SGU Episode 971

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SGU Episode 971
February 17th 2024
971 FCC.jpeg

"The Future Circular Collider (FCC) study has looked into various collider designs, envisaging a research infrastructure housed within a 100km underground tunnel. This ambitious project is promising a physics program that will take high energy research into the next century." [1]

SGU 970                      SGU 972

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

J: Jay Novella

E: Evan Bernstein

Quote of the Week

Starving brains can hallucinate, but even well-fed minds can convince themselves they feel something that simply isn't there.

Jonathan Jarry, Canadian science communicator

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Show Notes
Forum Discussion

Introduction, Pennsylvania and Lent[edit]

Voice-over: You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, your escape to reality.

S: Hello and welcome to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. Today is Thursday, June 13th, 2024, and this is your host, Steven Novella. Joining me this week are Bob Novella...

B: Hey, everybody!

S: Jay Novella...

J: Hey guys.

S: Evan Bernstein...

E: Hi everyone.

S: ...and George Hrab.

G: Hello children.

S: Hey, George.

G: What's happening? What's happening, gentlemen?

S: Thank you for joining us for this show. George, I got a question for you.

G: Go, hit me, please.

S: So what are you going to rename Pennsylvania to?

G: Oh, I think, I think, uh, I think Georgetown.

S: Georgetown?

G: That's, yeah, that's fine. Or maybe some kind of like...

S: GeoVille?

G: GeoVille or maybe just like Fried Doner-ton. Fried Doner-ton would be good for Pennsylvania, I think.

E: Bob, isn't your suggestion Transylvania? Turn it into that.

G: I would love that. Oh my gosh. That'd be wonderful. All the signs.

S: Transylvania?

G: That'd be cool. Welcome to Pennsylvania.

E: Exactly. Oh, the commercials write themselves.

G: Seriously. Unbelievable, right? That's where we're at. That's where we're at now.

E: Man, that's where we're at. Welcome to 2020.

G: You know where we are? Speaking of fried dough, today's Mardi Gras. I don't know if you guys are aware.

S: It's the Fat Tuesday.

E: Fat Tuesday?

G: Well, in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Dutch have this thing called Faschnacht. You ever heard of that?

S: No.

J: What the hell is that?

G: Well, a Faschnacht. Yeah. Somehow, I'm not sure what exactly literally it means, but it's a big flat doughnut. It's a big, flat, delicious Pennsylvania doughnut. What you do on Faschnacht day is you make these doughnuts and you eat traditionally because they're made out of lard and sugar and butter and fat. These were all the items you wanted to get out of your pantry because Lent was going to be starting. The most efficient way to do that was to make this fantastic little flat, not pancake-y, but like a doughnut-y, kind of pillowy, fat, happy, just thing that you just eat like a monster on Tuesday. Happy Faschnacht, ladies and gentlemen. I didn't have one today because I'm trying to be smart and trying to be good. This is the day where you have a big Pennsylvania doughnut and start your Lenten season.

E: George, I have a question.

G: Yeah.

E: If you're not going to participate in this, what are you going to do with all the lard in your cupboard?

G: Oh, well, I have plenty of uses. Don't worry, Evan. I have plenty of uses for that.

E: But you've got to get rid of it by what?

S: Can you eat the lard even if you're not going to celebrate Lent?

G: I guess. I'm planning to swim the channel, so that's what I'm going to do with my lard.

J: How long would the average person live if they ate lard for three meals a day?

E: As part of one-third of the day.

S: How am I supposed to know that?

G: One long weekend.

J: You're a doctor. You've been a doctor for 30 years, didn't you? I mean, what do they teach you? For Christ's sake.

G:Didn't you minor in lard?

S: I mean, do you think we've done that?

G: Doctor of lard.

S: We've done that experiment?

J: No, but you don't have to because people are doing it, man.

S: Well, sort of. I mean, you would be significantly unhealthy within weeks if that helps you. But I don't know how long it would take to actually die from that. But you would probably start to get liver damage and your blood sugar would go crazy and all kinds of stuff like that. You'd be able to see physiologically that that stuff was happening probably within weeks.

G: What if there were sprinkles too? Would that make a difference at all? Would that help? Would that hinder?

S: Are they sprinkles or jimmies?

G: Yeah, sprinkles.

E: Oh, here we go.

B: They have to be protein sprinkles.

G: Right.

George's concert; D&D (3:40)[edit]

S: So George, you've got some concert thing going on. Tell us about it.

G: I do have a concert thing going on. So you might be aware back in April, I released my eighth album, which is called Terpsichore. And this is an album that I recorded sort of as a tribute to the records I grew up with in the 80s that I loved to dance to. Not those albums that necessarily were like club dance records, but records like by bands from like Talking Heads and The Police and Duran Duran that I just, to me, they were great dance albums. They were very groove oriented and they were just fun to jump around your bedroom and listen to them at full volume. And I recorded an album called Terpsichore that was kind of my tribute to that. And I'm doing something I've never actually done before. I've done lots of shows, lots of concerts. I've done tribute shows where I've played other people's complete albums. I did the Dreaming of Blue Turtles. Yeah, Steve was there for that show. I've done Dark Side of the Moon, the whole thing on my podcast every now and then I'll do an entire album. But this is the first time live I'm going to be playing one of my own albums top to bottom, the entire thing, and it's going to be happening March 9th, right here in Bethlehem. I have an expanded band, a seven piece band, as well as three other guests that are going to be playing. And I am, we've had a couple of rehearsals so far and this could be, without too much hyperbole, like the best production I've ever been involved in. I am so, so excited. I think it's some of the best music I've ever written, humbly, I can say that. And the people that I have got to play on this are just some of the coolest, most talented, loveliest humans and I'm just super excited.

S: That sounds awesome. Unfortunately, I'm going to be in New Hampshire when that's happening.

G: Oh, OK. Well, no worries. But if anybody wants to come to the thing, you can go to and you can get tickets for that. But it's the kind of thing that it's really a special event to be able to share in a musical experience. Like the record is written, the album is written to be experienced kind of in a single chunk. It's 51 minutes. I wrote it to be like this singular experience and to have that happen live, it's really going to be special and extraordinary. So if you're anywhere close to Bethlehem, PA, if you're in Philly or New Jersey somewhere, Northern Jersey, come on over. Bethlehem is lovely. SGU fans might remember the Ice House, which is where we did our, we did two no-shows there. We had a wonderful time in that venue. You guys remember we did a Boomer Zoomer and we did some live podcasts there. And so it's that venue, which is one of my favorite venues in the world, just happens to be a quarter-mile from my condo, which is great.

S: We also did the second SGU D&D game there, or role-playing games.

B: That was so much fun.

J: That was cool.

G: Right.

S: The first one being during our 24-hour show. You guys remember that?

E: I do. Absolutely.

G: Super fun.

J: Our friend Doug ran that game.

S: Maybe we should do the third one sometime. What do you think?

E: There may be occasions to do that.

S: George, have you ever role-played in your life?

G: The closest I got was, I mean, if you mean like role-playing like D&D kind of game, kind of thing. Yeah. Like, no. The closest I got was when we did the space thing at the Ice House.

S: Yeah, right.

G: Where I was the entertainment robot or whatever I was. I forget what I was. That's the closest I ever came. I've never actually done the dice rolling, throwing, rolling thing. I know you've tried to convince me a bunch of times that it's great. I just, I don't know. I don't know. I'm sure it's wonderful, but I have a blockage, I think.

S: It's possible. I'm not going to pretend it's for everyone. But my experience has been that everyone, unless you're like just a total, already a full-blown nerd. But most people have a blockage until they play it and at some point they learn like what actually happens and what they're supposed to do.

G: Right.

S: Right? And you have to get over that hump. Once you're over that hump, then it's fun. Then it's a ton of fun. But yeah.

G: There's a number of humps I need to get over, I'm sure, and that's definitely one of them. So yeah. I'd be curious. What would you recommend as a newbie? What should I play? What would be the best thing for me to first do?

S: The best thing you would first do would be to do a tabletop game with one of the Novella boys.

G: OK. One-on-one? That's like, that's just like.

S: Small group. Five people.

G: Oh, five people. OK. Yeah. All right.

S: A one-off game. There are games that are designed to run in one session.

G: OK. Does one stick out as particularly fantastic?

S: What's the name of that movie, 1J, that we do every now and then?

J: Director's Cut.

S: Director's Cut. That'd be a good one to start with. Low stakes. Yeah.

J: It's a super, super easy game system. Like as a new player, you wouldn't have to think about anything. And it's all about the immersion, right? The person running the game sets the tone tells you the environment, presents to you this scenario that you're going to have to deal with. I would, I don't know. I mean, do you like fantasy, George, or do you like things that are more, like, reality based?

G: I like. I'm a little more reality based. I mean, I like the science fiction and stuff. The fantasy never, never quite connects. Sometimes it does, but never quite.

E: OK. We'll play Cthulhu.

S: Role playing could be horror, could be modern.

G: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

S: Could be. We did a mafia one that was really cool.

J: Oh, God. That was so much fun.

G: That would be interesting. Maybe, maybe, like, if I knew it was being recorded, I could see it as a performance and then I would, like, get over the, because I've I'm, I'm fine with performing. It's the weird thing of, like, I'm sitting here with my friends talking in a weird accent. That's like, that's the, that's the part that would be hard for me to get through.

S: You're entertaining each other, basically.

G: I guess. I guess. Yeah. Yeah. Let's do that. Let's make that happen. And we'll film it. And we'll post it. And then we'll, we'll erase it.

E: Hey, George, you accent, you do accents on your podcast, just letting you know. So.

G: Oh, I know. But that's just like me alone in a room. I can't do that in front of people. My goodness.

E: Can you imagine? Could you imagine if they ever heard that? Oh, you'd be mortified.

S: But speaking of which, though, it is good. I mean, and therapists do use role playing in order to teach skills social skills.

G: Sure.

S: And I absolutely credit my role playing experience with my ability to get up in front of hundreds of people and perform or do whatever I got to do or give a lecture.

G: Oh, sure.

S: Lean the charge against the orcs, whatever it takes. No, seriously, it's you know, I went into my role playing experience very different than I came out of it in terms of like those skills, those skill sets. All right. Let's get started.

Quickie with Bob: Metalenses (10:05)[edit]

S: Bob, tell us about this new metamaterial.

B: Thank you, Steve. This is your quickie with Bob. Yes. Meta, not metamaterial this time, but meta lenses in the news, which is which is a little bit different. OK. I'll start with a little known fact. The human eye itself actually does some super fast processing of images before the visual data is downloaded into the brain's visual cortex to do the heavy lifting. That's just an interesting fact I've known for a while that actually plays into this news item. Electrical engineers at Penn State have now they've accomplished a similar feat, actually, by using an optical component called a meta lens to preprocess image data before sending that data to an artificial intelligence system. Now, the AI systems that can recognize objects in a scene, we've seen them, we've heard about them. We've maybe even used them. They're amazing today. But processing all that complex data can be slow, could really slow it down and use a significant amount of computing power. These new meta lenses have nanostructures at different angles that can bend and transform the light instantly into into a different coordinate system that allows important parts of the image to be more clear and others to be less so, which then, of course, saves data bandwidth and processing time. It's like your eyes sending to your brain in focus objects and other objects that are not in focus. They're just kind of blurred out. So your brain doesn't really bother trying to work on those. It's working on the things that have been that are clear and that the important things which saves saves time and bandwidth. So now what they do is with this metal lens, it doesn't take any power. You just put it essentially right in front of the camera and it just works essentially at the speed of light. The light goes through. It's changed automatically changed into this new coordinate system. Then the camera digitizes that and sends it to the AI. Researchers say a meta surface can be used in tandem with AI systems as a preprocessor, making it easier to recognize the same car from multiple street view cameras. Or if it's applied to a satellite, it could potentially track planes from takeoff to landing, the entire process. It's really interesting. So check it out online metal lenses. This has been your cookie with Bob. Back to you, Steve.

S: Thank you, Bob.

News Items[edit]

Flow Batteries (12:17)[edit]

S: So, guys, I want to give a little bit of a battery update. I know we talk about batteries a lot.

J: Well it's an important thing.

S: But it's a very important technology, could have a potentially dramatic effect on our world. And it's right at the nexus of the green energy transition, right? Fortunately, battery technology has been improving continuously over the last 20, 30 years.

B: Baby steps, mainly.

