SGU 10-Hour Show Part 8

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SGU 10-Hour Show
2nd May 2015
SGU 511 SGU 512
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
B: Bob Novella
C: Cara Santa Maria
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein

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Hour 8

Lasers and space junk continued: (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.

B: I'm not sure how that's gonna work. There's a new idea. This is an international team of researchers, let by Japan's Reichen Research Institute. Their idea is to use a laser to shoot them down. They want to use an infrared telescope to track space junk moving at high velocity. They want to combine that with a fiber optic laser system.
You're not blasting anything out of orbit. They want to de-orbit it. It's called, “Plasma ablation.” The laser heats it up on one side, causing it to decelerate. If you know about orbital mechanics, the slower you go, the lower your orbit.
J: So they would shoot things as they go by?
B: Yes, if you change the orbit, it will eventually go into the atmosphere. They want to make a multi-stage plan. They start with a small scale version, then a bigger version system. Stage three is a free flying mission in polar orbit.
J: Phil said the dust cloud impacts the debris, and slows it down from orbit.
B: The laser is more targetted.
S: We are ready for our next interview.

Interview with Cara Santa Maria (3:51)[edit]

(This segment is properly, fully transcribed)

B: All right, we gotta squish together again guys.

S: Oh yeah.

(Skype rings repeatedly)

S: How did your space debris go?

B: Very good. The best segment all day.


J: Yeah, it was awesome. Evan, you gotta move in a little.

(Still ringing)

J: Do I hang up and try her again Steve?

B: Two hours fifty four minutes, oh my god!

S: Yeah.

B: Less than three hours.

S: Going fast.

B: I told you we should have done twenty-four hours. Ten hours is not enough.

S: We can keep going!

(Bob laughs)

J: Nah, I can't. I have to catch an airplane, I have to leave my house at five AM.

E: You do?

J: I'm goin' to Denham for work

S: Yeah, yeah.

J: all week.

E: What?

B: Dude, you just went there for work!

E: Say you're sick!

J: I know.

E: It's not entirely untrue.

B: Come on, Cara.

J: I can tell them I have space madness.

B: We are calling.

J: Why don't we hang up and try re-calling. Maybe there was a problem with the call.

E: Yeah.

J: Yeah, hold on. Please be patient.

S: She said she was all set, so,

J: There she goes.

E: Weird.

J: Just call again.

(Beeps resume)

S: There we go.

C: Hey.

S: There you are.

Bob, Jay, and Evan: Yay!

C: Yay!

B: What's up Cara?

C: I like your set!

S: Thank you.

J: Thank you so much!

E: Just something we threw together.

B: We obsessed over it so much, you wouldn't believe.

C: It's so perfect. I just threw this, really it's just the back wall of my dining room.

J: Yeah, actually, we've been working on this production for three months.

C: Wow.

J: Yeah, it took a long time.

C: How deep into the day am I? Am I the half way point?

S: Oh we're ...

B: Beyond it.

S: Beyond that.

J: Out of our ten hours, we are starting ...

S: A little less than three hours left.

J: Three hours to go.

B: Seven tenths of the way through.

C: So how tired are you guys?

B: This is nothing! This is a cake walk! Ten hours, noon to ten PM, I mean, we're always awake noon to 10PM, except maybe Steve.

S: Yeah.

B: This is nothing. This is nothing. I wanted to do twenty-four, but these guys like, “No, it's too long.”

J: Cara, last night we had a lot of the technical things completely licked, no problem. We had one issue left, and we were here 'till pretty damn late last night trying to fix it. But we did it. Even I got into one of our late night fights, like, “I'm goin' to bed!” And he's like, “You're not leaving until we're finished.”


J: So that happened for a little while.

E: We're done? We're done.

S: But we did it, and ...

C: ... so fun, though! I feel like doing the podcast, when you're doing it remotely, you don't get to see everybody's face.

J: Yeah

C: You're kind of just listening to everybody, and trying to keep straight who's talking ... which Novella am I talking to right now? But I think that this is really cool, to be able to see everybody's face and have a conversation.

S: Maybe we'll do every show from here.

C: Yeah!

J: No.

S: No.


B: It's good once in a while, but I don't want to be looking at these guys more than I have to, it's like, I'm happy with pure audio.

C: Well, I'm glad you guys are having fun, and I'm so glad to be able to a part of it.

J: Oh yeah, I'm psyched that you were available.

E: Yeah, definitely.

C: Yeah.

J: All right, so let's start ...

E: with ...

J: Let's start by saying how much fun you and I had when you invited me on your show.

C: So much fun! Oh, that was such a great episode.

J: I loved it. Hey, Cara, can you just tilt your camera down a little bit?

B: Less head room.

S: Yeah.

C: Oh, it did?

S: There you go.

C: Is that better?

J: Yes, people want to see a little more of you. I can't blame them.

