SGU Episode 588

From SGUTranscripts
Jump to: navigation, search
  Emblem-pen-orange.png This episode needs:  transcription,  proof-reading,  formatting,  links,  'Today I Learned' list,  categories,  segment redirects. How to Contribute

SGU Episode 588
October 15th 2016
Nobel 2016b.jpg
SGU 587 SGU 589
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
C: Cara Santa Maria

Quote of the Week
Keep the company of those who seek the truth-run from those who have found it.
Vaclav Havel, writer, philosopher and last president of Czechoslovakia.
Download Podcast
Show Notes
Forum Topic


  • Steve's big computer update (he got very frustrated)

You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, your escape to reality.

What's the Word (7:59)[edit]

  • Autophagy

S: But first, we're gonna start with a What's the Word, which actually connects to one of the Nobel Prizes, Cara. So get us started with What's the Word.

C: Yeah, so I picked one of the key words from the Nobel Prize this year in physiology or medicine, which is my kind of bigger area of interest. And the word is autophagy, which is not how I want to pronounce it.

B: No!

C: I want to pronounce it

B: Autophee

C: Auto-faygee

B: Faygee, yes!

E: Fay-gee

C: But it is Auto-taw-fagee, so I'm going to

E: Damn

C: use the correct pronunciation. It's also known as auto-fayja. If you do it that way, then you get to say auto-faygee.

B: Oh, that's good.

C: I know. (Laughs) We could just go that way. Au-taw-fagee, specifically, actually, let me back it up real quick, 'cause there're two definitions of auto-fayja, which we're not going to discuss today, because they have nothing to do with the Nobel Prize. But auto-fayja can describe the biting of one's own flesh. (Vampire-like) Muu-wah ha ha (/vampire) But that's not what we're gonna talk about. And it can also describe the maintenance of nutrition of the whole body by metabolic consumption of some of the body tissues.

But what we're gonna talk about, au-taw-fagee, is specifically what happens within an individual cell. It's the segregation and disposal of damaged organelles in that cell. It's a process of self-digestion, as the name implies, by a cell, through the action of enzymes that actually originate in that same cell. It can be a defensive or self-preservation measure.

You might want to view it, if you guys remember, many weeks ago, we talked about apoptosis, which is programmed cell death. This is kind of a more specific, tinier type of apoptosis, in that the whole cell does not die, but a portion of the cell is kind of self-cannibalized. And all the building blocks there can be reused.

A more specific biological definition from another site: It's the catabolic process (meaning breaking down) of self digestion through the lysisomal machinery, including degredation or proteins and organelles, cellular remodeling, and survival during nutrient starvation. All of that will make more sense once we jump into this Nobel Prize.

Autophagy starts with the formation of a special vacuole known as the autophagasome, which makes sense. The etymology, surprisingly, goes back from before our Japanese Nobel winner, this year, to Belgian scientist Christian Diduve – am I pronouncing that right, do you think? D-U-V-E Di-doova?

S: Duvay? I don't know.

C: Du-vay, I have no idea. I'm gonna say Du-doove, yeah, but Du-vay? I don't know. I'm gonna say Du-doove. Who knows? Belgian scientist – 1963, he actually discovered the lysisome. And in starting to try to work out the lysisomic pathway, he mentioned autophagy as this kind of process that was theorized, but not well-defined quite yet.

The autophagasome comes from the Greek roots auto, meaning self; phago, meaning to eat; and soma, meaning body. So, autophagy can be broken down into those first two Greek roots, auto and phago, which is self-eating.

S: Cara, the internet says it's Di-doova. So, we're gonna slide into the news items.

News Items[edit]

Nobel Prize – Physiology or Medicine (11:15)[edit]

Nobel Prize - Chemistry (15:31)[edit]

Nobel Prize - Physics (21:38)[edit]

Longevity (30:18)[edit]

Who's That Noisy (46:42)[edit]

  • Answer to last week: Wavenet

Questions and Emails[edit]

Question #1: Healthy Food (52:26)[edit]

Hey guys, quick question about the end of episode 550. I apologize, I know that was a little while ago. I just started listening to the show, so I only heard it recently. Anyway, at the end, Steve and Evan were talking about how you can't describe food as healthy, only nutritious. I was confused by what Steve meant when he said how food is good for you and that there's nothing special about certain foods. I thought it was reasonable to say that kale is far more nutritious than say, french fries, therefore, kale is better for your health. I think I'm missing the point of what you guys meant, so could you clarify? I know you're all very busy, so no worries if you don't have the time. Keep up the great work! Adam Stone Pennsylvania

Interview with David Pratt (57:32)[edit]


Science or Fiction (1:08:28)[edit]

Item #1: Astronomers have discovered a solar system with three separate and misaligned planet-forming discs. Item #2: Nanoengineers have created a system that transforms nanoparticles into universal modular “LEGO-like” building blocks. Item #3: In the first head-to-head comparison between doctors and computer-based diagnostic systems, the computer-based systems outperformed the human doctors in making correct diagnoses by 20%.

Skeptical Quote of the Week (1:26:53)[edit]

'Keep the company of those who seek the truth-run from those who have found it.' - Vaclav Havel, writer, philosopher and last president of Czechoslovakia.

S: The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by SGU Productions, dedicated to promoting science and critical thinking. For more information on this and other episodes, please visit our website at, where you will find the show notes as well as links to our blogs, videos, online forum, and other content. You can send us feedback or questions to Also, please consider supporting the SGU by visiting the store page on our website, where you will find merchandise, premium content, and subscription information. Our listeners are what make SGU possible.

Today I Learned[edit]

  • In the intro, Steve says he has kept all of the raw audio for all of the SGU episodes
  • A typical episode has twice has much raw audio as what makes it into the final show


Navi-previous.png Back to top of page Navi-next.png