With Cristina out sick this week, our favourite astronomer Stuart Robbins joins the panel. First Adam looks into aluminum Christmas trees and whether or not ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ is to blame for their demise. Next, Stuart gives us a long promised overview of habitable zones. Lastly, Darren takes a look into a couple of interpretations of the lyrics for ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’.
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Aluminum Christmas Trees
How Charlie Brown killed the aluminum Christmas tree – Great Falls Tribune
What Ever Became of…Aluminum Christmas Trees? – Atomic Toasters
The Short Life – Awesome Resurgence – of the Aluminum Christmas Tree – Mental Floss
A Charlie Brown Christmas – Wikipedia
Aluminum Christmas tree – Wikipedia
Exposing PseudoAstronomy Podcast
Wikipedia: Circumstellar Habitable Zone
Wikipedia: Galactic Habitable Zone
PopSci: What Methane Based Life On Titan Could Look Like
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
Re aluminum trees: Born in the 1950s, I am old enough to vividly remember both aluminum trees and the first Charlie Brown Christmas broadcast, as well as its aftermath. While the anti-aluminum revolution is too heavy to lay on the shoulders of a single cartoon, I can tell you at least anecdotally that the Charlie Brown effect was real. The aluminum trees were a hit with (some) adults, especially moms — no mess, no tree shopping every year, artsy, available in pink — but kids universally HATED them. So fake, so ugly, so unfragrant, so anti-Christmas, so… grownup! And by kids, I mean us baby boomers, a mega-demographic that has been catered to all our lives. A Charlie Brown Christmas was (consciously, I am sure) tapping into two veins: the antipathy toward commercial Christmas-milking, and the growing environmental movement, in which aluminum specifically was a prime villain. (In the 1960s, median strips and roadsides were garbage pits, overflowing with candy wrappers and rusting beer cans.) While it cannot be held solely responsible (and the plural of anecdote is not “data”), Charlie Brown’s contribution to the demise of the aluminum tree was from my vantage point reasonably significant. It was, if not the first, certainly the most prominent and widely quoted pop culture phenomenon to openly demonize the metal trees. And it targeted the middle and end of very demographic that was most listened and catered to, at a time when even the grownups were starting to reconsider the aluminum wasteland they had been creating. Thanks for a great podcast, as always.
Thanks for the perspective Dean! Nice to get the point of view of someone who lived through it. A lot of the articles I saw on the topic were people who didn’t have much of that view of it.
Just a heads up that I’ll be including your comment on the next show.
I’d like to weigh in on the aluminum xmas tree discussion. I was also born in the 50s, and remember our own silver tree, which we had for at least a couple of years. I don’t think Charlie Brown killed it, but the cartoon doubtless reflected the popular opinion that xmas meant tradition. The aluminum trees were a product of the populuxe design period (think big TVs and HiFis on spindly legs, cars with fins, the Jetsons and anything that looked space aged back then) It was a novelty, and as a novelty it had a limited lifespan and eventually went the way of such things as Grandmothers who covered their sofas in fitted couch covers made of plastic (you had to peel yourself of them when wearing shorts) So, I think Charlie Brown or no Charlie Brown, those trees were on borrowed time. Most people prize tradition in their holidays, so this novelty just couldn’t last. …But I sure wish I had that tree now. It brings back memories.
Thanks for the comment Karen! Always great to get this perspective. I’ve included it in the latest show.