C: Gotcha. And my light is very bright. Is that okay?

S: Looks good.

C: Okay, perfect.

J: You guys know that I was on Cara's show.

S: Yes.

E: Yeah yes.

S: Did you guys have fun?

J: Yeah, we had a rollercoaster conversation. It was really cool.

E: I like those.

J: It was really good. Yeah, I like your show, so ... (Evan says something) What's that?

B: What'd you talk about? What kind of rollercoaster?

J: We were all over.

E: Up, down ...

J: We had a really long discussion. But I listened to a lot of your interviews, and your show is very provocative.

C: Oh!

J: I really enjoy it.

C: Well, thank you. That's a huge compliment to me.

J: That's the goal!

S: And tell our listeners what your show is, and how they can get it.

C: Yeah, so my podcast is called, “Talk Nerdy.” Technically, I guess it's called, “Talk Nerdy with Cara Santa Maria,” but if you go to iTunes, or snitcher, or anywhere else, and you just put in “Talk Nerdy,” as your search term, it should be the first one that comes up. We talk about, I do it mostly just from my dining room. Hoping to put together a little office, or something a little more professional soon.

And we talk about the things that to me are interesting and important and nerdy. My background is in science, and science communication. That's a typical topic, but I love to talk about atheism; I love to talk about skepticism; and I love to talk about social justice issues, political things that matter to me; and also, I am very tangential and very conversational in the podcast. So I go off topic quite a bit.

E: We never go off topic. (Cara laughs) Jay, remember that time that we went off topic?

J: Yeah


C: Yeah, it's a whole lot of fun. I've been doing now, so you are celebrating your ten year anniversary. I just passed the one year point. So, still pretty new, but really exciting to have lasted that long, which means I think I'll probably keep going with it. I put in a solid year, I think it'll probably keep going.

E: I'm sure there's more material, plenty more.

C: Yeah, it's been a ton of fun. And all of my interviews – I shouldn't even say interviews – but conversations are one on one, so they're very intimate, very personal, and yeah. It's like you're eavesdropping on two people having coffee.

S: Yeah, we do very intimate four or five on one (Cara laughs) conversations, but it works.

J: Cara, we have a lot of people on YouTube asking questions, and I wanted ... I'll ask you one of them. They wanted to know when did you become a skeptic, or get in to skepticism, but do you identify yourself as a skeptic? Where are you on the spectrum?

C: I think that it's an interesting thing because I'm sure that you guys have spent a lot of time in your careers defining all of these different terms, some of which are synonymous, some of which mean very different things. And for me, I'm full on a skeptic, and I'm full on an atheist. I think I would use both of those terms to define my mentality.

The funny thing and the interesting thing is that I was an atheist long before I discovered science. So for a lot of people, especially like myself who were raised religious, I was raised Mormon. I was raised to an LDS family in Texas. A lot of people who end up being scientific atheist oftentimes find science first, and then that informs their decisions about belief, and about faith.

And for me, I left the church when I was fourteen. I just was having a really hard time swallowing that pill, and it was actually a big decision to make. I had to sit down with my father and have a very tough conversation with him. And I remember to this day, he said very specifically to me, I can quote him. And just for context, my parents had been divorced for quite some time. And I had joint custody, and I was going to my father's house I think every other weekend, and a few weeks in the summer, and then every Sunday for church every Wednesday for youth group, yada yada every morning for seminary which is Bible and Book of Mormon study before school. Yeah, it was awesome!

E: Oh boy.

C: What every teenager wants to do. And I remember having a conversation with him and saying, “I don't believe, and it's not just that I don't think Mormonism is for me; I don't think I believe in God; and I don't think that this is a good use of my time; and I feel like I'm being intellectually dishonest.”

And he said to me these words: “As long as you continue to live under my roof, I have a moral obligation to God to force you to go to church until you're eighteen.”

J: Wow.

C: And so, yeah. At that point we made a decision, probably not a decision a fourteen year old should be faced with. But I decided that it was in my best interests not to live under the roof any more.

J: Whoa.

C: Which was a huge bummer, and it had a lot of implications for my family dynamic, and it took quite a long time until we rebuilt our relationship. My dad's still very Mormon. His family's still very Mormon. But I left, and never really looked back. I've been a defined atheist since then. I didn't discover science until half way through college. I was scared shitless of science. Science was not where I wanted to be. I studied psychology because I thought it would be easy, but that actually was a bridge for me to find neuroscience, and to really have a love for that.

But I was an atheist first. I've been an atheist for half my life at this point, more than half my , I definitely define myself as a skeptic, but that skepticism I think did develop more fully through my scientific training for sure.

S: Yeah, yeah yeah. I do think, having met a lot of people in the movement, we do, I don't want to make a false dichotomy, but there are lots of people who I think come to rationalism through ditching their religion, and others who come to it through their love of science. They often meet in the middle, and they end up similar, but I do think there are people who are a little bit more passionate about “religion is ruining the world,” and other people a bit more passionate about “I just want to promote science.”

C: Yeah.

S: I do think they sometimes segregate into humanism and skepticism with a huge overlap, but I think there's ...

C: Yeah

S: almost these two subcultures within the movement.

C: I agree. And for me, I think that those, I find a lot of these words to be synonyms for the same thing, because I'm one of those people who fully embraces term, “atheist.” I think people who fully embrace term, “atheist” are a little like, “Yeah, I'm a free thinker, I'm a humanist, I'm all those things, but I'm an atheist, you know?” But some people who I think try to stay away from the term, “atheist” might get caught more in the weeds of picking a very specific word that defines their view point, but not wanting to step into these other labels.

For me, the word, “atheist” should not have a negative connotation. I'm trying to rebrand it to not have a negative connotation.

S: Yeah

C: Same way I try to rebrand the word, “nerd” to not have a negative connotation. It's a very simple term, “a-theism.” It's a lack of theism; and that's me. I do not believe in God. It's not that I believe there is no God, I just simply do not believe in God. And if somebody says, “I'm an agnostic,” I'll say, “Oh, me too!”

S: Yeah.

C: 'Cause nobody really knows!

J: Yeah.

C: But I'm just an atheistic agnostic as opposed to a theistic agnostic.

J: Okay. Yeah, I would define myself as that as well. I don't think anybody knows, but I don't really think God exists.

E: Zero evidence.

C: There are people though, my very good friend Sean Caroll, the theoretical physicist I should say, he would argue – he argues with me quite a bit about that. He says he knows, and you know what? Sean knows the things about the universe that I cannot comprehend, so I just give him that and move on.

But I agree with you fully, Jay, that I don't think anybody really knows. None of us can have pure knowledge. Nobody has powers of perception that other human beings don't possess. So the truth is, how do you live your life? Do you live your life with the idea of a creator in it?

(Video jumps)

J: Perfect for me.

C: I completely agree with that. The funny thing is, like I said, I came to atheism first, but, for example, I wrote the forward to David Silverman (who runs American Atheist) I wrote the forward to his book, and his book is very firebrand atheist. That's always been his definition is just, “Get out there, and make the bill boards, and have the political statements;” and it is so not my approach. But early on in my career, it was, because I was young, and I was trying to figure out who I was, and what I stood for.

And I realized very quickly, my job, like what I get paid to do on a regular basis on television, on the web, in my writing, is science communication; and probably the worst way to communicate scientific principles is to be like, (Chuckling) “You're so dumb, that you believe in God!” That's just not how you get through to people.

So I realized very early on that peoples' personal relationships with their religion are very personal. It's not that it's not up to me, or it's not fair to question peoples' beliefs, or it's not like they should somehow be off limits, but I think as somebody with a strong background in psychology and philosophy also, I realized very quickly that communicating science is somewhat independent from somebody's relationship with their religion.

And there are definitely channels to understanding things like evolution or climate change where fully religious people can embrace these concepts; and denigrating their religion or disagreeing with them publicly in service of science communication to me, it just doesn't compute. So the atheism is a very personal for me. I do some atheist activism. I speak at conferences, and I talk to fans and followers who are atheist about atheist issues, especially civil rights issues. Atheists should be able to run for office, we should be changing the terminology and the kind of stigma around that.

But as a science communicator, I don't care if you're religious or not, so long as you ... I think it's the fundies that I have a hard time with.

E: Right

C: It's the people who are so fundamental in their religion that they actually refuse to accept scientific evidence.

J: Yeah

B: So when are we gonna see an atheist President? How many centuries until we see that, do you think?

C: I think that we ... well, we may already have one, to be honest.

J: I know! Right?

E: Okay, stop right there. If that's the case, then he's not being honest with us, and he should come forward and say so.

J: Ev, come on.

E: I'm sorry!

J: I would like that, no, no. I would totally like that ...

E: It's political expediency, is what that is.

B: It's political survival.

S: Engaging in political expediency in order to get national office?

E: Come on!

C: Is it? Is it?

J: Seriously.

S: Shocked! Shocked!

J: If our current President happens to be agnostic or atheist ...

S: Okay, the question is “openly atheist.” When are we gonna have openly atheist ...

C: Well, think about it. We have ... who? I'm blanking on his name right now, but he was a Senator who was openly gay ...

S: Yeah

C: before he was openly atheist.

S: Right.

C: These are things that happen. We're not there yet.

S: Barney Frank?