S: It's incremental, but it's but it's not insignificant, though. I would say significant, even though incremental, but cumulative to the point that the batteries today are much better than they were in every parameter. And they're continuing to improve. The batteries like the lithium ion batteries that will be coming out next year are better than the ones that they had this year. They'll increase the energy density a little bit. They are using less of the rare earth materials. They are less likely to catch fire. They have a longer charge discharge cycle life. They're just getting better. But of course, we're anxious. And we want the more than the incremental improvement, right? We want...

B: I don't.

S: We want the big leap though, right?

B: Oh, wait. No, I do.

S: We do. Yes. If every year it's 5%, 10% better, that's awesome. But damn, we want a doubling, like we just want tripling. We want to...

B: Because if you're young, 5% is good. But at our age, we want big improvement.

S: But it's not just that, Bob. If we're calculating out like how fast we're going to make this green transition, then the more quickly the batteries improve, the better. That could have a huge impact.

B: Oh, we're doomed anyway. Just go ahead.

S: Not true. But...

B: Yes true. Have you ever read the news? We're screwed.

S: One thing that I find frustrating though, because I have an electric vehicle. I own a Tesla. And it's honestly... This is just my honest opinion. It's awesome. It's an awesome car. I love it. I love driving it. It's so convenient. Of course, we can charge at home because we own our own parking space. Although...

B: You know...

S: Yeah?

B: I've been in that car many times. Haven't driven it. But sometimes I'm happy I don't have one because I think I would kill myself. The acceleration, you are in...

S: Off the hook.

B: A race car, it's off the hook. I think I would be testing it, testing the acceleration here and there. I really think I would hurt myself.

S: It's fast. And we've never put the pedal to the metal. I've never really, really opened up the car as far as it can go. You get to a point where you're like, all right, that's fast enough. You know? That's enough. And...

B: It's scared, right? It's scary.

S: It's incredible. But still, the number one reason people give for why they don't want to buy an EV is range anxiety.

B: Oh, my God.

S: Which doesn't really make sense because the...

B: Not anymore.

S: The car's range is like 250 to 350 miles is more than what 90% of people need for 95% of their driving. But anyway, the more range that we build into the cars, I think the more acceptance there would be. So plus...

B: Oh, yeah.

S: Plus, the greater the energy, the specific energy, right? So remember, there's energy density, which is energy per volume, and specific energy, which is energy per mass. Although they do tend to go hand in hand recently with battery technology. But the lighter you could make the battery, that also gives you more range because you're not dragging a heavy battery around. So you actually... It magnifies the benefit of the increased specific energy of the battery.

B: It's like the rocket...

S: The rocket equation, right?

B: The fuel...

E: Lighter's better.

B: To move the fuel.

S: Right. Exactly. So if you had double the energy, the specific energy of the battery, you would get more than double the range by cutting it in... Or you would have more than the same range by cutting it in half because you're picking up the benefit of having a lighter battery. All right. But anyway.

B: Yeah, where are you going with that?

G: I want someone to design a manual transmission electric car. If someone could do that for me, that would be really... I'd appreciate that.

S: They exist. There are retrofits.

G: Really?

S: Yeah.

B: Really?

S: People retrofit electric engines into old cars.

G: No, I know.

S: With whatever you want.

G: But I still want the shift, though. I still want to have to do the actual...

J: Yeah, I'm saying, it's not going to be as efficient, George.

S: With that...

G: Really?

S: There's no production car that does that, but there are...

G: Right.

S: You can go to a garage that will do that for you. Anyway, what are the prospects for a... I hate to use this term, but we all use it, a quantum leap in battery.

B: I feel for you, Steve. I feel for you.

E: 1980s.

B: Sometimes you just got to accept the stupid expressions.

G: What's the new paradigm?

S: Yeah. Where is it going?

G: We're only going to push the envelope.

S: But first, George, we have to think outside the box.

G: Of course.

S: So, we already talked about the Amprius battery, which is a doubling. That was like, okay, boom, we shift. We switch from graphite anode to silicon anode and basically doubled the energy density and specific energy of the lithium ion battery. They're making them initially for planes because the reduced weight is more valuable there. But they're saying they will produce them for vehicles probably 2026, thereabouts. But they're not the only ones doing that. So, Panasonic, who makes the car batteries for Tesla and makes 10% of the EV batteries in the world, they are developing a silicon...

B: Solid-state battery?

S: Nope. A silicon anode lithium ion battery. So, like Amprius. So, those are produced for cars. I don't know what's going to come out first, but very soon, within a year or two, maybe three at the most, we're going to have essentially a doubling of the capacity of these lithium ion batteries.

E: Nice.

B: I mean, so what... Over a thousand mile range?

S: Well, it'll be...

E: No, half the weight. It'll cut the weight.

B: Oh, yeah.

S: Well, yeah, you go either way. But it's like... You're talking about, Bob, going from like a 350 range to a 700 mile range at the same weight or some compromise, like maybe you go to 500 miles, but you make it lighter. It's also going to be cheaper, so bringing the price down is good.

B: Oh, my God.

S: There's a lot... It's like so many...

B: That's big.

E: So many advantages. All advantages.

S: There's so many advantages. All right, but that's not what I want to talk about either. What I want to talk about is flow batteries.

B: Get to the point.

S: Have you guys... I don't think we've talked about flow batteries.

E: Flow batteries, that gal from Progressive on the TV.

S: Yeah, flow.

E: Flow.

S: Flow batteries are called that because they essentially have the electrolyte, rather than being in metals, it's in a liquid. So you have these two liquids that exchange electrolytes, and that's what generates the electrical charge. They are safer than lithium ion batteries. They have less of a chance of... They're more stable. They operate under a broad temperature range, less of a chance that they'll catch fire. So they're better in many parameters, except one.

E: Cost.

S: No, they should be cost competitive with lithium ion batteries. Their energy density is only 10% that of lithium ion batteries.

E: Oh, right. So you need 10.

S: So that's a deal killer for electric vehicles. It may be okay for grid storage, but it's a deal killer for electric vehicles. There's one huge advantage though, potentially, potentially. Because they're liquid batteries, you can-

B: Easy to replace.

S: You can swap out the electrolyte fluid as a form for rapid charging. No.

E: Oh, rapid charging.

B: A couple of minutes.

S: You can pull up to a "gas station", connect a hose to your car, exchange your fluid, and you're fully charged and ready to go in five minutes. So it'd basically be the same experience as filling up your tank with gas.

J: That would be awesome.

E: That's big. That's significant.

S: You can also charge it the traditional way, so it's like the best of both worlds. You could charge up at home, but if you need a quick charge on the road, you just fill her up like you would a gas car, and you're ready to go.

B: There goes the range exactly, right?

E: So we need more energy-dense flow batteries.

G: What's the catch though? Yeah. What's the catch?

S: Well, the catch is the 10%-

B: Density.

S: Density.

G: The 10%.

S: However, Bob, I have one word for you. Nanofluids.

B: Nanofluids? You got my attention.

E: Sign Bob up right now.

J: You're not talking about nanomachines.

B: Yeah, what does that mean, nanofluids?

S: So these researchers, this is back in 2009, did a proof of concept where they, instead of just using electrolytes, they used these danites dissolved or suspended in the fluid in their flow battery, and they showed that you could get much higher energy density. Then they were given a grant by, guess who?

E: Tesla.


G: Exxon.


B: DARPA, yeah.

S: DARPA Energy, although they call it ARPA Energy. I don't know if that was a typo or- But it's the same place. So DARPA does those technology challenges where they give a lot of grants, but they also do those, like you win a million dollars per person to do this.

E: Oh, right. Like the Google Challenge has one, SpaceX has one.

B: I haven't heard anything like that in a while now.

S: So they developed it into a working battery, and then the researchers started their own private company, InFluid Energy, to commercialize it. So it's interesting, the whole process, it was initially researchers who then got a government grant and are now going private, and they're getting government contracts to help commercialize it. So it's like a completely intertwined development process between academia, government, and private company. But it's all the same people in all those stages. Anyway, they are claiming that they have a nanofluid flow battery that's working right now with double the energy capacity of lithium ion batteries. They're claiming, in fact-

E: Wait, capacity or density?

B: Specific density?

S: Specific energy and energy density. So by volume and mass. In fact, even better than where Amprius currently is, they're claiming that their design would get between 550 to 850 watt hours per kilogram. So just to put it for perspective, the best Tesla battery right now is just shy of 300. So 850, you're almost getting to triple. The middle of that range is double the best EV battery that we have now. And there may even be a little bit more headroom there. One of the variables is what percentage of the fluid is the nanoparticles. Right now, they say they got up to 50% by weight. So the electrolyte fluid with suspended nanoparticles is 50% by weight, the nanoparticles. And of course, the greater the percentage, the greater the energy density of the energy storage, right? The density of the energy storage. They claim they can get up to 80%. And at 80%, I think that's where you get that maximum 850 watt hour, I think the triple current energy density. And they say that this could be they're commercializing this. This is to be mass-produced as an EV battery. They've solved all the problems. They're just doing it.

E: How soon do we see it in action?

S: Yeah, but I don't know. It's going to be at least be a couple of years, I would imagine.

B: What? You said they're right there. You're right there.

E: Yeah, aren't they ready to start?

S: Not to start there, but to build the factory, to get the things going. It's always two, three years, right?

E: But they must have prototypes or something.

B: Yeah, show me a prototype, man.

S: They had a working prototype in 2013.

B: And we're hearing about this 11 years later.

S: So this is how long it takes to get to the point where they're ready to commercialize it.

E: OK.

S: Yeah, so then the question becomes remember, technology is not just about the technology, right? It's also about infrastructure. And the question is, I mean, I think the good thing about this battery is that even with existing infrastructure, you could use it exactly like you use a lithium-ion battery, right?

B: Yeah, just charge it at home or at a station.

S: Yeah, or a charging station. So it's-

B: It doesn't even need the fluids yet.

S: Exactly. You know, it doesn't need the fluid exchange. And then as they build in the infrastructure to swap out the fluids, that is extra added convenience on top of it.

B: It's almost perfect. It's almost perfect.

E: You'll have-

B: If you couldn't charge it, they'd be kind of screwed.

S: Yeah.

B: They'd have to wait for the infrastructure. But now they don't have to wait. And then the infrastructure will come and then they'll be even better. More people will even want it.

E: So it works with current charging technology. And in the future, it will only be better. And it'll be ready to go when that infrastructure is in there.

G: What's the volume for the fluid for a vehicle? Are we talking like similar, like 10 gallons kind of stuff?

S: No, they said it'll be about the same size as a current EV battery, so the volume of a lithium-ion battery.

B: Which is kind of big, right?

S: They're big. Yeah.

B: There's a lot of batteries in there.

S: But that's-

G: So it could be like 30, 40 gallons or something.

S: I don't know what- I don't actually know what the volume is. So yeah. So it-

G: Wow.

S: Basically, it's all within parameters of what would be necessary in order for it to function with an electric vehicle. Yeah. So the thing is, there's a bunch of these technologies that are sort of being developed in parallel while we're maximizing the lithium-ion battery. When I was doing research for this piece, I found a good Nature article that reviewed like all of the ones that are up and coming. So here's a couple of them. They have sodium-ion batteries, lithium-sulfur batteries, lithium-metal batteries, and solid-state lithium-air batteries. You notice how they all have lithium? Most of them are lithium and one is sodium. Do you know why that is?

B: Yeah. I noticed that.

J: Why is that?

S: Because lithium is the lightest element that you could use in this way, right? It's the lightest metal. It's the third element on the periodic table. And sodium is right below it on the periodic tables. That's the next heaviest one.

E: Yeah, same problem.

S: So it's the lightest thing with those properties that you would need to make a good battery out of it. So there's no getting better than lithium. And if you want to pack electrons per mass, that's like the best we could do. That's why they all use lithium. Now the best one, in terms of like the potential, because the article reviewed like here's where we are now and here's the potential. The one with the highest potential was the solid-state batteries. And the Nature article said that they should be able to get up to 1,200 watt hours per kilogram, which is basically four times existing EVs.

B: Yeah, but when? When's the prediction for that?

S: I've been reading about solid-state batteries for years. And I know that some versions of them exist now. There's like a Japanese company, a Chinese company working on solid-state batteries. I think they're starting out like twice the lithium-ion battery energy density, but they have the potential to get to four times, which would be amazing. That's then where it's way more than I say that now, but like I said about every hard drive I've ever owned, it's way more than we would ever need, right? But-

B: 200 gig hard drive.

S: For cars, anyway. Of course, for electric airplanes, like there is no, then it's just...

E: Right. Yeah, then you're talking.

S: Really make electric aviation really viable. But I think that...

B: For good-sized planes, yeah.

