SGU 10-Hour Show Part 4

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SGU 10-Hour Show
2nd May 2015
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SGU 511                      SGU 512

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
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Part 4:

Interview with Brian Wecht and George Hrab wraps up: (0:00)[edit]

Note: This page is not transcribed, but it has been summarized, and statements of the rogues has been paraphrased in order to provide limited searchability. Text is in gray to distinguish it from normal transcription.

S: Try watching the end of that movie.

BW: 2001 one was one I watched as a kid, and I went, “What the hell is this?”

S: Watch it again.

BW: When some one I respect says, “Re-evaluate that thing,” I should do it.

GH: I gotta go.

''(1:15 GH leaves.)''

BW: I have to go too. I only got through two lines of this equation. 

''(BW leaves too)''

New Tesla Battery: (2:05)[edit]

S: Bob, you wanted to talk about the new Tesla battery. Tesla is promoting a home battery that could be a game changer for the market. I'm guessing it's premature.

B: Well ...


B: So... billionaire Elon Musk is talking about unveiling the first battery design for the home: The Power Wall. He said the issue with existing batteries is that they suck. The image of the Tesla Power Wall battery looks cool. It is similar to electric car batteries. It is 3 feet by four feet by twelve inches. They are $3500 and $3000. They can power most homes during peak evening hours.
This lets you charge during low rate periods, and then use power during peak hours. They help with solar power storage.

S: We are getting to a tipping point where solar panels are becoming economical.

B: It's also backup power during outages. How good is it really? This would be great for uninteruptable supply, but it's not quite there yet for every day usage. It is four to eight times more expensive than a standard generator. These are also ten year batteries, and they would need to last much longer to compete with a generator.

J: Is that because they're not being mass produced?

B: That won't be enough. Also, these figures don't include installation costs and inverter costs.

S: With batteries like this, you know that the battery life might be great when you first get them, but they are diminishing in capacity the whole time. We know batteries lose capacity. So, as your backup solution, it's not cost effective. Get a backup generator. The main reason is to store renewable energy, but for now, you could just use the grid for that. You don't really need this.

B: That's a good point. Right now, the grid is essentially a big battery. Also, if you're not on the grid, this could come in handy. Now if we step back a bit, the Power Wall is part of a new brand: Tesla Energy. We have things that are more optimized for businesses. You could stack nine of these together and get ninety kilowatts.
Even more create power packs. These are infinitely scalable. You can go to Gigawatt levels.

S: How about 1.21 Gigawatts?

B: Here's two numbers. 160 million of these power pack units would be enough for the United States. These integrate well into pre-existing solar installations.

J: In an electric car, you charge this battery, and charge your car.

B: If you had solar on your roof, you don't need to go to the battery. You can sell your power to the utility. It doesn't necessarily make sense to do that.

J: So have your solar array on your house get immediately sent to the grid.

B: But that's pretty much what they do.

J: It's expensive and hard.

B: Maybe by yourself, but if you buy one of these packages and get some one to install it, it will work.

S: The problem is that these batteries don't last forever. So you have to include in the environmental calculation, what do you do with it when it's spent? If they recycle it, it would be nice. But there's no big market for recycled lithium. There's other toxic chemicals in there as well. They send these electronics to China to extract the rare Earths. Environmentally, it's complicated.

E: It may not be worth it.

S: I think we're in the early adopter stage, where there may be some niches where it's useful.

J: This is just the beginning.

S: This can incorporate batteries into the grid. Another way is for utility companies to have mega arrays. Having batteries helps with load balancing. You want to flatten out production. There's peaks and troughs. You have to build your infrastructure to meet peak demand. Imagine if we had enough batteries in the system that production could be flat. When we overproduce, it gets stored. When we under-produce, we use the power.
Batteries might not be the answer though. When we have to go to peak capacity, we usually go to dirty energy, like coal. If we could lower our peak capacity because we don't need it, we could get rid of the dirtiest forms of energy.

B: I see it as a catch-22 though. In the future, it will be a great thing. But in the short term, it probably doesn't make a lot of sense to use it now. But it will later.

S: When you're over producing in the middle of the day, you just sell it back to the grid. That works until everyone does it. Then you have to store it. Local production, and buffering production seems like the way to go. We may end up with large batteries in our infrastructure. Right now, we produce energy on demand. We don't really buffer it.