C: Yeah, Barney Frank. I think we're gonna have a Latina female President long before we have an atheist. That's the thing is that history has these benchmarks that it follows through, and they repeat themselves so much. When you look at sociological research, these experiments done where a black man, a black woman, a white man, a white woman go and buy a car, and who gets the best price? Have you guys heard about this study? It was really interesting study where individuals with different genders and ethnicities went to different dealerships all around the country to negotiate rates for a car; and over and over and over the white man would get the best price; the black female would get the worst price; and it really echoes a lot of what we see in everything from applying for a job, to applying for university settings to representation in political office; and to this echo of our historical progress, right?

When did we first get the vote? When did we ... it's first the white man, then the black man, then the white woman, then the black woman. Then we see a lot of problems with smaller, Latino-specific islanders actually trailing. And across the board, I think that atheism is just such a new civil justice campaign ...

J: Yeah

C: and it's one that still has so much stigma because people see it, it's the same argument you saw against LGBT issues before people started to really understand that it's like, not PC to be anti-gay. I think we're seeing the same thing with atheism because people go, “Oh, it's a choice.”

J: Yeah

C: “It's not intrinsic to who you are, so you know what? You're making a choice to be somebody who amoral,” or they have all these preconceived notions.

J: Well I could see though, the idea like, there are so many people out there that don't like, or hate gay people, and they're offended by gay people, and they're amazingly afraid of gay people; but atheism to me, it's ten times bigger than ...

C: Yeah

J: any of these other designations because we're saying, “You know, we just, not only do we not believe in God, we have no use for it. Let's just not even talk about it.” And talk about taking away something that is amazingly important to these people.

S: I think ...

C: That's a good point.

J: It's not just something that creeps them out, like some people feel about gay people. We're saying, “Your religion, this stuff, push it aside. We don't even want to have it on the table.”

C: It goes to the core of the most defining characteristic of a lot of people who live in this country. Like I look at my father for example as a case study, and I think my dad deeply feels sorry for me, because I don't have the Lord in my life. And this is something that no matter how many intellectual conversations I have with him, he will always feel this deep burden and this deep sorrow because I rejected the thing that is core to eternal salvation and joy and meaning in the universe for him.

So you're right. If somebody is anti-gay, it's because there's some random tenet that politically and I would say religiously certain individuals decided to pick out of the Bible and make into something that was bigger than it was. But it's just one of a lot of things that they're being preached about.

But every day, what goes to the core of religion? Accepting the Lord (especially Christian religion, which is the dominant religion here), accepting the Lord as your personal savior, and belief; and if you don't have faith, then you don't have belief. Then everything falls apart.

J: Yeah

C: And what we're basically doing is we're going, “Oh, all that stuff you learned since you were a kid? Yeah, just forget it. None of it matters. It doesn't, you know ...”

J: It's irrelevant to us. We don't even want to talk about it. It shouldn't be in our politics. It shouldn't be in our schools. It's just ...

E: It gets in the way!

C: But it is so hard for somebody who is deeply religious.

E: Sure.

C: It is so difficult for them to not see an individual who has rejected religion, not just somebody who has never found it. There's little caveats all of the time for people who like live in cultures, but they were never exposed to it. But for people to have been exposed to religion and then reject it. To them, not only is it impossible to see those individuals as moral beings, it's also ...

B: I hate that.

C: very difficult to see those individuals as playing on the same team.

J: Yep

S: Yeah

C: You know what I mean? Like being a part of culture the way that they want to be. We're so shrouded in mystery, and we're so shrouded in darkness to them; and very few, because so few people are willing to say, “I'm an atheist, and look at me! I do public service, and I volunteer, and I'm a pillar of my community, and my kids go to school with your kids, and they get along great, and they're not doing devil worship in the back yard ...

B: Right

C: People don't ... it's the same thing that happened with the LGBT movement. The more people came out, and the more that they showed, “I'm a normal person just like you,”

B: Right

C: “I just happen to be gay,” the more people started to accept them, and I think that's something that has to happen with atheism too.

J: Well, I really think guys, the only President that we're gonna have that's gonna be an atheist is one that becomes an atheist while they're in office.

B: That's interesting.

J: Because I don't think you could ever get elected as an atheist.

E: Well that ...

B: I agree, not in the near future, but Jay, why would a politician out themself? Because,

J: Bob, you're in your second term? Yeah. If you're in your second term ...

S: You're never gonna run for office ...

J: Bob, it's also making that social statement. Think of the pair of awesome balls someone would have to be the first atheist President ...

E: Which is why I don't think our current President is an atheist.

C: Well, he has the burden of being the first black President. Like, I feel like we should cut him a little slack.

J: He might as well go all the way. He's in the perfect position.

B: Jay, I believe you, but imaging though if somebody, even a President in the second term comes out as an atheist, imagine the show that they have put on for six years previously about being religious?

J: Wait a second ...

B: “You're a liar, and I'm never trust you again for ... You did six years of public service, and even before that pretending to be religious, and now you're atheist?”

J: Wait wait! Whoa, wait. I'm just saying, that's my plan that I hatched ...

B: I hear you.

J: What I would say is ...

B: It's not gonna happen.

J: Our current President, as an example, like, I don't get this amazingly powerful sense that he's talking about God all the time. He gives it lip service, and of course, I don't know if he's an atheist or not, but what I'm saying is if a seated President was in the beginning of their second term, and they said, “You know, I'm just gonna let the country know I changed my mind. I've put a lot of thought into this, and I really believe I'm an atheist now. It's done. That's it.”

C: And it's doable if you are somebody like Barney Frank where you haven't made a mission of your Presidency. Like, early on, when Obama first got elected, and he gave a big nod to the non-believers during his inauguration speech, and he talked about his mother being a secular humanist, and he said all of these amazing things that made us go, like, “Oh! He's one of us!”

But then he was like, “Oh, and by the way, I'm having a meeting with Jerry Falwell every week, and I'm getting Bible quote sent to me on my Blackberry.” And you're like, “Why?” You don't have to play that card. But we also don't understand the kind of crazy political pressure ...

B: Yes.

C: and the minute you walk into that office, having every adviser around you being like, “Oh, we're gonna lose all of our support from this group if you don't take a meeting with Falwell. And we're gonna lose all of our ...”

S: Yeah

C: And it could have been political gridlock for him.

E: Sure

C: He could have gone into office, and if he didn't play the part, he could have been, I mean, he's already been an ineffective President in many ways. He's already been cock-blocked left and right in a lot of ways. And he lost, not my full support, but I lost a lot of faith in him from some major decisions that he made with regard to the way that he's treated journalists during his President, and a few things that he's done that were in many ways worse than Bush. But beyond that, it's so hard to know what it's like behind those closed doors.

B: Yeah, that's true.

C: The kinds of political pressure you actually have.

S: Yeah, absolutely. But I think there's a self-fulfilling prophesy there ...

C: Yeah

S: in that if the advisers say, “You can't not have the breakfast with Falwell because then horrible things will happen.” So they do it, then it kind of reinforces the expectation ...

C: Totally

S: and the culture. If he just said, “No, I'm not doing it. I don't feel the need to do it,” the world's not gonna fall apart, you know what I mean? But yeah, you have to just have the courage not to go ...

C: Yeah

S: for all the safe things that your political advisers are telling you to do.

B: Right.

C: And the bummer thing is that if anybody would have done that, we would have thought it would have been him. He was the great promise. He was a Bobby, you know what I mean? And we have that emotional attachment to him, and I think that you're right Jay when you say that now is the time to do it! Like, you have nothing to lose at this point. Your legacy is what it is. You will always still be the first black President; and yes, maybe it'll change the narrative so that everybody remembers the moment that Obama came out when he was in office, and now that becomes his legacy.

But at the same time, he's never gonna hold political office again. That's a decision you make when you become President. “I will never hold political office again. I will only give speeches, and support myself by writing books after this, and be a figurehead for my party.” So you don't have to risk another campaign.

J: Yeah.

S: I want to be a little bit more positive than I think you guys have been.

C: Sure.

S: I think that we may see a significant change in a single generation. I think that younger kids don't care that much.

C: Yeah.

S: I don't really talk to my daughters too much about it, but I do check in with them every now and then; and they don't talk about religion. It's a non issue ...

B: It is.

S: among their peers.

B: I ask about my daughter and her friends occasionally. So, you know, I try to ease into it. And it seems like most of them just are atheist or agnostic. They don't care.

S: They're non-religious.

C: Yeah.

S: They're not even aware enough to call themselves atheist, they're just non-religious.

B: Right, it doesn't matter.

S: It's not on their radar.

B: Steve, I agree that in one generation, we could ...

S: It could be a significant ...

B: Whoa! Look what happens ...

S: One generation, and we completely flipped about gay rights.

B: Yep.

S: And I think the same thing can happen about atheists.

C: And I think what we have to watch out for, because I completely agree, is that the amount of people who affiliate with not being religious is the largest minority in the country.

S: Yeah

E: Right

C: People who say that, “I'm not religious,” or “It just doesn't compute for me; it doesn't matter.” But I think we have to be careful because the more that that kind of a mentality grows, the more isolated but insane the incredibly religious right becomes.

S: Mm hmm

B: Right

C: When it's normalized, and when it's kind of like, everybody's sort of religious, but not really, I think historically we're very Church of England in this country. There's a lot of people who are like, “I'm Catholic, but whatever that means.” The more that irreligion, non-religion becomes the norm, the more people desperately try to hold on to the conservative ...

E: (Missed it) by it.

C: Exactly.

E: That's a threat.

C: And that's when we start to see, and we've been seeing them throughout time, but that's when we see the abortion doctors, the horrible crimes that are committed against them, and the horrible crimes that are committed against LGBT youth. And we have to just be very careful to police that, and to watch out for that, and to show that it can happen. And of course, I think that we could all look to in many ways what's going on in places like Syria right now, and in other parts of the world where ISIS really has a stronghold – not just ISIS – but any kind of sectarian violence that's been happening.

Historically, in the Middle East, as a, “We don't wanna be them,” guys. We're better than that. That is not the direction that this country wants to go, and I think most non-believers, of course! But I would hate to see religious people in this country falling into that infighting, desperate, trying to hold on to power. It can get violent very quickly ...

J: Yeah

C: It can get very dangerous.

J: Hey, Cara, I have a very important question to ask you.

C: Okay. Yes, yes?

E: Blasters or light sabers?

J: No


J: It is related. What's your thought on the Star Wars movie coming up? Are you worried about it? Are you anxious to see it? What do you think?

C: I ... this is so horrible! I really like the first three.

E: Wait, one, two, and three? Ir four, five, and six?

(Jay leaves)

B: He's out of here!

C: When I say the first three, I mean four, five, and six.

B: Oh, she means four, five, and six.

C: The real first three.

B: (To Jay) The real first three.

(Jay comes back)

E: The original three.

B: Good save! Good save.

C: Sorry. So ...

E: Jay's back.

J: That would have been it for you and I.

C: No, I don't even think that I've sat through any of the ... in full, any of the new ones. So I'm not probably gonna see this new one. It's just not ...

S: But you know what's different, is it's not Lucas, it's ...

E: J. J. Abrams.

S: J. J. Abrams, it's Disney ...

C: True

S: I mean, you gotta at least give it a chance.

E: It's the characters from four, five, and six.

C: I'll tell you though, here's my thing: I am not your traditional Star – I'm a weird nerd, in that I'm a big science nerd, and I'm not really that big of a sci-fi or fantasy nerd, and I define myself as that, and I tell people that. When I go to ComicCon, there are definitely aspects of ComicCon where I'm like, “I don't even know what you're talking about, this is not my world...”

(Rogues laugh)

C: I kind of play along, but ... so when it comes to Star Wars, obviously when I was a kid growing up I saw the original three Star Wars, and they resonated with me, and they meant a lot; and I'm bad with fantasy, so I couldn't get into the remakes. And the new ones. So I am not one of those people who's like, in the world, and even really follows the lore. So I'm just, meh, it's like comic book movies, new Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, none of these things, when I see all the bill boards and the ... I'm like, “Eh, maybe I'll see it on a plane.” I'm terrible! That's just not my world at all. So does that make you happy or unhappy, Jay? You're making an interesting face.

J: I have to say, Star Wars, I grew up in such a sci-fi oriented environment. I'm not judging you on it at all.

E: No, no.

B: Yes he is.

J: I ask a lot of people about the upcoming Star Wars movie because I found there's a lot to learn about people with their response, right? So people that are in my age range, there's a lot of enthusiasm good or bad about it, right? So there's a lot of opinions and everything. I'm giving you an out because you're younger, which is fine. I'm gonna tell you you should go, just to be culturally relevant you should probably see the movie.

(Bob laughs)

J: It has a lot of meaning to people in my age range because when it came out I was seven, eight, nine years old; it was amazingly impactful, and in my opinion, that movie changed the world quite significantly, changed movies, changed ...

B: Changed the world!

S: It turned our technology black.

J: It did.

S: It did.

B: What?

C: I'm sure it really cinema.

J: Yeah

C: That to me is even just for the artistic value and for the production value, and for all the things that we learned about movies. And I think that's why I had a hard time – I hate to say it – but the newer Star Wars was that I just felt like there was almost a regression cinematically.

S: Oh, I agree. Yeah.

C: There's something I have to say about the originals, that to me was echoed. For me, a big Industrial Light and Magic movie that really resonated with me was Jurassic Park.

E: Oh yeah.

J: Oh ...

C: And the original Star Wars echoed certain things about Jurassic Park that I loved, which was that at the time, computer graphic imagery was not good enough to do what they probably wished that they could have done ...

S: Right

C: in a computational way, so they used animatronics, and they used puppetry; and there's only about three minutes of CG in all of Jurassic Park. It's mostly animatronics and pupperty; and I think because of that it stands up even today. When you watch it, the dinosaurs still look real.

J: Yeah

C: If they had made CG dinosaurs, by today it would have been super-cheezy.

J: Yeah, she's right.

E: George Lucas didn't make Episodes I, II, and III specifically because the technology was not there to do what he wanted to do. He waited until it was available, or he invented it.

S: He waited until he became senile, and then they made those.

E: And then he lost all aspects of what it meant to be a director, but ...

C: And I will tell you that there are amazing films that you have to push the boundaries a little bit. You do. You have to say, “Okay, I think that I have the technology available with really cool image capture and with really good lighting schemes to try something new that nobody's ever done before.” I think Benjamin Button did that; I think Avator did that; and I think that even if certain scenes weren't that successful, or certain aspects of it weren't that successful, when you watch it at the time, you're like, “Holy shit! How did they do this!”

And it's only going to get better. And the only way they can do it is if people are pioneering enough to say, “I'm gonna try this,” but there is still this problem for me of the uncanny valley ...

B: Yeah

C: and I think that it wasn't quite crossed for me in the first three ...

J: Yeah, I agree. I love practical effects.

S: Yeah

J: Another one of my favorite was John Carpenter's “The Thing.”

S: The Thing, all practical effects.

J: And it was all practical make up effects, and everything for all the monsters and everything. And to me ... I look at that today, and it's still visceral, it's still biting, it still has that ...

C: Yeah, I agree. Early Tim Burton movies where they used scale models for everything. It's amazing when you watch this stuff, and even though there's a claymationy kind of, I don't know, but there's something about it that touches you emotionally when you watch it; and it feels real. It doesn't feel like you're trying to pull one over on me.

B: Right

C: But it's funny too, because I think a lot of people don't realize how good CG has become, that almost every movie you watch now is a lot of CG.

E: Oh sure, even contemporary settings, absolutely. Bullets flying everywhere, yeah it's CG.

C: Totally! Like, you watch a movie that has no sci-fi in it, we're not in space, like you said. It's like, you're in their living room, and blah, blah, blah; and they're like, “Oh, we'll just digitize that out. We'll add this thing. I don't like the light source there.” They do so-o-o much in post now, and people don't even notice it. So I definitely will give a huge nod to directors who do that.

But I think it's cool sometimes to see scrappy low-budg' movies that can't afford to do that, and to see what they're able to do with it.

E: Sure

B: And there's even I think a bit of an exodus away from over the top ubiquitous CG, and going back to more practical effects, and doing CG a little less often, only when you really need to do it.

C: Yeah

B: And I think that's a good move. So I love CG, but overdoing it is just ...

J: Yeah,

B: too much.

J: movies still needs to have compelling characters, have ...

B: Well, of course!

J: The dialogue needs to be awesome ...

E: You have to relate to the characters, otherwise there's no movie.

J: We're telling movies now, it's about the spectacle, not about ...

S: The story

C: I'm friends with and have done my interviews with a gentleman at USC's Institute for Creative Technologies named Paul DeBevik, who developed this amazing thing that he calls the “light stage,” which is a sphere that has all these little camera-controlled ...

B: Yeah

C: LED's, and he uses it to create lighting schemes so that they can film, there's one just for your face, and then there's one for a full body; and it was used in making Avatar, it was used in making Benjamin Button; it's been used in so many movies; and it's kind of one of those early stages of trying to do computer imagery because they'll record an actor doing a bunch of different facial expressions, and they can do it in any light.

So it's like, “Oh, it's underwater. Oh, it's bioluminescent. This is what the lighting would be.” And then when you put it into scene, it looks real. It doesn't look like this shiny object ...

B: Right

C: put into this gritty scene, which is, when we think of CG, the biggest issue with it is the lighting effects. And he's won an Academy Award, but he's science – it's really cool. But a lot of the research that is used, it's really interesting, because we'll talk kind of behind closed doors, and I won't name any names, but we'll be like, “Oh, that's a movie where they did it really well. Oh, that's a movie where they didn't do it that well.”

And he told me District Nine used the same light stage when they first did District Nine. I just loved it.

J: Good movie.

C: They read all of the scientific articles. They actually did the research ...

J: Yeah

C: to know how to utilize this. But then other people just approach the technology and they don't do all the research to understand the science behind the technology.

S: Yeah

C: And it'll be misused. And also, as you said, if there's no character, if there's not a solid script, what's the point?

S: Who cares?

B: It's just eye candy.

C: You don't want to just show off new technology. You want to use technology when necessary in a really good story.

E: That's right.

S: Absolutely. Cara, this has been fabulous ...

C: Yeah!

S: having you on the show again. You're always fun to talk to.

J: Yeah!


E: You don't smile enough though. (Cara laughs. She's been smiling the whole time.) You should work on that.

C: Well thanks you guys so much. I saw that Phil Plait just tweeted that I was coming on next, and then he was gonna be on in an hour, so make sure you give him a big virtual hug for me.

S: Absolutely.

(Cara and Evan laugh)

J: Yeah, Cara, thank you so much for coming on. Hopefully, we're probably gonna have you on the podcast again. We'd love to have you guest rogue again soon.

C: That'd be great.

J: So we'll be talking about that.

S: All right.

C: Thanks, guys. (Waves)

B: Take care, Cara.

C: Yeah.

J: Watch out.

(Interview ends)

Interview with Joe Novella: Energy efficient homes (39:55)[edit]

(Paraphrased only)

S: As crazy as this sounds, we're running out of time.

B: Steve, you had us over-prepared.

J: During the preparation, you were an amazing leader Steve.

S: I want to bring in a couple more live guests. Live, in studio guests. We'll start with the other Novella brother.

J: If you're enjoying this show, if you listen to the podcast, please consider becoming a member. We're gonna hopefully continue to do these shows every two or three months. The SGU lives and dies by your support. You get extra content. Evan likes to sing. We would love to introduce our other brother Joe.

Joe, you came on today to talk about what?

Joe: I do energy audits in residential buildings and commercial buildings, and we make them energy efficient. I worked in construction, which is not that scientific outside of the engineers. The developers are not geeky types of people. Then, about fifteen years ago, when global warming became an issue, I was like, I felt hoodwinked by the media because global warming was so poorly communicated.

I became a building scientist. Buildings are part of the pollution in the world. You can fix older buildings that are horribly inefficient. 

S: There's a lot of low-hanging fruit in terms of our energy infrastructure.

Joe: At this point, waste is everything. If we eliminated it, we would leap twenty years into the future. If we focused on conservation and efficiency, we could leap far into the future. Don't wait for anything. Electrical energy is wasted. The technology is there, we have to adopt it. The advice we give out is free things you can do. Energy usage is money. We're also focused on comfort, air quality, and environmental impact.

S: Joe, you're gonna challenge us on our knowledge of energy efficiency.

J: Let's do it.

Joe: What's the largest source of global greenhouse gases.

E: Flatulence.

Joe: According to the EPA, energy supply as a single sector is number one. Agriculture is really number one for overall environmental impact.

S: I learned recently that cement production releases a lot of CO2. There's something in the process that releases a lot of it. It's in the lime or whatever.

Joe: Energy supply is 26% of the greenhouse gases. However, energy supply really feeds back into everything else. Buildings are huge. When it comes to buildings, replacement windows are a top priority energy measure. Replacing old windows with newer window ... this is false. The cost of that measure is very expensive. You can blow your entire budget on that one measure. You may get a small improvement, but it's not great. It can't effect more than twenty percent of the energy.

E: So be judicious with windows?

Joe: If they're falling apart, then replace them with energy-efficient windows. If it takes sixty years to pay for the measure, it's not worth it.

Good window treatment can improve the efficiency of windows. Use window treatments in the winter. 

Photovoltaics are a great way to improve the energy performance of a building. Photovoltaics are an alternative energy, but it doesn't change the energy efficiency. These are different things. Photovoltaics should be the cherry on the pie after you've made your building efficient.

On the average home, 75% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. Parasitic load.

J: That happens?

Joe: If there's a light on it ... 75%. If you have a million plugs plugged in, the parasite load is huge. What's the parasitic load of the set you use. You could have a smart power switch? If you could switch everything so it's dead off, that's great.

S: You don't want all of your clocks to reset.

Joe: To make an electronic power off completely is easy.

S: Should it be at the manufacturing level.

Joe: Yes.

J: 75%? That pisses me off! What the hell is that? That's like your car burning 75% of its gas when you're asleep.

B: Who turns their cable box off because it takes five minutes to turn it back on.

S: Most of our electricity bill is running air conditioning.

Joe: Dryers are all electric. Any hot box that's plugged in is using a lot of energy. Old refridgerators. If you have an eight-year old refridgerator, get rid of it. Go to home depot. New refridgerators are energy efficient. If you have old appliances, get rid of them right away.

Here's a good one: Natural gas is a clean energy source.

S: We've talked about this, so I know the answer.

Joe: If you watch the propaganda from the Natural Gas alliance ...

S: You're a big solar shill.

Joe: I'm a solar shill, big time. They juxtapose photovoltaics with natural gas. We have a photovoltaic power plant that switches to natural gas at night so we have clean energy all the time. Natural gas is the world greenhouse gas. When you burn it, you're producing carbon dioxide. How much gas is being lost between producing it and using it? If 3% is lost, then it's as bad as coal?
13% is actually being lost. It's really terrible. 

S: But methane doesn't survive very long. Yes, it's a massive greenhouse gas, but its half-life is pretty short.

Joe: That's methane. I want to clear up something else: When I say something is clean or efficient, what am I talking about? There's also mercury and sulpher. Natural gas still has carbon dioxide. It's cleaner than coal, but it's still dirty.

There's also combustion efficiency, which burns 99% of the gas. 15% of the oil in your oil burner goes up the flu as oil. There's still a by-product, so it isn't clean. Industry takes advantage of the term, “Efficiency.”

Next question: Space heaters save energy.

S: Depends.

Joe: Expensive space heaters are more efficient than inexpensive space heaters. Buy the cheap one because they both do the exact same thing.

Part 9