporaries in the Air Force, they both did some time in the 555th fighter squadron, also known as “The Triple Nickel,” which was reconstituted from an F-15 to an F-16 squadron in 1994. But where things get interesting is that they both served in Italy during the same NATO operations over Bosnia in the mid-nineties. On June 2, 1995, O’Grady was flying a patrol in the NATO no-fly zone when an SA-6 soviet-built surface-to-air missile smacked into his F-16, severing the nose completely from the rest of the fuselage. O’Grady was traveling at 350 knots, or a bit over 400 miles per hour, at 27,000 feet when he was hit. Miraculously, O’Grady survived the explosion, ejected, and began a six-day survival odyssey in hostile Bosnian-serb country. Today, I speak with my dad, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Roberts, a former F-15E Strike Eagle pilot, about his view of O’Grady’s experience and how it changed things for the whole Air Force, from what they carry in the ejection seat to the survival training every pilot receives to this day.
Before we get into the meat of the topic, we start off with some regular old father-son plane talk, so either bear with me on that or skip forward to about 18-20 mins.
Check out Return with Honor on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Return-Honor-Scott-OGrady/dp/0385483309
The F-15C cockpit walkthrough referenced at the beginning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zikI2fazPLo
The Wikipedia history of the Triple Nickel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/555th_Fighter_Squadron
How to fly an F-4 as a civilian (spoiler: it is pricey): https://www.collingsfoundation.org/vmf-flight-experiences-flight-training-programs/
Music: "Controlled distress" by Biz Baz Studio
Laura McNerney is a pilot, engineer, skier, climber, mountaineerer, kite-surfer, van-lifer, mountain biker, and the textbook definition of a badass. She ranks among the youngest women ever to join Delta Airlines as a pilot. Today I speak with her about her experience going from building components for intercontinental ballistic missile systems, and having no piloting experience, to becoming a first officer with Delta in merely three years. We also talk about her love for the outdoors, along with the joys and perils of climbing mountains and glaciers.
I find her story of relentless, singular focus on her goals to be very inspiring and I think it needs to be heard. Laura is a model for folks who want to make a career pivot into something they love.
Music: “The Big Guns” by Silent Partner.
Today I bring you an interview with my dad, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Roberts. As I’ve mentioned before, this podcast is going to jump around a bit between focuses on technology, history, aviation, and travel, as I come across interesting topics and interesting people. I know, it’s somewhat low-hanging fruit to interview your own father, but he’s had a storied career and gotten a chance to fly some of the world’s premier fighter aircraft, including the F-4 Phantom II and the F-15E Strike Eagle, something only a tiny fraction of men and women get to do. With my eyesight there’s probably little chance I could have emulated my dad’s path. Not to mention the obstruction presented by my fear of death.
One apology in advance: We pick up quite a bit of background noise in the house during the interview. Somebody was putting dishes away and occasionally the drone of the laundry machine kicks in, so, sorry for that. But, overall, it’s clear and I think it’s a great rundown of what it’s like to be in the seat of a fighter jet.
Music: "Burnt" by the Jingle Punks
A brief history of nuclear escalation and its nail-biting byproducts
Script and sources: https://medium.com/@nickrroberts/broken-arrows-and-almost-annihilations-ca0ff71cdec8
Referenced in the podcast:
"The Bomb" Making Sense, Sam Harris: https://samharris.org/podcasts/186-the-bomb/,
The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War, Fred Kaplan,
Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, Eric Schlosser
Checkpoint Charlie: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Checkpoint_Charlie