S: The bottom line is, with so many options in development, and they all look very promising, and we're all at either the prototype stage or the in-development or the commercialization stage or whatever, definitely by like the 2030s, we're going to be at the two to three times our current typical battery capacity in terms of energy density and specific energy than we are now.

E: We're impatient.

S: It's going to be a totally different world at that point when you think about EVs and grid storage. Anyway, I like to keep myself updated on the battery tech, and this is a big sort of news item this week.

E: All right. So the days of incremental tiny baby steps are coming to an end.

S: I think it's accelerating. There's still incremental advances with just a regular lithium-ion battery. That tech gets better every year. But now we're seeing all of this stuff that we've been reading about for 10, 15 years and often talking about on the show. They're all sort of getting ready to come to fruition with shifting to another technology that is, again, like a significant advance all at once rather than just another small incremental advance.

E: Good stuff.

S: Yeah. It's good stuff.

B: Yeah. We'll be saying, remember those lithium-ion batteries?

E: Remember that Tesla Novella used to drive?

G: It's a shame, though, because the guys that draw the little battery and how to put the battery into the flashlight, they're probably going to be out of a gig. So I always like those little diagrams. I feel bad for those guys. But I guess you've got to just retrain.

J: I wonder what the upper limit is here.

S: The theoretical upper limit of physics? Yeah. I don't know.

B: I should know this. (laughter) No, I'm serious. I should.

S: You should, Bob.

B: It's not as epic as you would think. It's not like the science fiction movies. The physical limit, battery technology at the limit of physics would be really cool, but not as mind-bendingly holy crap as you might think. It's still pretty intense.

S: That always gets me. That's one of the most common and flagrant gimmies in science fiction shows, when they have some technology that has just ridiculous energy. Where's it coming from? Or like Iron Man's suit, when he's flying through the air, it's like, where are you keeping all your propellant? You would need a massive propellant tank on your back to be doing what you're doing.

G: It's the arc reactor.

S: Well, that's the energy, but that's not even – that's like one thing.

J: Yeah, but he needs propellant to push him forward.

E: Right. What's it igniting?

S: Yeah. Anyway.

G: What's the arc reactor, guys?

E: Oh, yeah, of course.

J: I'm okay with that.

G: It's not as clear here.

S: I know. That's the gimme, but it's like –

E: It's called Noah's Arc Reactor.

S: That's one of the biggest gimmies in science fiction. It's right up there with, let's just ignore the whole interstellar radiation thing.

J: You know, it's – I mean, Steve, you and I do a lot of writing for like tabletop gaming.

S: Yeah.

J: I'm writing a screenplay right now, and I am like really struggling with getting my fiction in line with science.

'S: Yeah.

J: It's not easy.

S: It takes work. It takes work.

J: It takes a lot of work.

E: Trying to come up with a world that makes sense.

J: Yeah, like just the world building rules. Like you can't just willy-nilly it. It's got to be – it's got to all be – it's got to be consistent. It's got to be like intertwined with itself. It's a hard thing to do. It really is.

E: Well, if you're trying to make quality, yes.

J: Yeah, but as a skeptic we've been doing this for so long. I'm like – I'm picking up. I'm like, oh my god. What about this? What about this? What about this? I'm like just –

E: It's getting in the way of your creative juices.

S: I think it makes it better because then –

J: In the end, it will.

S: When you solve the problem, you make the world more consistent, more interesting.

J: Definitely.

E: That's what Scott Sigler does, right?

J: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

G: I was just going to say, like Scott and I were having a conversation with Sigler years ago where he like – he wanted to be able to have directions in space and the more he thought about it, like between galaxies and stuff, the more it was like, well, there's no frame of reference. So like how would one ship know where the other ship is without a frame of – like you can't – and he was trying to figure out the most basic thing which like is sort of sloughed over in every kind of science fiction space travel story of like, OK, we're here and we want to go to this other place. How do we do that? So he had to just – I think he spoke with Phil Plait and a bunch of other people to try to figure out some way to be able to make some kind of a system where you can just go from A to B over massive distances in space where there's no up or down or left or right.

B: Right. And the problem – and don't forget, it might – even if you found a way to solve that, which is totally doable, the problem is it might be good for a millennia. But then after that, like, oh, you got to recalibrate because everything is moving.

E: Going through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy.

Green Roofs (31:48)[edit]

S: All right, Jay, you're going to tell us about another green technology, green roofs in urban settings.

J: So recently a study was published in Nature Cities and this was led by Indira Adilkhanova and Professor Geun Young Yun of Kyung Hee University. I'm giving myself three SGU points for pronouncing all those. The current and future problems is urban overheating, which is only getting worse because, as you know, global warming, right? It's changing our climate. So this is a really serious issue because today approximately 56% of the world's population live in cities. So this is about 4.4 billion people. We had a scorcher of a summer in New England here last year and it was incredibly worse the further south that you go. What can we do to mitigate this problem that we absolutely know is going to happen?

'S: Jay, as an aside, do you know what the heat island effect is? Have you ever heard that term?

J: The heat covalent?

S: The heat island effect.

B: Like in the city, right?

S: Yeah.

J: Yeah, I've read about that.

S: Yeah, cities give off a lot of heat basically and so that raises the temperature. For a while the climate change deniers were saying that the earth isn't warming, that it's just that all of our temperature detectors are close to cities and they're just detecting the heat island effect, which of course climatologists know about and corrected for or they also use temperature sensors that are not near civilization so that you can control for that effect. But anyway, that tangentially relates to what you're talking about.

J: Yeah. I lived in this city and it's like a battery. Like it absorbs the solar radiation all day and at night it's still stinking hot because all that heat is radiating out of the blacktop and the buildings and everything. Like it's traditionally hard to live in during the summertime in a city where there's a lot of concrete and a lot of pavement. So anyway, the investigators were looking into the impact of something called green roofs on urban temperature regulation and energy consumption reduction. So a green roof, also known as a rooftop garden or a living roof, this is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with some type of vegetation. Scientists are researching green roofs to help mitigate urban overheating and surprisingly to me they're very effective. So the research shows that green roofs are definitely an effective and scalable nature-based solution for mitigating these effects. The science behind a green roof makes a lot of sense here. So the vegetation and soil layer allows for water evaporation, right? Pretty straightforward. Water, when water evaporates, it cools the surface that it's being evaporated from, right? Some of the heat is in the water as it goes up and floats away. So the green roof also acts as insulation for the buildings that it's on top of and this lowers the building's cooling energy needs. There are two variations of green roofs. They perform differently as well. So we have something called extensive green roofs and these are like the lightweight version. They require minimal maintenance. You know, usually they're not accessible by people. They have a shallow layer of soil or a different growing medium that's typically roughly two to six inches deep, supporting a drought-resistant plants such as sedums and grasses. And these work very well and you don't really need to have a super complicated irrigation system but the building could potentially still need some reinforcement to be able to handle the weight of everything that you would be adding to the roof of the building, particularly older buildings. The second type is intensive green roofs and these are the heavier version and these require much more maintenance. They also need a lot more structural reinforcement, of course, because they're heavier. These can support a wider variety of plants including trees and shrubs, things with extensive roots and systems. Intensive green roofs are, these are typically accessible by people and can include things like walkways and benches it's like a park. They have a deeper growing medium, right? So the amount of soil that's there is going to be more than six inches and if you dig into the details here, you could see like they already basically know what's needed to do this and there's several layers that go into this, like kind of like building the outer wall of a house. You don't just put your siding on the plywood, you have to have like a water barrier and there's things that need to be in place in order for this system to work. And also, of course, you can't have this thing leaking into the building, right? So there's lots of precautions that need to be taken. The researchers focused on non-irrigated extensive green roofs because they're less expensive, they're easier to implement, they're more likely to be implemented this might be the early adoption, most likely end up being the extensive green roofs which are, like I said, the less complicated one. The results of their study showed that increasing the coverage of green roofs definitely leads to more substantial reductions in both the temperatures and the energy use. So for example, if a city had 90% of the buildings equipped with green roofs, now I know that's a lot. It is a lot. But they're just giving an ideal example, like, okay, if we were able to make it so through government incentives and things like that, we could get 90% coverage here. What would it look like? There would be a decrease in the city's air temperature by up to 0.54 degrees Celsius. And I know that sounds like a small number, but it's actually significant. And the surface temperature would go down as much as 2.17 Celsius, which is very significant. Now also energy consumption for cooling was reduced approximately 7.7%. You know, right there that is definitely a significant change that if we incorporate green roofs into urban areas there could be a lot of money saved and everything. But of course there's a rub, right? The skeptical angle here is this stuff is expensive. It is very expensive to do this. Building green roofs requires structural changes. If a new building is going to do it, they have to build for it and it's going to cost more money. But a good thing to keep in mind here, like as an example, in 2016 in North American green roof industry, it grew more than 10% with nearly 900 green roof projects, which totaled more than 4 million square feet reported in 40 U.S. states and six Canadian provinces. So people are doing it. They're finding the money and there is a long-term benefit and these green roofs can last a very, very long time. You know, they're not something that has to be completely redone in three or four years. Like you put it in and it's it's self-propagating. You just keep – you maintain it. You do the things that you're supposed to do and this thing will last for a long time. So the money in is worth it. It's just hard to get that money.

S: Jay, I have one question. So I don't know if you encountered this anywhere but if you compare having a green roof versus having solar panels on the roof, which one is better?

J: Yeah, that's a freaking awesome question, Steve. I honestly don't know from an energy perspective. I mean I was looking at the formulas like they give you the megawatts and all that stuff and I was trying to dive into that and really wrap my head around it and then trying to see if it's worth it. Is it really going to be a true money saver? The researchers are saying that it would absolutely be a net benefit for a city to help foster the investments to make these things happen. In the end, it costs money to protect people, right? So we're – you know, so solar panels won't have the same heat reduction as green roofs would, right? What are we trying to do? Yeah, we want the solar panels, of course, because we want the energy creation. The number of people living in cities is slowly increasing so we need to think about this stuff. So that's one solution. I read an interesting thing where they were talking about living underground. You know, there's lots of ideas going around here. I just don't see living underground as a viable option.

S: What about in a hobbit hole?

J: Well, that's another thing. I mean they're sandy, they're dry, they're welcoming, there's lots of food, there's cheeses. I mean I'm all for it, Steve.

S: Yeah.

G: Hey Jay, is there a correlation between that effect and the effect of just white roofs? Because I remember reading about that years ago about just taking a city and changing all of the black roofs to white roofs has a significant heat effect.

J: Yes, I read about that. They're called cool roofs. And they don't size up. That's like junior league and green roofs are like major league. It's like very different. I'm not saying that people shouldn't do that. You know, it's helpful. You know, you see that school buses have white roofs and UPS trucks have white roofs. Like there is a benefit, definite. So I think this is the beginning. This was literally the first study, the real intensive first study that they've done. It takes a lot of money and time for researchers and scientists to dig in and figure out all the details. But this preliminary study is showing very, very positive results and they'll keep doing it. They'll keep researching it and you never know. We'll see what happens.

G: Here in Bethlehem, there was a study done a couple of years ago where one portion of the city is very green in terms of trees and coverage and grassy areas and another portion is not as much less so. And they did a study and they recognized because of the temperature difference between those two spaces in our own city within the span of a five or six-mile area, there was a seven-year life expectancy difference. Seven years difference between the places that had trees and were green and the places that didn't. It was astonishing, this data. So it shows the effect of just having green spaces. Plus the –

S: That wasn't a controlled study, right? I mean they just said where is it green and where isn't it green.

G: Right, right. From my understanding, yeah.

S: They didn't like make green spaces and see what happened. So it's quite possible that people of higher socioeconomic status live in greener –

G: Oh, for sure. For sure.

S: So I mean it's interesting.

G: But even that too, like to correlate that. And then, yeah, there was a lower IQ and higher temperature areas that that day-to-day living affects the school testing and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, it's just so curious how something, "as simple" as like having more green everywhere can make such a difference.

S: Well, we also – yeah, we know that there's a huge psychological benefit to green spaces.

G: Sure, sure.

S: Absolutely.

LEGO MRI Scanner (42:16)[edit]

The LEGO Foundation has announced it will donate 600 LEGO® MRI Scanners to hospitals worldwide to help children cope with the uncertainty of having a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan. (Click/tap image for article.) [7]

Video: We're bringing play to hospitals with LEGO® MRI scanners

S: All right, George, this is an unusual topic for the SGU. Tell us about Legos.

G: Well, I'm assuming that much of your demographic is probably all of us that are chatting here today played with Lego when we were kids, right?

S: Oh, yeah.

E: Yeah, kids.

J: I mean, they're all over my house. I mean, I have two kids.