J: I wonder if anyone using physical batteries like huge wheels, and then using braking. Like, put an air-tight tube deep underground to spin up a wheel to store energy, and then use it up later.

S: That's being developed. Also, imagine an underground chamber with naturally thick walls, and you use energy to pressurize the cavern, and then use generators later based on the pressure.

J: You can also use heat.

B: Also, the zombie angle. Solar on the roof and the batteries, it's nice to know I can go off the grid if I have to.

J: I have a solar backpack. You can recharge your phone when you're walking around.

Podcast Patent Troll (21:45)[edit]

S: You're gonna give us an update on the podcasting patent troll.

J: A Texas company had been suing a lot of big corporations that have podcasts or distribute them in a particular way. They have sued NBC, Fox, Apple, and Adam Corolla's company. What we're saying is that I consider them to be patent trolls. This is a company that buys patents or applies for patents specifically to sue companies, which I think is despicable.
This company started in 1996. ''(Describes a couple patents)''. They say you can't distribute audio.

S: You're not supposed to be able to patent an idea that's obvious. Yeah, distributing media on an internet basis. That's ridiculous. John Oliver did a great show on patent trolls. He gives ridiculous examples.

E: James Randi said some one patented the process of making a peanut butter sandwich.

J: On Shark Tank, this guy came on with clothing with wiring. They ask, do you have patents? So this guy is like, “Yeah, I've patented linking this part to that part,” and Mark Huben got mad at this guy.

S: Yeah he tried to patent the idea of putting a wire through a shirt. Sometimes these trolls patent a use that hasn't begun yet, just so they can sue everybody later. Patents are supposed to protect creativity and spawn innovation. But patent trolling does the opposite. It discourages innovation. Not only that, defending a patent suit is very expensive, so it's corporate blackmail.

J: 150 years ago, a person creates a farm. I'm gonna plant all my crops in a row, and I'll patent it. Imagine what would have happened? Imagine if a smart phone company finds a way to make the phone know when you're touching it. You don't want other companies to just start using that.
... So this company sued Apple for $8.4 million in damages, and then they sued Apple again because Apple had other devices too. In 2013 Personal Audio filed a lawsuit against the Corolla Digital Network for infringing on one of the patents. Adam refused to settle. He got so livid he got very educated on this. He raised half a million dollars through crowd funding. In 2014, Personal Audio dropped the lawsuit because they were not going to make money from the lawsuit.
Adam was so pissed that he counter-sued. He asked that Personal Audio's patents be invalidated. The mess ended in 2014 when they settled out of court. The good is that because of Adam's lawsuit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends rights in the digital world, that do great work ... They petitioned for a review of Personal Audio's main patents, and they said that they never should have been given these patents. The EFA challenged the patents because these techniques would have been obvious to anyone.
CNN publicly described technology that Personal Audio patented later on. 

S: This idea was out there.

J: The other point was that the CBC published a paper in 1996 about it. The technique had already been anticipated. So these rights should never have been granted. So after reviewing the patents, they got invalidated. In this situation, the good guys won. Personal Audio is something that podcasters don't have to worry about any more.

B: But why did all this happen in the first case?

J: There's too many patents being filed. I think we need AI to go through this stuff. Technology is snow balling, so how do you keep up with it? Very interesting read.

Horoscopes for your house: (35:00)[edit]

S: We're gonna do our first Hardcore pseudoscience. 

E: So, your birthday can say a lot about what happens in your home. Did you know that? Because astrology follows you wherever you go. This is from the Huff Po. What they are saying is that your home has a horoscope. The way you decorate are affected by the gravity of the planets?

S: Did they mention gravity?

E: No.

S: Sometimes they give you bullshit explanations, because now it's all quantum.

E: When you are born, you have these planet lines around you and around your house. You need a local space chart, lay it over the floor plan of your house, and you find out where all the lines go. You have a Moon line that is associated with emotions. There is Moon energy.

J: I live in my house with my wife and my son. Who's birthday matters?

E: Whatever rooms you occupy the most, like if your wife is in the kitchen more than you, then the lines are based on her birthday.

''(Jay laughs)''

S: It's unbelievable to me still that there are human beings that can take any of this seriously. These are non mentally challenged adults.