E: Never as adults.

J: Legos are the thing, you know?

H: Have you – did you keep any of your old Lego and then give it to your kids? Did that –

E: Heck, yes.

J: Yeah, we did.

G: So that made the transition. That's fantastic. Well, I loved Lego as a kid. I still do. It's a great sort of – kind of toy to have that inspires sort of creativity. Maybe over the years, the Lego sets have gotten a little bit more specific and less creative but there's still a certain, I don't know, beauty in trying to create stuff and build stuff with your own hands and vary away from the planning. So I've always just loved Lego. Well –

E: Like model building.

G: Exactly. Yeah, exactly.

S: I just got a Lego Millennium Falcon for Jay's kids.

G: Oh, wow. Like the big one? The huge one?

E: Make 0.5 past –

G: Not the big, big one, Steve.

B: It's one to one scale.

G: It's just one brick. It's just one gigantic brick.

J: The big, big one is like $1,000.

S: All right. The next big one.

J: It's awesome.

G: What a good uncle. Well, to make you guys love Lego even more, Lego has helped develop with one of their workers. This guy named Erik Ullerlund Staehr. He was – he worked for Lego. He just in his free time with some friends that also worked at Lego, made these small scale MRI machines. So just a model of an MRI machine because he realized that kids in hospitals can be very intimidated by having to go inside of an MRI machine. So this guy thought – he's a chemical technician at the Lego group and he thought, you know what? If I could like – there's a hospital, local hospital here. What if I make a little toy MRI and I'll take it to the hospital and they can use it with the kids that are going to be going into this thing to show like, oh, this is how – here's the mini figure. This is you and you'll be – and this is how it will work. The response to this one that he made was so fantastic that basically Lego said, OK, we're going to make these things now and we're going to distribute them around the planet to any hospital that wants it because the effect was so positive on the kids. So now there's – they've donated 600 of these Lego MRI scanners to hospitals worldwide and it helps kids cope with that weird uncertainty of what's going to be going into the thing. So Erik Ullerlund Staehr, chemical technician at Lego group said, I'm extremely proud of this project and the positive impact it's already had. I've seen firsthand how children have responded to these models, making them feel more relaxed and turning an often highly stressful experience into a positive, playful one. For making a few Lego MRI models with other Lego employees in our free time, it's amazing to see the project now being rolled out more broadly. I just read this and it just made me smile. It was one of those things. It was so cool because being in play mode for a child motivates natural curiosity and sort of an openness to try new things and so if you reframe this experience of being put into this MRI machine as, hey, this is like a fun adventure because check out you're going to be in this it's like a spaceship or whatever you want to think about it. It just – the kids get sort of excited and much more at ease with the whole process which I think is really cool. The models are – they got about 500 pieces. There's 13 centimeters wide, 25.5 centimeters long and about 10.5 centimeters high. So it's a decent sized thing. It comes in pieces. You can kind of pull sections of it out to describe what's happening inside of it and the people at Lego will pre-build them and send them out to hospitals. So if people in the hospitals don't want to actually spend time building them, they don't have to. They've also developed these training videos to accompany the model. It helps sort of the medical staff guide the kids through the process of what the MRI scan is going to be like. And then it helps them have their sort of social and emotional learning through a play setting. It's really, really cool. And all of this is available free of charge to any hospital that wants to use it and use it with their kids. And if that wasn't enough of a reason to just love Lego, recently they had another series of they have all these different sets. So there's like the Harry Potter and the Star Wars and all kinds of – well, they had one set that was called Lego Friends. And Lego Friends originally was designed for young girls. But they sort of relaunched it a little while ago. And they have characters that have the little minifigures in it that have a range of disabilities, some visible and some invisible. And just recently they introduced a new character named Autumn and she's missing an arm. She was inspired by a girl with a limb difference who wrote into Lego saying, hey, it'd be really nice to see a figure that looks like me. And Lego was like, hey, that's a great idea. So Autumn has – you can use prosthetics with Autumn. And it's not like that's her defining characteristic. It just happens to be Autumn has a limb difference. It's really, really cool and really sweet and just like, OK, it's just – this is another character that we have. And then on top of that, in Lego City, which is another set that they have, one of their regular minifigures that's in there has a little hearing aid. And there's no like – it's not like it's, ooh, this is deaf's – deaf's Lego. Yeah. It's just like this character just has a hearing aid. That's all. It's just – yeah. And it's like it's not a big deal. And it's just this is – what that character – that's the character's trait and the same way that we don't say like, hey, this is blue pants Fred. It's just a character trait and it's just so sweet and I think it's so nice to be able for different – for kids to be able to see themselves inside these toys.

E: And it's an analog real-world project, right?

G: And it's a real-world analog project, yeah.

E: No computer required.

G: Huzzah, huzzah. Huzzah, huzzah.

E: More of that.

G: So it just – you think you love Lego and you just love Lego even more.

S: I bet you that the benefits of that would not be limited to children.

G: Oh, for sure. Yeah.

E: I would agree with that.

G: Absolutely.

E: I know plenty of adults who enjoy Legos.

G: I mean let alone teens or, yeah, anyone going into it, people with claustrophobia issues or whatever just to be like, hey, this is what's happening. I just want one just to have one, just to make it because like who wouldn't want a Lego MRI machine? That's like amazing, right?

E: It's a puzzle. It's a 3D puzzle. That's really what it is.

G: Next to your X-Wing fighter and your Harry Potter castle, you have an MRI machine.

S: Are they for sale for the public or only gifted?

G: They're not for sale for the public. So they're just making them. But I would bet at some point they will be. They're just making them sort of custom for these hospitals and stuff. But I'm sure over time, people will like this again. Who wouldn't want that? It's just the coolest thing.

S: All right. Thanks, George.

Mayo Clinic and Reiki (49:25)[edit]

  • Mayo Clinic Promotes Reiki [9]
    (Note: Mayo Clinic Press quickly took down the article "My journey from energy work skeptic to Reiki practitioner", even before it could be archived online)

S: Evan, let me ask you a question. Is the Mayo Clinic a reliable source of medical information?

E: Sometimes. Is that – I think that's a fair answer. Yeah. The Mayo Clinic. I would say it's world famous, wouldn't you?

S: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

E: That's not a stretch.

S: No. It's a world-class, world-famous institution.

E: You know where I was first introduced to the Mayo Clinic or learned about it?

S: Airplane.

E: Yes. Airplane.

G: Ham on 5.

E: Yep. Two calls coming at the same time for the captain.

S: Ham on 5. Hold the Mayo.

E: Dr. Ham. Ham on 5. Hold the Mayo. Comedy gold. That was it. Mayo Clinic. But when you see an article pop up like I did in my feed last week about Reiki and it's from the Mayo Clinic Press, I don't think there's anything really comical about that. Here's the title of the article. This is from – this is put up from Mayo Clinic Press. They ran this last week. Title, My Journey from Energy Work Skeptic to Reiki Practitioner. As a nurse and a massage therapist, I was skeptical of the purported benefits of Reiki. But researching the practice and trying it myself changed my mind.

S: I hate everything about this.

E: Oh my gosh. Really. It's right there. It encapsulates like so many problems. Nothing like getting your own opinions and feelings in the way of your profession, right? The fellow's name is Kenneth Ruth. I'll read a couple. I pulled out a few things from his article that I'll share with you. For the majority of my 22-year career as a massage therapist and then as a registered nurse, I would scoff at therapies such as Reiki that fell under the umbrella of energy work. My preferred massage techniques were deep tissue, allowed me to work with things that I could physically feel, not muscle tension. The idea that there is energy flowing all around and through us seemed silly to me. Over the past several years, however, my resistance slowly and incrementally softened. I found myself meditating regularly, exploring things like vibrational therapy and reading books about energy centers called chakras. Then one day, I figured it was time to turn my attention to Reiki to see if there was anything to it. Now I'm an enthusiastic Reiki practitioner who has seen and experienced the benefits firsthand. Reiki is usually translated as universal life force energy. It's administered by a trained practitioner through gentle touch. It's safe for all ages and works in harmony with standard medical care and other therapeutic techniques. I empathize with some people's reluctance to buy into the idea. I myself dismissed it for many years of practice. But if you find yourself open to receiving it, Reiki may have a positive effect on you as well. Those are the highlights.

S: It's all propaganda.

E: Oh my gosh.

S: First of all, he was never a skeptic. He was dismissive maybe, but the attitude that he described is not what I would consider scepticism.

E: Oh my gosh, I mean, really, there's so much. His definition of Reiki, for what it is, it's lousy. Here's an alternative definition. This is courtesy of Jonathan Jerry from McGill University in Canada, who's in their science communication department. Reiki is a Japanese technique whose adherence, say, promotes healing. It posits some sort of life force energy that, when low, makes us sick. Through hand placement above and on the client's body, a Reiki master believes they are channeling their God's energy to assist with the healing of the client. Yeah. So in other words, a Reiki practitioner uses hand waving and other semantics to try and lure the recipient into a state of relaxation so that whatever actual treatment is applied, the practitioner can trick themselves and their patient into believing that Reiki, that kabuki dance, played a role in their recovery.

S: And on some level, it's basically faith healing.

E: Yeah, I mean-

S: If you think the energy is coming from God, then that's faith healing.

E: Absolutely.

E: Yeah, right. No, no doubt about it. I don't know how you can't separate the two.

S: It's the laying on of hands.

E: I mean, you have to have it. Okay, are there scientific studies of Reiki? Yep. And just about all the papers testing Reiki are teachable encapsulations of bad science. This is also from McGill University as they continue. These papers often involve a single Reiki session, no follow-up. They test small groups. It leads to noisy data that can look positive by chance alone. Some test Reiki on rats with implantable telemetric transmitters and measure so many things that one of them is bound to yield some favourable signal. All noise, right? No meat there.

S: Yeah.

E: So, I mean, and look, if you were to read about this, something like this in the Journal of what? Complimentary and Alternative Medicine or Amazing Tales or something, right? But this is the Mayo Clinic promoting Reiki. I mean, they're not some small-time quack outfit. In case you're not familiar with the Mayo Clinic, here's a few facts about them. This is right from their website, opening paragraph. The Mayo Clinic is the largest integrated, not-for-profit medical group practice in the world. We're building the future. We're one where the best possible care is available to everyone and more people can heal at home. Our relentless research turns into earlier diagnoses and new cures. That's how we inspire hope in all who need it most. Right. Our unweaving drive to create better medical care has earned Mayo Clinic top rankings for high-quality patient care more than any other health care organization. The Mayo Clinic has more number one rankings than any other hospital in the United States. And that's from U.S. News and World Report, 2023-2024. Yeah, the Mayo Clinic, it's got a huge footprint in the American medical system. It has three primary locations in three states, Minnesota, Florida, and Arizona, plus they have affiliated hospitals in several other states in the United States. The company as a whole, if you want to call it that, they employ 76,000 people. About 7,300 of them are physicians and scientists, and another 3,000 of them are full-time research personnel. Their board of trustees is mostly filled by MDs and PhDs. OK, so why is an iconic institution like Mayo Clinic allowing an article like this to run on their official publication?

S: Mayo Clinic does this. This is their blind spot. And again, I don't know. I don't have any inside information, but I know that they basically turn a gullible eye towards anything alternative. I think I'd say they're reliable when it comes to mainstream scientific medicine. And then it's like, why do good news outlets have fluff pseudo-scientific news? Because they just treat it differently. It's like, oh, this guy's an expert? OK, he could talk about it and nobody else cares about it. It's complete dereliction of duty. It's a complete blind spot on their part. They should be ashamed of themselves. They are failing their reputation, their institution, their patients, everything, their profession. It's just horrible.

G: What's the motivation, though, do you think? Is it a question of getting—

S: To be kind of marketing, to be open, to seem—I don't know.

G: To seem balanced?

S: Yeah, I guess so.

G: To seem that kind of a thing? Or is it more like just they know that that kind of story will drive a certain amount of views?

S: I think it depends on who you're talking about. You're talking about like the PR people? Yeah, they think—

G: I don't know. That's why I'm wondering because it seems like there's—I mean, there's going to be some statistical noise with an organization that's that large.

S: But this is a systemic problem with the Mayo Clinic.

G: Is it? OK.

S: Yeah.

E: Yeah, it's been happening for many years. I know that several of the authors at Science-Based Medicine have mentioned this and other things like it regarding what's coming out of the Mayo Clinic since—oh, gosh, I saw articles back as far as 2008 you were talking about.

G: And what is their justification? Do they ever address it? Do they say, like, we think this is a valuable part of the methodology we need to talk about? Or is it just we don't talk about that or whatever? Because there's got to be some rationale.

E: There never seems to be a satisfying answer.

S: Yeah, I've never gotten a satisfying answer.

G: OK. OK. That's a shame, man.

S: No, it is a shame.

E: Yeah.

S: Totally.

E: Right.

S: Yeah. Again, this is sort of implicit in everything we're saying, but no one has ever been able to demonstrate over the last couple of hundred years that anything like a life force exists. This is a pre-scientific idea. It was always a placeholder of our own ignorance, which I love that term, but that's what it was. It was like whatever we didn't know how biologically how things function, some kind of mysterious force must be doing that. And then eventually we just explained everything to the point that there was nothing left for the life force to do. And there have been attempts, whether or not it was done under the banner of Reiki or not, to demonstrate the existence of a life force. They've all failed. It doesn't exist. There's no reason to think that it exists, and whatever evidence we have shows that it does not exist. So the entire premise of Reiki is pseudoscience. And all those studies that you point to, Evan, in addition to being terrible clinical studies, they never address the core question, right? They assume that life energy exists, et cetera. They never actually ask the only important question, and that is, are our premises real? And so, of course, everything that flows from a false premise is worthless, right? It's false. So, yeah.

E: That's right. It's the source.

S: Exactly.

G: But why, again, like, so we've got MDs that are on the board of this Mayo Clinic. Now, if you were to ask them individually, I would hope, I would assume that they would all say that Reiki is nonsense.

E: Shruggy.

S: They don't know. So they just don't know. They don't care. They don't know. This is my experience with people who are not steeped in the pseudoscience and the modern...

G: Because that's the more interesting...

E: You have the same problems at Yale. And this is not just Mayo Clinic, Yale, Duke, Johns Hopkins, a lot of these institutions have these kinds of issues.

G: Right. That's the more interesting topic, I think, than whether or not Reiki is real. Like, we all understand Reiki is not real, but like, how is this slipping through? And there must be some internalized justification where it's like, you know what? We're going to bring more eyes to our website, and we will be able to help them with these other things that we do, which are legit.

S: It's nothing like that.

E: Right?

S: No, no, no. That's a reasonable hypothesis. That hasn't been my experience. What I experience is there's a few true believers driving the whole thing, and no one else gives a shit. That's what it is.

G: Wow.

E: Because everybody's too busy kind of doing their own...

S: It's whatever. It's like, oh, this is like touchy-feely, fluffy stuff. Okay, fine. You know? They think it's harmless.

G: That's what I mean. It's not a dereliction in terms of just...

S: Total. It's a total dereliction.

G: Oh, God.

S: Absolutely.

E: I mean, the board of trustees are supposed to be protecting the institution from this kind of stuff.

S: Here's the other thing, George. Whenever you get in front of one of them and explain to them what's going on, they're scandalized because they had no idea, you know?

G: Oh, interesting.

S: Like, I'm shocked that this is going on.

G: It's like explaining homeopathy to someone that uses it. Like, and they go, really? That's what it is? Yeah.

S: I've talked to professionals and other people who didn't know what it was. And the almost universal reaction is that they don't believe me. They say, it can't be that because that's stupid. It can't be that stupid. It can't be. I'm like, well, it is. And look it up. And then if they bother to do it, then they usually say, it's worse than you said. And I've had that. I've been in a meeting with other professionals talking about some alternative medicine crap that was happening. And I said, I was trying to point out to them exactly what was being claimed. They were making excuses and they were shrugging it off. And then one guy actually looked at it. And again, he was like, first he was scandalized. And then he said, it's actually worse than what you were saying. It's like, yeah, well, look at it fucking next time, you know?

G: Wow. Yeah. Yeah.

S: They just think it's not worth their time. It's a touchy-feely fluff we don't have to worry about. It's like, do the serious editors at the New York Times really scrutinize the fluff pieces about the dog show? No. Because that's the fluff dog show pieces, right? The problem is that when those pieces deal with pseudoscience, then that's one of the avenues by which pseudoscience slips into mainstream media through the not-serious journalism pages.

G: Right. It gets legitimized.

S: This is the same thing.

E: And I have to wonder, if these institutions did their job and kept that stuff out of there, would someone like this massage therapist eventually, slowly over time, find his way to become a Reiki practitioner? I got to wonder if that would have been the course that he took. Maybe not.

S: This guy sounds gullible from the get-go, to be honest with you. It's my reading of his description of his own history. Deep tissue massage is a little dubious, too, depending on exactly what he's referring to there.

E: He didn't say rolfing.

S: No, he didn't say rolfing, but it depends on what they're actually talking about.

The Circular Collider (1:03:44)[edit]

S: All right, Bob, tell us about the Circular Collider. What's that?

B: Yes. CERN has released an interim report offering hints of the potential successor to its world-famous LHC, which we've talked about many times on the show, Large Hadron Collider. It's a behemoth. It's called the FCC, or Future Circular Collider. So what might this atom smasher of all atom smashers do? When might it do it? And is it even a good idea? All right, let's see here. So first of all, if you're still fuzzy about what an atom smasher is, or more accurately, particle accelerator, at a high level, they accelerate subatomic particles like protons to near the speed of light, smash them together, and see what comes out. The hope, of course, is that the new particles and radiations that emerge can finally resolve these amazingly fascinating, frustrating mysteries that still abound about the building blocks of our universe. So that's the hope. So the LHC, if you remember back in 2012, famously detected the Higgs boson, but since then has not made any of the big discoveries that were hoped for, especially discoveries that point to physics beyond our standard model's predictions, like what dark matter or dark energy is, for example. You know, it's only 95% of the friggin' universe. We don't know what it is. It'd be nice if we had something to actually investigate that. So how might the Future Circular Collider be better able to do this? Why would this one be better than the LHC? Well, first off, in this case, as in meatballs, bigger is definitely better. The LHC is located at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, near Geneva. So the LHC is 16.5 miles long, 27 kilometers. The proposed Future Circular Collider is 57 miles, or 91 kilometers long, and 200 meters underground. It's way deep in there. So this is a big boy, 57 miles around, opposed to 16 and a half miles. Yeah, big, big boy in many ways. The LHC costs 4.75 billion USD, 3.75 billion euros to build, and that's just to build it. That's not even the operating price. But still, that's a lot of money. The FCC, they think, is going to cost 17 billion USD and 12 billion euros to build, with an operating cost of potentially a billion a year. So that's a lot of money. Oh my God, it's so many billions of dollars. In terms of beam energy, this guy is big. The LHC had 14. They finally got up to 14 trillion electron volts, 14 tera electron volts. That is an amazing number. It's the most powerful particle collider in the world. It accelerates particles 99.999999% of the speed of light. So these protons are going amazingly fast, 11 kilometers per hour slower than the speed of light. I mean, it's just a tick under the speed of light, amazingly fast. But that's 14 tera electron volts. The FCC should be able to generate 100 tera electron volts of beam energy. That is incredible, far beyond anything that exists now. I couldn't run the numbers on that one, but it's even more, even closer to the speed of light. Maybe only a couple of kilometers per hour slower than the speed of light. So yeah, amazing.

S: Will this collider go up to 11?

B: Uh-huh. I see what you did there.

S: You didn't answer the question.

B: I have no answer for that. So that's a seven-fold increase in beam energy. So amazing. That thing, it would be the most amazing piece of technology the world has ever seen. So what's the future of the FCC? Is this going to happen? Well, right now, we're in the feasibility studies stage. In 2028, if it's going to get green-lit, it'll get green-lit around that time. And then if all goes to plan in 2045, we may see phase one complete, which is really, I mean, it's just like electrons and positrons smashing together. Nothing too amazing there. It would take, though, until the 2070s to get it up to full power, 100 tera electron volts smashing together positrons and heavy ions. So that's the 2070s. Fabiola Gionotti, CERN's Director General, said, the FCC will not only be a wonderful instrument to improve our understanding of the fundamental laws of physics and nature, it will also be a driver of innovation because we will need new advanced technologies, some cryogenics, superconducting magnets, vacuum technologies, detectors, instrumentation, technologies with a potentially huge impact on our society and huge socioeconomic benefits. So what do I think of this? First off, I will be 107 fricking years old when it's totally finished, so that really pisses me off. Right out of the gate, that really pisses me off, 107. It's a long time for me to wait, but I will wait if need be.

G: Yeah, but you'll look 92.

B: Oh, yeah. Thank you, George. I love you so much. I agree. So I agree with the second half of Fabiola Gionotti's quote when she said that the enabling technologies of the FCC, like the new superconductors and the detectors and instrumentation, will have a huge impact on industries and societies as a whole. Absolutely. These would be cutting edge new technologies far superior to what we have today, could have a huge impact. But when she says that the FCC will improve our understanding of the fundamental laws of physics, I can't really agree with the enthusiasm that I would love to, that I wish I could. And a lot of real physicists out there, I think, would agree with me. They're just not convinced, and they contend that this is more marketing and money raising hype than anything else, actually. It's a little frustrating when you dig deep into this. It's like there's really no good reason to think that there's going to be a lot of discoveries, even at this level. The FCC doesn't seem to be as obviously of a good idea as the LHC was, right? Because when the LHC, they had theories saying, look, we will probably more than likely discover the final fundamental particle that's not been found by the standard model, the Higgs boson and the Higgs field, evidence of the Higgs field. So the LHC made a lot of sense. But I think it's good to ask, as my friend Walt does in our endless work meetings, five days a week, he often asks, is the juice worth the squeeze? This guy has the greatest expressions. So unfortunately, the answer to that, it seems like no, the juice is not worth the squeeze. It looks like the ROI for the FCC, SUX, basically. That's my opinion there.


B: Good one, Steve. Proffesor David King is a former UK government chief scientific adviser, told the BBC News that he believes spending 12 billion euro on the project would be reckless, but he's being kind. Sabine Hossenfelder, she's a theoretical physicist at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy. She's probably the most outspoken critic against the future circular collider that I've come across so far. She says that the FCC would be more expensive than both the LHC and LIGO, Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory. Talked about it, amazing technology, amazing new window into space. She says that the FCC would be more expensive than both of those and with less discovery potential, she says. It would be at the present state of knowledge and technology, it would not give a good return on investment. There are presently better avenues to pursue than high energy physics. So yeah, that's a hell of a quote there. So Director Giannotti has addressed this kind of, she says things like, it's true that at the moment we do not have a clear theoretical guidance on what we should look for. She does, she has said that, but she still says on the other hand, she says things like the FCC is needed because the discovery of these dark particles, and she's referring to dark matter, dark energy, would lead to a new more complete theory of how the universe works. And that's really, she really shouldn't be saying that, in my opinion. Hassenfelder thinks that CERN is intentionally misleading the public when it says things like this. When it even implies that this new collider will likely discover what dark energy and dark matter is. There's really no theoretical underpinning to that statement. Hassenfelder gets even more brutal when she says, the truth is that the most likely thing such a machine would do is just make better measurements of some constants in the standard model, and that's it. Let me read that again. She says the most likely thing this amazing 100 tera electron volt, 56 mile machine, the most likely thing it would be able to do is make better measurements of some constants. And that's it, she says. She says, I do not think the societal relevance is high enough to justify just a big, such a big investment. And that's a bottom line right there. But she's not even done. She continues. Listen to this one. She said, I fear that funding such an experiment will mean a lot of smart people will waste their time on research that will not lead to any progress. The LHC had a good motivation. The FCC has not. The particle physicists have to accept that their time is over. This is the age of quantum physics. Wow. What a final sentence that was, Steve, you hear that?

S: Yeah, but there's got to be some contradictory opinions there.

B: There is, but I'm seeing a lot of people, there's a good number of scientists that agree that, I mean, and this news has recently come out, so there's not a lot of stuff yet out there that's really going off about the FCC. But this makes sense. And this is kind of the way I've been leaning now for a lot of years, is that there really is no, as much as I want to find new physics beyond the standard model, there's nothing coming out of the LHC and there's nothing out there that makes anyone, really anyone think that, yes, this new collider will find this. There was a confidence with the LHC, we're going to find the Higgs. There's no confidence for something at this size. I don't agree with Hassenfelder necessarily when she said the particle physicists' time is over. But I do agree that entering this new realm, this new realm of expensive mega colliders like the FCC is probably not worth it, not for that kind of money, without more theoretical guidance instead of mainly just crossed fingers, right? Because I think that's pretty much what they have right now is these just crossed fingers and maybe some hints here and there, but no real, no theoretical underpinning that would justify $17 billion. And a lot of, Steve, a lot of American scientists are steering away from these mega colliders like the FCC and they're trying to focus more on something that is more reasonable like, for example, muon colliders. Have you ever heard of muon colliders? These are untested, so there hasn't been one that's been built yet, but they seem to have a decent amount of promise at a really good sticker price, right? Since muons are fundamental particles, unlike protons, they could be run using less energy and be a lot cheaper. So with a muon collider, you can get a 10-terra electron volt collider that would be roughly equivalent in a lot of ways to the 100-terra electron volt proton collider at the FCC, but it would be much, much cheaper. So I think it'd be better to funnel our limited research funds to something like that instead of just going hog wild and just jumping into a collider that, like Hasenfelder said, it could waste a lot of smart people's time for many decades without really much of a perceived return on investment. It could be really almost – it could be like the LHC right now where there's really nothing really new coming out that points to new physics.

G: What was the name of that – of the organization, the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy?

B: Yeah, so this was Sabine Hossenfelder. She was the big critic of this FCC. She's a theoretical physicist at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy.

G: Can you imagine the banger Christmas parties they used to have there? I mean just like think about it, like oh my gosh, that's so exciting.

S: She has a popular YouTube series, George. I've watched a ton of her videos.

B: Yeah. She's good, Steve, right?

S: Yeah, and a lot of physics topics.

B: She's good.

S: I think – I do – she makes me wonder though if some of her opinions are a little outside the mainstream. But for a lot of things, like I do find her spot on. She's a little cynical at times too, I find. But still I think it's a great introductory to a lot of –

G: A cynical German?

S: A lot of the things that we talk about, you know. But yeah, I think just the whole like we don't know until we look kind of thing is valid but not for $17 billion.

B: Exactly.

S: The price tag is the thing that changes the calculus.

B: Exactly.

S: So Bob, I wonder like in 20 years, will we have new technology that will accomplish the same thing a lot cheaper, you know?

B: People talk of linear colliders, Steve. They talk instead of circular, they have linear colliders. But you know, even advanced linear colliders don't necessarily look that great because you just can't build up the speed as easily, you know.

S: Well, Bob, I'm talking about more like – we're talking about 50 years, right, before it's fully operational. I mean, what kind of superconducting magnets are we going to have at that time or whatever? I just think that if it's going to have to be that big at that price tag, waiting 20 years, it's like sending the slow ship and then the fast ship that leaves later catches up to it. It might be the same thing. Like maybe something we design 20 years from now might actually get done faster than this thing. I don't know.

B: Well, the thing is though, in order to even create the FCC, you would need those new and mega awesome superconductors and things like that and vacuum chambers. And so it might take – it might require that many billions to motivate people to create them. But I think you can get motivation to create things like that for other things. I mean like fusion power requires them as well. So we don't necessarily need to throw 17 billion just for those things that we could probably develop elsewhere.

Who's That Noisy? (1:18:34)[edit]

Answer to previous Noisy:
Adobe Podcast AI Speech Enhancer's attempt to make speech from intro to 1928 recording of Stack O' Lee Blues by Mississippi John Hurt

S: All right. Jay, it's – who's that noisy time.

J: All right, guys. I have the noisy from last week. And then when we get through it, I'm going to play you a sister file to it to explain the whole thing. This is what we call the enhanced version.

[Melodic beeping with robotic voice]

I really like this noisy.

G: Wow.

J: Very cool. And it definitely – Steve and I said last week it reminds us of the turrets and portal. Very similar voice.

B: Oh, OK.

J: I had a lot of people guess on this one and there were a lot of good information coming in from people. So I'll try to tell you as we go. So the first person is Marcus Miller. And Marcus said, "Hi SGU, long time listener. First time, who's that noisy guesser. And this week's who's that noisy, the mimicking cactus toy that's all over TikTok", right? So this is a toy that you may have seen. It's a cactus. It looks like a plush cactus that's in a planter. And then when it hears music, it plays it back at a different pitch. But the cactus moves its body like it's kind of like the two arms coming out. And it kind of – it distorts what you're – the noises that it hears. But it's fun. And unfortunately, there's a lot of videos of people scaring babies with this. I don't know why they think it's funny. But that's what's happening. Anyway, that is incorrect, but that was a fun guess. Another listener named Mark Entel said, I know the song, Stagger Lee. He's correct, right? So that's another layer to this. That tune that you were hearing is an old song called Stagger Lee. It's an old blue song. So Mark continues, as to the technical side, it sounds very digital to me. But beyond that, getting out on a limb here, my actual guess, this is some extra old recording that was too damaged to play, but some genius lunatics figured out a way to digitally capture it. So thank you, Mark. That's not correct, but that's a wonderful guess.

B: But I love genius lunatics.

J: Don't say it. Okay. So we got another listener named Eric Wadsworth. And he said, it sounds like someone grabbed the first little audio clips from a bunch of spoken words, identified which tones they were nearest to, assigned them to those notes, then strung them together to make a song. But what spoken audio clip were they pulled from? Maybe an episode of the SGU. That's my guess. Not correct, but I give you an A for effort, because that was a very specific guess that you made. And I follow along, since I know exactly what's going on here. I do follow what you're saying. And it was very good, very interesting. My friend Visto Tutti wrote in, again. He doesn't ever send me an email like, hey, Jay, how you doing? It's all business with this guy, right? So he's like very serious with the who's that noisy. So he says, this noisy sounds like the phonetic alphabet fed through autotune. I'm not sure why anyone would do that, but it sounds cool. And I thought this was a provocative guess, because there is kind of an autotune vibe going on a little bit, to a certain degree, yeah. It is a good guess. But now I have a winner. And I was very surprised that someone nailed this, simply because I probably would never have been able to guess it. So anyway, this is a listener named Sharp. And Sharp says, I'm almost certain I know what this week's noisy is. It's a guitar, or maybe a banjo, after being processed by a speech enhancement filter. I think maybe made by Adobe, although I don't know the name.

B: What?

J: So to cut to the chase here, again, the listener that sent it in is named Stefan Walker. And here's what he said, and then we'll talk a little bit about this. He said, hello, Jay. I accidentally created this Who's That Noisy when I was experimenting with cleaning up the 1928 recording of Stack O' Lee Blues by Mississippi John Hurt. I ran the recording through Adobe podcast AI Speech Enhancer. The AI's attempt to make speech from the song's instrumental intro and noise artifacts resulted in what I thought was a pretty interesting noisy. So now I'm going to play you the original song, and then you'll hear what the AI did to it, trying to recognize it as speech. [plays song] Now check this out. [plays noisy] It's so interesting, right? It really grabs me.

G: I'm a sucker for good lyrics, so that's amazing.

J: But it also has a syncopation. If you listen to it, there's a little bit of some type of drumming syncopation thing happening with the voice. And it also creeps me out a little bit, right? It's got like that almost-

E: Uncanny Valley.

J: Right. It has an Uncanny Valley thing going on, and it just kind of reminds me that we are in the age-

B: Wow, Uncanny Valley with the voice. Wow.

J: Now we're here at the very beginning of the age of artificial intelligence, where it's starting to seep into our world in a visible way, right? It's been there for a while, but now we all know it, and we're using it, and it's in the tools that we're using, and it's there. And it's going to be there, and it's going to get more and more powerful as time goes on. So I'm interested to see what happens. But man, this was a cool noisy.

G: This is like the reverse of what's- There's a composer from the late 20th century called Steve Reich. He was a New York composer, and he would take language recordings of just people speaking, and he would find the melodies within. Because you speak with an inherent pitch and melody, even though you don't realize it. So he would transcribe these things. So if someone would say I'm going to catch a train. And he would then assign it for instruments, and he would have these pieces where you'd hear the original tape, and then it would turn into the melody. And this is like going in the opposite direction, taking a melody and finding speech, but artificially through it. It's so fascinating, man. Total flip coin.

S: You know what I wonder? You know how people can play a guitar so that it makes words?

B: Yes.

G: Yeah.

S: Do that and run it through the same processing.

G: Right. Mama. Stuff like that.

J: All right. So somebody take Steve Reich doing that and run it through. So let me give you what it is. It's the Adobe Podcast AI Speech Enhancer. Let's see if someone can do it for us, and we'll see what that sounds like.

B: I mean, it should work, right? Because you could identify the words that he's playing even without knowing beforehand what the words are, right?

S: Yeah, but I wonder how good. My question is I wonder how good it will get. Yeah, you are starting with something that's trying to sound like speech as it is. But both of those phenomena are related because that's how our brain works. It takes ambiguous auditory stimuli and makes the best word match it can, right? And it's fitting it to a limited number of phonemes.

B: What's that called? The EVP? Electric Vocal Phenomenon?

S: Well, that's a pareidolia. Our brains will even make speech out of white noise.

B: Right.

S: Out of background noise.

G: Get out.

New Noisy (1:26:13)[edit]

J: All right, guys. I have a new noisy for you this week. This was sent in by a listener named Justin Fisher. Justin has sent in several noisies to me which I've used. So thank you, Justin. He really gets it. He hits it right on the head with these. So check this one out.

[whopping, laser-like shots/wobbling sounds]

Kind of wacky, right? If you guys think you know what this week's Noisy is or you heard something cool, you really just got to take the minute to send it to me because it makes the show that much better. You can contribute by sending me cool noisies.

Announcements (1:26:54)[edit]

J: So we have stuff going on, Steve. So first and foremost, we have an extravaganza that's going to be happening in Dallas. It'll be happening on April 6th in Dallas. You can go to our website. There's a button on there that will take you to the tickets. And if you are interested, how about this? We're going to be doing an extravaganza in Chicago.

B: Yay. Can't wait.

J: That'll happen on August 17th. Saturday, August 17th in Chicago.

G: Finally, Chicago.

E: First time.

G: We're going to go do some skeptical work there in Chicago for you.

E: We'll get a breath while we're there.

G: A little bit of that extravaganza.

J: We're working on our yearly schedule and this was something that we squeezed in. We have a really busy year this year. As you know, our thousandth episode is going to happen. And guess what, guys?

B: That juice is worth the squeeze.

J: The 1,000th episode is going to happen on the Chicago trip and we will be recording that.

E: Wait a minute.

B: No way.

G: There's no way that's going to happen.

E: Are you saying the crowds in Chicago are going to share in our 1,000th episode?

J: If they want. They can come join us. So I haven't been able to lock in all the details because we're really talking about this. We're trying to figure out exactly what we want to do. We have a lot of good ideas. It will be a venue that I'll pick in Chicago. It'll be on Sunday the 18th. It's going to be an extended show, which means it's going to definitely be more than just a two-hour podcast. We're going to do a lot of other stuff. Probably going to be bringing in virtual guests. And we really hope that you'll join us. I will be putting more information out. Hopefully by this time next week, I might even have the link to buy tickets for that. Just giving you fair warning about that weekend. And we might have an event that Friday, the 16th. The day that we fly in, we were thinking that we might have a very, very small gathering. So we'll give you more details about that as well. But we have this stuff coming up.

G: Can you take a second to just think about the fact that you're going to be at 1,000 episodes, guys? I mean, just take a second.

B: That's nuts, man. I can only remember eight. Eight of them.

G: Well, there's eight good ones.

E: Episode number eight.

J: Only Steve has done 1,000 episodes. Because all of us...

G: But just as an entity. And the fact that people are going to be part of the 1,000th show live, that's amazing.

J: It is amazing to think that we've been doing this for so long. I mean, George, even from the day we met you, the amount of podcasting that we've all done collectively is huge. We just are very consistent.

S: George, what number are you up to, George?

G: I'm at 852.

B: Whoa, dude. Damn. Nice.

E: Three years you're there.

G: I'm always like 14 months behind you guys or something. No, but it's... I mean, and again, the fact that it's lined up with the Chicago trip, and people can sit in the audience and have their breaths and watch the 1,000th episode, it's amazing. It's just brilliant.

S: George, you're going to have to do the entire extravaganza in that episode.

G: I'm not going to not do this. I mean, from LaGuardia to the damn venue, I am talking like this, nothing's going to stop me.

E: LaGuardia.

G: My mom's from Chicago, so she has this little, little bit of that in her voice.

B: Really?

E: Will she be at the show?

G: Hey, we'll make it happen. We'll get Gio's mom. She'll have a nice little homecoming.

J: That'd be fun.

G: Yeah, she grew up in Chicago, so...

E: Aw.

S: All right, thanks, Jay.

Name That Logical Fallacy (1:30:24)[edit]

  • Gambler's Fallacy & Regression to the Mean

S: Guys, a quick Name That Logical Fallacy. I got a fun question. It's a little bit long. I'm going to read you through it, and we'll see if you can identify the error that this SGU listener is making. I don't think they put their name to the thing. They write, Hi, SGU. I'm a longtime listener to the podcast and a longtime owner of your first book, but, and I'm afraid to admit this, just getting around to reading it, I just finished the short section on the gambler's fallacy, the idea that if you flip heads 5 or 10 or 25 times in a row, tails is due, when in reality, every individual flip has its own 50-50 chance of being either heads or tails, which is not influenced by past events. I've always had a little trouble with this idea because while an individual flip absolutely does have an equal likelihood of landing heads or tails, if we consider an event to be 25 flips, then he says parenthetically maybe this isn't allowed, then the likelihood of 25 heads in a row is vanishingly small, and the likelihood of 12 to 14 heads, much, much higher. So if halfway through that event, you've got 12 heads, you would think that the likelihood of flipping tails at least a few times throughout the second half does in fact go up significantly. I think of this as in the line with the very well-established statistical phenomenon of regression to the mean. While outlier events and streaks are very much part of randomness, over time, those bumps and spikes tend to smooth out to show more or less the expected distribution. So I guess my question is, is there a conflict between the ideas of Gambler's Fallacy and regression to the mean? It goes on a little bit more, but I think that encapsulates the question. So what mistake is this guy making? Now, statistics is very counter-intuitive, and a lot of people have trouble like fully wrapping their head around these kinds of questions, so I totally get it. But I think he's making a pretty blatant logical error, in fact, committing the Gambler's Fallacy. So what do you guys think?

G: Yeah, I'm stumped how it's not the Gambler's Fallacy.

S: It is the Gambler's Fallacy. So what he says, here's the key question. If you treat 25 flips as an event and halfway through you have 12 heads, shouldn't you then be more likely to get tails so that the 25 flips regresses to the mean and balances out?

G: Oh, because that 12 doesn't know it's a 12.

S: Yeah.

G: It doesn't know it's halfway through an event.

E: It doesn't rely on prior information.

S: Right.

E: Everything is discrete.

S: Yes. Yeah, but I think those things are correct. So each flip is still independent, assuming it's a fair point.

B: Glumping them together, that's the problem, isn't it?

S: No.

B: They're not discrete. You don't think that's part of the problem?

S: I think you can treat 25 flips as a statistical event. That's legitimate.

B: Yeah, that's true.

E: Yeah, but if you get one result doing it 25 times, if that's an event, over the course of several of those events, it would even out. So you're taking like a one piece, you're snipping this one event as its own set of information and it's kind of incomplete.

S: You're kind of dancing around what I think is the core mistake that he's making. The problem comes when he says, so if halfway through that event, that's what you can't do.

E: Oh, it's like p-hacking.

S: You can't stop halfway through because now you've split it up into two events.

B: I knew it.

S: Right? So now you have to consider them separately. You can't stop halfway through and consider the statistics so far. Does that make sense? It is like p-hacking, Evan. You can't look at your data halfway through and then make-

E: Declare victory or some final conclusion out of that.

S: Or independently analyse it or whatever. You can't do that. If you're saying we're going to flip the coin 25 times, if that's your event and that's what you say you're going to do, you have to flip the coin 25 times and you have to consider them all together as one chunk. You cannot then say you can't analyse where you are halfway through because now you've just divided it into two events. Right? So you're looking at the first 12 flips and the second 12 flips or whatever and you can't consider them now as one 25 flip chunk when you're halfway through. But all the things you guys said were true that derives from that problem of what he's doing.

G: So is that a gambler's fallacy?

S: Yeah, it is. Because, again, it's just another way of saying that the previous 12 flips somehow influenced the next 12 flips because it knows, as you said, George, it doesn't know it's halfway through. That's why that's not legitimate. It's just its own thing. But then the regression to the mean is what screws people up because they think that regression to the mean seems like it knows the past. Right? But it's...

B: Right.

S: But regression to the mean just means it's more likely. This is what regression to the mean is. In any series, if you are... if you deviate significantly from randomness by flukiness, by chance alone, it's likely to be followed by a sequence that's less... that's more... that's closer to randomness. So in his example, of 12 heads in a row, that's a fluke. It's more likely that the next 12 flips will be closer to average, meaning there'll be half tails and half heads. So actually, regression to the mean says the opposite of what he's saying. It says... not that it will be 12 tails because that's also an outlier.

G: Right. Or 10 tails.

S: Right. Or 10 tails. It's more likely that it'll be 6 to 7 of each, you know.

G: Right. Because the outlier was the previous.

S: The outlier was the previous 12 heads. Yeah. Exactly. But that screws people up because they think that the... they do that where they're looking at the... but the whole sequence has to regress to the mean and I've already looked at the first half of it. It's like, no, that doesn't work. That's now separate.

E: That's how they get you at the roulette wheel.

S: Totally. That's why it's called...

E: They put up that big electric board with the green numbers and the red numbers and you see, the red and red numbers have shown up. Oh my gosh.

G: It's due. It's due.

S: It's due or it's hot. If you can make it... It's a thing. It's one of the reasons you know it's pointless because you could make it work either way.

G: Right. Right.

S: All right. Guys, let's move on with Science or Fiction.


Science or Fiction (1:36:55)[edit]

Item #1: A recent study shows that older adults are more vulnerable to first impressions of trustworthiness even in the face of contradictory evidence.[10]
Item #2: A machine learning analysis correlating road features with accident frequency finds that the most predictive variable for high crash risk is the presence of distracting billboards and other advertisements.[11]
Item #3: Researchers find that short and simple corrective statements on social media help readers identify false information.[12]

Answer Item
Fiction Billboards = highest crash risk
Science Elderly more vulnerable
Corrective statements
Host Result
Steve clever
Rogue Guess
Corrective statements
Billboards = highest crash risk
Elderly more vulnerable
Billboards = highest crash risk

Voice-over: It's time for Science or Fiction.

S: Each week I come up with three science news items or facts. Two real, one fake and then I challenge my panel of sceptics to have to tell me which one is the fake and you guys can play along at home. There's only kind of a week theme this week. It's not really a theme but the items are all kind of similar in a way that you'll see but there are three regular news items. Are you guys ready?

J: Yeah.

S: Okay. Here we go. Item number one. A recent study shows that older adults are more vulnerable to first impressions of trustworthiness even in the face of contradictory evidence. Item number two. A machine learning analysis correlating road features with accident frequency finds that the most predictive variable for high crash risk is the presence of distracting billboards and other advertisements. And item number three. Researchers find that short and simple corrective statements on social media help readers identify false information. Evan, go first.

Evan's Response

E: The first one about older adults more vulnerable to first impressions of trustworthiness even in the face of contradictory evidence.

S: Yeah. So I'll paraphrase that. So basically what that means is if somebody seems trustworthy at first they'll continue to trust them even when they do things that are not trustworthy, right? Even in the face of-

B: First impression rules.

E: Like a first impression like dominates?

S: Yes. They don't correct their first impression with later evidence about that person not being trustworthy.

E: Huh. I don't know. Weren't we talking just offline about people as they get older come to better conclusions even though it takes more time for them to get to those conclusions? Does that violate this? I'm trying to do a correlation here. I'm not sure it's a correct correlation. So therefore I'm going to move on about machine learning analysis correlating road features with accident frequency and it finds that the most predictive variable for high crash risk the presence of distracting billboards and other advertisements?

S: Yeah. So they're looking at stretches of road and they're saying how many accidents happen like at what frequency on that stretch of road. And what are the features of that stretch of road. They look at whole bunch of different variables and see which one correlates with high crash risk.

E: Well I mean there's certainly a lot of data out there to sift through is this the conclusion that they that they reached. I mean well you got maybe decades worth many decades worth of data you can go through. It's got to be a big set. Most predictive variable for high crash risk. I don't know about that one. The last one short and simple corrective statements on social media help readers identify false information. Yep, but how did they know that, what if the corrective statement is incorrect and it's not corrective or is it taken into account? Steve can this assumes that the corrective statement is truly a correct statement right? In other words-

S: So within the confines of this sentence, this is not saying anything. I'm not saying in this sentence anything about any other permutation. But yes, if there's false information online and someone corrects it by saying this is wrong then people reading that are more likely to identify the false information as false information.

E: Of these three these are all very hard to grasp in their own right and come up with the correct one. Here I don't have a good grasp for any of them frankly. But I have to make some kind of guess. I will say it is three. This one. Social media helping readers identify false information would therefore be the fiction.

S: Okay, Bob?

Bob's Response

B: Yeah, I don't have much to say about the older adults and first impressions.

S: That's compared to younger adults, obviously.

B: Yeah, not sure what's going on with that one. Let's look at the second one here. Yeah, the road features. I would think other things like how curvy the road is or other things other than just distracting billboards. I mean, also, once you drive by a billboard a few times, they don't change very often. I mean, how much would it be distracting once you've seen it already a million times? Of course, it could be drivers you haven't seen. I don't know. It just doesn't strike me as right. Let's look at this third one, social media. I don't know. This one could go absolutely either way. I know that if I'm looking at a Reddit post and I'm kind of not sure what to think of the original post's statement, and if somebody says, oh yeah, that's a fake, that's computer generated, it's not even real or whatever, I could be swayed, I think, from people saying that, oh yeah, this is fake. Then I immediately will leap. I'll be closer to their point of view than if I was thinking that, oh yeah, this really did happen. I don't know. It can be persuasive, I find it. Of course, usually, I'll just do extra research if I really want to be sure, but I could see how it could be persuasive. That one can go either way because I think it's so counter-intuitive what helps people in social media world. What could help them determine that news items are true or false? It's so counter-intuitive at times. I guess my best guess will be that the predictive variables for the high crash risk is not going to be billboard signs or advertising. It'll be probably something else.

E: But Bob, if I hear you correctly, therefore the fact that I chose the social media one, if I get that incorrect, you're not going to be disappointed in me?

B: No, I won't be. Nope.

E: Understood. That makes me feel better.

S: All right, Jay.

Jay's Response

J: The first one about the older adults are more vulnerable to first impressions. I don't know. That's counter-intuitive to me. I'm really leaning hard on that one as being the fiction. The second one about the machine learning analysis took a look at high crash places. I would imagine that billboards, I mean, we do look at them. If they have information on them, we're looking at them. For extended periods of time because they're big and you can read them from far away. So you're kind of like focusing on them for not just a couple of seconds, but it could be longer than that. So I think that one is science. Researchers find that short and simple corrective statements on social media. I think that one is science as well. Yeah, I'm definitely going to go with the first one here about the older people and first impressions. That's the fiction.

S: All right, George, no help to you, man. They're all over the place.

E: All right, George.

George's Response

G: I mean, I think that they all seem kind of both very obvious and then at the same time, that makes me think that they're not very obvious. So well done, Steve. Really, really well done. I would say that number one with the adults relying on their first impression, despite they may be shown at a later point, that feels really good. That feels really solid to me because that's kind of that stubbornness of, no, he's a nice guy. I know he's a lovely person regardless as their bank account is being emptied by that same person they met, but they had a nice shirt on when they met, so that stays with them. I think the accident one is the fake one because I bet it's something like, it's not billboards, but it's like confusing road signs or poorly lit areas. That is more predictive of the high crash. That to me feels like the thing. And then, the – again, the research is finding that a simple correction – what is it? The backlash syndrome or whatever that's called? Feedback syndrome or like if you correct something on the internet, the correction doesn't reinforce – like that feels like that should be wrong. So I'm going to think that's right. So in essence, I think that the machine learning with the cars and the accidents is the fiction.

S: Okay.

B: All right, George.

Steve Explains Item #1[edit]

S: You guys are spread out. Pretty good. So I'm just going to take these in order.

G: I think Bob and I are together.

B: Yeah.

S: A recent study shows that older adults are more vulnerable to first impressions of trustworthiness even in the face of contradictory evidence. Jay, you think this one is the fiction. Everyone else thinks this one is science. I guess the question is, do you think that with age, people get more wisdom and a little bit more savvy about these kinds of social interactions?

G: They're thinking.

S: Yeah, or is there something else going on? This one is science. Sorry, Jay. So yeah, this really shows how vulnerable older people can be to cons. What they did was they used a standardized psychological test called the Iowa Gambling Task, which essentially you give people decks of cards that they flip over and then the decks either can – they're playing a game for virtual money and they're trying to make as much money as possible and the decks could either – the cards could make them win or lose either a little bit of money or a lot of money. There are good decks and bad decks. There are decks that make them lose and decks that make them win, right? So their job is to figure out which decks are good and to go with those decks. Now what they did in this study was they paired that with basically an image of either a trustworthy-looking person or a not-so-trustworthy-looking person, right, who was giving them the deck, right? This is my deck, right? So they pair it. They pair – and they did it both ways. They paired a good deck with a trusty person and a bad deck with an untrustworthy-looking person and then they flipped it and did a good deck with an untrustworthy-looking person and a bad deck with a trustworthy-looking person. So one of the questions was how influenced were people – again, sorting them into young adults and old adults – how influenced were they by the trustworthiness of the image that they were shown? And everybody was predisposed to the trustworthy person, right? They would favour those decks initially. But the younger people would quickly learn which decks were good and which decks were bad and would then ignore whether or not the person looked trustworthy and go with the data, whereas the older adults would stick with their initial impression and wouldn't correct based upon the new information about was the deck actually good or actually bad. And the longer the game went on, the greater the disparity between younger and older adults. So in other words, the younger adults were learning better over time and the older adults were just not learning over time. They weren't really getting better.

G: Well, at least older adults aren't really in charge of our government, so we're good.

E: Yeah, yeah. We have no sway.

S: Then the question is neurologically, why is this happening? We do know that people's executive function slows down as they get older. And so it could be that they're just – this takes a lot of brainpower to manage these two variables at the same time. Should I trust this person and which deck is good or bad? And so that just confuses them. So they just stick with their initial gut feeling.

Steve Explains Item #2[edit]

S: All right, let's go on to number two, a machine learning analysis correlating road features with accident frequency finds that the most predictive variable for high crash risk is the presence of distracting billboards and other advertisements. Bob and George, you think this one is the fiction. Jay and Evan, you think this one is science.

E: Come on, Jay, hold my hand.

S: This one is the fiction.

B: George, high five.

S: So yeah, it was other things. I just made up the billboard thing. So what do you think were the variables that were the most predictive of high crash risk?

B: Like curviness.

G: Curvy, lighting.

B: Curviness.

S: The lighting was not. I almost made lighting the fiction because it wasn't mentioned.

G: Confusing signs?

S: Confusing signs. Confusing signs was there. The condition of the road.

G: A lady from the 1920s showing her slip.

S: That would do it, but I don't think I had enough data on that.

B: That gets me every time.

S: So confusing signs, confusing pavement markings, the pavement condition. And here's another one. Rapid changes in the speed limit was also in there.

B: Ah, very good. Yeah, that's all reasonable. Much better than.

S: I just had to think of one that wasn't one of those. That would be plausible sounding, but not real. I almost went with lighting, but then it went with.

G: Churches.

Steve Explains Item #3[edit]

S: Which means that researchers find that short and simple corrective statements on social media help readers identify false information is science.

G: Wow, that's like good news.

B: Yeah, it is good news. Surprising a little.

S: It does correlate with older data. Basically, any time you engage the question of whether or not something is true, people then engage their skepticism, right? And so saying like, wait, this isn't true. But with a couple of drilling down a bit, that was interesting. One is that like adding links and references and whatever didn't help.

B: Really? Links and reference didn't help?

S: Yeah, so what this study showed was keep it short and simple. And you don't have to have a really big explanation with a lot of references to convince people.

G: What's the thing I was thinking of that was.

S: The backlash effect, yeah.

G: Backlash, that's the word. I couldn't think of backlash effect.

S: Yeah, yeah, which is very topic specific, by the way. It doesn't happen with every topic. But in fact, it usually doesn't happen. There's only a few exceptional topics where that does happen. But anyway, but the same study also found that if you call into question correct items, it will also make people falsely think that they're fake. So it cuts both ways pretty much equally. So you could also basically cast doubt on real news with simple false statements.

G: And then if a trustworthy looking person does it, it's even worse.

S: Seriously, that's true.

G: While driving a car, then it's like, forget about it.

S: Yeah, near a billboard. So, I mean, I don't know. I think that kind of confirms what we know is that, yes, making these statements does influence people. And it's not really about doing a deep dive on the evidence or giving a reliable reference. And again, you could just as easily make them doubt real news as make them skeptical of fake news.

G: What's better, do you think, to have more doubt or be more, like if you have to choose?

S: I think all things considered, it's better to engage people's doubt about something, to raise the probability that something is, to make them think about it. Even if it's a wash, at least at the end of the day, if they're thinking through it, maybe that'll have some kind of net positive effect. I don't know.

G: And the process will be there in the future, hopefully. So, yeah.

S: But who knows? What we do know is that social media is a mess, right? This is why it's a wash in misinformation. It's a short attention span, kind of just like quick hits. And it's when really, as we know, everything's more complicated than you think, and you really got to get down to the bottom of issues before then you could say if something is legit or not. And that superficial approach to any significant topic is just, you're just going to be reflecting your biases and the last thing you heard. You know what I mean? That's why it's so depressing. I don't know about you guys. I know Jay's strategy is to not consume political news or any kind of news. I can't do that. I just have to read news. And damn, I don't know why I do this, though. I read the comments. I usually read like the first 20, 30 comments to an article. And it is just, it makes you weep for humanity. I mean, it's just amazing how misinformed, how superficial, how illogical the average commenter is. I don't know if that's the average person, but maybe it says only something about people who choose to leave a comment. But it's mostly misinformation. It's just amazing. And maybe that's a confirmation bias on my part. Because that's what I notice.

E: Or they're trying to get a rise out of the people who are reading the comments, and therefore they'll post things that are exaggerations.

S: Usually you could tell, yeah, this guy's a troll. This guy's an ideologue, you know, whatever. He's just pounding the drum for whatever, his side. But then there's a lot of sincere, but just straight-up misinformation. They just believe something false. They clearly haven't invested the three minutes it would take to figure out if that was true or not by researching it online. By doing a halfway reasonable Google search would tell you, wait a minute, that may not be true. I need to look into that a little bit more.

B: But they wouldn't believe it, Steve. They just wouldn't.

G: Or they've had a different personal experience, too. That's the thing that always is. My experience was not what the data says. So therefore the data is wrong. And it's like, no, you're just one data point within the data.

J: And it doesn't matter what the quote-unquote experts say, because it's scary, man. It's scary to think that there has been a very, very strong shift away from believing people with legitimate expertise.

Trusting the data in Bethlehem, PA (1:54:34)[edit]

G: Went through a massive thing here in Bethlehem with our parking garage. The garage that I've been parking in for 30 years is very old. It's like 50 years old, and they're knocking it down, and they're replacing it with a new one. And it's like the new plan. They studied the garage for three years, and they realized the garage that was there was too big. It was 40% empty 85% of the time. They studied in 15-minute increments.

B: Sounds compelling.

G: They studied literally for 15-minute increments for three years. When are people parking here throughout the entire year?

E: I parked there.

G: Yeah, you've all parked there. It's like it's too big. So they're going to make it, shrink it down from 770 spaces to 530 spaces. And then the rest of the block will have something else, like some other kind of cool building or something. Well, the uproar, because everyone at some point couldn't find a parking space. So in their mind, it's like, how could you build a smaller thing? And it was this absolute ignoring of the data. And I had to comment. I went to City Hall, and there was open public meetings. And I had to comment because it's like, I've been living here for 30 years. I've always found a space. And the data says we don't need a huge garage. So trust the data. Please, please. But no, just vehement.

B: Good for you, man.

G: Nope, not my experience. Not my experience. So no. How can the city do this? It's amazing. It was just this beautiful skeptic. Every kind of logical fallacy poured out in front of me, and I just got to watch it and try to counter it as best as I could as an individual. And yeah, they ended up voting for the smaller new garage. It's going to be great. It's going to be great because the people on City Council trusted the data, which was wonderful to watch happen. But oh my gosh, so frustrating.

S: But there's also another question there, and that is how much reserve do you build in for rare events, right?

G: Sure.

S: So for that one time a year or whatever, when you need an extra 100 parking spaces.

E: Music Fest.

G: Yeah. Well, we have two events. We have Christmas and we have Music Fest. There's August and December and those things. The problem is the city basically pays whatever it is, $40,000 per space, let's say, per parking space. Do you build the building to be a $31 million building, which is only going to be used, again, it's going to be 100% full 2% of the time, or whatever. And then you can't get the loan approved because banks realized like, no, big parking garages don't get approved anymore. So we're not going to approve that bank. We're not going to approve that loan unless the city signs off on it. And if the city signs off on the loan, the taxpayers pay for it. So all this stuff was thought through, and it's like, well, but I couldn't find a space last August. So obviously, it's like, no.

S: Or you just have event parking.

G: Right. Yeah. And it's funny, they were presenting and they said, look, people make adjustments. It's like you can't keep building highways bigger and bigger and bigger to help traffic.

S: It actually doesn't even help.

G: It doesn't help because it'll fill to the size that is built.

S: Induced demand, yeah.

G: Right. And there's a certain thing of like, people know like, okay, during Music Fest or during Christmas, you can't really park there. So you make other plans. You go to the other garage two blocks away or the other garage. There's like 2,000 parking spaces within five minute walk.

E: I'm not walking two blocks.

G: That's what I mean. So it was just so funny that all this stuff was addressed. And just again, and again, and again, people kept saying, I want to go to Christmas.

E: Did anyone get out there and ramble something totally incoherent that made you facepalm?

S: But George, that is human psychology, though.

G: Absolutely. Absolutely.

S: We are paranoid about scarcity. Scarcity freaks us out. And we hoard. This is like a run on the bank or like why the tulip thing happened. Whenever anything seems like a scarce resource, people start to gobble it up. That's why they, remember like the stories that ran out of toilet paper in two days?

G: Yeah, absolutely.

S: I mean, there's other reasons for that. But yeah, that's a real thing. Scarcity, hoarding, paranoia. We're evolved to have those emotions. And it's hard to counter them with facts and science. I mean, come on, George.

E: Yay, brain.

G: I know. I know. It's just so fun to watch it kind of, not fun, but it's so curious to watch it play out.

E: Lay out in real life.

J: I will never park in that parking garage again.

E: That's right, because they're tearing it down.

G: The new one's going to be, I mean, yeah, it's already half gone. It's astonishing how fast they're knocking it down. It's amazing.

E: I hope they're doing a time lapse.

G: I'm sure someone is. Yeah, yeah.

S: All right, Evan, give us a quote.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:59:06)[edit]

Starving brains can hallucinate, but even well-fed minds can convince themselves they can feel something which simply isn't there.

 – Jonathan Jarry, Canadian science communicator, McGill University Office for Science and Society

E: "Starving brains can hallucinate, but even well-fed minds can convince themselves they can feel something which simply isn't there." It's by Jonathan Jerry, who's the science communicator over at McGill University, Office for Science and Society. I mentioned him earlier in my news item. And I liked this quote because it's a catchy little quote, but it also kind of means it reminds us that even the kind of the people who are intelligent, smart can still be in a way fooled either by themselves or someone else about things that really don't exist.

S: I like this quote a lot, too, but it reminds me recently on one of my blog posts, I wrote about the fact that artificial intelligence can hallucinate. And somebody said they didn't like that metaphor because it's not what people do. And I'm like, no, that's pretty much exactly what people do. You know, in fact, it's a great metaphor, because he was saying, no, that's not what people do. What the AIs are doing, they're constructing their things and sometimes they construct it wrong. It's like, yeah, you just described exactly what the brain does. We construct everything and sometimes we construct it wrong. And it doesn't have a solid relationship with reality. Of course, none of it has a one-to-one relationship with reality. And if it drifts too far from reality, we call that a hallucination or an illusion, right? An optical illusion or whatever. So it's actually a really great analogy. And that's right. And starving brains do hallucinate more. If some part of your brain, like if your visual cortex is not getting a lot of input, it just starts making stuff up just to keep itself active, you know? You literally do then have visual hallucinations from the lack of stimulation.

E: Cool.

S: Good quote. Thank you, Evan.

E: Thank you.

S: All right, George, thanks for joining us this week. It's always a blast.

E: George!

B: Thanks George.

G: Thank you. I appreciate it so much.

E: See you in Texas.

G: Thanks, guys. Yeah. Yeehaw.

S: Yeah. We will see you soon in Texas. And thank you all for joining me this week.

E: Thank you, Dr.

B: Sure man.

J: My pleasure.


S: —and until next week, this is your Skeptics' Guide to the Universe.

S: Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by SGU Productions, dedicated to promoting science and critical thinking. For more information, visit us at Send your questions to And, if you would like to support the show and all the work that we do, go to and consider becoming a patron and becoming part of the SGU community. Our listeners and supporters are what make SGU possible.


Today I Learned[edit]

  • Fact/Description, possibly with an article reference[13]
  • Fact/Description
  • Fact/Description


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