J: There has to be a massive level of immaturity. People are paying money for hoo-haw like this.

E: I wouldn't be surprised if they had these things for cars.

J: What sign is the planet?

S: If you built your house on Mars, would you have Mars in your signs?

Move review: Planet of the Apes: (40:40)[edit]

S: Evan, we'll start with your choice for a movie.

E: The original Planet of the Apes. Fine, fine movie.  I did see this as a boy growing up when I was eight or so. It was cool that there were astronauts and apes. I found it entertaining. But as you get older, you realize it's talking about important things like evolution and perspective.

S: I agree. That's what I find really compelling, even when I was younger. What resonated with me it's one of the first time I remember seeing that a different culture could see things completely differently from us. What is the proof that there is a divine spark in the simian brain? To them, that's their reality. A lot of the stuff we think is bullshit we made up.

E: Do I have to describe the plot? Astronauts from the “distant future” of when the movie came out took a journey to space. They crash onto a planet, and only three people survive.

S: By the way, if you're sending four people to colonize a planet, you don't send three guys and one woman. If you send one guy and two women, you have a 50/50 chance of successful colonization. 2000 is a self-sustaining population, but you can get there from just three people. It would be harder if they're already inbred.

B: A long time ago, the genetic diversity was a lot bigger. We're not diverse at all compared to recent evolutionary history. How could the offspring of just three people reproduce?

S: The risk isn't that bad. It's dangerous, but it's not a deal changer. There could actually be some advantage to first cousin mating. The other rule of thumb though is that if you have below 2000, you have a lot of risk.

E: They traveled all this distance, and they went far into the future.

S: I like that they showed some relativistic effects. I think there was time dilation. Maybe they were out for a few years. When Charleston Heston is on the bridge, you can see stars flying by. What would it look like if there was a lot of time dilation going on?

B: Red shift, blue shift, it would be different.

S: I think there was time dilation.

E: These three people crash on a class M planet with 1G, like all movies. We've got no woman to perpetuate the human race. With exploring, they find some vegetation and water. Then they find humans that could not talk, and are primitive. But riding in on horseback are the apes, the superior species on the planet. They capture the visitors and do experiments on them. Only Chareton Heston survives.
So the apes thought they had captured a weird humans, but then they find it can talk, which throws their society into chaos because the elites are keeping a secret.

S: And the apes were speaking English. Was it ever explained why the ship returned to Earth?

E: They don't explain that.

B: Was there a throwaway line?

J: So two of the scientists befriend Taylor, and they explain where they're from. One of the leader apes knows all about the fact that these apes were created by humans in their past, and they destroyed their own planet.

E: Ape society has a little technology, and a lot of religion. They refer to the Sacred Scrolls to derive their justice system. The Scrolls say you can't have talking humans.

S: This was another revelation.

E: The trial scene was wonderful

S: It's sci-fi at its best. It shows you your world from another angle. Yeah, these people are stupid, but our society is like that too.

E: The humans get condemned to death, but they escape. They then find artifacts that shows the humans had technology in the past. The apes hide the evidence. The humans find the ruins of the Statue of Liberty, and Charleston yells, “Damn you! Damn you all!” The apes took over the human society.

J: I think this movie, from a science perspective, you gotta just give them some things. I found the acting superb.

S: Yeah, but he was in his element of overacting.

J: That original Planet of the Movie blew away the remake.

S: I liked the recent ones though. It's the back story of what happened on Earth.

J: I am enjoying the recent remakes, but the original remake was a disaster. The recent ones are getting better.

E: The original Planet of the Apes was produced by the person who made the Twilight Zone. It's a great Twilight Zone episode.

Julia Galef interview: (57:47)[edit]

S: We're gonna bring in Julia Galeff. Hi Julia.

JG: Hey guys!

S: You are being streamed right now.

JG: I made you guys something. The gift for a ten year anniversary was tin or aluminum, so I made you a tin foil hat to celebrate and protect my brain.

J: Feel free to send that to Bob.

JG: How is the marathon going?

S: It feels like we're just getting started. Six hours left.

J: Do we look tired?

JG: ... no.

S: You are a fellow skeptical podcaster, Skeptically Speaking.

JG: We are exactly half as old as you. We have 134 episodes. We do it biweekly.

Part 5: